It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of SEGA’s final home console, in fact, I still have my Dreamcast set up (alongside my PS2, PS3, PS4 and Xbox One), it played a massive part in my teens. I still remember buying it from Gamestation in Nottingham (the one near the old Odeon cinema, that used to have Travelling Man upstairs, which is where I bought my first VHS and volume of Akira). Not only were Crazy Taxi and Phantasy Star Online played to death, but Soulcalibur also provided some moments of bonding between my current partner and I as I taught her its mechanics and we’d have regular face-offs between my Mitsurugi and her Sophitia.
I first heard of this book a while back, I can’t remember if it was via Twitter or via a retro section on a games forum I’m a member of, but I wanted a copy, unfortunately, when it originally went on sale I wasn’t in a position to buy it and before I knew it it had sold out. Or so I had thought. A couple of weeks back its author tweeted that he’d made more digital copies available, I inquired about purchasing one and was told he’d also come across a few physical copies, I snapped the latter up and it provided me with something to read over this weekend gone.
As the title suggests, this book covers the first year of the Dreamcast’s life. More accurately, the first year of its life in PAL territories, though that’s not its sole focus. The first quarter of its 10 pages are given over to the environment that led to the development of SEGA’s home arcade box, from the failure of the Saturn through the partnerships with 3DFX, Microsoft and others, the political conversations within the different departments and a variety of other things I never even knew about.
It’s second act focuses on first-hand tales from that period, including interviews with SEGA of America President Bernie Stolar and a games writer that played a huge part in some of the games I chose to play: Ed Lomas (mostly through his work at C&VG during their Paul Davies era), all parties have some excellent stories to tell of the impact this one system had on their lives and the excitement they had for it, though I’d have loved to hear from some of the British games developers of that time (though maybe that will come in with the confirmed Year Two book as I’d like to hear about the development of Metropolis Street Racer in particular).
The final third is a bit of a mixed bag, it focuses on retrospectives of games from that first year and there are excellent ones given over to key titles such as Sonic Adventure, Soulcalibur and Power Stone, which cover four pages each, the single page inclusions are a bit all over the place. I’m not asking for a single voice ala EDGE Magazine here, but some of them read like “this is what the game is” and that’s about it, whilst others have a more personal take on things (such as SEGA Rally 2) which gives a wonderful impression of the pros and cons of that particular game. Though I huge special mention to the small segment afforded Re-Volt, a game that many people overlooked at the time, and still do on lists of greatest Dreamcast games, my friends and I had it as our defacto four-player racing game from the day it was released to the day we stopped playing the Dreamcast in multiplayer sessions (so when the original TimeSplitters came out on PS2, as that’s almost all we played for an entire year).
Overall, Dreamcast: Year One is a wonderfully presented, love letter to a console that holds a special place in the hearts of most people who got to play on one, that the console is being given a second lease of life thanks to aftermarket add-ons (I’ve not bought any yet, but fully intend to do so once I’ve got the controller ports working on my console) and allowing a whole new generation of enthusiasts to play some stellar games is testament to just how groundbreaking the Dreamcast was and this book really drives that home.