Posted by: Paul | February 27, 2010

Dust off the Dreamcast

I like to think of myself as having a little videogame archive. I have a PS1 and a medium sized collection of games, a Sega Dreamcast and a fairly comprehensive collection of the best software for that system (minus one or two things I either didn’t like or traded in along the way), a PS3 which is my current system, plus a PSP which I now hardly use and a DS Lite which is mostly used for Zookeeper and Sudoku!

The Dreamcast was the one where I really went in for getting my hands on everything worth playing on the console. I picked one up cheap in its dying days, and at the time games were also falling in price rapidly. The library of titles was such that you could own, and finish, pretty much everything worth owning and finishing in a reasonable amount of time so it seemed like a good aim and my own meaningless tribute to a system which fell between two generations of hardware.

But now, the time has come for me to say goodbye. Probably not to the unit itself – my machine is a bit flaky and has a habit of restarting itself mid-session. But to many of the games, yes. The secondary market has picked up to the extent that I should make a profit on quite a number of things I’m going to sell. To be honest, I could do with the shelf space. And it’s time to recognise that I am never going to play through Skies of Arcadia or Grandia II again, am I? So here are just a couple of the things shortly to appear on eBay:

Shenmue II. I’d say they don’t make them like this anymore, only Heavy Rain has just come out. Shenmue is a beautiful chore – a kung fu fairytale in which the story of a son’s quest to avenge the death of his father takes him from Yokohama in the first game (where he gets a job and drives a forklift truck on Christmas Day – CHRISTMAS DAY!), to Hong Kong and Kowloon in the second, (where he collects a lot of ornamental cigarette lighters. At least I did). Shenmue is largely responsible for bequeathing to the videogame industry the “Quick Time Event” or QTE, where a series of rapid button presses during what you thought was a cutscene save you from a horrible death, mostly. But don’t hold that against it. A singular experience played out in compressed time as if it it was a real day/night cycle, Shenmue is thoughtful, dull, exciting, mystical, violent, trivial, romantic, weird and yes it really can be all those things at the same time.

REZ. An awful lot of fuss is made about Rez, which would baffle most first-time players. It’s essentially a 3D wireframe shooter set to a trance soundtrack. The basic premise, if there is such a thing, is that you’re hacking through a computer’s security system to destroy the core – which turns out to be a lifeform. I can’t say much more than that without spoiling the thin story. But despite the superficiality and brevity, REZ endures. To the point at which I’m in two minds as to whether to ebay it or not. It’s hypnotic – the visuals and soundtrack build as you progress through each area and again, there’s nothing else quite like it. It’s influential, sought after and rightly so.

Gosh, this post has got a bit long. Essentially I’m mourning the passing of my favourite console of recent years – one where developers really pushed the boundaries of what was technically possible, and with it created some unique experiences. Sniff.

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