The Sega Dreamcast is a console that has a small but vocal fanbase. Fans widely consider it to be one of the most entertaining video game consoles ever made. I remember when I was in about the 5th Grade the advertisements were everywhere, hyping how it was going to change gaming. My neighbor was talking about getting one but never did.
In fact, absolutely no one that I knew growing up got a Dreamcast. Everyone was waiting for the PlayStation 2 or the Nintendo Gamecube. By the time the Microsoft Xbox came out, the Dreamcast had been discontinued and long forgotten. So I have no fond childhood or teenage memories of this system.
“The most important game in my Dreamcast collection is…”
Many years later, I did get a Dreamcast and fell in love with its diverse and quirky library of games. There is one game in my collection that is and always will be the most important Dreamcast game I own.
It is not Ecco the Dolphin: Defender of the Future, which was the first Dreamcast game I deliberately set out and bought, or Grandia II, a gift from two of my best friends, sharing one of their favorite gaming experiences. It is also not Skies of Arcadia, a game that almost seems tailor-made for me or even Shenmue, a game that a business associate told me would be life-changing, and is widely considered to be one of the most influential games of the 2000s.
No, the most important game in my Dreamcast collection is not any of these. It’s not one that you’re likely to find on any top ten list of video games. Even within its own franchise, it is far from considered a gem.
The most important game in my Dreamcast collection is, in fact, Mortal Kombat Gold.
Mortal Kombat Gold
This is not because it is a particularly great game. Like most Mortal Kombat games, it is incredibly buggy, but not unplayable by any stretch. It is also extremely fun to play. But, even within the Mortal Kombat franchise, it is considered one of the weaker entries. Bosses, storyline, and new characters being considered largely forgettable. Mortal Kombat Gold also had questionable character design and did not utilize 3D as well as it could. The end result is something that is okay, but not astounding.
It is also not because Mortal Kombat was a big part of my childhood. I was introduced to Mortal Kombat far younger than my parents would have liked. When one of my cousins would come down to visit, he would bring down his Sega Genesis. I have vivid memories of watching him play the first two Mortal Kombat games and weaving the mythos of the game series for my young, impressionable ears. It was the mythology, the universe that the series created that really drew me in as a kid. Mortal Kombat Gold was so prominent within my friend circle, they even had themed birthdays around it. Even without having a console that could play the Mortal Kombat games, my brother and I would discuss the universe and mythology, and imagine our own Mortal Kombat stories.
“My love for Mortal Kombat Gold began with Castlevania.”
My brother and I nerd out together a lot on video games. Like any art medium, video games are an experience best shared with others. My brother happens to be the one most willing to put up with me yammering on about these things endlessly, so he is the one I talk to the most about this sort of thing.
One day we were talking about the Castlevania series, which is probably our favorite video game franchise out there. He was reminiscing about Castlevania: Symphony of the Night and how it was hugely influential on the Castlevania series due to it being the first game based on open-ended exploration rather than being a straight-up action platformer.
Turns out he was not familiar with Castlevania II for the NES. This is understandable, as the game is widely considered to be the black sheep of the series, marred by obtuse puzzles and bad translation. I started describing it to him, and how it was really attempting to do what Symphony of the Night did before the technology was capable of really nailing that sort of game. This made my brother curious.
A couple of weeks later, he got a package in the mail for his birthday. He opened it to find a copy of Castlevania II for the NES as well as a RetroDuo. This allowed him to play both NES and SNES games. He was thrilled by this and immediately set out to play Castlevania II, which became simultaneously one of his favorite and most hated video games of all time.
Not long after that, I was considering expanding my own Retro Console collection. At that point, I owned a RetroDuo myself, along with a Sega Genesis. In the course of my research, I kept hearing about how great the Sega Dreamcast was and I grew curious as it was a console I had absolutely no experience with. I kept hearing about all the unique games on it that weren’t really released anywhere else.
Dreamcast and Mortal Kombat Gold
Over the course of a few weeks, I talked to my brother about how I was debating over this; should I spend the money on a new console, or should I be content with what I have. After all, getting another console would be another separate thing I’d have to invest resources in. My brother took the position of you probably have enough games already. I agreed before trying to convince him the Sonic adventure series and Shenmue was enough to merit a purchase. He disagreed and questioned whether it had a Mortal Kombat Gold in which it didn’t at the time.
After that conversation, I decided to put the issue of getting a Dreamcast on hold. I had several consoles already and plenty of Genesis and SNES games I still needed to experience.
Shortly before the Christmas of 2015, I got a small package in the mail. It wasn’t shaped like any of the things I had ordered for my family members, so I sent a quick message to my brother. It was the Christmas present he got me, and that I should go ahead and open it. When I cracked it open, I was greeted by the sight of a fully functional Sega Dreamcast and Mortal Kombat Gold for the Dreamcast, a game that I forgot existed. I was ecstatic.
While there are other games for the system I definitely like better, none of them is as important as that first game that my brother got me. A tie to a childhood memory, something we both remember, while also being a gateway into unfamiliar gaming territory. It has become one of our multiplayer experiences of choice when we happen to be together. It is one of those many weird symbols of brotherhood that we have and will always have a prominent place among my video games.