Sega’s last attempt at hardware, and arguably their best, was the Dreamcast. Released in 1999 (in Australia at least), and discontinued (in Australia again) in 2002, it just didn’t have the legs to compete with the BEHEMOTH that was PlayStation 2… Sega dropped out of the hardware race to focus on the games themselves – potentially something that worked out for them in the long run, but sad, considering how great the Dreamcast was…
Even given its short lifespan, the Dreamcast still enjoys a cult following – games such as Crazy Taxi, Jet Grind Radio, and Shenmue are considered some of the best titles ever released on a retro console (I said SOME OF, not THE best, so keep your opinion to yourself, people!)… Soul Calibur is such a good conversion it’s considered by many to be the best game released on the Dreamcast. It was really that good, and the quality of the titles is evident from the second you run up the machine.
Beyond that? It was the first machine to have an inbuilt modem, and the first to connect to an online network for gaming (and as such, a precursor to services such as Xbox Live). It had a fairly revolutionary controller for the time, with a very interesting memory card – it was itself a kind of game controller. And if that’s not enough to convince you of how awesome it was, there are STILL some independent developers making games for it (not so many these days, but it is a much-loved machine). I simply HAD to get one.
Why did I buy this?
Again (seems to be a running theme so far), I didn’t buy this myself, but I totally WOULD have. This was a hand-me-down from a departing friend while I was living in Tokyo, so in some ways it was the very start of my collection (I just didn’t realise it at the time). It came with the Dreamcast Karaoke add-on, which, while hard to find, is not really something that needs to be hunted down, as it no longer really does anything – it was online, and the network has been pulled down.
I WOULD have bought a Dreamcast because… well, I was a Sega boy during the “Nintendo vs Sega” wars of the late 80s/early 90s, and this was the last Sega console. Further, it was extremely underrated for its time, and there were just so many great titles (a good friend of mine had one, and we had a blast playing it in his bedroom in our late teens). In my opinion, I wouldn’t have a complete collection if I didn’t get a Dreamcast (then again, I have no idea how I would define a “complete” collection).
It’s a Dreamcast – it STILL plays like a dream (like what I did there?). The controller was awesome in its day, and it’s still great to use. There’s not much to say apart from the fact that… I love everything about it! Killed by the release of the PlayStation 2, it had games that really could have rivalled Sony’s monster in terms of quality, but it was let down by the sheer popularity of the PS brand… Sad, really (but understandable in some ways, given how awesome the PS2 was).
Recommendations for collectors
I’m sure you’re used to it by now (if you really ARE a retro collector), but the Dreamcast is susceptible to that wonderful yellowing of plastic… Yes, there are ways to clean this off now, but keep that in mind, as the methods for cleaning the discolouration are a pain in the ass – then again, I’ve never tried. Then again… again, simply based on the fact that you CAN clean the yellowed plastic, perhaps it’s not really an issue like it once seemed to be?
I guess what I’m saying is – if you can get your hands on a Dreamcast, do it. It’s a great machine, with some great titles, and had a huge impact on the industry, so it shouldn’t be missed. But if you do get one, make sure you grab a VMU for your controller as well (not only are they cool, you need one to save your game).
What am I looking forward to?
A lot, really. There’s the usual Dreamcast fare – Sonic Adventure 1 and 2, Crazy Taxi, Jet Grind Radio, Space Channel 5, Marvel vs Capcom, Soul Calibur, and the GLORIOUS Shenmue series (the first game is such a perfect representation of Japan it it good for reminiscing). Beyond that, though, there are a few titles I played on my friend’s machine that I’m keen to try again – House of the Dead (yes, I have the light guns), Ikaruga, King of Fighters, Power Stone 1 + 2, Rez, Sword of the Berserk, Virtua Tennis, and likely a lot more… Oh, and considering I also have the keyboard, it might pay to track down Typing of the Dead as well 🙂
Update: Thanks to Chris in the comments, I realise there’s something I forgot to mention that may be very important to collectors… The Dreamcast did not have an Operating System built in to the system itself – the argument by it’s designers being that the games could ship with whatever version of the OS would suit (it was designed for Microsoft Windows CE), meaning the games would always ship with the latest version of the software. The downside to this was that it made the games very easy to pirate, something that very likely contributed somewhat to the Dreamcast’s untimely death, but also something that current Dreamcast owners can use to their advantage. If only more people bought DC games at the turn of the Millennium, there may very well be a fourth first party…