The Sega Dreamcast was Sega's last console in the Home console market. It was the first 128-bit system with a built in modem for online play that's truly revolutionized the way games were played. However All of this doesn't apply in today's world and I will be talking about how the systems stands up to today and whether you should get one or not.
The Dreamcast is a small console compared to the PS3 and Xbox 360 and is a bit bigger when compared to the Wii. The Dreamcast can play music CD's and VCD's or Video Compact Discs but for the VCD I haven't really test it out as I have netflix and my PS3 to watch movies.
The best Dreamcast available in my opinion is Version 1 as it allows you to expand your game library without expanding it. That's all I'll say on that. There are a wide variety of games specially fighting games such as: Marvel vs Capcom 1 and 2, Street Fighter 3rd Strike, Street Fighter Alpha, Street Fighter vs SNK etc. There is an arcade style controller for $14.99 brand new if you know where you look so you can get 2 of these and host tournaments at your house with your friends.
I think for fighting games it's worth buying a Dreamcast. Screw the Wii and its party oriented crowd with its motion sensing remove. If you want to have a great time with your friends, Nothing beats a Dreamcast and it's fighting game library.
The Dreamcast comes built in with a Modem for online gameplay which at the time was perfect and ahead of its time but for today it's just a worthless accessory which doesn't hurt to have as it is technically part of your console. There is a LAN adaptor for sale but have not been able to find any but I'm pretty sure there are people out there that run servers for the Dreamcast. You will have to be into the Dreamcast to do this but if online play is not your cup of tea then avoid all the trouble and just stick to games.
The Dreamcast has a huge game library. Most of the Dreamcast titles are worth between $1 to $10 and the more rare ones costing a lot more but like I said getting a Version 1 of the Dreamcast is a lot better.
One interesting thing that I found out about the Dreamcast and the RF modulator is it actually works as an HD Antenna for your HDTV. I am not kidding about this one. If you hook up the Dreamcast's RF Modulator you can actually set it up as an HDTV antenna and receive HD Channels. Now sometimes it may work and sometimes it may not for your TV. I tried this on 2 Samsung TV's and it works like a charm. It actually saves you $30 or more if you plan on buying an Antenna and there is no interference at all.
The RF Modulator HD Antenna trick is a nice bonus but be careful when purchasing accessories for your Dreamcast. I purchased an S-Video cable which is better than an A/V Cable. Since Dreamcast doesn't have Component then this is all you will have to settle for. However I realized the my HDTV doesn't support S-Video so I'm stuck with an S-video that is worthless to me until I purchase a new HDTV. Either that or purchase an A/V Cable but those can run up to $10 with the S-Video running only $6 and offers a better picture.
Yes accessories are expensive. A used Dreamcast controller can run you upwards of up to $14.99 and $10 online. That isn't bad but when you start adding those numbers it actually starts adding up. So if you decide to buy a Dreamcast make sure you purchase one that comes with 2 controllers. The Dreamcast was an advance console for its time. The controller featured 2 Ports which you can insert 2 Dreamcast memory cards or 1 memory card and 1 Rumble pack. A better example of the Dreamcast controller being mimicked is the original Xbox controller. Many people say the 360 controller mimics this but the original Xbox controller has 2 loading slots built in one for a memory card and the other for the Mic while playing online. This should be no surprise as Microsoft was working closely with Sega on the Dreamcast and they must have seen something about the Dreamcast controller that they tried to make something similar but different.
The VMU was revolutionary for its time and even today it is regarded as the best Memory Unit to date. It has a small LCD which displays 8Kb graphics and with it you can see your saves and play short mini-games that come games load onto it. The memory for today's standards is very limited as it only has 1MB or 200 blocks of free space. Sports titles are a must avoid since they can take up to 150+ blocks of space leaving you with only a certain amount left for other games. Third Party memory cards were also made and there were some that had 4MB of memory space and all you have to do is flip the switch the access a different space where you might have saved your data. The VMU today cost's no more than $5 for an Original and $3 for a 3rd party. The bigger ones can run up to $15 but if you keep looking you can find them for as low as $5. I have 2 original Dreamcast VMU's and one Performance VMU with 4MB of space. All 3 cost me $15 but were purchased at separate game stores.
When playing games with the original Sega VMU you will see the logo of the game that you are playing as well as some images from in game characters. Some games take advantage of the VMU where it can display playing options for Football games so your opponent won't see what you are selecting when playing 2 player mode or you can see your health bar in games like Resident Evil or See your Stats as the player you are using in NBA Showtime.
If you decide to use the VMU as a device in itself be careful as it can chew through batteries. It takes 2 CR2032 batteries which can run up to $5 a piece but if you know someone that works in a store that can get a deep discount ask them to get it for you as they can get them for as little as $1. Don't quote me on that though and whether they decide to get it is completely up to them. Like stated before you can use this to play mini-games or check on what saves you have available and even check the time. The VMU does have 200 blocks of memory but with a program called Dream Explorer you can free up 44 more blocks bringing it to a total of 244. The theory behind this is that Sega wanted to leave some memory for updating the console but it was never used because of its premature death. Whether this is true or not who the hell cares in this time and age but it does mean that you get additional memory for your games.
There is no denying that the Dreamcast has a full library of games that can be enjoyed and all games run very smooth on the Dreamcast without much lag. Sometimes though you will run into loading screens which may take a while but that is no different from today as all CD based games take their sweet time loading. If you love fighting games you definitely want to pick up the Dreamcast for its classic fighting game collection or if you love Resident Evil the Dreamcast has 2,3 and Code Veronica which are instant classics or even House of the Dead 2 and other Zombie games. Shenmue is also on the Dreamcast and that is probably one of the most story driven games available. There is also a great collection of RPG games and if you must you can also check out a variety of Sports games which I recommend to stay away from since they do take up a lot of space. One sports game that is a must for any basketball fan is NBA Showtime. This is probably one of my favorite games of all time and at the time you could have called it a modern day NBA Jam with real NBA Stars.
The VMU is also another marvel that is overlooked and for the time it was ahead of its time and even today it can be considered that as it doesn't rely on the console to check, erase or copy your saves on top of playing mini-games on it and check the time. If Sega would have continued to create Consoles we would have seen an update to this VMU with 3D Graphics and such. The RF unit can connect to any TV including HDTV's and will also act as an HD Antenna so if you don't want to fork over $30 to $50 for an HD Antenna and want to watch some TV this is your alternative and a better one if I may add as there is not much interference.
As a party machine the Dreamcast is worth getting or even if you want to check out how people lived before the PS3 and Xbox 360. There is a library full of games that will keep you entertained and all of this you can find for very cheap. I was able to get my Dreamcast with 19 games and 2 controllers for $30. Add 3 Memory cards and an S-video cable that I won't be using until I purchase a new TV that supports S-Video and that comes to $52. That's not bad for a game console not to mention that I got Version 1 of the Dreamcast and it lets me expand my game library easily.
If you can find a Dreamcast for this price or around this price it is definitely a Buy as you will have so many things to do and play. It doesn't take up much space and you can invite friends over for tournaments on MvC 1 and 2 to see who is the best and can even take bets.
Graphics: Graphics still hold up to today on most games however some games look very out dated. 7/10
Controls: First controller with a trigger but not much FPS games for the time but it's still very easy to handle. You can load up 2 VMU's on it and will read them with no problem. VMUs ahead of its time even for today as it doesn't rely on the console for Memory Management: 10/10
Performance: Absolutely No Lag at all for most games and can handle up to 60FPS: 10/10
Sound: Most games have great sound but this is based on a per game basis: 8/10
LifeSpan: There's something for everyone with games costing less than $5 at game stores you can easily build a library that will keep you entertained for months even years. Multiplayer allows you to bring your friends over and challenge each other in Fighting games or help each other out in Co-Op Games. Wii, PSMove and Kinect. Who needs them. 10/10
Total Score: 90/100