10 Ways The Sega Dreamcast Was Ahead Of Its Time

9. Console-Linking Portable Devices - The VMU

Sega Dreamcast
Wikimedia Commons/Matt Eason, CC

Remember when you used to buy a new memory card for your PS1 and think: "I wish this was also a Tamagotchi"?

No? Well, Sega did.

A simple, interchangeable slab of raw disk space wasn't enough for the Japanese company, and with a capricious mis-regard for established industry standards, Sega unveiled the Visual Memory Unit. Was it a memory card? Was it a games device? Was it a needless way to justify its exorbitant price? It was all of these things and more.

Thanks to its diddy LCD display, the VMU often doubled up as an in-game aid, from displaying the usually hidden health monitor in Resident Evil, to signalling the presence of a nearby charm in Skies of Arcadia. Many games simply opted to show a cute animation. Still, it was better than nothing.

The VMU's capabilities didn't stop there. Some games - notably Sonic Adventure - provided mini-games which could be saved to the memory unit and played on the go. It was truly space-age stuff.

Truthfully, many of these portable playthings were utter rubbish. But Sega were forging into a brave new world; such connectivity between consoles and other devices had never been seen before on such a system-wide scale (the N64's Transfer Pak was limited to only a handful of games).

Sega were committed to the idea - inexplicably, it was also possible to link the Dreamcast to certain NeoGeo Pocket titles. However, like all the console's pioneering ideas, widespread connectivity failed because the technology just wasn't ready for it, and a whole generation of Chaos were left to expire in the drawers of Dreamcast owners.

In this post: 
First Posted On: 
Editorial Team
Editorial Team

Benjamin was born in 1987, and is still not dead. He variously enjoys classical music, old-school adventure games (they're not dead), and walks on the beach (albeit short - asthma, you know). He's currently trying to compile a comprehensive history of video game music, yet denies accusations that he purposefully targets niche audiences. He's often wrong about these things.