When Sega Rally first made the journey home from Sega's Model 2 arcade hardware to the Saturn, the gaming world stopped to take a look at what would eventually become the finest racer ever on the Saturn, and the finest rally-style racer on any home console, bar none. Other off-road rally games came and went, each of them trying to emulate Sega Rally's playability, with none quite reaching that high watermark. It's been more than three years since Sega Rally's home debut, and, despite having only three cars and four tracks, it has never found its match in sheer excellence of game design. Until now.
Sega Rally 2 has emerged as one of the fledgling Dreamcast's most important titles for many reasons; it also has a lot weighing on its shoulders. For starters, the conversion quality of Sega Rally 2 was necessary to prove to people that the Power VR2-based guts of the Dreamcast could handle Model 3 arcade conversions. Second, after a poor first appearance at the Tokyo Game Show, where it was displayed on video only, many doubted that the conversion could be done, and fears started to spread that this would be similar to the Saturn version of Daytona USA. Last, with release dates for all sorts of Dreamcast games slipping on a daily basis, Sega desperately needed to shore up its thin launch lineup with another title - and fast. Fortunately for Sega and the state of the Dreamcast, Sega Rally 2 is crashing in like a thoroughbred - mowing down the crowd of doubting Thomases and establishing itself firmly at the forefront of the racing genre.
While most of the attention surrounding the Dreamcast Model 3 ports will invariably center on the faithfulness of the translation, average US gamers will most likely never have the chance to see an actual Sega Rally 2 arcade setup. If the gamers did, they would probably notice that the conversion, in this case, is close to the original. Conversions from Model 3 to the Dreamcast are always going to be tricky because of the differing hardware solutions. Currently, the tangible differences between arcade and home gamesare in color saturation, intensity of light sourcing, and the solidity of the polygonal models. The cars in Sega Rally 2 look remarkably similar to those in the arcade version, minus a few polygons. This results in slightly angular models, particularly where the wheels and any other round objects appear. Since Power VR2 renders only the polygons that are in view (to save processing power), and it renders them in triangles instead of in rectangles, this may help explain the discrepancies. Track draw-in is noticeable if you're looking, but it's handled gracefully so it's never blatant or distracting. Using a particularly effective method of MIP-mapping, the horizon fades in nicely and never becomes an eyesore, thanks to its excellent track design. Anyone familiar with the Sega Rally style of gameplay will be right at home here. The game makes use of the standard Dreamcast controller (which supports both the analog and digital D-pad). The main difference between Rally and Rally 2 is the addition of a hand brake for some crafty powersliding. The analog triggers on the standard DC controller can be set to control the gas and brakes, and performance is based on how hard you press down. While analog control is superb, D-pad tappers will find control just as responsive with the normal digital pad.
Of all the criticisms leveled at the first Rally, track selection was the main source of distress. Three tracks, and one bonus track wasn't enough by anyone's standards. While the game was relatively easy to complete, it took a while to master because of its stingy learning curve. It took a hard-core gamer to complete the fourth track, but once mastered, that was it. Another sore spot was the car selection. Two cars and one hidden one was pretty cheap, and while that may have been fine for the arcade, it certainly wasn't fine at home.