It has been said that the Wii is Nintendo's best console. But arguably more frequent saying goes that Sega's swansong was their finest effort. Let's talk Sega Dreamcast! My personally most played console over any given period of time. There are ardent fans accross the globe who will tell you Sega did everything right with the Dreamcast. There are others who will point to its lack of DVD playback that prematurely put a nail in its coffin. But like Altered Beast, the Dreamcast refuses to stay put and continues to rise from its grave. It's still thinking, we're still dreaming...
The Dreamcast was a revolution. Built from the incredible NAOMI arcade hardware, it was heralded as the first "128-Bit console" (bits were still a thing back then, even if this isn't neccessarily true it helped us define an obvious new generation of home consoles). It was the first to prominently use online play as a proper feature and strong selling point. It was capable of beautiful 480p output with VGA, utilising the new lines of EDTV's of the time alongside standard monitors, meaning that the odds are you whack that badboy into a modern set it will still look gorgeous. Not only that, but those of us relegated to the PAL territory had options to play in 50hz or 60hz! So finally the giants were listening! Unlike the PlayStation, the loading times tended to be quicker, showing that a CD-based console need not have you stuck on a static screen. The Dreamcast was the next logical step, the evolution of video games that has sunk its heels in deep to mark its territory on history, forcing other companies to take note and adapt. It was the console gamers wanted, it was the console gamers needed.
All the above hyperbole? Perhaps, yet it can't be denied when the facts are weighed in alongside the commercial success of the consoles early life. The fastest selling home console in history at the time, it was everywhere. Every magazine, game shop and mouth in the land were hyping its release. Sega realised the misteps of the Saturn and did their best to rectify it ten fold.
As mentioned on the main Sega page, Sega really pushed Dreamcast as its own unique brand of video game entertainment. A brave new world for the company that was once the coolest thing on the planet. Sega went head on and for all out war with anyone who would stand in their way. But the inevitable, that was once deemed impossible, happened. Little over three years into the Dreamcasts life, Sega discontinued it. The marketing brilliance of Sony, the lingering fear of some third-parties and a many other element plaguing Sega at the time caused it, specifically the botched Japanese launch. It was over far too soon. As proven by the fact that the console was selling just as strong, if not more so, at the very last few months of its life. If only they held out a little longer.
But enough with the doom and gloom! No matter how sad it maybe, there is so, so much to rejoice over! Lets get techy again right now: a CD -based console, the games are played via GD-ROM (a Sega made format) that allowed more storage space than a regular CD-ROM, yet less than a DVD equivelent. A whopping 200 MHz Hitachi SH4 RISC CPU, 16Mb RAM and 8Mb GPU with 100MHz PowerVR2 CLX2 graphics truly set the DC a part from the other consoles of the day.
The fact it was built from the NAOMI hardware allowed close to perfect conversions of the most popular arcade titles, distinctly making the Dreamcast a console for the more 'hardcore' gamer. For purpose of online play, the DC came with a modem as standard (outside of Brazil) that could be upgraded with a broadband adapter. The choice of A/V outputs with RGB (SCART), RCA and superior VGA all being options on the table; the universal power supply carried over from the Saturn. The console had an optimised version of Windows CE capable of running DirectX...Basically making the Dreamcast the first (Direct)X-Box. Jus' sayin'.
Oh, yeah thats all cool. We got some history but shuttheheckupandtellusaboutgames. Alright! Eeesh. The games. Oh, boy! The games! The Dreamcast started off strong with some incredible launch titles that not only showcased Sega's new system but have remained staples of "yup, awesome" to this day. We're talking about Power Stone and Soul Calibur, we're talking about House of the Dead 2 and Marvel Vs. Capcom...And biggest of all at the time? Fixing the Saturns issue and giving the world Sonic Adventure, the first full foray into the third dimension for everyones favourite Hedgehog!
Hey! EA were snubbing Sega! Bet the Sports games sucked! Fool, get outta here. The Sega Sports games were actually outselling their EA counterparts at the time. For good reason. They were superior titles. Back before EA Sports nommed up every license going, Sega's 2K games (which became THAT 2K Games, yes) were killing it in that department. Sega took what EA did on the MegaDrive and threw it back in their faces. It was a great time to be a sports game fan.
Overall there are well over 600 official titles available on Sega Dreamcast, but it doesn't even end there. Independent and homebrew releases have continued solidly since the demise of Sega as a hardware manufacturer. Something that the company has even acknowledged themselves, made clear by their selling new-old and refurbished stock through a web-order site well after the consoles supposed death. MIL-CD releases continue to this very day, or at least as of writing. A testament to the rabid, cult-like appeal of the console.
The games crossed all genres. You like SHMUPS? Erm, Ikaruga much!? How about fighting games? Fancy a side order of MVC2 with your King of Fighters 2002!? The likes of Metropolis Street Racer (precursor to Project Gotham Racing), Daytona USA 2001 and the mighty Sega Rally Championship 2 should quench that epic thirst for racing! But wait, you want something that defies genre? Okay. How about SEGAGA, Jet Set/Grind Radio or the brain-meltingly original and never bettered Shenmue 1 and 2?! Exactly! Y'all can't even step to this. The Dreamcast is where its at, playah.
Some of Sega's most fondly remembered IP's made their original appearences on the Dreamcast, too. Space Channel 5, Crazy Taxi, Samba de Amigo...It's insane to think just how great the exclusives were. Like the online multiplayer games and such like Chu Chu Rocket and the nutty Ooga Booga remain in fans conciousness to this day. When chatting exclusives we can never forget Phantasy Star Online. Sega doin' what Squaredon't. Wait, wrong line? Who cares! PSO was awesome, end of.
The cross-platform potential of the Dreamcast was always something that is to be regarded as "purdy darn tootin". Random as it seemed, you could hook up the thing to a Neo Geo Pocket handheld system. HUH!? The aforementioned Windows/DirectX capabilities also blow this whole thing out there. Then to top it all, you got the VMU's. Memory cards with screens. *mindblown*
Yes, I may be getting carried away but all it takes is a quick glance over the library to see the Dreamcast has one of the most unique, diverse and engaging catalogues of any system in history. The quality factor was very usually high on the agenda, with shovelware thankfully being few and far inbetween, which is something any real gamer can get on.
No matter your region, that sassy little grey box with either the orange (Asia), red (North America) or blue (Euro/PAL) swirl on it is sure to fill your heart with content. It may not be as sturdy as the Saturn (laser prone to death) and the fan may do its best to let you know it exists, but those are minor greviences in the long-term, really. My only personal problem is the fact Sega went the four-face button route as opposed to six. But when it's SNK you're having a love-in with I guess that can be slightly forgiven.
There is so much more I could wax lyrical on with about the Dreamcast, but to play it is to understand. To play it is to love it. There's a reason this diamond of a console has been the best friend of many gamer since its release back in '98/99. The day my dad brought mine home as a suprise present my life suddenly felt complete. So fire up your Dreamcast, man. Give that legend some lovin'!