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Book Review: Dreamcast: Year One

Full disclosure before I begin this review: I - and other members of the Junkyard team - backed this book on Kickstarter. I was interviewed in the book and also did some fact checking. That said, I wasn't paid and stand to gain no financial reward for any of this. Now thats sorted, on with the review.
Dreamcast: Year One backers also get a cool little sticker to go with the book
The popularity of books exploring every corner of the gaming landscape shows no sign of being on the wane, and the latest crowdfunded offering is now plopping through letterboxes around the globe. Dreamcast: Year One is the third book in the 2 Old 4 Gaming template after the superb Sony PlayStation Vita: Year One and Years Two & Three, written by Sandeep Rai. This latest Dreamcast-flavoured tome was written by long-time Dreamcast fan Andrew Dickinson (founder of the Dreamcast Years podcast and website) and successfully Kickstarted back in April 2019.


Now that the book is finally here, how does it stack up against the competition? Quite well, actually. And the main unique selling point Dreamcast: Year One has over the other recent releases is that it focusses primarily on the UK release of the console. As someone who resides in the UK and saw the release first hand on this fair isle, the perspective is one that struck a chord with me on a personal level and so I was naturally intrigued by the premise.
The artwork is truly sublime throughout
As alluded to earlier, I was interviewed by Andrew for Dreamcast: Year One, and was asked about my history with the Dreamcast and also the story behind the creation of this very blog and the community surrounding it. For that alone I am grateful, as it allowed me to share my own experiences as just a normal random bloke who somehow found a niche with a blog about a failed Sega console. But enough about me.
OK...maybe a little bit more about me
Dreamcast: Year One opens with a fairly intricate deep dive on the history of the Dreamcast, going all the way back to the 16-bit era, the Sega Saturn story and the development of the Nintendo 64 and Sony PlayStation. The introductory chapters are about as comprehensive as you could get if you're a newcomer to the Dreamcast and wanted to educate yourself on the story so far. Particular highlights for me include the section on the Sega New Challenge Conference in 1998 - something which fascinates me still to this day, such is my obsession with the Dreamcast tech demos that were showcased during that event.

Capsar Field of DC-UK and Edge Magazine shares his experiences
Moving on into the middle chapters, a host of interviews fill the pages. There's a sizeable interview with Bernie Stolar - a man who needs no introduction when it comes to the Dreamcast. Having interviewed Bernie myself in the past, it was cool to see lots of new questions posed (and answered) in the book, meaning I wasn't simply reading regurgitated prose that I'd seen before. Elsewhere are interviews with well known games journalists Caspar Field and Ed Lomas - two titans of the UK games magazine industry in the 1990s and 2000s.

Caspar worked on the highly regarded magazine Edge, and went on to head Dreamcast monthly print magazine DC-UK; while Ed worked on CVG and eventually became the editor of Official UK Dreamcast Magazine. There are loads of anecdotes from both about their early days working in the magazine industry and lots of superb little tales that have never previously been published. There's also a truly fascinating interview with Dave Kelsall, the art editor of Sega Saturn Magazine, and Dave shares some never-before-seen shots of EMAP's (ultimately unsuccessful) pitch edition of Official Dreamcast Magazine.
Prior to Dreamcast: Year One, I'd seen the pitch magazines from Dennis Publishing (which eventually won the contract for the official magazine licence), but I'd never seen the ones delivered to Sega by EMAP, so these are potentially worth the entry price alone if magazines of yesteryear are your thing. At this point I just want to state how honoured I actually feel to be featured in a book alongside the likes of Bernie Stolar, Ed Lomas, Caspar Field and Dave Kelsall. It's truly mind boggling that a lowly blogger such as myself be considered worthy to be included with such legends of the Dreamcast story.

The final sections of Dreamcast: Year One focus on the games that were released in the initial 12 months after release it the console's respective territories. The full list of games covered is:

  • Sonic Adventure
  • Sega Rally 2
  • Blue Stinger
  • Power Stone
  • Virtua Fighter 3tb
  • Toy Commander
  • Crazy Taxi
  • Tokyo Highway Challenge
  • House of the Dead 2
  • Soulcalibur
  • Godzilla Generations
  • Armada

To compliment these, there are a number of mini retrospectives written by Kickstarter backers, and a sort of 'directory' section showcasing the box art and release dates for the games released in year one of the console's life.
Dave Kelsall shares the never-before-seen pitch version of EMAP's Official Dreamcast Magazine 
Throughout the book, the pages are littered with fantastic bespoke artwork by illustrator Erik Pavik, with full page images of Dreamcast consoles, peripherals and game boxes. The game retrospectives too are illustrated with depictions of in-game visuals, with the iconic Crazy Taxi, Soulcalibur and Power Stone all being treated to visually striking recreations in bold, low detail glory. I suppose it's a testament to how unique the games and peripherals are when they are instantly recognisable, even when reproduced in this style.
It could only be Crazy Taxi...
Dreamcast: Year One weighs in at 112 pages, and while it does not come with the same hard cover and glossy paper as the recent Sega Dreamcast: Collected Works from ROM, this is reflected in the price (£6 for the digital version, £10 for the physical book); and it isn't really fair to compare the two. Dreamcast: Year One feels much more like a fan's journey through the time of the Dreamcast's lifespan, rather than a coffee table book.

The stories in here are not really from the people who were involved in the development of the console per se (well, apart from Bernie Stolar), but more about the stories of the people who's lives were touched by the system. Magazine editors, bloggers, people who bought and played the games back in the day and wanted to tell their own tales. That's what this book is all about, and that it's told from a distinctly European perspective makes it stand out from the crowd.
There's no reason why anyone interested in the story of the Dreamcast and its enduring fandom shouldn't pick up a copy of Dreamcast: Year One. It's impeccably researched, and is full of thought-provoking interviews and retrospective stories from the lives of the real people who supported the system during it's natural lifespan. Personally, I think it's a fantastic publication and well worth a read - and I'd honestly be saying that even if I wasn't one of the interviewees. I'm also aware of just how hard author Andrew Dickinson has worked to pull Dreamcast: Year One together over the last couple of years, and to finally see the fruits of his labour is really cool.

Kickstarter backers should be receiving their copies of Dreamcast: Year One at the time of writing (February 2020), but those who missed the Kickstarter can pre-order the digital or physical versions at £6 and £10 respectively from CrowdOx. Please note that physical copies are quite limited in number...so be quick if you want to grab one.
The retrospectives on the Dreamcast's biggest games are great
In summary then, Dreamcast: Year One is yet another outstanding book looking at the story of the Dreamcast, and has a unique selling point in the European-centric slant. Even if you already have Sega Dreamcast: Collected Works, there's enough here to warrant buying both books if you can.
For more information, please visit the Dreamcast Years website, and you can follow Dreamcast Years on Twitter. Also be sure to give some love to 2 Old 4 Gaming, and Andrew Dickinson.

I'm already looking forward to Dreamcast: Year Two, but what do you think? Have you bought the book? Will you be purchasing it? Let us know in the comments below, or on Twitter.

8 comments:

Anthony817 said...

I really like the art style in this book.

Lewis Cox said...

Such a great book, clear style and great content! :)

DCGX said...

The look and layout of this book is much nicer than the recently released Dreamcast: Collected Works. That one was a letdown for me.

Andrew Dickinson said...

Thanks for the compliment! 😁

Andrew Dickinson said...

Thanks so much

Andrew Dickinson said...

Thank you!! 😁

BlueSwirl said...

Absolutely love the book, you’ve done a great job, Andrew!

Hoping we can see year 2 and the rest soon, would be great to add them all to a nice little collectable slip cover :D

Andrew Dickinson said...

Thanks so much! A collectable slip cover is a great idea! Will have to look into it. 😁