9/9/99 – Sega Dreamcast hit the North American market with much fanfare. It was truly a next gen console that obliterated the competition. Playstation and Nintendo 64 were aged considerably compared to the Dreamcast. The system had a built in modem for online capabilities, an available keyboard and web browser. Futureproof they said. The framerate on the games was very smooth and the new controller, although bulky, allowed for a new memory card known as the Virtual Memory Unit (VMU for short). The VMU allowed you to take a mini game with you so that you could play on the go. The Dreamcast also had 4 controller ports for local multiplayer. It was ahead of its time and did everything right. But its demise was planned well in advance by Sony who announced that the bigger, faster, DVD playing Playstation 2 would be releasing November of 2000.
The Dreamcast was a good console and one of my favorites in my collection. The Dreamcast had unique games, a unique controller #tb#TBand the power to back it all up. Sonic Adventure and Sonic Adventure 2 were incredibly fun to play even if they were a drastic departure from the classic platforming Sonic. But to be fair, everyone was doing the 3D conversion of their flagship IP. Space Channel 5 and Jet Grind Radio are two games that haven’t been duplicated since. Ports of titles originally on the Playstation played drastically better on the Dreamcast. Soul Reaver is best played on the Dreamcast. Other titles such as Shenemue, Power Stone, and Skies of Arcadia are must have titles for the console and fetch very high prices on eBay and Amazon. Arcade ports like Marvel vs Capcom and Street Fighter Alpha 2 are almost 1:1 ports of their arcade cousins. Something Sega has always been able to do well.
The design of the console was a stark departure for Sega as well. Instead of a black, bulky console like the Saturn, they decided to go white and slim with the Dreamcast. Prior to the Dreamcast, consoles were black or grey (with the exception of the N64 which had too many colors to count) The white console was eventually greeted with a black Sega Sports Dreamcast for those looking for some uniformity in their Sega collection.
The controller was simple but designed well. 1 joystick on the top left, a d-pad below it and 4 colored buttons on the right. It had 2 triggers on the back and a window to view the VMU. There were two ports in the back that allowed you to have 1 memory card and a vibration feature or the microphone which was used for the very peculiar Seaman. The Dreamcast controller also had ridges for your hands to firmly grip the controller and press the triggers with your right and left index fingers while still operating the face buttons with your thumbs. In addition to a six foot cable, you could also fit the cable into a built in ridge so that it didn’t get in the way (the cable was plugged into the bottom of thecontroller, not the top like most.) The controller drew design queues from the Saturn 3D controller and would later influence the Xbox controllers.
At the end of the day, the Dreamcast was ahead of its time with online capabilities and gameplay. Unfortunately the piracy protection was nonexistent and Sony’s offer of the cheapest DVD player that also played Playstation and Playstation 2 games were the death knell to the system. The Dreamcast was Sega’s last console it ever made. Soon after the Dreamcast went under, we saw something we thought would never happen in a million years; Sonic on a Nintendo console. Sonic Adventure and Sonic Adventure 2 were ported to the Gamecube and eventually new Sonic games were made for a variety of consoles. Even the two rivals Mario and Sonic teamed up in an Olympic game. Sonic would eventually join Mario and others in Super Smash Brothers Brawl.
The Sega Dreamcast is a great console for anybody to pick up. The best thing right now is that it’s on the cheap end of older consoles, but you might have trouble tracking down some of the more popular titles. I highly suggest you check it out if you really want to experience a true gaming console.