Written by: Alejandro Rodriguez, Special to CC2K
The Sega Dreamcast, a console built on the former failures of its console brethren. Taking every single problem that people had with Sega CD, the Sega 32X, and the unjustly discriminated Sega Saturn; the Sega Dreamcast was created for video game fans. The Dreamcast came in between the final days of the 32 and 64 bit life cycle, finally bringing with it 128 bits of graphics glory. It gave gamers the first hints of online capability and pushed hardware beyond what gamers were used to. Still, revolutionaries aren’t often appreciated until years after they are gone. Thus, is the fate of the Dreamcast, Sega’s last stand.
For me, the Dreamcast came into my life late into its life. Because of the failures of the 32X and Sega CD (I was a huge Genesis fanboy as a child) I had completely lost all hope with Sega. As a child talking at the playground the news about the Sega Saturn wasn’t good either. Most kids agreed that it was garbage and all I could do was agree with them. I didn’t have the exact amount of money to try it out and all the Sega Saturn games that I had played were not anything spectacular either. Hell, there wasn’t even a Sonic game on the system, I’d be stupid to buy a console that didn’t even push it’s major mascot out there with a game. Not just that, but any Saturn game would be easily accessible on the Playstation and I still had my Nintendo 64 for all the first party games I’d ever want. (Including a few awesome 3rd party games, and I stress the term few) Yes, the once amazing Sega was dead to me, it was like moving away from a best friend and promising that you two would always be friends, only to come back later and realize you two no longer have anything in common, you just have to grin and continue living your life.
When news came of the Dreamcast coming out (Along with its amazing graphics) every magazine in town was talking about the return of Sega’s once strong gaming empire. With Sony now firmly in the lead, the Dreamcast’s began its uphill battle to win support back from its former customers. Unfortunately at that time I was content with my Nintendo 64 and Playstation. I shunned all coverage of the machine and soon was even telling my friends how I would just wait to buy the next machine from Sony and Nintendo, that the Dreamcast probably wouldn’t even have a proper Sonic game, most likely just some lame racing game. Although I always held by my beliefs at school I secretly sat in awe of the Dreamcast. Games like Sonic Adventure, Soul Calibur and Dead or Alive 2 (With jiggling boobies? Sweet!) were catching my eye and it was the only place I could play a perfect version of Marvel vs. Capcom, at that time one of my favorite games ever created. The fanboy in me was twisting at my stomach, telling me that none of it mattered, that all these games were of a lesser quality, but in the back of my mind I continued to think that owning a Dreamcast was starting to sound like a really good idea.
Although the thought of owning a Dreamcast was always in my mind, I needed a good reason to buy the console. And although all the games looked like an awesome experience, I was waiting for a game that would completely change the way I look at games. For the Nintendo 64 it was Super Mario 64, for Playstation it was Parasite Eve, I just needed something new and refreshing to show me that gaming on the Dreamcast would be something that I would always remember. Then one day while reading an issue of Electronic gaming Monthly there was a modest preview of a game called Jet Grind Radio (Known as Jet Set Radio in Japan). Reading over the preview I was amazed at the graphics in the game, this new fangled “Cel-Shading” that I have never seen before, now it’s like I’m actually playing a cartoon! Man, I sure hoped it caught on. Not just that, but the little things caught my attention, the game was all about breaking the law, and sticking it to the man. Being able to create your own graffiti and even upload images from the internet as your own graffiti? Amazing! Not just that, but they were really saying that the soundtrack would be amazing, and it was, to this day it is still my favorite soundtrack to any game. Jet Grind Radio was the game that I need to own and the game that cemented my reason to buy a Dreamcast.
With the Dreamcast at $99.99 and coming with a free Sonic Adventure and NFL 2K game, my explanation to my mother on why it would be a smart buy was easier than any other console I have ever owned. Finally the Dreamcast was mine and I could play all the great games that I had been missing. Not just that, but I was a huge fighting game aficionado and there was no game console more devoted to fighting games than the Dreamcast. Tons of awesome games Power Stone, Soul Calibur, Dead or Alive 2, Street Fighter 3: Third Strike, Fatal Fury: Mark of the Wolves, and both Marvel vs. Capcom games to date. All games were almost, if not arcade perfect. I’d go nights, sleepless while playing Soul Calibur with friends or just by myself. Fueled only by Cheetos and Mountain Dew, those were some of the best nights of my life. It was like the Dreamcast party was never going to end, like it would be around forever. Or at least until the next Sega console.
Then I started reading about Sega’s financial problems. Piracy, poor sales, along with people just not caring about it was hurting its sales. Not just that but its saving throw was to make a big-budget game by the name of Shenmue, (Which is one of the best games on the Dreamcast) a game that was fun, but threw some people in a loop because there was just so much to do. Not just that but the story was over arching, it was set up to be an eight game series. It only received one sequel. Then on January 31, 2001 Sega announced that they would no longer be releasing any hardware by March of 2001. Sega was going third party and there was nothing I could about it. The next few days I dragged my feet as I kept going through the situation in my head. Maybe this is just a way for Sega to make enough money for their next awesome console? Maybe they want a strategy for their next console and want to work with the competition to see how they can beat them at their own game? Finally I just let go and decided that it was all for the best. The Dreamcast left as king and still stays big years after its death.
Ten years after its release people are still talking about how great and ahead of the time the Dreamcast was. It was the console that introduced and openly pushed online gaming and was the first console to support progressive scan in 420p. Homebrew games are still being created to this day and it doesn’t feel like the games have aged since then. Well, at least the good games haven’t aged. It may have not lasted long, but the Sega Dreamcast will always live in the hearts of their friends. As for this plucky young gamer, it reintroduced me to Sega again. And for those few months that I had it in my possession, it was the greatest console ever.