While the release of Shenmue I & II is certainly cause for celebration among SEGA fans, its release begs a question of critical, global importance: Is the SEGA Dreamcast still worth collecting for?
To address this confounding issue, two top minds from Internet blogging sites have agreed to debate the finer points of the conundrum, and what better time than to do it on the 19th anniversary of the Dreamcast’s release in the US? Supporting one side is avid Dreamcast collector and SEGA Nerds editor and chief Chris Powell, while the other side will be represented by gaming industry cynic and The Splintering lead writer Blake Worrell.*
Blake: First, I would like to say thank you to Chris for debating this critical topic with me today. I would like to say thank you, but his position is just so ridiculous that I just can’t do it. Chris, how can you still – with good conscience – recommend collecting for the SEGA Dreamcast? Shenmue is now available on PC and the HD consoles, as is virtually every other first-party SEGA Dreamcast title? You seem like a nice guy, but I can’t help but doubt your basic intelligence if you think the original Dreamcast is still worth keeping around. Were you dropped on your head as a kid, or what?
Chris: Before we begin, I want to thank you, Blake, for inviting to this friendly debate. To answer your question, yes … yes, I was dropped on my head several times as a child, but perhaps that’s one of the reasons I’m such a Dreamcast fanatic!
The release of Shenmue I and II HD (I know that’s not it’s official title, but c’mon!) is every SEGA Nerd’s wet dream, and despite its bugs, it’s amazing that we can finally play this masterpiece on the latest consoles. However, as great a game Shenmue is and as any Dreamcast owner will tell you, there’s much, much more that the Dreamcast has to offer than just Shenmue. In fact, there are nearly 250 commercially released Dreamcast games, many of which have never been ported elsewhere.
On the topic of collecting for the Dreamcast, most of the library is still very reasonably priced, especially compared to the likes of collecting for Nintendo consoles. Sure, there are those rare games, like Giga Wing 2 or Canon Spike, that will cost you upwards of $100, but the majority of Dreamcast games can be had for $20 or less.
Plus, thanks to the amazing work of the Dreamcast Online community, many Dreamcast games’ online connectivity features have been restored. That means, you can go back and play classics like Phantasy Star Online, Quake III Arena and Starlancer against people all over the world … just like they were meant to be.
I would argue, my pea-brained friend, that there’s never been a better time to start collecting for the Dreamcast than right now!
Blake: Playing old-ass online games is one of the Dreamcast’s best current selling points? Damn, that’s some niche-ass shit, Chris. It sounds to me like a labor of love just to get the online service up and running, much less to coordinate playing with other Dreamcast owners. Besides, the only reason PSO is even relevant at all is because SEGA refuses to release PSO2 here in the West.
You also noted two expensive-ass games and just glossed over the fact that the bulk of those cheaper games, the remaining 250, are largely available elsewhere, often in an even better form. Not only that, 250 isn’t even a very big number, and a crap-ton of those are sports titles. For comparison, that’s still less games than were on the N64 had 294 games released for it, and that is considered to be a paltry library.
If a friend of yours asked you “What is a good console to collect for?” I have a really hard time believing that you would look a friend in the eye and recommend the Dreamcast… not with a clear conscience, anyway.
Chris: The fact that the Dreamcast only has roughly a 250-game library is exactly one of the reasons why it’s attractive to collect for, my old friend. While other systems like the PlayStation 2 or Super Nintendo have a vastly larger library, I’d argue that they also have a lot more shitty games than what the Dreamcast has to offer.
There is so much quality to be had on SEGA’s 128-bit system that you can go down the list of each genre and find superb games that are immensely fun and reasonably priced. While it’s true the Dreamcast has its fair share of sports games, many of those games, especially the SEGA published ones, are exceptional offerings. Outside of the sports games, there is perhaps no other console that has such faithful arcade ports as the Dreamcast. Take, for instance, games like Marvel vs. Capcom, Crazy Taxi, Ikaruga and Soul Calibur.
My point about the online games, which you failed to comprehend apparently, is that if you purchase them today, you can still enjoy them as they were meant to be when they were originally released.
Moreover, if gamers dip their toes into collecting for the Dreamcast, they’ll also have the option of buying the dozens and dozens of new indie games released each year for the system. These past few years have been some of the busiest in the indie Dreamcast scene since SEGA stopped officially supporting the system with some excellent releases.
One other thing I’d like to add that helps my cause is that North American Dreamcast games were shipped in standard CD cases, unlike other systems of the time and those that came before it, like the Nintendo 64, which had cardboard boxes. These old boxes are nightmares for collectors because they’re so flimsy and many gamers threw them away. With the Dreamcast, if you have a broken front cover, you can just swap it out with one of your grandmother’s copies of Kenny Loggins’ Greatest Hits and be set!
C’mon, man, I don’t see how you can say the Dreamcast isn’t highly collectible for today’s gamer!
Blake: How dare you bring my Grandmother into this, sir! You know she just died in August!
Besides, the fact that Dreamcast games came packaged in the cheapest, most generic packaging ever isn’t a selling point to me. I think hardcore collectors prefer more unique cases, such as those of SEGA’s earlier consoles. Finding a copy of Splatterhouse 2 on SEGA Genesis with an original case branded with the Namco logo on the inside makes the art of the retro game hunt that much more fun, as opposed to Frankensteining random cases together from your local Goodwill.
You seem convinced that the Dreamcast’s smaller library as though it’s a positive thing, but that is only true in that it would be easier for a completionist to get a complete set of games. That’s a somewhat niche type of collector. The rest of us are still here to play the very best games of yesteryear.
Speaking of the best games, you even made my own point when you specifically listed Marvel vs. Capcom, Crazy Taxi, Ikaruga and Soulcalibur as reasons to buy a Dreamcast. The latter three of those four games are readily available on modern HD consoles. In fact, with an Xbox 360 alone, you can play Crazy Taxi, Soulcalibur, Jet Set Radio, Sonic Adventure 1 and 2, Resident Evil Code Veronica, Ikaruga, SEGA Bass Fishing, Bangai-O, Rez, Garou: Mark of the Wolves, Marvel vs. Capcom 2, Hydro Thunder… Jesus, I could probably keep going, and that’s just one of the modern consoles. Wrap in Steam and both Nintendo and PlayStation console libraries since the Dreamcast went belly-up, and you can’t even claim exclusives for Grandia 2, Skies of Arcadia, The House of the Dead 2, Headhunter, Ecco Defender of the Future, 18 Wheeler, Silent Scope, Dead or Alive 2, and now, Shenmue I and II HD.
I suppose the Dreamcast still has a healthy independent scene built around it, though several of the more successful indie titles also find their way onto mainstream platforms eventually (i.e. Volgarr the Viking and Pier Solar). I guess the Dreamcast is still the only place to find Blue Stinger, but I’m not about suggest to someone looking to get into console collecting that they get a Dreamcast for the likes of that particular game.
SEGA’s little white box had a great run, with a great library of games, but even for those collectors who stick to strictly legal means of playing retro games, the Dreamcast is painfully redundant.
Chris: I’m sure Grandma wouldn’t mind me bringing her or her love of Mr. Loggins into this discussion!
You keep bringing up the fact that because of some of the Dreamcast’s games have been ported to newer platforms somehow makes the system less desirable to collect for, and that’s just silly. Most mainstream consoles of yesteryear have their games ported to other systems, and they have very little impact on the value of the original games.
Besides if you’re a true collector, you have a deeper appreciation of the console you’re collecting for, and it doesn’t matter if those games are later ported to other consoles. Going with your line of thinking, the Super Nintendo somehow became less desirable to collect for when Secret of Mana was released on current-gen systems earlier this year. I reckon Super Nintendo collectors didn’t care all that much.
In the end, I think we can both agree that the Dreamcast was an amazing system that saw its life end far too early. It would have been awesome to see the impact it would have had if SEGA didn’t discontinue it after only a couple years. I’m sure its library would have been far bigger and better than it is now.
Today, we celebrate another birthday of our dear Dreamcast, and whether or not gamers decide they want to go for a complete collection or just buy a few choice games to enjoy the system, I think it’s certainly worth their time and money.
How about we fire up an online game of Ooga Booga so I can kick your butt!
There you have it! What say you, devout readers? One of these two is an unabashed moron, but which one is it? Let us know your comments below, and be sure to visit The Splintering for a girthy helping of gaming and comic-related goodness!
*It’s fair to say that one of these fine fellows is taking a “Devil’s advocacy” approach to the debate!