The rise and fall of the Dreamcast

Feature: Three years of gaming gold

Note: This feature was originally posted in April, 2007.

The Sega Dreamcast's North American 10th Birthday is today. You can read ex-Sega of America head, Peter Moore's thoughts on the ocassion here. Happy Birthday, Dreamcast!

With Sega having officially ceased production of Dreamcast discs (GD-ROMs) and the repair service set to close on September 28, the Dreamcast has well and truly been laid to rest. If it breaks after September 28, you're on your own. Or stuck in the world of emulation.

Although the Dreamcast died before its time, having been discontinued in 2001 - just three years after its original 1998 release(1999 in US and UK), its many innovations, vast selection of peripherals and huge library of arcade games earned it a huge cult following. Some say that the console was launched too soon.

The Dreamcast was considered way ahead of its time when it hit Japanese stores on November 27, 1998, with high-resolution, silky smooth visuals that put N64 and PSone to shame.


Innovative genius

The biggest innovation Dreamcast introduced was the Visual Memory Unit (or VMU), with its little LCD screen that could be slotted into the controller for an in-hand display.

The possibilities for innovative gameplay using the VMU were vast, and Sega was the first to demonstrate with Sonic Adventure, which allowed you to transfer in-game virtual pets (dubbed Chaos) to the VMU where they became a virtual pet you could look after. Although, except for the odd radar in some action games the VMU was seldom used as Sega probably intended.

Dreamcast was also the first console to come internet ready out of the box, with a built-in modem tucked in its side. Awesome puzzle game, Chu Chu Rocket from Sega, kicked off the online console revolution, followed by stunning conversions of Quake III Arena and Unreal Tournament, which worked with a proprietary Dreamcast mouse and keyboard giving console gamers a taste of first-person shooting that had previously been exclusive to PC junkies. More than that though, Dreamcast was the first console to offer cross-platform play. PC gamers got to show off their headshots against DC n00bs with Quake III Arena.

Peripherals played a huge role in Dreamcast's short lifespan. The now-legendary rhythm-action game, Samba de Amigo, had players shaking a set of (rare and expensive thesedays) maracas in different directions to on-screen prompts and funky tunes.

The Dreamcast light gun brought arcade shooting home, most notably compatible with the awesome House of the Dead II, on which we had burned many a quid before it came to Sega's next-gen console.

The official Dreamcast Arcade Stick is still considered to be one of the single best home arcade sticks ever made, and with games like Street Fighter 3 and Marvel vs. Capcom 2, Dreamcast had the hardcore 2D fighters to support it.

Sega Bass fishing came with a neat fishing rod controller that was actually sensitive to movements (hello Nintendo Wii). Dreamcast even has voice-controlled gaming, with a microphone that slotted into the top of your controller which allowed you to control the strange but cool virtual pet game, Seamen, with your voice. And there aren't many consoles that can claim that.


The beginning was the end

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