Sega’s Dreamcast was its last home console. A 128-bit behemoth that decided to do things its own way and deliver innovative experiences and stunning arcade ports. The vast majority of gamers weren’t interested however, content to wait for Sony’s incoming PlayStation 2. As a result the Dreamcast crashed and burned, but it left behind a rich and diverse library of games that every game should delve into.
While Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike is easily the superior fighter, we’ve given the beat-’em-up slot to Soul Calibur because Namco went above and beyond the call of duty with its actual conversion. Unlike Capcom’s 3rd Strike, Soul Calibur offers all the amazing playability and gameplay of the arcade original, but enhances it by delivering a truly staggering additional mode that increases the longevity no end. As well as delivering some truly spectacular visuals, Soul Calibur upped the ante on the Dreamcast by offering a whole host of console-exclusive extras including the fantastic Mission mode and more unlockables than you could imagine. Little wonder then that it went on to sell over a million copies.
Resident Evil Code: Veronica
Capcom’s fourth Resident Evil title caused quite a stir on its release. Mainly because it was the first time the franchise wouldn’t be debuting on a Sony console, but also because it was the first game in the series to use proper 3D backgrounds. Spread over two discs and focusing on the exploits of Claire and Chris Redfield, Veronica moves away from Racoon City and focuses on a small island owned by the Umbrella Corporation. Granted, its gameplay is almost identical to the original Resident Evil, but it’s saved thanks to far more impactive cut-scenes and a shockingly good storyline.
Samba De Amigo
The Dreamcast featured an astonishing range of peripherals during its release, but none could match the sheer magnificence of Samba De Amigo. Essentially a port of the popular arcade game and coming with a set of maracas, Samba De Amigo is an excellent rhythm-action game that had players shaking the maracas in a frenzy, as they matched the on-screen prompts. With its gaudy visuals and brilliant tunes that ranged from Quincy Jones’ Soul Bossa Nova, to a bizarre take on A-Ha’s Take On Me, Samba De Amigo proved utterly essential, even if the original package saw little change from 100 notes. Fans may wish to seek out the Japanese-only add-on Samba De Amigo Version 2000.
There’s a slew of great shoot-’em-ups on the Dreamcast, but not one of them can touch the sheer elegance of Ikaruga. The first of many ‘last ever’ Dreamcast releases, Ikaruga expanded on the duality themes that Treasure explored with Silhouette Mirage by having your ship flip between two polarities. While you could absorb bullets that were the same colour as your ship, enemies succumbed quicker to opposing coloured fire, which presented a superb risk-and-reward system. Add in its complex chain system and Treasure proved that when it comes to high-quality shooters, its pretty much untouchable.
Metropolis Street Racer
We recently sung MSR’s praises in our top 25 racers, but this innovative racer is so special we’re going to mention it again. Part simulator, part arcade racer, Metropolis Street Racer was essentially the forefather to the now-popular Project Gotham Racing, and delivered a driving experience that few other games of the time could match. With its excellent handling, well-constructed tracks and inventive Kudos system, MSR was a welcome alternative to Sega’s hardcore racers that were available on its system and proved that Dreamcast owners had little need for Sony’s Gran Turismo.
Shenmue 1 & II
Released 1999, 2001
Okay, so we’re cheating here, but you really can’t talk about Yu Suzuki’s highly acclaimed game without including its incredible sequel. Greatly revered and reviled in equal measures, the Shenmue franchise cost Sega millions to make, while Shenmue II remains its most requested game. Huge in scope and with an incredibly complex narrative – that annoyingly, has yet to be completed – the Shenmue franchise delivered an experience that no other game of the time was able to match. After all, here was a series that not only allowed you to visit an arcade and play many of Yu Suzuki’s past hits, but was even able to make menial tasks like working enjoyable.
Sega’s Seaman isn’t really a game as such, but that doesn’t mean that you should miss out on this incredibly clever piece of software. Narrated by Leonard Nimoy, Seaman requires you to raise the titular character from an egg to a fully grown adult, and saw you raising and coaxing the creature via Sega’s Microphone peripheral. Despite never receiving a UK release, we urge you to track down the US version and a boot disc so that you can experience this utterly bizarre creation for yourself.
Skies Of Arcadia
We absolutely adore Skies Of Arcadia. The score is sweeping and magnificent, the world you explore is incredibly huge and full of mystery. Add to this the fact that each and every character you meet is larger than life in a way that only the best RPGs can manage, and you have yourself a beautifully immersive title. Following the story of a young air pirate called Vyse, Skies Of Arcadia is a wondrous adventure that’s set in a Jules Verne-inspired world where islands float in the sky and flying ships are the main form of travel. While Skies Of Arcadia follows the well-trodden path of many other games in the genre, it has been put together with so much passion and love that you can’t help but fall in love with it.
Phantasy Star Online
Falling asleep at your keyboard was a common experience in Phantasy Star Online. It wasn’t due to it being boring, but because it was so damn addictive. Never mind that level grinding was a chore or that phone bills could constantly run into three-digit numbers, Sonic Team had created a world that was so imaginative you couldn’t stay away from it. Incredibly basic when compared to recent offerings like World Of Warcraft, it’s easy to forget what an impact it made on its release and just how successfully Sonic Team had evolved the franchise from its RPG roots.
Alright, so the frame rate is lower than its PS2 counterpart and the lack of built-in vibration hurts it somewhat, but there’s no denying that Rez on the Dreamcast remains an utterly compelling experience. Arguably one of the greatest contenders for those many ‘Are videogames art?’ discussions, Rez pushes boundaries and mixes gameplay, sound and vision in a way that few other titles have been able to manage. Beautifully abstract and boasting the sort of creative gameplay that matches its truly astonishing aesthetics, Rez is just as much an experience as it is a game and is further testament to just how innovative and imaginative Sega once was. A truly stunning game that needs to be in every Dreamcast owner’s collection.