Despite being over ten years old, VMU games can still be fun! Sure they pale in comparison to modern day handheld devices, but even back when VMUs were new they couldn’t compete with the handhelds of the early 00’s. The main purpose of a VMU was to save your game data, the fact that they could play mini-games was the cherry on top. While the VMU didn’t change the world, at least SEGA didn’t advertise it as the standout feature of the console (subtle dig at the Wii U). While I don’t carry a VMU about with me like I did back in ’99, I still make it a point to occasionally pick up some CR2032 batteries to bring my VMU back to life. What follows are my personal favorite VMU games.
Want to play these yourself, but don’t have all the Dreamcast titles that offer these extra features? Check out Blue Swirl’s VMU Tool. An awesome application for the Dreamcast which allows you to make a number of (safe) modifications to existing VMUs as well as download game saves and VMU games from the entire Dreamcast library. It even has a VMU emulator, for those too lazy to play an actual VMU.
CHAO ADVENTURE 1&2
Of course this VMU game gets the top slot. Chao Advenure was the VMU game of the Dreamcast launch. Once the thrill of playing as Sonic in 3D subsided (which took quite a while for me), Sonic Adventure introduced Dreamcast owners to the many awesome features of the console. Content could be downloaded from the internet, scores could be uploaded to the leaderboards and these weird little virtual pets called Chao could be raised both in-game and on the go thanks to the VMU and the mini-game “Chao Adventure”. While Tamagotchi has released a few years prior to Chao Adventure, the VMU game one-upped Tamagotchi in that you could transfer the chao from the TV screen to the VMU. You were literally carrying about your chao in data form on the VMU, until you returned him to the game’s garden.
Gameplay was simple. Your chao (let’s call him “Tibby”) will walk until he encounters something. A status screen allows you to view stats, a map, items, settings and more. Tibby will encounter enemies and battle them, winning items if successful. When Tibby reaches a signpost you can choose the next direction, sort of like the progression of OutRun. Sonic Adventure 2 brought with it Chao Adventure 2, which featured improved A.I. and an updated VMU game. Both versions of Chao Adventure also allowed players to link their VMU with other chao owners to battle and mate (ooh!). While the Sonic Adventure series may not be exclusive to the Dreamcast anymore, thanks to Gamecube and XBLA/PSN releases, Chao Adventure remains a feature unique to the Dreamcast and (in my opinion) makes the Dreamcast originals still the best way to play the games.
Did you know SEGA GT had its own version of Chao Adventure? It’s true! Playing as a race car driver, your goal is to earn as much money as possible. Earning money allows your driver to exercise (yes, you can choose if he should power-walk or swim, among other options) which raises his HP. The driver can also compete in races to win cash. After every three workouts, it’s best to rest your driver or he will be sent to the hospital for overexerting himself. The best thing about this mini-game is that any cash won on the VMU can transfer to the full game, allowing players to earn cash even when away from their Dreamcast. SEGA GT’s mini-game isn’t too well known, and is a must try for anybody who likes quirky VMU games.
POWER STONE 2’s MINI BOOK
While not a game, this is a VMU application that I used quite a bit. Anybody who has played Power Stone 2 knows that the game has a LOAD of items. Over one hundred! While back in the day one could download a complete save file, that took away from the fun of discovering all the kooky items the game had to offer. At the time of the game’s release, a friend of mine and I were obsessed with the game. We’d both play like mad men over the weekend, then meet up at school and link up VMU’s to trade items. I might have a giant spoon while he had rabbit ears. Aside from trading, the application also allowed one to view their entire collection including items, cards, materials and essences.
TECH ROMANCER’s LOVE & PUNCH, MUGEN GATTAI and JANKEN FIGHT
Another Capcom fighter makes the list! Tech Romancer is an insane 3D fighter inspired by the giant robot and monster television shows of Japan. Players control a variety of mechs from various fictional anime shows and battle it out. If that wasn’t enough, the game throws even more craziness at the player by way of VMU mini-games. The first of these mini-games, pictured above, is unlocked upon startup of the game. Love & Punch features the screen split in two. When players see the main character they are to press the D-pad to the corresponding side to “love” and when they do not see the main character they are to press A (left) or B (right) to punch. It’s simple and silly, but it does allow you to earn money to be used in the game. The second mini-game, unlocked after completing four character stories, is Mugen Gattai aka Dream Combination. The player pilots half of a mech, avoiding obstacles to meet up with the other half of the mech. Once you meet, you lock-on like the Power Rangers and earn cash! The third mini-game, Janken Fight, should be familiar to Alex Kidd fans. After completing eight character stories, this “rock, paper, scissors” game unlocks. What is unique about this iteration is that if you win a match, you get to attack your opponent, and if you lose they attack and you have a chance to block. Whoever gets K.O.’d first wins! Of course, you earn cash for winning. Sweet, sweet money.
ZOMBIE REVENGE: ZOMBIE FISHING and ZOMBIE DOUBT
Zombie Revenge did a lot of bizarre things, but the VMU games really went all out. Players were able to raise a zombie and collect food for it, as well as play a game of Zombie Doubt and Zombie Fishing. Doubt is a version of Simon Says, while fishing is just that: a Zombie fishing! What is he fishing for? Zombies of course! Cast your line, reel it in and see the hilarious results. All this VMU play leads to you being able to use your zombie in the game’s fighting mode. I’ve yet to attempt to upload the zombie to the chao garden, though I can only hope that it’s possible.
So, what are your favorite VMU games?
[VMU game images courtesy of The Dreamcast Junkyard]Ad: