Book Review: Sega Dreamcast: Collected Works

Full disclosure before I delve betwixt the pages of this Dreamcast-flavoured slab of goodness: I - along with several other members of the Junkyard team - backed Sega Dreamcast: Collected Works on Kickstarter. Now that's out of the way, let's begin.
320 pages of Dreamcast loveliness
Sega Dreamcast: Collected Works is the latest book release from Read-Only Memory, the outfit responsible for such highly regarded tomes as 2014's Sega Megadrive/Genesis: Collected Works and 2016's The Bitmap Brothers: Universe. The Dreamcast-themed wad of paper we have here was originally funded on Kickstarter back in 2017, and was slated to be delivered to backers in November 2018, but for various reasons was delayed for the best part of a year. If you'd rather watch a video and listen to my horrendous voice instead of read my words, you can do so here:


Regardless, Sega Dreamcast: Collected Works has started shipping to backers across the globe (as of December 2019), and we decided it was only right and proper that we cast a critical eye over what those cool dudes Darren Wall and Simon Parkin have delivered for Dreamcast fans who love a good read/like to gawp at pictures.
The cover has a real air of quality
The version being looked at in this article is the standard backer's edition of Sega Dreamcast: Collected Works, but there are some fancier iterations, such as the Jet Set Radio, Phantasy Star Online and Shenmue themed ones; along with copies signed by Sega and Dreamcast visionaries such as Naoto Ohshima (Sonic), Tetsuya Mizuguchi (Rez) and Yu Suzuki (the kitchen sink). These were available at higher tiers than I could realistically afford to spend, but I'm sure whoever got them will be very happy with their purchases. That's not to say that the standard backer's edition is anything other than top drawer in terms of quality and content though - far from it, in fact.
Naturally, Shenmue features heavily
This standard edition comes with a solid, white hardback cover, complete with embossed lettering and a fantastic Dreamcast swirl hidden beneath a rather nice holofoil sleeve (emblazoned with a Dreamcast console, naturally). The book just oozes quality, and from the moment you peel off the shrink wrap you know you're holding a premium product. The book weighs in at 320 pages, and the hard cover and thick, glossy sheets of papyrus contained within are hallmarks of Read-Only Memory's consistently top notch offerings...

The Dreamcast console schematic / technical drawing
Upon creaking the cover open, you are greeted with the first of several surprises: a fold out inner cover decorated with VMU logos from some of the Dreamcast's most iconic games. Also: smell that goddamned paper folks - you won't be disappointed. Ahem. Moving on, a clear menu with large text lays out the Dreamcast-themed journey that lies in wait ahead: a brief history of the rise and fall of the system, a look at the hardware, select games, artwork and round table interviews with the minds behind some of the most recognizable titles to grace Sega's final console.
The VMU logos from the front and rear covers
As an overall product then, and on first impressions, Sega Dreamcast: Collected Works looks like a continuation of the high calibre output we've come to expect from Read-Only Memory. However, the introductory content itself is something of a mixed bag. Not in terms of quality you understand, but in terms of familiarity. Which I guess isn't really a fault of the authors, but more a consequence of the ubiquitousness of the information and the nature of the internet in general. See, most of the information in the opening chapters (about the rise and fall and ultimate demise of the Dreamcast) is pretty much common knowledge among those of us who have an unhealthy obsession with the console.

There's nothing in those opening pages I didn't already know, having read countless interviews with Peter Moore, Bernie Stolar, Yu Suzuki and JF Cecillon over the years. Indeed, some of the opening pages are peppered with quotes taken directly from interviews with these luminaries of the Dreamcast that can be read - for free - online (indeed, some are even from an interview I conducted myself on this very blog). That said, not everyone is as neurotic about the minutiae of the history of the Dreamcast as I am, so there's still a lot of scope for more normal people out there to learn a lot from what is included in Sega Dreamcast: Collected Works' opening sections.
Some early Jet Set Radio graffiti artwork
For me, the real value in owning this tome comes from the stuff I haven't seen before; which is more than likely stuff you, dear reader, haven't seen before either. Such as the high resolution concept art depicting potential designs for the Dreamcast console when it was but a twinkle in Tatsuo Yamamoto's 3Dfx-powered eye. What's especially impressive about these concepts, is that they are recreated from low resolution jpegs of long-lost originals and reproduced in this book for the first time. There are some truly bizarre concept designs (mainly from agency GK Dynamics) for what went on to become the Dreamcast we all know and love, and these are worth the entry price alone. Further in, there are fold out schematics of the Dreamcast console and peripherals - again, things I had never seen previously. It's this type of content that really drives home the value and importance of having this book fully sanctioned and created in partnership with Sega, as this type of archive content just wouldn't be available otherwise.
Some controller concept designs
Moving further through the book, the hardware section details the Dreamcast's peripherals - both common and lesser spotted, and includes the very uncommon Divers 2000 system The Dreamcast Junkyard showcased at Play Expo Blackpool back in October 2018 (property of one Quang Nguyen aka Asobi.tech). Just glad we managed to get it back in the box in one peice (thanks again Quang!).
The Divers 2000 is a retro-futuristic beauty
This is then followed by a rather excellent chapter filled with high resolution reproductions of assets and hand drawn artwork from a series of Dreamcast games, with Shenmue, Crazy Taxi, Outtrigger, The House of the Dead 2 and Sega Rally 2 (among others) all represented. Finally, Sega Dreamcast: Collected Works rounds out with a collection of excellent developer interviews with the creators of - again - some of the most well known and lauded games released for the platform.

These interviews take the form of round table chats, and there are some really incredible insights from the developers of games like Shenmue and Crazy Taxi, along with anecdotes about the creation of the titles which - as far as I know - haven't been shared previously, either in print or online. Of particular note is the anecdote about the NPCs in Shenmue all being programmed to go for breakfast at a certain time; only for them all to get stuck in a diner, unable to get back out through the tiny door. Brilliant and fascinating stuff, I'm sure you'll agree.
Crazy Taxi assets
Not to be outdone by the front inner cover, the rear cover also features a similar fold out flap that contains more VMU artwork, and nestled in there was also a rather nifty Shenmue-branded bookmark - perfect for keeping your place while reading. What's especially cool about this book though, on a personal level, is that there are so many names in the backer's roll of honour that I recognise. Not only is Sega Dreamcast: Collected Works the result of years of work on the part of the authors, but the fact that there are so many people listed in the back that I either know through the community or count as friends 'in real life' just shows how tight-knit and dedicated the community around the Dreamcast really is.
Overall then, Sega Dreamcast: Collected Works is a beautiful tribute to the legacy of the Dreamcast. It exudes quality and is full of lovely details and footnotes that litter the Dreamcast's brief but blindingly bright time in the limelight. Backers should rest assured knowing that they have funded a superb entry in Read-Only Memory's catalogue, and likewise Simon Parkin and Darren Wall should know that they have done the community proud in bringing us this worthy (and weighty) tribute.
Verdict: probably the best book about the Dreamcast you can currently buy if you only speak/read English. Otherwise, buy this while also chucking The Dreamcast Complete Guide Book into your cart. Happy days, happy dreams.

Sega Dreamcast: Collected Works is available from the Read-Only Memory website for £35.00 plus shipping, and the Kickstarter campaign can be viewed here. Follow ROM on Twitter here.

4 comments:

Blondejon said...

... so.. a paper sniffing fetish eh....

Anthony817 said...

Wow that looks really quality made!

Tom Charnock said...

Busted...! XD

Tom Charnock said...

Yeah it's really top notch - heavyweight paper stock, hi res images etc. Can't really fault it.