Games

Weekend Hot Topic, part 2: Dreamcast 20th anniversary memories

Oh now, this one makes me sad! The Dreamcast was the first console I ever bought with my own hard-earned cash at the tender age of 18. I had to wait a few months for that to happen, so I bought it in January, 2000 – so some months before Skies Of Arcadia came along.

Out of the box was Sonic Adventure and the daftly-titled Chu Chu Rocket. Chu Chu Rocket wasnt really for me but I can see why it was/is so beloved. As a lifelong fan of the hog, I was blown away by Sonic Adventure – especially that very impressive intro sequence with the city flooding. Uh, impressive for its day, naturally.

The pseudo-open world Adventure sections where you either needed to fetch a trinket or perform menial errand before you could get to the next proper Action Stage. But the level design could be genuinely incredible. Which might seem odd to those less than enamoured by this games charms some 20 years later. I am not so blinded a fanboy to not admit the game had very serious problems. Problems that became even less tolerable as the years rolled by. The camera actively fights you. Not quite as bad as it was in Sonic Adventure 2 where if you wanted to go further back in the level, then tough – the camera refused to be pointed in what it considered to be the wrong direction.

But great level design, I believe is independent of a games larger problems as a whole. For example, Zool has a brilliant opening level despite being completely average in every other respect. So, hitting the jackpot in Casinopolis, riding a bumper car across a racetrack that stretches out across the night sky before dropping you off in the games equivalent of Disney World. Amusingly, this area of the park is called Pleasure Castle. Hur, hur, dirty laugh.

Soulcalibur is still one of the greatest fighting games ever made, bettered only very slightly by its sequel. Which I didnt think would materialise. I mean, the Dreamcast was a failed console – other than Sonic, nothing was guaranteed to live on.

Jet Set Radio remains one of my top 10 platform games, a landmark for the genre in how you negotiated the landscape and everybody has to at least try Rez. You would be incomplete as a person otherwise, as Im sure GC would agree.

Didnt play Metropolis Street Racer except for the demo, it handled great, just wasnt my cup of cha.

The Shenmue games were genuine pioneers in the field of open world games and Skies Of Arcadia is that other Sega role-playing game that may tragically never get a remaster or sequel.

I never got the chance to play online, because that was probably beyond most us at the time. That controller was odd, too. You had to essentially play it upside down as the wire connected to the bottom rather than the top. The D-pad was big and chunky, if a tad sharp if you meant to do a lot of fireballs and dragon punches with it and the triggers were not ideal for shooters. But for Soulcalibur? It was ideal. In fact, playing Soulcalibur or any of its sequels has just never felt right on anything else. They go together that well.

I must mention the Visual Memory Units, or VMUs, that you plugged into the top of the controller. These were adorable and not only functioned as the systems memory cards but were meant to be portable console too, having a little D-pad, buttons, and a screen. This meant that they ate through their battery in about a week. Im not kidding. So playing any mini-games on it was not very viable. Unless you wanted to spend a fortune on batteries. The mini-games were about as involved and enjoyable as you could expect given their limitations. About the same as Snake on ancient Nokia phones…

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