Hardware Heaven: Dreamcast
If your back’s up against the wall you need to pull off something spectacular, and in hardware terms, Sega pulled that off with its successor to the Saturn. The Dreamcast was everything its failed predecessor hadn’t been – the sleek white box was aesthetically pleasing, the internal hardware was both powerful and easy to develop for, and the price was attractive. For PAL gamers, the capability to output a 60Hz signal brought an end to years of second-rate releases. Multiplayer fans were well catered for, too, with four controller ports and a built-in modem for online gaming (so long as you were willing to pay the phone bill for dial-up access). Thanks to its past woes, Sega didn’t have the financial ability to drop the console’s price when it desperately needed to. This was compounded by a lack of third-party support, the impending launch of the PlayStation 2 and the discovery of an exploit which allowed easy piracy without a mod chip. Dreamcast production ended in March 2001, and Sega left the console hardware market. Machines are relatively easy to find today, though certain faults are pretty common including random resets caused by power supply problems, and controller port malfunctions due to faulty resistors.
The sequel to Soul Blade had been an excellent arcade fighting game, but it wasn’t arcade perfect on the Dreamcast – it was better. The astonishing visuals really showed off what the console could do, and that was just the start of its charms. The game featured a wide variety of unlockable characters, stages and costumes earned through the Missions Mode, and Cervantes De Leon returned from the first game. It was one of the few Dreamcast games to sell a million copies, and quite rightly, too – if you like 3D fighting games, SoulCalibur is an essential addition to your collection.