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SEGA's dream turned into a nightmare.
Dreamcast in general
Member Name: BOBBOB
Dreamcast in general
Date: 22/09/02, updated on 22/09/02 (830 review reads)
Advantages: Slick design, Bargain price
Disadvantages: umcomftable pads
The first of the big guns, the first next generation gaming system to be released. Too early I say. Due to this console SEGA were hit so badly financially that SEGA will never make another console ever again. So what went wrong here?
The Dreamcast is not actually a bad console and in fact for the amount its worth now-a-days its a complete bargain! That is, if you know what to do with it. That is precisely why this Opinion was written. Out of all the big next generation 128-bit consoles, this is the least powerful and is probably a cross between Nintendo's N64 and Sony's Playstion 2. The style of the console is pretty "sweet". It's a nice small grey box with some rounded edges and a nice moulded finish. Just turning the console on without any disc inside pulls up the start-up menu. It's based upon Microsoft's Windows CE. This is basically a massively cut-down version of the windows most of us use and love (well most of us use, anyway). You will see after the initial splash screen of the dream cast logo, a simple interface with settings for time and date, your virtual memory unit (sold separately) and CD\Game player.
Pretty bog standard stuff so far, but this is not where the dreamcast excels. Its use goes far beyond its simple start-up. The pads are a tad cheap and can be quite painful. The moulded design doesn't quite fit in your palm and because the wire comes out from the bottom of the pad as opposed to the top, some times frustration can ensure. The pad's will the do the job though and sega have at least released an alternative (keyboard and mouse, as many first person shooter gamers will know, both sold separately). In addition to the pads comes a virtual memory unit (VMU). These are little gadgets which can be used to store your save games on and can also be used to play downloaded games on its little LCD display. This makes buying a memory card more interesting at least. The console has 4 joypad ports for
4 player action and can use a scart or a normal RF cable as seen on previous consoles such as Sony's playstation 1 and the Nintendo 64.
Where this console lacks is in its sheer grunt or power. The graphical capabilities of the games are a much more toned down in comparison to the 3 recent mega-consoles. The console does ensure that the gamer experiences an almost arcade like feel. Many games released for the dreamcast often have a short lifespan as a result. When first released this console was out on its own. The big 3 console's (PS2, Gamecube, X-box) were not released because they were not ready. As a result many people waited for those. However on its first day it sold many a console and set new records. After this the titles that came out were too few and too limited in terms of gameplay. The console suffered and the big 3 just did more devastation when released. So basically this console was forgotten, as game designers flocked to provide games for the big 3 consoles.
Sound-wise the console provides an excellent quality and has the addition of playing music CD's. Many games also offer the feature of playing your music CD's in the background although this often involves swapping the game disc and music disc alternatively, which can get tiresome. The console was also the first to offer a modem for surfing the Internet. You can buy a 33.6KBS modem (about half the 2/3 the speed of a conventional modem). This will work with any phone line and the start-up ISP is free except for the phone call charges. However this can be changed to allow for any ISP your current PC may have. This allows dreamcast users to surf or play against foes online. However I would recommend you purchase the keyboard and mouse to make such activities easier.
Now lets step into the potentially illegal side of the dreamcast that is probably the only thing its got going for it now. Most games console can be chipped or cracked. This means that someone ca
n break your warrantee and place a chip into your console. This not only comes with a chance of breaking your console but also allows you to play copied games. Which can then be downloaded from a PC copied to CD and run at no cost (not that I condone this sort of thing). The dreamcast is different in this department, as no chip is required to play copied games. You simply purchase a boot disc. Then you put this in your console switch it on and when loaded play your copied games. This doesn't affect your warrantee, as you have not physically tampered with your console. You can even get pre-patched games, which don't even require a boot disc. Not only this but the dreamcast also can play VCD's (video discs). These are like DVD's but have a reduced picture and sound quality. These are readily available although strictly, are not legal. Again these are run by the use of a boot disc.
As the console suffered from poor game sales, you can often find games for this console extremely cheaply, even more so than playstation 1 games. Second hand stores like gamestation will provide games such as unreal tournament for around £7. Considering the PS2 version is around £15 second hand you can see how much of a bargain this is.
To sum up then, this console is probably worth its money. You can pick one up for less than £100 and has a good and varied range of games. The games are cheap and can even be free. It lets you surf the Internet and you can even word process from it. It has a nice design and many features, such as its VMU. I'd say it's a bargain. I knocked off 1 mark from the full 5 because it lacks in power and one should expect a limited gaming experience. (4/5).