On this present day in 1999, the world briefly turned a little bit brighter. That’s when Sega launched its closing video games console, the Dreamcast, in North America. A large media marketing campaign, cryptically teasing “9.9.99” and sowing seeds that the little white field was not only powerful but sentient, set the scene for what was briefly thought of “the largest 24 hours in leisure retail historical past” — earlier than the hype practice derailed halfway via 2000. Nonetheless, the Dreamcast touted a powerful library of racing games regardless of its brief life, and immediately it’s price remembering them.
A 3rd of the Dreamcast’s 18 launch titles in North America have been racing video games. On retail cabinets on September 9, you’d discover CART: Flag to Flag, Hydro Thunder, Tokyo Xtreme Racer, TNN Motorsports Hardcore Warmth and Monaco Grand Prix, in addition to TrickStyle — a hoverboarding sport that wasn’t strictly about racing, although you could possibly race in it. It was developed by a little bit British outfit referred to as Criterion Video games; wonder what they’d get up to?
I keep in mind barreling via the storage door of the home I grew up in on the age of six, excited to play Hydro Thunder after getting dwelling from college on September 9. My brother picked up a Dreamcast at midnight, and in my anticipation I tripped and fell flat on my face operating via the laundry room. As a toddler I used to be rubber, although, and nothing was going to cease me from getting my powerboat repair.
CART: Flag to Flag is a title that will be of specific curiosity to the Jalopnik crowd, because it’s one of many few licensed CART video games ever launched. It wasn’t the one one, and it was removed from good, however you could possibly make a case for it being one of the best. The Dreamcast’s then profound energy benefit over the PlayStation made full grids, dynamic climate and the inclusion of each staff, driver and observe that comprised the 1998 CART season possible. It additionally hit at a excessive level for the American open-wheel sequence — and fewer than two months earlier than we misplaced Canadian phenom Greg Moore.
After all, the Dreamcast’s best racers have been but to come back. Sega Rally 2 arrived in November. It was a messy port, missing the polish that the Mannequin 3 arcade unique deserved, however I nonetheless liked it. Crazy Taxi, in all its addictive brilliance, got here to us in January.
The second half of 2000 is the place issues actually kicked into excessive gear, giving us one of the best model of San Francisco Rush 2049; Yu Suzuki’s pleasant Ferrari F355 Problem; Tokyo Xtreme Racer 2, which was a large enchancment over the unique; and the frankly good Check Drive Le Mans from Infogrames Melbourne Home, the best sport ever made concerning the world’s best endurance race. Sega GT was hanging out someplace within the combine too, cursed though it was.
Things wound down to a close quickly in 2001. By the end of March, the system was discontinued — but not before the release of Metropolis Street Racer, a thoughtful new approach to driving games from the crew at Bizarre Creations that aimed to reward technique over speed. It’d attract more eyeballs as Project Gotham Racing on Xbox.
A phenomenally weird take on Daytona USA rounded out Sega’s first party contributions. With development outsourced to Genki, it wasn’t the home port of Daytona USA 2: Battle On The Edge everyone wanted, but it was an early example of online multiplayer in a console racer. That has to count for something, right?
Was the Dreamcast the best system for racing games? Probably not; the PlayStation 2 and Xbox have it beat simply by virtue of hanging around longer, and claiming more all-time greats like Gran Turismo 3 and 4, Ridge Racer V, Project Gotham Racing 2, RalliSport Challenge 2 and Burnout 3: Takedown. Sega didn’t even give us its best work on the Dreamcast — that Sega Rally 2 port still leaves a bitter taste, and we never got the Scud Race conversion we deserved.
However I’d argue the Dreamcast has a extra various catalog of racers than most platforms, correctly spanning the arcade and sim spectrum to supply selections for everybody — a few of which, like Loopy Taxi and MSR, have been extraordinarily forward-thinking. In simply 18 months we received a variety of heavy hitters, and I even disregarded a bunch in my abstract. The Dreamcast wasn’t merely a swan tune for Sega; it was a swan tune for modern, old-school racing video games.