I know a surprising number of people who desperately want to play Pokémon Go, but their phones are too old to run the game reliably. For those people, a cheap, used Dreamcast with a portable Visual Memory Unit might be the cheapest way to simulate the Pokémon Go experience until their next upgrade cycle. That's because of Pokémon Go VMU, a cheeky homebrew project from a VMU coder going by the handle guacasaurus_mex.
True, the Dreamcast's underpowered memory-card-with-a-screen-and-buttons doesn't feature the GPS antenna and augmented reality camera that help make Pokémon Go possible on smartphones. Still, guacasaurus_rex promises a randomly generated map grid to navigate on the 48x32 pixel monochrome LCD screen. There will even be a little timing-based mini-game for catching the little monsters in Pokéballs to fill in for those little touchscreen swipes.
The VMU "port" isn't planned for release until next year, though, because "it's going to take forever to draw all those damn Pokémon." Hopefully Pokémon Go will still be a relevant gaming phenomenon by then, eh?
Pokémon Go aside, news of the VMU port's existence sent us down a rabbit hole into a previously unknown world of Dreamcast VMU homebrew (unknown to us, anyway). Guaracasuarus_rex has already released VMU versions of everything from Flappy Bird to an original fruit-catching game. But dozens more homebrew VMU games are out there, from Buffy the Vampire Slayer interactive comics to questionable ports of Metroid and Metal Gear Solid, limited three-dimensional first-person shooters, and black-and-white "FMV" videos.
This seven-minute YouTube showcase from nearly a decade ago shows that the VMU scene was already pretty robust just a few years after the Dreamcast's death. You can load up a ton of VMU demos yourself using a burned CD-R and some stock Dreamcast hardware, all thanks to the system's utterly broken copy protection. You can even get a tool that lets you play VMU games on the TV via a Dreamcast-based emulator, for those Sega fans who were always envious of the Super Game Boy (you know you were).
It all just goes to show you that if a device has a screen, someone somewhere will try to figure out a way to make new games for it. More than that, though, the VMU homebrew scene is an amazing opportunity to become the ultimate gaming hipster on the go. Now, the next time your friends break out their phones to check out a nearby Pokéstop, you can just let out a little sigh, pull out your VMU, and enjoy some extremely tiny Tetris like it's still 1999.