Sega Dreamcast 101 v1 (See Expanded Version)

This Guide Has Been Updated & Expanded

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The RetroGaming 101 series is aimed at gamers who are just starting out in the classic gaming scene or are curious about an older console that they don’t know much about yet. Those of you that are especially knowledgeable about the featured console, I encourage you to add any information that you think would be beneficial into the comments section. If you are new to the featured console, and still have questions, you can also use the comments section and I will do my best to help you out.

Historical Impact

  • The Dreamcast was Sega’s fifth and final video game console and the successor to the Sega Saturn. Sega cut off the Saturn’s lifespan early to try to get a head start in competing with the Playstation 2.
  • Dreamcast was ahead of its time in many ways. It was the first console to include a built-in modem, Internet support for online gaming, and stunning VGA video output. It was also a large leap in graphical and storage capabilities over the existing PS1 and N64 consoles.
  • The Dreamcast enjoyed one of the best console launches of all time with brisk sales and a solid initial game library. Unfortunately, between the growing media hype and the support for the hot DVD technology, the Playstation 2 quickly limited the sales potential for the Dreamcast.
  • The Dreamcast only lasted a few short years on the retail scene outside of Japan, but still maintained a strong cult following due to its innovative games, homebrew capabilities and the trickle of interesting imports coming from Japan.
  • More Dreamcast History at Wikipedia

Strengths

  • The Dreamcast was a very powerful machine in its day and still holds up surprisingly well in the modern era. It also had some of Sega’s more creative and innovative games, some of which have not yet been ported to other consoles.
  • As mentioned above, in addition to many common video connections, the Dreamcast also supports native VGA output that makes it ideal for playing the Dreamcast on computer monitors or HDTVs.
  • Due to the discoveries made by piracy groups at the end of the Dreamcast’s retail lifecycle, it is very easy to run both rips of commercial games and homebrew efforts like independent games and emulators of older systems without any modifications to the hardware. Because of this, the Dreamcast has one of the best homebrew and emulation scenes along with the original XBox.
  • In addition to the quirky Sega-developed games, the Dreamcast is very popular because of its deep library of 2D Fighting and 2D Shooting games (shmups). Many of the original arcade games were originally developed on the NAOMI arcade platform (which is basically Dreamcast hardware with extra RAM), which made it very easy to have arcade-accurate console ports.
  • Make The Most of Your Sega Dreamcast
  • Games That Defined The Sega Dreamcast

Weaknesses

  • The Dreamcast was developed before DVD drives had reached an affordable level, so it does not support DVD playback or playing homebrew off of DVD media.
  • Since it was released a year before the Playstation 2 and two years before the Gamecube and XBox, it does not quite have the graphical capabilities of the later consoles. While it does not really hinder the machine much, some graphic-obsessed gamers may be disappointed.
  • Those gamers looking for many of the popular games from Electronic Arts will be disappointed as EA did not support the Dreamcast after its disputes with Sega during the Saturn era. However, Sega did an excellent job of filling the software gaps itself.
  • The RPG genre did not have a very big showing in the Dreamcast library. Skies of Arcadia and Grandia 2 were very strong games, but the rest of the library was limited to a small handful of gems.

Emulation

  • If you would prefer to play your Dreamcast games on your PC instead of the actual console, you may need to wait a bit longer for good compatibility.
  • While you may get to have a few games playable if you have a high-end PC, most games are quite glitchy if playable at all.

Affordability

  • The Dreamcast is actually one of the most affordable consoles on eBay. It is very easy to find one on eBay or in pawn shops or flea markets for under $20.
  • Many of the most popular games for the Dreamcast are also available for just a few dollars each. Add that to the emulation capabilities and you have a very good classic gaming value.

Frequently Asked Questions

This Guide Has Been Updated & Expanded — Check It Out!

12 Comments

  1. kevinski says:

    Hmm…apparently, regular CD-/DVD-ROM drives only have difficulty in reading GD-ROM’s because of the way that their firmware tells them to handle the discs. GD-ROM’s have an extra table of contents on the higher-density portion of the disc that the Dreamcast’s drive can detect solely because of its firmware.

    Read about it here.

  2. Brian Deuel says:

    Speaking of homebrew, I’ve been working on a Dreamcast game of my own, called Encounter Zone. Anyone interested can read about it, see a screenshot of it (don’t laugh… the graphics are borrowed placeholders), and download the engine demo at http://dreamcast.dcemu.co.uk. Just scroll down a bit until you see the headline “Project: Encounter Zone…”

    Failing that, you can get the selfbooting image at http://atari.vg-network.com/ezalphasb.zip (requires Discjuggler 4.x or Alcohol 120% to burn). Remove the filename to visit my site to learn how to use the opensource Fenix game language to write your own games.

    And… unlike most DC homebrew projects, this one will actually be completed 🙂

  3. racketboy says:

    Wow, brian that looks quite impressive 🙂 You’ll have to send me a note when it’s completed.

    Glad to see some more solid development coming down the line for the Dremacast

  4. Matt DJ says:

    To help the newbies, perhaps a list of available emulators for the Dreamcast can be included in the Emulation section of this fine article. I realize it may be listed elsewhere on the site, but this is after all the Beginners Guide.

  5. Matt DJ says:

    Here’s a question that may be appropriate for the Dreamcast 101 Guide: What US games support the vs. cable for head-to-head play using seperate monitors? I’ve seen varying lists online with no definitive answer and I’m looking into building a head-to-head racing arcade cabinet using the Dreamcast as the brains.

  6. gnome says:

    A brilliant piece. Again. Oh, and Half Life for the DC would be something most beginners would appreciate, I’m sure…

  7. Joel Sinn says:

    The Dreamcast was my first system(ya i got into gaming when i was 16) and since theni have gotten almost every system out(except rare stuff Like neo geo, jaguare, Ect…) but i still pull it out to play stuff like Grandia2, Crazy Taxi, Jet Set Radio, Shenmue, Ect…. If I could only find Skies of Arcadia somewhere…..

  8. DCbrotha says:

    Does any of you know if the Sega Saturn Stunner (with innovation controller converter) is compatable with the Dreamcast playing games like House of the Dead and Confidential Mission?

  9. Xiaopang says:

    Interesting read, but full of errors and exaggerations. I sat down and corrected these. You can read my version here: http://wp.me/pd7qF-43

  10. Brian Deuel says:

    racketboy- I know this thread is old, but the game I mentioned above (Encounter Zone) has finally been released as Primitive Nightmare for the Dreamcast. If you’re interested in giving it a try, you can grab the disc image at the site linked to my name. Same goes for anyone else. And it’s free!

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