Round Table: What Dreamcast game defined the console?

The Dreamcast is turning 15 years old and we here at SEGAbits will take this opportunity to talk about a game that we thought defined the console. Its hard to just pick one when the console had multitude of fantastic and unique titles.

Like always you can share your title via the comments.

I’ve always seen the Dreamcast as an incredibly ambitious console. Kicking off the sixth generation, pioneering online console gaming, attempting several new and unique peripherals – from fishing rods and maracas to memory cards that acted as their own handheld device. With such a wide range of unique traits and industry firsts, there are so many Dreamcast games that have some to define the console for me. But, if I had to choose just one, that game would be Phantasy Star Online. Take the time I put into Shenmue and Jet Set Radio and multiply that by ten and you’d have the amount of time I’ve spent playing PSO.

phantasy-star-online-1Like the Dreamcast, PSO was very ambitious. It set out to be the first home console MMO, connecting people from all over the world into one shared experience thanks to unique translators and symbol chat. Now, in 2014 that may not sound like a lot, but in 2001 it was an amazing experience to log on to the internet from your TV and be transported to a game populated with real people from all parts of the world. Given PSO was released within a span of three months in the major territories, there was little catch up with Japan. You were all experiencing the game at an even pace, and discovering new adventures together. 

Booting up the Dreamcast at launch and experiencing Sonic Adventure, Power Stone, and Soulcalibur was a personal experience I’ll never forget, but Phantasy Star Online brought that same feeling to a whole other level by connecting Dreamcast players from all over for one collective, defining moment of the console’s life.

When I think of some of the best visuals for the SEGA Dreamcast, I have to go with the Australian developed Looney Tunes Space Race. I thought nothing of the game when I first heard of it, but when I played it I was blown away that Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and the rest of the looney crew never looked better rendered in 3D, making use of the cel-shading technique first seen on the system with Jet Set RadioBut Looney Tunes takes it due to the animation and presentation that compliments the art style very well.

I highly recommend hooking up a VGA cable to your Dreamcast while playing this game as it still looks that good, and has hold up very well. (It also holds bonus points for using the source material to the point that it references Space Jam.)

The Dreamcast for me was a system that fully welcomed the new even while embracing the past.

It pioneered a number of features and graphics capabilities that had never been seen on consoles before, but the Dreamcast was, at the same time, the final light of the 5th generation. In truth it was a 6th gen system, but its games and design were still permeated by that same sense of bold quirkiness that was featured far more in the PS1/N64/Saturn era than it would be going forward. 

SkiesTo me the game that best symbolizes this isn’t even one that I found to be one of my favorites, though I did thoroughly enjoy it. It was a game all about exploring uncharted territory while taking on the presentation and atmosphere of RPGs from a much earlier time. Skies of Arcadia, which you’ll hear more about from me later on this month, is a game that, all said and done, illustrated in vivid color what the Dreamcast truly stood for. 

In a time when SEGA was looking to evolve the industry and to push it forward, Skies of Arcadia stood out in a wave of much more serious RPGs as a total throwback; a lighthearted adventure in a colorful world just waiting to be explored. There was little in the way of voice acting, the soundtrack bathed heavily in a MIDI style, and the rigidly turn-based battle system was not in any way trying to reinvent the wheel. Instead SEGA delivered a truly next gen, but at the same time truly classic RPG, and much like the Dreamcast itself, Skies of Arcadia walked the line between console generations and eras so beautifully, and really stands out to me as one of the system’s finest moments.

When it comes to games that defined the Dreamcast for me I have quite the list of memories with many games. I remember playing Phantasy Star Online with my cousin, both having our own Dreamcasts and me having to connect mine online through a long phone cord to his Grandma’s house (who was his neighbor). I remember staying up late at night the first day I got Sonic Adventure and completing everyone’s levels. I remember spending hours and hours exploring in Skies of Arcadia. I remember the intense splitscreen matches me and my brothers would have in Quake III: Arena. I remember being blown away by the attention to detail in Shenmue

tumblr_lxwznnz4lg1r1fq7do1_250But in the end the game that always made the biggest impression was the first game I got with my Dreamcast, Power Stone. I remember going into Software Etc (now owned by Gamestop) and looking to get Sonic Adventure on the Dreamcast, the problem was that most of the Dreamcast games where sold out. As a kid I was devastated that I couldn’t get the game I wanted so I went through the shelve and looked at the games they had to offer. Since this was 1999, like most American kids I was obsessed with anime, right away the box art for Power Stone caught my eye.

Power Stone was a totally new franchise and I didn’t know what to expect. But seeing Capcom publishing it gave me hope that it would be a good game (wow, how things change). This is the publisher that brought me great titles like Street Fighter series, Resident Evil series and tons more. New generation, new franchise. It just made sense, I picked the game up and boy was I glad I did.

Power Stone to me was the go to party game, just invite a few friends over and take turn beating the crap out of each other. Nothing like dodging a chair thrown at you, stopping your friend from getting a Power Stone on the map and transforming into a beacon of ass kicking badassness. To me this game brought me some of my most fondest memories and even though Capcom ported both games on PSP in 2006, the Dreamcast versions are still the best place to play the franchise. This game is so attached to the Dreamcast brand that most people online think its published by SEGA, but its not. A must have for anyone with a Dreamcast.

Now that you know what our defining Dreamcast games are, we want to know which one is yours. Tell us in the comments below. 


16 responses to “Round Table: What Dreamcast game defined the console?

  1. Skateboard says:

    Nice read. For me: Shenmue, SoA and PSO. (In this order). Shenmue 1 & 2 completely fascinated me. SoA is an amazing RPG, very well done. PSO I loved, but only got to play offline on my DC which was boring on the long run. Later I had endless fun playing PSO BB on PC. BTW the pic on the beach is from Episode 2 which was never released on DC. 🙂

  2. George says:

    I’m wrong, sorry about that. I changed the screenshot to another one. Thank you.

  3. Blues says:

    Version 2 and episode 2 aren’t the same things at all. Ver 2. debuted Ultimate mode, challenge mode, and versus mode.

    Episode 2 debuted all of the gal de val island levels as well as the VR training dungeons. These levels were exclusive to GC/Xbox/PC and were never featured on the dreamcast. So yes, the screen shot chosen is not a possibility for the dreamcast.

  4. RegalSin_ says:

    Dreamcast has lots of great games. Lets just leave it at that.

  5. DCGX says:

    While I didn’t play it much (less than 10 hours and after Seganet was down) and it isn’t my favorite game on the system, I agree that Phantasy Star Online is what defined the system most. Not just because of the online play, but because it reignited a hibernating franchise that was so loved during the 8-bit and 16-bit eras.

  6. Blues says:

    for me it’s a toss up between PSO and Shenmue. Both games were staggeringly ambitious for the time. PSO for its online functionality and Shenmue for its graphics and narrative. Both brilliant games.

  7. Travis says:

    For me, it was Sonic Adventure. It did an amazing job of showing off what Dreamcast was capable of, as well being the first real Sonic game since Sonic & Knuckles on Genesis. Lot’s of people complain about it, or accuse it of being mediocre, but the graphics were good, the controls worked once you got used to them, and it used almost all the features that DC was showing off, like internet, and the VMU. The music was great, and it really achieved that “next-gen” feel, and made N64 and PSone seem primitive in comparison.

  8. HelenBaby says:

    Shenmue, Soul Calibur and Chu Chu Rocket <3

  9. GummyGumz says:

    Jet Set Radiooooooooooooooooooo!

    I’ve played many great games, but Jet Set Radio is the only game to make me feel young again!

    The game offers great Cel-shading graphics for its time, has possibly the best soundtrack of any game ever and has amazing character design!

    I really hope Sega will make a new one sometime in the “future”. Speaking of “future”, they should release a HD remix of Jet Set Radio Future as well.

    Even if we don’t get a new game the community will always stay strong and as long as that remains my happiness for this game will remain! 😉

  10. Pablo says:

    Not sure if it “defined” the console… but in my opinion, Soul Calibur is the best Dreamcast game.

  11. Soup says:

    For me, it’s a tossup between Space Channel 5: Part 2 and Rez. Both were pretty big reasons for my getting into the Dreamcast import scene.

  12. At launch, it was CRAZY TAXI. It was quite marvelous seeing what, as far as I could tell, was a perfect adaptation of an arcade game that I had only just played for the first time a few months prior on vacation in England, and, even by late 1990s arcade standards, CRAZY TAXI looked pretty good. It was basically the point where I became convinced that the lag time between an arcade time and a home console port that looked as good as the arcades was no longer all that relevant (for 3D graphics, obviously the NEO-GEO had arcade perfect 2D graphics nearly a decade before).

    Overall, the game I associate most with the Dreamcast, though, is METROPOLIS STREET RACING, which recreated areas of cities in a mindblowing amount of detail for the time, and I had been to London many times in the few years prior to the game and it was more or less block-for-block perfect (some storefronts were missing or altered for copyright reasons, but there were enough real storefronts to satisfy me that it was an accurate recreation). While Blizzard expanded upon and surpassed MSR with the PROJECT GOTHAM RACING series, the original MSR had a certain magical atmosphere I never quite felt again with the PGR games, mainly because of the realtime day/night cycles and also the authentic radio station IDs and commercials between the Richard Jacques songs.

    I also love FERRARI F355 CHALLENGE, but the PS2 port improved on the Dreamcast version in a number of subtle ways (full replays, more sophisticated liveries on the cars, and all tracks unlocked at the beginning).

  13. ^ Oh, pardon, I meant “Bizarre Creations”, not “Blizzard”.

    Not a lot of orc, golbin, or warlock content in Metropolis Street Racers, heh.

  14. Larry says:

    The games mentioned so far are great. I want to add samba de amigo and sea-man.

  15. treh54 says:

    The PSO pic is still from the GC/XBOX version.

  16. Ryan says:

    For me, it was Sonic Adventure 1. That game keeps getting better each time I play it. It’s definitely my all time favorite game to play 🙂

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