9/9/99

I basically lost out on all of today, but I’m still going to put up this post until I publish something more substantial. Fifteen years ago to the day, the Dreamcast, Sega’s final video game console, entered the North American market. Cue the prune juice; I’m getting old.

Dreamcast

Happy Fifteenth! Pic comes from segaretro.org.

My personal experience with the Dreamcast is rather limited, as I’ve never owned one.and never played it much until my second year of college. One of my roommates owned a Dreamcast and quite a few games, so sometimes we’d pop in a few titles and have at it. I really enjoyed it, and Virtua Tennis got me more hyped than ever thought it could. However, it was Capcom’s fighting title Project Justice which really sold me. People, if you haven’t played that one by all means find a way to do so. I doubt you’ll be disappointed.

What I remember most about the Dreamcast are some of the wacky commercials that Sega had to advertise it. In the video seen below (thanks to peppardb for the upload), there are a series of the initial commercials Sega used to promote the DC. These ads featured a number of Sega’s characters, as well as professional athletes. My favorite of the commercials has a digital version of former Chicago Bears quarterback Jim McMahon.

The Dreamcast was not a big hit over its run, finishing a distant fourth in sales to its fellow sixth generation consoles– the Sony PlayStation 2, Microsoft Xbox, and Nintendo Gamecube respectively–  with only 10 million units sold. After the system was discontinued in 2001, it did continue to receive software consistent software support in North America and Europe until the following year, while Japan had Dreamcast games regularly on its store shelves until 2004, with two more releases in 2007 and 2008.

The Dreamcast was ahead of its time, with its usage of Windows operating system, built-in modem for online play, and the Visual Memory Unit (VMU) which stored game information. VMUs were impressive tech for its time and even now, as some of those units had mini games that could be played on the unit itself.

Despite its poor overall sale performance relative to its competition, gamers and critics have since praised the Dreamcast as being one of the best consoles ever made. Even now, the Dreamcast still has a dedicated fanbase, seen on numerous gaming forums and fansites. In 2009, the Dreamcast placed  8th on IGN’s list of top 25 consoles and the following year, placed first on PC Magazine’s top ten console list.

Happy fifteenth, Dreamcast! Hopefully Sega makes another video game console soon. Until next time.

“It’s thinking”

Edit: Added some info about the publications that praised the Dreamcast and its dedicated fanbase.

The Need for Speed Turns 20

I almost forgot to do this post, but here it is anyway, even if it’s a bit tardy. Yesterday, Electronic Arts’s Need for Speed franchise turned twenty years old. There are 20 games in the NFS series (23 if you count the Region 1 V-Rally titles and Nitro X) which have seen release across several video game consoles and home computers. With combined sales of over 150 million copies, NFS is not only the best-selling racing video game series of all, but one of the best-selling video game franchises ever.

Happy 2-0! Pic comes from wikipedia.com

Throughout its run, the NFS  series has had a variety of themes for its games, ranging from racing exotic supercars cars on civilian roadways to facing off against underground street racers. In this post, we’ll focus on the first game in the series, Road & Track Presents: The Need for Speed.

The first. Pic comes from wikipedia.com

Originally released on Panasonic’s 3DO video game system (with later releases on DOS, Sega Saturn, and Sony PlayStation),  Road & Track Presents: The Need for Speed was developed by EA Canada (formerly Distinctive Software, Inc.) and Pioneer Productions with help from the folks at Road & Track magazine. The game features several exotic race cars of its time– among them the Dodge Viper and Mazda RX-7– for players to race on the roads of several fictional locales. People from Road & Track magazine came in to help EA accurately portray the game’s cars so they would perform like their real life inspirations. The game has a full motion video (FMV) intro, as well as FMVs for the selectable cars. If you’re interested, the game’s intro is embedded below  (respect to EA Latinoamerica for the upload).

Gameplay is for one or two players. Player cars are driven using either an in-car view ( with a unique cockpit for each car) or a third-person behind-the-car view. Races come in the form of circuit tracks and point-to-point races, the former which are long race divided into three stages. Police cars and pedestrian traffic hinder players on the point-to-point races, and if caught enough times, the player can get arrested, ending his or her game. Players have the option to save completed races and view them later with the game’s replay system.

In terms of its premise, Need for Speed was not unique for its time. Test Drive, a similar exotic car racer made by the now defunct Accolade, was first released in 1987. What made Need for Speed successful was its gameplay.The game provides a good sense of speed, making it seem as though the player is piloting an actual dream machine. For a look at some gameplay footage, check out the upload from DVD Gaming below.

My experience with the Need for Speed series is a little limited because I’ve only played the first game a few times at best. I do own one game in the series, Need for Speed II SE for Windows which I received in the late 1990s. Later, I got the demo for Need for Speed III: Hot Pursuit and played that for a while, but the family computer wasn’t quite up to spec for it. That didn’t prevent me from enjoying the game, though. Low-res textures for the victory!

In college, I played Need for Speed: Most Wanted (the 2005 version) on the Xbox 360, and enjoyed it immensely. Since I haven’t played any of the later NFS releases. The cops versus racers dynamic in that game was great fun, and I imagine I’d still enjoy it today.

Like many successful video game franchises, NFS made its way to the silver screen. Earlier this year, Need for Speed, an action thriller starring Aaron Paul and the excellent Michael Keaton, hit the theaters. I like both Paul and Keaton, and they were the reasons why I went to see the film. My interest for the film peaked after watching the trailers, and even convinced a buddy of mine to go see it with me, and he had to make the quite the trip to do so.

To this day I still apologize to him.

It wasn’t Paul’s nor Keaton’s fault that the film was mediocre though there were (as there should have been) some good race scenes. It’s just… some games are better left on the consoles. If you’re at least somewhat curious about the movie, here’s the official trailer for it.

Happy 20th Need for Speed! It’s been a great ride indeed. EA released a special video commemorating the series earlier this year, is embedded below if you’re interested. Until next time.

Peace & Pixels

Edit: This post needed a bit of work. Pictures got added in (the original game’s box art), moved around (the franchise logo), and some of the general info was changed for accuracy’s sake.