Sega are frustrating. I’m current playing through Rhythm Thief and the Emperor’s Treasure, Vanquish and have been playing a lot of Football Manager in-between. All these games are fantastic. They’re one of the most creative companies in the business. Go to Wikipedia now and look through a list of their franchises. It’s crazy how many series on that list need a new entry. Me personally? I would like a new: Crazy Taxi, Daytona USA, Ecco the Dolphin, Ghost Squad, House of the Dead, Jet Set Radio, Samba De Amigo, Seaman, Shenmue and Space Channel 5. They’ve also frequently published games from the amazing Platinum such as Mad World, Vanquish and Bayonetta. Unfortunately, they aren’t doing so well financially right now and reports have indicated that their new strategy involves a stronger focus on a few of their successful franchises such as Sonic, Total War and Football Manager. This is what is frustrating. They have a beautiful stable of interesting and unique IP’s but they cannot afford to dedicate resources to them. But if they were going to dedicate resources to a revival of just one of their franchises, and it was down to me to decide which one, I would make the (unpopular) decision of reviving Billy Hatcher.
If you don’t know what Billy Hatcher is, it’s an egg-obsessed platformer from Sonic Team. The game is set in Morning Land which is shrouded in darkness and infested by sinister crows. Billy and his friends, from the human world, are transported to Morning Land after defending a chick from some crows. You have to save the six Chicken elders to restore peace to Morning Land and return home. You do this with eggs. Normally, you cannot do much aside from running and jumping. But when rolling eggs, Billy is more agile, able to travel on rails and do a sort of ground pound thing as-well as a lot more. You can also hatch the eggs to gain special abilities and animals. All this variation in what you can do with eggs mean that Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg can be played in many different ways. It sounds insane and it is insane but it is also a lot of fun.
My first encounter with the game was on Christmas Day. I received my silver Gamecube which was bundled with Mario Kart: Double Dash. My parents had also bought me Pokemon Colosseum (an obvious choice for me as a Pokemon obsessed child*) and Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg. Needless to say, the latter was a less obvious choice. I had no idea what the game was but the Sonic Team logo on the box reassured me that it wouldn’t be a total write off (how naïve!). So I played Mario Kart with my family for most of the morning and managed to fit some time in for Pokemon Colosseum but Billy Hatcher remained unplayed. It wasn’t until some time during that weird part of the year between Christmas and New Years that I decided to play some Billy Hatcher. My weird obsession with the game began. Don’t get me wrong, it’s flawed. There are camera issues, it’s a bit repetitive and I have to play it on mute or my brain will try to escape my skull. The thing is, I couldn’t care less. The game is incredibly joyous, utterly charming and so many of the ideas have a massive amount of potential. That’s why I want a sequel.
The aspect that, even as a child, I wished they expanded on was the animals that hatched out of the eggs. There’s something utterly compelling about collecting and caring for creatures in games. The Pokemon series and the Chao Garden mini games from the Sonic Adventure series are great examples of this. Yuji Naka, one of the designers of the game, said in an interview with IGN that eggs were chosen as the focus of the game to give the player joy from caring for and hatching eggs. This idea certainly existed in the original game but a sequel could take this and run with it. And it would be brilliant.
The other aspect of Billy Hatcher that a sequel could enhance is the multi-player. The Billy Hatcher single player mode is great. It’s flawed but great. But everyone who has played Billy Hatcher will know that the multi-player mode is perhaps even stronger. It was incredibly addictive, hilarious and it was crazy. I remember spending a lot of time with my siblings on the multi-player and it was glorious fun. In-fact, it’s one of the games that contributes to my belief that the Gamecube was the greatest system ever for local multi-player (along with Smash Bros & Double Dash). It would be great to have a sequel that took one of the most under-appreciated local multi-player experiences ever and made it into one of the most under-appreciated online multi-player experiences ever.
Something that I’ve noticed is that some of my favourite games are the ones that I don’t expect anything from. The ones that come from nowhere and are charming. The ones who I seem to come into possession of purely by coincidence. Billy Hatcher is one of those games. If an announcement for a sequel ever happens, I will be incredibly excited. Even if no-one else will be.
*Who am I kidding? I’m still a Pokemon obsessed child.