09 Sep Twenty Years of the Sega Dreamcast
I can’t believe the Dreamcast is 20 years old….
The summer of 1999 was as warm as any that I could remember. I started the summer as a 12 year old gamer excited about what the fall and winter had in store. I spent the entire summer playing Final Fantasy VII on PS1 and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time on N64. I was finally figuring out what genres and games I liked and my tastes were starting to get more focused. Between Pokemon and Final Fantasy I was most certainly becoming a JRPG gamer. Every article and magazine was loaded with previews of Final Fantasy VIII releasing in September of 1999. In addition, a very special new console was hitting the market as well, The Sega Dreamcast. Slated to release on 9.9.1999 the Dreamcast was built to be the first 128 bit console. In those days, it was all about the bits and the Dreamcast was to have twice as many as the N64!
I turned 13 that August and I remember going to EB Games with my parents to pick out my birthday gifts. As a 13 year old with a lot of willpower, I chose to wait on one of my gifts, Final Fantasy VIII and we preordered it for the 9.8.1999 release. While we were on a pre-ordering spree, my parents noticed how much I wanted the Sega Dreamcast and they pre-ordered that for 9.9.1999, but it was to be my Christmas present. I was ok with this, since I had planned to spend all of September – December playing nothing but Final Fantasy VIII. My awesome parents also pre-ordered Sonic Adventure, Ready 2 Rumble, Marvel vs. Capcom, and Mortal Kombat Gold. Christmas Day was looking up in the Staub House (Haus?)!
I got Final Fantasy VIII on 9.8.1999 and played it a bit, sadly the game never resonated with me as it does with others. This is a different conversation for another day, but I recognize that FFVIII is a good game and a game that took a lot of interesting chances, but I don’t think it’s what I expect or want from Final Fantasy. I know that there are many fans of FF8 out there who disagree with me, so intend to play it again on Switch with the HD remaster…ok now that that’s out of the way.
I was left a little hollow after not enjoying my time with FF8, the game that was SUPPOSED to get me through the Autumn and distract me from not having a Sega Dreamcast. Sadly, that did not work and I spent the entire fall pining over this new, little console. As an obsessed 13 year old, I poured over every issue of EGM and Dreamcast Magazine that I could get my hands on. So many games!!! Sonic in 3D! Marvel vs. Capcom at home!! Soul Calibur, Crazy Taxi, Power Stone!! Everything looked amazing and my young, teen brain couldn’t handle the wait. I could only play so many Smash Bros. games against the computer…DREAMCAST NEEDED TO BE HERE NOW!!!
Finally Christmas morning came and I had the Dreamcast in my hands. I spent the entirety of Christmas break playing Sonic Adventure and having friends over to play endless rounds of Power Stone and Marvel vs. Capcom. I remember the d-pad causing some serious blisters to form on my left thumb after the endless spamming of fireballs. It was joyous and the Dreamcast is still one of my favorite consoles of all time. Playing the Dreamcast felt like the first taste of the future. It had a strange controller and used odd, tomogatchi-style memory cards. The Dreamcast was brilliant though it had a very short time in the sun, thanks to the Playstation 2 releasing a year later.
I was never a giant Sega gamer as a kid. I owned a Genesis and Sega CD, but I spent most of my time playing the SNES and PS1. I didn’t own a Saturn in the 1990s and I was so engrossed in the JRPG series on the PS1 that I gave the Saturn little attention until much later on. Something about the Dreamcast hit me in the right way and it became my system of choice. While I would go on to get a PS2 a year later, I was still actively playing Dreamcast games well into 2001.
Sega’s swan song of a console was a bit ahead of its time coming complete with 4 controller ports, a web browser, and a built-in network port. The Dreamcast introduced easy and functional online gaming to the home console, something that Xbox would eventually build its entire platform around. The DC was the progenitor in home console, online gaming with Phantasy Star Online and while it was at the forefront of online RPGs it sadly was swallowed up by the PS2.
It’s hard to believe that the Dreamcast is 20 years old, as I so vividly remember the fall that it was released. The DC is a console that luckily still has an incredibly dedicated fan base. As a testament to how good the console was, Sega has worked to port many of the most popular DC games to other consoles as well as Steam and other digital marketplaces. Whether it’s the groundbreaking Shenmue or the stylish Jet Set (Grind) Radio, it’s easy to get your hands on these games in some form. It will always hold a special place in my heart and its importance to the video game industry should not go unrecognized. While Sega has since decided to get out of the console race, the DC though undercelebrated, represents the culmination of everything great about Sega. Great, arcade-style experiences with a taste of great platformers, fighting games, and RPGs.
My favorite Dreamcast game is still Skies of Arcadia, a brilliant Sky Pirate JRPG that was released in late 2000, as the console was on its last legs. Luckily it’s made its way to Gamecube since then…but Sega should really give us the HD remaster we dorks deserve!! If you ever want to hear about Skies, be sure to reach out, I can’t talk to you about this game for hours.
On its 20th anniversary, I’d like to celebrate everything that the Dreamcast was; original, unique, ground breaking, and fun. It was the first real step into the modern era of video games and each console released since then owes some credit to Sega’s final console. The spirit of DC lives on in each modern console and it’s titles are and important part of the fabric of video game history. So on 9.9.2019, 20 years later, I’d like to start up the DC and bask in its glory. Happy 20th Birthday Dreamcast, thanks for all the memories.