And yet, since Sega slithered out of the hardware game, and retreated into its subterranean cranny, it has - for the past 20 years or so - revisited those franchises in only the most tentative ways. Admittedly, Sonic has reappeared continually, to ever more depressing effect... albeit until the release of Sonic Mania a couple of years ago, where it looked as if Sega was finally going to honour its past, and begin scooping some of its ever-gestating "taddies" back into the pond.
Hope was high that the reception which greeted Sonic Mania would encourage Sega to revisit some of its other most popular franchises.
Here in the space-year 2019AD, we might be seeing the fruits of that; the Sega Ages line has reintroduced some of its greatest franchises, and we've a new Streets of Rage, Super Monkey Ball, Phantasy Star, and a remake of Panzer Dragoon, on the way.
But Sega, for the most part, continues to be a real weirdo in terms of the baskets it chooses.
I still find it jarring to visit Sega's website and see its most prominent listed franchises as Alien Isolation, Football Manager and Total War. That's not to knock the popularity of any of the series, but they just don't feel like Sega games to me.
And, indeed, judging from the reaction to Sega's latest announcement, Sega continues to avoid giving its most hardcore fans that which they desire most...
Over the past couple of days, Sega's socials began teasing a new game with a series of short, cryptic, videos, which whisked its followers into a sudsy spume of excitement.
Said teasers showed one of those heart monitor things... which began to display strange symbols. What could it mean?
For reasons that I simply do not understand - given that the symbols in no way seemed to relate to said game series - a whole bunch of Sega fans whipped themselves up into believing that they were foreshadowing a new Jet Set Radio game.
Was something coming back to life? Something which had long been considered dead? A heartbeat... as in a beat that you get in music... like THE MUSIC IN JET SET RADIO!?
OMG!!! SEGA IS GONNA RELEASE JET SET RADIO 3!!!!!!!! IMMA SO EXCITED MESA GONNA CRYYYYYY!!!!!!?!!!!!
In fact, it couldn't be further from Jet Set Radio. Like, at all. The game that the videos were teasing, Humankind, looks to be some sort of fairly serious Civilisation knock-off, a strategy game where you create all-new civilisations by combining 60 historical cultures together. By contrast, Jet Set Radio is a try-hard-cool skate 'em up where you whizz around a cel-shaded city spraying graffiti on "things".
Again, nothing - literally nothing - in Sega's teases seemed to imply a new Jet Set Radio title, but that didn't stop Sega's rabid fanbase crying fowl:
What all of this demonstrates is two things:
1) Sega has badly misread its audience.
2) Sega fans are idiots, and need to calm down.
3) I said two things.
Famously, neither of the existing Jet Set Radio games were massive sellers, despite being great games. They're emblematic of a time when Sega was still prepared to take risks, to do things their own way, regardless of prevailing winds. Back then, Sega could - just about - afford to stick its bulbous neck out a bit more. Not so nowadays.
It's worth keeping in mind that, while they've gone on to develop a cult following, a third Jet Set Radio is by no means a sure thing for Sega - a company that needs to choose carefully where it invests development funds. On paper, a Jet Set Radio 3 is a massive risk for a company that has no choice but to play it relatively safe.
Consider the format; an open world city, cutting-edge graphics... JSR3 wouldn't just need to compete with its own legacy, but modern open world games, such as the Grand Theft Auto series. Sega doesn't have that sort of money anymore.
I'm not saying they won't ever go there, but in this instance its nevertheless baffling that Sega fans have once again demonstrated the absurd entitlement that gamers are fast becoming notorious for.
Still, in this instance... you can kind of understand the disappointment being felt by the long-term Sega fan. The company has an enviable stable of properties, yet seems to go out of its way to ignore what's right under its nose.
I get that we're in a different time, and that Sega's traditionally arcade-leaning gameplay isn't what's in vogue anymore (at least in terms of what would be considered a triple-A game). Sega - possibly correctly - doesn't feel that many of its IPs are viable in this day and age. However much outrage Sega fans express, it won't change that - or the fact that their echo chamber bubble could be distorting the actual amount of demand for a new Jet Set Radio.
Don't forget, the last Jet Set Radio game was released almost 18 years ago. That's more than a lifetime ago for most Fortnite and Minecraft players. Sega would need to market a new JSR to them as if it was a brand new thing, and not just some nostalgia fest... but how do you avoid every single review stating that its new-old goods?
It's fine when it comes to the likes of Sonic Mania - a relatively low-budget game, featuring an established gaming icon. Jet Set Radio, whether Sega fans like it or not, doesn't have the same visibility. It's a cult series, and there are all sorts of messaging challenges to overcome when releasing a modern version of it.
Nevertheless, it remains a bit weird that Sega has wandered so far from its heritage. I get the sheer shake-them-by-the-shoulders frustration that many Sega fans are displaying; the company does seem to have squandered its history, it does appear to make weird, left-field, choices in terms of what it chooses to release, and it certainly did a terrible job of managing the hype on this one - leaving enough questions for Sega fans to provide their own wrong answers.
At the same time... is a brand new IP, any less of a risk? I suspect Humankind cost less to develop than a new JSR game would cost... but it's a complete unknown. There's no narrative hook there, other than "NEW CIVILISATION-TYPE GAME RELEASED BY SEGA".
In many ways, that's less exciting than "BELOVED CULT FRANCHISE REBORN!" - a guaranteed headline-generator, if ever there was one. I do appreciate the dilemma Sega faces, but there's a solid reason why classic bands, like The Cure or U2, will tour decades-old albums, and use it as a delivery method for new material.
Maybe the issue here is that Sega is perceived as a heritage act, and its fanbase just wants to hear the hits. Unfortunately, while it might toss the occasional bone by playing a handful of the classics, the company mostly focuses on playing the new stuff.