In August of 2001, IGN ran a preview of a new, yet-to-be-released Dreamcast game. The title of the game was Propeller Arena, and the game allowed players to fly planes and dogfight in various locations.
In September of 2001, terrorists flew planes into the World Trade Center, crashing them both to the ground and killing thousands of people.
The game Propeller Arena was quietly shelved. Despite being finished, it was never comercially released. Other than by a few lucky insiders and privledged game reviewers, the game was never seen again.
Until this month.
Apparently, one of the original, internal copies of Propeller Arena was sold to a private individual for a whopping $1,500. That copy quickly made its way into the hands of some talented Dreamcast hackers. From what I’ve read, the original plan involved selling copies of the game to recoup the group’s original $1,500 investment. Of course, if you know anything about how the internet works you know what happened next. Before the so-called “investors” got their discs, copies of Propeller Arena hit file sharing programs everywhere. What just a month ago was an extremely rare and sought after game for the Dreamcast became candy for the taking.
Which brings us to my review of Propeller Arena.
Propeller Arena is an arcade-style flying game where one or more players dog fight one another in WWII-style propeller powered planes. Controls are extremely simple to pick up and master. L and R control your plane’s speed. One button shoots while another uses special weapons. Other than fancy, special maneuvers which can be pulled off using stick/button combinations, that’s pretty much it.
Up to four players can dogfight one another in split screen mode. While cruising above towns and famous landmarks, pilots can scoop up power ups which hover in the air — that is, if you have the time. Most of my personal flight time involved shooting others and avoiding (or at least attemping to avoid) being shot.
The third landscape players can choose is called “Tower City”, and yes, the landscape closely resembles a pre-9/11 New York skyline. No, you can’t bring down the towers in the game. Honestly, there’s not much in this game that reminds me of 9/11. You’re flying WWII planes, and your goal is to shoot other planes, not buildings. If the thought of flying over NYC was so bothering, I don’t see why they didn’t just yank the offending level. Again, the focus of the game is dog-fighting other planes. The landscape over which these take place is rather moot.
It’s a shame Sega never released Propeller Arena. I know I for one would have gladly payed for it. The graphics are top notch, rivaling the PS2’s in my opinion. The game also contains some great sound, from a pop-punk soundtrack to constant one liners from both your and other pilots.
If you can find a copy of Propeller Arena, I highly suggest snagging it. It’s a great opportunity to see a great game that almost was.