What does a dreamcast game look like?

How does one define it? Saturn and PS1 era are easy enough, and the idea is so pervasive that people make filters to emulate it. What about the Dreamcast? I feel like the astute observer can tell at a glance whether something is on the Dreamcast or the PS2, but what defines it?

My feeling:

  • - high res textures, but a below-average polygon count.
  • - overcompensatory use of transparency to show after the Saturn that "we can do it." (this is mostly in sega games of course)
  • - a crisp but almost blown out color scheme, as though someone turned up the brightness and the unsharp mask tool at once.

  • What else is in there? What makes a Dreamcast game look like a Dreamcast game? Look at this here:

    That's not a PS2 game, you know it by looking at it. Does it look like a Gamecube game? Not quite - it'd probably have a higher polygon count.

    Why doesn't this look like a Dreamcast game?

    As you get up in generations and the 3D gets better in general, it gets harder to define the look of a console. Who's got thoughts!?

    I closely associate the dreamcast with blue skies and palm trees. That‘s the first level of Sonic Adventure, it’s also one of the first things you see in Crazy Taxi. I‘d also say rock/punk music defines the era thanks to Crazy Taxi’s soundtrack and Crush 40 on Sonic Adventure. Outrun 2 for the Xbox is pretty close to a dreamcast game, in this instance.

    I also think the dreamcast library is defined by unconventional presentation and game mechanics. There's times when I'd play something and remark "this is a dreamcast game" just because of how weird it is with everything. I think Armored Core 3 is almost a dreamcast game. Crash and Burn for the PS2 is almost a dreamcast game.

    There's also direct game lineage too in terms of developer and game genre. Project Gotham Racing being a spiritual sequel to Metro Street Racer. I feel like Wreckless for the Xbox is close enough of a cousin to Super Runabout: San Fransisco to be a dreamcast game.

    dreamcast games looked pleasantly soft compared with games on the other systems, maybe to do with the way it handled anti-aliasing? also the 3d models had a distinctive roundness to them. it's such a nice aesthetic, kind of naively futuristic looking.

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    There’s a small logo on the top-right corner Brandon goddammit it’s not that hard!

    Resolution for me, it played games at full 480p. Yeah technically the PS2 could do that but it rarely did instead opting for 480i or even lower resolutions.

    Play both on a pal crt and the DC still looks good while PS2 games look like shit.

    @devilsblush#1665 I think this is a big part of it for me. A weird smoothness/roundness that you don't see in other systems, and just a really kind of cozy feel.

    @marlfuchs2#1663 The weird presentation and mechanics is something that really screams SEGA (in caps so you hear it in your head all 90s style) to me in general. The Genesis, Saturn, and Dreamcast are just masterpieces of interesting ideas, weird execution, and fun strange stuff that hasn't been replicated to death since. Between the out there hardware stuff like the VMU and online browsing, it was really a system from an alternate dimension (that I would really love to live in). Also - heck yeah, blue skies in games.

    @chazumaru#1671 what a fool I've been!

    But yeah, resolution and texture memory feel like it to me. I wonder where your perception of roundness comes from @devilsblush, when the DC was often pushing fewer polygons than the PS2 - though I will admit there's less of a sharp feeling on some stuff? Maybe they were using more polys on character models and relying on textures to keep the lower poly backgrounds looking nice.

    Everything felt kinda chunkier and more stylized on the Dreamcast. I do definitely think of brighter, more vivid colors and a crisper image quality when thinking of Dreamcast visuals, but also, on top of that, visible joints on models.

    I could be remembering wrong, but even on early PS2 games, visible joints weren't really much of a thing, but I feel like I see more visibly segmented looking models on Dreamcast games over something like the PS2, Xbox or GameCube. Almost amature-ish (but not in a bad way), or more pillowy versions of the crunchier, harder edged ones you'd see on the previous generation.

    I think there's something to be said about the Dreamcast occupying a sweet spot (power-wise) between fifth and six generation consoles. Developers were freed from a lot of the technical limitations of 32bit platforms but were still somewhat constrained by the platform.

    “The absence of limitations is the enemy of art.” - Bold stylistic choices felt like the norm, thinking back on my favorite games there aren't a lot that chased realism. (With the argument that Shenmue has it's own special approach to "realism")

    The original Deadly Premonition looks like a port of a Dreamcast game. It has the limited graphics, one of those weird fonts devs had access to, and the wild UIs. It also has that offbeat story and environments that were common in Sega consoles. This is all fantastic.

    I'm a little worried for Deadly Premonition 2. I feel a bigger budget will ruin the charm.

    Illbleed is a precious game.

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    I buy that argument! It's like a more polished-looking D2 almost.

    And don't worry, DP2 has had its fair share of production issues, and I don't think the budget is that big, so... maybe the grind will shine through again :P

    This is a very boring answer, but the PS2 is so highly specific (texture shimmer, jaggies, etc) that anything that might be an old PS2 game but isn't…is maybe a Dreamcast game?

    I have to admit I don't have a lot of nostalgia for a "Dreamcast look" that I could identify or would like to see in a modern production.

    What I do have a lot of nostalgia for is the creative sensibilities of that era, though! A game that feels "Dreamcasty" in the way Deadly Premonition is described above, for example, is comfortable indeed.

    Hmm, I could see that - but also I could see games of that era being like a high res pc game. and yet the colors and shapes of even a game like Zombie Revenge make me think Dreamcast over anything else. could it really just be colors? Mysteries!!


    I need to think about this! Maybe play some Dreamcast games while I am at it!

    The questions "how do you identify a Dreamcast game" and "what defines the look of a Dreamcast game" are quite different when you come down to it, and I think probably you are more interested in getting at the aesthetic mood (created, as it often is with video games, by technical constraints)!

    Yeah, I‘m more talking about the look - for example if I say nes or genesis graphics, you have a good idea what I mean. If I say Xbox 360 graphics I’m sure stuff comes to mind. But dreamcast exists in such a small space that, while I get the feeling from looking at certain stuff, defining it is difficult!

    Yeah, I know what you mean. I think that's exactly when games started to become somewhat indistinguishable, and it was sort of a happy accident that for the PS2 and to a lesser extent PS3, Sony kept making bizarre hardware that actually helped keep on defining a look!

    Check out how dreamcast this game looks! ミステリ-や


    Yeah boy howdy does that look like a Dreamcast game.

    Speaking of Dreamcast games I once owned, hoped I'd like but didn't, and sure do look like Dreamcast games... Napple Tale:

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    I think on reflection part of what makes a Dreamcast game look like a Dreamcast game might be in the textures. Like, naive texture mapping techniques: we're not really sure how this all works together yet.

    Yeah, I mentioned at the top of the thread something like “textures/texture detail over polygons,” whereas Ps2 was the opposite. And it makes a lot of sense in terms of Sega as a company, whose console staff would have been very 2D focused after the Saturn, and with the contemporary arcade boards they had, which had lots of texture memory. Kind of tough to place one's finger on that though, and the Ps2 did soooort of catch up through clever techniques??