Dreamcast Time With Mister Raroo[Continuing his 'Game Time' GSW-exclusive column, Mister Raroo takes a moment to reflect upon the ten years that have passed since the Sega Dreamcast's famous 9-9-09 domestic launch, looking at Fuku-san's piggy ban, Dreamcast "vultures," life-after-death game releases, and much more.]

What a Difference a Decade Makes

Ten years ago today I walked out of my local Software Etc. with a Sega Dreamcast and handful of games for the system. The rest of the day was a blur of slashing all challengers in Soul Calibur, racing down a skyscraper in Sonic Adventure, and throwing everything in sight at my opponents in Power Stone. Not only was I floored by the Dreamcast's vibrant, smooth graphics, but I can't remember a time in which a game system's launch titles provided me with so much happiness on day one.

In many ways, my life was very different a decade ago. I was still fairly fresh out of college and was living at my parents' place while I tried to figure out exactly what I wanted to do in life. I had just switched my status at my library job from full-time to hourly so I could take the upcoming school year to earn my teaching credential. My parents didn't charge me all that much for rent, so I spent most of my free money on video games, and since I was single, playing games helped fill that void in my life, I suppose.

Within the same period of time that marked the short but amazing life of the Dreamcast, my life suddenly short forward at light speed. It's a good thing I had my youth, or I don't think I would've been able to keep up! It's hard to keep track of all the changes that happened in my life during such a short stint of time.

I met Missus Raroo and fell in love, I earned my teaching credential and had a short-lived stint as a classroom teacher, I got a promotion at the library and ended up going back to work full-time there, I moved out of my parents' place and into a rented condo, I was told by the condo owner that she was selling it so I would have to move, and Missus Raroo and I made the decision to move in to an apartment together, where our relationship strengthened and we eventually decided to seal the deal and get married. In short, the Dreamcast's swirl logo is almost a perfect metaphor for the cyclone that was my life at that time.

Playing Dreamcast was such an integral part of my daily routine that with every one of the major events that happened in my personal life, I can specifically think back to what Dreamcast games I was playing at the time. Heck, even the September 11 terrorist attacks are tied to a particular game! It might sound heartless and I feel rather guilty about it, but when I saw the footage of the planes crashing into the Twin Towers, my initial reaction was, "Oh man, National Console Support was supposed to ship my copy of Capcom vs. SNK 2 this week!"

Like Something Out of a Dream

When compared to the Playstation and Nintendo 64, the Dreamcast seemed like a major leap forward in almost every category, but the thing that really stood out most to me was that the system was totally bizarre. Whether it was the almost miniature Game Boy-like Visual Memory Units, the strange controller and its candy-colored buttons and bottom-situated cord, or the inclusion of 50 feet of phone cord and a built-in modem with which to connect the Dreamcast to the Internet, Sega's heavy yet compact little system seemed like it was conceived in some type of alternate dimension.

My initial impression of the Dreamcast's oddness was only further strengthened throughout its lifespan by its software. Though partaking in virtual conversations with a man-faced fish in Seaman no doubt stands out in many gamers' minds as the pinnacle of peculiarity, plenty of other Dreamcast games also served to push the boundaries of what I expected from video game design and aesthetics. For instance, who can't love a game like Chu Chu Rocket in which you guide as many mice as you can into your spacecraft before they are devoured by evil cats?

Fuku-san's Piggy BankSega's wackiness even shone through in their epic adventure Shenmue, which I assume wasn't actually supposed to be anywhere near as hilarious as it was. My favorite scene in the game happens when protagonist Ryo Hazuki becomes upset after his friend Fuku-san spills the beans to Ryo's mother about Ryo's plans to avenge his father's death. Ryo momentarily loses his cool and shouts "Idiot!" at his bumbling pal. However, even more comical is when Fuku-san later redeems himself by helping to fund Ryo's adventure via money he keeps in his piggybank!

Sega really seemed to be at a creative high point during the Dreamcast's time, and I've got to hand it to them for basically acting in a way that seemed to me like they were throwing caution to the wind and doing whatever their collective heart fancied. Release a game featuring a happy, hyper monkey bundled with a part of special maraca controllers? Okay! Publish Quake III will full online support and even release a keyboard and mouse so Dreamcast players could have a chance against PC players? Why not?! It seemed like every time I turned out, Sega was up to some crazy new scheme, and I loved it.

Disrespecting the Dead

Dreamcast VultureUnfortunately, the magic didn't last long, and in just over a year and a half Sega quickly pulled out of the hardware business, all but abandoning support for its console. One of my saddest memories as a Dreamcast fan was being at Best Buy the day after news had quickly spread across the Internet that all Dreamcast merchandise was being cleared out at discounted prices. People were paying $50 for a system and walking out of the store with one under each arm. It truly felt I was watching vultures sloppily tearing at the corpse of a great king.

Now that I'm older and my gaming budget is drastically lower than it was ten years ago, I can understand the value of a good deal. These days I buy most of my games when they drop in price because, quite frankly, the time of being able to regularly spend $50-60 for a new game is long behind me. Therefore, I can't really fault the people who took advantage of the Dreamcast's untimely demise by swooping in and paying almost pennies on the dollar for the system and its games.

Still, I couldn't help but look upon many of the Dreamcast opportunists with disdain, for I felt that if they'd only shown but a fraction of the monetary support they were now displaying, the Dreamcast would be alive and well. Of course, the irony is that I, too, was at Best Buy to take advantage of the discounts, and I left the store with a rumble pack, a controller, a VMU, and a copy of Unreal Tournament, all purchased for under $20.

Wize From Your Gwave

Interestingly, one of my favorite periods of the Dreamcast's run came after its "death." Even though popular enthusiasm for the Dreamcast had all but been crushed under the Playstation 2's mighty juggernaut of hype, for a few years onward there was a trickle of games released in Japan for the Dreamcast. And even when that finally ended, a small but mighty group of loyal Dreamcast supporters have continued to develop and self-publish new games.

Life After DeathThe first posthumous Dreamcast game I purchased was Rez, and through the game saw a release domestically for the PS2, having the Dreamcast version just seemed right. The thrill of having an amazing new Dreamcast game lit a fire under me, and I was fanatic about purchasing just about any new game for the system that came along.

Not only were there releases of some truly standout shooters like Ikaruga, Border Down, and the lovely Under Defeat, but there were also some conversions of SNK fighters, such as The King of Fighters 2002. Incredibly, even Sega got into the act and released Puyo Puyo Fever, not to mention offering through the online-only Sega Direct store a refurbished Dreamcast bundled with a phone card and a copy of Milestone's Radilgy in 2006!

Beyond pursuing the life-after-death Japanese releases, I've continually put forth an effort to explore the Dreamcast's back catalog to discover great games I passed up the first time. Last year, for instance, I purchased Pen Pen TriIcelon and was thrilled with its whimsical presentation and lighthearted racing gameplay. And for my birthday this past year my wife gave me a copy of Re-Volt, which is a pretty nifty little RC Car racing game that, come to think of it, I should bring out and play more often now that my son is obsessed with all video games containing cars.

What Little Difference a Decade Makes

Perhaps the most extraordinary thing about the Sega Dreamcast is that even today, a full ten years after it was released in the United States, it's still an exceptional video game console. As it stands, I really enjoy playing older games, but I'll be the first to admit that many of the classic games I treasure haven't quite held up as well as I would've hoped. When I play many of my favorite Dreamcast games, however, they don't seem at all antiquated, and instead feel almost as fresh and innovative as they did back when I first powered on the system and was welcomed to the Stage of the History in Soul Calibur.

The Dreamcast was truly the last system to wow me on day one. It struck a chord with me, and I haven't felt such a strong emotional attachment to another game system since. Perhaps I'm being overly-romantic, and maybe the experiences of my life that represent the bigger picture during the Dreamcast's heyday are what cause me to feel so strongly about the system. After all, it was meeting up online with Missus Raroo in Phantasy Star Online that I remember most fondly about our relationship during the initial dating period.

Still, I think the appeal of Sega's Dreamcast is that, quite plainly, it was and still is a really special little console. When I browse my collection of Dreamcast games, I see that most of them are the type that I just want to play again and again. On the whole, the Dreamcast's software library was fun, colorful, inviting, and engaging. The bulk of its games weren't developed with the mentality of making them purely "hardcore" or "casual"--they were simply enjoyable and entertaining.

Ten Years Later

My life definitely changed a lot in the last decade. Ten years ago I would've never imagined I'd be happily married, would have a son and another child on the way, and would be pursuing a full-time career in librarianship. But as much as things are different, there are still some aspects of my life that have remained constant, with one obvious example being my love for video games and the Sega Dreamcast. The amount of time I have to play video games may have decreased, but that's because my life is filled with many other wonderful things. Honestly, I have nothing to complain about.

It's a little frightening how quickly ten years has passed. I can still vividly remember the experience of my first day with the Sega Dreamcast, which is more than I can say about all of the other consoles that have been released since. I'm fascinated that the Dreamcast has held up so well over the years, and the fact that it has continually been hooked up to a television in my home is just about as strong of an indicator to me of its quality. It's certainly an understatement to say I've truly enjoyed my decade with the Dreamcast, and I don't think my affection for Sega's little dream console is going anywhere soon.

[Mister Raroo is a happy husband, proud father, full-time public library employee, active gamer, and Sega Dreamcast fan. He currently lives in El Cajon, CA with his family and many pets. In addition to writing for GameSetWatch, Mister Raroo thinks about writing new content for his neglected blog, Moments, yet rarely gets around to it. You may reach Mister Raroo at mister.raroo@gmail.com.]