Matt Gemmell

My new book CHANGER is out now!

An action-adventure novel — book 1 in the KESTREL series.

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Dreamcast thoughts

Gaming 2 min read

A few thoughts on my new (-ish) Dreamcast.
I've had the Dreamcast for 4 days now, and have had a chance to reflect on it a bit. For your edification and amusement, 
as ever, here are my self-important musings.



 



Firstly, I love the price of the games - today I bought Soul Reaver for £5, Shenmue (3 game discs plus passport disc) 
for £10, Pod 2 for £2 and MDK 2 for £5. I recently got Soul Calibur for £15, Chu-Chu Rocket for £3 and Shadowman for £5. 
If you're around Glasgow and looking for DC stuff, stop by GameStation on Union St (just north of Argyle St; nearest tube 
station is St Enoch).



The peripherals are nicely priced too; you can readily get a keyboard for £10, and my mouse was £5. VMUs are £5 boxed, as 
are extra official controllers. The one gadget that's still quite expensive is the official Arcade Stick, which I've seen for 
about £20-£25. I'm very tempted to get one for Soul Calibur (any advice on that, by the way?)



 



Regarding the machine itself, the first thing which struck me is the amount of noise it makes (CD drive noise, and maybe fan noise 
if there's a fan in there). It sounds like a small aircraft! I can live with it, though. The pads are also rather large considering 
the number of buttons they have; there's a lot of redundant space towards the lower edge of the front. Also, the expansion slots are 
positively yawning - Fiona thought someone had ripped the guts of the pad out when she first saw it. My two semi-serious complaints 
about the pad are the amazing sponginess of the d-pad, and the fairly high-angled positioning of the analogue stick - I still sometimes 
find myself pulling it downwards slightly with my thumb, when I'm expecting it to be centred. But I'll quickly learn to adjust.



Small niggles aside, it's a beautiful machine; no question about it. Some of the games are true classics, and it still holds its own 
reasonably well against more recent consoles, as perhaps most noticeably evidenced by the wealth of Dreamcast-ports appearing on the 
Gamecube (or "Dreamcube" as I've been calling it recently). Graphically, there's a great deal of variation, but Soul Calibur in 
particular really seems to show what the machine is capable of.



 



I seem to recall the general consensus being that the Dreamcast was a "failed" machine, but that's hard to believe when playing it. 
It has online play as a genuinely widely-used feature in games (not the gimmick it remains on the cube), it has really innovative 
Visual Memory Units, has a slew of official peripherals including a keyboard and mouse, a capable controller with cube-like analogue 
stick tension (the N64's, by contrast, was stiff and rather heavily spring-loaded), four ports built in, and plenty of games which 
must have been best-of-genre at their time (and indeed several which redefine or invent their genres). A lot of those are arguably 
<em>still</em> best-of-genre.



Why did it ever fail? (Don't tell me; it was the bloody <strong>fishing-rod</strong>, wasn't it?)



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In any case, it's our gain. We get a great console at rock-bottom prices, still relatively plentiful availability of peripherals, and 
brilliant games at utterly silly prices. I've not played my cube in days. Speaking as a confirmed Macintosh fanatic, it's been a long 
time since I've been so fond of a noisy little beige box.