Imagine the year is 1999 and we are standing on the edge of a new generation of video games; the giants of console gaming were lining their troops up on the horizon and Sega was going to unleash a pre-emptive strike. Unfortunately, it was a battle that they simply couldn’t win; but before they died they left the gaming world with one of its most treasured and adored libraries of weird and wonderful titles. With its last breath the Dreamcast spoke its final words to an audience too busy playing on their Playstation 2 to even notice. Over a decade later, people are still debating and playing the Dreamcast; here is my top 5 favourite games for Sega’s glorious little white box.
5. Metropolis Street Racer
Developed by the now defunct Bizarre Studios, this was the pre cursor to the excellent Project Gotham series on Xbox. The visuals were stunning for the time and the gameplay was sublime. Before each race you can ‘gamble’ your points on how well you think you will perform and it is this ‘risk vs reward’ arcade style gameplay that sets this title apart. It doesn’t ask you to be a simulation specialist; it just wants you to drive with style. The tracks are superb and the soundtrack is fantastic; racing games don’t come much better than this…….and they rarely have since.
4. Jet Set Radio
This was the game that kicked off all those Cel-Shaded imitators that were trying so hard to be any where near as cool as this. Sure, the controls are slippy and the difficulty can sky rocket… but when you can’t stop playing at 2am and you just need one more go at that tricky grind or insane jump, you will now why this game is so revered. Sometimes, a game about a gang of graffiti drawing, rollerblade wearing Japanese teenagers is just what you need to put a smile on your face; whether you realise it or not. Oh…and the soundtrack is legendary.
3. Sonic Adventure 2
Whereas the first game had flashes of true greatness, it was bogged down by some awkward exploration and confusing design. With the second game they polished up the visuals to a high shine and streamlined the layout to create a driven and exciting experience. You could play as either the heroes or the villains; both had their own campaigns full of challenges, lightning fast platforming and brilliantly cheesey music. This was the game that showed the world Sonic really could soar in 3D; we all got our hopes up and well, the rest is history.
2. Soul Calibur
No Dreamcast list would be complete without this; one of the best beat em ups I have ever played. Even to this day I can pop this in and play for hours and not get bored of its gorgeous design and first class controls. The graphics are top of the range for the time and everything about the way the game looks, sounds and plays is a testament to the efforts of a dedicated Namco Team at the height of its ability. The Dreamcast controller was a match made in heaven and the game was good enough to sell the system on its own. It’s hard to think the sequel could have been better than this… but that’s not for this article.
1. Shenmue 2
It can be described in many ways: a life simulation, an action game, a masterpiece of storytelling or a misguided journey into gaming over indulgence. As divisive as it can be, there is no denying the influence of Shenmue and its stunning sequel had on the industry. With graphics that could hold up to the PS2 and a story fit for a Hollywood epic, this game had all the ingredients to set the gaming world on fire. As we all know, the final days of the Dreamcast were not of bangs and crashes but of whispers and fireside whimpers. But, it doesn’t stop the millions of fans STILL petitioning Sega for the long-awaited sequel. Oh and you know how Mass Effect was all the rage of the gaming media when your save game could be carried over and decisions you made in the first game effected the second? Yeah, Shenmue did it first.
The Dreamcast may not have grown into the mighty Oaktree that it should have and stood under the canopy planted by Nintendo and Sony was never going to be easy. But as the leaves of the Playstation 2 become withered and history forgets about the Gamecube I am still sat here playing Dreamcast games that were released only a few months ago by indie developers. The smallest tree is the only one to keep its leaves; dreams, it would seem, really are evergreen.
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