Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Ben's Gaming Memories - The SEGA Dreamcast (Happy 15th Birthday!)

It's hard to believe, but 15 years ago SEGA released their very last gaming console--the SEGA Dreamcast. As we all know, the console had a short lifetime (and only had a handful of games released on it), but for some gamers out there, it was still a special console. I am one of them gamers.

As a kid there was few things I wanted more than a SEGA. I was a huge fan of Sonic the Hedgehog, but I was only able to play the games when I was at my cousin's house, and I only got to watch the TV show if I woke up early enough before heading off to school. Looking back on it now I'm not really sure what made me like him so much, but Sonic was just one of them series I really loved but was unable to get into myself. The SEGA Genesis was quite expensive back in the day, and since I already had a NES, and SNES, it just wasn't something my family was ready to go out and buy for me. So, they never did.

Although I never owned a Genesis or a Saturn, I still liked SEGA. I played their games in arcades (or rather, cafes with mini gaming areas, hotels, and at Walmart), I had a few on the PC, and I would still go to my cousin's house once in awhile to play. I was a SEGA fan who didn't have a SEGA console, but I always dreamed of the day when that would change. Then, one Christmas when I was 10, it did.

I didn't suspect a thing, but one day my mom came up to me and told me that my cousin from out of state was going to be buying a Dreamcast. According to her they went on sale at Target (where he had just got a job), and he was wanting to buy one as well as a few games--he just didn't know which ones to pick. So she asked me what games I thought he'd like, and instantly I told her "Sonic." Christmas was still a ways away so I didn't realize she was asking what games "I" actually wanted, but I remember being excited for my cousin and I couldn't wait for our next visit. Then, before I knew it, Christmas came.

In our family meeting at my grandma's house (on my mom's side) was always a tradition. We'd go there Christmas eve, spend the whole day together, and then at night we'd eat and open presents. When I was little it used to really bother me that we had to wait until everyone was finished to move onto the presents, and that time the wait seemed even longer as I looked at the huge box my aunt had carried in for me. I had no idea what it was, but I couldn't wait to rip it open. So when the time came, that is what I did.

Rather than seeing the present, I found that the box was actually just a normal box with many smaller boxes inside. The moment I saw it, for whatever reason, I had a pretty good idea on what the smaller boxes might contain. Maybe my mom tipped me off, or it could have been the fact that I never heard my cousin mention his new Dreamcast to me, but for whatever reason--I knew. I looked at the box, looked at the CD shaped smaller boxes, and I reached for one excited to see what game it might contain. Although, before I could open it, my aunt stopped me and had me open the larger box first; the one that contained the SEGA Dreamcast.

After being excited by the Dreamcast itself, I moved onto the smaller boxes and things only got better and better. The first game I opened was none other than Sonic Adventure, a game I had dreamed of playing since the moment it came out. I used to see it all the time advertised at Walmart, and as strange as it might sound, it was the game I thought about to keep my mind off of my Grandpa having open heart surgery just the summer before. I sat there in the waiting room trying to think of anything to keep my mind off of it, and strangely a game I had never played for myself is what really helped. (Well, that and my brand new Pokemon Puzzle League on the Game Boy Color!) Still, finally holding that game in my hands is a moment that has stuck with me even after all this time. Besides Sonic Adventure, the box also contained Tony Hawk Pro Skater (a game I loved on the N64 but had only rented it and never owned), SEGA Smash Pack Vol 1, 102 Dalmatians (a game my mom said we could return but never did), two controllers, and a VMU (memory card). As I looked at all of the games my excitement began to grow more and more, and after everyone finished opening their presents, I got my dad to help me hook it up to my Grandma's TV.

That night I spent a lot of time playing Sonic Adventure. My cousin and his dad sat on the couch watching me play it (and commenting), and I was personally blown away by just about everything I saw. The 3D world, fast speeds, that intro with Open Your Heart playing, and the fully voiced cutscenes were all just impressive to me. After a few years of waiting, Sonic Adventure was finally mine, and I couldn't have been any happier. Then, the next day happened.

When I woke up on Christmas I found another huge surprise waiting for me in my room. That night my parents told me not to sleep in there (I wasn't quite sure why), and when I walked back in there in the morning I found myself face to face with a huge phoseball table. The thing was amazing, and I couldn't wait to play it and my Dreamcast with friends, but unknown to me there was still more to come. That morning I received quite a few toys I really wanted, but that night yet another dream of mine came true. I remember my cousins (the ones who owned the Genesis I used to play) came over for a bit to see my Dreamcast and Phooseball table, but shortly after we packed up and headed to my other grandma's house to spend Christams night with them. Although I only got a few presents from that side of the family, that year I was given something I didn't even know existed. My dad's brother handed me a package, I opened it up, and right in front of me was none other than Crazy Taxi; a game I loved and played every single time I saw it in an arcade. Really, up until then I had no idea that you could even play it on a home console, but it was something I had always hoped for, and at that moment my dreams became a reality yet again. Just as I had played Sonic Adventure all Christmas Eve night, once I got home from my Grandma's I spent the rest of that night on Crazy Taxi.

Over the next few years the Dreamcast became my favorite console. Sure I still played my N64 and SNES from time to time, but not nearly as much as I used to. I spent the rest of my Christmas vacation playing Sonic, and every single time my cousins (once again, the ones who had the Genesis, not the one who got me the DC) would come over, we would jump right into Crazy Taxi or the rail shooter Virtua Cop 2 (which was included in the SEGA Smash Pack). For whatever reason, we all loved that Dreamcast and all spent as much time on it as we could. Later on my parents managed to track down a copy of Sonic Adventure 2 (which is a game I also played to death and still do to this day) for all of us to play, and I even managed to get a copy of Crazy Taxi 2 before it was too late. Although I never really had a large library of games for it, the thing gave us all many good memories, and we continued to play it for many years to come. Even five years later when I was 15, I remember sitting there playing Crazy Taxi the night before my first day of driver's ed. My dad jokingly said something along the lines of "are you practicing for tomorrow" only to have the song "All I Want" play the moment I got into that car the next day (for those who do not know, All I Want by Offspring is considered by many fans to be the theme song of Crazy Taxi).

It's memories like these which make my time with the Dreamcast special, and it's something I still play from time to time even today. It is just a bit hard to believe so much time has passed since then. Although I didn't own one from the start, it's something that has been with me for half of my life, and I will never forget it. Happy birthday SEGA Dreamcast!