1998. The Dreamcast.
Sega’s Japanese headquarters were filled with hubris. While major communication problems prevailed within the Japanese and American branches of company, the Japanese company executives didn’t seem to care about their faltering image in the United States that resulted from ill-realized add-ons and consoles dating back to the Sega CD. The ill-fated Saturn and its surprise American launch in 1995 did very little to help and would later come to haunt them as one of their biggest mistakes ever. Sega also had been fighting an uphill battle against the surprise, dark horse newcomer in the industry, the Sony PlayStation. The latter would crush practically most competition in the home country and around the world.
In an act of bullheaded arrogance and desperation, Sega executives launched the Dreamcast in November 1998. Japanese developers felt that console came too soon, as the Saturn was still doing relatively well in Japan. Sony’s next console was poised to become an unstoppable juggernaut. Whatever meaningful advantage Sega desired releasing the console this early in Japan would only be futile as the PlayStation 2 arrival in March 2000 crushed whatever spirit the company had. Of course, Sega had other internal demons to face but I am not going to touch all that today. This is already becoming too long to write about.
To prepare for the Japanese launch, Sega included VHS cassettes in some first editions of the Dreamcast to promote the line-up of upcoming games for the following year. Now, the origins of this tape, to my knowledge, are not that well documented but they were produced mere weeks before the launch. I nabbed this tape in hopes that would find some rather interesting contents inside, especially for the investment I made. Turns out this was fruitful, as it not only contains a rather interesting mix of some Dreamcast games in their early stages, particularly Sonic Adventure (thought that game’s development chronology is rather complicated. More on that later), but also contains footage of some cancelled games. One of them being Geist Force, a well-known phantom game in certain Dreamcast aficionado circles for having been a promising game that would be cancelled out rides due to production problems. Apparently, a Dreamcast GD-ROM disc version of this promo existed as well. Fortunately for us, I provided a higher quality rip from a VHS cassette source. =)
Also, elaborated are the number of online features this promo goes over. Given how new and exciting the Internet was, you can definitely see the fascination of seeing how fun it would be to setup different digital wallpapers to put on your screen, sending messages to strangers, looking up maps, news, etc.. It's also intriguing of the number of uses you could have with a Visual Memory Unit (VMU). Plug in your little unit onto arcade machines, cellular phones, and juke boxes, etc in Japan. The Dreamcast was aiming to be a more multimedia based machine.
A highlight of this tape for me is late-prototype footage of Sonic Adventure (that I've conveniently compiled in a separate video), dating before the AutoDemo that was compiled on October 16th, 1998. Granted, not that new much is presented here but it already gives you a glimpse of the more exciting parts of the game while running on its originally intended 60FPS, and man does the game actually look better in motion this way. This fact had already been known for a while, but more footage is always good to further state these sorts of tidbits.
This era of games was rather exciting. It represented the next evolution of gaming that arrived a bit sooner than most people would really be ready for. These early Dreamcast games still have that sausage-block look today but were mind-blowing in 1998. As we all know, the console didn't last very long in this world. You can easily tell by this promotional video that Sega was going all out with the Dreamcast both creatively and financially. The console’s demise – and Sega’s resulting departure from the hardware business – while not unexpected, became of the saddest gaming moments in recent memory.
Watch and enjoy. =)