Dreamcast, Final Fantasy VIII, say no more
1999 might be one of the best years of video games on record.
This is the year we got EverQuest (which took Ultima Online‘s MMO dreams to a new level), oddball risks like UmJammer Lammy, Aliens versus Predator PC, the celebrated Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike in arcades, Gran Turismo 2, Lunar (one of the greatest JRPGs of all time), Ape Escape, the indomitable Counter-Strike, System Shock 2, brawler classic Gauntlet Legends, Crash Team Racing, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, Jet Force Gemini, and countless others. On second thought, I’m pretty much ready to crown it right now, even though 2004 and a few other choice years come close.
The reasoning is sound: if we include 9/9/99 in that equation, 1999 really rocks the house. That’s the day Final Fantasy VIII and the Dreamcast came out.
I’ve told this story before, but every time I do, it brings a smile to my face. I can still remember going into my local EBX (RIP Babbages, RIP Electronics Boutique) at my favorite mall and picking up my pre-order for Final Fantasy VIII and the Dreamcast. I had saved up everything I could from shoveling snow and relative holiday money, and it was the first time I had really spent a ton of my own cash at a store for games (I would get a job at 15 just to feed my gaming habit, and ended up paying for my own college degrees with what was left over years later).
It was a pretty magical day, but I did the unthinkable: instead of tearing into a brand new console, I sat down and beat Final Fantasy VIII first. It was magical, to say the least: a whole new world to get lost in, a new cast. I had been playing JRPGs since Dragon Warrior and the first Final Fantasy, but VIII ended up quickly becoming one of my favorites of the series. Plus, a lot of people weren’t interested in it, so it ruled not having to go to school and be hounded to bring in my discs (this is how a lot of people at my school played Final Fantasy VII, by using my discs when people were done with them).
In-between those sessions I would head over to a buddy’s house to pore over the Dreamcast. We beat Sonic Adventure in one sitting (and with that knowledge, would help at least two other friend groups beat the game in the next few months), and quickly started experimenting with Soulcalibur and Power Stone tech. Over time, the Dreamcast would cement itself as one of the most adventurous consoles ever released, but it was already a powerhouse and a force to be reckoned with on day one.
But 1999 didn’t just begin and end with September. I still had my weekly Tony Hawk H-O-R-S-E battles with a friend of mine on PS1. Another group started to take up Counter-Strike. And yet another collective, my fighting game circle, was still playing Marvel Super Heroes vs. Street Fighter and all of the versus games that came before it.
We can all look back at those times and think “it didn’t get any better than that.” But as we all find out when we get older, the “golden years” concept is kind of a myth. Things have gotten better since then. We’ve had the pleasure of playing hundreds more games that are up there with the greats of 1999. And during lull periods, we can still go back to those classics, because they will forever exist as a part of gaming history.
I’m always looking to the future, but I’ll never forget 9/9/99.