While U.S. websites get to annually celebrate the launch, Australia was stuck with Ozisoft for distribution...
It all started with getting hurt and a copy of the magazine that this website is attached to. There I was, in the process of becoming a chubby teenager because repeat knee injuries removed what little sport I willingly played and replaced it with an increased intake of fast food, browsing a newsagent a couple of weeks before I was due to undergo realignment surgery. And there it was, a new issue of Hyper magazine with a picture of a new Sega console on the cover.
It was white. White was… different.
Long story short, I started to obsess over the forthcoming Dreamcast while trapped in a hospital bed and peeing into a bottle (not as dramatic as it sounds – the surgery was free of complications. It just turns out that nobody is keen on you getting out of bed just after having your knee cut open and the tendons toyed around with). Thanks to the cover story in that issue of Hyper, every ten dollar note that came in a Christmas card from an extended relative, every piece of spare change I came across – all of it went towards a savings stash that would allow me to back Sega’s new console from launch.
As a fifteen – and then sixteen, as I waited for the launch to inch closer – year old, I was obsessed. I likely wasted a lot of those old 100 hour free trial internet discs just trying to download 320 x 240 (or lower) resolution videos of Soul Calibur (as well as one of Ryo buying a can of drink in Shenmue). The Dreamcast was killing it for early software, Hyper gave a stack of the first wave games scores of 90% or better, and despite the kind of insane delay of the Australian launch to November 30, I was psyched.
I’m not going to mince words here: The Australian launch of the Dreamcast sucked. It was an absolute train-wreck. A festering turd carelessly smeared over an otherwise fantastic product.
I had had a pre-order for what I recall to be months ahead of the launch. It only cost me five bucks, and it netted me a video (VHS!) of game footage captured from a Japanese machine that was made by a member of my local game store’s staff who was maybe extremely poor with budgeting. Pre-YouTube, pre-Game Trailers (very possibly the first videogames site to really care about streaming quality, may it rest in peace), pre-being able to download anything much larger than JPEGs in a sensible stretch of time, this video was like a vial of forbidden elixir. I watched it more times than could possibly be healthy.
Partly buoyed by the tape, I added Sonic Adventure and Powerstone to my reservations list, along with a VMU (erm, memory card) and possibly a second controller. I’m not sure about that last one. It’s not all that important.
What is important is that after watching the Dreamcast launch everywhere else in the developed world, November 30 finally rolled around. I somehow convinced my mother to pick me up directly from school and drive me to the mall. The car ride is a blur, but I seem to recall borderline running to the end of the plaza where my primary game supplier was situated.
The guy who managed the place must have had a hell of a time with me. It might have helped had they removed the pre-order display boxes. He quite calmly explained that they only had five or six games, at which point my eyes immediately darted to the space where I thought that the Dreamcast games were. ‘Oh,’ I though. ‘Sucks that Powerstone is absent, but I can make do with just Sonic for now.’
And so I asked for Sonic alongside a memory card, at which point reality had to happen. “Not those games, these games”. And also, no memory cards. Or controllers, for that matter.
“Crap. What’s on the demo disc?”
Oh, right. The demo discs are also missing – come back and pick them up once they come it. Same again for the internet browser, for which Ozisoft just signed an exclusive deal for with Telstra fewer than twenty-four hours ago. Have fun paying for that plan.
Crestfallen, I took another look at the games they actually did have. From memory, the only one of any acclaim was Ready 2 Rumble, and I didn’t fancy a cartoonish 3D fighting game when I was heart set on Powerstone already. My eyes then glanced over the likes of Tokyo Highway Challenge (the game I probably should have settled on), Aero Wings and WWF Attitude before eventually settling on a copy of TrickStyle that I didn’t really want.
Seriously, I had saved damn near every piece of money I got my hands on, gone without any meaningful birthday or Christmas presents (instead asking that some money be added to my Dreamcast fund) for well over a year, and I ended up throwing $90 of it at a game I didn’t particularly want because local distribution, despite numerous delays, still couldn’t get its shit together. That was literally half of my software fund.
It’s not just my pre-order, either. Here are some games that should have been present that I would have still been happy to take home: Sega Rally 2, Virtua Fighter 3TB, Soul Calibur, Marvel Vs. Capcom, Toy Commander. Heck, even Hydro Thunder might have done the job.
Never even mind the games, actually. THERE WERE NO DEMO DISCS OR MEMORY CARDS! What the actual, eff. It must take a herculean effort to screw up a console launch this badly, even before you factor in the multiple delays.
At the time, I recall Ozisoft blaming things like mixed up shipments, having to settle on the games they could find enough copies of to rush to store shelves.
But, hey, you know what – they eventually sent me a free bag. So, you know, I guess a console launch so botched you probably couldn’t make it up is all cool then.
You wouldn’t believe how excited I was to play TrickStyle, of all things, on the night of November 30, 1999, though. But boy, it sucks that exactly a year later (as in exactly a year; Sony knew how to rub it in), new PS2 owners were freely playing Tekken Tag and actually saving things to their memory cards.