The Dreamcast at 15‏

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I’ve owned the Dreamcast since its UK launch, and you know what, I still play it today – from classics like Shenmue and Soulcalibur to Japanese imports, Radirgy and Border Down, it’s never long until I hear that familiar opening jingle that I love so much.

What is it about Sega’s last entry into the hardware market that was, and still is just so special? Is it the great games? The beautiful design of the console itself? How about the fantastic list of utterly bonkers peripherals? (maracas anyone?) I’m sure for many, the answer will be different, but the fact is, 15 years on, the Dreamcast remains a unique and unforgettable console, one whose failure at retail has proved one of the industry’s biggest losses.

It was a horrible failure at the time, and one that I believe has contributed to the homogenisation of video game development, but looking back as a group of fans, the Dreamcast’s failure is something that has brought us all together and subsequently strengthened our bonds to the console. It’s like we all share in the knowledge that we simply knew better than everyone else. While the majority got caught up in all the industry babble concerning the PS2’s much vaunted Emotion Engine, those of us in the know basked in the glory of the eclectic, often sublime collection of Dreamcast games already on store shelves.

The Dreamcast’s failure has certainly put it on a pedestal for its legion of long standing fans, but unlike the majority of failed hardware stories, the continued love for Sega’s machine isn’t linked to misplaced nostalgia for a console that ultimately wasn’t good enough. No, the Dreamcast’s continued popularity is down to its unique library of eclectic games.

Even now, many years after their original release, a lot of the Dreamcast’s better games still stand up to more recent offerings. Why? Because they’re so original. While many great games will be bettered via a sequel or competing release, many Dreamcast games weren’t afforded a sequel and subsequently, even 14 years after its original release, there’s still nothing quite like Shenmue……..and there sure as sh*t isn’t anything quite like Seaman. Basically, if we want to play these types of games, we have no option; we have to return to the Dreamcast. They might not be perfect (like the Dreamcast itself), but in an industry full of increasingly like-minded releases, the Dreamcast offers a welcome reminder of Sega and the industry at the very height of its creative and experimental powers.

So, what do you think? Do you still have love for Sega’s swansong 15 years after its original release? Where does it rate on your list of favourite consoles? Perhaps you think it’s overrated. Whatever your views, share them in the comments below.

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