The 64-bit generation, much like the generations preceding it, held a console race big enough for only two main competitors, leaving Sega in the dust as Sony and Nintendo thrived. The PlayStation was attracting a new, casual and mature crowd while the Nintendo 64 kept strong with its abundant first and third-party support. Sega’s entry, the Saturn, was mostly neglected by gamers, garnering poor sales for the majority of its lifetime. Cutting its losses and deciding to jump on the competition, Sega began work early on its next system, and the date 9/9/99 became known as the release of Sega’s monumental system, the Dreamcast. Widely agreed to have been ahead of its time, the Dreamcast featured many technological breakthroughs on top of a decently wide selection of great games. Despite it having everything going for it, though, the Dreamcast was doomed to failure, never bringing in the sales necessary to bring Sega back into the game. Sega eventually discontinued the Dreamcast in 2001 and pulled out from the hardware business, never making a console since. So consider this a tribute as I detail my five favorite games for Sega’s last stand!
5. Crazy Taxi
This one’s just plain old fun. A port of the arcade game, “Crazy Taxi” on the Dreamcast perfectly captures the feel of the original along with adding on even more to it. The premise of the game is simple: as one of four ‘hip’ taxi drivers, you go around picking people up and dropping them off to try and get the most cash in the allotted time. You get extra cash based on the kinds of crazy things you go (going off jumps, weaving through vehicles) and you get extra time based on how fast you get the customer to their destination. It’s a basic formula that makes for some very addictive gameplay, forcing you to always want to beat your high score. The music in the game is also awesome, with tracks from The Offspring and Bad Religion. And when you add in the extra modes and minigames in the console version, it’s easy to see that “Crazy Taxi” is one crazy fun ride.
4. Marvel vs. Capcom 2:
New Age of Heroes
I’ve never been the biggest fan of fighting games for multiple reasons, but “Marvel vs. Capcom 2” is the kind of fighting game that will turn anyone into a believer. The title pretty much breaks down what the game’s about – you form a team of 3 different fighters, able to choose from a wide range of characters from comic book goliath Marvel and video game mainstay Capcom, and pit them against another team of 3 fighters. Though you can only control one character at a time, you have the ability to call out your teammates to assist you with minor attacks as well as initiate super moves that utilize all of your teammates. The game’s emphasis on teamwork is great, but what makes “Marvel vs. Capcom 2” so great is its sheer variety. Chances are you’ll never play a fighting game as jam-packed with stuff as “Marvel vs. Capcom 2” is. It boasts a decent amount of unlockable artwork, character costumes, backgrounds and a total roster of 56 – yes, 56 – playable characters. “Marvel vs. Capcom 2” is simply a varied, accessible and fun fighter that’s great for comic and video game fans alike.
3. Sonic Adventure
The bread and butter of the Dreamcast, “Sonic Adventure” was the blue hedgehog’s first full-fledged fully 3D outing, and boy was it memorable. Giving you the option to play as six different characters, all with separate but converging stories, “Sonic Adventure’s” story revolved around an entity known as Chaos, the guardian of the Chaos Emeralds, and Dr. Eggman’s plot to take control of and use him for evil purposes. Sonic, having none of this, once again puts it upon himself to stop Dr. Eggman’s nefarious plans with the help of both old and new faces. The game has three main open-ended areas that all lead to the individual levels, making for a nice balance of linearity and exploration. Each character’s scenario also has different gameplay, making each experience vastly different. Apart from the game’s main story is the Chao Garden, a side game of sorts that equates to a new-age Tamagotchi. In other words, it’s a total time sink. For what you get, “Sonic Adventure” is a great game with great value.
2. Phantasy Star Online
As I mentioned earlier, the Dreamcast was known for being ahead of its time, and “Phantasy Star Online” serves as exhibit A. The Dreamcast was the first ever system to have a modem adapter built in, making it possible to go online from the get-go and setting the industry standard for online play. Perhaps the best use of this feature, “Phantasy Star Online” was an action RPG that mainly focused on online play, a foreign concept for console gaming at the time. With dozens of online lobbies, players were able to go online, talk to people, trade items, and organize groups of at most four people to tackle quests created by Sega on a periodical basis. These quests revolve around the game’s four main areas, and they often require completing a multitude of different objectives. Players are given a decent amount of choice in how they can play through the types of characters they choose to be, which are divided into three main groups – Forces (magic users), Hunters (close-combat specialists), and Rangers (gun users), with four specific character types in each group. The personalization doesn’t stop there, but it’s the only thing substantial enough to mention. “Phantasy Star Online’s” multiple character types, addicting gameplay, and – most importantly – its flawless online play make it a truly unique experience that showcases the high points of the Dreamcast.
1. Skies of Arcadia
Two words: air pirates. I know, I know – how can you go wrong? Simply put, you can’t. “Skies of Arcadia” is an enchanting RPG that chronicles the life of Vyse, the son of the fearless leader of a group of air pirates called the Blue Rogues. In this world, a cataclysmic disaster caused the ground to be unlivable, forcing the world’s inhabitants to take residence on islands that float up in the sky, using flying ships to get around. After saving a mysterious girl during a routine raid, Vyse finds himself caught in the middle of an organized plot by the world’s reigning empire to resurrect ancient weapons with immense capabilities of destruction. The game features the standard-fare random battles you’d expect in an RPG, but the game mixes things up every once in a while with a ship-to-ship battle, a turn-based test of meddle that requires foresight and strategy. The game offers another change of pace later on when you have the ability to build a crew of your own, recruiting the people you have encountered throughout your journeys. “Skies of Arcadia” has a hearty main story that always keeps you interested, detailed characters with multiple sides to them and a hefty amount of side quests that flesh out the world and the people within it. “Skies of Arcadia” is a superb RPG with a lot to offer, from its standard RPG traits to its own quirky additions to the genre.
That about wraps things up for the Dreamcast. Though Sega hasn’t made a system since, rumors have started to pop up recently that the company may be making a return to the hardware business in some form or another, so we must wait and see what the future holds.
With one issue left to go for this year, it’s time for something a little special. Be sure to catch the final issue next week as we take a step back and look at the originator of Nintendo’s handheld monopoly, the Game Boy!