How the Dreamcast drove innovation for future console generations

Regardless of successful the occasional skirmish, Sega’s battle with Nintendo amid the broader console wars was one which it was destined to lose, with the rise of then-newcomer Sony not doing it any favors. However whereas Sega would in the end retire from the console wars, it indisputably left its mark on its rivals.

Launched in Japan on November 27, 1998 – it was nearly a 12 months later that it arrived within the US and Europe – the Dreamcast wasn’t sufficient to recoup the large losses Sega suffered throughout its Saturn years. Its life could be cruelly lower quick, with the console formally discontinued firstly of 2001.

But when it burned out too quickly, how brightly it shone in these temporary years. Perhaps it is simply my diehard Sega fanboy from yesteryear saying this, however regardless of not being financially profitable, the Dreamcast was Sega at its inventive finest, and stays one in every of my favourite consoles of all time.

Historical past could also be written by the winners, however the Dreamcast left a legacy with improvements that might go on to encourage console generations of the long run.

Courageous new on-line world

Each Dreamcast included a modem for gamers to dial as much as the Web. Even when 33.6kbit/s (or 56kbit/s for the US) sounds laughably sluggish by immediately’s requirements, it was sufficient to usher within the daybreak of on-line console gaming for “up to 6 billion players“, as boasted in its UK promoting marketing campaign.

On the forefront was Sonic Workforce throughout one in every of its most prolific intervals. Moreover releasing two model new 3D Sonic video games throughout the Dreamcast’s lifetime, the studio was liable for creating the console’s first on-line multiplayer sport, the straightforward however chaotic aggressive puzzler ChuChu Rocket.

Its crowning achievement could be Phantasy Star On-line, the primary on-line RPG for consoles. Though owing a debt to Diablo on PC, this was a way more colourful affair, with its many character lessons and races fantastically rendered in 3D environments. 

The true magic, nonetheless, got here when you related on-line and located fellow gamers within the spaceship foyer, as you made nervous and awkward dialog, both by way of preset phrases or by way of an precise keyboard, earlier than teaming as much as discover and sort out the monsters down on the mysterious planet of Ragol.

Regardless of solely a handful of maps to discover, these fleeting alliances, exchanging pleasantries, and compelling quest for ever extra uncommon and highly effective loot would see me sinking hours and hours into Phantasy Star On-line, and working up an enormous cellphone invoice (sure, these have been the times when utilizing the Web was charged by the minute).

On-line gaming would get extra sturdy and complicated later with Xbox Stay, nevertheless it’s onerous to think about our current the place everybody can transport themselves into on-line worlds like Fortnite, Future and Monster Hunter: World with out remembering who pioneered the dream.

Random equipment recollections

Sega additionally doubled down on its arcade heritage. Since its new arcade board NAOMI was constructed with the identical structure because the Dreamcast, this resulted in lots of fast arcade-perfect ports like Loopy Taxi and The Home of the Useless 2.

It wasn’t simply that these video games regarded as fairly as their arcade counterparts, it was additionally about bringing that distinctive arcade expertise dwelling. 

Certain, there have been nonetheless loads of nice preventing video games, however there was additionally the fishing controller for Sega Bass Fishing or the super-silly maracas for rhythm sport Samba de Amigo, nearly actually too area of interest, however nonetheless using movement controls years earlier than the Wii distant materialized.

Dreamcast fishing controller

Dreamcast fishing controller

Maybe probably the most outrageous peripheral was the microphone that slotted into the Dreamcast controller, letting you converse with a weird fish-man creature Seaman, a sport narrated by none aside from the late Leonard Nimoy. 

Whenever you consider immediately’s headsets and the way commonplace voice chat is, it is unimaginable to suppose it started a lot extra leftfield. 

The Dreamcast microphone

Sega additionally innovated with using reminiscence playing cards, which was the way you needed to save your progress in video games lengthy earlier than onerous drive storage turned the norm. 

The Visible Reminiscence Unit (VMU) was like a mini-console with its personal show and buttons to play mini-games, even when they have been pretty rudimentary – at finest you had a digital pet just like the Chao in Sonic Journey.

Whereas slotted into the controller, the VMU show was additionally meant as a second display, although this was not often utilized. 

That did not cease Sony from copying the thought with its personal PocketStation (launched solely in Japan), whereas the idea of second-screen performance could be explored by Nintendo, from the DS to the much less profitable implementation on Wii U.

Mr blue sky gaming

Whereas the Mega Drive/Genesis period noticed Sega as cool and edgy in comparison with old school Nintendo, the Dreamcast period will be finest remembered for its optimism and originality by way of its video games.

There was in fact Shenmue, again then the most costly online game ever made, with an attention-to-detail and realism in open-world design that might pave the way in which for Ubisoft and Rockstar.

However that might be to miss Sega’s different divisions in inventive overdrive, the stuff that typifies what we consider as ‘blue-sky gaming‘, an antidote to the brown and gray gritty real-world dystopia which have plagued most trendy video games. 

Seeing Dreamcast video games in motion is sufficient to convey again heat colourful recollections of what gaming is about.

Skies of Arcadia

There’s Skies of Arcadia, a JRPG with vibrant worlds and characters brimming with swashbuckling allure and charisma, a world away from the angsty emo of Last Fantasy.

In the meantime, Jet Set Radio oozed counter tradition with funky type, kickstarting the cel-shading method in sport visuals whereas its candy soul soundtrack remains to be one of many catchiest round.

Though writer EA publicly introduced its resolution to not assist the Dreamcast, Sega’s newly acquired studio Visible Ideas would do plenty of the heavy lifting to fill the all-important sports activities hole within the US market. 

As it turns out, its NFL and NBA titles have been among the many best-selling Dreamcast video games within the US, whereas the studio maintains its pedigree because the developer within the 2K sports activities titles.

Removed from simply interesting to the identical hardcore players, Sega was additionally opening up and experimenting, such because the oddball curios of Samba de Amigo and Seaman, in addition to trying to draw a extra informal viewers, which gave the world Area Channel 5 and Rez.

The excellent news is that the Dreamcast’s legacy has continued with Sega porting its finest sellers to different consoles in addition to Steam. With studies that basic video games coming to outdated rival Nintendo’s Change below the Sega Ages model could embrace Dreamcast titles sooner or later, it appears the dream remains to be alive.

One of the best Dreamcast video games playable on different platforms


Shenmue (accessible on PS4, Xbox One, PC)

Open world video games have gotten extra huge and complicated over time, nevertheless it’s the intimate attention-to-detail of 1980s small-town Japan and timeless music that also offers Shenmue its creaky allure. 

Though the core is a fairly po-faced revenge story, it is the mundane methods you go about filling the time, from shopping for gachapon toys to taking part in Area Harrier down on the native arcade, that someway linger within the reminiscence. For higher or worse, it additionally launched us to QTEs.


Rez (Rez Infinite accessible on PS4, PC)

To name Rez a futuristic on-rails shooter akin to the Panzer Dragoon sequence on the Saturn could be a disservice. This was the start of producer Tetsuya Mizuguchi’s journey exploring synaesthesia, whereby stimulating one sense can set off a response in one other, like seeing sound. As your evolving avatar flies by way of summary wireframe worlds, taking pictures enemies set off their very own distinctive sounds that improve the clubby techno beats pumping all through. The expertise again then was elegant, nevertheless it’s much more transcendent now that VR has been integrated.

Loopy Taxi (accessible on PC, iOS)

Inflicting mayhem on the sunny streets of San Francisco whereas racking up enormous suggestions was the goal of the sport in Loopy Taxi. It was additionally actually a product of its time, with licensed music from punk bands Unhealthy Faith and The Offspring, in addition to that includes real-life companies like KFC and Tower Information. Whereas dropping these in later ports takes away among the allure, the straightforward loop of rolling in prospects and pulling off loopy stunts nonetheless makes this an arcade basic.


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