On September 9th, 1999, Sega released what would become its last console in North America. While the trials and tribulations of the Dreamcast are well documented at this point, it’s interesting to see how the humble system changed perspectives in the gaming industry over the years that followed.
It’s hard to understate how big Sega was in the early ’90s – they were a genuine competitor to Nintendo, putting up a good fight against the rival company across the world. Yet it’s obvious the publisher was slow to adapt its home console division once 3D graphics became all the rage, culminating in a colossal underestimation of Sony as it entered the arena with its PlayStation system. The company’s downfall no doubt taught other companies not to become complacent when they were at the top.
On a more positive note, the Dreamcast truly pushed the boat out and changed expectations of what a home system could do. Consider the launch game SoulCalibur, a fighter that out-performs its arcade counterpart and still holds up to this day.
Then there’s the iconic Shenmue, which launched in Japan a few months after the system. While rough around the edges by today’s standards, Ryo Hazuki’s intricate home town and fully voiced adventure had to be seen to be believed. Compared to contemporaries like Resident Evil 3 and Harvest Moon 64, it’s clear the Dreamcast was a significant leap forward, even if it’d be overtaken not much later by the PS2.
Even Sega’s strange design ethos continues to resonate. The portable VMU that slotted into controllers was essentially a predecessor to the Wii U Gamepad, while shades of avant garde titles like Space Channel 5, Seaman and Typing of the Dead can be seen reflected in plenty of modern indie hits.
It’s also worth commending the company for keeping bizarrely high spirits during the console’s decline. Not only did we get the “What’s Shenmue?” demo disc which ends with a Sega exec surrounded by unsold units looking to Shenmue for hope, but also the unlocalized Segagaga, a JRPG where you band together various Sega characters to stop a fictitious manufacturer from taking over the console market.
Sadly much of the Dreamcast library is still relegated to the system, with only a scant few re-releases on newer consoles and PCs. Here’s hoping Sega makes a more concerted effort to preserve its weird and wonderful library in the years to come.
So here’s to another 18 years of fond remembrance for Sega’s last hurrah!Leave a Comment