On the day of Sega Dreamcast’s 20th birthday, I have a confession, dear Fanbyte readers: I did not get to experience the Dreamcast during the peak of its existence. Nor have I ever. Period. It’s not a proud fact of my life.
Having just turned 25 less than a month ago, I would have been 5 years old upon its release. But that’s not even an excuse for me. At that point in my life, my family spent countless hours on the Nintendo 64 playing Goldeneye and Mario Kart. Even my after-school literal daycare had an SNES where, after my kindergarten classes, we’d swap between Indiana Jones and Megaman 7. (That was when I wasn’t watching Mrs. Doubtfire for the fiftieth time… wait, was that movie even appropriate for kindergartners?)
In hindsight, given the console’s mild popularity, in theory, I should have had a friend, relative or any sort of whatnot with some gaming paws on a Dreamcast. The sad reality is: Oof. I’ve freaked out my editors a little bit already by mentioning I’ve never played one. Hell, I’ve never gotten to touch one. Not that I remember. Could be wrong.
So between the myths and legends, the hype and the reality, I’ve spent some time pondering upon the games that have absolutely piqued my curiosity in the lengthy wake since the Dreamcast’s untimely death. I mean, I’m going to be honest, it looks like the Dreamcast lineup was kinda freaking bonkers. And that’s what’s so great about it, I feel.
Of course, a few games have caught my eye, so here’s some of my more interesting selections. And by the way, happy 20th, fellow Virgo child.
Kiss: Psycho Circus: The Nightmare Child
After Doom released in the mid-90s and Goldeneye not long after, everyone wanted to hop on the cheesy-graphics first-person shooter train. Even… infamous glam metal band Kiss? Yeah, seriously, it looks like Kiss released a modern fantasy shoot-em-up for the Dreamcast that looks pretty much like any other game in the era.
But having looked up a lot more details and some gameplay, it looks like it was doing some really solid modern-fantasy stuff for its time. Yes, it’s cheesier than the obligatory “international specialty cheese” section in your grocery store, but it looks such in a fun way. Like, you really need to lean into it to enjoy it. And I’m all about leaning into the cheese. So if you want to slice a bunch of monsters as a member of glam rock band Kiss… well. There ya go. I’m in.
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For anyone who doesn’t know, I love games that mix music into their gameplay. I’m into DDR, Groove Coaster and, more relevantly here, the rhythm-action (or rhythm-“violence” game, as they call it) game Thumper. Much like the latter beetle-beat game, Rez sends you hopping on rails, but you’re actually shooting at enemies as they come up. And when you hit, the colorful explosions happen on the beats of the game’s sound track. Retro fans would also dig the 80s-style computer theming, a core part of Rez’s aesthetic given it’s about being within a computer.
Apparently, in doing research after having seen this a bit ago, there’s remastered versions around on several consoles. Guess it’s time to give a classic a try.
Phantasy Star Online
I know this game has a sequel, and that said sequels is finally coming out to the West. But I want to try Phantasy Star Online for many of the same reason half of you reading this are hooked onto World of Warcraft Classic. Namely, while I’m sure there’s a reason for the sequel, I’m also sure there’s a reason a sequel was considered to begin with.
I’d be down to try out what’s considered a pretty influential game in the RPG world. And the plot seems pretty light, but I doubt that was the main draw. In short, I wish I could go back to when being online with others simultaneously was a novel experience. Online gameplay still is, and there’s a lot of cool innovations taking place to this day. But every step matters. PSO felt like a pretty big one for the time.
Yes, Air. That game. Which some of you may know better as an anime or manga. Actually, Air being here is my catch-all for my curiosity around a specific phenomenon: there seemed to be so many adult visual novels on the Dreamcast. That means games where you pretty much churn through the story until there’s sex, and often, the story happens to be good too. But specifically for these releases, they were then made “consumer friendly,” which pretty much meant taking out all the sexy stuff.
And I won’t lie, for one, I’m wondering whether and how Americans managed to get their hands on these versions out here. What sorts of places even sold this? What I’m questioning even more, though, is what changes they made to make Air “consumer friendly.” I’ll leave my best guess as: probably just whatever they did to the anime.
Nightmare Creatures II
Okay, I’m really not sorry for including another modern fantasy game. But have you ever seen a game that just instantly draws you in with its looks, and you know it’s a bad idea in your gut, but you just need to roll with it? Like love at first sight, except it’s a sketchy carnival upside-down spinning ride and you don’t want to check when it’s been last inspected? Nightmare Creatures II is that for me. For one, it looks and sounds way better than its predecessor in production quality.
The production makes the game’s intended style and appeal way more slick, and frankly, I love how that looks. This game’s style knew exactly what it wanted to be. Mind the cliche, but while the Kiss game is more like Doom, Nightmare Creatures II seems almost Tim Burton-esque. Unfortunately, the reviews make the game seem very aggressively bleh, but I’d be down to make myself frustrated for the sake of exploring the concepts this game presents.
One more thing you need to know about me is that my definition of “esports” is very, very liberal. What I’m trying to say is, if the racist-in-the-sense-of-sketchy-Polynesian-stereotypes game Ooga Booga were released nowadays, it’d be esports in my book. It’s a combat party game where you have to run around the map collecting objects that can help you beat up your opponents. Obviously you could play this with your friends at home, but Ooga Booga also has online player-versus-player gameplay, which I think makes it an instant classic.
More importantly to us living in the present, now there’s a fan server as of last January thanks to server revival specialist “Shuouma.” So if you’ve got a Dreamcast and a copy of this game, now’s your chance to shine. Meanwhile, since I don’t have a Dreamcast, nor have I ever come in contact with one, I’m glad just talking about how much I wish I had one to join in.