Throwback Thursday: Dreamcast and Sonic

In this series of posts I want to explore games from my past. In doing so I aim to not only highlight pieces of game history (good or bad), but also examine my personal relationship to gaming. In this post I want to focus on a games console celebrating its recent birthday.

dreamcast

Last week the Sega Dreamcast celebrated its 17th anniversary, making it the perfect subject for this fortnight’s Throwback Thursday.

I actually never owned a Dreamcast, but my pal did and I remember the jealousy and wonder I felt towards it. I didn’t own a Playstation at this time, I was still playing games on my SNES. To my little eyes the Dreamcast was incredible -I couldn’t believe it existed.

I have a memory of playing the Dreamcast at my friend’s house and the game of choice was Sonic Adventure. If you never played this game, or don’t remember, let me fill you in on what made it so good: you could walk about the city. Not jump from platform to platform. Actually walk about an actual virtual, 3D city. If I thought the console itself was fantastic, then you can imagine how my mind was blown by this game.

sonic-city

Or maybe you can’t. While writing this I watched some footage of the game and.. it really doesn’t look like anything spectacular. But that’s only because games have changed so much. When we look back on computer games from your childhood, we often do so to laugh at how primitive they were, looking at them through modern eyes. We need to look at this game, and other 90s games, in its contemporary context. And that context is that it was pretty amazing for its time – I looked up the kind of critical response the game got, and everyone was kind of freaking out over it. Edge magazine said the game had “an amazingly detailed cityscape” and “a beautifully realised Sonic”. It was an open world 3D Sonic game!

I felt the same way playing this game as I did playing Mario on the N64. The mere idea of an open world game was wondrous to me. Games, and technology in general, has advanced so much in such a short space of time that it’s easy to look back and scoff. Instead, take a moment to remember how revolutionary being able to take pictures on your phone first was, or how not having to wait an age to connect to the internet was novel (if you don’t remember dial up internet, then bless you). My parents talk about a time when their whole street shared one phone line, which seems like madness today.

So, I may not have many memories of a Dreamcast, but I do know that it really set off a feeling of amazement at what games could do, what they could build. While writing this I’ve been thinking about what child me would think of games today, where open worlds are so much more open and expansive than Sonic could ever manage. I think I would be speechless at the world building that goes on in so many games. So happy anniversary Dreamcast – you helped to get me hooked on games and you helped to make the virtual adventures we have today be realised. Thanks.

Please share with me your feelings on nostalgia and the key games of your childhood – I’d love to hear your memories of this console and early interactions with open world gaming.

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