Why the Dreamcast was different


“The PS2 launched, and suddenly the party was completely over,” said Reyes. “Maybe I saw it earlier than most because of my job on Official Dreamcast Magazine, but I remember being completely gutted when rumors started circulating that Sega was going third-party and dropping the system.

“I didn’t give a shit about losing the job so much as losing what Dreamcast represented to me at the time. Even when it was flying off store shelves in its heyday, the DC was always the underdog. It was the system you could feel good fighting for. And when it eventually fully surrendered, things changed,” she said.

Above: Don’t blame the PS2; blame Sega for blaming the PS2 

So, this kind of leaves us back at square one – with the system officially dead for more than eight years, what keeps fans talking about it in such reverent tones a decade after its release? So far, we’ve seen that it grabbed fans’ loyalty right off the bat with an explosive launch, amazing hardware and an unbeatable game library, but it’s hardly the first system to do that. There has to be something more. And it’s possible that the final piece of the puzzle is a cultural phenomenon known as Dead Rock Star Syndrome.

Above: All brilliant, and all snuffed out in their prime

While Dead Rock Star Syndrome frequently has negative connotations – not the least of which is that an artist’s death falsely gives their work a greater perceived meaning in the eyes of the public – we don’t mean it as a dig at the Dreamcast’s reputation. Far from it; if this article has taught you anything, it should be that we’re slavering fans viewing the past through rose-colored (or if you prefer, orange-swirl-colored) glasses. But think about it: We never had to see the Dreamcast decline. We never watched it grow fat and old, burdened with inane shovelware that no self-respecting gamer would ever play, much less buy. We never had time to lose interest as we moved on to the next console generation and gradually forgot about it.

Instead, it was simply taken from us at its peak, leaving us to moon over the games we’d never get to play and the promises left unfulfilled. And although the system still held some life for importers and the homebrew community, for the rest of us, it was the end.

Above: Shenmue II was just one of the games the Dreamcast’s death deprived North American gamers of (until it came out on Xbox and everyone failed to care) 

And so we were left with a great body of material and the knowledge that there wouldn’t be any more coming, and we did what any dead rock star’s fan would do in a similar situation: we mourned what would never come, we idealized what was already there and we lionized the Dreamcast as the one system that, in its short lifespan, never let us down – except for the one time when it really, really did.

Could it have gone differently? Would we remember the Dreamcast with as much fondness if, instead of giving up the fight, it had tried to go toe-to-toe with Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo? Maybe – or maybe we’d just remember it as a naïve pretender to the throne, forever hampered by weak visuals, a lack of a second analog stick and complete failure to get EA on board as a third-party developer. We’ll never know for sure, but maybe it’s best that the Dreamcast went out on a high note, rather than sticking around ‘til the bitter end.

“It’s a drastically different gaming world we’re in now,” said Reyes. “Our game swag has been relegated to licensed plastic drum kits and fancy guitars rather than brightly colored maracas and risqué trance-vibrators. The types of creative risks I embraced on Dreamcast are now mostly found only in indie-developed XBLA/PSN or Nintendo DS titles. I’ll wholeheartedly admit that I love this new world as much as the last one, but there is still something missing, and maybe it always will be.”

Sep 9, 2009

The Top 7… Best Dreamcast games of all time
A posthumous salute to the greatest titles for Sega’s doomed console

A tribute to the Dreamcast VMU
Even after ten years, the Visual Memory Unit is one of our favorite storage devices

The return of the Dreamcast: Why it could work
Our resident DC fanboys look at how Sega could pull it off

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  • batmanboy11 - September 9, 2010 9:41 p.m.

    11 years now.
  • Deckard5627 - April 27, 2010 9:40 a.m.

    I loved my dreamcast, and I still play it today!!! For some reason I will always have a soft spot of sega, and the dreamcast, and everything they ever released. I guess it has something to do with a little known blue dude who went on to achieve a thing or two.
  • Moondoggie1157 - March 19, 2010 3:16 a.m.

    I have been looking around and I will most definitely be buying my Dreamcast... I should have done it 9 years ago... I was young and stupid!
  • throughironsights - September 16, 2009 4:48 p.m.

    does anyone remember pen pen triIcelon? that game was so weird but strangely addicting...
  • YamiZero - September 13, 2009 9:22 p.m.

    What about the most important aspect of the Dreamcast! The Death of Segata Sanshiro!
  • Frootaloom - September 11, 2009 2:52 p.m.

    Let's hope we don't see the Dreamcast singing flavor flav songs in Guitar hero 10.
  • lilj805 - September 11, 2009 6:39 a.m.

    this was great, i played the hell outta Crazy Taxi though lol
  • Pocotron - September 10, 2009 10:38 p.m.

    So does this mean we'll have a 10 year anniversary for the PS2 soon?
  • Styrophoamicus - September 10, 2009 7 p.m.

    I only ever rented a Dreamcast from our local game store, Gamer's Edge. It came in this wicked metal suitcase you see in the movies and the foam padding inside was custom cut for the system. I only remember playing Sonic Adventure and Soul Calibur with my dad but we had a lot of f un with it. I was a total Nintendo junkie tho, so I refused to buy anything not made by Nintendo, a decision the Wii made me wholeheartedly regret.
  • rxb - September 10, 2009 12:50 p.m.

    Outtrigger what a blast from the past.... The Dreamcast really was a gamers console. BTW remember that JSR concept art a while back? Oi smilebit where is my new game?
  • ScoobyDoo - September 10, 2009 7:28 a.m.

    Ok nobody else has said it so I will. Yea the DC was ahead of its time in the technology sense. But the reason why it was great(and bad) was because it had hardly any PIRACY protection! I remember *i would have a friend* who would come home from school and have 5-6 full games downloaded and ready for burn. Hell as the scene grew they even found a way to include the boot disc into the game's ISO, no longer requiring a swap after booting from the boot disc. So long story short this *friend* of mine had a 64-cd case-logic case with 50+ "back-up" copied games and we would play the best.. all the hits and even some games that you would never buy all because of the downloadable-exploited security factor of just getting it off the net. My *friend* recently found his cd case with all the games. Sonic Adventure, Virtua Tennis, Virtua Cop, NHL2k, RE: Code Veronica, Mortal Kombat 3, Daytona USA, and Hydro Thunder just to name a few.. matter of fact the only game my *friend* actually purchased was SF Rush 2049 because it was NOWHERE to be found online. this was great for the 2 years it was active.. but it slowly died with the console. Sales plundered most likely because before you knew it, everyone had taken advantage of the security exploits. Sega nailed there coffin shut as far as being a console contender with this problem IMO. too bad because the Genesis kicked the SNES's ass, and the DC was way better then the PS1. Poor Sega. The DC was my favorite console ever though. I still have my DC in the garage somewhere. - I hope...
  • brodyhill - September 10, 2009 3:46 a.m. Someone is actually launching a NEW dreamcast game this month... amazing?
  • reyalejandro13 - September 10, 2009 3:04 a.m.

    Sad Face: Being young, I grew up watching TV First. And what was on TV in the 90's: Pokemon. So what was the game I got first: Pokemon. So what system did I get? N64. So what did I completely miss out on? Dreamcast, and all of its glory. In all seriousness (maybe it's because I was 6 in 1999), I only played Pokemon for the longest time. So I never knew about the greatness of Mario and Sonic until i got a Gamecube. Now I need to get a DC (or at least an Emulator, but that might be confusing) to play these great games, like NiGHTS, Jet Grind Radio, and SA2. oh well.
  • Ensoul - September 10, 2009 2:47 a.m.

    Of all the systems that I never picked up Dreamcast remains the biggest regret. Never had a Sega system, but I had decided to pick up a Genisis one day if I could find one at the local flea market. I ended up with a used Dreamcast and a copy of Shenmue and Dead or Alive 2 very, very late in it's "life" for under $100. It didn't take long before I was picking up anything and everything related to DC and at clearance prices too. I felt like a bit of a vulture. :-/ It sucked that I was never that much of a contributer to the PSO party (Lvl 10 while my friends were MUCH higher) but it was still fun, as was Unreal and Quak III, all via dail up no less. (NFL 2K1 was too choppy though) Then I discovered the homebrew side of things; whole games and emulators, I was amazed at what was being done. The common opinon amoung most of my friends is divided. Some say the DC was the system no one knew they loved. Others think it's so beloved now is the afor-mentioned "Dead Rock Star Syndrome" and feel it's kinda over-rated now. As a late joiner I lean towards the former. Thanks GR for doing this look back.
  • boxcar44 - September 10, 2009 12:26 a.m.

    i remember buying my dreamcast...i only bought it because the PS2 was sold out everywhere after i bought it like 2-3 weeks later or something they announced dreamcast was be discontinued
  • gmilf71 - September 9, 2009 11:59 p.m.

  • Pyroco101 - September 9, 2009 11:56 p.m.

    man, they schold have put up the video of that dreamcast "turduken." man that thing was a beast
  • Soggybrain - September 9, 2009 11:29 p.m.

    Me and my brother loved our dreamcast we got it cuz we just couldnt wait for the ps2 ta come out but it was one of the best systems. We played house of the dead 2 n power stone all day cant wait till the new game comes out im gana need to add it to my crate of dc games
  • cronoman66 - September 9, 2009 11:07 p.m.

    In reference to the dead rockstar syndrome... Does this mean we'll see a Dreamcast prancing around and rapping in Guitar Hero 6?
  • Johnny6Gun - September 9, 2009 10:52 p.m.

    I still have my maracas and I still wish I could type better than G did, but I'll be damned if I can't say that the DC was something special. From failing to get Chu Chu Rocket working online, to getting my char up to 100 in PSO with friends over that blazing 56k modem, the DC screamed fun at every opportunity. Sure, the controller kinda sucked for the Capcom fighters, but they were such perfect ports that it hardly mattered. As Jet Grind Radio was the last game I ever received as a gift from my parents and Seaman almost busted a cheating friend to his girlfriend while she was in the room, I can only say that the Dreamcast gave me grander memories than any console since. Segata Sanshiro died for this console and I almost like to think that I would do the same.