Sega’s Dreamcast was a console with a strong personality. Much of that personality came from Sega’s own lineup of highly creative and stylish games, and one thing that many of them had in common were vivid, memorable soundtracks. Catchy, rockin’, swingin’, and sometimes off-beat (figuratively speaking), the music impacted the Dreamcast experience in a way that’s incomparable to almost any other game console (save for, perhaps, the TurboGrafx CD). So, here’s a look back at some of the games with the most stylish and rockin’ soundtracks on the Dreamcast.
Jet Grind Radio
“Rock It On” – Hideki Naganuma
It’s not uncommon today to see games that make use of highly stylized graphics, but for its generation, Jet Grind Radio (or its more proper title, Jet Set Radio) was truly something different. While its cel-shaded graphics aren’t as unique today as they were back then, its soundtrack still holds it own.
A combination of licensed tracks (both Japanese and American) and original music by Hideki Naganuma, the music perfectly complemented the game’s sense of humor and style. And it’s not just background music either, but diegetic music that exists within the game world as spun by DJ Professor K on Tokyo-to’s number one pirate radio station, the titular Jet Set Radio. Rarely does a game’s soundtrack intertwine so well with its fictional world.
Space Channel 5
“Mexican Flyer” – Ken Woodman
The simplistic gameplay of Space Channel 5 is sometimes accused of being style over substance, but I think that’s what makes it good. In classic arcade tradition, it’s easy to understand and get into, but the difficulty curve can actually be a little steep. Unlike most rhythm games, there’s no on-screen prompt to indicate the timing of the button presses. You simply have to keep track of the rhythm entirely on you own, which is easier for some people than others, and the button combinations can get pretty tricky later on.
The style of Space Channel 5 is essentially “the future according to the ’60s,” possibly influenced by the popularity of the Austin Powers films at the time the game came out. So, it’s not surprising that the main theme of the game was actually composed in 1966. There are multiple variations of Ken Woodman’s “Mexican Flyer” throughout the game (including a cool a cappella version), but original music composed for the game is equally swingin’, and really sets the mood.
Samba de Amigo
“Samba de Amigo (Samba de Janeiro 2000)” – Bellini
Unlike Space Channel 5, Samba de Amigo is a far more traditional rhythm game. Much like Dance Dance Revolution or Rock Band, it requires players to shake maracas (or press buttons on their Dreamcast controller, or shake Remotes if they’re playing the Wii version) in time to on-screen prompts. Given the Mexican theme, much of the licensed soundtrack is Latin-based, but there are other styles as well.
There isn’t really much to say about it, but it seemed worth mentioning.
Crazy Taxi 1 & 2
“All I Want” – The Offspring
How can you think of Crazy Taxi without immediately hearing The Offspring yelling “Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah!” in your head?
Crazy Taxi was one of the first open-world racing games (if not the first), and perhaps still one of the best. It’s so wild and crazy and hilarious, but it’s interesting how strongly it was defined by its punk rock soundtrack. The licensed songs by groups like The Offspring, Bad Religion and Methods of Meyhem were such an integral part of the game’s personality that when it was re-released for Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network in 2010 with a completely different soundtrack, some fans condemned it as not really being Crazy Taxi.
Sega seemed to learn its lesson from that experience, as it went out of its way to re-license most of the Jet Set Radio soundtrack for that game’s re-release in 2012.
Sonic Adventure 1 & 2
“Live and Learn” – Crush 40
The music in the Sonic the Hedgehog series has always been very pop-influenced. The first two games were scored by Masato Nakamura of J-Pop group Dreams Come True, who turned some of his compositions into songs for the band. Michael Jackson’s alleged connection to Sonic 3 is tenuous, but the soundtrack is still clearly based on his style. So, it’s only fitting that when Sonic Adventure finally rolled around, the soundtrack went into full-on pop-rock mode.
Crush 40 was practically the in-house band for the Sonic series for the better part of a decade, which makes sense considering it was founded by guitarist Jun Senoue who worked on the music for many of the games. They still make appearances at Sonic fan conventions to perform tracks like “Open Your Heart” and “Live and Learn.”