Digital Polyphony

film, games, memories & random thoughts


It's the Dreamcast Anniversary (But should you care?)

Posted on September 10, 2009 at 7:30 PM

Ah, the little machine that could. Or couldn’t, depending on who you ask. I suppose I’m really on both sides. A solid machine that could…at least for a little while.


For those unaware, this week marks the ten-year anniversary of the Dreamcast, Sega’s last and final videogame console. It was the only videogame console I had ever bought on launch, which is surprising considering Sega burned me badly in the past with the likes of the Sega CD and 32X. However, this seemed to have all the markings of something great. The launch lineup was (and arguably still is) the best lineup for a console to have backing it upon its release, with Soul Calibur and a brand new Sonic game, something not seen for years, headlining. There was also the impressive sports titles and arcade ports like House of the Dead 2 and Hydro Thunder. It’s launch in the United States was even better than in Japan, which only had a Virtua Fighter game to speak of.


Eventually, the Dreamcast was crushed by the competition, especially the release of the Playstation 2. It had some fantastic titles, some incredibly unique and original like Shenmue and was the first home console that made use of online gaming. However, it’s not as great of a system as its die-hard fans like to remember it as. In fact, out of all of Sega’s home consoles, it’s firmly planted in the third slot, right behind the Saturn and right in from of the Master System.


Speaking of the Master System, I think that’s a good comparison to the Dreamcast. For some reason, these two systems have a very, very dedicated following, many confident enough to declare them the two greatest systems of their respective console generations, if not of all time. I think a lot of it has to do with the underdog nature of them and Sega, and the fans of the systems seeing things as “great” when, in reality, “they were merely good.” If something is unheralded, then its fans will raise it up like a messiah -The less something is talked about, the more those that know about it see it as greater than it really is and lay our more accolades than it probably deserves.


The Dreamcast was a nice console with a decent library of games, especially considering how short-lived the lifespan of it was. Had it continued on that line, it might have ended up being amazing, but instead we’re left with something that burned out rather than just faded away. I sometimes think many are die-hard proponents of the Dreamcast based on what it could have been more than what it really was.


It’s hard to criticize the Dreamcast, it was, for all intents and purposes, a really good little console, but the massive support behind it because it didn’t achieve what many thought it and Sega would achieve is just misplaced.  More misplaced is the blaming of other companies, such as Sony and Microsoft, for the failure of the Dreamcast and killing it before it really took off. Sorry, fans of Dreamcast, and Sega wrote a check it could not cash. It wasn’t like the Saturn burned up the sales charts, and let’s face – many fans were lost by Sega due to their extremely questionable and flat-out bad decisions with attachments to their Genesis console years before and failures on the handheld market. Sega was a dying brand that tried one last time to get it right. It was simply too little too late. Ironically, with the Dreamcast, they actually did get it right. Solid arcade ports, solid first party support, new and inventive ways to play, and even affordable and well-marketed.


As they say, though, fool me one, shame on me. Fool me twice, shame on you. Sega’s credibility was a dead; a boy that cried wolf one too many times. Don’t point fingers when trying to blame the death of the Dreamcast, we all know who really dropped the ball on that one. Don’t build up the Dreamcast as the end-all-be-all of consoles either. It had a handful of good titles and original concepts, but a lot of bad titles as well. Some act like it’s this perfectly-formed diamond with purity and beauty within it, but it really was a cubic zirconium.

Nonetheless, I do salute you, Sega, for actually putting together the last great product you've ever made. While I might note it's not as great as your most dedicated fans would admit to, it was far from a bad little system either. It was a solid way to go out: a final death-yell than just a mere whimper.


Signing Off




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