Thursday, September 25, 2008

Sega Dreamcast - Yay!

Today's the day I get myself a Sega Dreamcast! Yay! I've been looking forward to this for some time, and now I'm happy to be able to play all the great games.

I've been a Dreamcast freak since it first arrived in the US nine years ago. I loved the console's sleek and compact design, I loved the controllers, I loved the idea of playing games online, and I loved the games. While it was the first arrival of the "next generation" consoles, quickly followed by Playstation 2, XBox, and GameCube, it was always the best in my eyes. The games were simply more fun.

I think the Dreamcast was the last "arcade" oriented game system. By that I mean it was the final link to the old video arcades, which was where videogames were born and blossomed. Much like a good pop song, these games are fast, quick, to the point, and endlessly addicting. By 1999, the idea of video games were evolving with the technology; now they more closely resemble blockbuster movies. You win some, but you lose some, and I feel that games today have lost their immediacy, their old thrills.

The best Dreamcast games were the multiplayer hits, and that's probably why it remains such a beloved system. As gaming has embraced the online realm, it has sacrificed the idea of multiple players in the same room, on the same couch, laughing and knocking each other around. Sony and Microsoft have lost touch with this treasure, and I think this is the key reason why Nintendo has found success with the Wii. Too bad so many of the Wii party games are aimed at those who've never played games. Dreamcast lived that party lifestyle, but it was for the hardcore gamers all the way.

If you find a fan and ask them to name the essential titles, you'll find yourself on the receiving end of a very, very long list. If I had the money, I would have found it difficult not to walk home tonight with a dozen games, right out of the bat. Only my looming rent checks stood in the way. I had to settle with six or seven, and I still felt half empty.

What?! You didn't get Soul Calibur? Or Shenmue? Or Phantasy Star Online? Or Quake? Or Chu Chu Rocket? Or Sonic Adventure? Or Tennis 2K2? Or Skies of Arcadia? Or Grandia 2? Or Street Fighter 3: Third Strike? Or Power Stone 1 & 2? Or Ferrari 355? Or Test Drive Le Mans? get the point. I could still rattle off a dozen others without blinking.

I walked home with a Dreamcast, two controllers, one VMU memory unit (a very novel idea of a memory card with its own lcd screen and buttons), and a big silly smile. What games did I pick up? NFL 2K1, of course. There's also NBA 2K2, Virtua Tennis, San Fransisco Rush 2049, Crazy Taxi, Toy Commander, and Hydro Thunder. There were several others I really wanted, but had to wait on, like Rayman 2, Outrigger, Resident Evil: Code Veronica, Ferrari 355, Tony Hawk Pro Skater 1 & 2, Matt Hoffman Pro BMX, Alien Front Online....ah, here we go again.

This isn't to say that Sega Dreamcast didn't have its share of disappointments and failures. There are plenty of those on any videogame machine. But this little white box had a suprisingly high batting average. There are so many games that are brilliant, innovative, or just plain fun. Much of this was due to the console's painfully short life. Sega was bleeding money and desperately struggling to stay afloat. The Dreamcast was their final gamble before the Sony juggarnaut and their heavily-hyped Playstation 2.

There's a reason so many Dreamcast freaks will never touch a PS2, or a PS3, even. Many of them migrated to XBox, where Sega delivered a number of great games after they got out of the hardware game. There's always this feeling that we were robbed, that the game was rigged. Dreamcast was ripped off. It was better than PS2, it always was and always will be. I'd have to struggle to find six games on Sony's black monolith I would want to play. Typically, those would be the weirder, quirkier titles like Ico and Katamari Damaci. Games that would have been at home on Dreamcast. Heck, those games deserved to be on Dreamcast.

So, anyway, here I am, awaiting the meltdown of the Bush Economy and counting the hours until Obama can try to piece it all back together. I figured, since we're headed into another Great Depression, I shouldn't feel depressed. I should laugh a little more, smile a little more. My record collection and stereo will help greatly. My Dreamcast should help a little bit as well.

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