Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Happy Dreamcast Day

This is like the most ghetto and old picture of all time but yeah, my Dreamcast stuff.

The Sega Dreamcast turns nine years old today. Nine years? Good grief, I was in middle school nine years ago; now, I've graduated college. Two generations of gaming have gone by, and Internet console gaming - the pie-in-the-sky dream of the Dreamcast and it's built-in 56k (LOL) modem - is now the norm.

So are arcade-perfect ports, analog control sticks and triggers built into the controllers, voice chat in online games, and Microsoft's presence in the console gaming spectrum.

However, its downfall signaled the final death throes of gaming as a niche industry. The Dreamcast, nine years ago, launched with a bang. A huge (if a tad bit esoteric) marketing campaign heralded its arrival, and, so many people thought, the revival of Sega. 9/9/99 became the largest single-day media event in United States history, topping the Star Wars: Episode 1 opening which ruled at the time. That didn't last long, though, as the promise of Sony's PS2 was the shadow that loomed long over the Dreamcast's short life.

You can't discuss the Dreamcast's death without bringing up Sony. That Sony even had game franchises like Final Fantasy, Metal Gear Solid, Gran Turismo, and - crucially in the U.S. - EA Sports products was enough to sell some people. It didn't matter that the first out of any of those series - Gran Turismo 3 - dropped nearly a year after the system's launch. DVD playback (a much, much bigger selling point then than Blu-Ray is now for PS3) was enough to tide many people over.

Never mind that you could walk in to a game store in the late fall of 2000 and buy a Dreamcast and three games for the price of a new PS2 - which was at that time as hard to find as a Wii is now. Never mind that the Dreamcast had a much deeper library than Sony's system would only get two years later.

This was the point I made, rabidly, both to friends offline and online at that point in time. The Dreamcast came around just as I was becoming aware of video games as a lifestyle and more than a hobby. I started out reading game news online and posting on forums around that time, and along with how important that has been to the last eight or so years of my life, the Dreamcast was there in the beginning.

As I finish writing this, the seventh stage of arcade mode in Soul Calibur sits, paused, my Mitsurugi down 1-0 against the evil CPU Taki. This game looks just as pretty as it did nine years ago; upgrading to S-Video cables certainly helps. Not a lot has stuck with me for nine years; my Sega Dreamcast, hopefully, will for a long, long time. A window of Amazon.com also has a used copy of Sonic Adventure in the cart; I need to pull the trigger on that purchase and re-live one of my absolute favorite gaming experiences.

The soul still burns, and the legend will never die.

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