The Sega Dreamcast - A Review

Fanboy alert! Fanboy alert!

Oberon:

Ah, Dreamcast. You were ahead of your time.

RIP Dreamcast.
1998-2001

The Dreamcast came as a last-ditch attempt by Sega to reclaim the lead in the console market they had enjoyed with the Mega Drive/Genesis - the lead that was shattered by two failed machines, the 32X and the Saturn. Of course, we all know that they ultimately failed - today Sega are a software-only company, with a three-way battle now ensuing between Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo. (At least Sega didn't do an Atari and wither completely.)

But Sega certainly had a good stab at it with Dreamcast. Released in Japan in 1998, the rest of the world the year after, Sega's dream machine promised everything Saturn had, but backed these claims with actual results. Gameplay over the Internet? Enabled via a built-in 56k/33.6k modem, and upgradable to a Broadband adaptor later on. 3D graphics? Pretty much every game featured millions of polygons, all being rendered at incredible speed. 2D games, too, were available, and simply flew.

The Dreamcast launched with an impressive array of titles, many of which remain favourites - Sonic Adventure, the first proper Sonic game since the days of the Mega Drive, led the pack, whilst Namco's excellent conversion of Soul Calibur was unparelleled in the fighting world until its sequel arrived in 2003. The launch titles were soon bolstered by hundreds of first- and third-party releases, ensuring there was no drought of quality software - much of this playable over the 'net.

Certainly the Dreamcast has disadvantages. The lack of DVD support was definately a factor in its demolition by Sony's PS2 - many bought one simply to watch movies on. The VMU - that's Visual Memory Unit - was an interesting feature, but was essentially a gimmick that was underused and only added cost. The Dreamcast today has a habit of developing irritating problems, from resistors in the controller ports blowing to the console resetting itself randomly (the latter being fixable - see the guide here.)

But with the console having been lovingly supported by Sega over its short lifetime, there is no drought of consoles or games on the second-hand market. The games themselves come on GD-ROMs - Gigabyte discs - and are the same size as CDs, coming in similar packaging to an audio CD (in the US and Japan), or a PlayStation game (Europe). Many titles that you might have seen on other consoles originally were released on the DC - Virtua Tennis, Crazy Taxi, Sonic Adventure 1 & 2, for example - and others were ports from other machines, such as Unreal Tournament and Quake III Arena.

Four controller ports means party games are fun and easy to set up, and there are plenty of eligable titles here too. Even Chu Chu Rocket!, a game that was free in the UK to online players, proves good for a quick blast when you've friends around, whilst one-on-one matchups in Soul Calibur remain compulisive.

A used Dreamcast can be had for £19.99 these days in the UK. Give one a home and see what you missed a few years ago. The Dreamcast earns itself an excellent 9/10.