Remembering One of My Two Favorite Consoles of All Time: the Sega Dreamcast
Having been a Sega Saturn owner, I was much disappointed when support for that console was discontinued. In response, I bought the original Sony Playstation. A year after its original launch, I dove into gaming with more voracity than I ever had before, purchasing any solid game (80% score or above in reviews) that came out for that console. And back then it was not unusual for as many as five games to come out per month that met that requirement. Still, my loyalty returned me right back to the Sega camp when the Dreamcast was released.
It took me a few months to come around. I convinced myself for several months that it was not the right thing to do. For one, I had sooooo many games that I'd invested in on the PSX. Chucking that system and all those games that short a time into its life-cycle did not sit well with me. I had only ever owned one console at a time up to that point. But I had also gotten into PC gaming during that time. I had built first one, and then later a second as a backup, gaming PC. Eventually, I shrugged my shoulders, and asked "What would one more gaming system matter?" Sessions at my neighbor's condo playing competitive Soul Caliber and Power Stone matches just put me in a space where I could not resist.
These days, I cannot remember where I bought it from. I usually always remember where I bought the consoles that I paid for myself. Most likely at the local GameStop where I was living out in California. It was spring during my last two quarters of the first time through grad school. I was basically not going to any classes and solely writing my thesis. Still, gaming time at that point in my life was limited. I spent a lot of time writing my thesis at a local coffee shop, away from my Dreamcast. Things really heated up once I wrapped things up and made my next move to the Pacific Northwest. Chilly but often rainy days in a place where I kept cool by not running the AC and just sliding the patio door open where my apartment backed up to the woods, with me playing the Dreamcast in the adjoining living room. Good times. I played hours of Test Drive: Le Mans, not solely due to the lengthy 24 hours (time accelerated) game mode. Here's the entry from Wikipedia:
"In the following year the same software house (Infogrames) released Le Mans 24 Hours on the Dreamcast. This version of the game was originally planned to be a port from the PlayStation, but was eventually developed from scratch by Australian company Melbourne House which had recently been purchased by Infogrames. As with the previous PlayStation version, the Dreamcast game was released in the US under their Test Drive brand as Test Drive: Le Mans. This was one of the most critically acclaimed racing games on the Dreamcast, often hailed as the single best driving game available for the Dreamcast system. Following the release of the Dreamcast version of Le Mans 24 Hours, Infogrames and Melbourne House developed and released a port of the Dreamcast game on the PlayStation 2 in 2001."
The game was simply amazing. Visuals were gorgeous for that time, and the wonder that was the Dreamcast controller's analog input was smooth as butter. The other primary occupier of my gaming time on that system during those years? Quake III Arena. Here was a kingmaker of the PC gaming generation, sitting available for my home console. A near 1:1 port, complete with keyboard and mouse compatibility. I had passed this game up on the PC. Unreal Tournament was my cup of tea on the PC and I did not see the need for another title that basically did the same thing. But on the Dreamcast, I was sold the moment it released. And, oh yeah, I bought the Dreamcast keyboard and mouse, too. The disappointment of the Sega Genesis 32X peripheral did nothing to cause my thirst for the latest Dreamcast peripheral to waiver.
The final days of the Dreamcast were also fraught with fervor, as, after the next move, where I found myself in training in New England with two very close friends, the 2K sports series arrived for Sega's console. We mostly played NFL 2K and 2K1. There has just never been a local multiplayer experience that has ever matched those games' mode that allowed you and multiple players to take control of individual team members on the field and play a coop game against the CPU. One of my buddies played WR and the other played TE. At the controls of the Quarterback, I've never felt the gaming euphoria and camaraderie that I've experienced in that game.
Eventually, the Dreamcast was superseded by the original Microsoft XBox. Having been out of the country for the months preceding that console's launch, I was oblivious to the fact that it was coming out. On a day off, I walked into a GameStop and was assailed by all of the XBox marketing in place. I called around and a spare unit that had been pre-ordered but not picked up fell into my lap. Those were the days where if you spoke gamer-speak, you could get a GameStop to hold a console for you if you provided good faith that you had the money. I traded in the Dreamcast at a second-hand game's store and applied the money towards the XBox. As I write this post, I glance over my shoulder fondly at the XBox One, recalling what is now 12 years of gaming on XBox platforms, and have no regrets for the XBox' place as the spiritual successor to the Sega platforms in my gaming memory. But the Dreamcast era is also a warmly remembered time. For nostalgia's sake, I am sad that Sega only produces software now. But if they had to go, I am happy that Microsoft chose that time to take their place, maintaining a similar ethos of waving the flag of core gaming. Thanks for all the fish, Sega.