Falling In Love Again...


Where my Dreamcast collection was headed..
If you read my last post here at the Junkyard, you'll know that I had transitioned from an obsessive Dreamcast collector/hoarder of extreme proportions, to what one might term a 'retro dismissive.'
My retro gaming passion was not quite extinguished, but had definitely been dampened by the availability of a raft of downloadable Dreamcast titles on both Xbox Live and PlayStation Network. It meant I could lazily access enough Dreamcast titles from my current consoles (initially the Xbox 360, and later the PS3), to ensure that I was getting my fix of retro Sega endorphins from a different source than the undead console.

Another factor in my gradual distance from the Dreamcast, was the fact that I'd been retro gaming for a number of years by this time. I had overwhelmed myself, flooded my brain receptors with more  nostalgic video gaming than it could handle. I'd purchased dirty little 'side collections,' for the Sega Saturn, the Sega Game Gear, The Sega Master System. As well as these, I'd played a ton of PlayStation 2 games, many of them stunning and of course unavailable on the Dreamcast; with Virtua Fighter 4 and the first two Yakuza games helping me through the Shenmue wilderness years.
Not actually Father K, or Simon Early for that matter...

Now I was ready to tap into the current gen, a situation I'd barely experienced in all of my gaming life. I was never an 'at launch' guy; had never experienced the 'excitement' of a midnight GAME opening, or rushed home to unbox and test out a brand new system. Both my pre-Dreamcast Megadrive and Saturn were bought well into the consoles' life cycles - almost at their death knell. I'd missed the Dreamcast completely -  launch, life...and death!
For the first time with my 360 and PS3, I was buying games as they came out. The excitement of the launch of Resident Evil 5 for example, or the thrill of playing Virtua Fighter 5 - particularly online (something I'd never done on the Dreamcast, incidentally) - were cementing my distance from the console I'd once championed to any poor sap who had the misfortune to catch my internet ravings.

All my Dreamcast stuff was in the loft, bundled away by an over-zealous grown-up son, who was trying to score brownie points with his mother by decorating the living room, my former gaming nerve centre. My initial fury had subsided. A lot of frankly unused and unappreciated games had been cleared away. I'd always only played a fraction of my Dreamcast repertoire with any regularity, and herein lay another problem - I'd bought the majority of my games in bulk for the grand sum of £2.50; a lot of decent titles received five minutes sceptical/cynical play and were then consigned to the shelf to gather dust. Now they were consigned to the loft...to obscurity and to fading memory.
But even in those wilderness years, I couldn't let go. I know this, because even though I didn't always have a Dreamcast connected to my TV, I always had one at arm's length. At times when I needed the reassurance of familiar experiences, like when I came out form hospital after heart surgery, the Dreamcast would be hooked up, and Shenmue would be played. Games were bought, if not played. DUX, Alice Dreams, Sturmwind. I know that I must have stumbled across them, and felt the need to buy them, even though I knew I had little interest in them. Why? Why was it that I couldn't let go?

Then something miraculous happened. There was an announcement by Yu Suzuki. He would be seeking crowd funding for a Kickstarter project to gauge interest in Shenmue 3 on the PS4.
Gauge interest. Are you fricking kidding us, Yu? I couldn't have been more interested! Of course, I signed up straight away...and then Google started sending me articles about Shenmue 3. One stating that The Dreamcast Junkyard would be doing a podcast celebrating the resurrection of the Dreamcast's most iconic intellectual property...!

The Dreamcast Junkyard? My old blogging mentors and retro gurus? I had to listen. And listen I did! Now I might tear up at this bit, it kind of gets me right there...but it was as I was listening to the Podcast that I - as my old blogging persona 'Father Krishna' - got a mention, as American DCJY correspondent Caleb Moshier recounted the tale of me sending him Shenmue 2 across the Atlantic many years ago. I was genuinely thrilled to be remembered once more in the hallowed halls of The Dreamcast Junkyard. Quick correspondence ensued, and I was welcomed back into the bosom of the family straight away, attending a podcast Awards ceremony that the 'Yard had been nominated for, with DCJY founder Tom Charnock!

At this point,  one of my many Dreamcasts was clumsily wired up into the tangle of spaghetti at the back of my TV. Sturmwind and Alice Dreams started replacing my current gen gaming choices...Shenmue had to be played again due to the excitement of the Yu Suzuki announcement. The Dreamcast began to make sense as a gaming choice again. It had given me in Shenmue the most perfect gaming experience any console had ever offered me. And I had literally dozens and dozens of games waiting, virtually un-played, in plastic boxes in a room upstairs in my house...
A rescue mission was needed and before I knew it, an opportunity would arise from the same source that had  banished my Dreamcast collection to the loft: my lovely room-decorating son. This summer he redecorated my bedroom as my wife and I toured the US for our 25th wedding anniversary. I arrived home to find the TV mounted to the wall and a coffee table underneath. This was for the explicit purpose of housing my consoles. There was now draw and shelf space available for my software...
Bit by bit, without the awareness of my wife, I began to sneak stuff out of the loft and back down into my bedroom. And here are the lovely results: I now have a full repertoire of games to reconsider and put some serious play time into. There's still boxes and boxes of stuff trapped in the loft. At least four boxed up Dreamcasts, some as new with all of the packaging, pamphlets and peripherals, unblemished or yellowed by time. There are steering wheels, fishing rods, keyboards, maracas, multi-coloured controllers, light guns and even a CRT TV to play them on. It's still not the ideal collection, the type you'll see splashed across these pages, alphabetically catalogued and beautifully displayed; but it's functional and accessible, and I'm about to enter into that passionate affair once again, only this time without the potential divorce inducing spending sprees!
The first game that I played with fresh eyes was Super Runabout, a game that I had always thought inferior to Crazy Taxi. I now consider it to be one of the most pleasurable driving experiences to be had on the Dreamcast. What other revelations lie ahead...?

6 comments:

jon lee said...

Splendid bit of writing dear boy :D

Tom Charnock said...

Enjoyed that nostalgia trip. And yes, those podcast awards were quite fun...even if I did eat my body weight in free olives and drink several gallons of ale...!

Jeffrey Soubry said...

Was fun to read :)!

Leonidas Chryssinas said...

although a nice article, I could not stand the SEGA DREAMCAST in a coffin, the PS2 should have been in there instead :(

The Virtua Schlub said...

Nice article! It’s fascinating how our passions and interests ebb and flow over time. And even if we aren’t always going to play the Dreamcast, it’s great to return to it after a long stretch and still find new and surprising things to explore and love about it. It’s like catching up with an old friend...a weird, talking man-fish friend.

hoogafanter said...

I'm so proud to say I've been every bit as much of a dreamcast fangirl since 1999 as I am today. I think it had to do with the timing in my life when I got to play it, but my god it's like my best friend and I don't think I could ever let it go...