Cast Off Your Dream

On September 9, 1999 I was was sitting at my workstation waiting for the sky to fall. Alarmists were predicting the pre-curser to the Y2K fiasco. It was my task to make sure all the clocks in the office computers would function properly. Planes were supposed to fall out of the sky. Nothing happened.

I had spent most of my high school and college working in the electronics department at the local Wal-Mart, and I was there for quite a few console releases. The Nintendo 64 was the last. I was a huge PC gamer at the time (a game a paycheck) and I couldnít understand all the fuss over the last consoleóthe Nintnedo 64. People came in at midnight to get it.

On 9/9/99 I had been married a month and was a year and a half removed from Wal-Mart. One of my old wedding buddies was still employed there. We (I still feel a part of the ďfamilyĒóthey were that good with loyalty) were the best store in the district. Sold the most goods. Made the most profit.

I remember my friend telling me that they sold one Dreamcast. One.

So began the rise and fall of the critically acclaimed Sega Dreamcast, a system that almost killed a company and eventually became a cult console.

I didnít own one until I saw a used system on eBay used in 2004. By then the console had already been proclaimed a failure and I was buying it just to experiment, but more importantly to play a rare imported game that I came across that had become sort of a cult classic itself. I was a closet shmup fan, and I had spent more on the game than the system itself. Ikaruga was and is one of the best games Iíve ever played.

Over the course of the next year I came across Crazy Taxi, a Sonic game here or there, Soul Calibur (I still burn to play that oneónot the sequels), and Ready 2 Rumble. After a year of play, in a state of confusion I sold the system and the games on eBay for a profit. I kept Ikaruga.

In April of this year the website Thinkgeek came across of a supply of new, unopened systems, and they were selling them for $100. I didnít wait. Since then Iíve toyed with the idea of making a MAME cabinet using the console or at least an Ikaruga arcade cabinet.

The Dreamcast is now officially ten years old and it still has a little bit of life in it. With over 660 games it does see a few new releases a year although most of them are homebrew or done by an independent developer. Systems can still be had for a price and there is a relatively large underground market for games.

I have in my possession what I to believe to be seven of the most influential games on the system, and starting tomorrow and over the course of the next seven days Iíll be giving a little review of each one.

Do you have any favorite games on the system that you miss? My life with the console is short-lived and maybe some of you have married the system. Whatís your Dreamcast story?

Update:

Unboxing the “New” Dreamcast

I had previously mentioned that I was able to pick up a newly sealed Dreamcast from Thinkgeek last week. I wanted to share with you, fine readers, what you may have missed almost ten years ago.

Iíve finally unboxed the console and we get to see if it really was sealed new.

Clicky clicky on the images for larger versions.

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First, Thinkgeek got the thing to me in two days. I believe they sold their entire inventory out in two hours. However, it looks like they might get some more in stock in May.

Theyíre a really great site to order from. Iíve used them quite a bit. I even won a photo contest once and won a $100 gift certificate there.

Smart Mass Thinking Putty is a hoot. I suggest the Atmosphere or Oil Slick colors.

DSC00496For being ten years old, the box was in pretty good shape. There were no tears or dings in the cardboard. Both ends of the flaps had seal stickers on them. It looked like it had never been opened or tampered with. You can even see the serial number through the open window on the back of the box.

I commend the owners of the warehouse it sat in all this time. Speaking of time, this system by console standards is old. Certainly built before 9/11 and possibly before the year 2000. All the paperwork and stickers on the console were yellow with age. It also looked like it was probably not in an air-conditioned unit.

DSC00495Everything inside was still sealed and twist tied. The controller, instructions, warranty card (heh), A/V cable, power cord, and super long phone line (Yes! I needed one for my satellite!) were all there.

It even included a demo disc for some launch titles: Sonic Adventure, Rayman 2, Tomb Raider, and I think a sports game.

This was a good sign because I wanted an earlier release of the systemóone before SEGA started making it a little more difficult for players to have, uh, options of what to play.

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Behold, hereís everything in all itís glory.

Just like in 2000, I was bummed thereís no VMU. For those of you less than the age of ten, that is the Virtual Memory Unit. It actually was an ingenious little device that plugged into the controller to save your games. It had itís own mini-screen and you can even play some rudimentary games on it. I donít think it was ever used to itís fullest potential. (Of course, was the console itself?) Itís good to know that you can still get VMUís new online for $6-9.

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Does it work? Heck yes, it does. The system has a battery that stores the date and time. It still works.

The console was made in November 1999. This puts it very early in the Dreamcast lifecycle. Excellent.

I no longer had any of my original games but the demo disc worked just fine.

I do still have my import copy of Ikaruga. Itís my favorite game for the system and the import is pretty rare. Iím glad I held on to it. I do regret getting rid of my VGA adapter though. (It was not to long ago either when we moved from the Chicago area to where we are now. Snap.) Anyway, after making a couple of coasters I was able to make a swappable boot disc that worked in order to play the game. It was wonderful.

I was actually surprised at how well the system scaled into widescreen and the picture quality in general. I would even say that the composite cable connection gave a better and crisper picture on my big screen than the Wii. (They use the same type of connection. It shows you how backwards the Wii is being almost ten years younger.)

The next thing for the console is to make an arcade cabinet for it and get some arcade joysticks and buttons. Iíll probably even see if I can get MAME working. Instant arcade.

The next step is to get a VMU and possibly another controller. I feel like a kid again.