On September 9th, 1999, Sega would release their final and arguably best console. The Japanese release had been the year before, but now was our time to find out what all the fuss was about. Dreamcast could run games at 60 FPS and it had the latest graphics. It would be the first console to have a built in modem for online play. It was going to be a game changer.
I was fourteen when it came out. I can remember talking with my parents about this new console and how I “needed” to have it. “Christmas is coming” they would tell me. That was four months away. It was going to feel like an eternity. What if I didn’t even get one?
In November (I assume to test if my younger brother and I were still interested) my parents rented us a Dreamcast from the local Blockbuster. The games they rented with it were Sonic Adventure and Blue Stinger. Sonic Adventure was the first 3D Sonic game, and many had hyped it up as the Super Mario 64 killer. Blue Stinger was a different story. It was supposed to be a survival horror game, but it wasn’t scary. I don’t even remember what it was about (one of the characters you play as has the wonderful name Dogs Bower), just that it was quirky and strange. Maybe I’ll revisit it one day.
We had the system for the weekend. My brother and I were given an hour each. After our hour was up we would have to swap. This was how we would share, if not I would have probably called seniority and played for hours on end. Because of these time constraints, I ran through Blue Stinger so fast it was ridiculous. When I was finished I spent the remainder of the weekend playing Sonic with my brother. I hadn’t seen anything like it before. The graphics were phenomenal for the time. Being able to race around as the different Sonic characters, each with their own story was a blast. It really captured the speed of the character. It was one of those must own launch titles. After the weekend had passed, we knew it was a gem but we reluctantly returned the system to Blockbuster.
Fast forward a month later and there was a Dreamcast waiting under the Christmas tree. I couldn’t believe it. Sonic Adventure, Soul Caliber and Dynamite Cop were with it. My brother and I were set. Soul Caliber is one hell of a fighting game and still stands up to the test of time. Dynamite Cop is a ridiculous co-op beat-em up where if you take damage, your clothes fall off. It’s hilarious. We spent the entire day playing together and it quickly became our favourite system.
Our love for the Dreamcast would carry on throughout the years as its game library expanded. House of the Dead 2, Resident Evil: Code Veronica, Skies of Arcadia, Phantasy Star Online, Crazy Taxi, Zombie Revenge, Seaman, Shenmue, Jet Grind Radio, Grandia 2. There were ports of PS1 games that just looked better on Dreamcast like Spider-Man, Dino Crisis, Resident Evil 2 & 3, Tony Hawks Pro Skater 1 & 2 and Star Wars: Jedi Power Battles to name a few. There was so much to love on the Dreamcast. It wasn’t afraid to try different things and had such a variety of genres and relatively unheard of games on it that there just wasn’t anything quite like it, even today. It wasn’t afraid to try new things and that’s what made it special.
It was pretty much perfect but quickly became overshadowed by the Playstation 2’s imminent release. I think it was because the Dreamcast was the underdog that I loved it more then any system. I wanted it to succeed, but they couldn’t compete with Nintendo or Playstation or even the newly announced Xbox. Dwindling sales numbers would end up causing Sega to discontinue the Dreamcast on March 31st, 2001. We didn’t have it for very long. 9.13 million of Sega’s beloved system were sold worldwide.
Despite the inevitable downfall of one of my favourite video game consoles, the Dreamcast will always be considered ahead of its time. It was the first system to include a built-in modem for online play. Games such as Phantasy Star Online set the stage for what could truly be possible on a home console. Since it was released during the days of dial-up, as long as your family wasn’t talking on the phone, you could venture out online with other players and party up to battle bosses. You could chat with your friends via keyboard. It sounds funny now considering the technology we have, but back when this released this was exciting stuff. Even the memory card was cool. It was called a VMU (Virtual Memory Unit) and it plugged into your controller. Not only could you save games on it, but you could play mini-games on it when you weren’t using the console. There was this creature breeding game in Sonic Adventure where you could take your creature with you on the go and train it on the VMU before transferring it back into the game.
All this talk about the Dreamcast inspired me to bring it out of storage and play it again. I get some serious nostalgia just looking at the system. Its sleek white design, the brightly coloured buttons on the controller. It takes me back to simpler days where I would come home from school and immediately hop on to play something until I was called for dinner. I didn’t have to worry about anything because I could just lose myself in these games. Owning one made you feel like a badass who was on the cutting edge of game development. The Dreamcast will always hold a special place in my heart and I really wish we could see something like it again in the future. Excuse me while I go and relive the glory days. – NVJ
What fond memories do you have of the Dreamcast? Let me know in the comments!