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A Very Dreamcasty Christmas

I’m sure that we all have great memories from past holidays. For me, personally, my best gaming Christmas memory goes back to 1999. This was the year that I got a Dreamcast. I know a lot of people are tired of hearing about how awesome the Dreamcast was, but the fact remains that it was a joy to own. For those who never owned a Sega console, it represented a slightly different experience from the ones today. Today, games are heavily narrative (some are now all narrative) and focus on multiplayer (which I don’t usually care for). Sega, on the other hand, were big in the arcade business. Hence, it was natural for them to want to port these games to their home console. The result was games that were heavy on single player gameplay and light on everything else. Videogame home consoles started out with the desire to have an arcade experience in the home and in many ways, Sega were the best in delivering on that dream. This is why this console is so fondly remembered. It was the last console to get that pure arcade experience. No intrusive exposition or tacked-on multiplayer – just man and mechanics. I saw a zombie - I shot the zombie – I rejoiced. I don’t need an elaborate backstory.

Anyway, it was Christmas 1999, and I got a Dreamcast. I was as happy as that kid in the N64 video. I managed a more measured response though – well, that’s what I tell people. I was as happy as I have ever been in my entire life. Did I mention that I also got my own TV with it? Yeah, life was ALL downhill after this Christmas. At first my happiness was tempered by the suspicion that one of my parents was going to die and that this was just to soften the blow. This was quickly replaced by paranoia that I was going to die and this this was to just soften the blow. When I realized that my parents had somehow magically managed to buy a memory card as well, I thought to myself “Yep, I’m a goner. Better start gaming fast.” They even managed to get the games right, for the most part. They got me Sonic Adventure and Powerstone as requested, but there was no Soul Calibur. The store didn’t have that. Instead, they bought me this strange game with a stuffed bear on the cover by the name of “Toy Commander.”

Well, I threw Toy Commander to the side and broke open that Powerstone and Sonic Adventure. My brother and I had a blast with Powerstone in particular, and his food coma (post prandial apathy for the nitpickers) allowed me to enjoy some Sonic on my own. Clichés exist for a reason. It usually starts out as some perceived truth that gets tested over time. Hence, over time and with testing, it becomes accepted to the point of becoming a cliché. In the case of Toy Commander, “never judge a book by its cove” is one that comes to mind. The game, funnily enough, was made by a studio called “No Cliché”. This game was weird from the start. Not Katamari weird, but still, strange in terms of game design. The first stage had you attempting to push some eggs into a pot of boiling water using vehicles. The controls for said vehicles were horrible. The controls in this entire game were frustrating, but it’s the level design that kept me coming back.

See, the beauty of Toy Commander was that it was an attempt to make a game of everyday activities and everyday items. That is exactly what childhood play is about, using simple items and a lot of imagination to entertain yourself and create your own nonsensical narrative. Well that’s what it was like for me anyway. Toy Commander used simple toys, legos, cereal boxes, household pets,army men and Godzilla in a bunny suit (seriously), to create a narrative. There were broken toys and toys that had been “repaired” in the way that children tend to repair things - very badly and with comical results. For your vehicles, the ammunition way in keeping with the theme. You shot colored pencils, erasers and pen covers instead of bullets. Strangely enough, they still exploded on impact. In the process, it created a conduit that delivered me to the heart of Nostalgiaville. This game was the closest I ever came to reliving my childhood in a videogame and came to me at a time of the year where i think we all slip back a little into our chilhood selves. That made it a perfectly timed experience for me. They managed to capture that time in life beautifully, where you somehow instinctively realized that the gamification of life made it a lot better. Of course, nothing that good can last forever, and eventually, you have to “grow up”, which is a concept that I intentionally have difficulty with. It’s this charm that explains why I put up with its atrocious controls. This game turned a bright Christmas into a Supernova and I can’t help but remember it at this time of year.

So, that’s basically my favorite Christmas gaming memory. There is an emulator out there that I once used to play this game, so if you’re interested, you can probably search it out. The game is no longer published, so I guess it’s kinda understandable if you choose this route. Getting a functional Dreamcast is no easy task at this point. It was a great game on a great console and is part of one of the best days I’ve ever had in my life. Be warned though. the controls really are that bad.

Don't tell PETA

Marketing 101 - Don't put a teddy bear on your box art

Godzilla in a bunny suit - seriously

Cooking eggs in the most inefficient way possible - by flying a plane into them

Checkpoints made of toast

Its always good to know a child psychiatrist

Aim for the knees son

Concertoine3493d ago

Awesome story. Dreamcast was a little before my time (im only 17) but i inherited the black sega sports DC and a PSone when my brother went off to college, so i had the privilege of growing up with great games on both of those platforms.

I still buy dreamcast games too. Illbleed is on my list this year :D

longcat3493d ago

Thank you. It was very much an "end of an era" sort of thing. The hope is that indie games and download-only titles can create games with the production value and quality that Sega did

BillytheBarbarian3493d ago

I got a Dreamcast the same year. It was a breath of fresh air after dealing with the pixelated games of the psone and the Saturn. I got Nfl 2k, Sonic, and Ready to Rumble. NFL 2k was amazing. It was spooky when you first witness it. Especially if the cleanest version of football was NFL blitz on N64.

I was a diehard hardcore gamer from NES and SMS to Genesis and Super NES. But other than a few nice games like Virtua Fighter 2 and MGS, I really hated early 3-D graphics. Dreamcast was like windshield wipers and cleared off all the crud (jaggies and pixilation).

Shenmue was my favorite game on the console.

longcat3493d ago (Edited 3493d ago )

I played Crazy taxi and Virtua tennis together. I got callouses on my thumb and had to stop playing for about a week. Longest week ever. Thats the only time that something like that ever happened to me.

Not sure if i can pick a favorite. So much experimentation and variety in that lineup. Those games are hard to compare. I would probably lean towards the first Jet Set Radio. THe graphics, style, gameplay, characters and music blend to create something that i can only describe as art.

Crazay3493d ago

I got my Dreamcast on day #1. Took it home with Ready 2 Rumble, Sonic, Blue Stinger, SOul Calibur, 2 controllers and 2 VMUs. What a great little system it was. I still have it and I have a solid collection of games. Might have to crack that sucker out for a lil nostalgia

newflesh3492d ago

Oh the mighty Dreamcast, such an underrated system with unique games which were truly ahead of time

LightDiego3492d ago

I always wanted a Dreamcast, i used to play at friends house or at games rental store.
Talking about Christmas gifts, i have won my PlayStation 2 on December 24 of 2000, with Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2, that's right, a PS1 game, there weren't games for PS2 at that time in my country.
Sorry for my English and cool article.

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