Are you psyched for Shenmue 3? Did you contribute to the kickstarter? Do you desperately want to look for some sailors? Then you must have played the original Shenmue back in the day, right? RIGHT!? No? YOU FAKER! YOU LIAR! YOU…are not alone. Shenmue was a Sega Dreamcast exclusive and not many people got a Dreamcast back in the day. Most people waited for the PlayStation 2, leaving the poor Dreamcast out in the cold. But NO MORE! We need to right a wrong that’s been left unchanged for too long! YOU, my friend, NEED TO BUY A DREAMCAST! And I’m going to help you. So pull up a seat, maybe something to drink and eat (maybe…tacos), and take notes as I let you know everything you need to know before you buy a Sega Dreamcast.
There were a lot of different Dreamcast designs released despite its 2-3 year life span. However, most of them are Japan exclusives, such as the gold, and Hello Kitty consoles. In America, aside from the normal white console, the only other design that is easily available is the Sega Sports black console. It’s not as common as the white but it’s not nearly as rare as other American designs, such as the transparent red, and Jet Set Radio consoles. For starting out, I would pick up a white one unless you really like how the black Sega Sports console looks. None of the special designs are worth your time until you’ve become a super Dreamcast fan. Just be mindful that some of the white consoles have deteriorated and now have a yellowish hue to them. Even console get old!
The console itself plays GD-ROM discs and as such has a laser disc reader. Make sure that the console you buy has a properly working disc reader. The Dreamcast also has an internal power supply so make sure that’s working fine as well since you can’t replace the power supply by simply buying a new power cord like with consoles with external power supplies. Typically however, Dreamcast consoles tend to be able to take a beating and still work fine. One thing to mention is that when the Dreamcast is playing a game, it tends to make a lot of noise as it loads data from the disc. This is normal even though sometimes it sounds very loud.
The Dreamcast displays in 480i and 480p, meaning modern televisions should be able to display the picture well without a converter, and is capable of outputting S-video. So if you have the necessary inputs in your TV, try to get a S-video cable. The Dreamcast can also output VGA, a rarity in the console market, but cables tend to be more pricey. So I would hold off until you know you like your Dreamcast. Finally, the Dreamcast has a built in dial-up modem for online play. A broadband adapter with an ethernet port does exist but it’s in high demand and can be very expensive. In addition, the official servers have been shut down for over a decade and only fan servers for games like Phantasy Star Online can be accessed now. So I wouldn’t look into online play starting off.
The standard controller was released in various colors. In addition to the standard white and black color that comes with the Sega Sports console, there were also blue, green, red, yellow and grey. All of these extra colors used transparent plastic so you can see the guts of the controller. Once again, Japan got even more designs such as Wood, Leopard print, Camouflage, Marble, and more. The console supports four controllers out of the box so I would suggest getting four different colors if you think your friend will want to play Dreamcast with you. None of the normal American colors cost that much more than a regular controller. Japanese controllers can cost a bit more but they aren’t that much either and they will work on an American console.
The Dreamcast doesn’t have an internal hard drive so you’ll need to get the system’s special memory card known as the Visual Memory Unit, or VMU. The memory card actually has a screen that displays special graphics during gameplay. It also contains a watch battery inside so you can managed saves on the go, play mini games on the VMU like a mobile game, and easily replace the battery if it dies. You’re going to want several of these, unfortunately, as these do not hold a lot of data. Some games will only take a few blocks of space but others like NBA 2k will take up an entire VMU! These are also offered in different colors, like the controllers. So I would recommend getting different colors so help you keep them organized. Sega also released a Jump Pack, which allows force feedback from certain video games. This is why the controllers have two slots for accessories.
There are various third party accessories, few of which are very good. Some, like the Astropad controller by Performance, are way too big and bulky to be comfortable and you are typically better off avoiding these. Some like the Mad Catz Dream Pad are arguably better than the original controller for some games, such as fighting games, due to the two extra face buttons that serve as alternatives to the triggers. However, I would test these type of controllers out as it’s mostly just personal preference. Other accessories include racing wheels, arcade sticks, a keyboard, a fishing controller for Sega Bass Fishing, and a microphone for the game Seaman. These controllers are only if you plan to play a lot of a certain genre on Dreamcast and you can decide that as I get to the games section.
Here are the games that I would consider required titles to own for the Sega Dreamcast. The only reason to not get these games is if you just don’t like the genre of the game in general.
The first 3D Sonic game, this platformer is the definitive title in the genre on the Dreamcast. Six playable characters, awesome music, varied gameplay, and a cool creature raising side game feature that can be continued on the VMU – something the HD release doesn’t have – makes this a must buy. Personally, this is my favorite 3D Sonic game.
This insane action driving game has you picking up fares and driving them to their destination as quickly as possible BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY! So drive off the road, drift around corners, do whatever you need to in order to make your customer happy. Oh, and the soundtrack is awesome, and not the same on the recent HD re-release.
Probably the perfect 3D fighting game. SoulCalibur is such a polished game that runs extremely smooth, plays with polygonal perfect precision, and is very deep. Even today, the game looks and plays as great as it ever did and has some features missing from the Xbox 360 port.
The arguably premiere rhythm game on the Dreamcast, Space Channel 5 has you dancing and shooting via timed button presses while rescuing hostages from aliens and reporting the events to a television audience. Weird, quirky, and filled with cheesy charm, it’s a necessity for any Dreamcast library.
The true sequel to Resident Evil 2, Code Veronica progressed the story of Resident Evil outside Raccoon City and tweaked the gameplay to be more user friendly while maintaining the classic Resi style. The last great classic Resident Evil game before the franchise’s reinvention with Resident Evil 4.
A gothic-inspired action adventure title with a vastly intriguing world and patiently paced gameplay. You play as Raziel, a vampire turned wraith, and steal souls from his former brethren. The Dreamcast version of the game is the best version, even topping the PC version.
Typically the game of choice for hardcore fighting game fans, this is one of MANY amazing 2D fighting games on the Dreamcast. A more technical fighter than other games in the franchise, 3rd Strike has almost immeasurable depth and a varied cast of fighters.
Arguably the best Tony Hawk game in the franchise, this is arguably the best version of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2. Memorable levels, tight controls, and improved loading and graphics from the original PS1 version, this game is just insanely fun and should be in every gamer’s library.
Known as Jet Set Radio in other territories, this alternative sports / objective based action hybrid has you inline skating around, tagging Tokyo-to and avoiding cops. The unique score based gameplay and impressive cel-shaded graphical style make this one of the more prolific releases on the Dreamcast.
The Dreamcast library doesn’t have a lot of great RPGs but they do have a few great ones. Skies of Arcadia is arguably the best on the console and is definitely the most memorable. You play as Vyse, a sky pirate, and the game features numerous dungeons as well as ship battles.
Another 2D fighter; there’s just too many great ones on the console to not include at least two. A three on three fighter with a huge roster to choose from, Marvel vs. Capcom 2 is a chaotic fighter that is a fun even when you don’t know what you’re doing.
Even though the online functionality is not as easy as it used to be to access, there’s still a lot of content in this action-MMORPG’s single player campaign. In fact, I played this game mostly offline and loved it just the same. Therefore, I can still recommend this.
Other Great Games
Here’s some other games you should consider that while not as essential as the previous 12 need to be in your Dreamcast library eventually.
Shenmue: A wide open sandbox game with a lot of freedom that might not be for everyone.
NBA 2k1: The best sports game on the Dreamcast thanks to tight gameplay and the addicting Association mode.
Dead or Alive 2: A 3D fighter with frantic gameplay, beautiful visuals, and tag modes.
Rayman 2: The best 3D platformer on the console not featuring a blue anthropomorphic hedgehog.
Power Stone: 3D Smash Bros style arena fighter with fast gameplay. Best with multiplayer.
Grandia II: A traditional JRPG with a unique battle system that allows for cancelling of opponent’s moves.
Crazy Taxi 2: Sequel to the original that adds a new city, a new jump mechanic, but more of the same.
Street Fighter Alpha 3: A 2D fighter with a huge roster and a lot of depth while still being accessible.
House of the Dead 2: An on-rails shooting game with shlocky voice acting and gory fun. Doesn’t require a light gun but is notably better with one (or two).
Samba de Amigo: Rhythm game that requires maracas controller. Fun predecessor to games like Guitar Hero.
Fatal Fury: Mark of the Wolves: Also called Garou: Mark of the Wolves, a traditional 2D fighter with solid gameplay.
Sonic Adventure 2: More of the same but with two campaigns with multiple playable characters within.
And there you have it! All you need to know when buying a Sega Dreamcast. I would’ve listed bad games you need to avoid but there aren’t any that I’m familiar with. Don’t get me wrong; there are bad games on the console but I don’t personally have knowledge of them so I can’t say for sure that they are bad. Also, I’ll probably do another buyer’s guide in the future for more obscure games on the Dreamcast as there’s plenty of those too.
Now you should be able to go into Shenmue III with better knowledge of the series whenever it comes out. Plus you have a kickass console that more people should own! In fact, you could even consider yourself a hipster. Hell, while you’re buying a Dreamcast, get yourself a plaid shirt, wear scarfs even if it’s hot outside, and always carry a coffee cup. You’re above the mainstream because the underground is better. There’s less sun down there, perfect for gaming. Peace and Love, gamers and players! Colorwind out.