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Friday, September 9, 2011

The Dreamcast's 12th (US) Birthday

There's a reason that all of us still hang around Dreamcast sites, hoping for new content, maybe creating new content or just discussing the good old days. It's different for everyone, but I think all of us have those specific old nostalgic memories about the Dreamcast; the ones where you can smell the room you're in and you know just how the weather is outside. I didn't get a Dreamcast until they were discontinued and dirt cheap, but I had a friend that did, and so did the Sears store at the mall. The Dreamcast came out at an exciting time in almost anyone's life; it was the eve of the new millennium and the world was running full steam ahead. The economy was strong, and it seemed like everything had the potential to become a mammoth franchise. A new Star Wars saga began earlier in the year, Pokemon was at the height of its dominance, the boy band fad was at the tail end of its existence and Eminem was beginning to make parents everywhere terrified.

My first experience with the Dreamcast was at a friend's birthday party. He had gotten a Dreamcast with Sonic Adventure, Ready 2 Rumble, Hydro Thunder, Trick Style and NFL Blitz 2000. The console had such an impact on me that I remember what my friend got for his birthday; he didn't even remember when I asked him a few years ago if he still had the system. I was as blown away with Sonic Adventure as I was when I saw Super Mario 64; this was the beginning of a new era. The graphics were well ahead of the N64 and PSX and the game was fast. Of course no one is ever going to feel that way about Sonic Adventure again; even if it's moderately enjoyable now. To my young self though, this was the greatest thing that could happen. Sega had come along and kicked everyone in the ass.

A month later I remember reading an article in GamePro a month later that the Dreamcast launch was the biggest day in entertainment history; even bigger than Star Wars Episode I. I was overjoyed; Sega was back, and so was Sonic. My friend's parents bought him new games often, so I was able to keep up on the new releases coming out for the Dreamcast. Some of my favorite memories of childhood are of playing Dreamcast in that musty basement (ironically he was never a real good friend of mine). I would play the Dreamcast in stores and at my friend's house as much as I could. Being younger, I didn't seek out games like Shenmue, but I did get to play some of the Dreamcast's quirkier action games. My favorite game was certainly Resident Evil Code: Veronica. My friend and I played through the first disc several times; he didn't have a VMU, so we could only wonder at what happened during the second disc.

The Dreamcast was always an exciting thing for us kids. We weren't interested in the business aspect of things; we always thought the Dreamcast would be right there running up against the PlayStation 2. I even remember being at school sitting on a bench when a friend told me Sega was discontinuing the Dreamcast. I was sure he was lying, but I used our dial up internet to see if it was true, and it was. I wasn't too saddened by this at first; I was excited by the prospect, because Sonic would be showing up elsewhere. But even being young, I soon realized that there was a huge gap left in the gaming market with Sega's absence. There was always something special about their hardware, and I sorely missed what they brought to the table. The summer of 2002 I was old enough to start picking strawberries at a local farm, and I bought a Dreamcast.

At first I made sure to buy all of the games I used to play with my friend since those had been a lot of fun. Then as I searched for Dreamcast information, I found out there were several message boards with people continuing to love their Dreamcasts and develop homebrew for them. I found out about all of the Dreamcast games I had never known about, the quirky creative games that only Sega could make and then I had another selection of games to play. I downloaded one of the homebrew programs to play .avi files, and the Dreamcast was now my own personal media center, introducing me to things like Cowboy Bebop and Seinfeld.

I grew up with the console that could, doing so many different things. All of them made by an incredible community. Maybe these are all things that new consoles can do, but they're forced upon you by some big faceless company. Sega always had personality, and the community stepped up to fill in what they left behind. There's no real way to end this because the Dreamcast is still going. It's still something to explore and find new things for, and I'm sure it will continue to be for a long time. If you have your own Dreamcast memories, please share them, I think everyone would like to read them.

Happy birthday, Dreamcast

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