It’s time to party like it’s 1999, as we check out Dreamcast VMU games!
Sega’s 128-bit Dreamcast was a console way ahead of its time, with numerous forward-thinking features – including online connectivity built-in – and a range of peripherals that gave it real versatility as a gaming device; these included a full keyboard, microphone for voice control and much more. One of the very best innovations – that was quickly aped by Sony at the time with its PocketStation – was the Visual Memory Unit (or VMU).
Table of Contents
What was the VMU?
The VMU was a memory card with a difference – it looked like a tiny console, with a dpad, buttons and a screen too!
What games were available to play on the Dreamcast VMU?
One of the most popular features for the Dreamcast VMU was the inclusion of simple mini-games; many developers were able to squeeze some surprisingly entertaining, if limited, experiences out of the tiny unit. So let’s take a look at Dreamcast VMU games!
1. Cardcaptor Sakura: Tomoyo no Video Daisakusen (2000)
This Japan-only, on-rails, Pokemon Snap-style game – which also has a Columns-esque mini-game included – came with three VMU mini-games, making great use of the hardware. Breakout, Oyatu and Tobakero may all be very basic experiences, but along with four character-themed clocks, their inclusion is welcome!
2. Evil Twin: Cyprien’s Chronicles (2002)
One of the last games released for the Dreamcast, Evil Twin: Cyprien’s Chronicles was a PAL-only release from BigBen Interactive. Though the four VMU games for Evil Twin weren’t quite ready for the game’s release, they were made available to download online for a limited time.
The included games are: Paper Attack (a shoot ‘em up), Glucky Labs (a very basic adventure game), Fat Rain (an action game) and lastly, Swampy – which was a puzzle game.
3. Godzilla Generations (1998)
This early Dreamcast release – it was a launch title for the console – didn’t make it outside of Japan. It seems bizarre these days that a game starring the famous movie monster wouldn’t be released in the West, though it wasn’t a game that proved very popular with critics – so we didn’t miss out on much.
What we did miss out on were the three mini-games – a Godzilla virtual pet in the form of Atsumete Godzilla, plus two monster battling games. These monster battling games – Gamera Dream Battle and Mothra Dream Battle – could be played by 2 players, as VMUs could also be linked together!
3. Namco Museum (2000)
This collection of classic Namco arcade games featured Pac-Man, Ms Pac-Man, Galaga, Galaxian, Pole Position and Dig Dug (check out how many of these made it to our best arcade games list!).
The VMU mini-game was named Pac-It – and was an original title that featured Pac-Man trying to catch dots being fired from the left side of the screen. Like pretty much all VMU games, this was basic but a good use of the device!
4. Pop’n Music 2 (1999)
This port of the colourful, arcade rhythm action game included a cut down version of the experience for the VMU, which was named Pop’n Music Anywhere. The game’s Dreamcast sequels each had the mini-game included too!
5. Power Stone (1999)
One of the most beloved Dreamcast games, Power Stone was a chaotic, 3D arena fighting game that is crying out for a modern reboot. Capcom’s attention to detail and inventiveness when it came to their innovative fighter even stretched to the VMU – where they saw fit to include no less than three mini-games.
Gunrock’s Gun-Gun Slot was a mini slot machine, Falcon’s Aerial Adventure was a shoot ‘em up and Ayame’s Shuriken Training was a straightforward action game. All very welcome bonuses to what is a superb game to this day!
6. Quake III: Arena (2000)
Id’s popular Doom successor series dived headfirst into online multiplayer with this third entry – and was way ahead of its time, especially on consoles.
The included mini game was the Maze Final Challenge; just as it sounds, this was a maze game – and cheats were revealed upon completion of each stage. Not just a fun diversion then – also excellent for unveiling secrets to be used in the main game!
7. Sega GT (2000)
Though near-peerless when it came to arcade racers (though Namco have always given Sega some fantastic competition in that regard), Sega had a bit of a gap when it came to more realistic, sim-style racers such as Sony’s Gran Turismo games. Sega GT is the response to the Sony series – and though it’s mostly forgotten these days, it’s good enough to have made it onto our best Dreamcast racing games list!
The VMU mini-game was an excellent inclusion though; Pocket GT was a top-down racing game that even featured a training mode alongside its (rather slow-paced, given the limitations of the VMU) racing action!
8. Skies of Arcadia (2000)
An excellent JRPG, Skies of Arcadia is a criminally underrated game that’s never seemed to receive the commercial attention that it deserves, even in its subsequent port to the GameCube. It even features on our best Dreamcast RPGs list!
The VMU game included is Pinta Quest, a collection of simple mini-games in which you can gather coins to upload back into the main game. Though a little repetitive, being able to add coins to your inventory in the full game is a neat touch.
9. Sonic Adventure (1998)
The blue blur’s first true foray into 3D was mindblowing upon release (and just take a look at where it features on our best Dreamcast games list!), with genuinely impressive visuals and a diverse cast of characters, each with their own playstyle and abilities, to take control of.
Within the main game, Chao Gardens can be found and cute little creatures – known as Chao – can be hatched and raised within these areas. These creatures can be evolved in different ways by giving them animals.
The VMU mini-game Chao Adventure then allows players to download a specific Chao and raise it like a virtual pet. This allows its stats to improve – you can do this by taking part in mini puzzle games or even in combat with another player, by linking two VMUs together.
10. Sonic Adventure 2 (2001)
No surprises here, with Sonic Adventure 2’s VMU game being Chao Adventure 2. This one feels a bit more involved than the first game, with lots of characters to encounter and further mini-games to try out.
11. Soul Calibur (1999)
Namco’s amazing weapons-based fighting game was a stunning game on the Dreamcast, but the VMU games were only included with the Japanese version of the game – likely due to the text-heavy basis making them a pain to translate.
First up, there’s word puzzle game Word Scramble, then Game & Watch-style game Voldo Panic, a shoot ‘em up called Cannon Dare and even a text adventure game is included!
12. Tech Romancer (2000)
A 3D fighting game from Capcom, Tech Romancer was an arcade title that featured mechs – which were designed by the same studio who created the giant robot suits for animé series Super Dimension Fortress Macross.
Tech Romancer has a truly bizarre VMU game in the form of Love & Punches – in which you must kiss a guy named Junpei and punch away your female rivals.
Phantasm Unit is an action game in which you must guide your robot part to combine with another while avoiding obstacles.
Lastly, there’s Rock, Paper, Scissors – which is pretty much as straightforward as it sounds, though characters with different point values and lives can be selected.
13. Time Stalkers (1999)
An unusual RPG with RTS elements, Time Stalkers featured characters from numerous prior RPG titles created by Climax Entertainment (thus explaining its Japanese titles: Climax Landers).
Time Stalkers is also notable for having a really impressive collection of VMU games – including Dungeon (a first person dungeon crawler), Moonlighter (a virtual pet), Stuff (a sub-collection of mini-games including a slot machine, rock-paper-scissors, whack-a-mole and even a chicken catching game!), Nanwaka Legend (a very basic RPG) and Yogurt´s Big Adventure (a sort of action adventure game).
Aside from games, a phone directory, icon editor and even a fortune teller were included with Time Stalkers – making this an absolutely incredible suite of VMU apps and games!
14. TrickStyle (1999)
The Dreamcast’s initial answer to the futuristic hover racing of Sony’s WipEout series, TrickStyle saw players racing and completing obstacle courses in neon-drenched, colourful and futuristic environments – accompanied by a brilliant soundtrack by techno legend Kurtis Mantronik.
The VMU game TrickStyle Jr. didn’t bear much resemblance to the main game, however – it was essentially just mobile phone classic Snake for your VMU!
15. Zombie Revenge (1999)
Featuring on our best zombie arcade games list, Zombie Revenge is a hilariously daft scrolling beat ‘em up set in the same universe as Sega’s House of the Dead series.
The VMU games included with Zombie Revenge were just as silly as the main game, with Zombie Doubt (a memory game), Zombie Fishing (in which you try to catch zombified fish!) and Zombie Raising, a virtual pet sim in which you raise your own pet zombie!
What else could the VMU do?
Though the screen was only 48 dots wide by 32 dots high and the memory card only had 100KB for data storage, the VMU was a surprisingly versatile, useful device that many developers made great use of. In addition to extra status details (such as character health in Resident Evil games), it was often used as a clock, calendar and even had arcade connectivity – with Ferrari F355 and Marvel vs Capcom 2, for example, progress and stats could be shared between the home and arcade versions of the games!
Image Credit for the VMU screenshots: sega-dreamcast.com
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Jason – who lives in the UK – has had a lifelong interest in video games, which all started when he discovered Space Invaders in the early 80s. The first game he ever completed was Wonder Boy in Monster Land on the Sega Master System – which remains one of his proudest gaming achievements. Jason is a passionate writer – and has been writing about gaming since the late 90s. He currently runs pop culture blog midlifegamergeek.com, which he updates on a daily basis (and has written more than 700 articles on the blog alone!).
Outside of video games, Jason is a keen tabletop gamer, film buff and comic book fan.