It's thinking: Remembering the Sega Dreamcast, which launched 10 years ago today in North America

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There’s a very good chance that on September 8, 1999, I was on IGN thinking to myself, “Man, I wish I had $199 to buy a Dreamcast tomorrow.” In truth, I only had $40, and that went toward a copy of Final Fantasy VIII, a game I had desperately wanted to play. I don’t know, I was 13 years old and weird; today I’m merely crazy, so three cheers for emotional development. It goes without saying that I missed out on Sega’s big launch day extravaganza on 9/9/99.

I had to wait an entire year before I got a Dreamcast, which, when you’re 14, might as well be 20 years. We (my younger brother and I) got the limited edition sports bundle Dreamcast. It was black, and came with NBA 2K and NFL 2K. This, despite the fact that I didn’t, and still don’t, know the difference between a touchdown and tornado DDT. (I prefer the other football, thank you very much.) We first played through games like Soulcalibur, Tony Hawk (still popular in 2000), and Grandia 2, but it really wasn’t until the launch of Phantasy Star Online and, yes, Unreal Tournament that we truly appreciated the system.

See, we never really had the kind of money required to keep up-to-date with a gaming-worthy PC, so we stuck to the consoles. Not that we were destitute, of course, but there’s a bit of a difference between buying a $200 Dreamcast and shelling out $4,000 on a PC with a 3DFX card or whatever.

Back to the games, then. Man was Phantasy Star Online good! I even bought the Dreamcast keyboard, so I could more effectively talk to my teammates. My first character was merely a HUmar, which is equivalent to a Warrior in World of Warcraft: sort of an introductory class, well-rounded with no particular strengths or weaknesses. His name was Olympic Hero, a reference to WWE (well, WWF at the time) wrestler Kurt Angle. Oh, it’s true. It’s damn true.

The only problem with PSO was that, at the time, we didn’t have any sort of broadband to speak of. It simply wasn’t available in our area. (How times have changed!) So, I had to snake an extraordinarily long telephone wire from my bedroom to the kitchen telephone. Of course, when we would play the game we wouldn’t be able to receive any phone calls, so it wasn’t uncommon to stop playing, hook the telephone back up, then find out that we had a number of messages from my father: “Jesus, Nicholas, get off the Dreamcast, I need to speak to your mother.” You punk kids need to understand that this (2001-ish) was still before everyone and their dog had a cellphone.

Unreal Tournament was similarly great, even though, looking back on it, it probably wasn’t the best port. Still, I had never played an online shooter before, so it was very much a new and exciting experience for me. (I got much more mileage out of Unreal Championship for the Xbox1. Yes, I bought Xbox Live on Day One, thank you very much.)

I’m trying to remember how I felt when Sega announced the cessation of Dreamcast production in 2001, which I first read about on Daily Radar. Remember that site? I don’t think I was oh my God, how could they?!, but more like, “well that stinks. Now what?”

Let me see… what did I do with my Dreamcast?

•Figured out how to burn and play emulators. This was on a Mac, so the toolsets for putting together such discs were all primitive at best. Not a GUI in sight.

• Played Half-Life the day it was leaked onto the Internet. Man, I remember that day like it was, well, not yesterday, but recent. I read on Daily Radar or IGN that the gold version of the recently cancelled Half-Life had been leaked onto the Internet. So, I hopped onto Usenet using Thoth for OS X—can you believe I knew how to use Usenet for my own ends at age 15?—downloaded the ISO, then burned it on the family PC. For whatever dumb reason it was released as a Nero image, and not the standard Disc Juggler image, which could be burned in Toast on OS X after some Terminal-assisted magic.

• Used some DIVX player to watch old episodes of The Adventures of Pete and Pete that I had downloaded from eDonkey. Thanks, mlDonkey (wasn’t it mlnet back then?)!

• Used the Web browser to visit the same dumb sites that I’d visit on the computer, including, and well likely limited to, IGN and WrestleZone.com.

• Ran Linux! Yes, I downloaded and ran Linux for Dreamcast. Not that it did much, but I ran it, all right!

• Used Bleem to play Gran Turismo 2. That’s right: I bought, with American dollars, Bleem for the Dreamcast.

Of course, any and all comments related to the Dreamcast are welcome.

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