<-- -!>

Featured Article

Showing posts with label #Dreamcast20. Show all posts
Showing posts with label #Dreamcast20. Show all posts

How Sonic Adventure Blue My Mind: Reliving the Hype

As we approach the 20th anniversary of the Dreamcast’s North American launch – 9.9.99 – I’ve been thinking a lot about my earliest impressions of Sega's final console and the reasons why I saved up my meager allowance to bring one home that day.

Sonic Adventure was undeniably the catalyst.

It was the game that jumpstarted my interest in Sega’s swansong console and in video gaming as a serious hobby. Over the subsequent decades, my sharp criticisms of the game have grown starkly at odds with my enduring fondness for it; yet neither sentiment has undermined, nor ceded ground to the other. 20 years onward, I continue to appreciate Sonic Adventure for a multitude of reasons but more for how it sparked my passion for the medium – and all the incredible experiences that would follow – than for the game it ultimately was. I’ve come to terms with the idea that, in a weird way, perhaps I'm nostalgic for a game that never truly existed.

Spoilers ahead for Sonic Adventure and Sonic 3 & Knuckles...and my childhood, for that matter.
Thanks to this magazine, I've been living the dream(cast) for the last 20 years. – EGM, Issue 112
In the beginning, 13-year old me was casually perusing the Electronics Boutique video game shop at a local mall. My mom was off shopping for shoes, or books, or circular saws, or whatever it is moms buy and I just wanted to kill some time. I wasn’t at all serious about video games; I still went outside back then. The nine-year-old Sega Genesis was the newest console I owned, and I had fallen completely out of the loop on what was happening around the then-modern gaming scene. Gazing at the rows of unfamiliar game boxes and jewel cases lining the store walls, I was bewildered. It’s like I had suddenly warped into gaming’s cynical, dreary future:
  • Tenchu: Stealth Assassins? Turok 2? Apocalypse starring Bruce Willis? Looks like all the games are trying to out-badass each other these days. How edgy.
  • Spyro the Dragon? Guess anthropomorphic dudes with ‘tude games will never die, huh? Oh, but this one breathes fire? Radical.
  • Glover? Jeez, brand tie-ins must really be out of control if the Hamburger Helper mascot has his own game now.
I was largely detached from the newfangled games of that era and honestly, it didn’t seem like I was missing out on much. But then I finally noticed something a bit more…let's say, familiar?

It was the November 1998 issue of Electronic Gaming Monthly. As I peered closer, I noticed the cover image looked vaguely like Sonic the Hedgehog. Hold on, it was Sonic the Hedgehog…except...was it? I recognized the blue spines and iconic red shoes – check and check – but this Sonic was staring at me with creepy green eyes and pointed coolly with his massive cartoon hands, inviting me to open this magazine to find out just what he’d been up to in the years since we last destroyed the Death Egg and returned the Master Emerald to Angel Island.

And so I did...
Beautiful. Glorious. Bullshots. – Also EGM, Issue 112
Turning right to the cover story, I was bombarded with a spread of gorgeous screenshots. Yep, it was Sonic the friggin’ Hedgehog alright, along with his furry pals Tails, Knuckles, and...other critters. The gang was all here and apparently they were poised for a triumphant return. And boy did their new game look amazing. To my untrained eye, these screens looked like some high-grade, expert Pixar-level stuff. I was already sold. I knew then and there I’d be buying this Sonic Adventures game and whatever platform it would…wait, Dream…Cast? Uh, Dreamcast? That sounds like some Engrish shit. Is Sega serious? 
The Sega None of the Above seems like an odd choice for a console name – but then again – so did the Dreamcast back then. – EGM, Issue 112, once again
But then the hype got real.

Some Cool Dreamcast Pin Badges From Dreamcast Collectiv

I recently received a package in the mail. Not an uncommon experience for most of you reading this - getting mail (or 'post' as we call it here in the UK) is an everyday phenomenon. Sometimes our mail is a demand for an unpaid bill, the thinly-veiled threat of bailiffs being sent round to our humble abode to confiscate our collection of 1920s beer bottle caps contained therein. Said hypothetical bottle caps will be sold at an equally hypothetical auction, and the funds 'acquired' subsequently forwarded on the creditor. This scenario is purely hypothetical. It was actually my collection of Ford Mondeo sump plugs that they took...but I digress.

A recent mail drop into my heavily guarded compound contained some rather lovely items: a trio of Dreamcast-related pin badges created by Dreamcast Collectiv to mark the 20th anniversary of our beloved console. Point your eyes at them:
One is a rather lovely smiling VMU, one is an Arcade Stick, and the other a lozenge emblazoned with '20th Anniversary,' which of course, is 2019 if you live anywhere that isn't Japan. Or any country that doesn't follow the Gregorian calendar. They are really rather nice, and are so well produced you'd be forgiven for thinking they were actually made by Sega.

I must thank the gentleman who sent them to me, at no cost and completely out of the blue. A man named Rene whom I salute and thank. Rene, if you're reading this, check your letterbox (erm...mail thing on a stick?) for a reciprocating gesture of goodwill and love of the Dreamcast in due course.
You can check out the Dreamcast Collectiv (and find out when their next awesome live event will be) by following them on Twitter here, or by looking at all their other social links here. Cheers Rene :)

20 Years Of Dreamcast: The Past, Present & Future

It's hard to believe that the Dreamcast has been with us now for two whole decades. Twenty years since that November day back in 1998 when Sega finally unleashed its successor to the Saturn on the world. I can't recall a console launch prior to the Dreamcast launch where fever pitch was at such a level, and the initial reports - at least the ones I read in magazines, being a young oik at the time - all pointed to a system that heralded the dawn of a new age in gaming.
The Dreamcast reveal at The Sega New Challenge Conference 1998
An age of arcade perfection in home ports, and one which ushered in the widespread adoption of online console functionality. As the Dreamcast reaches this milestone, we thought it would be appropriate to celebrate the coming of age of the system with the a brief look at the past, the present and the future of the Dreamcast scene. Happily, this will not include the coming of three ghosts, and will not include one of those ghosts having two small children under his coat. Also, you're well within your rights to feel like a bonafide old git when it sinks in: yes, the Dreamcast really is twenty.

The Past
I think at this point most people are pretty well versed in the history of the Dreamcast. As alluded to earlier, it was launched on 27th November 1998 in Japan, and the following year in the rest of the world. Initial sales were strong, and the system had an air of technological prowess about it. Graphics were far ahead of the console competition at the time, and in some cases superior to what PC gamers were enjoying too. But it wasn't just about the graphical capabilities; as the hardware too was new, fresh and exciting. The VMU in particular turned the humble memory card into a standalone console in its own right, and the controller, while it still to this day splits opinion was interesting, with its analogue triggers and aperture for a second screen of sorts. And of course, the modem that came packaged with the console as standard (apart from some very early editions) opened the door to a whole new way of playing on consoles - against people over the internet.
Eager gamers spy a delivery of Dreamcasts on the morning of the launch
The modem also offered access to the Dreamcast's Dricas service, which was an online portal designed to allow Dreamcast owners to communicate, earn loyalty points and even see on a primitive map where other gamers were located. All of these services are pretty much the norm in today's climate, but back in 1998 these online options were a huge deal. Of course, we now know how the whole party turned into a bit of a shit show after the initial wave of euphoria, and the Dreamcast wasn't long for this world as a fully-supported hardware platform.

The utterly boring debates still rage to this day about why the console failed, and why Sega decided to ditch the console after a relatively short period in the west at least (the last official game was released for the Dreamcast in 2007 in Japan); but the main reason is that many people were more interested in the PlayStation 2 and waited for Sony's new machine rather than buy a Dreamcast. Yes, there are boring debates about software support from certain publishers, and there are boring debates about the ease with which games could be pirated and the lack of a DVD player...but the main reason is that the PlayStation 2 came along and stole the Dreamcast's thunder. It happened, let's all move on.