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  1. THE ULTIMATE SEGA DREAMCAST (ONLY THE BEST FOR SEGA'S BEST) Picture this. It's midnight on a Thursday and you are standing in line at the mall waiting for EB Games to open. Summer is almost over and fall is coming in the wind. Bill Clinton is still President, the economy is awesome, the Twin Towers are still defining the NEW York skyline, but the most exciting part of it all is that the doors just opened and the line has started moving. What is so important that it has you waiting in line at midnight? It's release day for the most advanced home video game console on earth! As it turned out it also became SEGA's swansong, but no one knows that yet. The SEGA DREAMCAST has everyone excited about the possibilities a 128-Bit console affords. SONY wouldn't release the Plastation 2 for over a year, Nintendo wouldn't release a successor to the N64 for more than 2 years, and there are rumblings that Microsoft would enter the game in just over a year too. SEGA was poised to own the space for a whole year. If you were excited about the next generation of consoles, SEGA was offering instant gratification. They dreamed big and went for it. I went with them. My dad and I got our Dreamcast on 9/9/99, release day. We got a copy of Sonic Adventure, Soulcaliber, and Blue Stinger. All of which are favorites of mine to this day. In fact I'm looking at them on my game shelf as I type this. My family was struggling during the 16-bit era. My Friend had the NES, cousin's cousin had the SNES, and my mom got us a SEGA Genesis. The SNES was something I only saw rarly, at get togethers or daycare. The Genesis was mine! Like many others, the Genesis was my defining console. Sonic was our jam! SEGA separated themselves as a clear and present danger for Nintendo's dominance of the Video game market after Atari crashed it. The Video Game wars were raging and I was living it up. The competition between Nintendo and SEGA had produced some of the finest games you'll likly ever see. The jump from 8-bit to 16-bit was amazing. I had seen the SEGA CD and 32x in the Toys R US, but couldn't get them. We only had enough money to live on and mom was the penny pincher. But Dad was the spender! He got the SONY PlayStation and we made the jump to 32-bit. That was a ride and a half and made me completely forget about SEGA. I just this year added the SEGA Saturn to my collection and have been enjoying a handful of games, it really was ahead of it's time. However, that was a bad thing back then because the game developers weren't given enough time to take advantage of the hardware and develop amazing 3D adventures until SONY had arrived on the scene with console sellers, like Crash Bandicoot. EDIT: As I look into this more, it's clear to me that SEGA ham strung them selves by not being as approachable to 3rd party developers as SONY was. Like Nintendo they structured deals with 3rd parties such that it limited potental profits had they developed for the Saturn or N64. This drove them to Develop instead for PlayStation. Whereas Nintendo had the capital and market share to withstand the loss of 3rd party development, SEGA did not. SEGA, like Nintendo always had great 1st party development, but was hemorrhaging money selling consoles at a loss with the idea that they would make the money back in software sales. Had they been friendlier to 3rd party developers and waited to released with a Sonic Adventure game bundled with the Saturn, I wonder how SEGA might have changed the video game landscape of today. But they didn't, the Saturn flopped, and they were loosing money for each Saturn they sold. This caused them to produce fewer consoles to limit the bleeding. The Saturn failed big in North America, due to lack of 3rd party support. Turns out, my dad made the right choice and I was lost in the world SONY created, just like so many other kids my age. Fast forward past the Nintendo's 64-Bit console craze and we arrive at SEGA's last chance to redeem themselves as a contender in the home console market. They went big this time, being the first to 128-bit graphics. Every doubling of Bits back then equaled exponential enjoyment of, and awe at, the video games made. Combine that anticipation with the prospect of a 1-2 year drought before the Gamecube, X-box, and Playstation 2, and everyone expecting SEGA's response to be HUGE!. This is why there was so much buzz around the launch of the SEGA DREAMCAST. SEGA's swansong console has solidified SEGA in my mind as a visionary in the video game industry. It had a modem, making it the first internet capable console. This was a hugely under appreciated facet to SEGA's forward thinking design, and had the developers and customers not been weary of the console after being burned by the Saturn, more AAA games and online multiplayer might have saved SEGA. Unfortunately the pioneers usually brunt the axe, Phantasy Star online was a showcase of the idea, but overall online multiplayer failed to gain traction because people were saving up for the PS2, X-Box, and Gamecube. SEGA's games didn't take full advantage, because they were still developing the tech. I wish online multiplayer in 1999 had matured to the point it had by 2002, but it didn't and the Dreamcast was overshadowed a year later by the launch of the PlayStation 2, then the X-Box, and finally the Gamecube. Microsoft's X-Box survived by benefiting from X-Box live, doing what I wish SEGA had been able to. SEGA gambled with being first, believing that forward thinking design, pioneering technology, and awesome 1st party games would carry their brand. History should credit them their due, but unfortunately they bared the burden of being in first place. Like so many others, they discovered that's not the best strategy for a race. Being first, having the best tech, taking risks, and being confident in yourself may be the American mantra of success, but it rarely equates to longevity. The industry and public needs to be with you. They tried to force the future before the future was ready. Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft followed in SEGA's draft, waiting for the opportunity to take advantage. By then the industry and public were primed for the next generation console, but SEGA was spent. LAck of 3rd party support, loss of consumer confidence, and internal pressure had caught up to SEGA. They burned bright and fast. And like a supernova, they went out with a bang. They went big, taking on the machines that are NINTENDO and SONY, screaming in their face... ...I can't help but look back and feel a tragic miscarriage of timing and over-confidence conspired to bring down one of the greatest pioneers in the home console industry. Both the Saturn and the Dreamcast were top notch consoles that never reached their full potential. They failed for being released too soon, they were ahead of their time. SEGA should have learned from Atari's mistakes and embraced 3rd party development. That means a competitive licensing arrangement and enough lead time to allow for development and distribution. That was their recipe for success with the Genesis, and Nintendon'ts resistance cost them. That's not to say Saturn and Dreamcast didn't have great games, they did. Just not as many as SONY got. If there are any consoles more worthy of a AAA game developers attention for new games intended for release on a retro consoles, these would be my first choice. You could throw the Atari Jaguar in that discussion too, but that's another story. In preparation for the SEGA Dreamcast's 20 year anniversary I have been working on this project. For the past few months I have been on a hell of a ride. I would liked to have documented my steps along the way, but this project has been running simultaneously with my SNES repair thread and I wanted that one to be it's own show. Besides, it was a bit too early. Now I'm ready to start this new thread journaling my Dreamcast Modding Adventure... PART ZERO: IMPROVING PERFECTION So, how do you improve upon a perfect design? Well, you can't! I'm just going to fix some issues that arise after 20 years of use: Replace the aging Optical Drive which is prone to dying. Solid state lasers are dropping like flies after 20-25 years. The SEGA Saturn is experiencing this issue and so are Dreamcast's. You can replace the Giga Byte Rom drive (GDROM) with another, but run the risk of it doing the same thing. The better solution is an update to the modern era - returning to cartridge based media! In this case ,an SD Card by means of an Optical Drive Emulator, the GEDMU. Moreover, I want it to look like it was meant to be there, not a just big hole! Replace the Case Fan with a larger, quieter fan. As these age they get very noisy. Another thing to point out is that SEGA's OEM fan has a pull up resistor across the +5v (red) and TACH (yellow) line built into their fan. New PC fans don't. This causes an issue when you try to replace the fan. The Dreamcast will shut off during boot because it can't read the TACH signal coming from the fan. It thinks the fan has failed and shuts off power to prevent overheating. This will need a simple mod to fix. Wireless controller technology at the time the Dreamcast was released was crap, but not anymore. I will update the console to a modern bluetooth design. Wireless controller, wireless power on/off, while still retaining all the VMU and accessory support (tremor pack, memory cards, microphone, and etc). Even a wireless Gun Conn controller that will work with my modern Big Screen TV. Lastly, I will bring the Dreamcast into the modern era with a Fully digital to digital 1080p HDMI output via the DCHDMI mod. This will ensure that my Dreamcast is ready to power my gaming dreams into the future. And do so with all the features I'd expect from a modern Retro console today.
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