Which games are worth tracking down the original retro copies and which are best to simply download? aka The downside of a weekly content schedule with a full-time job, tiredness and definitely not a delay tactic to catch up on review content.
I think we can all agree that the Dreamcast is a terrific console. No past tense required, you can still grab a Dreamcast console, plug it all in and have a blast. 4 Player from the go, a visual memory unit system, a ton of arcade ports and the ability to output at a VGA resolution. It’s a shame the online component launched in such a state, people rushing out to buy a Dreamcast to play online only to find Chu Chu Rocket was the only option. The obvious PS2 behemoth crushing what little else it had going for it. All that being said though the Dreamcast is still a budget retro gamer’s treasure. Limited copy protection means that if you have some CD-Rs you can easily burn most games, just pop them in and play them from the go. The market for the games is still going strongly so it’s pretty great!
A lot of the best Dreamcast games have already got ports out there already. Dead Or Alive 2 works just fine on the PS2, Jet Set Radio is in HD on almost everything, Grandia 2 is on the Switch, the list goes on. Even the ‘stand out title’ Shenmue is now on modern consoles (not that it has aged particularly well) and rarer games such as Phantasy Star Online
Episode 1 & 2 and Skies of Arcadia have decent GameCube ports. You should always pick up titles you want for collecting purposes (I’ve a copy of Jet Set Radio and Sonic Adventure just ‘because’) but if you’re not sure about a title it’s worth looking up first. What games are worth popping into the white spiral of dreams and what’s worth the trip onto eBay?
Physical Copy – Crazy Taxi
Your enjoyment of Crazy Taxi will largely depend on how much you enjoy The Offspring album Ixnay on the Hombre as the soundtrack is largely composed of just that. It’s a lovely port of the original and runs like a charm. Full of adverts for Levi’s, KFC, Fila and more, the arcade classic was a 00s marketers drug induced fever dream. There was a PC port and a few sequels but the original title was so mass produced you can easily pick it up on the cheap. No tinkering, no patching, no installing, just pop the disc in the Dreamcast and it’s time to make some craaazy money! Crazy Taxi is still a fast quick dirty arcade reminder of that the Dreamcast does best.
Emulation – Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure
It’s a shame the only HD port of this was for PS3 and with Capcom losing the licence it was completely removed from the store ages ago. Now your only options for JoJo games are typically 3D brawlers but back in the day this fantastic 2D fighter was a cut above your typical anime licence. Persona fighting mechanics before Persona Arena was a thing, a story mode that was a fairly faithful following of the manga and unique colour schemes of the OVA anime. It’s a cracking fighter that really could do with a remaster or port. The original version doesn’t run fantastically on PAL Dreamcasts though so it’s worth a download to see if your setup can handle this before resigning to emulating it rather that paying a small fortune for the disc to find out PC disc drives can’t read Dreamcast discs.
Physical Copy – Virtua Tennis
I’ve always enjoyed a more arcade Mario Tennis-like experience over the serious sports simulation games and Virtua Tennis is one of the best. Virtua Tennis 2 is just as good as well but you can pick up Virtua Tennis 1 for next to nothing making it a bargain to pick up and play. Often overlooked by most, it is still an absolute champion. Arcade and exhibition modes are available but so is a huge RPG mode. Numerous training mini games, challenges and an in-game currency system used to unlockable players and various customization options. Virtua Tennis is definitely worth picking up if you see it. The players in the roster do somewhat date the experience but nobody really wanted to play as Tim Henman back then either so you’re not missing out on much.
Emulation – San Francisco Rush 2049
There’s a reason this absolute smash hit commands crazy prices still for a physical copy. A fantastically original racing game where wings can pop out when airborne and stunts performed for a speed boost. San Francisco Rush 2049 is packed with a ton of content and runs incredibly on the Dreamcast. Gripping gameplay and controls that never let up however fast the action gets it’s well worth playing at least once. Hydro Thunder gets a lot of hype as a Dreamcast classic but personally I find San Francisco Rush 2049 is a better game in every aspect (Hydro Thunder was also ported everywhere) The only other option for playing San Francisco Rush 2049 now is hunting down a copy of Midway Arcade Treasures 3 on PS2 or burning a disc as slowly as possible and hoping for the best.
Physical Copy – Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 or 2
We both know these titles are already playable on almost every system imaginable and most of you have a soft spot for the PS1 original. I do as well, I know I first played them on Sony’s grey box and still have a PS1 copy of Tony Hawks kicking around somewhere. The thing is, the Dreamcast versions of the games are arguably the best way to play the pair (bar the HD version of 1) Graphically the Dreamcast ports are simply stunning and doesn’t drop a beat throughout. The soundtracks, the incredibly addictive multiplayer and huge singleplayer story mode still hold up to this day. Skating around the distinctive areas you’ll be surprised how much muscle memory comes back just from a short playthrough.
Emulation – Sonic Adventure
Sonic Adventure is a strange game. It has somehow earned a strange memory for most players as being a fantastic Sonic game despite not being particularly that great. It’s enjoyable and well rounded but it’s no a ‘must have’ experience. That being said it was Sonic’s most well known early 3D title and still commands ludicrous prices for physical copies. The reason for this though isn’t the hidden gem status, it’s the fact that every port since the original has had a huge list of bugs, issues and problems. The Dreamcast is the easiest, quickest and cleanest way to pop in the game and just experience the few good levels and nostalgia before remembering that Sonic Adventure 2 was always better.
Physical Copy – Soul Caliber
Yet another arcade classic with a fantastic port to Dreamcast. Soul Caliber is currently ridiculously cheap to pick up. This could be because most people remember playing the sequel with its platform specific extra character and there’s a really nice HD remastered version of that on 360/PS3 consoles. It shouldn’t put you off going back to get this for the console itself though as the original is still packed with enjoyable gameplay and impressive content. Soul Caliber is still used as a baseline to test HDMI cables, VGA boxes and Dreamcast outputs because of its visuals and fidelity. Everything comes together nicely and it’s just a quick easy arcade rush before getting on with something more productive. Unless you fancy digging into its Dreamcast challenge mode and losing a few days to unlocking everything it has.
Emulation – Power Stone 2
If you can afford a physical copy then kudos, be sure to buy Power Stone 2 quick! It’s staggeringly annoying how this title has been left to the ages as it’s one of the best original IPs Capcom has ever made. Playing 4 player multiplayer matches all crowded around the Dreamcast is still one of the greatest multiplayer experiences you’ll ever have. Power Stone 2 has a similar frantic action to playing Smash Bros but with a 3D evolving stage system and mechanics that make every brawl fresh and fast paced. For the Dreamcast port each item you use in battle is counted as ‘collected’ and by experimenting and fusing them together you can unlock more through a ridiculously expanded system that gave this title such huge longevity. There was a decent port to the PSP and there it stayed. Lost to time.
Either / Both – Marvel Vs. Capcom 2
The best version of Marvel Vs. Capcom 2 is the Dreamcast port and that’s why the game is still incredibly expensive. It’s worth its weight in gold if you can afford it for collectible-sake but otherwise just download a rip and enjoy as is. There was a HD port to 360 and PS3 but as with most Capcom classics the licence ran out and this was lost to the ages. Even the physical cases of that HD version simply contain download codes! Here’s to hoping that with the announcement of the game at EVO this year Capcom are sneakily going to release the port to modern consoles the same way they did with Marvel Vs Capcom 3… I can dream can’t I?
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