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The arrival of Sega's DREAMCAST console is the biggest thing to hit the gaming world this year.
The List gets its hands on the new hardware and tests it out against its competitors.
SEGA'S HISTORY HAS BEEN SOMETHING of a rollercoaster. After hitting monumental heights with the Mega Drive. their next console — the Saturn — all but drove them to destruction. Sony. meanwhile. shocked and stunned the industry when they began marketing their PlayStation to the untapped masses of twentysomething gamers. Their open and easy partnership with external software companies hurt Sega more than anyone could have possibly imagined. Now a rethink of Sega‘s entire business structure has resulted in the Dreamcast. a console which has the potential to contend with. and even conquer. the PlayStation.
Small. fast and versatile. the Dreamcast is a
beautiful piece of hardware. The console itself
is neat and compact. if a little noisy. the controllers are large and ergonomic. and the innovative VMS memory cards are a joy to behold. Looking like miniature Game Boys. they extend the Dreamcast's scope for interactivity immensely. The Dreamcast will inject little butterflies into your stomach for many days after purchase.
However. it’s not just a pretty face. With an increasing number of people using the Internet
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for their entertainment. the Dreamcast comes with a built-in modem. and simply plugging it into a phone socket opens up a whole new area of console fun. As well as supplying free Internet access and e-mail. this will allow trouble-free multiplayer gaming to be accessed
by a new audience. If you compare the price of
a PC with the Dreamcast‘s £200. this innovation may prove to be a huge bonus for Sega. Although Sega are eager to push the technical specifications of their new baby. most gamers quickly get lost when confronted with clock speeds. mip-map filtering and second peak rendering rates. Luckily these can all be concentrated into the following: the Dreamcast is fifteen times faster than the PlayStation and ten times faster than the No4. As impressive as this sounds. it is the application of this increase in power which will determine the future success of the machine. What Sega needs is a constant parade of must-have games that persuade .loe Shmoe to buy the little grey box. Again. Sega seem to have given this extensive consideration. Their surprisingly open development support has already produced some mouth-watering titles. such as Soul
('ulilm' and Power's-tone. with the promise of many more heading our way. Normally it takes at least a year for programmers to get to grips with a new machine and. if things improve as anticipated. Sega may have a revolution in gaming on their hands.
Yet for all the innovation and promise. the long. dark shadow of the PlayStation still hangs over everything. Sony have released the details for their faster. next-generation machine and already the slavering has begun. With their wide. stable base of producers and customers. Sony have the potential to decimate their rivals. reducing Sega. and even Nintendo. to the level of third-party developers. What Sega has is time. The successor to the PlayStation will not be available until Christmas 2()()() at the earliest. giving the Dreamcast a window of fourteen months with which to strengthen their position.
To keep everyone‘s gaming future free of an unhealthy monopoly. let‘s hope they get it right.
Sega Dreamcast is launched in the UK on Thu 14 Oct.