Dreamcast: Year One Review

Andrew Dickinson’s crowdfunded story of the Dreamcast’s conception, launch and first year.

An image of the front cover for the book Dreamcast: Year One. It shows an animated depiction of the console on an orange background.

Release: 2020
Author: Andrew J Dickinson (Twitter)

Released in Japan in November 1998 and then to the rest of the world towards the end of 1999, the Dreamcast enjoyed initial success, a string of classic game releases and introduced a number of innovative features that became a staple of the industry. In March 2001, after selling 9 million consoles worldwide, Sega declared the console dead.

Despite its tragically short lifespan, the Dreamcast still managed to amass a legion of devoted fans who remain passionate about the console to this day. One such fan is Andrew Dickinson, who fell in love with the console “as soon as screenshots and videos started to emerge of Code: Veronica”.

After contributing to Dreamcast fan-sites over the years, Dickinson decided it was time to write a book about his beloved console. A Kickstarter campaign was launched in March 2019, which went on to raise over £7,000 across more than 500 backers.

The resulting book – Dreamcast: Year One – is split into three main sections which is then followed by a six page index of all the games released during the console’s first year.

The Story

The first section of the book – named simply “The Story” – is essentially a history of the games industry and its effect on Sega in general, starting with the Mega Drive era right up to and including (and even a little beyond) the Dreamcast itself. It focuses mainly on Sega of course, but also discusses their rivalry with both Nintendo and Sony, and how the SNES, N64, PS1 and PS2 impacted it. Its a brilliantly written and informative write-up that paints a detailed picture of a large part of the industry – interesting not just for fans of Sega and the Dreamcast, but for fans of gaming history in general.

A photograph of the Dreamcast: Year One book next to an iPhone XS to give an indication of it's size.

At A5 and pictured here next to an iPhone XS, Dreamcast: Year One is not the biggest of books, but it is packed with interesting, insightful content.

The Interviews

The second section of the book consists of interviews with people either directly involved in the production of the console itself or those who covered it through various media outlets. The big-name interview here is undoubtedly Bernie Stolar, who was President and COO for Sega of America in the run-up to the Dreamcast’s launch. The interview is incredibly detailed and covers his own time in the gaming industry prior to joining Sega, the inner workings, discussions and politics at the company during the run up to launch, and many of the things he’s most proud of when looking back. It’s a thoroughly interesting interview and Stolar’s fondness for the machine shines through.

The next set of interviews are with Caspar Field who worked at Edge and DC-UK magazine, Ed Lomas of Official Dreamcast Magazine and David Kelsall of Official Saturn Magazine. These interviews discuss not only the general state of the industry at the time and how Sega and the Dreamcast was perceived, but notably the stories behind how each publication was initially pitched to Sega. Finally, Tom Charnock discusses his favourite memories of the console and how he came to be the founder of Dreamcast fan community The Dreamcast Junkyard.

The interviews are candid, interesting and genuinely informative, but they are clearly one-sided. These are all people who were heavily invested in the console and have an obvious affection for it. As this is a book made for fans, made by fans, and of course even funded by fans, this isn’t too much of a problem, but hopefully the planned Dreamcast: Year Two will get some opinions from those who can discuss some of the mistakes made during the console’s short lifetime.

The Retrospectives

The third and largest section of the book is devoted to retrospective features for a select number of notable first-year games. These retrospectives – generously gifted between one and four pages each – are highly informative and well researched, providing not only an overview of the game itself, but often a look into its inception, franchise roots and general impact on other games and the industry in general.

The games featured in the retrospectives are:

  • Sonic Adventure
  • Sega Rally 2
  • Blue Stinger
  • Power Stone
  • Virtua Fighter 3tb
  • Toy Commander
  • Crazy Taxi
  • Tokyo Highway Challenge
  • The House of the Dead 2
  • Soulcalibur
  • Godzilla Generations
  • Armada

Following these retrospectives there is a very nice section in which nine Kickstarter backers each briefly discuss a game from the era that had an impact on them

The Verdict

Dreamcast: Year One is a great addition to any game-fan’s library, and although it is not the biggest of books, it is certainly not lacking in worthwhile content. The design and bespoke artwork is clean and beautifully presented throughout, as are the many high-resolution screenshots taken especially for the book. Gazing across the included imagery, alongside the box-art and magazine covers, will transport any Dreamcast fan back to an era that was truly bold and exciting. An era that seemed unlimited in its possibilities but which ended so tragically early. Unfortunately, we know all too well that Dreamcast: Year Two won’t have a happy ending. But that doesn’t make the wait for it any easier, or the story any less worthy of telling.

Dreamcast: Year One is created by people with a clear love of the subject matter. It is a celebration of one of gaming’s most fondly remembered machines and of the culture which surrounded it. As such it comes highly recommended for anybody interested in either the Dreamcast console itself, or gaming history in general.

Physical or digital copies of Dreamcast: Year One can be purchased by contacting Andrew Dickinson at segadreamcastbook@gmail.com

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