Happy Birthday, Mr. Sega Dreamcast

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I made a promise to each and every one of you after my past two depressing columns that I would come along with something positive. In fact, I planned on doing another negative column this week, but common sense took over and I had to bring out my positive side.

It’s good to see that despite all of the issues that are going on in the industry now, we can look back at what we enjoyed playing over the years that made us want to become gamers in the first place. Fifteen years ago, what I consider one of the greatest systems designed primarily for gamers was unleashed to the gaming masses. We’re talking about a system with a 128-bit graphics processor, one of the first to include a 56k modem, and one of the greatest launch lineups in gaming history.

Yes, the Sega Dreamcast.

We love you Dreamcast! Make a wish and blow out the candles.
We love you Dreamcast! Make a wish and blow out the candles. Just don’t ask for Shenmue 2.

Those of you who have read my columns from day one will know how much the Dreamcast meant to me. But for those who just got to reading my work, know that originally I was not looking forward to getting a Dreamcast to begin with. I originally owned a Sega Saturn, and was one of the poor saps who bought it during its early launch. Though I loved the arcade conversions that came out for the Saturn, I still was sick and tired of seeing all the games come out for the PlayStation 1 (which I eventually got when Tekken 3 was released.)

It got even worse after Bernie Stolar took over Sega and claimed “The Saturn is not our future,” and would not allow some of the best Saturn games to come to the US. We’re talking Thunder Force V, Radiant Silvergun and of course the arcade perfect X-Men Vs. Street Fighter. As a result I had to import them from a local store for upwards of $100 a game. Sega, and more specifically, Bernie Stolar, really made me angry, up to the point where I added him to my Public Enemies list one year for being responsible for “console genocide.”

But as I looked at some of the games that were coming out, namely a version of Soul Calibur that looked better than the arcade, my interest started to peak, and I did something I almost never would do again: I preordered a Dreamcast with three launch games, NFL 2K, Soul Calibur and Sonic Adventure. Of course where I made the preorder they wouldn’t let me pick it up at midnight due to lazy rent-a-cop security guard not wanting to work late, so I had to pick it up first thing at 8am. And in another typical preorder tradition, all the games weren’t available at the time, just Soul Calibur.

But when I got home and hooked up the Dreamcast and saw Soul Calibur for the first time, I knew I was about to experience something special. Over the course of the day I played all three games I picked up, as well as joined a couple friends in making a virtual arcade of several Dreamcast systems with all the games they picked up. Needless to say it was one of the best gaming experiences I ever had, ranking up there with four player Perfect Dark and Halo LAN parties.

During the year 2000 it was a nonstop onslaught of great games coming at a regular basis, and knowing how well the Dreamcast sold I had high hopes for the future. Even with people talking about the upcoming PlayStation 2, I knew I was happy with my Dreamcast, and that E3 showed that I will be playing a lot of great games for a long time.

Or so I thought…

Shenmue 2, not coming to a Dreamcast near you, unless you lived in Japan.
Shenmue 2, not coming to a Dreamcast near you, unless you lived in Japan.

It was a sad day in early 2001 when I heard that Sega was leaving the hardware business and making games for other consoles, and yes, that meant on PlayStation 2. To say I was livid about the news would be an understatement. I wrote a very scathing commentary about how Sega “sold out” and betrayed all those who had shown loyalty to their products.

But for me it ended up being a case of “fool me once, shame on me, fool me twice, shame on you.”

And then, it was E3 time. THAT E3. The one my staff loves to bring up every time as the day I brought a PR representative to tears.

Not many people know the whole story of what happened that day. It was the final day of E3, and I had a meeting with a PR rep from Sega to show the last games that would come out on the Dreamcast, as well as their upcoming titles for PS2, GameCube, Game Boy Advance and Xbox. I kept calm and quiet during the whole thing, until we got to Shenmue 2.

I don’t know why I did it, but I suddenly realized that Shenmue 2 would not be released in the United States. I said that I was unhappy when Sega did the same thing with the Saturn, all the games that would never come to the US, and how I feared that history was going to repeat itself. That, plus the fact that they were forgetting about the $94 million in sales at launch and how parents who bought a Dreamcast for little Johnny will now have to buy a $300 PS2. The PR rep I will admit stayed firm, and was not brought to tears like everyone says, and was adamant that Shenmue 2 would come to the US.

Still with my doubts, I finished my meeting and returned back to DC, writing to the PR rep apologizing for my aggressive attitude, and she commended me on my passion and being able to ask the hard questions.

Over the next few months, I clung to my belief that Shenmue 2 would not be released in the US. Hope started to show when I saw print ads showing the game was coming out, and I was ready to play it.

Annnnnnnd…it was cancelled a week before launch. That was the last straw for me, and that originally put Peter Moore on the list for a second wave of “console genocide.” He was eventually forgiven by me after announcing Grand Theft Auto IV for the Xbox 360, and I finally got to play Shenmue II on the Xbox, but it just wasn’t the same.

Over time, I moved on. With the PS2, GameCube, Xbox, Xbox 360, PS3, Wii, and currently the Xbox One and PS4 I had plenty to play. But deep down inside, I always had a special place in my heart for the Dreamcast. In fact, in order to celebrate its 15th birthday, I went to my favorite game store and purchased a Dreamcast with two controllers, a VMU and 4X memory card for $60. After it was installed, it was almost as if nothing had changed. And yes, I am still playing it and thinking back to a much easier time, where we didn’t worry about the harsher industry that we are dealing with now.

Thank you Dreamcast, and happy 15th birthday. You truly deserve it.

Currently Playing: NHL 15 (Xbox One,) Skyrim (Xbox 360,) Various Games (Dreamcast)

Waiting For: Forza Horizon 2 (Xbox One)

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