The Dreamcast and the Victory of E3 2014

Hi folks, I just wanted to give a brief update as there’s been a lot going on around here. I have managed to get my grubby hands on a Sega Dreamcast for the first time, a mere 15 years after its release. I’ve spent a few days with it now, so what follows here are some first impressions of the console. I also need to talk (read: brag) about the announcement of Splatoon at E3, but I’ll come to that shortly.

The Dreamcast. My initial impression is that this is a rather charming device, albeit surprisingly loud for such a petite console. I like the controller – it’s pretty similar to the Saturn’s analogue or 3D controller, which is no bad thing. The analogue stick feels a bit off somehow, but I suspect it’s just my controller. I need to pick up a second at least for multiplayer ChuChu Rocket action so will hopefully be able to rectify that soon. (I’ll save ChuChu Rocket discussion till an upcoming podcast episode – for now it’ll suffice to say that it’s an excellent game, and thanks to Reset Tears for recommending it.)

Aside from the remarkable “official” game library, one thing that’s really exciting to me about the Dreamcast is the accessibility of homebrew. Unlike the majority of consoles out there, the Dreamcast doesn’t require any hardware modifications to run homebrew, and so this is the first time I’ve had the opportunity to get into it. I had no clue until now there was such fascinating stuff out there! As well as original and tribute homemade games (including the fantastic looking Beats of Rage and many beat ’em up offspring that have been released since), there are a number of unofficial ports of Half-Life mods for the Dreamcast which have gotten me ludicrously excited. You can’t imagine how surprised and impressed I was to find that one of my favourite Half-Life mods from back in the day, They Hunger, was ported to Dreamcast in 2010.

I can’t wait to experiment with this stuff. But, of course, the arrival of the Dreamcast doesn’t mean I’ll be turning my back on my other consoles. Really, looking at the Dreamcast’s library, I can only conclude that it is an entirely natural addition to this blog. The Dreamcast’s unique situation in the late nineties/early noughties means its library serves as a bridge between the console generations this blog covers. Sequels, ports and re-releases all provide a continuity between the Saturn, Dreamcast, and PS2/GC/X-Box which I had never realised existed before.

I’ll end with a small gloat. Another year, another E3. I haven’t been following the whole grotesque affair closely the way I have in previous years, but I picked up one crucial fact: Nintendo heeded my call. They heeded the Call of Cutie, to be specific. Admittedly, they came at it from a different angle from the one I suggested, but, nevertheless, the announcement of Splatoon, a cutesy, family-friendly shooter, is a positive sign for the diversification of the genre and for console gaming as a whole.

Of course, lest we forget, there have been attempts in the past to create a family-friendly shooter – I look back and remember with semi-fond memories Nerf Arena Blast on PC. I remember distinctly being disappointed with it though, because despite the Nerf branding and its potential to take first person shooters in an entirely new direction, the game felt more like a poor man’s Unreal Tournament with added garishness.

nerf arena blast pc

Blast him, blast him till he’s scuffed! He won’t look (quite) so pretty after a NERF™ bullet in the head!

Who knows how Splatoon will turn out (I certainly won’t find out for another ten years at least) but Nintendo seem to be pushing those aesthetic boundaries and gameplay concepts into wacky territory whilst keeping the depth and strategy of a good shooter. Essentially they seem to be doing to shooters what Mario Kart and Smash Bros. did to racing and fighting games respectively, and that can only be a good thing in my opinion. Children turning into eels to traverse the map is exactly the sort of thing I want to see.

That’s all for now, but regular posts will resume shortly – there’s some new games to discuss and a return to videogame retailers. Who knew Tooting held such treasures!?

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