The Weekly Five: How the SEGA Dreamcast changed gaming

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Most people that are reading this have probably owned a Dreamcast and are probably one of the many Dreamcast owners boasting about what an awesome console it was. This week on the The Weekly Five we explore how the Dreamcast changed gaming… FOR-EV-ER!

Phantasy Star Online: MMORPG on consoles

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Back in the day when Phantasy Star Online was announced, they said you would be able to play online with anyone around the world. That is correct, anywhere, even Japan. In today’s world, that isn’t that exciting. But imagine being a kid in the late 90’s that didn’t own a computer growing up? This was my first experience into the MMORPG addiction and I loved every second of it.

There has been quite a bit of debate if Phantasy Star Online should be considered an MMO or not, but if something like Spiral Knights can be deemed as one, then so should PSO. The game didn’t just sit back and take it easy. It brought it with the awesome lobbies, battle modes and a 200 level cap. Gamers, eat your heart out.

First console with online play

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Before you read the headline and decide to comment about SEGA Genesis and SNES’ XBAND Modem, which was a 3rd party accessory no one owned, shut up and read. SEGA was the first company out of all the console manufactures to actually include a modem right out of the box. Right on the precious Dreamcast. Before, you had to buy an expensive add-on and some companies didn’t even have a built in modem until 2006 (I’m looking at you Nintendo).

This is a big deal, since the way we play games has changed. Now every console out right now has a built in modem, capable of connecting you with users all around the world. It is obvious that if it wasn’t for both Microsoft and SEGA pushing online gaming, it would have been delayed way longer than it was. Nintendo and Sony both launched the Playstation 2 and Gamecube without modems built-in. Nintendo would later make an add-on that would support very few games (one being SEGA’s own Phantasy Star Online) and Sony did re-release the Playstation 2 as the Playstation 2 slim with a built in modem.

Jet Set Radio brings cel shading

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Oh man, I remember reading about Jet Set Radio and getting super excited when it was announced. The game looked 2-D, but it wasn’t. It was a new style of 3-D being titled ‘Cel Shading’.

It was so weird and unique, me and my friends would argue if the technique would catch on. Most of my friends at the time didn’t like the way the game looked, they said it was a ‘lame Tony Hawk rip-off’ and too Japanese. Well, years later we have all these games using the technique. Who wins now, jerks?

First to release digital DLC

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SEGA not only had the first console with a built in modem and released the first MMO on it, they also where the first to bring digital DLC through the power of the interwebs.

Due to the limitation of memory, most of the DLC stuff was minor and free of charge. Some of my favorite stuff was the downloadable songs for Samba De Amigo, extra missions in Phantasy Star Online and of course all the event downloads for Sonic Adventure. If you want to see all the DLC, check out this forum post over at CAG.

VMU: Two screens are better than one?

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When the Dreamcast controller was shown, it had a tiny black and white screen right in the middle. I didn’t know what to make of it, why would it be needed? I have to say, I really warmed up to the VMU after using it.

First of all, the main issue with it was that the batteries sucked. But besides that, it was pretty awesome idea. I liked that you could play minigames, take your chao from your Sonic Adventure Dreamcast game on the go and level it up. If you had friends at school with a Dreamcast, you guys could have traded save files without the need of a Dreamcast. You could just connect the two tops together! Very neat and time saving feature.

It even let you pick plays by using the VMU while playing NFL 2K, if you where afraid that the person next to you was peeking at what you where going to do. Something that Nintendo is showing off as a unique feature on the Wii U.

What was your favorite unique feature on the Dreamcast and how do you think it changed gaming as we know it? 

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18 responses to “The Weekly Five: How the SEGA Dreamcast changed gaming

  1. joe says:

    Overall design. Yamaha sound chips, good laser system, good cooling system as well. Dreamcast was great. There were alot of games slated for Dreamcast that never made it…too bad. Dreamcast 2 maybe will get them…..

    • Dave Rhodes says:

      The first Xbox was, in my mind, the “Dreamcast 2.” The GameCube was a Dreamcast with smaller discs and a handle.

    • DCGX says:

      I wholeheartedly agree with this. I always felt the Xbox was a spiritual successor to the Dreamcast (it helps that some of the guys behind the DC were behind the Xbox). From the controller to the games (sequels of course like Panzer Dragoon Orta, Jet Set Radio Future, Sega GT, and cancelled DC game Valkyrie, plus Otogi felt very DC era Sega, lest we forget Shenmue II), and its push with online. That was one of the major reasons I got an Xbox over a PS2 or GC (initially with the GC).

    • peachlife says:

      Its a shame those SEGA exclusives games completely bombed and ended any sort of close ties between the two companies. Now Ps3 and PlayStation systems seem to be the dreamcast spiritual successors as they get the exclusive SEGA titles like Yakuza, miku, phantasy star online 2.

  2. DCGX says:

    Excellent article and all very good points (I’m one of those that don’t think PSO is an MMO per se, but a limited MMO maybe).

    I was late to the party with the DC (I was 11 when it came out), but I saved my paper route money and in early 2001 after I became more aware of the DC and video games in general, I bought a DC, VMU, extra controller, Sonic Adventure, and Crazy Taxi (and yes I realize neither of those would use the second controller). A few years after that I sent it away to NCSX to get it modded, and the little box has been working perfectly since the day I bought it. Unfortunately I never got to experience the DC online. That still makes me sad.

    Long live the Dreamcast!

  3. sonictoast says:

    I wanna say Dreamcast revolutionized gaming by adding extremely long loading time, but I’m afraid PlayStation beat them to that title.

  4. Kevin-N says:

    The Dreamcast was a and still is a great system. I had 3 systems, now only 1. I remember that PSO was a great game online, the only minor thing with a 56k modem was that it was very expensive to play with that modem. The online service of the Dreamarena was free but the internet trough telephone cable was here in europe 2.50 euro’s an hour in that time 🙂
    But the Dreamcast had even an internet browser and an email adress, the 360 has an internet browser from 2012. Al my friends had a ps2 and i had from the beginning a Dreamcast, my friends found the ps2 better because it had dvd, i still don’t understand it why people didn’t see it that the Dreamcast was better. My favorite games on the DC are Sonic adventures, Shenmue 1&2, Rez, pso ver2, tokyo highway challenge 2, crazy taxi 2, soul caliber, mortal kombat gold, Resident evil code Veronica, and so on. And now i Dream-on for a Dreamcast 2 that will never happen 🙁

  5. peachlife says:

    Love my Dreamcast still play it, there’s something about the clean, bright graphics that powervr chip pushes out with the progressive scan vga out. Its just a beautiful bit of kit and great send off for SEGA.

    My defining moment was undoubtedly playing Shenmue. I never played a game so meticulously crafted and had so much freedom and open world to explore. Also the sheer volume of amazing SEGA arcade racers I play on Dreamcast bring back great memories for me.

  6. Tokyo_Funk says:

    Dreamcast is first with out-of-the box internet, but I do remember playing Saturn Bomberman and Duke 3D online before I had a Dreamcast.

  7. Eli says:

    I loved everything about the little white box. The insanely loud grinding the laser made, online out of the box, the beep the VMU made when you turned the DC on. Then there was the games; Jet Grind, PSO, Shenmue, Echo, Sonic Adventure, Soulcalibur. They were all great and fun games. Plus, the games were supper cheap. I recall paying $30 to $40 for a brand new game, which was awesome, and made it easier to try new games.

    • Barry the Nomad says:

      I liked how many great “Greatest Hits” discounted titles there were (dubbed “SEGA ALL STARS”, which is interesting given that later became the name of the racing series). And then we had the many cool budget titles, like Floigan Bros. which was only $19.99 if I remember correctly. PSO ver. 2 was also released at a lower price I believe.

    • DCGX says:

      I always assume the ‘All-Stars’ titles between the DC and racing games was connected.

      Yeah a last ditch effort to sell games late in the DC’s life. I remember Best Buy having games like Last Blade 2 and Fatal Fury: Mark of the Wolves for $15 as their regular prices.

    • Eli says:

      That’s exactly where I got those two games, and Quake 3 Arena. Great times! ha.

  8. Great article- PSO definitely changed the gaming landscape as we know it.

    Nice to see the VMU from my site too 😉

  9. Aidan says:

    The Nintendo 64 was the first to have online play. In Japan, if you had the N64 DD it came with a cartridge that connected to the modem. Everything was 1st party.

    • George says:

      Hey Aidan, thanks for enjoying the article. If you read the article it was about how The Dreamcast changed gaming and the reason I said Dreamcast was the first online console was because EVERY unit sold came with the modem. The N64 (and even the NES,SNES, Genesis and SaturN) all had online play via a 3rd party/first party device you bought separately.

      64DD is cool, but SEGA released the Netlink for the Saturn before Nintendo and before that 3rd parties did add-ons for Retro consoles. True, the Dreamcast isn’t the first console to allow ‘online gaming’ but it was the first one to push online as a feature on every console.

  10. Here is m quick comment just to say THANKS ffor the gaming post here, that was bang
    on whyat I (used)to be searching for!

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