Arguably the greatest home video gaming system ever was the Sega Dreamcast. Well ahead of its time the Dreamcast had features not wholly developed until the current generation systems. This venerable little system became the spiritual predecessor of the Microsoft Xbox and Xbox360.
Decades ago the home video game market was hitting its greatest main stream stride. Finally games were designed with story arcs and depth that allowed the adult demographic to upgrade from the Atari or Nintendo that they had loved as kids. Gaming became an acceptable entertainment option. Led in technology by Sony’s Playstation and the Sega Dreamcast the disc based media allowed for longer gaming experiences and deeper adventures.
Although the history books will remember that Atari was taken down by Nintendo and that Nintendo was, in turn, dethroned by Sony, Sega released the spectacular little Dreamcast. The Dreamcast was created around the simple idea of bringing the full size arcade game experience home. They accomplished this goal with amazing results. The graphics were smooth, the processor fast, and the peripherals several years ahead of their time.
Sega had VMUs. Visual Memory Units were simple memory cards without the simple. Several games came with mini games playable of a screen within the VMU. Portable gaming that was able to be connected to a larger console for an increased gaming experience would not be seen again until the later years of the Game Cube.
The Dreamcast also had a standard internet port. While most games were not coded for online play, some games like the Phantasy Star series could only exist at that time on the Sega Dreamcast. The controller still feels familiar in the hands of any Xbox360 owner as the layout has carried over through both of Microsoft’s systems. The Dreamcast was powered by Windows CE. Even the operating system was the first step to an Xbox. Remove the branding from all three units and line up a Sega Dreamcast, Xbox, and Xbox360 and the similarities are amazing. It is easy to see the Dreamcast as the Xbox Zero.
The game catalog was large and diverse. From amazing sports games whose framework can still be found today, through platforming games that were designed to showcase the amazing processing speed and graphics of the system there was something for everyone. Where the system really shined, however, was through its brilliant arcade ports. You could easily bring home games like Dead or Alive, Crazy Taxi, and Hydro Thunder with no loss of function or graphics. In most cases the coding for the Insert Coin script still existed. This was an arcade in your living room.
So the Dreamcast was an amazing system, but can it really be considered the Xbox Zero? If everything else still has you unconvinced, try this. There was a game for the Dreamcast called Metropolis Street Racer that allowed you to drive many real cars through many real city streets at amazing speeds. The main means of scoring and progression within this game was through either amazing technical driving or very flamboyant and daring power slides and knife edge car control. These points were given in the form of Kudos. That’s right, Kudos. When the game’s designers moved onto the second generation of the title it was presented on the Xbox with the new name of Project Gotham Racing. Even the game studios used the Dreamcast as the first step of the Xbox series.
Even though the history books will probably only remember Sega’s home consoles always playing second fiddle to the Nintendos and Sonys of the same era, the Dreamcast was an absolute marvel. So from now on when you fire up your Xbox360 and log onto Xbox Live remember that had things gone just a little differently at the store checkouts in the late 90s you could have just fired up the Dreamcast 3 instead. Although underrated the Dreamcast was so far ahead of its time and feature filled that it may very well be the greatest system of all time.