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   PlanetDreamcast | Hardware | VMU

The Dreamcast's Visual Memory Unit (VMU for short) is truly unique. A combination memory card and portable game system, the VMU is an innovation that is sure to be copied by future systems.

  • The Sega VMU
  • Third-party Memory Cards
  • The Sega VMU

  • About the VMU
    The Sega VMUThe VMU is quite the versatile little device. When plugged into your Dreamcast gamepad, it acts as a memory card. The standard VMU has 128KB of space and, with compression, you can store about 200 saved states on a single VMU (depending of course one what kind of game or scores you are saving). You can save, trade, and copy save files to other VMU's by plugging two of them together, and the VMU can be used to share data between Dreamcast and some Naomi-based arcade machines.

    The VMU's secondary purpose while plugged into the gamepad is to act as another, private screen. While the VMU is plugged into the gamepad, you can still see the LCD screen (although the buttons are not accessible). Some games use the VMU screen to display additional game information. Ready 2 Rumble, for example, displays how many punches you have made and how many have actually hit your opponent on the VMU screen. This feature is especially useful in multiplayer games, since your opponent can't see information displayed on your LCD.

    The VMU's on board battery and built-in controller buttons and D-pad allow you to play games on the VMU when it is disconnected from the gamepad, making the VMU a portable game system as well as a memory card. Certain games allow you to download mini-games to the VMU to play whilst on the move. Sonic Adventure, for adventure, lets you breed a chao on your VMU, tamagotchi style. Others, like Powerstone, unlock new mini-games to play on your VMU each time you beat a character in single-player mode that, once completed, unlock more secrets within the regular game. And clever developers are sure to come up with more creative uses of the VMU in the future!

  • Technical Specifications
    8-bit CPU
    128K byte memory
    48x32 pixel monochrome LCD display
    Button battery x 2, auto off function
    PWM 1 channel sound source

    Third-party Memory Cards

  • Basic Memory Card - Performance
    A VMU unit without the LCD screen, cutting the "V" out of "VMU."

  • Extended Visual Memory Card - Performance
    Better than Sega's standard VMU. Why? We don't know, exactly (yet).

  • 16x Memory Card - Level Six
    Sick of buying a new VMU every time Sega Sports releases a 158 block game? Check out Level Six's 16x Memory Card. It holds 3200 blocks, equivelant to 16 standard memory cards. The Level Six card does not compress data, so it is less likely to corrupt your saved games. For greater versatility, the Level Six connects to a PC using a cheap parallel cable. With this cable you can backup saved games on your hard drive, e-mail them to friends, or upload and download them via the Internet.

    Level Six's card is well constructed, and we have not seen any compatibility problems involving the cards. Unfortunately, it must be connected to a Dreamcast for the cable to work, so you'll have to bring your DC to your computer whenever you want to copy files. The only other drawback is its lack of a VMU display, meaning it works better as a backup than as a primary card. (Still, how many times have you actually looked at the VMU during a game?) The 16x card is available for $34.95, and a 4x version is still available for $23.95. Both cards are compatible with the PC cable, which is an additional $2. Level Six has some saved games available for download, but they have not been updated for a while.

  • Standard Visual Memory Card - Performance
    A clone of Sega's VMU.

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