The Sega Dreamcast was the last hope for Sega in the console market, we didn’t know it at the time and most of us just enjoyed it for what it was- a rocking console. There are multiple claims as to why the Dreamcast failed; we are not here to argue any of them. It died. It was tragic and disheartening and it saddened a lot of gamers while angering many more. Sega gave their all with the Dreamcast and that is a fact, they went all out and tried to rekindle that spark that their Genesis console lit way back in 1989. The Dreamcast launched with 19 titles that covered genres such as arcade, racing, sports, light gun, shooters, action adventure, fighting and even survival horror. This was the most rounded launch in gaming history – literally, gamers had all of the major bases covered here minus puzzle games.
After the failure of the Saturn, Sega were in a unique position with gamers. The way the Saturn was handled was not received all that well with gamers, or game publishers such as Electronic Arts, which did eventually hurt the Dreamcast game library (no EA Sports titles for instance meant no Madden Football). Sega countered this problem with a new sports line called 2K- NFL 2K being the first release in this series of titles. Midway was not all that concerned with the past and gleefully met the launch with many titles including Mortal Kombat Gold, NFL Blitz 2000, Hydro Thunder and Ready 2 Rumble Boxing.
The commercials of the 16-Bit days were gone, instead gamers were met with Sega commercials that tried covering too many games at once with the tagline, “It’s thinking”. The games were not as well featured in these commercials either, at least when Sega was handling the commercial (3rd parties had some decent ones for their games though).
Interestingly the Sega Dreamcast shipped with the option for developers to use one of two operating systems. Sega had their own operating system (OS) available while Microsoft made an extremely modified version of Windows CE (if you used a PDA with Windows Mobile up to 6.5 then you used Windows CE). Also, the Dreamcast did not ship with an OS in the console – that was loaded from the game disc before the game would start. This gave great freedom to developers and made it extremely easy to port Windows games (Expendable for instance) over to the fledgling Sega console.
The Sega Dreamcast was the harbinger of things to come to console games. Online play was available out of the box with the included 56k dial up modem (if you were born at the end of the 1990’s or later then you probably have no idea what that is). There was a broadband modem made available for a short time, it is worth a small fortune on Ebay by the way. There were many games that took advantage of the online capabilities of the Sega Dreamcast, including Alien Front Online, NFL 2K1 and probably most well known, Phantasy Star Online V1 and V2.
The Dreamcast also featured the first visual memory card (VMU). The VMU was able to store games, stats and other information according to which game you were playing (sports games could allow you to select plays while the Resident Evil games showed your health meter, etc). When you took the VMU out of the controller you could still interact with various mini games on it thanks to the controls built into it.
Alien Front Online was the first console game to offer live chat while playing (great for strategizing). NFL 2K1 was the first online sports game for consoles. The Sega Dreamcast was the first console to allow browsing the Internet out of the box – the Saturn required an expensive add-on to do this in a very limited fashion (though, honestly, the Internet was very limited at that time too). Shenmue was the first true 3D go anywhere world (pre-dating Grand Theft Auto III by a good bit) and also introduced gamers to Quick Time Events (boss battles of the God of War games in case you are wondering).
The Dreamcast may have failed but it forced gaming into a new realm. While the system was cut short in North America, it was still supported by Sega of Japan for another eight years with sparse releases, refurbished sales, etc. Independent game publishers continue to support the Sega Dreamcast with titles such as Rush Rush Rally Racing, Beats of Rage, Feet of Fury, Last Hope, DUX, Elysian Shadows, Sydney Hunter, Neo XYX, Reblobed, Saviour, and Pier Solar to name a few.
Hardware hacks have been created for the Sega Dreamcast that could be viewed as questionable to most gamers. These hacks include hard drive support and USB mods that allow use of removable mass storage devices to play games. There have also been new operating systems (KallistiOS being the first and Dreamshell being the latest) created for the Dreamcast including ports of Linux (NetBSD being the most popular).
Launch titles were:
CART Flag to Flag
The House of the Dead 2
Monaco Grand Prix
Mortal Kombat Gold
NFL Blitz 2000
Pen Pen TriIcelon
Ready 2 Rumble Boxing
TNN Motorsports Hardcore Heat
Tokyo Xtreme Racer
Games for the Dreamcast are pretty cheap unless you are a Capcom VS. fighting game fan – those go for a pretty penny.
We salute you, Dreamcast, and thank you for doing what you did for gaming.
Now, what are some of your favorite Sega Dreamcast memories or games? Sound off in the comments below and let’s hear it!