Friday, September 09, 2011

Happy Sega Dreamcast Day!

Happy Sega Dreamcast Day, everybody!  On September 9, 1999 (9-9-99), Sega released the Dreamcast in the United States to a massively successful launch and rapturous welcome.  It appeared, for a short time, that Sega was back on top after years of self-inflicted wounds crippled the company.  Sadly, it would not last, and only 18 months later, Sega would exit the video game hardware business.  Sega and video games have never been the same ever since.

I remember September 9 perfectly.  I was working at my college job, waiting tables at the Dinkytown Pizza Hut, and when business was slow, I had one of the delivery drivers take us down to the nearest Target.  I purchased a Dreamcast, a second controller, a Virtual Memory Unit (these were cool), and a stack of games.  Which ones?  Let's see...Soul Calibur, NFL 2K, Ready 2 Rumble Boxing, Hydro Thunder and Trickstyle.  All games were fantastic, except for Trickstyle, which was a clunky, half-completed mess.  I later returned it for Sonic Adventure.

Today, the Dreamcast is hailed as a classic, arguably the last true arcade videogames system.  The game industry was pushing relentlessly into the domain of cinematic games, all in a mad pursuit of becoming Digital Hollywood.  Add in an absurd amount of Playstation 2 hype (to this day, I still say DC was better), and the king-maker status of EA, and Sega was just not able to staunch the bleeding from years of financial mismanagement.  It's really unfortunate, and you just wish there was a little more time.

I am a bit surprised to see that Dreamcast never really took off in Japan.  Perhaps it was too similar to the Saturn, which was far more successful over there.  Heck, Sega infamously killed off the Saturn version of Virtua Fighter 3, which was completed and  headed to the pressing plants, because it was superior to Genki's somewhat lackluster DC version.  And while the library of games was stellar, it really wasn't that much different from the Saturn, especially where shoot-em-ups and fighters were concerned.  Also, I'm sure the Sony hype was just as deafening in Japan as in the West.

In any case, you can score a good-as-new Dreamcast and a stack of fantastic games like Soul Calibur and NFL 2K1 for the price of a single $60 retail video game today.  That is a bargain, my friends.  Enjoy!

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