Best Graphics on The Dreamcast – Maximize Your Visual Experience

 If you ask most gamers to list off the current-generation consoles (soon to be last-gen), the will probably recite “PS2, XBox, and Gamecube”, but conveniently neglect the Sega Dreamcast. As many of you know, the Dreamcast was way ahead of its time ” (literally fifteen months before the PlayStation 2 and three years
before GameCube or Xbox) and, in some cases, had the graphical capabilities to hold its own in a console war if you forget about the marketing disadvantage.

For quite a while, the Dreamcast had some of the best console graphics to be found. It wasn’t until later in the PS2’s lifecycle that it was even able to touch the best of the Dreamcast’s graphics qualities. Unlike most consoles, it did not take very long for the Dreamcast developers to virtually max out its capabilities. Some of the best graphical games for the Dreamcast were actually available at launch and many others weren’t far behind.

There are a lot of visually impressive titles for the Dreamcast, but for now I’m only going to talk about some of my personal favorites. The list is a mix of those that are technically superior, while others are chosen for more stylistic reasons.

 Jet Grind Radio
JGR (also known as Jet Set Radio outside of the US) was the primary pioneer of the cell-shading graphical technique. Cell shading takes normal 3D models and puts an additional graphical layer on top to make it look like anime or a cartoon — which makes a huge difference in the atmosphere. While a small handful of games have made use of this technique later on, Jet Grind Radio was perhaps the best at combining the technique with smooth animation and a unique style that actually draws you into the cartoon-like environment.
Jet Grind Radio Screenshots

Soul Calibur
Namco’s 3D weapons-based fighter was incredibly detailed and gorgeous, but when you consider the game was availible for the Dreamcast at launch, its image quality is all the more impressive. The 3D backgrounds are stunningly rendered with realistic lighting that affects the characters and their shadows. The models are superbly animated using realistic motion-captured fighting moves. Back in 1999, you had to wonder if screenshots were pre-rendered video of if it was actually running off the game engine. Soul Calibur remains as one of the best reasons to own a Dreamcast, and in some respects has yet to be bested by its sequels.
Soul Calibur Screenshots

Shenmue & Shenmue II
Shenmue was one of the most hyped games for the Dreamcast. As the pet project of legendary developer, Yu Suzuki, Shenmue started as a Sega Saturn project, but was pushed out onto the Dreamcast in order to fullfil Suzuki’s dreams of a detailed and interactive environments. Shenmue’s game engine was incredible — Each building, sidewalk, table, chair, crate, and every other environmental nuance in the city has been rendered and calculated with an insane amount of detail. Elements such as the color and intensity of the lighting is also carefully reproduced for each environment. It is easy to either love or hate the game itself, but there is no denying that Shenume is a beautiful piece of work.
Shenmue Screenshots
Shenmue II Screenshots

 Space Channel 5
While some other rhythm games like PaRappa The Rapper attracted more attention, Space Channel 5 topped the charts with Dreamcast owners. Both the graphics and the music had a phenomenal retro-futurist (reminds me of a hip Jetson’s atmosphere) feel to them and kept Space Channel 5 from becoming just “another” simon-says-type game. The polygons won’t blow you away, but the colors and animation are engaging and Ulala will quickly have you under her spell.
Space Channel 5 Screenshots
Space Channel 5 Part 2 Screenshots

Resident Evil Code: Veronica
Code Veronica has the most impressive graphics in any Resident Evil game prior to the fresh Gamecube installments. In order to push the Dreamcast to its limit, Capcom switched from pre-rendered environments to a three-dimensional nightmare. Code Veronica uses the Dreamcast’s power to move seamlessly throughout the game without sacrificing any of the series’ marquee backgrounds. The character models are nearly as detailed as Soul Calibur’s as they almost look pre-rendered.
Resident Evil Code: Veronica Screenshots

Ecco the Dolphin: Defender of the Future
Because of the breath-taking environments, I think of Ecco as an “ocean simulator” more than I think of it as a game. The geometry and texturing of Ecco’s aquatic world are near perfection, creating a stunning and believable environment — from the lush scenery to an exotic assortment of underwater creatures. It’s a shame that I find the gameplay a bit frustrating (I’m not much for puzzle-solving) as I would love to explore the underwater world in more detail.
Ecco The Dolphin Screenshots

 Rez
If you love lots of colorful shapes floating around in a psychedelic environment, then you must play Rez. Rez takes the gameplay from traditional on-rails shooters and adds an audio and visual experience that is rarely found on consoles. The overall graphic design in the game is extremely abstract, but it is a welcome distraction from the constant “Oh, look at me and my photo realism” that just about every other developer is obsessed with.
Rez Screenshots

2K2 Sports
While the the Dreamcast sports series might not be as graphically impressive as those found on the XBox 360, Sega’s sporting titles blew away any of its previous competition. For the first time on a console, a game of football actually could be mistaken for a real-life game at a quick glance. If you don’t care about the outdated player rosters (or, for instance, you like having Barry Sanders back on the Lions) you may want to pick up one of the 2K games for a couple dollars.
NFL 2K2 Screenshots
NBA 2K2 Screenshots
World Series Baseball 2K2 Screenshots
NHL 2K2 Screenshots
Tennis 2K2 Screenshots

Rayman 2
The first thing you’ll notice is that Rayman 2 is an absolutely beautiful game. It’s not that the polygon counts are insanely high or that the animation is breath-taking. What makes Rayman 2 so wonderful to look at are the textures, the glass-smooth frame rate, and the distinctive level design. Colors are rich and full, and range all over the spectrum. The experience as a whole would make you think that Ubisoft hired Tim Burton as a consultant.
Rayman 2 Screenshots

 Guilty Gear X
While there are a number of beautiful 2D fighters on the Dreamcast, Guilty Gear X walks away with the prize of the best choice if you are playing with a VGA connection. Instead of using pixilated sprites that are remenicent of the mid 1990’s, Sammy created high-resolution sprites that even when played on a HDTV or VGA display looks like a hand-drawn anime. Guilty Gear also employs the zoom effect made famous by SNK games like Samurai Shodown. The incredibly unique character designs complete the already impressive package that leaves you with a fighting game that must be experienced.
Guilty Gear X Screenshots

Sonic Adventure & Sonic Adventure 2
The original Sonic Adventure is one of the only games that has wowed me graphically. In the days when the N64 was the best there was, Sonic Adventure on the pre-release demo Dreamcasts looked like something gamers only dreamed about. While the original Sonic Adventure was eventually bested by later Dreamcast releases, Sonic Adventure 2 increased the eye candy (and focused more on action gameplay). Sonic Team also pulled off some incredible accomplishments with Sonic Adventure 2 as it featured gorgeous lighting effects, featured ultra-high resolution textures, and ran at a constant 60 frames per second.
Sonic Adventure Screenshots
Sonic Adventure 2 Screenshots

 Ikaruga
Hyped as the sequel to the Saturn favorite Radiant Silvergun, Ikaruga did not disappoint with its mind-bending gameplay nor could the slick visuals be ignored. While Ikaruga may not have all the technical 3D accomplishments that other games on this list may boast, the 2D shooter utilized the strengths of the Dreamcast and NAOMI (arcade version) hardware to combine 2D and 3D elements to create a very polished graphical experience. It keeps the old-school feel of the shooter genre while keeping newer gamers drooling over the eye-candy.
Ikaruga Screenshots

The Dreamcast’s Video Capabilities
The Dreamcast is also able to output true 640×480 VGA (480p60 EDTV) (according to Wikipedia), which was way ahead of its time. The system, when combined with the VGA adapter cable, switched to the mode for the high-res, non-interlaced picture. However, the feature was underused by the public despite the potential for improved video quality with the use of a PC monitor or HDTV set. This was likely due to lack of knowledge on the subject.

 I have obviously used my Dreamcast with a standard VGA monitor a bit, but I’m thinking about getting a VGA-to-Component Cable (see our discussion here) to make it easier to use on my new HDTV (which doesn’t have native VGA input). Even with all that it will be cheaper than picking up a rare Component cable for my Gamecube :)

It would be great if there was some easy way of capturing crystal clear screenshots of Dreamcast games. The only thing I could think of is using a Dreamcast emulator, but I don’t think that would return perfect shots. Anyway, if you have any ideas or experience with something like this, please let me know!

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30 Comments

  1. Mozgus says:

    There are ways of getting pure 480p screenshots from your dreamcast. One is a capture card that supports HDTV input, but that is assuming you convert your dreamcast to component.

    And I did eventually find capture cards with VGA inputs but…man you don’t want those. Like $1500 and up. I don’t know why.

    Best reasonable method is to just capture using the best possible quality S-Video card you can, using a damn fine capture card with onboard filters. Then read up on the various deinterlacing methods, so you can best decide which method works best on which game, be it a 60 unique FIELDS per second title, or a 30 unique FRAMES per second title.

    Oh also, you forgot Tennis 2K2. It’s part of the 2k2 sports series. I own all 5 games myself. They make great graphical benchmarks, for when someone comes over and tells me Dreamcast is a weak system.

    Another fantastic looking game you need to try is Draconus. It’s great in motion

    http://www.gamerankings.com/htmlpages2/197145.asp

  2. I agree with Ecco, the game looks stunning but isn’t that fun to play, thanks to the disorientating controls. That, and you get lost all too easy.

    And yes, as Mozgus already said, Virtua Tennis 2/Tennis 2K2 was also one of the Dreamcast’s graphical highlights.

  3. gnome says:

    Another fine post, and another person who just noticed the Dreamcast is 100% current-gen.

    Great Eye-Candy too…

  4. kevinski says:

    My only real gripe with VGA is that it makes cel-shaded games look like complete crap in comparison to how they’d look on standard television connections. The borders on objects just appear far too blocky to ignore.

    Examples:

    – Jet Grind Radio
    – Looney Tunes Space Race
    – Sonic Shuffle

    Otherwise, I love VGA on my Dreamcast. :)

  5. racketboy says:

    I didn’t notice that much of a problem with Jet Grind Radio. It was a tad rough around the edges, but not bad. The title graphic was the main thing that seemed jaggy IIRC.

  6. jemsic says:

    Thanks racketboy, I love articles like this.

    I can’t get enough of my Dreamcast thanks to VGA!

    I agree, Tennis 2k2 is awesome.

  7. Tahir says:

    Great post Racketboy and another reason for people to dig up a dreamcast. I love the graphics on JGR

  8. alonzobots says:

    Honestly, everybody is saying how great the graphics are on the dreamcast, so I am going to be devil’s advocate, when you compare DC resident evil codename veronica to Gamecube resident evil, its just astounding how much better the graphics capabilities are on the gamecube. Its like the gamecube is a generation ahead of the dreamcast. Compare Codename veronica to Resident evil 0.
    I love the dreamcast and play it more than official xbox games, but man, what were they smokin when they released a system that had no disk checks for piracy, no dvd, and graphics that werent that amazing. Love the dreamcast because it had lots of innovative games that are still fun to play, not because its the ultimate polygon pushing machine. The worst thing to be called in the game industry is “critics darling,” since almost all games that get that title fail miserably in the market, but the the dreamcast is exactly that, it was a true hardcore gamer system.

  9. racketboy says:

    But better graphics should be expected of the Gamecube. Like I said in the main post, the Dreamcast was 3 YEARS ahead of the Gamecube. A lot can happen in 3 years.

  10. Sega made the GD-rom system hoping that it would prevent piracy taht went belly up because it could also run CD-Rs.

    Graphics that werent that amazing? The PS2 didn’t match the Dreamcast graphics until well over a year into being out, by then of which the DC was almost 3 years old. The main problem was quite a few developers wern’t ready for 128-bit yet, so they just ported PSone titles. Overwise, look at games like Dead or Alive 2 for prooth that the DC could easily match the rest of them.

    As for DVD, it wasn’t big enough for them to bother with yet. In Japan, the DVD format only took off because the PS2 was the cheapest DVD player on the market there. The Dreamcast with DVD in 1998 would of cost far too much to make.

  11. Super Timsy says:

    Actually, you can get the GC cables from nintendo…though not on the online store, if you call the online store’s 800 #, ask for them and they are $30-$40 – couldn’t find his email to let Racketboy know.

  12. Jay says:

    The previous commenter hit it on the head with regard to Sega’s choice of optical drive with the Dreamcast. I can remember a roommate of mine preparing to get the Dreamcast on 9/9/99. Even at that time, DVD players were expensive to buy as standalone pieces for your entertainment center. That was a big debate in our little geek circle.

    I remember myself, my little brother and a bunch of close friends huddled around a 19″ TV on Christmas Day 1999. We were playing NFL 2K, and our jaws just hung open. I enjoyed kicking back and watching others play because it felt like watching an actual broadcast game.

    I hesitated a long while before I bought anything beyond the DC. I held out until late 03/early 04 and bought an XBox. I still play both of them equally. The 2K2 Sports series on the DC has a playability and fun all of their own. I keep up with the current sports titles on XBox, but there hasn’t been a huge improvement on graphics and gameplay since the DC days. There’s a lot more filler (story mode? wtf!), but that’s it.

    G4 did an awesome piece on the rise and fall of the Dreamcast, and it’s over at Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XGf2-fK1B_w&search=dreamcast

    Oh, and I can’t leave out mention of the 100-match round-robin Soul Calibur tournaments. Runners-up to time blown on the DC go to Twinkle Star Sprites, Virtua Tennis 2K2, Marvel vs. Capcom 2 and Rez.

    Racketboy, I liked what you said a while back about how talking about games is sometimes even more fun than playing them. Part of the Dreamcast’s appeal to me is that it was big amongst a bunch of us just before we were all finishing college. We’re all scattered, and many of us don’t have as much time to play online. Fortunately, we’re getting it back together with a few consoles and XLinkKai. So, for me, it represents a more carefree period of time, in some regards.

  13. Just to add another to the list: Under Defeat has some of the most astonishing graphics the console has ever pulled off. The smoke and explosions are very real looking for a scrolling shooter.

  14. dadako says:

    no DOA2?
    that was very slick

  15. I keep coming back and reading this article again and again!
    Excellent stuff!

  16. George says:

    Here are some other titles worthy of mentioning for beautiful graphics….(AeroWings, Star Wars ep.1 Racer, Tokyo Extreme Racer, Ultimate Fighting Championship, Ready 2 Rumble Boxing round 2,) Just to name a few….And one of the best Survival Horror Games of it’s time (D2)….Graphically it was no Resident Evil, but way more fun!!

  17. Falconic says:

    Sweet, it’s great to know that I’m not the only one^^.

    My friend actually did some work on modding his DC… It can actually play almost any game from PS2, Xbox/Xbox 360, and Wii. It also has DVD. All just by getting the proper reader heads and a translator. It actually reads the games faster than the proper consoles…

    On another note, does anyone here know of any non-Ebay place I could buy a motherboard for the DC?

  18. Christopher Charman says:

    “…My friend actually did some work on modding his DC… It can actually play almost any game from PS2, Xbox/Xbox 360, and Wii. It also has DVD.”

    Don’t mean to sound rude Falconic but would you happen to be telling porkies by any chance? Logically speaking there is absolutely no way a Dreamcast, modded or no, could run games for the aforementioned systems!!!

  19. Richard says:

    well if you made a dvd add-on to connect to the expansion port with a hard drive in it. And if you were a programming GOD you could automatically downsample the graphics and shit on the fly it could be possible.

    Or just yank out the main board and make one with 2 quad core pentium 4’s,4 gigs ram,2 tb harddrive,and a 1 gig ram Nvidea or ATI graphics card. fit it in there and make good emulators for the games it could work………….

  20. Mikey1984 says:

    “Or just yank out the main board and make one with 2 quad core pentium 4’s,4 gigs ram,2 tb harddrive,and a 1 gig ram Nvidea or ATI graphics card. fit it in there and make good emulators for the games it could work………”

    I think thats more the route theoretically he could have taken if such a feat is even possible.

    I love this Article I am in the process of buying these games and trying them out on the VGA.

  21. ben says:

    I am surprised that no one mentioned Head Hunter. I thought that that game was average, but played on a VGA adapter I think it had the best graphics on the DC.

  22. weasels says:

    its extremely unfortunate how the dreamcast was completely forgotten about because of the ps2. i mean the ps2 is good but the dreamcast was so much more! there was a solid stream of good games, amazing graphics, and alot of other things that i really dont feel like mentioning. when ever i play my DC or i think about it i cry on the inside…….

  23. wiiboy101 says:

    DSi = dreamcast with ds abillitys in ur hand dsi is a tile rendewring machine its confirmed more effecent than DS it has 2x clockspeeds and 16mb ram DSi only carts confirmed

    now imagine dsi 3d games great controls and info screen plus touch screen controls

    with games looking as good as dreamcasts quake 3 or unreal tourny or shenmu jet set radio dsi supports cell shading in hardware

    fuk psp long loadng out dated controls no touch screen etc

    theres a lot of dramcast titles that would benefit from DSi re-makes

    bring it on

  24. Logan says:

    ^ Dude, what are you talking about?

  25. SwankeyMonkey says:

    How has the Alone in the Dark: The New Nightmare game get passed over for graphics write up? Yes, I recognize all the other mentioned games for their graphical abilities, and I understand that AITD was a bit of a late sleeper. But, oh my. That game was sure purdy, with the flashlight lighting and shadow effects on the mock rendered 3D backgrounds. And VGA makes everything ten fold better. So this game had me in awe. Sure it was just another RE clone, but it was a joy to watch and know how far ahead your Dreamcast was to your zombie buddies’ PS2s.

  26. ZOMGWarrior says:

    DC really SHUCKS OMG!!!!
    A console without one dbz game doesnt deserve my respect.
    Shenmue has great cutscenes, but ingame models are terribly downgraded :BLOCKY CHAR MODELS even for 2001 standards!!

  27. ZOMGWARRIORISANIDIOT says:

    @ZOMGWarrior Get your DBZ fanboy ass out of this forum. How old we’re you in 2001 anyways? 1? Maybe 3? I just beat the DC version of Shenmue 2 (long overdue) and I can confidently say that it still surpasses most games today. The games environments, level of detail, sense of exploration, story, and musical score are still unmatched. And something DC games had that is largely lacking in games today: COLOUR!

  28. tuomo says:

    “ZOMGWARRIOR” you are an ugly cunt. who gives a shit about poorly made dbz games that just end up being a disappointment? i’m glad you think the dc sucks because someone like you doesnt deserve to play on one.

  29. Garrett says:

    Racket boy I’m a huge fan of the dreamcast and your page about it helped a lot big supporter so keep it up. I have 3 dreamcast as all different, defiantly ahead of its time and still playing it more than I have any other system.

  30. Aaron Charron says:

    The day/night transition during the LeMans Race in Test Drive: LeMans was spectacular as well