Company: Sega of America(US), Sega of Japan(Japan)
Released: 1998(Japan) 1999(US)
Posted: April 15, 2000
Review Updated: April 15, 2002
On September 9, 1999, Sega released the Dreamcast in North America. Sega sold so many units at the start that it set a new record for most successful console launch. Things were looking up for the Dreamcast in the beginning like being the first 128-bit console on the market, and having over a dozen games available at launch. So youd have to wonder why the system would have no support for it whatsoever in North America within a measly three years of its launch. Read on to get the complete rundown on Segas last console ever.
As mentioned above, the Dreamcast was released on the infamous 9/9/99. I remember waiting in line for my unit on launch day for a couple of hours, and was so relieved when I finally picked up my new system. The Dreamcast boasted a new record of most available games at launch with around fifteen. And it doesnt hurt when some of those titles are highly anticipated. Some of those being Soul Calibur from Namco, and Sonic Adventure from Sega. The Dreamcast had a successful launch as I said before, but with most other successful launches, there was problems. This time though, it wasnt Segas fault, but the third party publishers. All three of Midways launch games (NFL Blitz 2000, Hydro Thunder, and Mortal Kombat Gold) had problems with soundtrack skipping during game play. And in Activisions Blue Stinger, most copies of the game wouldnt even load. Midway and Activision quickly fixed the bugs, but the scar was there, and it angered many people.
The Dreamcast had a great package. It boasted many firsts for consoles. It had the first ever 128-bit processor. It also came built in with a modem, and with it was a Web Browser disc, which meant the Dreamcast was Internet ready right out of the box. Another great feature of the Dreamcast was the fact that it can boast true arcade ports. This is because Arcade games and the Dreamcast both used the same Naomi brand hardware. Also barely any games contained any jagged graphics because the Dreamcast had 8mb of V-Ram. Thats double the amount the PS2 has. Instead of having the games supporting CD-Roms like the Saturn and Playstation, the Dreamcast had its GD-Rom format. The difference between the two being the GD-Rom was nearly double the size capacity of the CD-Rom. And since the system features disc format support, that means the audio is top notch quality. And if you have a great stereo system, you can play your games in full surround sound.
Not many people liked the design of the Dreamcast controller, but I thought it was perfect. It featured four main action buttons, and two trigger buttons on the back of the controller. It was very similar to the SNES layout. There are also the standard control pad, and an analog stick for 3D movement. The controller featured two sockets for accessories. One is for the Visual Memory Unit (VMU) which saved all game data. And the other for the Jump Pack, a vibration accessory that made you feel the game, much like the N64 Rumble Pak. The VMU itself was rather unique. Besides acting as the standard memory card, it also had a screen, and a few buttons. It looked much like a mini Game Boy. While playing a game, the VMU sometimes displayed certain hints, and was also a nice way for selecting plays in the Sega line up of football games. You can also play mini games on the VMU itself, by downloading them from the game onto the VMU.
For the first year the Dreamcast was out, it was promising an online network which would support plenty of games. But within the first year of the Dreamcast, the only game produced with online support was Chu Chu Rocket, a simple cat and mouse puzzle game. But while Sega fans were waiting for their online video games, Sega contained them by having the Dreamcast being Internet ready since the launch. While online, people can send email, surf anywhere on the Internet, and even download game save files and VMU mini games. You can surf with the built in 56K modem, but DSL users would have to buy a Broadband adaptor if theyd like to go online. In September of 2000, Sega finally launched its online network, Sega.net. It was a free, online network, and also served as an ISP with an offer if you signed on for two years with a purchase of a Dreamcast, youd get a rebate check for what you purchased your Dreamcast for. The first game to make use of the network was NFL 2K1, and over twenty titles also made use of Sega.net. And if youd buy the keyboard and mouse accessories, youd practically give your Dreamcast a PC control set up. This set up worked great for online games such as Quake 3: Arena, and Unreal Tournament. The most popular online game for the Dreamcast turned out to be Phantasy Star Online, which installed a user base of hundreds of thousands. Sega later released an online only Version 2.0, but charged a monthly fee in order to play it.
In its short life span, the Dreamcast featured around 250 games released in North America. And the Dreamcast supports each genre with a decent amount of great games. Here is a combination of games that garnered rave reviews and my own recommendations.
Outrigger, Sonic Adventure 1 & 2, Grand Theft Auto 2, Rayman 2
Blue Stinger, Dino Crisis, Resident Evil 2, 3, & Code: Veronica
Soul Calibur, Virtua Fighter 3TB, Dead or Alive 2, Marvel vs. Capcom 2
Role Playing (Action, Adventure, and Traditional)
Skies of Arcadia, Grandia 2, Shenmue 1 & 2
First Person Shooter
Quake III: Arena, Unreal Tournament, Alien Front Online
Wetrix+, Next Tetris: Online Edition, Sega Swirl
Sega GT, Tokyo Xtreme Racer, Crazy Taxi 1 & 2
Segas NFL, NBA, NHL, Tennis, and World Series Baseball titles
Tony Hawks Pro Skater 1 & 2, Matt Hoffmans Pro BMX, Trickstyle
Samba de Amigo, Ooga-Booga, Sea Man, Jet Grind Radio
Listed above are some of the best titles available on the Dreamcast. And as you can tell by the names, Sega had a whole bunch of third party support. Companies like Namco, Capcom, Tecmo, Ubi Soft, Infogrames, Activision, and many others were supporting it strongly. However, one big name, Electronic Arts, wasnt supporting it at all. Thats not a good sign when the biggest 3rd Party Publisher wont support your own system.
There are lots of accessories for the Dreamcast. The must owns are the VMU for saving data, and the Jump Pack for game vibration. To have a good online experience, the Keyboard and Mouse is also available to you. DSL users can also pick up a Broadband Adaptor, though its extremely hard to find. The unique, VGA Cord allows you to use your computer monitor to act as a television screen so you get the highest resolution. There is also a Light Gun which is compatible with several Dreamcast titles. An authorized Arcade Stick by Agetec plays well with most fighting games. Sega, later released games that came with accessories. One example is Sea Man, a game which came with a microphone accessory, and you command your Sea Man to do various things through your voice. The only game to use this device was Alien Front Online, which was the first online console game to feature actual voice chatting during game play. The other accessory like this was the Maracas which came with Samba de Amigo. Probably a great product to invest in was the Dreamcast Game Shark. Not only did it offer the same game enhancing codes, but it also allowed you to play European and Japan versions of games. This was a very handy feature which came in hand when disgruntled Sega fans got English versions of Rez, Headhunter, and Shenmue II that were canned in North America for the Dreamcast.
The Dream Comes to an End
Things started to go downhill after the 1999 Christmas season for the Dreamcast. Sales trembled dramatically, and the release of the PS2 in October of 2000 didnt help either. Sega tried tactics to counter the PS2 launch by announcing the full rebate offer with the network sign up. And when that didnt work they lowered the price from $199 to $150.
But that didnt help much either, and sales continued to fall. Another shocking development was Acclaim somehow managing to sneak up the licensing rights for Crazy Taxi and 18 Wheeler, and releasing the games on the PS2, X-Box, and Gamecube. When things werent looking good on the horizon, Sega made a shocking announcement on January 31, 2001. They announced that theyd stop making hardware units of the Dreamcast, and that they will only support the system for one more year. They announced this so they can proceed so they could find bigger success as a third party developer. And to get rid of the stock of remaining Dreamcasts, they lowered the price of the Dreamcast to $100. As 2001 progressed they lowered the price to $80, and then to a shocking $50.
Sega supported the Dreamcast well for the first half of 2001 with hits like Outrigger, Sonic Adventure 2, Crazy Taxi 2, and Phantasy Star Online Version 2.0. But as the second half dragged on, you can tell all Sega wanted to do was just release the high selling sports games and get be done with the system. Sega did make plenty of cancellations to North American titles, although releasing the same games in Japan and Europe. The release of the Nintendo Gamecube and Microsoft X-Box in November 2001 seemed to attract some Sega in their 3rd Party venture. Sega canceled the North American, Dreamcast versions of Rez, Headhunter, and the highly anticipated Shenmue II, and released them exclusively on the X-Box and PS2 in North America.
Third party support also crumbled extremely fast, as well with many cancellations being made within months of Segas 3rd Party Announcement. Sierra was planning on releasing two versions of the PC award winning game, Half Life, but canned both soon after Segas announcement. In December 2001, Sega made Sega.net accessibility $10 a month, which virtually killed off its online console network. The last title to be released on the Dreamcast in the states was NHL 2K2 in February 2002.
The Dreamcast still has plenty of hit titles available for it, and I strongly suggest to go out and get one for a measly $50. And it also doesnt hurt with most new games being priced in the $5-$20 range. So what are you waiting for? Go out and buy this gem before its too late.
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