It’s hard to believe that it has been 14 years since Sega released the Dreamcast in the west. Time sure flies. I was eight years old when Sega unleashed their last console upon the gaming world, and it was the first piece of gaming hardware that I was genuinely excited about.
I grew up playing games on an Amiga computer, then later on the PlayStation, Nintendo 64 and Saturn, but because I was so young I was never hyped to play these consoles. I just played them because my Dad already bought them. But I was so hyped for the Dreamcast, and that day my Dad brought one home was something special. I remember playing SoulCalibur, Sonic Adventure, Speed Devils, Hydro Thunder and Toy Commander pretty much every single day, later dabbling with the likes of Shenmue, Quake III Arena and Jet Set Radio. Those are memories I will never forget.
The Dreamcast is my second favourite console ever, but the console really is bittersweet. I adore it as a gaming system. The games released for it, especially the big ones, were all phenomenal and all showcased high levels of game design. SoulCalibur was unbelievable. Shenmue broke so much new ground. Jet Set Radio looked gorgeous. Even still to this day, when I play my Dreamcast, I can still feel that magic I first felt all those years ago.
But it also upsets me to play the Dreamcast, for as much as I adore it the console did fail monumentally compared to the PlayStation 2, and it did signal the end of Sega’s hardware division. Sega’s departure from the hardware business has left a void in the industry, one that the Xbox never quite filled despite the Xbox feeling like a spiritual successor to the Dreamcast. Sega did everything right with the Dreamcast, but it all came too late.
From the Sega CD/Mega CD onwards, none of Sega’s hardware releases went well. The Sega CD was progressive thinking, but was expensive and full of rubbish games (other than Sonic CD and the two Lunar titles), while the 32X, a 32-bit add-on for the Mega Drive, was pointless because only 6 months after it hit store shelves the Saturn was released, which rendered it completely useless. And the Saturn’s shock E3 showing in 1995 never helped its cause either. Sega made so many mistakes with the Sega CD, 32X and Saturn, and they were never quite forgiven for them with the Dreamcast
And it’s a huge shame, because the Dreamcast was the ultimate game system. Aimed squarely at the dedicated gamer, the Dreamcast had pretty much everything gamers could have wanted, and even had the ability to play games online (a first for consoles). It was years ahead of its time, yet once Sony announced the highly anticipated PS2 the sales dipped, and after only 18 months the Dreamcast hardware was discontinued.
The lifespan of the Dreamcast was only short, but the console gave me far more memories than any of the competitions hardware that generation. And that’s why I miss Sega hardware more than any other reason. Anyway, here’s a run down of the games I most enjoyed playing for the Dreamcast back in the day, some of which are still the best their genre has ever seen.
I like fighting games, but still to this day I’ve never come close to mastering any game in the genre. I really enjoy series such as Tekken, Virtua Fighter and Street Fighter, but I have always sucked at them and will probably always suck at them. Back when SoulCalibur came out I wasn’t a fan of the genre at all. While the first video game I ever played, Body Blows, was a 2D fighter the genre couldn’t keep my interest. But SoulCalibur wasn’t any ordinary game. I played that game for hours at a time as a kid, and still to this day bring it out every now and again to lay the smack down on anyone or anything. While I’ve never mastered any fighting game, SoulCalibur is the one that I’ve come closest. Truly one of the best games ever made.
Sonic Adventure and Sonic Adventure 2
Before Sega revitalized Sonic with 2010’s Sonic Colours, the last great 3D Sonic games were released nearly a decade previously for the Dreamcast. Sonic Adventure was the key launch title for the console, mainly because the Sega Saturn lacked its very own original Sonic title, meaning fans were starving for their Sonic fix. Sonic Adventure 2 came along two years later, in 2001, and was the mascot game of Sonic’s 10th birthday celebrations. While both games have aged over the years they are still hugely enjoyable and thoroughly worthwhile. While I prefer the original, Adventure 2 recaptures that essence of Sonic’s 2D games better than the first.
Jet Set Radio
No other game I have ever played has recaptured that essence of ‘cool’ exuberated by Jet Set Radio (or as all you Stateside call it, Jet Grind Radio). Jet Set was a 3D platformer, but instead of stomping on Goomba’s or smashing Robotnik you had to battle against an oppressive police force and rival roller-gangs in a effort to own the streets and stick it to the man. There wasn’t anything quite like it at launch, and its stunning cel-shade visual style was just as striking as the rest of the game. And the feeling you got skating around, spraying over rival tags, was awesome. This may very well be the best game for the system.
Space Channel 5
95% of people would look at Space Channel 5 and disregard it without even playing it. But you shouldn’t just cast aside Space Channel 5 - not at all. You see, despite how weird it looks, and admittedly plays, Space Channel 5 is arguably the greatest rhythm game ever made, and certainly one of the most striking games on the Dreamcast. And unlike pretty much all rhythm games today Space Channel 5 doesn’t require a huge piece of instrument-shaped plastic to play it. All you need is a plain old simple controller.
Marvel vs. Capcom 2: New Age of Heroes
As a said above, I love fighters but suck at them. Capcom fighters in general aren’t necessarily the easiest for new comers, or those who suck at the genre, to get their teeth in to, because they aren’t as forgiving as the likes of Tekken or SoulCalibur, but Marvel vs. Capcom 2 is so good you won’t even care if you get your butt kicked all the time, you’ll simply enjoy the experience. Marvel 2 is often voted the greatest fighting game ever made, and while my uneducated mind disagrees with that statement I can totally understand why. It really is that good.
Shenmue and Shenmue II
Shenmue has become synonymous with the Dreamcast. Released in 2000 the game came on the back of a huge amount of hype. First conceived in the mid 90’s as a Sega Saturn RPG spin-off of Virtua Fighter as development went on the game went in a completely different path and was eventually split up in to a trilogy. At launch the first game was acclaimed, but some felt it was a little boring. The second, although not as good in my mind, managed to ‘fix’ some of the criticisms that were levelled at the original. Both games helped pioneer the sandbox genre, and the first one was an influence on DMA Design’s Grand Theft Auto III, which was released a year later. Unfortunately the Dreamcast’s poor commercial performance limited the series audience. The first game was one of only 5 Dreamcast titles to sell over one million units, but the game was a retail failure as it failed recouped its huge $70 development cost (at the time Shenmue was, by far, the most expensive video game ever made, and remained so until 2008). The sales of Shenmue II didn’t help the cause either, so Sega pulled the plug on the series after only two of the planned three games, leaving the series on an unresolved cliffhanger that fans have had to put up with for over a decade. And Half-Life fans think they have it bad. Series creator, and living legend, Yu Suzuki has stated multiple times over the years that he wants to create Shenmue III and finally bring closure to the series and its fans, but Sega doesn’t seem interested. I really hope they reconsider sometime in the future.
Power Stone was like Super Smash Bros., but it wasn’t restricted to 2D. The game was a duke it out in 3D environments, and it really was just as competitive and enjoyable as Nintendo’s universally praised franchise. I remember wiping the floor with my brother so many times. It may never win the same sort of acclaim as Smash Bros., but Power Stone really was just as enjoyable when played with others.
Ready 2 Rumble Boxing
The Dreamcast had unquestionably the best launch line up ever. If you bought one day one, and had the money, you could have bought enough fantastic games to last you for months. Ready 2 Rumble was one of these games, and it was another great example why the Dreamcast is probably the best console ever for fighting games. Cartoonish, and utterly bonkers, Ready 2 Rumble was a game I used to play a lot with other people. In many ways I treated it in the same manner I treated Power Stone, and I enjoyed it a lot more against people than playing it alone. If you still haven’t played this game, in any of its forms, you really need to.
The Typing of the Dead
The Typing of the Dead is a game that really shouldn’t be enjoyable, but it really is. Taking the mundane task of typing, and mixing it together with The House of the Dead 2 sounds, on paper, like a completely crazy idea, but in reality The Typing of the Dead was every bit better than the home port of Sega’s classic light gun series. Instead of aiming and shooting enemies walk towards you with text boxes on their chests, and you had to type out on your keyboard what was written in a text box to kill an enemy. The game starts out easily enough, but as you progress you’ll go from typing single words to kill enemies to typing full sentences. And the more you play the more you really do feel like you’re improving your typing skills. Kudos Sega, for taking a concept so outrageous and making it fun.
LET’S GO MAKE SOME CRAZY MONEY!!! I still can’t believe Sega managed to make a game about driving a taxi worthwhile, let alone as hugely enjoyable as they did. I have played Crazy Taxi so much over the years that I know the game and the soundtrack like the back of my hand. The Dreamcast really showcased Sega’s arcade heritage like nothing else they ever did, and Crazy Taxi is one of the best examples. The game may have been ported so many times over the years that it has been all but worn out, but the Dreamcast version really was as good as us Sega fans say it is.