On September 9th, 1999, I found myself gathering up handfuls of old PlayStation games and accessories to barter with the local GameStop in order to afford the Sega Dreamcast on launch day. I must have underestimated the value of my collection, as I managed to walk out with the console, a VMU, a 2nd controller, and a handful of games, with no regrets.
To this day, the Sega Dreamcast remains one of my absolute favorite consoles of all time. The clever use of the VMU as a storage device in Sonic Adventure’s Chao mini-game, the way it displayed your health via heartbeat sensor in Resident Evil: Code Veronica, and using it to call plays in local multi-player sessions of NFL 2K, immersed me in ways I’d never dreamed of.
Spending a month using the packed-in microphone to communicate and grow my virtual Sea Man, only to fuck up and have it die two days before it was set to finish. Experiencing the thrill of online gaming in Phantasy Star Online. Witnessing the graphical leap from the Sega Saturn and PSone with games like Soul Calibur and the cinematic approach of Shenmue. These are all moments that will stick with me for the rest of my life.
Today marks the 17th anniversary of Sega’s final home console, whose lifespan, no matter how memorable, was cut drastically short. Even releasing a full year ahead of Sony’s PlayStation 2, the Sega Dreamcast was ultimately a commercial failure, pushing a mere 9.13 million units before throwing in the towel in March of 2001, just a year and a half later.
There were talks of Nintendo purchasing Sega, but clearly that never happened. The bottom line was that Sega just didn’t have the pull it did during the Genesis era. PlayStation became dominant, Nintendo was starting to slip a little (the Dreamcast would be the only console under the GameCube sales-wise during that generation, which discontinued a year before Nintendo’s tiny lunchbox even hit store shelves), and with Microsoft investing more than $500 million developing the original Xbox, there was just no room for the Dreamcast to compete.
In such a short amount of time, I fell in love with the console and still hold it in high regard today. I have fond memories importing wrestling games from Japan, like Giant Gram and Toukon Retsuden 4, and it’s where I was introduced to rhythm games like Dance Dance Revolution, Samba de Amigo, and Space Channel 5. It dared to take risks with the absurd concept of Chu Chu Rocket and Caution: Sea-Man, and became my favorite place to play fighting games.
Marvel vs. Capcom 2 and Street Fighter III: Third Strike were always in heavy rotation, along with Street Fighter Alpha 3, The Last Blade, Dead or Alive 2, King of Fighters 99, Power Stone, and Fatal Fury: Mark of the Wolves. I remember my friends and I investing in the sweet six-button fight pad that released in Japan with Capcom vs. SNK. Man, what a great controller that was. I still have the set of trading cards that came with the controller sitting around here somewhere!
I was fully absorbed in the RPG worlds of Grandia II and Skies of Arcadia, and even dabbled in genres I’d normally avoid with Sega Rally 2, Test Drive: Le Mans, and Virtua Tennis.
Like the N64, the Dreamcast had the benefit of including four controller ports built right in to the front. This not only made it easier to gather friends for gaming sessions (normally Power Stone), but let me avoid spending extras cash on peripherals that may have only gotten use on the weekends.
It’s crazy to think that it’s been 17 years since the Dreamcast released. I eventually ended up giving mine, along with all of my games, to my girlfriend’s younger brother a few years back. He never got to experience the console and I was running out of space for my collection, so I figured I’d pass it along to someone else who could appreciate it like I did.
Got any Dreamcast memories or favorite games on the console? Join me in celebrating its legacy down in the comments!