SEGA Horror Fest review: Blue Stinger

Put on your cut-off jean shorts, stock up on pop-top Hassy’s, and sail on over for some fun in the sun with your best ephemeral, glowing, alien girlfriend! It’s Christmas time on Dinosaur Island! Sure, there may be some mutated biomedical monsters roaming around, but it’s the holidays; the more…

Review Overview

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Blue Stinger is more of an action arcade game than it is survival horror. It’s just a weird coincidence that the goal of the game is survival, and that most of the enemies are horrors.

User Rating: 4.4 ( 1 votes)

Put on your cut-off jean shorts, stock up on pop-top Hassy’s, and sail on over for some fun in the sun with your best ephemeral, glowing, alien girlfriend! It’s Christmas time on Dinosaur Island! Sure, there may be some mutated biomedical monsters roaming around, but it’s the holidays; the more the merrier, am I right?

If you’ve no idea what I’m saying, then you’ve never played Blue Stinger, the Activision-published Dreamcast launch title that wormed its way into the hearts of we early adopters. If that’s the case, go get yourself a copy as soon as possible and experience for yourself this ludicrous romp through the world of Japanese-styled survival horror. If you’re already initiated with the joys of Blue Stinger, come with me as we take a stroll down memory lane.

The second coming of survival horror?

This game was one of the more hyped releases on that glorious September in 1999, when the Dreamcast descended from heaven and landed in living rooms across the USA. Touted as that system’s very own Resident Evil, Blue Stinger would fall a bit short compared with Capcom’s masterpiece.

Hey, it's not a Blue Stinger review without a Hassy!
Hey, it’s not a Blue Stinger review without a Hassy!

The original Resident Evil was legendary for its blood-chilling scares and extreme, long-lived tension, but Blue Stinger is just a different beast altogether. The truly frightening moments are few and far between, and more often one finds oneself laughing at the generally absurd nonsense happening on screen.

Zombies wear Santa outfits, bosses take the shape of a hermit crab merged with a sport-utility vehicle, and there’s a seeming obsession with plushy, stuffed animals and cute, biomedical mascot characters.

Let’s not even discuss the voice acting.

OK, maybe not so much …

The Christmas area and music might not lend itself to making Blue Stinger the scariest game, but it certainly adds to its quirky charm.
The Christmas area and music might not lend itself to making Blue Stinger the scariest game, but it certainly adds to its quirky charm.

Yes, things are more wacky than scary. Everything’s just so damn colorful! Blue Stinger is like Space Harrier with zombies. When you kill an enemy, little glowing coins come bouncing out like you’ve just broken a brick in some weird game featuring Italian plumbing brothers. It’s not that the game has no tension, it’s just that it’s not of the truly frightening variety found in some other survival horror games.

The tension that’s present is the type that comes from worrying about running out of ammunition and taking damage from the game’s extremely strong enemies. Just because that four-armed mutant is wearing a Santa hat doesn’t mean it’s a pushover, and if you’re not careful, it will quickly be game over. But at no moment is the player ever dreading that next hallway or afraid to open a door for fear of what might be lurking behind.

This lack of atmospheric tension is certainly a result of the aesthetic, but it could also be a byproduct of a pretty big decision by Activision when bringing the game over from Japan. In the previous version, originally released in 1998 in Japan, the camera used a fixed perspective, similar to Resident Evil. This system placed the camera in stationary locations chosen by the game’s developer, Climax Graphics. The camera worked well to provide a more cinematic experience and increased the fear factor in areas where creatures would emerge dramatically into the frame, or in close-quarters where things would feel claustrophobic.

But maybe the Japanese version?

Early previews of the Japanese release by American gaming journalists lambasted the game as having horrible control, mostly due to the camera positioning, prompting Activision to implement an entirely new third-person perspective. This perspective, like the ones found in Tomb Raider and Zelda, would follow behind the character from a distance and be controllable by the player. It helped to make the game a little bit more playable, but it also killed some of the tension. Instead of unknown and unseen monsters making terrifying noises off-screen, the player immediately sees from where the threat is coming and can pretty easily dispatch it with a rocket-launcher.

Because of this, the Japanese version is superior when it comes to scares, but the US version is slightly more playable. In a survival-horror game, it makes sense that things should be as scary as possible, but exactly which camera system is better is a matter of opinion.

Ahhh, yes, the sound effects …

Dogs Bower - the sexiest sidekick of the Dreamcast era.
Dogs Bower – the sexiest sidekick of the Dreamcast era.

Another area in which it seems the designers failed to read the design brief is the soundtrack. The sound effects are nice, and do the job, but the music is far from creepy. Survival horror games are expected to have some level of dread imbued in their music. Cellos and violins should scrape and moan as rusted hinges yawn slowly open, and melancholy tunes should give way to frantic cacophonies whenever monsters are threatening the main character.

In Blue Stinger, everything is so clinically clean, and the music is like something from a Japanese shopping mall mixed with Jingle Bells. I understand it’s Christmas time, but we’re not making a documentary here. It wouldn’t have hurt to include some dread in your carols, Climax. Still, all this does seem to blend together to make a strange dichotomy of terror. That is, we wonder what type of sick and twisted criminal brain could come up with a game so sickeningly cheerful and morbidly bloody at the same time.

“It’s a game that’s fun to play, challenging and entertaining, without instilling that feeling of nauseous dread that so often accompanies games of this type.”

Summary

Blue Stinger isn’t a bad game, by any means. In fact, it’s a favorite of mine. It’s just not scary in the atmospheric way of some of the genre’s standouts. It’s a game that’s fun to play, challenging and entertaining, without instilling that feeling of nauseous dread that so often accompanies games of this type. It’s delectably “Japanese” in its presentation.

With vivid and colorful graphics, quirky characters, and fun music, Blue Stinger is more of an action arcade game than it is survival horror. It’s just a weird coincidence that the goal of the game is survival, and that most of the enemies are horrors.

4-SN-Good

About James

has a real passion for all things uniquely SEGA. A longtime contributor to SEGA Nerds, he focuses on original articles and that wonderful area where SEGA and the PS Vita converge. When not on SEGA Nerds he spends his time building motorcycles, snootily sipping espresso, and writing. His personal website is interested in vintage photography gear, and can be found at Casual Photophile.

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  • cube_b3

    I bought both Blue Stinger and Illbleed when Shinya Nishigaki passed away.

    I found them both to be unplayable though, Blue Stinger was not as bad as Illbleed but the main character model really bothered me… as discussed in the Nerdcast his feet are just not to scale.

    Then it is the music in the game, it just forced me to turn it off. Given that original voice of Ryan Drummond was voicing the main character I was super excited to play it…

    It may just be that I had just finished Shenmue and HeadHunter, which made me come in with great expectations. You have given the game a really high rating and Chris seems to enjoy the game as well, so I guess I should revisit it at some point.

    Did you know Nishigaki san was actively remaking both games for the X-Box as well as working on sequels, before he died.

    • James

      The game is fun, silly, and doesn’t take itself too seriously. Scary games are not fun to me, and Blue Stinger inhabits a warm place in my memory, as it was the first game I owned and played on Dreamcast.

      I can see why people would really not enjoy it, but I do, and I’m sure there are a lot of others out there who would enjoy it as well.

      • cube_b3

        My first game was Sonic Adventure and then Soul Caliber,

    • TheRequiem95

      I never gave Blue Stinger too much of a chance despite owning it several years ago. I really wanted it to be more of a Resident Evil type of experience, but I’d be more open to giving it another go these days.

      I also sold off Illbleed during that same round of downsizing. Since then, I’ve regretted that decision more than once. That’s a sad one in that I barely even remember the game, though I know I enjoyed it.

      • James

        Yep. They are both exceptionally quirky.

    • Luis

      the controls mess up both games…it takes patience to deal with both games..still their uniqueness, cheesiness , weirdness makes both games cult favs among the DC scene..i agree i think Illbleed is slightly worse

  • Liam Mountain

    Both Illbleed and Blue stinger along with D2 are my all time fave dreamcast horror games , Blue stinger has excellent music , that Christmas theme suits the style of what blue stinger is all about. I would of loved sequels to both games shame he passed away , even the Xbox updates would of been fun to have. Sure the graphics were not the best but blue stinger is one hell of a game and it has good amount of length and a few unlockables when you complete the game a few times , I playing on mad mode right now. I own all current gem systems but I always come back to my dreamcast especially Blue stinger , Illbleed and D2 ,I never get tired of playing them lol.

    • James

      Glad you’re so fond of it! It’s a good game! Have fun!