Well… ten years ago in a few days, I was stood in the Video Game Centre, waiting for some of the first Dreamcast units to arrive in the country from Japan to be brought down from the supplier in London, hoping to catch a glimpse of what would surely be the future of gaming.
It wasn’t to be, of course, either that day with the disappointing Japanese launch games, or indeed ever, but I couldn’t let the tenth anniversary of one of the greatest systems ever made pass without a mention. Virtua Fighter 3tb, Godzilla Generations, and Pen Pen TriIcelon might not have done it for me, but at that point we were only six months from the Japanese release of Soul Calibur, which would be the one to break my resistance and buy the little white machine that would outlast the PS2, Xbox, and GameCube in enjoying a dedicated spot among my currently active consoles.
I really think it goes without saying that the Dreamcast is pretty much unparalleled for a library of innovative, technically impressive – for the time, obviously – games. It had a network connection as standard three years before the Xbox and four years before Xbox Live, and used it – some of the time with voice chat, no less – in games like Quake III, Alien Front Online, Unreal Tournament, and, of course, Phantasy Star Online: a game so good that Sega still can’t repeat its magic formula. And with 480p VGA and 60Hz PAL games as standard – how long did it take for all major PS2 games to be full-screen/full-speed over here again? – it’s one of the few retro consoles that will actually look good on an HDTV.
It was the hardcore gamer’s dream system; a haven for arcade-perfect 2D fighters – Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike, Marvel vs Capcom 2, Street Fighter Alpha 3, most of SNK’s library – and scrolling shoot-em-ups, a genre that is still getting commercial homebrew releases today. RPGs were represented with such fine and diverse examples as Skies of Arcadia, Grandia II, and the aforementioned PSO. The only properly good 3D Sonic game. Soul Calibur. Ports of some of Sega’s latter-day arcade classics like Crazy Taxi, Sega Rally 2, The House of the Dead 2, and Ferrari F355 Challenge. Virtua Tennis and the 2K series if you were into sports. Great and innovative games like Rez, Jet Set Radio, Seaman, Chu Chu Rocket, Power Stone, Segagaga, Space Channel 5… Traditional genres represented by the likes of Resident Evil: Code Veronica, Metropolis: Street Racer, Sega GT… I could go on reminiscing about the games on that box for hours.
And, of course, my favourite game ever: Shenmue. A moment of silence, please.
But we shouldn’t mope. Despite its fate at the hands of that fucking air-conditioning unit lookalike with its jaggy graphics and dearth of good games – not that I’m still bitter – it remains a console that can and should be played. Assuming you still have your Dreamcast, as every self-respecting gamer should, stick it on tonight and have a play at one of your favourites that you might not have touched in a while. I plan to have a crack at finishing Shenmue for the first time in a couple of years over the weekend, and even with these shiny new games coming out on a daily basis at the moment, I’m going to love it all over again.