This is it. This is probably my most-cherished Christmas memory.
A lot of Christmases seem to blend together. That's part of the reason why I haven't done more Christmas write-ups. It's all a big, toy-filled blur.
Christmas 1999 has special significance for me, though. That was the year that I got my Dreamcast.
The Sega Dreamcast launched in the United States on September 9th, 1999. 9/9/99 was a hell of a date to choose to launch a console, and Sega's launch day decision didn't blow up in their face, like what happened with the launch of their previous console, the Sega Saturn. In fact, I'm pretty sure that the Dreamcast launch was the best launch in history at that point.
Sega was on fire. They could do no wrong.
I first played the Dreamcast at the local Electronics Boutique, back when there was an EB within walking distance of a Babbage's in the local mall. The Dreamcast kiosks were loaded up with the flagship Dreamcast launch title, Sonic Adventure. I swear, I played that thing for at least an hour before my dad yanked me away from it. It was glorious. The visuals were a clear step up from what I was used to playing on the Nintendo 64 and the Playstation. Sonic itself was a new and exciting franchise for me, since the only Sonic game I had owned was Sonic 2 on the Game Gear. I wanted a Dreamcast. I needed
There was only one problem: There were no Dreamcasts available.
Sega made a killing at launch. The initial success of the Dreamcast lead to some shortages. Stores could not keep the damn thing in stock. These consoles weren't just flying off the shelves; they were barely touching the shelves at all.
Because of all of this, my mom and dad told me that they wouldn't be able to get me a Dreamcast that year. They told me to put something else on my list.
I was a little disappointed.
...Alright, I kind of took it hard.
...I think I might have passed out from crying.
...Don't judge me.
I wasn't looking forward to Christmas that year. Remember, I was a greedy jerk back then. Without a Dreamcast, any other gift seemed... lame. Hollow. Not worth it. That's basically how a 9-year-old thinks. The more stuff you have, the more awesome you are.
Imagine my pure, unbridled joy that erupted from me when I unwrapped my "big" gift that year.
Yuuuup. A Sega Dreamcast, with Sonic Adventure right on top of it.
I'm really glad that my parents didn't record anything of it, because footage of that would have gone viral pretty damn quick.
My Dreamcast was immediately hooked up to our "big screen" rear-projection TV. My dad bought it off of a raffle winner at the bar he managed, so he got it for next to nothing. This thing was truly a big-screen TV in every sense of the word. Yeah, modern HDTVs have better picture quality, but this old TV truly was the centerpiece of a home entertainment center. Only the best electronics could be hooked up to it, mostly due to the fact that I couldn't do it myself and my dad couldn't get on his knees to hook things up that often. The sheer fact that the Dreamcast was hooked up to this TV meant that that console was truly special.
I played the everloving hell out of it.
My first full game was, of course, Sonic Adventure. I played through it at least 40 times before buying a Dreamcast VMU. That made things easier. Sonic Adventure as a game hasn't aged particularly well, but for its time it was excellent. It was a perfect example of what the Dreamcast could do - the game was gorgeous for the time, and it handled that trademark Sonic-speed as if it were nothing.
My second game was bought on the day after Christmas. My mom had to return a VCR to the local Best Buy for one reason or another, so she let me use some of the returned cash to get another Dreamcast game. I immediately chose Marvel Vs. Capcom. To this day, MvC is still my favorite fighting game of all time. The Dreamcast version was infinitely better than the sub-par PS1 port of the game, and it was the closest thing you could get to playing the real arcade machine, save for buying a machine yourself (Which, appropriately enough, I ended up doing back in 2010, but I'll talk about that some other time). For the record, the best team in Marvel Vs. Capcom was always Captain Commando/War Machine. If anyone tells you different, they are wrong.
Back in 2010, after doing a bit of cleaning around the house, I happened to ask my mom how she even managed to find a Dreamcast during that crazy shopping season. She told me that during her office's Christmas party, a co-worker off-handedly mentioned that a K-Mart near the hotel they were at had one Dreamcast left for sale. My mom and dad proceeded to leave the party, buy the console, and come back to the hotel as if nothing had happened.
My mom and dad took time out of a Christmas party to buy me a friggin' game console. They had no obligation to do that, other than to make me happy. My Dreamcast holds a special place in my heart because of that.
This year, I don't have much of a Christmas list. I haven't really had a Christmas since 2009. That was the last Christmas that I spent with my mom. We were still recovering from my dad's sudden death in November '09. My mom wasn't around for Christmas 2010, having passed away two months before. Christmas has been rough for me for the past few years, but I'm trying to make it less-so.
I know it seems a bit odd to be talking about these video game Christmas gifts the way I have been. After all, they are just video games. But for me, they have significant memories attached to them. Each one shows to me that my parents were willing to go the extra mile, that they were willing to provide for me above themselves. They never once "needed" to do that to prove that they loved me. It was never about that. It was just a way to let me know that they cared about me far more than I could ever imagine.
If that isn't what Christmas is all about (from a family standpoint, at least), I have no idea what is.
Merry Christmas, everyone.
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