After the miserable failures of the 32X, CD, and Saturn, Sega had a lot of goodwill to earn back from the gaming community. Many had given up on them, switching to the then-new PlayStation and the Nintendo 64 for their needs, while Saturn got stuck with one really awesome game (Panzer Dragoon Saga) and a bunch of horrible ports. On September 9, 1999 they promised to change all of that with the release of, in my opinion, the greatest console system (sorry 3DO…wait no I’m not) in the history of mankind: The Dreamcast. Boasting amazing graphics, the first internet-ready console (56k, but back in my day 56k was luxurious and movies only cost a nickel!), a sweet memory card (VMU) that played its own games, and a library that should have allowed Sega the pleasure of slapping Sony in their gloating, idiot, ugly faces. Let’s give some of these titles a rundown, shall we?
Sonic Adventure: The launch title for the Dreamcast. It was Sonic’s first true foray into 3D (anyone who tries to bring up Sonic R or 3D Blast will be cut into pieces, okay?) and the game that would show everyone the power Dreamcast held in the graphics department…and man did it show. The graphics were out of this world, and the feeling of speed you got from the game was intense. When Sonic ran, you experienced a gush of wind and felt like you had to grab onto something or you’d fly off into the distance, never to be seen again. As far as 3D Sonic games go, this was the best. I also have to give it props for the music, as I find myself humming the soundtrack from time to time when going on a jog.
Jet Grind Radio: The game that launched the brief fad of “cel shading”, a graphic style that made games look like interactive cartoons. In Jet Grind Radio, you played as any three members of a graffiti gang known as GG’s (Beat, Gum, or Tab) and you went around different sections of Tokyo tagging other gangs' turfs and becoming the best and most prolific graffiti gang in the city. It was like The Warriors but instead of death and punishment, you dished out tags of your gang’s different logos on a myriad of different objects (walls, billboards, etc.). It was fun, inventive, and featured an excellent soundtrack, including groups like Jurassic 5 and Cold.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater: Sure, the game was originally released on thePlayStation, but THPS received the best treatment on the Dreamcast. The graphics were better and all the songs featured were in their entirety, unlike a certain cartridge-based 64 bit system that was out at that time. If you are an avid gamer, I do not have to tell you how great and influential this game was, and to this day I play it regularly. It also has sentimental value: it introduced me to the music genre of ska and was my best friend in the 8th grade when I was out sick for a week straight.
Virtua Tennis: Tennis, to most of us freedom fry-eating Americans, is one of the most boring sports to watch. However, the release of this game actually made tennis fun. Virtua Tennis was addictive and had the right amount of difficulty to sustain a long-term gaming session. Best of all, it gave tennis something that could actually appeal to the majority who shunned the sport after Sampras disappeared and we began to suck at it.
Shenmue: For my money, Dreamcast games did not get any better than Shenmue, released in 2001. A high budgeted epic RPG/fighter, it followed the story of Ryo Hazuki, a teenager out to avenge the death of his father in 1980’s Japan. The scope of this game was just intimidating. As well as following the main story arc, you could branch off and explore the different areas of Yokosuka. Every character walking around could be talked to, all the stores could be entered and interacted with, and the arcade in Dobuita featured full ports of classic Sega games Space Harrier and Hang On. There were also collectibles aplenty, from toy capsules to cassette tapes to even Sega Saturn games (we’ll ignore the anachronism for the sake of positivity, okay readers?). In the days before Grand Theft Auto shook off its top-down perspective way of life, this was the most immersive game on the planet and a game that everyone, die hard gamer or not, should play. It is also my favorite Dreamcast game, so I’m probably biased but it’s my article and not yours, so imagine me sticking my tongue out at you.
There were many more awesome games besides these, such as Crazy Taxi, Crazy Taxi 2, Skies of Arcadia, Power Stone…the list could go on and on. Couple that with all the other positives listed previously, there was no reason that the Dreamcast should have failed.
Unfortunately, we know how the story ends. Once the PlayStation 2 started gaining steam (released in October 2000) and Microsoft entered the fray with the Xbox in 2002, it was the beginning of the end. Sega had lost too many people with their failures in the years before, and could not regain them back no matter how amazing the Dreamcast was. Its single flaw of having no DVD capability (which the PS2 and Xbox both had) sealed its fate. Now, Sega makes lackluster games for systems they should have destroyed in the console war and you can tell their hearts are not in it anymore, a beaten down company that was so close to regaining its glory.
In my heart (and many gamers’ hearts too) though, the Dreamcast will always live on. Never forget, dear gamers; never forget.