Dream on: The Sega Dreamcast in 2012.

Posted: February 6, 2012 by ryanlecocq in Features, Off-topic

Still crazy after all these years.


I won’t clutter the internet with another trip down memory lane about how it felt to be the first in line in my town to pick up my reserved Dreamcast.  I could go on for paragraphs about what it was like to experience Phantasy Star Online in 2001, but you’ve read it all before.  What’s worth your time and finger scrolling strain is an up to date report on the most retrogasmic things you can do with your dusty old DC.  I’m going to say right off the bat that I am going to advocate piracy or methods that are technically illegal.  The fact is that you cannot play a retail copy of PSO easily online anymore and many versions of Skies of Arcadia don’t work with the VGA box.  Read on true believers, if you think you love your Dreamcast, you haven’t met the people who made this stuff.


The Basics: Optimized Hardware

There are a few things you will probably want to make your trip down memory lane more like you remember it.  Numero uno is a VGA adapter.  Best bet for this one is to go on eBay and search “Dreamcast VGA” (don’t be specific as it may be listed ‘cable’ or ‘box’ etc.).  The transparent plastic ones for around $20 seem to work fine, but a Blaze or Sega brand part is the smartest option.  Most HDTVs have a VGA input and if you don’t have one available, you can always hook it up to a computer monitor.  Unless you’re still rocking a tube tv only, the Dreamcast is going to look way better next to your modern games if you don’t run it through crappy A/V cables.

The big harsh number two is the broadband modem/adapter.  This guy is likely to set you back at least $50 and the only place to find it is eBay once again.  Unless you have dial-up or are willing to pay for it, this is the only way you can play the many Dreamcast games that can still be played online through various methods.  If you are willing to pay for dial-up or can get it free through your DSL provider, go for it.  I warn you though in case you forget, dial-up sucks hard.  If you intend to sit there in your garage, grinning about 9.9.99 on a regular basis, you won’t regret buying a BBA while they still exist.

In the miscellaneous category are a few items that may or may not be of use.  If you intend to play Phantasy Star Online on one of the private servers, you may want to look around for a Dreamcast keyboard.  You can usually find them relatively cheap at used game stores, so don’t pay more than $20.  I also have a preference for the Mad Catz Dream Pad controller over every other DC pad as it’s shaped very similar to the Xbox 360 controller, but larger, which suits me.  There are also a few 4-block memory cards that act like 4 different memory cards.  For Phantasy Star, this lets you save 4 characters per card instead of one.  I honestly wouldn’t pick up a gun, fishing pole or microphone as playing any of the games associated with those peripherals would probably disappoint your memories.


All that stuff besides original DC games.

If you look around torrent sites, you can find a number of homebrew apps that will run without any modification on the Dreamcast.  It’s not a hack of any kind, the DC was designed to run homebrew software.  You will find everything from old PC games that have been converted, to discs containing emulators and hundreds of classic games.  All you’ll need is to set your burning software at the proper settings (search for “Dreamcast backup burning guide -your OS-“) and a big stack of burnable CDs and you are minutes from content even more nostalgic than the Dreamcast’s own library.  Yeah they’ve got Beneath a Steel Sky and the unreleased Dreamcast version of Half-Life too, so a few things are technically pirated games.  Half-Life at least was published but never shipped and sat dormant until people legitimately purchased the mothballed copies of the game and ripped them to the internet.  It’s a mad world.


Having trouble with that Skies of Arcadia rip, eh?

I’ll give you a choice, you can surrender or I can focus for 3 turns and put this up your aft.


Let’s say maybe you don’t have your old DC anymore or maybe you took my advice and got a VGA cable, but you’re trying to run a backup of Skies of Arcadia.  There’s about a 95% chance that you have located and downloaded the Echelon compressed Skies of Arcadia rip, that has a cheat trainer at the beginning of the disc.  This makes both emulators and VGA cables incapable of booting this game.  This was the first and only rip of Skies that was ever released fitting on CDs.  Including the trainer must have seemed like a fancy bonus to the hackers back in 2000, but it’s screwing the lazy people of 2012 with their gee whiz technology and unwillingness to purchase the game for collector prices.  I’ve already felt your pain and went the necessary 34 pages of google results past where you likely got pissed off and found the ancient obscure solution.  What you need is SOApatcher, which unfortunately requires Windows XP and will not (no way, no how, trust me I speak machine) work under Windows 7.  The forum link below has a download attached that contains it.  Took me a bit to find this one.  Basically SOApatcher was designed to fix a number of glitches SOA has with emulators.  The most recent versions also happen to fix VGA support (so you don’t have to do the switch trick) and remove the pesky Echelon menu.  Even if you never played Skies of Arcadia the first time around and you just want to see what all the fuss is about, this will make this about $50-70 cheaper.  You’re welcome and please tell me if that download goes down.

EDIT 2014:

There is finally, after many years, a better rip of SoA.  This version plays almost exactly like the original, fits on a CD and works with vga adapters.  Forget everything I said before and download it!


The Perfect Version of Dreamcast Phantasy Star Online

I really don’t think they’re bears, Hariko.  They look more like gorillas to me.


When I found this, I had a reaction that I would not have wanted other grown men or especially my dad to see.  A brilliant, beautiful human being who goes by the handle of Aleron Ives on the website PSO Palace (link below) has created what could only be described as a technical work of art.  What Ives and company have basically done is build the perfect version of Dreamcast version 2 and host it on a version 2 only server.  It’s 2001 for the rest of your life and the Phantasy Star series never has to make the many missteps that followed.  Even better, all that bad stuff you forgot about is fixed now, so you can tell all those young punks that the old Dreamcast version was the best!  It never had a problem with Ult enemy tech resistance or glitched holiday quest music, that would have never happened in the perfect days of Dreamcast.  The music has also been totally replaced by the higher quality versions from the Xbox version.  As the final, most mind boggling sundae topping cherry: Aleron Ives figured out how to recompress the character files so they load faster (eliminating that chainsaw sound almost entirely).  So you can hop right on the website’s PSO server and reminisce without those pesky frustrations you may or may not recall.  BTW, you want to download the version with Enhancement Pack in the Dreamcast downloads, as it contains both that and the technique fix.



Down the dark path…


I seem to remember saying something once about how I would stop being a pirate.  I won’t defend the legality, but the fact is that you just can’t find these games.  I would rather people played my beloved Dreamcast than followed every pesky little law.  I payed for as many of those games as my little 14 year old arms could earn the money for and it still didn’t save the Dreamcast, so I would say the end justifies the means.  For the love of the game, here’s a place to start to download every single U.S. Dreamcast game, plus more than a few unrealeased ones.  So go nuts.  Play Record of Lodoss War, Sword of the Berserk, any game you ever wanted to play on Dreamcast but never saw in the brief time it lived.  I highly recommend some of the oddballs like Elemental Gimmick Gear and Blue Stinger, you won’t regret the CD-R.



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