On June 6th 1964, Sega began selling arcade games. They had been in business prior to that dealing with vending machines but they recognized the value of electromechanical amusements at the time. This path set the company up for what they would become and given that was 49 years ago today, let’s take a look at various games that have dealt with simulation. Why simulators? Simulation games stand out more-so than run-o-the-mill games, offering a particular experience that is very difficult to reproduce at home without spending a lot of money. They are often unique, just like Sega has been. Thus I feel that they are a fitting game type to look over.
What defines a simulator can be broadly set at trying to reproduce a realistic experience though the combination of hardware and software. The software side can be where a lot of the gray area comes in so in that instance it will be looking at the hardware. Also, motion simulators are easy enough to recognize but when they are non-motion it can be harder.
The two will be separated out using the tabs below. Due to a time constraint I could not list absolutely everything Sega has done that could be considered a simulator, which I would say is a testament to their long history of making unique entertainment. Also, you may need to give a few moments for the content under the tabs to load, due to the large amount of media found there-in. Flyers via Arcadeflyers.com.
Bullet Mark – While Sega was a powerhouse at making EM games, it took them a few years to get the hang of making original video games. Bullet Mark was their first truly original video title, other titles such as Pong Tron just being derivatives of Atari’s Pong (which was common practice at the time by everyone, even Atari themselves to a degree). This came at the time when manufacturers would often use real (but hollowed out) guns to adorn their games instead of cheap plastic shells. This aspect of EM games was part of what made them interesting and it had a similar effect for video arcades too. These days I’m sure there would be some sort of regulation making it next to impossible to use hollowed out guns, not to mention the cost of doing so but it was an early step in the idea of letting someone make simulated use of a real world object for virtual entertainment.
Heavyweight Champ (1976 and 1988) – Following Bullet Mark, a few other Sega video games followed the same pattern of a shooting gallery type game but this game took a risk as it was a boxing game. This is one of the first video games to use large on-screen characters and also the first known attempt at a one-on-one fighting game. But like Bullet Mark the controls also stood out. Instead of a joystick and button to strike the blows it used sliding boxing glove like controllers. It wasn’t the type of simulation we would see today but given how early this was it gets a pass. Sega would release another game by the same name 12 years later with a similar, albeit enhanced control mechanism and more modern play.
KO Punch (1981) – Five years later, Sega decided to innovate in the boxing world again with KO Punch. This machine may look familiar as today there are many boxing games out there made by companies like Kriss Sport and Kalkomat which pretty much do the same thing – slam a real punching bag as hard as you can and see what score you get. Funny enough, Sega’s example from 1981 is more technically advanced by using a color screen with animation as opposed to some modern boxing machines that only use a simple red LED counter.
Star Trek: Strategic Operations Simulator (1982) – In Sega’s game that was even more action-packed than the recent Into Darkness, there were two cabinet models for this – the upright that most would be familiar with and the Captain’s Chair sitdown model that took it up a notch. All you needed was a Star Trek uniform and not a care about people wondering why you would be barking orders at an imaginary crew. The Captain’s Chair may not be exactly like simulating an entire starship bridge but combining the elements of the Captain, the tactical officer and navigation officer into one are probably enough to satisfy on an action craving player. While researching, I found this incredible restoration and mod by a member on the KLOV forums, one picture of his cabinet is below.
Subroc3D – The first and equally unsuccessful time at trying 3D in video games provided Sega with an opportunity to try and make submarines the next big thing. It wasn’t to be but it made for a really cool deluxe cabinet with a periscope viewer and all.
GP World (1984) – Notable for the twin monitor cabinet that was used to create a widescreen effect and the fact that it served as an eternal poster child for why a realistic laserdisc based racing game is a bad idea.
Sega Super Circuit (1988) – In this attraction piece just released in Japan, it scaled the simulator in size but giving players a real track with RC race cars. Players controlled the cars by sitting in cabinets similar to OutRun cabs. The shear size of this made it an improbable game to show up in many places but it was a unique spectacle.
Cyber Dome (1992) – Sega’s answer to Namco’s Galaxian 3. I’ve tried to find video of this but I’ve had little luck, just this picture from System16. The guns seem to have been inspired by their smaller, easier to find and much more affordable Laser Ghost arcade game.
Daytona USA (1994) – This game doesn’t need much detail given its fame but it should be mentioned due to the heavy influence it would have on other arcade racers, within and without Sega. The Sega Rally series is a good example, just applied to a different type of racing. The texture mapped 3D graphics, realistic physics, memorable music, and force feedback all worked together to make something special, and like OutRun, there were a few different models although a motion seat only came into play with the sequel, Daytona USA 2. There was a special model for this which involved up to 8 linked units and it had an operator control panel where one person could select the track and start the game at the same time.
Let’s shake it up with everyone’s favorite song, that could not be found in the re-release of Daytona called Sega Racing Classic.
Star Wars (1994) – Like Star Trek earlier, becoming part of the Star Wars universe is low-hanging fruit in the world of video games. This rare game (not the same as Star Wars Trilogy Arcade which came a few years later) allowed players to work as a pilot and gunner, using shaded 3D graphics to create a Star wars presentation unlike any other.
Desert Tank (1994) – It’s one man in a tank, in the desert, against a desert army. The shift in warfare to places like Iraq is where the idea for Desert Tank came from, bland name and all. This was only released in a sitdown deluxe cabinet form and had feedback to make it feel more realistic, similar to the deluxe Daytona USA cabinet.
Sports Fishing (1994) – If I was to ask someone to name the first fishing arcade game that came to their head, chances are the response would be Sega Bass Fishing from 1998. That was not the first Sega fishing game which sought to make a fishing simulator however, that honor goes to the lesser known Sports Fishing. They actually fixed a full fishing rod and reel to this cabinet, something that would be downsized for their later fishing games. In fact for their last fishing game, a revision of Sega Bass Fishing called Sega Bass Fishing Challenge, it was downsized to a trackball.
Sega Ski Super G (1996) – It wasn’t the first game to use sliding foot controllers but it did have force feedback built into them to try and mimic the effect of going on snow. Set the cab up in a refrigeration unit and you’d be set.
Wave Runner (1996) – I’m not sure if its fair to say this is Daytona USA on a jet ski but it does follow the pattern that Sega liked to use in their racing games in those days.
Top Skater (1997) – What better way to go about virtual skateboarding than giving the player a big arcade cabinet with a skateboard to stand on? That is pretty much the idea behind Top Skater. Of course the idea here was also to allow one to tackle massive virtual ramps so chances of physical harm were pretty minimal. This spawned a couple of sequels that went by different names, the last of which was released 10 years ago (Ollie King); there was also a spin-off called Soul Surfer released in 2002
F355 Challenge (1999) – Despite the bulk of this cabinet, thanks to the triple screen setup, I have seen this game in various arcades over the years. What’s it like to drive a Ferrari F355 without the headache of liability insurance or needing deep pockets to even be allowed to touch one? This game is the perfect way to find out. The triple screen version also got a sequel within a couple of years.
Samba De Amigo (1999) – A maraca simulator? Sure, why the heck not? Make it cute and call it a day. Sega also created something like this that isn’t as well know called Shakka To Tambourine. That was probably a more annoying instrument to try that on, which is why I imagine it’s rarely spoken of.
Real Life Career Series (Various) – 18 Wheeler, Airline Pilots, Brave Firefighters, Crazy Taxi, Emergency Call Ambulance, Jambo! Safari, Sega Strike Fighter and Tokyo Bus Tour – In the late 90s Sega began releasing some titles that we supposed to present a real life career simulation – with enough fantasy elements to keep it interesting. As such these are borderline simulators as opposed to direct. Of these I think I have seen Airline Pilots the least, as often those were converted into Sega Strike Fighter games. Here’s some Brave Firefighters, the full game played through.
Magical Truck Adventure (2000) – What would it be like to use one of those old-timey pump rail carts? I can’t say I ever really wanted to know but thanks to Sega’s Magical Truck Adventure, the opportunity to find out is…available.
Walk The Dog (2000) – Here’s one mighty fine example of a game that has helped Japan gain a reputation for “weird games”. It’s kind of like an overblown virtual pet that gets a little exercise out of the user who has to use the treadmill.
Crackin DJ (2001) – Konami proved that music games could make money but they didn’t own the whole concept (although argument could be made to say that they certainly tried). Here’s one of Sega’s first attempts at the idea which let you play out your fantasies of being a DJ.
Burnout Running Arcade & Sonic Athletics (? / 2013) – Much of what Sega experiments with isn’t released outside of Japan but that doesn’t keep it from being cool. Here are a couple more of their treadmill games, the latest of which is playable at the Tokyo Joypolis now.
Space Tactics (1981) – We’ve mentioned this one a few times before as it’s an unusual game with some impressive engineering behind it. It isn’t the first game that comes to mind when people think about Sega classics either as the software isn’t anything to get crazy about but the hardware was. This was Sega’s first cockpit game and they wanted you to feel like you were in control of some sort of futuristic turret. The multiple control panel buttons actually worked and it had a yoke controller too but most stunning was that the screen physically moved around in the cabinet (That’s why it is under the motion category). No other arcade game I know of has attempted to work in the same manner although they have usually found less complex ways to move the monitor around. It is that complexity in Space Tactics that gives it charm however.
Space Harrier – This weirdly wonderful shooting game came along at a time when Sega really started to get into motion simulation games as a way to draw people into the arcade. The game became even more well-known through home conversions although the smoothest graphics and play were certainly found in the arcade. This was given a non-motion sequel in arcades called Planet Harriers, which was a great 3D take on the idea released in 2001. The deluxe motion version of the original can be seen in action in this video:
Hang On (1985) – The same year as Space Harrier came a game that was a little more down to earth with motorcycle racing. It wasn’t Sega’s first time dabbling with motorcycles (Fonz was an interesting take on it which involved a celebrity) but it was the first time they tried out a full motorcycle sitdown controller that has since become a standard way of handling for such racing games.
OutRun – I’m probably digging a hole for myself here but because Sega has made an awful lot of sit-down racing games over the years, I will have to avoid mentioning most of them just to save space. Instead let’s recall a few of those that were game changers in their own right, such as OutRun. The 3rd person perspective wasn’t new, but driving a Ferrari was totally radical. Sega released three cabinet designs to support different budget tiers, one was to take advantage of their motion technologies.
After Burner II (1987) – The 80s was a time of shooter games where you would fly a lone air/space craft against hordes of fodder enemies and huge bosses. But One game that kicked it up a notch would be Sega’s After Burner. Taking control of a fighter jet was an idea that probably didn’t need much debate in the halls of Sega and like some of their other titles around these years, the deluxe motion cabinet was engineered to impress.
Thunderblade (1987) – This game sought to do for helicopters what After Burner was doing for jets. The swivel seat was not as elaborate as some of Sega’s other motion games but the cabinet is still unique. A similar game was made a few years later called Air Rescue that linked two cabinets together.
Galaxy Force I/II (1988) – If a casual gamer came across one of these in arcades they would most likely compare it to Starfox (which comparison I’ve actually heard used with Dariusburst; but that wasn’t as strange as the Halo comparison to the same game. I digress) and would probably be surprised to find out that before Starfox, there was Galaxy Force. It doesn’t have cute talking animal characters or 3D polygons but the 3rd person space shooting action coupled with a motion cabinet made this game cool before anyone could get a SuperFX chip at home.
G-Loc (1990) – Jet combat once again took the stage with G-LOC, blending 2D and 3D effects into one game while also presenting the combat in a more realistic light than Afterburner did. There was a standard upright and a sitdown version of this game but then of course the motion deluxe as seen here:
Rad Mobile (1990) – This game is often remembered for being the first appearance of Sonic The Hedgehog in a game, however there was a reason Sega called it rad (it’s probably been a few years since anyone used that word without thinking about it) – it was their first 32-bit game and they wanted a cabinet to show that it could handle more than pretty graphics. The motion cabinet didn’t use a hydraulic system and it had buttons to activate the windshield wipers and other car features in the game. A less impressive non-motion version of the game called Rad Rally was released but it did provide linked two player play.
R360 (1991)- This is one of the most famous examples of Sega’s wizardry when it came to motion simulators games. Even today it seems futuristic, all that would need a change is more modern software and an HD screen. The cabinet was originally released with Sega’s flight combat game G-LOC but it later supported another 3D title called Wing War 360 that could link two cabinets together. The only time I personally had the opportunity to see one was when it was found in a never opened arcade in Bountiful, UT. It was apparently one that had been at Disneyland. The guy who was primarily working on the project restored the machine to working condition and it was quite a sight to behold. I’m not sure where that unit ended up at as the arcade project ultimately fell through. Here’s a webpage loaded with information on the platform by an R360 collector; also a page at System16 full of technical information.
Virtua Racing/Formula (1992) – The idea of the “Virtua” series was all about realism (for what they could do in the early 90s) and to prove it Sega had Virtua Racing as a killer arcade app. Like many Sega titles, VR was released in several different cabinet forms, including a DLX cabinet which used a number of airbags to create a unique force feedback system in the seat along with a widescreen monitor which was unheard of at the time. There was also a large attraction version called Virtua Formula that allowed players to sit inside F1 shaped cabinets with hydraulic movement bases and race against 7 others. It had a CCD camera system to show player reactions on a separate screen. Sega would use a similar setup with their Indy 500 game a few years later.
Sega AS-1 – I had not included this at first although I knew it should be included here. We’ll say better late than never. I recall seeing one of these at a local FEC a long time ago but I cannot remember the software very well. It is famous in part because there was one piece of software designed for it called Scramble that featured Michael Jackson as a kind of mission commander. Here’s a video that’s a compliation of footage from a trade show event that includes some inside footage of the AS-1
Dragon Ball Z V.R.V.S. – (1994) Remember the Sega Activator? If so, I’m sorry, you were probably trying to forget it. It wasn’t just at home that Sega tried to push the peripheral, something like it was used in arcades too, with Dragon Ball Z V.R.V.S. The advantage in this setting however is that Sega could use extra sensors to pull off better reaction sensing. This was a huge 4 player attraction only released in Japan to allow players to live out their DBZ battle fantasies outside of the comfort of their own home. System16 has a little more info on this one.
Sega VR-1 (1994) Sega was just as eager to jump into the VR game in the mid 90s as anyone else but they wanted to kick it up a notch. They couldn’t settle just for an unwieldy VR headset though – they had to combine that with a motion seat base too with VR-1. Here’s an explanation video, its low-quality however:
Sega Driving Simulator (2002) – Well that made it easy, simulator is right in the name. This wasn’t designed for arcades but traffic schools in Japan who benefited from Sega’s vast experience in working on driving games. More details at System16.com
“Special” Series – The Lost World (1997) / House of the Dead 4 (2006) / Let’s Go Jungle (2007) – How do you make your light-gun game stand out even more? Give it two opposing screens and a seat in the middle that rotates between the two. Throw in some special effects like air blasts and you have yourself one awesome experience. Here’s the House of the Dead 4 Special, the last time Sega tried this was with Let’s Go Jungle.
Cycraft (2003) – This was a collaboration between Sega and a Korean motion simulator company by the name of Simuline. The Cycraft system could handle various games, although only 3 that I am aware of were released for the unit, Initial D3, F-Zero AX Monster Ride and Club Kart(which is the game in the video below).
OutRun 2 SDX & Initial D4 Arcade Stage Limited – After Virtua Formula and Indy 500 in the 90s, Sega again brought unique attractions to limited venues via their motion based attractions for OutRun 2 and Initial D4. I believe that ID4 Limited wasn’t brought over the Western hemisphere but OutRun 2 SDX was at the Gameworks in Vegas the last time I had dropped by there.
Afterburner Climax (2006) – The resurrection of Afterburner in arcades brought with it some motion gaming in two different cabinets, a swivel deluxe sitdown model and a super deluxe full motion base. It was a different motion design than the After Burner II deluxe cabinet but still cool in its own way.
Storm-G (2009) – Here’s another Joypolis attraction we’ll probably not see East of Japan anytime soon, a bobsled simulator called Storm-G.
Hummer & Sega Rally 3 (2009)- One of Sega’s more recent releases for motion gaming came with Hummer. They followed a design much like OutRun 2 SDX as two players could race on one unit and it featured a cool co-op style of control that had you trying to sync the wheels together. They came up with an MDX design that cost half of what the full-sized beast did that had less motion but was still effective. Also in regards to Sega Rally 3, the motion deluxe version of the game was awesome, with a huge 62″ screen. I’ve only seen them link 2 of those together, as seen in the video below.
Dream Raiders (2013) – The most recent example of a motion unit by the hands of Sega although the game itself can’t really be considered simulation as it is all about fantasy dream situations. The motion is solid and it has wind effects too which help it stand out.
What more will they provide to arcades in the future? We will just have to wait and see.