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Namakubi avatar 1:09 AM on 09.09.2009  (server time)
9.9.9: Dreamcast Memories and Musings

"A candle that burns twice as bright, burns half as long"

Today is the day, my friends. A day of remembrance of Sega's last blaze of glory before stepping out of the world of console gaming for what may be forever. It's been ten short years since our dearly beloved Dreamcas came into this world, and only eight and a half when it's light was dimmed. But we must not mourn, we must not cry, today is a day of remembrance, a time to reflect and recount what this system was, why it passed far too early, and why it's impact is still felt.

The Promise of a New Beginning

As I said in my Genesis blog, I did not grow up a Sega child, I was a Nintendo kid. Not out of malice or antagonism towards The Blue Blur's company, just that we were a Nintendo household and that was that. By the time the Saturn rolled around, the situation was worse. While I was fairly apathetic towards the Genesis / Megadrive, I actively made it clear to Christmas buying parents and friends that I had no interest in a Saturn. That may seem shocking in retrospect, with the many cult classics the Saturn is now known for, but keep in mind most of the titles people think of when they hear "Saturn" were either never released in the U.S. or were never given the big media push by Sega of America they should've gotten. When news came that Sega was going to quit releasing games for the Saturn early at the end of the 32 bit era, no tears were shed by me. Vindication was especially felt when it became clear that the 4MB ram cart and Capcom's arcade perfect fighting ports were never going to see a release in the U.S.

My opinion changed on Sega when the first word of the Dreamcast started leaking out of Japan. It became quickly clear that Sega was not going to repeat it's mistakes of the past with the Dreamcast:
It was going to have a robust library on both sides of the Pacific, that Sonic was going to be given the new lease on life he never got on the Saturn. Arcade perfect ports were promised and delivered, strong third party support was prevalent, it finally seemed that Sega cared enough to attract new consumers that dismissed them during the CD / 32X / Saturn fiasco's of the past. Dreamcast was the first Sega system I owned.

These were good months. Triple A game after Triple A game came out of Sega, Capcom and Namco at this time, the last stalwarts of the arcade industry: Sonic Adventure, Crazy Taxi, Jet Grind Radio, Soul Caliber, House of the Dead 2, Shenmue, Space Channel 5, Chu Chu Rocket, all the Capcom fighters, Skies of Arcadia, nearly every title for the U.S. launch was worth getting into, the Dreamcast had, and has, a rock solid library, easily beating the libraries of games for consoles that lasted three times as long in the marketplace.

Sega Gives Up the FIght

When Sega prematurely called it quits on the Dreamcast, I felt betrayed, betrayed because I was finally rooting for the underdogs, they finally gave me something to cheer them on for, it looked like if they could hold they're feet to the ground, they could win this one. Alas, it was not to be, Sega's old financial woes from the 16 and 32 bit days finally caught up to them, and sunk the best console they ever made. I believe this particular luminary summed up my feelings on Sega's backing out quite well:

(Just mentally replace the girl getting yelled at with Sega's board of directors and it totally works.)

Preach it Tyra, preach it.

The Outcome

Ultimately, the Dreamcast's still-born existence seems to have killed online play prematurely until this past generation. If Sega had made it a few more years, online would easily been the norm during the PS2 / Xbox / Gamecube era rather than an afterthought. Sega's last stand also was the last time that arcade games were seen as serious system sellers instead of games relegated to download-only status. In retrospect, it's kind of amazing how Sega picked up their strategic ball from the Genesis years in being the consoles for the home arcade experience, something that didn't happen with the myriad of add-ons to the Genesis and the Saturn.

Unfortunately, it speaks to how quickly things change in this industry when I go to PAX this year, and see Sega's booth relegated to a two table booth towards the wall, when these guys were once giving Nintendo, still a dominant force in the industry, a run for their money. It seems even Sega's roll as just a publisher and developer means less and less in the ongoing years, as the only big title from Sega in years, Yakuza 3, isn't getting released in the U.S. and their once top-developers, Yu Suzuki and Yuji Naka are quietly shoved out of the company. Sega is now slowly dying on life support, and this is one fan who would've rather seen them go out in the blaze of glory that was Dreamcast.

But on this day, I see we put that all aside, pull out our little white console that tried, and boot up one of the many games that still make this system stand out from the pack. I think I'm gonna go give Jet Set Radio another spin...

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