Sega Dreamcast

Sega Dreamcast

The Dreamcast (like most other 6th generation game consoles) outputted most games in 480i, with some supporting 240p and 480p.  If you’re not familiar with those terms, I highly recommend you read my 240p page before continuing.

All 480p Dreamcast games look great through VGA and if you have a display that supports a 480p input, then that’s by far the best output method in most cases.  If you use an RGB cable, the few 240p games that are available will look great, but all other games will only output in 480i.  As a result, an RGB cable is only a good option if you’re using a display that only supports 240p and 480i.

 

Output Options:

Analog Options (can be combined with a converter to get HDMI):

Retro Gaming Cables will soon be releasing a SCART cable that supports both 240p/480i and 480p modes.  This is compatible with the gscartsw, OSSC and all RGBs monitors such as Sony BVM’s.

VGA / SCART Cable By The Foo:  https://ebay.to/2OVIFL3 – I’ve only started testing this solution, but so far the voltage output is safe in all modes and it performs as advertised.

HDRetrovision will (eventually) have their component video solution, which supports all modes and outputs the correct sample rate to HDTV’s:  https://www.hdretrovision.com/development/

Boxes made by Beharbros:  http://www.beharbros.com/
I posted a full, detailed review of the Toro that showcases all it’s features.  I suggest reading it if you’re interested in any of their products, as the review would be the same for all, other then the differences noted below:

Toro: http://www.retrorgb.com/toro.html

Hanzo: It’s the same as the Toro, but without a sync combiner or SCART output.

Kuro: While still a high-quality solution, the Kuro is simply a VGA / RGB output box.

Kenzei:  The Kenzei is a sync combiner that takes any RGBHV signal (such as what’s outputted by the Kuro and Hanzo) and converts it to RGBs via SCART and RCA outputs. This is extremely helpful for people with monitors or upscalers that only accept 480p via RGBs.  As an FYI, adding an Extron RXi at the end of your signal will accomplish the same thing, but you may end up needing custom cables.  Also, if you’re not familiar with the terms “RGBHV” and “RGBs”, please read the sync page for more information.

HDMI Options:

Cheap HDMI Cables:

Cheap HDMI Cable #1: https://amzn.to/2yGMiue
Cheap HDMI Cable #2: https://amzn.to/2Jpq3gg
Most of the plug-and-play HDMI “cables” I’ve tried for the Dreamcast work very poorly.  Most aren’t compatible with any 480p/240p game, some have a very soft output and others barely work at all.  Luckily, they don’t seem to add lag, so they don’t completely ruin the experience.  In my opinion, these are only good if you need a very cheap solution, or if you just need a temporary solution to hold you off.

Decent HDMI Cables:

Gekko & Akura made by Beharbros:  http://www.beharbros.com/
In my opinion, the only “Dreamcast HDMI Plug-and-play” that does a decent job are the Akura and Gekko boxes by the Behar Bros, which are simple analog to digital converters;  Using a switchable analog cable and the OSSC will output a better image, but the Gekko is only $55, making it a good contender for people who only need HDMI output from their Dreamcast.

One thing to note is all VGA analog to digital converters won’t correct the aspect ratio and sampling issues.  More on that below.

DCHDMI

The DCHDMI is the only solution that will give you a perfect digital outptu from the dreamcast.  It can output 1080p and ads no lag to the signal!:
DCHDMI Direct Purchase Link:  https://shop.dansprojects.com/dchdmi-pre-order.html
DCHDMI Settings Page:  http://www.dansprojects.com/dchdmi_settings.html

 

Output Options (videos):

 

480p Aspect Ratio / Sampling Line Issues

The Dreamcast’s 240p/480i standard definition output is pretty straight forward, however its VGA output, while fine on a CRT monitor has issues with digital solutions.  The problem is that the VGA output is a DTV signal.  Here’s where things get confusing…
480p DTV signals are what you’d find from a DVD player, cable box or even something like a Playstation 2:  A 720x480p “television” resolution.  Pretty much every single TV, capture card or analog to digital converter will interpret the Dreamcast’s VGA signal as 640×480 VESA resolution, like you’d find from a PC.  The easiest way to spot this, is an aspect ratio that’s too narrow.  The aspect ratio itself isn’t the big deal, it’s that the cause of the problem is the wrong samplerate being applied to the signal.  The correct sample rate for the DC’s signal, as well as any other 480p DTV signal is 858 pixels per line. If the signal is interpreted as VESA, only 800 pixels per line will be sampled.  After deducting invisible areas, front/back porch, sync areas etc, this means that you actually lose 43 pixel columns within the active picture area (picture courtesy of Fudoh):  http://pms.hazard-city.de/ossc_sampling.jpg

By applying the wrong sample rate you not only lose 43 pixel columns, but neighboring columns also get fuzzy and blurry and since the 43 columns are evenly distributed across the screen your whole image gets a rather fuzzy look.  It’s funny, because there were many times over the years I saw a Dreamcast’s signal and thought it looked a bit soft.  Looking back, I wonder if this was what I was always seeing.

Another problem is that while the DC’s signal technically is a 720x480p DTV signal, only the inner 640x480p area is actually used. Any A/D conversion will sample the pillarboxes to the left and right as part of the active image, so you always end up with those aspect ratio problems. The aspect ratio problem is even bigger with DTV sampling (1.18:1 without correction while VESA sampling gives you 1.25:1).  You can try using a VGA to component converter to solve the sampling problem, as all component to HDMI converters use DTV sampling rates instead.  I guess you could then even go from component video to HDMI and while this retain’s the Dreamcast’s picture quality, you’ll still end up with the wrong aspect ratio.
You can use a OSSC to apply a DTV sampling *AND* reduce the active image area to 640 pixels, basically creating a VESA signal from the DTV signal. This solves both problem, but can bring compatibility issues, as not all TVs can accept a 858 px wide signal with just a 640 px wide active area.  The advantage on the other hand by using a correctly sampled DTV signal without AR correction, is that you get a 1:2 pixel mapping on the horizontal on a Full HD screen. The DC will fill a 1280×1080 area in the middle of the screen, giving you a quite narrow AR, but certainly the best possible picture quality you can get from a DC.  By altering the active image area to 640px instead, the signal gets scaled to 1440×1080 instead, so you no longer get an integer scale on the horizontal. Of course you can get proper 4:3 now, but at the expense of some PQ. Some TVs can show 1280×960 from a 640x480p signal, which combines the best PQ with the correct AR, but of course you have to deal with the underscan.

A huge thank you to Fudoh for helping with this, as I still find it massively confusing.

 

Progressive Scan (240p & 480p) compatible games:

Not all Dreamcast games are compatible with VGA, but a very large amount are. I found a site that shows which games are compatible and even shows you how to force a VGA mode in most others!:

http://www.epforums.org/showthread.php?56169-Dreamcast-VGA-Compatability-list-amp-Guide

To access the 240p mode in Dreamcast games, a few games ask if you’d like to start the game in a “progressive” mode (Bangai-O) and some Capcom Dreamcast games (Third Strike) can be forced into a 240p mode by holding Start+L (or Start+Z on the Arcade Stick) when you turn the system on, before the Capcom logo appears.  As far as I know, these are the only Dreamcast games that support native 240p:

Bangai-O

Last Hope

Street Fighter Alpha 3

Black Matrix A/D

Marvel vs Capcom: Clash of Super Heroes

Street Fighter Zero 3

Gunbird 2

Neo XYX

Street Fighter Zero 3 for Matching Service

Gunlord

Princess Maker Collection

The King of Fighters Dream Match 1999

Jo Jo’s Bizarre Adventure

Street Fighter 3: Third Strike

The King of Fighters 99 Evolution

Last Blade 2: Final Edition

Street Fighter 3: Double Impact

Twinkle Star Sprites

 

Forcing Widescreen mode / Aspect Ratio:

Some Dreamcast games have been hacked to run in widescreen mode.  If you play these games on an HDTV, this is definitely worth checking out:  https://segaretro.org/List_of_Dreamcast_widescreen_codes

Also, the aspect ratio of Dreamcast is a bit weird.  I plan on updating this section soon with detailed information.  For now, check out Fudoh’s great post about it and how it can be fixed with the OSSC:  http://shmups.system11.org/viewtopic.php?p=1201520#p1201520

 

Some games aren’t RGB-compatible:

I know that probably sounds crazy, but a few game discs will output composite and S-Video, but not RGB!  Some games can be fixed with an ISO patch, however the very few games which are effected won’t run in RGB from their original discs.  Here’s some games that are effected, as well as a forum link to fixes:

Effected Games (most):  Giga Wing, Skies of Arcadia/Eternal Arcadia, Street Fighter Alpha/Zero 3, Super Street Fighter 2 X, Touken Retsuden 4 , Vampire Chronicle for Matching Service, Pop ‘n’ Musci (all 4).

Links:  http://www.bordersdown.net/threads/11538-What-NTSC-Dreamcast-games-are-non-RGB-compatible

 

Converting 480p to 240p for a “retro” look:

If you run the 480p VGA signal through an Extron Emotia, you can force a 240p mode. I’ve tested this method and in my opinion (when using a display that doesn’t support 480p), a “forced 240p mode” looks better than 480i. Check out my 240p page for more information.

 

Playing CDr’s:

If the original game is under 800MB and you use good quality (Tayo Uden) discs, you can safely play backups on VA0, VA1 and some VA2 Dreamcast consoles using a software patch.  Using cheap media is very bad for your GDROM drive and will absolutely wear your drive much faster than with regular games!  Also, games over 800MB (GDROMs can be over 1GB) will either have to be compressed or split to multiple discs.  Overall, improper use of CDr’s are not recommended and using an ODE is overall a better choice.

 

Optical Drive Emulators:

You can replace the Dreamcast’s GDROM drive with an ODE that allows you to launch games from hard drives or flash media.  My favorite at the moment is the GDEMU, but here’s a page showing them all:  http://retrorgb.com/dreamcastode.html

 

Hardware Tips and Tricks:

Here’s a video that shows all my favorite tricks for getting the best out of your Dreamcast:

 

 

Summary:

– If you’d like the best analog output from your Dreamcast, purchase a video output solution that supports both video modes.  You’ll be able to play your favorite games in a way that looks best on every display you use it on.

– Using Dreamcast on a flat-screen can be complicated.  The best way at the moment is using the DCHDMI or an OSSC.  

– I like using ODE’s to play my DC games, as patching and options are applied much easier.

– If you’d like digital audio, you can try this TOSLINK mod:  https://assemblergames.com/threads/saturn-dreamcast-toslink.57670/

– Please check out my tips & tricks video that shows all my favorite Dreamcast hardware mods:

 

 

If you’d like info on mods for other systems, head to the Getting RGB From Each System page or check out the main page for more retro-awesomeness.