By Marshall Garvey and Sean Willis
Oh, Sega. What happened? These past 14 years trying to leg it out as a third party developer have been pretty rough, to put it nicely. The financial struggles, the layoffs, not having a booth at E3 this year, the disaster of Sonic Boom…and it’s not like you haven’t had any good games in recent memory, as you helped give us the fantastic Alien: Isolation. And despite the notoriety of recent Sonic flops like Rise of Lyric and 06, some have pointed out that the blue hedgehog has actually had some good games in the past few years. But those days of battling for console supremacy, promising to “do what Nintendon’t,” sure are a long time ago.
Luckily, Sega’s life as a console developer ended on a resounding high note. The Sega Dreamcast, released this very day 16 (!) years ago, marked the company’s entry in the sixth generation of devices. Even as 1999 as a year becomes increasingly distant (keep in mind, there are teenagers that didn’t live through Y2K scare), and the console industry has evolved rapidly in the past 16 years, the Dreamcast remains an outstanding device all its own to this day. One ahead of its time (it even had a built-in microphone and internet connection!), and with an eye-popping library of games that still pack a punch years later. Now, internet connection is easily available in newer consoles and internet providers like EATEL give gamers the best speeds.
During its short lifespan, Sega’s fifth console was loaded to the hilt with unforgettable titles. Where to begin, and where to end?: the seminal fighter SoulCalibur, everyone’s favorite skating and graffiti classic Jet Set Radio, the frightfully educational The Typing of the Dead, seamless arcade ports like Marvel vs. Capcom 2, Sonic’s luscious jump to 3D platforming with Sonic Adventure, and of course, the one and only Shenmue. These games and many others weren’t just superior in quality; they marked the Dreamcast as a system that provided innovation by the bucket load.
Even with a stellar selection of games and advanced technological features, however, the Dreamcast was ultimately done in by its inability to compete with other sixth generation consoles. Despite a successful initial surge, the onset of Sony’s PlayStation 2 phased it out relatively quickly. Its brief shelf life ended on March 31, 2001, after selling 10.6 million units worldwide. And of course, as we all know, Sega has tried its damndest to make it as a third party company since then, but it’s been a rocky road, even as their CEO has recently promised to make it up to gamers after so many bad games.
While Sega’s status as a company remains dire at worst, in flux at best at this juncture in time, writing about the Dreamcast in 2015 fortunately isn’t as anachronistic as you might expect. Rather, the console’s sales witnessed a tremendous spike this year thanks to the recent announcement of Shenmue III. Whatever becomes of Sega, its swan song in the console wars will live on as one of the boldest and most creative systems ever to hit stores. We at Last Token Gaming, among with many others across the globe, salute its short but incredible run.
Gaming simply wouldn’t be the same without the Dreamcast paving the way with internet capabilities and arcade perfect ports. Before that, most arcade-to-home ports often took out some content, required an extra adapter, or were too expensive due to integrated chips in the cart. Well, the Neo Geo did that first, but the Dreamcast was the first to make it affordable.
And of course, the variety. The weird VMU memory cards which played mini games on, the unique games ranging from talking to human faced fish to adventurous titles. Not to mention the arcade ports and so many wonderful fighting games. It all left a lot of good gaming memories even with its short life span.
I could go into great detail for some games, but I never stopped playing Sega Rally 2, Power Stone is still a ton of fun with friends, Skies of Arcadia, Street Fighter Alpha 3, Street Fighter 3, Seaman, Shenmue, Ecco the Dolphin 3, Jet Set Radio, both Crazy Taxi titles, IllBleed, Coaster Works, and all those Japan imports. Well…let’s just say it left a huge impact for me personally. Especially the homebrew scene for Beats of Rage, emulators and the indie game releases which make it to the console on occasion even today.
I used to web browse quite a bit on it too back in the day. It was a lot of fun finding images to use as custom tags on Jet Set Radio. Though, would we have web browsing on consoles today if not for that? It did take the other consoles another generation before they caught on.
The Dreamcast had a small life, but it had a huge impact on the gaming world. It’s definitely worth digging up.