Ethereal and unusually calming for an on-rails shooter, Rez utilized enhanced vibration technology to help immerse the player in its world. The vibration works with its rave-techno score to build a trance-like state, letting you chill while saving the world from a rogue AI.
The result is a video game homage to Altered States: a film that also worked ahead of its time to mimic a psychedelic state in its viewers. It was a unique and powerful enough experience for this oddity to become a franchise. Rez survives in remakes and remasters, like Rez Infinite, and in the spiritual successor by the same director, Child of Eden. Though this achievement was shared with Sony and their less-unwieldy DualShock controllers, the Dreamcast version of Rez is still a technical and artistic accomplishment for a system not lacking in such accomplishments.
Jet Set Radio (Jet Grind Radio)
Strangely, it seems like 2002’s Jet Set Radio Future tends to get more credit for being one of those great games most people have forgotten about. A Japanese launch title for the unwieldy monolith that was the original Xbox, that sporty action game featured a slick, cel-shaded aesthetic and a vibrant soundtrack. Unfortunately, the Xbox’s struggles in Japan contributed to the game’s failure in that region. Then again, it didn’t do very well in North America either.
Yet, so much of what made Jet Set Future a future cult classic began in that game’s 2000 predecessor, Jet Set Radio. That game’s cartoon style and kickin’ soundtrack made for an unbeatable experience, showcasing what the underrated console could accomplish with a team focused on delivering their absolute best. It controls like a dream, allowing players to zip through twining streets, leaving graffiti tags to piss off their enemies. For gamers that think The World Ends With You is the best showcase of the bold Shibuya street style, know that there’s an ancestor worth meeting.
Skies of Arcadia
If, after hundreds of hours of Xenoblade Chronicles 3 and its predecessors, you’re still jonesing for more to explore, try Skies of Arcadia on a buddy’s working Dreamcast (or find the game’s oft-forgotten GameCube port). In terms of its gameplay and style, it feels like the spiritual cousin the Xeno games deserve.
Skies of Arcadia is a world of floating continents featuring a secret history of advanced technology turned apocalyptic. Naturally, history is about to repeat, and a young pirate and his eccentric crew get involved with powers and problems beyond their comprehension. That set-up is already pretty Xeno-y, but add in a surprisingly rich character recruitment system that makes your airship base feel ever livelier, and an enormous world to explore, and you’ll soon be begging for more. Of course, so much of the game’s brilliance can be traced back to the creativity of its producer, Rieko Kodoma. Kodama, who was also the artist who gave the Phantasy Star franchise its lush sci-fi aesthetic, tragically passed away this year. This game was her proudest achievement, and it’s still a gift to JRPG fans everywhere.