Today is the 20th’s anniversary of the SEGA Dreamcast in the USA! For those of you who are too young to remember the good old days of gaming, SEGA were once in the console race and the Dreamcast was their final console before Sonic and Mario started competing in the Olympics together.
The Dreamcast was an amazing console and years ahead of its time. It was the first western console to introduce online gaming and managed it all on a dial-up modem! I received my Dreamcast on Christmas 1999 and have many fond memories. I’ve spoken before how video games like Soul Calibur influenced my book, Sand Dancer.
Obviously I’m a big RPG fan. The Dreamcast didn’t have as many RPG’s as my favourite SEGA console (Spoilers: it was the SEGA Saturn!) but the ones it did have I played until my fingers bled, and they too influenced me in various ways.
Here are my favourite SEGA Dreamcast RPG’s:
There’s some debate whether this counts as an RPG or simply an adventure game, but I think it has enough role playing elements to count. The Shenmue games (1 and 2) were also ahead of its time. Shenmue was a highly detailed 3D world based on real world locations in Japan and China. It was a living, breathing world where you could walk into supermarkets and buy food or collect gacha toys, or even play arcade games – a game inside a game. That sounds pretty standard now, but back then it was ground-breaking. The combat system was based on the Virtua Fighting games too, which went on to inspire the Yakuza.
The story of Shenmue is based around Ryo, a young martial artist who wants to seek revenge for his father’s death. It was an epic journey that featured cinematic sequences known as quick time events, which many modern games also use – and guess where they got the idea from!
Sadly, the Shenmue story ended on a cliff-hanger, but there’s good news! Thanks to fan demand and a Kickstarter campaign, a third Shenmue game has been in development and will be released this November for PC and console! Check out the trailer:
The original Grandia was a Japanese RPG for the SEGA Saturn which sadly never made it to English shores until its re-release on the PlayStation later. It was unique at the time as it featured a 3D aesthetic world, voice acted cutscenes, and didn’t rely on the JRPG trope of random battles. The sequel followed the same trends and appeared on the Dreamcast. I absolutely loved the world and the characters, especially the ever-sarcastic main character, Ryudo. What I loved most about the Grandia games was how they truly took me on an adventure across their world. There’s something I just adore about RPG’s that take me on a journey.
Grandia II was ported to Steam a little while back, but you can now buy BOTH games on the Nintendo Switch as part of a HD collection! If you love JRPG’s, I really recommend giving them a go.
Phantasy Star Online
Phantasy Star Online was an actual online RPG for the Dreamcast and possibly even the first online console RPG! It wasn’t a true MMORPG in the strictest sense of the word, as the world was instance based with a central hub and missions. If anything, it was more like Destiny and Anthem before these games were cool. Phantasy Star Online introduced many more firsts alongside online gameplay, such as chat bubbles and emojis the player could use to communicate across language barriers, and it also worked on the fabled BEAT time. Internet time! It didn’t have much in the way of a story, but who cares when you’re slicing up monsters with lightsabers.
I gotta say, I loved the Phantasy Star Online games and literally played them for hundreds of hours. Online gaming for the Dreamcast was free back then, but most internet companies weren’t ready for the advent of online gaming, and so most charged a pay-as-you-go fee for internet use, rather than offering monthly paid packages. What this basically meant is that I often had phone bills running in triple figures. Sorry parents!
Phantasy Star Online spawned expansions and sequels, including Phantasy Star Universe on PC, Xbox 360, and the PlayStation 2. This took the same gameplay but introduced a single-player story and expanded on the world and combat. Thankfully, internet bills had caught up by the time this hit the market so I could play it for hours without going bankrupt. And I literally played it to the point the disc snapped in half. No kidding!
Years ago, SEGA released Phantasy Star Online 2 in Japan with a promise to bring it to the west. I’ve been waiting YEARS but it’s finally coming! If anything stops me writing books, it’ll be this game.
If you’re a Monster Hunter or Star Ocean fan, you’d probably like Phantasy Star Online 2!
Skies of Arcadia
There’s a reason why my surname is “Skies” and it’s partly to do with this game. And also partly because I like clouds.
Skies of Arcadia is one of my favourite RPG’s of ALL TIME! There’s so much that I love about it. On the surface, it looks like a typical JRPG with random battles and anime-looking characters, but it’s so much more. Skies of Arcadia is set in a colourful sky world where people live on floating islands and travel on airships. You play as main character Vyse, a blue rogue sky pirate who acts a bit like a Robin Hood figure by fighting off real sky pirates and stealing from the evil empire. A chance encounter sends him on an adventure across the world against the empire. I mentioned above that my favourite RPG’s let me explore the world on a journey, and this really takes it to the next level. As you travel the world, you can unlock discoveries, such as proving the world is round, and recruit crew members to improve your party’s power and upgrade your airship.
Speaking of your ship, you fly and guide your airship around the world in the skies and can take on enemy ships in some of the most fun ship vs ship combat scenes I’ve ever experienced. HARPOON CANNON FIRE!
The story is also cheerful and full of hope, which is in contrast to many gritty and grim stories these days.
Sadly, this is the one game on my list that isn’t getting a sequel or remaster. Plenty of fans have been begging! If own a Nintendo Gamecube or Wii then you can still play the ported Gamecube version, but that’s your lot. If you’re reading this, SEGA, WE WANT SKIES OF ARCADIA!
Did you play any of these awesome SEGA RPG’s? Which were your favourites? Share your experiences in the comments!