Haven't been able to post for the last few days due to.........well, anyway, non-videogame related shit.
Just read your review, rjay, and I found it to be a very interesting read. I think you are right to point out the differences in playability in both games - It's definitely a tale of two halves !
I suppose, if you're an out and out racing fan, then games such as Le Mans, F355, Sega Rally 2, V-Rally 2 plus others, such as Daytona 2001 and THC, are/were the driving games of choice. But there should always be a place for 'alternative' games on any system and I'm so glad Speed Devils got released on the DC as it's so full of character(s!), it's different and fun. It joins Revolt, Demolition Racer, 4 Wheel Thunder etc in making the Dreamcast so appealing to all kinds of gamers.
I always thought the handling was broken in the second game but always put it, along with the framerate problems, down to the developers incorporating the online code into the game. I'm not really sure......it just seems so odd that they went and spoiled a perfectly good game !?. I seem to remember F355 having this weird online aspect: that when you'd finished tweaking your suspension offline
and took your car for a spin online
, the suspension changed back to default settings
Strange, but again I put it down to it being part of simplifying the mechanics of the game to get it running smoothly over dial-up. This is only speculation though, don't quote me on it
When we talk about the graphics of thirteen year old games, it can be tough to imagine or remember what impact they had all those years ago. But I distinctly remember thinking Speed Devils was impressive back in the day, especially in the way the obstacles were animated and the little details that brought the game to life. It, and I'm referring to the first game here, was also pretty solid looking, without too much slowdown or pop-up and certainly nothing game spoiling.
I think you're right in saying it could have been an even better game. Yes, a deeper or even 'drift' handling mechanic, plus those multiplayer options you suggested, could have elevated it to classic status. But, as it is, it's still a game everyone should try out. Like you say, it's a unique experience.