Console Special No.6: Sega Dreamcast

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JaySevenZero
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Console Special No.6: Sega Dreamcast

Post by JaySevenZero » July 24th, 2019, 2:04 pm

The latest of our single platform podcast specials focuses on SEGA's final console, the Dreamcast. Leon, Karl and guests Ben Cartlidge (One Credit Classics) and John Linneman (Digital Foundry Retro) unpick the magic from the smoke and mirrors in an attempt to understand how and why the most powerful console ever (circa 1998/1999) failed to win the hearts and minds of the general public. Passionate prose from the community and a swift(ish) rundown of the machine's diverse and colourful library round out the show.


This podcast is now available for those who support our Patreon for the minimum of $1 per month

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Re: Console Special No.6: Sega Dreamcast

Post by Mechner » July 28th, 2019, 3:52 pm

I came to the Sega Dreamcast extremely late, When it launched in 99' I didn't even own a video game console, on my many visits to "GAME", to pick up PC games which that year included (Prince of Persia 3D) I would also pine after the many consoles I couldn't have (owing to being a 7 year old boy with no disposable income). The Dreamcast stuck out for having possibly the most interesting logo, something about that blue swirl stuck in my brain, even after the console just disappeared from the market place shortly after. No one I knew ever owned one, and it drifted into relative obscurity here in Ireland.

Skip through more or less 3 generations of consoles later to 2014 when I got the strange desire in my head to revisit a more nostalgic time, for some reason this included absolutely having to get my hands on a Sega Dreamcast.

I am not really sure why, because I knew very little about the console other than it contained the only console ports of odd PC games I played in my youth such as "Omikron: The Nomad Soul" and of course a North American release of "Prince of Persia 3D". I took a trip to Dublin with my long time best friend, to a fairly well stocked Retro Games Shop (one of the few in Ireland) called "The Rage" and I picked up my Sega Dreamcast, 1 controller, a VMU and 5 games.

The games were:

- The Nomad Soul
- Headhunter
- Army men: Sarges Heroes
- Soul Calibre
- Shenmue

There was one more thing that the guy behind the counter suggested I pick up this was a VGA to HDMI adapter.. I looked at him puzzled "What do you mean VGA? It's a console right, not a PC?" He said "Trust me, this is gonna look amazing on your modern TV", I took the advice and bought it.. Little did I know how good this Dreamcast was going to look.

On arriving home, we immediately hooked up the Dreamcast to my Sony Bravia, VGA Cable from the console to the HDMI of my TV... what game should be first... Soul Calibre, I powered up the console and the famous swirl hit my screen, and the now synonymous sound of the laser finding the start of the Disc began. To say I was blown away by the performance and visuals of a then 15 year old console is an understatement. I remember turning to my friend and saying "that actually looks as good as PS3 visuals"

We passed the controller around for the night and played around with this console like it was 99' again and I had just bought the console brand new. I sat cross-legged on the floor, up close to the screen (owing to the odd placement and shortness of the cable connecting to the odd shaped controller to the console). Every game we tried floored me, Omikron on a CONSOLE? One of my favourite games ever on a home console is just so weird and amazing to me. Headhunter was like playing a HD remake in comparison to the poorly optimised version I played on the PS2 all those years ago. Army Men Sarges Heroes was better than the PC port.. (I didn't think it was possible for a console to be better than the PC in the late 90's) And finally Shenmue, what a beautiful, strange, intriguing mess of a game... the visuals still stun me. We laughed and stared with wonderment thinking what would the VMU display this time, for this game... the Dreamcast really put the other consoles of it's day to shame. For being a console of pure joy and creativity. The games are utterly full of imagination and bursting with colour.

What followed for me was a year long obsession with everything Dreamcast, my game collection grew rapidly, ballooning up to 40 titles, I was picking out obscure titles like Toy Commander, D2, Carrier and Illbleed. Every peripheral I could find I bought, I got the Keyboard and Mouse, More Controllers.. VMU's the list goes on. I even bought a Second Dreamcast and modded it with a Blue LED.

I learned all about it's history and it's incredibly forward thinking design, the fact it was running on a windows operating system "Windows CE".. How when it failed and was pulled from the market many of it's design philosophy was picked up by Microsoft's XBOX... it's easy to see where the Duke Controller design came from.. and like the XBOX it came internet ready, though could be upgraded to the fabled and much sought after Ethernet adapter....

Then quite suddenly, out of nowhere around a year later I stopped playing it.. I am not sure why either.

The last time I played it in 2015 was with my friend. We played through Shenmue from start to finish, collecting as much as we could while following Ryu on his bizarre adventure to avenge his father. It was an unforgettable experience terrible voice acting (so bad it's good), strange but pleasing controls, racing and winning in forklift competitions, listening to laughable J-Pop with english words as Ryu drives a motorbike. It was unlike anything I had ever experienced, one of the best gaming experiences I have ever had, but that was it... Like how the Dreamcast only lasted a short time the market.. the time I spent with it burnt hard and fast.. I haven't returned to it since and it sits gathering dust.

I dont know if I will ever play it again.. but I can say with a surety that the Dreamcast still to this day holds it's own against any console it comes up against, It is easy to see why it is has a cult following for many people.. all I am left "thinking" is what could have been if it was successful for SEGA.. where would gaming be now.

"It's thinking"

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Re: Console Special No.6: Sega Dreamcast

Post by Alex79uk » July 28th, 2019, 6:29 pm

I was introduced to the Dreamcast by a friend who was always bang up to date with the latest consoles. We'd sometimes go back to his after the pub and playing with real life humans in Phantasy Star Online absolutely blew my mind. Thinking back it would have been the first ever game I played online. One night he showed us this game called Space Channel 5. We all loved it. It didn't matter who was holding the pad, the rest of us would gather round the TV and drunkenly act out the routine Ulala was instructing us to from the screen. Up up shoot, down left shoot, down down shoot...

It became such a staple of our Saturday nights that a few months later, in a move for which I could surely be named boyfriend of the year, I bought my then girlfriend a Dreamcast with a copy of Space Channel 5 for her birthday. Honestly, it was for her...

She wasn't much of gamer, and away from the alcohol fuelled social situation she wasn't as interested in playing the game as I thought she would be. Still, nice new Dreamcast in the house!

It was a fantastic machine. Marvel Vs Capcom 2, Resident Evil Code Veronica, The House Of The Dead, Crazy Taxi... Loads of great games.

I reaquanted myself with the console years later after discovering you could burn your own games and played through a few gems I'd missed at the time. Seriously though, being able to play copied games on an unmodified console? Madness!!

I wish I still had the console, or at least I wish I knew where it was, but as with most of the stuff I've owned over the years, it could be anywhere!

I've not mentioned the pad yet, or the VMU, I'm sure there will be much discussion on the podcast about these, but all I'll say is I never really liked the pad much. Always found it a bit uncomfortable.

But, as the last console Sega ever made, it was an excellent send off. A much loved, quirky thing, which seems to have remained in the hearts of everyone who ever owned it.

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Re: Console Special No.6: Sega Dreamcast

Post by Suits » August 1st, 2019, 8:55 am

It was February 2000, I had just turned 16 the week prior and had a Sony Mini-Disc walkman as a gift. Sadly the loading mechanism had jammed and I'd taken it back to Dixons that day for an exchange. I was told, much to my total surprise that they had no other units in stock and that I had to have my money back, £100, I was gutted. Took the money, put it in my bag and wondered off pondering what I was going to do now.

On the way home from town, I stopped off at my mates house who was chilling with another one of the boys in his room.

Having told them my story and having discussing it for a few minutes it fell out of our mind and we soon got onto other more important topics while joining Rizlas.

My mates sister who was a few years older than us had a few mates around as Rhys' parents were out and the older crew had claimed downstairs and we had his bedroom. Fine.

At some point later into the evening, Kate called Rhys down for something and came back up with a weird, garbled message about does anyone want to buy a brand new Dreamcast for £100. We instantly shrugged it off after a few seconds.

I considered it for maybe 2 seconds and just, yes, lets do it.

I'd honestly forgotten that I had suddenly come into some extra cash and not only that, but had it on me to take advantage of this random proposal. I quickly scrambled the money out of my bag and stuffed it into Rhys' hands, Fry from Futurama style.

Rhys ran downstairs and did the deal, I can only imagine what this guys face must have looked like as a random sixteen year old suddenly took him up on his moody offer.

The console was sealed brand new, (stolen obviously) and had no games, I cared not, I would worry about that later.

I ran home with it under my arm and plugged it all in and poked around with the settings and internet.

I later picked up Quake 3 Arena as my first game I think and started to buy the Official Dreamcast Magazine to get back into the swing of things console wise after selling my PS1 for some new skates the previous summer.

This was also the first console that I played online, Quake 3 Arena, it was also well worth noting that this was the first device I viewed internet porn on. Rad.

Us lads, or men now I suppose still coin the term 'Astro' as a description for anything other than a first party controller. This is because for my Dreamcast (which was largely communal at this point) I needed to buy another controller for. Pennies being tight I picked up a disastrous controller, which was bright blue, plastic, naff and called Astro Pad. A pad of legend now it would seem.

The games were cool at the time, my stand out game that aways springs to mind is Speed Devils, others that were absolute stand outs to us were Tony Hawk, which was an OK port compared to the PS version we were used to, RE: Code Veronica, Chu Chi Rocket which we played to almost fights and House of the Dead 2 which we all loved.

Looking back at them, or perhaps more accurately playing them today leaves me with less enthusiasm sadly. There's a few that still hold up, maybe, but generally I find them shallow and basic, with usually only a hint at something being fun or unique.

I was burned many times as a youngster paying out for games like Royal Rumble, Ecco, Fur Fighters, UEFA Striker, GTA2, Hidden & Dangerous only to be left let down by rubbish features, bad controls, or just bad experiences.

Shenmue arrived a year or two too early for me age wise and Power Stone just didn’t grab us over Tony Hawk and HotD2.

One of the most dreadful games for me was Fighting Force 2 on the system. Which was a total mess.

Word is, that the best stuff is Japan only, which was out of my reach, funds and knowledge of a sixteen year old. Going back to those titles now is often laborious, expensive or not the best way to play them.

I understand now that there were/are some really excellent games on the system, they just passed me by at the time sadly, which does colour my own personal reflection of the console a certain way.

The hardware was decent, I thought it looked cool, was lovely and compact and had a wonderful pad. I really liked the design choice of the wire coming out of the bottom of the pad, wrapping back up underneath it and clipping into the underside, to come out of the top. This was clearly to accommodate the VMU and rumble pack, which when all plugged in and set up was quiet a hefty beast.

The console was damn loud mind, it still is. The fans whir hard and the disc drive is constantly clicking and spinning hard. I think it’s one of the loudest consoles ever to be honest. I recently set it up on my desk next to my PVM and was shocked over how loud the little white box is.

The fate of my Dreamcast was that the laser began to fail, I passed it off to a mate of mine (Rhys as it goes who's sisters mate sold it to us) who didn't mind messing about with it to get it working, after-all I had my PS2 now and was away with the fairies in that respect.

I still have a large number of my original Dreamcast games (about 30), peripherals and bits and bobs, I also, happen to still have all 21 DreamOn Demo Discs that was released with the official magazine which is pretty neat.

My overall reflection of this console is that it wasn’t very good, it had a few good games but compared to both the PS1 & PS2 its falls distinctly short for me. That said, I do love it. This was a console that saw me through 6th Form, a fun McDonalds job and hours and hours of naff gaming with mates. It did things I had never even thought of before from video game systems and I really liked the controller and the funky underused VMU’s.

Still to this day an awful lot of my non-gaming mates still claim that the Dreamcast is the greatest console of all time, blinded highly by nostalgia and ruined brains.

I love it, but didn’t enjoy it as much as I’d hoped.


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Re: Console Special No.6: Sega Dreamcast

Post by caponeadam » August 8th, 2019, 10:47 am

I remember going out to pick up a reserved Dreamcast on launch day, at the time I had never owned a PC so it was the Dreamcast's promises of internet wonders that sealed the deal for me. Unfortunately all I remember are very vague memories of horrible modem dial up sounds, website images that took forever to load and paying by the minute. I only ever remember playing ChuChu Rocket online, hardly a game to showcase the wonders of the world wide web.

I loved the concept of the LCD screen but in all honesty it never really improved any games for me, the entire system was just way ahead of it's time in the worst possible way.

That said I can understand why this system is still beloved by so many, it had a whole range of unique well made memorable classics such as JetSetRadio, CrazyTaxi, Shenmue and Powerstone to name just a few. It was an incredibly risky and brave move by Sega. For this alone I see the Sega Dreamcast as one of the very best in the long line of unsuccessful console releases.

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Re: Console Special No.6: Sega Dreamcast

Post by Jobobonobo » August 18th, 2019, 8:04 pm

During the fifth generation of consoles, Sega was conspicuously absent when I was a young lad living in the west of Ireland. The Playstation dominated everywhere while I and a few other kids had the N64 for friends to come over and have some multiplayer shenanigans but the Saturn was just not a thing at all. I never seen one in the shops at all and no one I knew had one. Seeing as the Mega Drive was so big last generation, for Sega to drop off the face of the earth was baffling to me, to say the least. The Saturn is a major gap in my gaming experience and I always felt I missed out in something special due to its apparent niche appeal.

So I was pleasantly surprised then, when I heard the announcement of the Dreamcast with its sleek design, iconic logo and incredible graphics get such glowing attention in the few gaming magazines I would buy. Of great interest to me of course, is that Sonic finally truly entered the 3rd dimension (Sonic R was a spin off, does not count). Being a big Sonic guy during the Mega Drive days and especially being so blown away after the ground breaking Mario 64, I was officially hyped for this. So on my 14th birthday, not only did I get the day off from school but our local video rental place had a Dreamcast available for renting! I knew what I was going to be doing that day! So I got a Dreamcast with a copy of Sonic Adventure and could not wait to get started, first thing that morning. It was an interesting experience.

While the game had plenty of jaw dropping moments, there were moments that baffled me. What was with the cringy rock tunes? “Realistic” people wandering around the world? A hub world for exploring? The absurd voice acting? The actual levels were fun to go through but these other design decisions rubbed me the wrong way and having to restart the game over and over again because I did not have a VMU did not help endear it to me further. My interest in the Dreamcast had dropped dramatically. If Sonic could let me down, was there anything else worth bothering with on the system?

Turns out I was as wrong as it is possible to be. Due to trying out versions of Dreamcast titles on PS2 such as Crazy Taxi, Ikaruga and Rez on Xbox 360 and House of the Dead on the Wii it opened my eyes to the really fun, quirky and experimental catalogue of titles the Dreamcast had to offer. Turns out there were a wonderful library of classics that I had foolishly missed out on all these years. Jet Set Radio, Power Stone, Samba di Amigo, Skies of Arcadia, ChuChu Rocket!, Soul Calibur and so much more. I really wished I gave the console another chance and witnessed some of the most memorable classics of the sixth generation in their original form. If the Dreamcast has taught me anything, it is this: never judge a console solely on a personally hyped up title that did not live up to your expectations. If I had done this with other consoles I would have deprived myself of some of my most favourite titles ever. That it was Sega’s final console made my dismissal of it all the more tragic. If time and money happen to align together to my benefit, I may just return to this sleek white box in the future and give it the dues it truly deserves.

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Re: Console Special No.6: Sega Dreamcast

Post by Golar » August 24th, 2019, 10:57 pm

A Eulogy For A Friend Most Dear

December, 1999. I'm twelve years old. I'm the poor kid, fresh into my second year at a posh, all-boys private school where I barely feel I belong. Up until this age, my only home console is a Sega Master System, a few months older than me, covered in curled Gamesmaster stickers and the tacky remnants of old adhesive. To have it boot anything other than its built-in Alex Kidd is an ordeal of dust-blowing and cartridge-shunting. The d-pad disc on the little rectangular controller jumps free if jostled too vigorously. Every last minute of playability has been wrung out of my charity shop copy of Wonder Boy III: The Dragon's Trap, and its chunky blue-on-white monochrome manual is covered on every page with scrawled passwords.

For the last couple of years, our time-yellowed Packard Bell family computer, running Windows 95, has been my primary gaming machine. Its 120Mhz Pentium processor chugs and grinds out my bootleg copy of Microsoft's Outwars, just about managing 20fps at 320x240 resolution. My most treasured possession is a boxed copy of Maxis' mostly forgotten SimCopter, sat atop a stack of PC Zone demo discs. 3D gaming for me involves a lot of squinting at a baffling slideshow of giant pixels.

I spend a few evenings a week in the echoey halls of my wealthy friends' houses. I look on with envy at their Playstations and Sega Saturns - even at their dusty and neglected Mega Drive power towers, an indulgence I only ever experienced away from home. I fall in love with the N64, playing through Jet Force Gemini to completion in co-op, pouring countless hours into the recently released Super Smash Bros, and cackling with glee at the ludicrous Japanese slapstick comedy in Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon. With the hopeful optimism only a child could possess, the N64 shoots straight to the top of my Christmas list.

I have, at this point, of course, heard of you, the powerful new Dreamcast. On magazine pages, your graphics and games look impossibly slick. Your raft of prescient features seem so futuristic. But even amongst us twelve-year-olds, the failure of the Saturn is fresh and heavy, and the only boy with enough financial clout to ignore the cloud of scepticism surrounding you is Omar, the son of an Egyptian-American oil magnate. Sadly, the gates to his remote family mansion are closed to visitors and we can only take his flaunting and brash boasting as testament to your prowess. You are, to me, a mystical, fascinating unobtainium.

Well, imagine the awe I feel in the moment on Christmas Day when I unwrap the big central box in the living room to find not the big cubic N of the N64, but your humble blue swirl sitting there on a brand new white package. I gape in disbelief at the thought of the gold reserves my parents must have plundered to acquire you. Moments after plugging the scart block into the back of my 15" Thompson portable CRT, the plain, fuzzy polygons of the N64 become a distant, halcyon memory. I am a high-definition blue hedgehog, hurtling along wooden decking being demolished by a vengeful orca. I am a four-thousand polygon Nightmare, crashing the mighty Soulcalibur onto my button-mashing little sister's head.

January, 2000. I'm a couple of months shy of thirteen. I levitate into school for a new term, held aloft by the mystical power of Omar's Egyptian treasure, now mine to wield. Over Christmas, Omar has departed permanently to live a superstar's life in the States, leaving me solely in charge of your legacy. People gather round as I wake up the little Chao stored on my VMU, entranced as I enlighten them to what the next-generation of cutting-edge gaming feels like. The door to my modest, small-town home is open, and it's now MY house where all the wealthy schoolkids want to be, clobbering a 99-year-old Ayane in an electrified octagon, or gibbing Doomguy with a well-placed aerial railgun shot.

The next 18 months become the most cherished era of my gaming life. I hoard Official Dreamcast Magazines until their metallic blue spines sit level with my top bunk bed and rinse their every demo disc clean. Blissfully unaware of your gradual and tragic decline, I pick up every peripheral for increasingly discounted prices - a mouse and keyboard for Quake 3 and Unreal Tournament, a steering wheel for Metropolis Street Racer, a light gun for House Of The Dead 2 and a dance mat for Space Channel 5. I even pick up a couple of translucent green MadCatz monstrosities for my friends to use.

For the first time in my life, I have a fragment of the future in my house. It's the little things that make you so special. I can turn off the television and play a full game of Virtua Tennis from the VMU. I can stun my TV-shunning grandparents by sending traffic cones pinging off the bonnet of my F355 with real-time physics. I can hear your 33k modem sing its binary ballad on my television speakers.

With your built-in Naomi board, you teem with arcade perfection. Power Stone, Daytona, Crazy Taxi. With your powerful PC architecture you give me the best version of any multiformat game. Soul Reaver, Resident Evil 2 and 3, Tony Hawks Pro Skater 2. For the first time outside of a dingy LAN café I can play competitive games online. You have some of the greatest exclusives I will ever play. Jet Set Radio, Skies Of Arcadia, Toy Commander.

But the one experience I am most grateful to you for cannot be understated. Shenmue. As soon as I see those first screenshots and a rundown of the utterly ridiculous new 'FREE' genre, I'm aboard the hype-train, baggage packed for the long haul. When I finally pick up my day-one preorder from Gamestation, I am enthralled. My sister and I sit in front of the TV for hundreds of hours, simply existing in the world of 1980s suburban Japan. We let the story crawl by, spending in-game weeks sifting through the Hazuki household drawers, practicing kung-fu in the park, entering the Sakuragaoka general store lucky dip, playing Super Hang-On in the arcade, all whilst laughing at the endearingly awful voice acting. In the most personal touch, at some point in the wider world of the game, I'm born, in March 1987, as Ryo comes perilously close to being murdered by Lan Di in the elusive 'bad ending'. I note the obscure and delightful detail that I'd likely never have otherwise known the accurate real-world weather on that day in Yokosuka if it wasn't for Shenmue. Seven years later I travel to Yokosuka on the bullet train and walk Dobuita Street in real life. Sublime.

March 2001. I am fourteen years old. My wealthy friends are trading Pokémon via Game Boy Advance link cables in the playground. My aged VMU Chao is slowly dying of starvation. Your dark, monolithic assassin sits and watches from each of their living rooms, hungry eyes locked on your library of future software. Despite being a diehard gamer, and a fan of all formats, I can't help but resent the PS2 for putting the final nail in your coffin. You are still so young. It is years before I finally forgive Sony's console infanticide and invest in an end-of-generation PS2 Slim. I'm just grateful you delivered Shenmue 2 to PAL shores before you departed.

At the end of March 2001, Edge Magazine #95 runs a cover story, filling me with some modicum of Sega hope, with the headline, "Dreamcast: Finished, Sega: Unstoppable." Obi-Wan Kenobi would be proud.

March 2002. I am approaching fifteen years of age. Microsoft releases the Xbox in the UK. With a stockpile of hoarded pocket money, I walk into Game on day one. It is the size and weight of a tombstone. Its colossal 'Duke' controllers feel like a memorial to your own. Its PC-based hardware and its generous host of Dreamcast-spirited Sega exclusives, such as Jet Set Radio Future, make it a fitting crypt for your memory.

You sit in a unique and irreplaceable position in my gaming memory, and in gaming history, carving out a special niche on your very own in Generation 5.5. You are the elusive thirteenth floor in a superstitious elevator, an uncharted expanse of strange and wonderful discoveries, curiosities... and dreams. You were overlooked in life, but are deservedly revered in death.

I thank you for the memories, my dear Dreamcast.

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Re: Console Special No.6: Sega Dreamcast

Post by Simonsloth » August 25th, 2019, 7:28 am

Fantastic post, a delightful read.

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Re: Console Special No.6: Sega Dreamcast

Post by Golar » August 25th, 2019, 10:21 am

Simonsloth wrote:
August 25th, 2019, 7:28 am
Fantastic post, a delightful read.
Thanks! Much appreciated!

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Re: Console Special No.6: Sega Dreamcast

Post by Alex79uk » August 25th, 2019, 12:00 pm

Lovely stuff!

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Re: Console Special No.6: Sega Dreamcast

Post by Kacey » August 25th, 2019, 10:55 pm

I'm a bit weird in my appreciation of the Dreamcast- I was always a SEGA kid growing up, but being born just a few short months before the Dreamcast's US launch, I was too late to even be a SEGA hardware kid. Nevertheless, I grew up playing a lot of games that were unbeknownst to me, Dreamcast games. Crazy Taxi and both Sonic Adventures on the GameCube, plus Test Drive 6 on the PC.

As I grew up and got nostalgic, I did some research into these games and discovered their Dreamcast version, and thus picked up a Dreamcast around age 17. Once getting through my nostalgia playthroughs, I was able to discover just how ahead of the curve this console really was- from its excellent ports of PC games to its quirky selection of original titles, there's nothing quite like the Dreamcast, and it's a console I'm glad to hold on to. Collecting has gotten expensive and even the modding scene is a bit prohibitive for a college kid like me, but as an avid racing game fan, most of the stuff that catches my fancy is readily available. and for that I am very grateful, as the Dreamcast is often the best way to play these games today as PC games from the era become harder to run on new hardware and GameCube game prices rival new AAA releases.

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Re: Console Special No.6: Sega Dreamcast

Post by sheeldz » September 9th, 2019, 1:45 pm

I've been a listener for years, and been waiting for this podcast since youse started doing these. I got impatient waiting, and even wrote my own "Cane and Rinse" (that you've retweeted on the Twitter, graciously).

I'm just going to post that here, verbatim. The link is this. http://www.sheeldz.co.uk/blog/2018/7/19 ... -dreamcast

For clarity, I never actually owned a games console prior to the Dreamcast. I played a SEGA Mega Drive that was "technically" my Dad and I's, but I played it a lot more than he did. I mean, he had PGA Tour III for it, and we used it for gaming on with my late grandfather and my uncle at "Golf Nights", which were basically the male version of the then in vogue mother-attended Tupperware parties. I loved those times, but the console was basically mine - I had Streets of Rage, Sonic (all of them), and loads of other games like Super Hang On and a terrible Asterix game.

I wasn't immune to wanting something better. A friend at school had got a SEGA Saturn, the replacement for the Mega Drive if you discount the MegaCD and the 32X, and I was insanely jealous. Indeed, when almost all my closest friends upgraded to the N64 and the PlayStation I was left wanting, actively asking for the upgraded consoles on a almost monthly basis, becoming a bit of an in-joke between myself and my patient parents.

I remember when reading about the then SEGA Katana project in Computer and Video Games that it'd be super powerful. At the time, there was rumours of the Nintendo Dolphin (the GameCube), the PlayStation 2, and the odd but exciting Direct X-Box from Microsoft. I didn't know what to get, if I could get any of them, but in time I realised that these rumours were all true. In fact, the Xbox would go on to become a console of choice for near a decade.

But first, there was the Dreamcast. I petitioned my parents endlessly for it, until one night they agreed to the purchase, and the next day we went to Electronics Boutique in East Kilbride to put my hard earned £50 deposit for a console and Sonic Adventure. It would become the first time in my life, and only one of two times, I'd be there on Launch Day for a console. The next time would be for the Nintendo Wii, which I ultimately sold later that week unopened. But that story is for another day.

Launch Day
I wrote in my homework diary the original European launch of September, shortly after my own birthday and I couldn't be even more excited. I was anticipating the launch so much I picked up the SEGA Dreamcast magazine Issue 0 that came with a Demo Reel VHS Tape and played it endlessly. Side note - I really wish I hadn't binned all of these magazines, they would make for fascinating reading now.

And then SEGA delayed the launch, a whole month. I was devastated.

On launch day I woke early, so excited. My mum bundled my sister and I into the car, and we drove to the shop just after opening, not that I was expecting a huge queue for the console. I had my deposit ticket in hand, ready to grab the console and my single game (all I could afford at the time). We got in and I picked it up in a special Dreamcast blue spiral bag, and was so happy - until they dropped the bombshell. They'd not received Sonic Adventure. The games hadn't arrived, which meant the only game that I'd pre-ordered and wanted was unavailable. I would have the most power games machine in the world - but zero games to play it on.

The guy behind the counter at EB had an idea - unorthodox, but wonderful. He said that they were sure that the games would come in at some point that day, so if it was okay I could take away another game from the launch line-up, and then bring it back and swap it out for Sonic when it was available. The game I brought home was TrickStyle, a futuristic skate/hover board game that was, as far as I can remember, not that bad at all really.

But it wasn't Sonic.

Later that day, it turned out that the games had been delivered to the shop on the opposite side of the mall, so I could get Sonic. I can't remember if my mum took pity on me and we went up to the shop that very day, or the next day, but once I had Sonic in hand it went in and my life was changed. Sonic Adventure blew me, and any friend I played it with, away. Everything about it was just simply stunning. Maybe one day I'll do a forensic description of the games, but for now let's just say that Sonic Adventure was for a short while my jam. It doesn't hold up well at all today - I went out, in 2008, and bought a GameCube Wavebird controller and the game for my Nintendo Wii just to play it, and it... wasn't very good, even in the "DX" version.

With Sonic things were great. But I was only just getting started.

Games
Obviously, games are what make a console great. You could have the most powerful games console on the planet and with nothing to play on it you're snookered. I'm looking at you, Xbox One X. Either way, this is what sunk the Dreamcast in the end, a simple lack of games that made people really want to get the console - that and, of course, it wasn't called PlayStation 2. But, that's for a little bit later and I'm getting ahead of my self.

My Dreamcast was not for wanting games however. I had plenty of the things, and used my allowance at the time to make sure I picked up not just the "best" games of the era, but also a few odd choices that weren't the greatest but certainly made me happy for the briefest time. Bear in mind, at this point, I'd jumped from a decade old Sega Mega Drive to the Dreamcast, whilst only touching PC gaming a few times in the years between, so almost everything was a new experience to me.

I had a few of the all time classics, of course. Crazy Taxi, Sonic Adventure and Sonic Adventure 2 naturally, and both of the Shenmue games - that I've talk about before. I also picked up a few classics that have aged terribly - I adored Headhunter at the time, but that thing did not survive the subsequent gaming generations, and I also played a lot of Quake III Arena on the console despite owning it on PC. I just enjoyed the deathmatch capabilities and it was one of the first games I really played online.

As well as the "classics" that always spring to mind, I adored a few others. One punishingly hard game, Metropolis Street Racer, sticks hard in my mind for just how good it looked and how much I was hyped for the game, being one of a select few Day One game pre-order and purchases, but it did me in, in the end, being just a bit too hard for my tastes. Another, Jet Set Radio, was a game I absolutely loved despite it having a few flaws - and is one, like Crazy Taxi, I've bought a few times since for the Port Generation for iPad and Android phones. Oddly, I couldn't remember that I owned Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 for the console, but obviously I did - it's there, in the photo - but my memory of that game is confused with the PS1 version I am sure I played more of at friends' houses.

Before I talk about the bad games I had that I liked, here's one that I didn't like. The second game I got was SEGA Rally 2, and I was so excited for it. Mud on the cars when you drive through it! Arcade style Rally gaming that I loved! I even made my dad drive the 30 minutes to Braehead to go and get the game - and despite playing it a lot, I don't think I actually liked it. There was a real lack of courses, and the arcade play wasn't really fun for me, and I realise that that makes sense - my memory of the game comes mostly from those awesome swinging arcade cabinets, but after putting up with terrible Mega Drive games because they were given to me this was the first I bought myself and found it to be disappointing.

Then there are the few shanners that I loved. I enjoyed Midway's 4 Wheel Thunder a lot more than I was expecting - it become one of the most played racing games I owned. My sister ostensibly had Pen Pen TriIcelon, a "racing" "game" that was... well, it's hard to describe, so here's a video of some gameplay. We enjoyed it - I remember it being one of the smoothest games at the time. And then there was a rollercoaster game called Coaster Works that, despite getting high review scores, was absolutely shite.

You might notice that there are a few ultimate classics I haven't mentioned - SoulCalibur, for example - well, during the Dreamcast era I didn't own it, a friend did. I ended up picking it up much later and blitzing it, but I was never a fighting game fan and still to this day SoulCalibur might be the only one I've truly enjoyed. Same goes for Virtua Tennis. I borrowed this, at first, and made my way to the top of the world, and later picked it up cheap on the side. This is why these two games appear in my disc collection.

I binned off the cases for some reason, preferring to use a GAME approved CD holder, which is a terrible decision. Despite this, however, I did keep all of my Demo Discs.

Fandom
From that first month, I adored being a Dreamcast owner. As I mentioned, I played that VHS tape a lot watching the technology being the console and the games that were coming. I owned every issue of the Official Dreamcast Magazine (ODM) - remembering those who wrote for it, and those who'd moved over from C&VG at the time.

I still have every demo disc, as detailed in the picture below. I played these a lot, at the start - especially the Toy Commander demo, for some reason - I guess it was because after Sonic it was the game that felt truly 3D, with a full 3D world to explore and see around. Going back over this below discs made me very happy to see a raft of now forgotten games pop up, seemingly lost to time.

I also was really into being a part of the internet fandom. I read the Edge forums when they existed with Edge becoming my default purchase after ODM died. I even... ahem... started my own fansite. My friend Ross, who had a console along with me and who I borrowed games off, started to review games as .RTF files, for putting onto our site. I made it using Homesteads, a UI based website builder not unlike Squarespace that I use now, and we started to create the site. We called it Dreamcast House (DCH) and had a logo and everything - but alas, it never became the massive empire we wanted it to become. Ironically, if we had persevered we might have outlasted some of the other sites I read at that time.

Foibles
The console wasn't perfect, of course, and despite my fandom I knew as much. For example, whilst Wifi was still a thing to properly take hold, so was Broadband, and the Dreamcast had it's dial modem inside. The internet functionality was impressive - the Dreamarena stuff always was a pleasure to have a go at, especially playing online - but it was a faff having to take up the actually PC internet telephone line, which meant no one else could dial into their emails or Netscape. In the end, I moved my Dreamcast to my bedroom and it forever went off line, never to taste the Dreamarena again.

One of the "best" features that was unused was the Visual Memory Unit, or VMU. Instead of being a normal memory card, the Dreamcast had small little Gameboy style memory cards that acted as a second screen built into the controller. It was impressive, at first, and used quite well in a few games. One of the best examples was the most played sports game I owned, UEFA Striker, a shocking game deep down, but was the best facsimile of football the console had, really. It used the VMU's screen to switch formations mid game, without having to pause and go to the menu, a neat trick for multiplayer 1 versus 1.

But the VMUs had a flaw - they weren't powered by rechargeable batteries, instead by watch batteries, and whist they held the game saves without battery requirements, they beeped in a choir anytime the console came on after they had ran out, and with my three controllers each holding a VMU, it was... a mess. Of course, I could just buy a new set of batteries, but after a few months they'd go again, meaning it was an expensive outlay.

When mentioning the VMU, I should add that I love the Dreamcast controller. It is a little light, without the two VMUs, and the triggers are a bit soft feeling, and it's missing a second analogue stick, a must today, but it felt great in my hand and I never felt like it was rubbish. The D Pad, I always liked using, compared to the D Pads that followed.

Obviously, the biggest problem with the Dreamcast was the fact that it simply wasn't a PlayStation 2. It felt sad towards to the end after being to into the console and trying so hard to get friends to buy it. Almost every friend who did play the games with me loved it, and wanted to play it, but that wasn't enough. When, in 2002, a friend brought round his PS2 and Grand Theft Auto, I was suitably disappointed.

Of course, my disappointment didn't change my opinion of the console. I loved owning my Dreamcast, and I got to be part of one of the most revered failed consoles of all time. It was great to be there, from launch, supporting Sega and their incredible box of tricks, but in the end it was sad to see the console die, and with it the unreal news that the makers of Sonic and the Mega Drive, were going to slip off making their own consoles and into others.

I had a severely bad reaction to this, at the time, and felt like I'd been sold a pup. Two years, in today's climate, is nothing - I've had my Nintendo Switch for almost a year, and that has felt like a blink and miss it moment of time - but between 1999 and 2001 I changed a lot and so did my mentality, and those two years - aged 14 to 16, felt and still feel like forty years in comparison.

I have since spent a long time thinking a lot about the Dreamcast and what it meant to me. It was fun, at the time, and now it is great to have been part of that club.

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Re: Console Special No.6: Sega Dreamcast

Post by ashman86 » September 10th, 2019, 3:58 am

When I was, I believe, 11 years old, I wrote an email to Sega's official customer service address proclaiming my undying love to their company and expressing how I couldn't wait to see the still officially unannounced next-generation console they were cooking up. At the time, I'd assumed it would be a 64-bit system, as each of the two prior consoles had doubled in bit size (I had no idea, of course, what that actually meant), and I told them as much.

Imagine my delight and surprise when they actually responded and told me that the next Sega console would actually be 128-bit! Now, I'm sure that some Sega rep hadn't actually leaked secret console details to a kid over the internet, and, in fact, I had even seen the name Project Dural floating around in the magazines I read. But I was certain then that I was the first person outside of Sega's office to learn this revelation, and I was ecstatic!

The next day at school, I told everyone who would listen to me, and most, save for my very best friend, responded with either disbelief or with a defensive remark about how it still wouldn't be as good as their 64s or Playstations (the console wars were still hot at the time).

Not long after that fateful email, Sega officially unveiled the Dreamcast, and between the announcement and launch, my excitement never dimmed once.

The summer before it's official U.S. launch, Sega partnered with Hollywood Video to rent out limited quantities of the console, and I remember dragging my dad to the other side of town to the nearest location (which was anything but). He had to put down a several-hundred-dollar deposit and sign a waiver, and I think he was more than a little nervous when we finally brought the thing home, but I played the heck out of it. We'd rented just one game, Sonic Adventure, but the console didn't include a VMU, which meant I had to keep power running continuously in order to avoid losing my save file. I completed the game from start to finish by the time we'd returned it.

Being 13, I didn't have access to much disposable income, so devising a way to acquire a Dreamcast became a favorite pastime of mine as the launch date approached. Ultimately, I pulled the only ace in the holed I had: I begged my parents. I promised it could be an early Christmas present and that I wouldn't expect even a single present to unwrap three months down the line. Ultimately, they caved, and when the console officially launched in the U.S. (20 years ago today) on 9/9/99, my family of four visited EB Games in the mall and waited in line to pick one up. I can still remember how it smelled as I unboxed it.

No other platform save for maybe the PC has been more formative on me.

Looking back, it's hard to believe at just how many incredible games released over the course of its short life: from the better-than-arcade-perfect Soul Calibur to the absurdly ambitious Shenmue. I can vividly recall late nights playing Powerstone with my best friend and early mornings with Skies of Arcadia as my sister watched. I'd later get her hooked on Phantasy Star Online, and she'd hook my mom in turn after I'd moved on to something else. At one point, we had 3 working Dreamcasts in the house and two phone lines to feed our constant hunger for dial-up.

I played and loved games I never thought I'd be interested in before: Crazy Taxi, Resident Evil (it'd always frightened me as a younger kid), Tony Hawk, Space Channel 5, and so many more. And I learned to take my time with games, to appreciate the beauty in their design. I took time to read every bit of text and to listen to every piece of music and to relish in a game's visual aesthetics.

But the Dreamcast's life was all too brief. In the summer of 2001, I finally accepted that Sega was truly getting out of the hardware business, and for the first time in my life, I bought a Sony console in the form of the Playstation 2. But I also used much of the money I earned with my first summer job to buy Dreamcast games at blowout prices by the armfulls, and my friend and I enjoyed some gems together even well after the PS2's launch like Armada, a Diablo-like action RPG that had players controlling tiny spaceships, nabbing loot, and leveling up.

There was also Seaman.

Yeah.

Twenty years later, the Dreamcast is still the console nearest to my heart. It epitomized for me the creativity and ambition of video games: groundbreaking, a little weird, wacky, and--most of all--fun.

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Re: Console Special No.6: Sega Dreamcast

Post by JaySevenZero » October 10th, 2019, 6:36 am

This podcast is now available for those who support our Patreon for the minimum of $1 per month

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Re: Console Special No.6: Sega Dreamcast

Post by dezm0nd » October 13th, 2019, 4:45 am

For those who listened, it still remains a wish that Pilotwings gets the "Toy" treatment

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Re: Console Special No.6: Sega Dreamcast

Post by Suits » October 13th, 2019, 7:48 am

dezm0nd wrote:
October 13th, 2019, 4:45 am
For those who listened, it still remains a wish that Pilotwings gets the "Toy" treatment
😄😄😄

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Re: Console Special No.6: Sega Dreamcast

Post by ThirdMan » October 14th, 2019, 10:25 am

That was a fantastic listen. Well done to everyone involved.

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Re: Console Special No.6: Sega Dreamcast

Post by Sinclair Gregstrum » October 16th, 2019, 3:02 pm

As a Dreamcast devotee, that was a truly wonderful listen. And with the bonus of the great John Linneman no less!

I'm only gutted I didn't get myself sorted to get my own Dreamcast story down in writing to share on the show.

One of the best C&R shows ever, for the one of the best consoles ever!

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