Memory cards are something we don’t really need anymore. The Switch does use SD cards, but these are universal storage items that can be used on PCs, phones and other hardware. No, the days of dedicated memory card units are long gone. But back when we did use memory cards, the coolest of them all was probably the VMU devices for the Dreamcast.
Part memory card, part second screen accessory, the VMU was also a mini-game console with its own small library of mini-games. It wasn’t perfect but it was such a cool idea.
The retro focused YouTube channel, Stop Skeletons From Fighting, released a great video that covers all the cool and strange things that you could do with a VMU.
For example, did you know that you could actually play Silent Scope on a VMU? Not only can you do that, but you can also even play it using the Dreamcast mouse. This isn’t the best way to play Silent Scope, but it is the silliest way to play. Virtua Tennis, a game that you can play using a fishing rod (really), could also be played entirely on a VMU. When plugged into a controller, the VMU shows a wireframe representation of the gameplay. Again, not the best way to play Virtua Tennis, but maybe the weirdest way.
Most games didn’t have such wild VMU features. In fact, a lot of games on the Dreamcast just showed the logo for the game. Other games included helpful information, like Resident Evil 2. When playing RE2, the VMU shows you how much ammo you have and your health status.
Resident Evil 2
and how it used the VMU. Screenshot: SSFF (YouTube)
The VMU wasn’t perfect. It didn’t have a lot of storage, a problem for a memory card. It also used harder to find watch batteries and was prone to bugs and other issues. But still, the idea of a portable mini-game console that was also a memory card is such a crazy and ridiculous idea that only late 90s SEGA would try.
If you still have a VMU, people are creating homebrew software and apps for the tiny devices. Fans have also created VMU emulators, allowing anyone to mess around with some of the mini-games that developers created for the VMU.