I thought I was satisfied with S-Video.
When I first purchased my Dreamcast S-Video cable, I was stepping forward from an RF cable. The jump was tremendous, I was seeing details in Street Fighter III: Third Strike‘s sprites that I’d never noticed. Colors popped in a way that I never expected the Dreamcast’s hardware was capable of. I figured that I’d seen the apex of the Dreamcast’s visual quality, and that there was no need to upgrade.
Then I tried out Racketboy’s VGA Cable.
I’m happy to say that I was very, very wrong.
Upon first glance, the Dreamcast VGA cable seems very simple. It’s just 1.5′ cable with a Dreamcast multi-out port on one end, a plastic box with a 3.5mm jack in the middle, and a female VGA port on the other. It actually initially seems kind of underwhelming with its garish sticker proclaiming “DC VGA Cable.” I was somewhat surprised by the fact that it wasn’t a full length cable, but instead needed a male-to-male VGA cable to connect it to a TV. While I was able to salvage one from one of my family’s computers, it might catch you off guard if you don’t have an extra VGA cable handy. There’s also the fact that VGA doesn’t carry sound, so you’ll probably need a pair of computer speakers or long headphones to plug into the inbuilt 3.5mm jack, just make sure to have an extra electrical outlet ready if you’re using computer speakers. However, these surface issues are where my complaints with the cable end.
The first thing I did when I got this cable was to hook up my arcade stick and play Third Strike. It looked beautifully crisp, like a Japanese candy cab. The visuals were only limited by the size of my television. I was shocked to discover that Yun’s neutral sprite actually has eyes! I feel like I’m finally seeing the game exactly the way that the designers made it, with every pixel proudly on display. People who aren’t fans of pixel art may take offense though, since it less detailed S-video cable looks a tad smoother (these would be the same heathens who play Third Strike Online with filters), but most people who enjoy their Dreamcasts should love it.
The advantages extend beyond just sharper 2D visuals. With VGA, Jet Grind Radio‘s already retina-searing colors become even brighter and more distinct. The world clears up too, making the cel-shaded graffiti aesthetic even stronger. The improved definition on the black lines is quite striking. Just compare Beat’s skates in the two images below. (VGA on top, S-Video on bottom)
Although I complained about potentially needing an extra outlet for a decent pair of computer speakers, with your best headphones (with a mixamp or alternate form of volume control) or speakers, you can get some incredible sound out of this little cable. Rez and Ikaruga in particular sounded delightful.
This cable lets you get the best video and audio out of your Dreamcast. It works with most (but not all!) games on the system, too. Considering that it’s $20 off of Racketboy when official VGA cables go for about $100 on eBay, I’ve got to give Racketboy’s Dreamcast VGA cable a very enthusiastic A.
You can get it here: http://www.racketboy.com/store/sega-dreamcast/dreamcast-vga-cable-box.html
PS: Many thanks to my sister Katie for helping me with photography.