Why I Ignored the Dreamcast 20 Years Ago

Why I Ignored the Dreamcast 20 Years Ago

I was a teenage Debby Dreamcast Downer.

Today marks the 20th anniversary of the Dreamcast in North America, Sega's last console. Excellent arcade ports and meaty original games allowed the handsome white box to shine with the heat of a thousand suns for a year or so. Then news of the PlayStation 2 glided in over the horizon and stole the Dreamcast's light. Sega's final system—and the company's career as a console-maker—was officially discontinued in March 2001.

Today is understandably a day for sad tributes to a game console that was ahead of its time and stolen from us too soon. We've gathered up some wonderful tributes ourselves. I must sheepishly admit I can't really be part of those tributes because I skipped the Dreamcast. My husband bought one on the cheap after it had been discontinued, but we never bought additional games beyond the two that were included. (Sonic Adventure and [sigh] the tepid Mario Party rip-off Sonic Shuffle.)

"What is wrong with you, Nadia?" you bellow. A number of things, but if we're going to narrow it down to the reasons I shunned the Dreamcast, here's what I have for you. First, it came out during an awkward time when I didn't have much money to spare. Second, I decided I'd rather have Final Fantasy 8, which Sony famously released on nine-nine-ninety-nine. Third, a trace of anti-Sega bias still lingered in my veins. What can I say, the '90s console wars left deep, poisonous scars.

1999 was a transitional year for Planet Earth, and it was a transitional year for me, too. I honestly can't remember exactly what I was up to at the ragged edge of the millennium. I was probably just finishing up high school and saving for college, which would explain why I didn't have money to throw away on a brand-new console.

Then again, I went right out and bought Final Fantasy 8 on launch day, so I clearly had some money to spend. I wound up not liking Final Fantasy 8 in the least—unlike certain venerable Editors-in-Chief—and I exchanged the game for the far better Suikoden 2. There you go: Even though I didn't support the Dreamcast, I still owe it a debt of gratitude for indirectly introducing me to one of the greatest RPGs of all time. The system really was special.

Money problems is a legitimate reason to not buy a new game system, but my lingering grudge against Sega is an out-and-out stupid reason not to buy the Dreamcast. It's not as if I disliked Sega with the same low, hot flame that fueled my passion for the Super Nintendo through the early '90s, but I simply hadn't built up enough interest in Sonic and Sega's arcade properties to consider the Dreamcast a must-buy on launch day. I was a '90s Nintendo fangirl (and reluctant PlayStation adopter) through-and-through, and that bias is one reason I generally felt "meh" about the Dreamcast. That's on me.

I don't know why I wasn't amazed by Sonic's weird vampire fangs back in '99. | Sega/Source

That said, I feel like Sega's rocky history with consoles didn't help its Dreamcast pitch. I was 19 by the time the Dreamcast was born; I was long past the age when new game consoles piqued my interest by simply being the hottest thing everyone was talking about. I'd been reading game magazines regularly since 1993, and I was aware of Sega's parade of failed consoles and add-ons. The Sega CD. The 32X. The Saturn. I wondered how long it'd be before Sega dropped the Dreamcast, too. Lo and behold.

While the Dreamcast's failure to ignite wasn't all Sega's fault, I wonder how many potential buyers felt wary after getting bit by Sega's so-so support for its past consoles. Saturn backers were hit especially hard when former Sega of America president Bernie Stolar said at E3 1997 that "the Saturn isn't [Sega's] future." Sega seemingly made good on that declaration with its dismal support for the localized version of Panzer Dragoon Saga, the Saturn's opus. Imagine being a Saturn fan and having to literally look at ads taunting you for not being able to buy an epic RPG on a system desperately starved for games. That's brutal. I didn't own any Sega consoles, so my reluctance to buy the Dreamcast wasn't a case of "once bitten, twice shy." I just figured, why risk getting bit in the first place?

The final reason I didn't buy the Dreamcast at launch can be dropped at the doorstep of The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask. In spring 1999, Nintendo had announced Ocarina of Time would receive a sequel or expansion for the ill-fated Nintendo 64DD. Since Ocarina of Time blew my mind in 1998, I decided the sequel was a must-have. I prepared to save for this mysterious new Zelda game—and for the 64DD, if necessary. Thankfully, Majora's Mask jumped from the 64DD to become a cartridge-only endeavor, but it's not as if cartridge games were cheap. Saving for Zelda took priority over spending for Dreamcast.

And here we are, 20 years later. Majora's Mask is a favorite amongst Zelda fans, Final Fantasy 8 finally got a remaster, and we're all gathered in small circles, reminiscing wistfully about Sega's final console. Happy anniversary, Dreamcast. I'm sorry I didn't contribute to your well-being, but I still appreciate you.


Major Game Releases: September 9 to September 13

Here are the major releases for the week of September 9 to September 13. Want to see the complete list? Check out our full list of video game release dates for 2019.

  • Gears 5 [September 10, Xbox One, PC]: Gears 5 is finally here. I'm not a Gears fan myself; the thing I remember most about the series is that the commercial for the first game uses the (inferior) Donnie Darko remix of "Mad World." You can read Hirun's Gears 5 review if you want in-depth impressions.
  • GreedFall [September 10, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC]: GreedFall is a rather mysterious action-RPG from Spiders—the developer Spiders, not actual arachnids behind keyboards. (Though that's an interesting mental image.) You explore an island alongside other settlers, treasure hunters, and mercenaries. It's up to you if you want to get along with the native populace or act like a colonial jerkwad. Look for our impressions soon.
  • Borderlands 3 [September 13, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC]: It's been a long time coming, but the third installment of 2K Games' famous looter shooter series is truly on its way to your living room. Expect a whole lot of loot-gathering, a whole lot of guns, and a whole lot of groan-worthy jokes. Read our review.
  • Daemon X Machina [September 13, Nintendo Switch]: Daemon X Machina is a shooter-action game wherein artificial intelligence runs wild after a moon collides with the planet. What's the answer to machine-induced genocide? Bigger, meaner machines. Jump into a mech and sort this stuff out. You can even recruit three other friends to your cause via a four-player co-op option.

This Week's News and Notes

  • In case I failed to make it obvious, we have some great content for the Dreamcast's 20th anniversary. We talked to developers about their favorite Dreamcast memories, and the response from Pokemon producer Junichi Masuda is top-tier content.
  • Another great Dreamcast retrospective from Kat: Why the Dreamcast Still Matters. Really, I think I'm the only Debbie Dreamcast Downer on staff, not counting the younglings who were too small to remember 9-9-99.
  • The wonderful, horribly challenging platformer Celeste gets its final round of DLC today. It's called "Farewell." That tear in my eye is from all the darn dust in here, I promise.
  • The remaster for Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles is coming very early next year. It looks great, and its cross-platform online play means most of us will be playing it for the first time! Did you manage to scrounge together the friends and resources necessary to play the original game on the GameCube/Game Boy Advance?
  • Nintendo really misses the good ol' days of the Wii, when we filled our living rooms (and then our landfills) with plastic garbage. Looks like we'll be able to relive our warm memories of junky plastic when Nintendo tells us more about its new weird...hoop...thing on September 12.
  • Tokyo Game Show kicks off in earnest on Thursday, September 12 too. Stay tuned to USgamer as we cover all the biggest news out of Japan later this week!
  • Know what else turns 20 this month? Tony Hawk! Er, the Pro Skater series, not Tony Hawk himself. We have a great oral history for you to dive into.
  • To live in Toronto is to be held hostage by skunks.
  • Axe of the Blood God: After a couple of hiccups last week, we're back for realsies! Kat and I have a nice long catch-up session that includes PAX, a Nintendo Direct summary, a look back at the Dreamcast, and Kat's review of Monster Hunter World: Iceborne. Listen, like, and subscribe!

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Nadia Oxford

Staff Writer

Nadia has been writing about games for so long, only the wind and the rain (or the digital facsimiles thereof) remember her true name. She's written for Nerve, About.com, Gamepro, IGN, 1UP, PlayStation Official Magazine, and other sites and magazines that sling words about video games. She co-hosts the Axe of the Blood God podcast, where she mostly screams about Dragon Quest.

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