The 10 year anniversary of the Sega Dreamcast is close approaching and I wanted to go back and reflect on my own saga with the system over those last ten years. To be honest, although the system only was in production for a few years, I have had quite an interaction with it. Since it was a part of my life over this last decade I wanted to share those memories with everyone.
When the Dreamcast was first made playable to the public I was hooked. I remember going to the EB and Compucentre in the local mall in my hometown (the mall was Rideau Centre in Ottawa, Canada) and see crowds of teenagers hovered around the console’s kiosk. Both stores had the system on display and both had different games for people to try out. Although Compucentre used a specific Sega Cabinet, the guys over at EB decided to set-up theirs on a separate TV and would often change games every few days to show off the variety of games available for the system.
At the time, I was working at the Pizza Hut/Taco Bell combo restaurant at the mall so I often was able to spend the 10-15 minutes before work attempting to play whatever was on display. I clearly remember watching kids gawk over Ready 2 Rumble, Sonic Adventure and Soul Calibur and even challenging with the Fishing game which now escapes me. It was so nice as the system was clearly better than what else was available on the market. I really wanted to get the system, but of course as a high school student buying one was very difficult.
At that time, the Cdn dollar was really poor in comparison to the US dollar. The Cdn dollar was worth about 65 cents US so that essentially meant that stores in here initially sold the system for roughly 299.99, a hundred dollars more than the US 199.99 price tag. Because of that high price point and the fact that the PlayStation had dropped to a much more affordable price of roughly 199.99 (this was when it was roughly 129.99 USD), I decided to go that route and buy Sony’s console instead.
I never regretted my purchase of the PlayStation, but that didn’t stop me from still playing the Dreamcast whenever I had the opportunity to. Although none of my friends owned the system, I still had all the videogame stores focusing a lot of attention on the system. Whenever a new title was released, from Crazy Taxi, Jet Grind Radio, Metropolis Street Racer and others I always had the opportunity to try them out and think to myself ‘…if I could afford this, I would buy one.’
It wasn’t until one random day sometime in 2001 (pretty certain it was late in the year) when I finally managed to purchase a Dreamcast. This was already at the time when the system was slowly dying away and stores were reducing the price to get rid of them. While walking through a Future Shop (Canada’s original Best Buy) I saw them selling the Dreamcast with 3 games for about 99.99. It was a Sports Bundle, but not the Black Dreamcast one, and considering I am a sports fan, it wasn’t a hard sell for me.
I didn’t bother to purchase anything else at the time since I wanted to just take the system home and give it a spin. During that summer I had saved up a crap load of money and traded in my PlayStation and nearly all my non-essential games to get the heavily expensive PlayStation 2 (bless that horrible exchange rate at the time). This was also the first time I was the owner of two systems at one time (now I own every current system), so I was a little eager at the idea and unsure how I would juggle the two. Once I decided to simply connect the Dreamcast through my VCR, I was set and began playing. It did not take long for me to fall right back in love. Although I couldn’t save my games at the time, I was playing as many games of NFL and NBA as I could. I absolutely loved the way both games felt. NFL was really enjoyable but it was NBA’s weird free throw mechanic that I still remember today. For those unfamiliar, what Visual Concepts did at the time was have you gently press on the controller’s trigger buttons to line-up two arrows over the basket. It was weird at first, but if you were steady, sinking free-throws was a breeze.
After falling in love with what I had in my basement, I went hunting for games and other items for the system. It started by purchasing a VMU so I could save my games and then I began trying to buy games. Although the system was affordable, games had become hard to find. I went all over the place trying to find games like Ready 2 Rumble, Phantasy Star Online and others but unfortunately I couldn’t find any of those. Generic games and those that did not satisfy my taste buds but were readily available, but I wanted a game that was deemed ‘A Must-Own Dreamcast’ title. After all my searching, there was only one key Dreamcast title I managed to find and buy and that was Shenmue.
I know Shenmue has gotten its fair share of slack over the years, but I still remember it fondly for what it was…a game unlike anything else at the time. Yes, some aspects of it I didn’t like, such as the relatively short time in the day to do things, but it was still a blast and a game I will never forget.
Even with my love for the system, I was still relatively young and dumb and wanted the best that was available. I would later trade in my Dreamcast and the small collection of four games to help me purchase an Xbox, which was impressing me at the time with Splinter Cell and the Jet Set Radio Future/Sega GT bundle that was on sale. I didn’t think the trade would affect me, but deep down I regretted getting rid of the system.
I knew I was ‘heart-broken’ when in late 2004 I began to reminisce about the Dreamcast and how much I really enjoyed it when I owned it. I was making ‘good’ money at my current job so I began to spend cash more freely. I was able to afford school still and had plenty of expendable cash so I thought about looking to buying the system yet again, but finding one was now a problem. No stores carried them and even those places that did offer used systems were often in really poor condition or over-priced. Thankfully eBay existed and I began looking online for people selling new and used Dreamcast units.
Before buying the Dreamcast, I never purchased anything from eBay. I created an account years before with the thought of maybe one day buying or selling something, but that day didn’t come until I won a bid for a Dreamcast. Being so glad that I ‘won’ I didn’t bother to check all my vitals and simply paid using PayPal to get the system.
When I first registered my eBay account I was living at one address but at the time of the purchase I had moved. I completely forgot about this fact until it was nearly a month and I did not get my Dreamcast. When I e-mailed the person I bought it from and he sent me an shipping confirmation I noticed the address he shipped to was wrong. I began to worry that the people who now lived at my old place would either refuse the package or ‘steal’ it.
I drove to my old place and explained the situation. They promised me that nothing had arrived but that they would contact me once they did. I was relieved but still a little concerned. It was already a month and regardless of the seller shipping from the Seattle area to Ottawa it should not have taken as long as it did. Thankfully, the people who now lived in my old place dropped by our new home and gave my sister the pick-up slip. I quickly drove to the local post office, paid the custom brokerage fee and was finally the owner of a Dreamcast for the second time.
When I knew I was getting the system I went out and started hunting for games. During this time I only managed to buy four games: Crazy Taxi, Tony Hawk 2, Resident Evil Code: Veronica and of course, Shenmue. It was nice to be able to go back and re-enjoy the games that I loved for so long. I was a fan of Crazy Taxi in the arcade while Tony Hawk 2 was over-played by me when I originally had it for the PlayStation. I continued to hunt for games to get but finding ones in good condition in Ottawa was a tough request. I wanted to buy games through eBay, but often the prices were too high or the added shipping costs made a worth while purchase seem like a rip-off.
I moved to Vancouver in 2007 and when I did, I could only manage to fit a PlayStation 2 Slim in my luggage. Because of that, I was forced in leaving both my Dreamcast (which I did play with from time to time) and my 360 with at my mother’s place. While I ended up replacing my 360 with one purchased here, I always wanted my Dreamcast back in my possession. It wasn’t until 2008 when a family friend, flying to Vancouver, managed to bring it with them. It was pretty funny since the suitcase that they had for me essentially only contained the Dreamcast (in it’s original box) and a few bottles of alcohol (I had quite the collection back in Ottawa). I really thought getting it cross-country would be a problem, but that was not the case.
I still have the Dreamcast to this day but unfortunately I have not given it the attention it deserves. I have been tempted to plug it in and play a quick game or Crazy Taxi or experience Code: Veronica again, but due to time constraints I have not. At the time of this writing, my Dreamcast is still in its original box, neatly put away in my closet. It wouldn’t take me long to un-box it and start playing.
The Dreamcast has been a part of my life for a good part of the last ten years and I can honestly say I still love reading related content and often head over to eBay to see if any tempting purchases are available. I always wanted to buy something that would allow me to either play non-NTSC games (eg. Shemue 2) or games that are affordable online (eg. through places like PlayAsia and/or eBay). I am planning on take it out of the closest in the lead-up to official 10 year anniversary and playing it for a bit, I might even go back and play through Shenmue from start to finish.
I didn’t want to go back into the history of the unit itself as it’s already been done time and time again, but I wanted to show just what its affects have been on me. I hope this leads others to reflect on their experience with the system. Do you remember the launch date and struggling with FF VIII fans at your local game store? Were you like me and ended up buying it twice? Are you one of those few people who continues to play their Dreamcast on a regular basis? There are certainly great stories out there. Let’s remember the good days of this once great system; hopefully at the same time, those who never experienced the Dreamcast will understand why exactly it was such a cult favorite.