09 September 2012

Happy Birfday, Dreamcast!

13 years ago today, a great video game system was released in America. (It was a Dreamcast if you didn't know. Maybe you're allergic to that goofy font I use for titles?)

Dreamcast, as we liked to say back in 1999, was da bomb. Like, groovy, baby. It was most Napster, dawg, and it deserves a grand tribute, but I've been kind of a loser on this site lately, so I'm instead going to go with a little tribute. Each day this week, we'll have ourselves a listen to one of the best songs to grace the Caster of Dreams.

To be clear, this week will not be highlighting the Dreamcast's best games, but the Dreamcast's best tunes, although the overlap between the two is pretty remarkable.

We'll start this feature, as is so often the way, with the beginning. Admittedly, it's stretching the definition of the word "song" to include this on the list, but when you're writing a sporadically updated video game site with an average of three hits per month, little things like "consistency" and "making any sense at all" don't seem terribly important. Jackhammer petunia dice.

What are we actually hearing here? Some echoing rain drops? A cymbal crash, slowed and played in reverse? It's remarkable how effectively a few abstract sound effects can create a mood. Every time I listen to this audio and watch that little orange bounce and swirl around, I'm back in 1999, witnessing the future. It's simultaneously traditional and forward-looking. These aren't video game sounds, or the wild techno-laser blasts we loved so much at the turn of the millennium. I think I'm picking up a Japanese vibe, which would be appropriate, but it's nothing overt. There's a sense of vastness and grandeur, but the whole thing is over in less than ten seconds.

We're dealing more in feelings than absolutes, and I think that fits a console called the Dreamcast just right. When I try to describe why I love the Dreamcast, there's always something more to it than I can convey. I can talk about the games, the controller, the modem, the VMU, its place in history, my own nostalgia...there are plenty of concrete reasons why the Dreamcast is remembered fondly more than a decade after going out of production, but the feeling of the Dreamcast - that je ne sais blah blah - goes beyond reason. We Dreamcast nuts are all a little crazy, and I think that's why the system crashed and burned in the marketplace. It was weird, and it did aspire to be great in ways that weren't easily communicable. Financially, Sega needed for it to be a console for everybody, but, fundamentally, it wasn't.

It's unsatisfying as a writer to say something like, "This is good and important and interesting just because it is," but that's the case. This sound was pure magic for me the first time I heard it, and it's remained that way ever since. For most people I know, it has no such effect. You hear this sound that so perfectly encapsulates the Dreamcast experience, and you either get it or you don't, and nothing I write will change that.

Tomorrow: Actual music!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please tell me how to meet singles and win iPods: