|By Zach Patterson||Monday, 7 Sep 2009|
Ten years ago, the Dreamcast was about to launch. In the months prior, I had been reading a lot about the Dreamcast, but frankly, was skeptical that Sega really was worth giving my money to. My brother owned a Genesis which I loved side by side with my Super Nintendo.
In the coming years, however, Sega muddied their own waters in an attempt to be on the cutting edge before anyone else.
They launched two largely unsuccessful add-ons for Genesis with the Sega CD and 32X to try to push 3D before Nintendo, a portable Genesis in the Nomad that ran side by side their declining Game Gear platform, and then an overpriced, under-advertised 32-bit console that struggled to produce the same sort of buzz that surrounded the burgeoning Playstation brand and the established Nintendo fanbase that followed them to the Nintendo 64. Sadly, the Saturn died a slow, protracted death as Sega continued to release great games over 1997 and 1998, but they were pretty much the only ones at the end. By 1999, Sega’s legacy was littered with the half-realized console husks of years past, with the early glory days of Hedgehog dominance being the lone bright spot in my (and many others) eyes.
But I began to see the Dreamcast as something different. Their “It’s Thinking” campaign was simple and clever. Instead of a black or grey ugly console, the Dreamcast was a milky white, in a compact, curved shape that, at the time, was simply elegant. The controller was offspring of the popular NiGHTS pack-in controller, with a mesmerizing swirl stamped on as their logo…this was a different Sega. Their brand was visible and being shown on TV…and most importantly, the look of those graphics! 3D graphics had been advancing quickly in the late 90′s, and while some may not recall, the 32-bit consoles simply could not keep up with the times by 1999*.
But the Dreamcast was a different animal. The graphics were crisp, bright, and fun. It seemed like it was as realistic as graphics were going to get at the time, and it seemed to do it effortlessly. Soul Calibur, a game I had lusted for since hearing a sequel to Soul Blade had arrived in arcades, looked mesmerizing.
Multicolored sparks flew from the weapons, new characters like Ivy wielded strange and wonderful weapons that couldn’t be done on Playstation, and the game came packed with tons of secrets and extras. House of the Dead 2 was a perfect arcade conversion of the fun zombie shooter that likewise looked brilliant. Ready 2 Rumble Boxing was all over print and TV and came packed with tons of personality and attractive graphics. If I wanted some racing? An arcade-perfect port of the eye-catching Hydro Thunder and the new Tokyo Xtreme Racer series were available, both quality games. Sports? NFL Blitz 2000 looked better than the arcade and was tons of fun, and the 2K series was just debuting in what would be one of the most important sports gaming company launches in the coming years. And how could we forget the centerpiece? Sonic Adventure.
Where Saturn hadn’t released that killer Sonic game they absolutely needed, Dreamcast had it ready on launch day. And boy was this big. Sonic had re-invaded the minds of gamers as he was emblazoned across every gaming magazine in America. The TV ads and demo stations showed mind-bending clips of in-game footage of you controlling Sonic as docks collapsed behind you, then running through classic loops and dramatic battles, all with fancy camera work that made it seem like a mesh of gaming, art, and cinema.
While I was rarely an early adopter, this was a big time for gaming for me, as well as my life. I was in the middle of getting fit for the first time in my life, getting my first job, learning to drive, and balancing school work and friends on the usual weekday. However, gaming was still a part of my daily routine, and the Dreamcast called to me. While looking over the mammoth launch library with many more games on the horizon, the beautiful system with its beautiful games, and reasonable price point, in addition to no real competition on the radar, I decided that Playstation and I were going to have an amicable separation, the Dreamcast was for real, and this was something I needed to have immediately.
* Sony’s Playstation may have become a juggernaut, and Nintendo’s console could match its output graphically, but their limitations had clearly begun to show, as arcades and PC’s had passed them and moved into a new generation. Playstation games were often compensating by including more and more pre-rendered cinemas to make the games more attractive to consumers, or releasing Resident Evil or Final Fantasy VII styled games with high quality pre-rendered backgrounds to give them the appearance of looking advanced, but the 3D models and textures were still limited. Nintendo’s problem was that in order to compete with the Sony with CG cinemas and CD sound, it required a tremendous amount of space, and cartridges simply could no longer be affordable at $70.
By Matt Jones
Ten years ago, my life was in transition like it had never been before. In January, I turned 16 years old, looking forward to getting a drivers license, begin dating, have puberty throw me into an emotional wreck, and growing up in Arlington Heights, IL, the only place I knew as home. The next month, my dad informed me that we would be moving in June, stranding me in a new town halfway through my high school career. So I ended up still being able to look forward to the emotional roller coaster and drivers license, but dating and Arlington Heights were no longer on the near term agenda.
As I spent the summer trying to get accustomed to the new landscape, I ventured into a bookstore and noticed a bright orange magazine that had the word “Sega” on it, instantly grabbing my attention. As I picked up the thick September 1999 edition of EGM (remember, this was 1999, so it would actually have been thick, as the internet had not made video game magazines obsolete yet),
EGM covers from back in the day covering the Dreamcast
I thumbed through the discussion on the launch of the Dreamcast, a console I had no idea was on the horizon. While I was a Genesis owner and a big Sega fan, I passed on the Saturn and optioned for a Nintendo 64, like most of my friends owned. So while I still had plenty of fond memories from my Genny days, I had not truly kept up with Sega over the three or four years I was an N64 guy. After purchasing the magazine and reading it over and over, I knew that the Dreamcast had to be mine. With the $500 I had received from my grandmother as a present to spend as I wished I walked into Best Buy and grabbed one of their pre-order slips. I had my ticket to gaming greatness and would be partaking in my first (and last, strangely enough) console launch.
By Andrew Raub
My relationship with the Dreamcast is an odd one.
Ten years ago, my interest in the Dreamcast was basically non-existent. I was fully sucked into the N64, having had one since launch and absolutely loving the games. Actually, thinking back, in 1999 I probably wasn’t playing too many games. Skateboarding had taken over my life and videogames were not my main interest. With that said, I probably didn’t even know much about the Dreamcast when it was in its early days.
When I finally played one at Funcoland, I remember being thoroughly impressed with the graphics. However the controller was, in my mind, stupid. I mean, what the hell? Am I supposed to be impressed by this big awkward round thing with the cord coming out of the bottom? The bottom?
Seriously? That was my biggest issue, I think. The cord. It was on the side of the controller facing the player. There was probably a lot of Nintendo fanboyism going on that helped perpetuate these irrational thoughts. So that was that basically. I didn’t want one.
But then on the downswing of the Dreamcast’s life, I had a change of heart. I
bought one used and ended up having a blast. It wasn’t really the games that drew me in, but what the Dreamcast could do that other systems couldn’t. I’ll leave it at that for now. The rest will be told in due time.