Tag Archives: skies of arcadia

The Sega Dreamcast Changed My Life

Today is the 20th anniversary of the U.S. release of the Dreamcast, so we thought it was appropriate to reshare this piece on the console’s legacy that originally ran September 9th, 2016.

The Sega Dreamcast was released 17 years ago today in the United States. A console defined by experimental games and features far ahead of the curve, it’s fair to say that the Dreamcast changed my life forever. It made me see what games could be. It lived up to the name; it was everything I dreamed of and more.

Originally released on November 27th, 1998 in Japan, the Dreamcast was a shot at redemption after Sega’s last console, the Saturn, had a less than stellar time competing with the Playstation and Nintendo 64. Something had to change in order for Sega to keep a horse in the console race. The Dreamcast had it all: incredibly powerful graphics, online capability through dial up, and a playful take on media. Hell, the memory card, also known as the Visual Memory Unit (or VMU) had a screen built into it. Sega was here to play and they did it wonderfully.

If there is one thing I believe the Dreamcast managed better than any other console, it was offering bright and living worlds. The Dreamcast had an energy, a pulsing heart that I’ve found nowhere else. Yu Suzuki’s ambitious Shenmue dutifully recreated the streets of 1986’s Yokosuka, giving NPCs schedules and habits. The bright anti-establishment frenzy of Jet Set Radio popularized cel-shaded graphics, sweeping players away in a jazz fusion lighting bolt of colors and sounds. Sonic the Hedgehog came to life in Sonic Adventure, shooting through loops and bouncing on springs in proper 3-D.

I played it all and learned to love the act of playing. I found myself in those games. I will never forget sailing into the unknown in Skies of Arcadia. By all standards, Skies is an average role playing game. For me, it was a revelation. I watched as cheerful heroes stood against villains because that’s what heroes do. I learned that impossible was a word that people used so they could feel better when they quit. I was told to always be audacious. I have tried every day since then to live up to the heroes I found in that game. It is the reason I believe that games are worth the attention we give them. I would not be here if not for that game and the wonderful console that made it possible.

When I finished Skies of Arcadia for the first time, I ran to find my mother. I was eleven years old and was crying tears of joy. I held her close and she held me back; I remember her smile. A bemused grin that told me it was okay to care. That it was beautiful to dream. The Dreamcast encouraged my passion and called on me to share it with those around me. My father was obsessed with Shenmue; we would play it together every Christmas after it came out. He, too, could not get enough of those virtual worlds and eagerly awaits Shenmue 3.

The Dreamcast didn’t last long. It arrived too soon and floundered as the Playstation 2 and Microsoft’s Xbox entered the market with astounding fanfare. By 2001, Sega discontinued the console and lowered the price in a desperate attempt to offload inventory and exit the world of consoles for good.

Skies of Arcadia ends with a message. I think of it often. It comes to mind now as I think of the Dreamcast:

As long as there are dreamers who have the courage to pursue their dreams, the world will have heroes. And as long as there is a thirst to discover the unknown, there will be new stories to tell…and new adventures to be had.

That is what the Dreamcast was. A joyous and celebratory reminder to play and dream. The Dreamcast may be dead but there are still dreamers out there. Like me. Like you. As long as we keep dreaming? I think things will be alright. For games and beyond.

Source: Kotaku.com

Twitter Account Serves Up Perfect, Bite-Sized Samples Of Video Game Music

Video game music rules. Sometimes, it is legitimately great. Since the start of 2019, Twitter account 140 Seconds VGM has been breaking down game tunes into bite-sized chunks. Sometimes the songs are classics, sometimes they’re random oddities. But every new post brings a bright blast of music.

140 Seconds VGM posts a handful of times a day, with samples slightly over two minutes. It’s a good way to get a taste for well-known composers as well as find some of the stranger, lesser-known pieces of music. For instance, you might go from the JRPG boldness of Octopath Traveler’s Yasunori Nishiki to the operatic and inimitable work of Nier composer Keiichi Okabe:

Other times, it’s something a little more random and funky. For instance, you might stumble upon the pop music from the clumsy-to-play but still pretty charming Sega Saturn racing game Sonic R. 140 Seconds VGM has something for everyone.

Now, one might say “Heather, you bojo! This has been running nearly a year! Why didn’t you tell us sooner?” or even “Psh, I knew about this before it was cool.” But 140 Seconds VGM has just recently stumbled into my life, and I want to share the joy. Start your morning right with a little bit of music.

I know I’m gonna keep an eye out for whenever they post the title screen music from Skies of Arcadia. It’s the second best piece of game music. The first is Chrono Cross’ ‘Scars of Time.’ Nothing’s ever come close to beating that one.

Source: Kotaku.com

What’s On My Old Dreamcast Memory Card In 2019

Total RecallTotal Recall is a look back at the history of video games through their characters, franchises, developers and trends.  

While I rush to keep up with new games for work, I also enjoy going back to play games I grew up with. It started with the Sega Genesis and built to include things like the Super Nintendo and Playstation. But one console holds top billing in my heart: Sega’s ill-fated Dreamcast. I booted it up this morning to see what games were on my memory card.

Before we start, I just want to point out how mind-blastingly cool the Dreamcast memory card actually is. The Visual Memory Unit, or VMU, is a small, Gameboy-like device that slots into your controller. Whenever you play a game, different designs show up on the screen: a tiny mobile suit for Gundam Side Story 0079: Rise from the Ashes, or character faces from Power Stone. But because it’s also a portable device, you can take it out and manage your saves. Some titles, like Sonic Adventure and Skies of Arcadia, even had mini-games to play on your VMU. For the former, you could raise your adorable Chao pets Tamagotchi style. For the latter, there was “Pinta’s Quest,” a small side-scrolling game where you could collect items to use in the full game. The Dreamcast was a wonderful experiment, and the VMU was an integral part of that.

When I took a peek at my VMU’s contents today, I was both surprised and amused. There’s a fair bit of spare room in there. A VMU can hold 128KBs of data. Like with the Nintendo 3DS, files take up a certain amount of blocks, and I had 41 blocks free. If I want to, I could have save data for at least one or two more games. What remained on my VMU were some of the most essential games I’ve ever played, many well-known and others basically forgotten. It felt like opening the Ark of the Covenant without all the face melting, so I’m going to break it down game by game.

Shenmue

There wasn’t anything else like Yu Suzuki’s slice-of-life open-world masterpiece when Shenmue launched. The idea that you could enter a room and open drawers was essentially mind-blowing, and the fact that it boasted a fully orchestrated score was a similarly big deal. I know protagonist Ryo Hazuki’s story by heart; I’ve played this game dozens of times. I used to play through it each holiday season with my father. After Shenmue II failed to release on the Dreamcast in America and barely got a release on the Xbox, the series felt forgotten. Now, you can buy both on various systems, and Shenmue III is aimed for release this August.

Side note: This is the biggest save file on my VMU at a whopping 80 blocks!

Skies of Arcadia

Of course this was going to be on my VMU. I started a replay in January, which I’m trying to get back to after GDC. Skies of Arcadia is my favorite game of all time, something I’ve made clear on Kotaku over and over again. Skies of Arcadia is an optimistic tale of sky pirates and evil empires whose earnestness is so affecting to me that after nearly five years of writing about games, I still feel like I’ve never found the right words to describe what it means to me. I even have a tattoo from the game on my right forearm. Even now I have more plans in store for writing about it on Kotaku. It’s a part of me, an inextricable piece of my DNA. And if there’s a God, I really hope he can convince Sega to port it to PC.

Gundam Side Story 0079: Rise from the Ashes

Giant mechs are great, mech games are great, but Rise from the Ashes tends to be ignored in any discussion of the genre. That’s a real disappointment since it’s one of the more intense and “real” Gundam experiences you can play. It places you right in the cockpit amidst a mobile suit team in war-torn Australia. It’s as “boots on the ground” as you can get for a Gundam video game. Fighting a single enemy in close-quarters combat is a frantic mixture of dashes and rumbles, and taking on fortified bunkers is a big deal since you’re not some anime hero. Fans of Gundam should seek it out ASAP; you won’t be disappointed.

Side note: This is the oldest save on my VMU, dating all the way back to 2005. That seems like a long time, but it’s four years after the Dreamcast itself was discontinued.

Sonic Adventure

This is a rough one to play nowadays, but Sonic Adventure’s ambition meshed perfectly with the Dreamcast’s freewheeling nature. Moving to the third dimension was not smooth for Sonic, as his speed often outstripped what the camera could reliably follow. But Sonic Adventure does more than just Sonic—there’s a full story campaign with six playable characters, all intersecting at various points. Also: hub worlds. This wasn’t simply a string of levels. There was a world to explore, which was pretty damn cool. Nothing’s ever quite followed the same format since then, and just seeing this on my VMU makes me eager to replay.

Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2

It’s not as nostalgic as the original, but THPS2 is definitely the better game in all respects. With a more varied soundtracks that set Rage Against the Machine and Powerman 5000 alongside Naughty by Nature and Sub Pistols, there was always a good song to shred to. This is also the game that first added manuals (think wheelies for skateboards), which were essential for building the massive combos that defined the series. It’s pure cotton candy with a balance of arcade flash and enthusiast detail that formed a love letter to all things skateboard.

Silver

This is probably the most random game on my VMU, for now. Silver is an old RPG about a generic dude named David trying to save his wife from an evil emperor. What was unique about it was the combat. Depending on how you moved the analog stick (while holding down I believe the right trigger?) you could slash horizontally, thrust your sword, hop back, and more. It’s not as in-depth as games that would come after it, like Neverwinter Nights, but there was just enough to keep you guessing. Silver felt like a game that came too soon. The recruitable companions, interesting combat, and gorgeous pre-rendered backgrounds never really combined into anything coherent or narratively compelling. Still, I played the shit out of this one, and it’s actually available on Steam now.

And that’s it! I’m a bit surprised there’s not more, but having Shenmue on my VMU really limits how much I can cram in there. None of my favorite fighting games are there, either Marvel Vs. Capcom or Powerstone, and I could have sworn that I had a file for Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver. Still, many of the essential and important games remain. Their data has followed me for over a decade, and I still play them from time to time when I want to remember why I do the work I do. 

Source: Kotaku.com