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Joystiq remembers the Sega Dreamcast


9/9/99. It was the coolest date imaginable to launch a new anything, and Sega's Dreamcast had one of the best launches in North America of any console to date. Except for the part where a bunch of the game discs didn't work.

Ten years later, the console is no longer being made, and Sega is just another software publisher, but fans continue to love the little white box. The Dreamcast's lineup of arcade ports and wildly experimental games inspired lifelong allegiance among the people who actually bought that stuff.

Join us after the break as a bunch of Joystiq writers share our Virtual Memories about that day (the day the snow turned to rain, and we saw a black car), and about the years of Dreamcast love that followed. In the process, we've learned that an unexpected number of us raised fish-monsters in Vivarium's Leonard Nimoy-narrated pet sim Seaman, and as a result we feel closer to one another. The Dreamcast is magical.

  • Alexander Sliwinski (@XanderSliwinski): The only experience I had with the Dreamcast is when I caught my freshmen (I was an RA) in college playing with Seaman. I'll leave it at that.
  • Andrew Yoon (@scxzor): Because I like being a downer, I'd like to remember the worst thing about the Dreamcast: piracy. Sega's final piece of hardware was pretty extraordinary, offering online play, a sleek design, a creepy (and wonderful) marketing campaign, and best of all: amazing games. While the hardcore gamers I know all championed the system, I can't think of a single one that actually bought games once CD burners became easy to access. Everyone was just trading discs, ensuring that, even without the PS2 looming ahead, the Dreamcast would no longer be worth it for Sega to continue at all.
  • Christopher Grant (@chrisgrant): With the Genesis, 32X, Sega CD, and Super Nintendo all pawned off to fund my upgrade, I had put a significant amount of faith into Sega's ability to deliver with the Dreamcast. It was my second year of college and, living off campus, the Dreamcast became the household's focal point. For me, the soul would not stop burning as I challenged my roommates to game after game of Soul Calibur. For my roommate Chris (confusing, I know) NFL2K was an amazing sports simulator, years ahead of what EA was offering.

    By the time Shenmue came out, I was certain the Dreamcast and I would grow old and die together, making its early demise even more difficult to deal with. My eyes? Oh, it's nothing ... I was just chopping onions. Really. I'm fine.
  • Griffin McElroy (@griffinmcelroy): There once was a time when I would very unironically proclaim that Shenmue was my favorite game of all time. I don't really say that anymore -- but that could just be because I haven't played it in a while.

    While any moment I spent playing Shenmue could be described as my favorite memories with the doomed console, the one that sticks out the most was my first moments with it. Justin had purchased it the night before (on a school night! How progressive of our parents), and I needed to play it before I went to school. I popped into his room at 5:30 a.m., and began my journey into Sonic Adventure. I wanted to fake sick and play it all day, but the folks weren't buying it. That's when I discovered the magic of the VMU. Having that small vestige of the gaming that laid before me at the end of the school day in my pocket was a great comfort.
  • JC Fletcher (@jcfletcher): My first year of college was about fifty percent Dreamcast, I think. It launched just as I started school, which afforded me what may be the only opportunity I'll have in my life to regularly play four-player games. Also, yes, Seaman was around, too (total coincidence -- I didn't go to Alexander's college).

    My favorite memory of that period: My hall and I spent a whole weekend working through the Crazy Box challenges in Crazy Taxi. As we got into the harder levels, and both the frustration and the excitement started to rise, people began showing up. Eventually, there was no more space in my dorm room (itself a Crazy Box) and we moved down to one of the student lounges. A few hours into the final challenge, the four-minute lap around the game's city (which, yes, seems easy now), I left to go do ... something. Get some food, go to the bathroom, whatever. I don't really remember that part. What I do remember is the excited outburst that rang through the whole dorm building when someone completed the challenge.

    Also: Bangai-O. I don't really have a specific anecdote about this game. I just played it a bunch and had an awesome time, and wanted to mention that.
  • Justin McElroy (@JustinMcElroy): Mine is and always will be Seaman. To this day, I have no explanation as to why that game has such a hold on me. Jellyvision's superb writing is part of it, sure. And I know it's partly because there's never been anything else quite like it. All I know is that just last week, my 8-year-old sister-in-law Rileigh and I spent a great afternoon raising Seaman from nautilus to awful, cruel fishman. Though the Dreamcast games all looked like the future at the time, Seaman was the first game I can remember feeling like the future.
  • Kevin Kelly (@gadgetguy): My favorite Dreamcast moments were actually spent in pain ... longingly staring at my friend's console and wishing I could afford one of my own. Back then every penny went to rent, food, and comic books. Whoops. Looks like I misplaced my priorities. Still, playing Ready 2 Rumble and Shenmue at his house were some of the best video game experiences I've had. In fact, Shenmue still needs to be resolved. Maybe someone will get on that and make a third game.
  • Ludwig Kietzmann (@LudwigK): When I first realized that the action-packed SoulCalibur intro was generated in real time, I took it as a sign that I had finally grasped the true technical might of the Dreamcast. But I was mistaken, and only much later did I encounter the system's most astonishing display of power -- rendering an unnervingly effeminate Lizardman in the place of Sophitia. Power really does corrupt.
  • Randy Nelson (@DangerPenguin): I was (and still am) an enormous fan of Dreamcast, so I have a lot of fond memories of the system and all things Sega at the time. So ... it's kinda hard to pick.

    My absolute favorite moment? Playing Dreamcast for the first time at Sega's "New Challenge Conference" in Tokyo (its public debut, actually, just before Tokyo Game Show '98). There really was a spirit that Sega was "back" after the disappointment of Saturn; I recall the excitement of game announcements like Power Stone and the shocker: Resident Evil Code: Veronica. There was also the "Christmas morning" effect of finally getting to hold the controller, watch the system boot up, and play games like Sonic Adventure and Virtua Fighter 3tb that I'd waited so long for. It was all just sort of perfect.

    It wasn't long after this that I teamed up with a bunch of fellow Sega fanatics and launched the official U.S. Dreamcast magazine -- there were many, many long days and nights involved, but it's still one of my best memories having to do with writing about games.

    Bonus: If you have a copy of the very first NBA2K lying around, there's a code (which I can't recall off the top of my head) that lets you play as the Sega development "team" -- and I'm on it. I start off on the bench, so you have to sub me in if you want to watch my tiny boosted-stat self dunk on Shaq.
  • Richard Mitchell (@SenseiRAM): In the summer of 1999, I was going on a class trip to France. It involved a home stay, castle touring and a whole week in Paris. My relatives started giving me cash to spend on my trip, but I saved it instead. I hoarded that cash and some money I had made mowing lawns to buy a Dreamcast. I can remember counting up exactly how much I would need (plus tax) to pay for the system. On launch day, I wound up walking away with a Dreamcast and copies of Sonic Adventure and Soul Calibur. There were some nice things I could have bought in France, but I still think I made the right choice.

    A monumentally bad choice: Selling a ton of my Dreamcast games and VMUs to help pay for an Xbox 360. Deleting my Phantasy Star Online characters -- including a maxed out HUCast with a badass Lavis Cannon sword -- was actually painful. It was like saying goodbye to a friend.

    Oh, and the fact that Capcom hasn't pursued the Power Stone franchise since the Dreamcast died is positively criminal. It's actually a crime.
  • Xav de Matos (@Xav): What I remember about the release of Sega's last home console was the insane amount of near-perfect games I would spend countless hours with.

    Titles like Soul Calibur, NFL 2K1, Jet Grind Radio, Power Stone and Skies of Arcadia all contributed to many absences from school and a lot of missed homework. Sega, you almost got me expelled from high school ... and I thank you for it.

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