This article is about the Dreamcast games rather than a document about the history of the console. In my opinion the Dreamcast is still not dead. A history document will come when the time is right. For right now though, the games are still readily available at excellent prices as well as the machine and with the news that Sega has kept one Dreamcast manufacturing plant open (in Hong Kong) its possible that our beloved white box may be with us for just that little bit longer.
It was 1998 when Sega unveiled the Dreamcast to the Japanese market almost 8 months before Sony followed suit with it's Playstation 2. It had the specs that blew away anything that was around at the time. It was not largely known that Sega's failed Saturn console was actually a little more technically superior to the Playstation but the Dreamcast was light years ahead of both the Playstation and the Nintendo 64.
Despite the problems with the marketing and popularity of the machine there is no doubt
that the Dreamcast has the most diverse library of games available anywhere. The
originality of the games is what initially gave the machine it's reputation. Additionally the
ratio of crap games to good games is also very low meaning that most games for the
machine are top quality.
There are very few games for the machine which do not sport excellent graphics. The standard operating resolution of the Dreamcast is 640x480 ( compared to the 640 x 280 on the PS2 ) resulting in highly detailed polygons and excellent colours with most games running at a super smooth 60 frames a second. Almost all games support the 60Hz PAL setting. This basically means no borders on your TV screen and playability at the same rate as NTSC only you don't have to have a TV that does NTSC or a foreign Dreamcast to enjoy the full screen, full speed experience. If you have a really old TV then there may be some colour problems.
From the experience with the Saturn it was important to make developing for the Dreamcast easy. One primary goal with Dreamcast was to be able to get games and applications off the ground very quickly. Sega worked with Microsoft to create a customised version of it's Windows CE operating system for the console. With this the graphics and sound hardware can be accessed through the set of DirectX APIs ( for non PC people that is the same way as writing modern PC games) allowing developers to port projects more speedily. The Windows CE operating system is supplied with games and generally is used for Internet gameplay.
Sega also created their own set of APIs for programming games. Sega were known for having crap APIs with the Saturn and this was rectified. Programming for the Dreamcast is relatively easier to code for than other consoles. Developers have commented that games can be produced with less code and complication on the Dreamcast compared to the PS2.
Additionally the Dreamcast shares the same chipset with the original Naomi arcade board meaning that virtually any Naomi arcade game could be converted relatively quickly. Some examples are Soul Calibur, Sega Rally 2, Crazy Taxi, Sega Bass Fighting and The House of the Dead 2 to name but a few are Naomi arcade games ported to Dreamcast virtually arcade perfect.
The Dreamcast also has mega 2D capabilities ( basically sprites and scaling ) something Sega thought very important. When the Saturn failed in the mainstream it continued as a hardcore machine by producing the best 2D games ever. It was well known that the Saturn wiped the floor with the Playstation ( it's direct competitor ) in the 2D department.
Capcom who are known for making mostly beat em ups have supported the Dreamcast every step of the way. Capcom have released many 2D beat em up such as Marvel Vs Capcom, Street Fighter 3: Third Strike and the awesome Capcom Vs SNK shows that the Dreamcast is an excellent platform for 2D. Super speed sprite fests may not be what 128-BIT is about yet with the amount of memory the Dreamcast has there is virtually no loading from GD-ROMs and more game playing.
Capcom also went into the third dimension with titles like Power Stone. Players are pitched against each other in a room filled with objects all at you disposal as weapons. 3 Gems randomly appear on the screen which you or your opponent have to collect. Should your opponent collect one then a good beating will make him or her release them. Collect 3 gems and you turn into your super self.
Nintendo had redefined the platform genre of games with it's mega hyped Mario 64 game. Before that Mario had only existed in 2D form and made the move to 3D and was a hit. Sonic was to appear in 3D glory making a perfect transition with speed and playability all perfectly intact. Although Sonic Adventure took a slightly more role playing approach meaning that there were tasks to accomplish by walking round play fields looking for the next area of the game to play. When you find those levels all the elements that made Sonic excellent are all there. Sonic Adventure 2 was yet Sonic but slightly different. The Role Playing element was replaced with the need to play as the other characters to actually complete the game yet still this makes the pinnacle of the "Sonic in 3D" experience.
Another classic 16-BIT Mega Drive title successfully brought up to date was Ecco the Dolphin. Recreated in a fully immerse underwater environment. Take on another quest to save the planet
First person shooters also have a home on Dreamcast. Quake 3 Arena has been ported and has the experience the Dreamcast was designed for. Online play. The four player split screen is good enough but online gaming is something else. It's worth pointing out that the Playstation 2 version of Quake 3, infact, any Playstation 2 game at the time of writing DOES NOT have online gameplay. The machine does not have a modem yet. It's not just Quake 3 which has online gaming. Phantasy Star Online is an RPG where all of the action takes place online.
Chu Chu Rocket is again another game which features online gaming. You must guide your mice to the rocket whilst evading the cats which litter the checkerboard. Not really that fun but some people like it enough to match each other over the Internet. This title was supplied to you free of charge if you were a Dream Arena member which is also free.
Where the Dreamcast really shines is the games which have the most originality to them. On what other consoles can you go fishing or shake your maracas? Jet Set Radio is a perfect example sporting originality in the gameplay and graphical design. You roam the streets of Tokyo on your roller blades spray painting targets before the cops get you. Add to this a bumping soundtrack and you have the makings of a classic.
Your fishing rod is utilised with Sega Bass Fishing a Sega Marine Fishing. The original coin-op used a fighting rod to sport your angling technique a realistically as possible ( for a game anyway) and because one of the main points of Dreamcast is to bring arcade to the home the fishing rod was brought with it.
Samba de Amigo came with a set of maracas. Shake your instruments to the beat of the music. Totally original and not seen anywhere else.
There are loads of games which I have not mentioned. Dreamcast has loads of excellent titles that each can be a classic on their own. It also has a very active amateur or "homebrew" scene with dozens of emulation projects ongoing. Check out the emulation page for more. It is unfortunate that so many top notch titles did not reach the masses but now with Sega being third party and making games for everyone many of the titles are being re-released on other platforms. Hopefully everybody will know why Sega make the best games - at last!