To Read Part 1, go here.
In July, reality finally caught up with me. Something had possessed me to join the SEGA forums. Because I hated being told that my name was already taken, and I figured the Knuckles name must already be taken given he’s such an awesome character, I decided to cut to the chase and just leave the K out of my name. Upon joining the forums, I discovered the Dreamcast had been canned and, being a teenager, I immediately latched on to the first online petition I saw. Those were the days. Keeping a thread ever present at the top of the forum whenever I got home from school or my friend’s house. Arguing with older, wiser, more realistic individuals like the naïve teenager I was, a large part of my Dreamcast experience came from defending it from bashers and supporting a petition that SEGA probably never even saw, let alone cared about.
In addition to joining an online forum, I also became something of a “Dreamcast activist”, if you could believe such a stupid thing. I became far less strict about my game purchases, and I began to experiment with genres I might have never touched before. I began buying racing games en masse to find the one game that would help me win the debate against my sister over which console was more capable, a game I eventually found through Test Drive Le Mans, the most underrated racing game on the console. I would eventually buy Alien Front Online, Crazy Taxi, Spider-man, Giga Wing 2, SEGA Smash Pack, Tokyo Street Racer, Soul Caliber, Phantasy Star Online, Tennis 2k2, and finally NHL 2K2.
These were genres and games I was largely unfamiliar with, but through these games I found a variety of memorable experiences, and I slowly began to familiarize myself with gaming outside of platformers, space sims, and licensed games. Because of my narrow mindedness I had never played a proper arcade game, or a shmup, or a sports game outside of Virtua Tennis. Heck, I had never even played a 3D fighter, as Smash Bros and Clayfighters 63 1/3 comprised my entire experience with the genre at the time.
In addition to these new games, I also discovered some new favorites in some old genres. Back in 2001 and 2002, I was still loving a collection of Star Wars flight sims, in particular X-Wing Allience. I really wanted one of these games on the Dreamcast, and much to my surprise I discovered such a game while rummaging through the Dreamcast section of Circuit City. Starlancer, from the creators of Wing Commander, a game series my dad had loved back in the 90s. I picked it up immediately, brought it home, and found myself introduced to the beautiful solar system of Star Lancer. Graphically, it was the best space sim I had ever seen, outclassing X-Wing Alliance by a huge margin. The story, focusing on a war between the American lead “Alliance” and the almost entirely Russian –and probably communist- Coalition, kept me engaged, and actually made me feel attached to my wingmen. I had never heard of the game before, but it was an example of yet another hidden, Dreamcast exclusive gem that I was lucky to find. I still remember my first evening of sitting at home in my room, searching for a ship’s black box in some wreckage. Starlancer to this day stands as the best space sim I have ever played, and one of my all-time favorite games on the Dreamcast.
The biggest break through, for me, came when I bought Shenmue in November 2001. Shenmue had never really been on my radar before, despite the fact that I had a trailer for it on my demo disc. As I weighed whether or not to get the game, I watched the trailer on the disc and it blew me away. Cinematic, epic, emotional, complete with a great music track, the trailer was better than most movie trailers I had seen, and convinced me to get the game immediately.