Treamcast DreamPhoto Mouse

It's a bit of an oddity this one. Last week I was just mindlessly browsing eBay to pass the time while I was waiting for something interesting to happen, and I came across an item I'd never seen before: a Treamcast-branded mouse called DreamPhoto. Now, most Dreamcast collectors will know all about the Treamcast and we've featured the system here at the Junkyard a few times in the past (and several members of the team here own them), but for those who are wondering if I've just misspelled the word Dreamcast, here's a very brief info burst: the Treamcast is an all-in-one clone of the Dreamcast that has it's own built-in LCD screen.

It originates from China and is in no way associated with Sega, but it will run Dreamcast games from all regions (due to it's firmware) and also has it's own bespoke range of software...and as far as I can tell, DreamPhoto is intended for use with such a package called Photo Hunter. More (or not, as the case may be) on that in a moment, but first - here are some pictures of the DreamPhoto unit:
DreamPhoto Treamcast Mouse
Treamcast DreamPhoto Mouse
Treamcast DreamPhoto Mouse
Treamcast DreamPhoto Mouse
The DreamPhoto is essentially just a mouse that operates in the same way as the official one. It has left and right buttons and uses a clunky ball (as opposed to a laser) which was the norm in the late 90s and early 2000s. This in itself makes the DreamPhoto quite a chore to use in this age of touch-sensitive Apple magic mice (mouses?) and the like; but it works just fine with all of the games I tested it with. I also tried it with DreamShell and found no issues. There are some interesting features of the DreamPhoto though. Firstly, it has a VMU slot on the console connector which is actually really useful, as it means you don't have to have a regular controller plugged in alongside the keyboard and mouse like you do with the official peripherals. Secondly, the DreamPhoto has a little button on the side that apparently changes the functionality of the device - one mode makes it act like a regular mouse, while the other allows you to use Photo Hunter...and this is where things get a little hazy.

If you do a Google search for Photo Hunter, very little information comes up, but from what little there is on the various forums I have deduced that it is/was a photo organising suite (or similar) that's only compatible with the Treamcast. The front of the DreamPhoto box also alludes to 'PDA, Network system and a whole Lot more'[sic] so I'm a little confused to what Photo Hunter actually allows Treamcast owners to do with their systems. Alas, I don't own the disc and from what I can tell it isn't compatible with a regular Dreamcast anyway. If anyone knows differently, please let us know (and likewise if you know of anywhere it is available to download from - I'd still like to try it, even if it is believed to be incompatible).
Treamcast DreamPhoto Mouse
Treamcast DreamPhoto Mouse
One other thing I thought it was worth mentioning are the warnings on the back of the box: apparently you should avoid using the DreamPhoto in the bathroom; never pad it powerfully and don't fiddle with the DC1/DC2 button. Oh - and never, ever feed it after midnight.

In slightly unrelated news, I was featured in the latest (April 2015) issue of RetroGamer Magazine's Collector's Corner - thought you might like a little look, especially if the mag isn't available in your part of the world:
Tom Charnock Collector Corner
Reports that I previously auditioned for the part of the Moon in the 3DS update of Majora's Mask are completely untrue.

The Dreamcast Rucksack

Very recently we inducted the excellent Dreamcast messenger bag into the 'Yard. No, not the new Insert Coin pretender - the original Sega Europe messenger bag that was sent around to various retail outlets in 1999 as part of the promotional activity surrounding the system's launch. There was another item of wearable luggage created to promote the Dreamcast though - the Dreamcast-branded rucksack. That description probably isn't technically correct as the 'rucksack' only has one strap that goes across the wearer's body, but it's not a satchel or messenger bag in the traditional sense, so I guess we'll have to stick to our guns with the description. Enough words though - thanks to the planet-destroying power of the BlackBerry Q5's amazing camera, here are some extraordinarily high resolution pictures:
It's quite a large bag and single zipped area inside the bag does have impressive volume - you could probably get a human head in there and still have room for some severed feet too...if you were so inclined to carry dismembered body parts in it. Moving away from the more macabre uses for the bag, there's also a useful pocket on the back above the embroidered Dreamcast swirl. On the strap itself you'll also find two removable pockets, one of which can quite easily double up as an iPod/mobile phone holder (providing you own a 1999-sized Nokia). Joking aside, this is a really nice and practically-sized bag and the cross-body, padded strap (complete with Velcro) makes it highly adjustable and very comfortable. Due to the single-strapped nature it isn't ideal for hiking, rock climbing or cycling (it keeps slipping off), but for train journeys and the like it's perfect. Here's how it compares to the aforementioned messenger bag size wise:
As demonstrated in the photo above, I think you'll agree these two are pretty cool items, and effortlessly compliment any Dreamcast nerd's wardrobe.

Defense Commander - Dreamcast Tech Demo

There are quite a few Dreamcast tech demo videos and images knocking around on the internet - from the Irimajiri 'floating head' and Tower of Babel videos to the less well-known Future City sequence (pictured below). It seems there is another one to now add to this list, but this one is quite interesting in that it is actually available to download and is fully playable: Defense Commander from Titanium Studios. I had never heard of it before seeing the video posted below, and it's only down to some pretty impressive detective work from YouTuber and Dreamcast fan pcwzrd13 that we are able to present this demonstration of it. I must point out that the word 'Defense' should really be spelt 'Defence,' but seeing as Titanium are an American studio, I'll give them the benefit of the doubt here.
Future City
Defense Commander
As stated in the video below, Defense Commander was created as a demonstration of how easy it was to port PC games to the Dreamcast due to the implementation of Windows CE. The game does look fairly basic and has overtones of the Atari Jaguar title Missile Command 3D (albeit without the massive screaming space eels), but it serves as a nice reminder of how the Dreamcast was technically very easy to simultaneously program for. After watching the video, be sure to head over to Titanium Studios' website as they do have some rather interesting (and probably long forgotten) articles relating to Dreamcast development and experimentation.

A Rough Guide To Dreamcast Express

For a console that was only really supported for three years (more or less), the Dreamcast has left an impressive mark on the landscape of the gaming world. Looking at the system retrospectively, it's true that the Dreamcast was something of a commercial disaster for Sega even considering the record-breaking launches and relatively impressive sales figures. That said, it still amazes me the sheer volume of paraphernalia that was generated around the brand - from alarm clocks and pocket TVs to pens, jackets, mugs, bags and even tissue box holders...the amount of merchandise and superfluous branded tat that was spawned to celebrate the arrival of Sega's final console is bewildering. Some systems died on their asses simply because the public weren't aware of the thing's existence; but Sega were clearly on a mission to make sure that didn't happen to the Dreamcast, and while the platform didn't quite reach the commercial targets they had in mind, nobody can say that the firm was stingy with the marketing budget.

Marketing the Dreamcast brand was not strictly limited to stamping swirls on tea towels and mouse mats though - in Japan at least, Sega took things a little further by allowing gamers to sign up for a 'partner' service which furnished them with exclusive demo and preview discs. These could be played in their Dreamcasts and offered a sneak peek at future releases and featured exclusive bonus content that wasn't available anywhere else. This series of discs was called Dreamcast Express and seven volumes were released between 1999 and 2000, and they each comprise either a single or double GD set packed full of imaginatively-presented content.
Until very recently, I'd never even heard of this exclusive collection and it was only after Googling them that I discovered our very own Gagaman had previously mentioned Dreamcast Express here at the Junkyard way back in 2009. That post only featured volumes 4 and 7 though, and in the last week I managed to acquire a rather lovely full set of all seven instalments of the collection. As stated, they are absolutely full of movies and demos (some of which are clearly very early builds of common titles), and due to the nature of them being only meant for members of Sega's Japan-only 'Partners Club,' there's not much in the way of English text or audio...but it's not prohibitive. So without further ado, allow me to present a very rough guide to all seven segments of the Dreamcast Express series...

Please note that all of the content is in Japanese and some of it is pretty impenetrable to a thick and ignorant Englander like me, so don't be too harsh on my descriptions!

Volume 1
(Single disc)

Volume one features an early playable build of Buggy Heat (it's only one track and the controls are very different to the final game - you can 'look' around with the analogue stick in first person, for example), Pop'n Music and a rolling demo of Aero Dancing where you can't actually control the plane, but can change the camera view. There are also non-playable demos of Marvel Vs Capcom and previews of Geist Force and Blue Stinger. Elsewhere there's a 'making of' showing various behind the scenes sequences of the Hidekazu Yukawa advertising campaign; and a couple of Shenmue-related videos looking at the various merchandise and an interview with Yu Suzuki.
To be honest, there is a lot of movie content on all of these discs that isn't overly accessible to non-Japanese speakers, so I'm probably going to be skipping over a lot of it where it's just more 'behind the scenes' stuff. Another theme that is quite prevalent throughout the series is the 'rotating' cube interface, where the cube can be spun through 360 degrees with the d-pad and the trigger buttons can be used to orientate the faces. It's from these different faces that you access the content, be it playable demos, VMU saves or movies.

Volume 2
(Double disc)

This volume has a lengthy Tokyo Game Show '99 review, showing lots of footage of Dreamcast kiosks and merchandise. There's also a preview of Let's Make a J-League Soccer Club, Frame Gride and a cool Seaman promotional movie. The sheer number of movies on this volume is a bit bewildering, but others include Shutokou Battle, Street Fighter Zero 3, Cool Boarders, D2...the list goes on. There are VMU files for Climax Landers and some other game featuring a robot...but I haven't got a clue what it is to be honest!
The second disc included in Volume two is a playable demo of Frame Gride, and this volume also marks the first appearance of Dreamcast Express's two mildly annoying mascots, Candy and Dandy (pictured above) who do their best to pop up in every video and just generally annoy the hell out of you with their twee voices and dancing. Haven't got a clue what they're saying, but I'm sure it's complete rubbish.

Volume 3
(Single disc)

Volume 3 has a much more complete demo of Buggy Heat on it, which actually looks worse that the earlier demo in volume 1. There's a more developed menu and more options, and the bizarre controls have been replace with those of the final release so there's no more 'head turning' with the analogue stick. The other demo is Cool Boarders. Movie-wise, there's an interview with the developers of Maken X that shows a lot of development artwork and some cool-looking models. Quite why both of the interviewees are wearing sunglasses indoors is never made clear, however. There's a section called 'Present' that appears to be showcasing a load of prizes (signed artwork, jackets, Zippo lighters etc) that members of the Partner Club could presumably enter competitions to win. There are also videos of Shenmue, Espion-age-nts, Soul Calibur and Super Producers (amongst others), and once again Candy and Dandy get way too much screen time.

Volume 4
(Double disc)

Volume 4 comes as a two part set, but differs from Volume 2 in that Disc 1 is just packed full of playable demos. The list isn't exactly stellar, but consists of:

  • Vermillion Desert
  • Panzer Front
  • Chu Chu Rocket
  • Evolution
  • Bangai-O
  • Berserk: Guts' Rage
  • Coaster Works
  • Tee Off
  • Some game involving Anime characters and high-pitched squealing
  • A golf game I haven't seen/played before in which the characters look like they've been indulging in too many Class-A narcotics, judging by the size of their pupils
Disc 2 is a more fleshed out look at the 1999 Tokyo Game Show, featuring loads of Dreamcast games. As the Gagaman said in his look at this disc, the menu is quite cool in that it's a representation of the TGS '99 floor plan and you can choose which exhibits you want to visit. Upon selecting an area to look at, a video then plays and you are shown around the venue in some cases and button prompts on the screen allow you to access certain other sub-sections of the demo. It's very well done and the amount of content is stunning. Just wish I could understand what was being said! It also seems that From Volume 4 onwards, Dreamcast Express all came as double disc sets, with disc 1 being for the trials and disc 2 being for movies and VMU files.

Volume 5
(Double disc)

Disc one of Volume 5 features demo versions of:

  • The Lost Golem
  • Toy Commander
  • Aero Dancing F
  • Jet Set Radio
  • Undercover AD2025
  • Carrier
  • Super Magnetic Neo

The movie disc features more rolling demos and familiar clips from the advertising campaign featuring Sega's General Manager Hidekazu Yukawa, as well as a selection of other Japanese TV adverts for the likes of Sonic Adventure, House of the Dead 2 and Shenmue. Along with this, there are movies of Dee Dee Planet Crazy Taxi and popular train 'em up Densha De Go! 2 Kousokuhen 3000.

Volume 6
(Double Disc)

Volume 6 differs slightly from the other in the series in that it is the first one to offer a different interface. The rotating cube and omnipresent Candy and Dandy are gone, to be replaced with a much more subtle menu system from which you choose your demos and movies. Also different is the way that disc 1 contains demos and movies, while disc 2 is called 'special disc' and has another totally different interface, looking more like a train station departures board. Playable demos include Super Runabout and Aero Dancing (again) and the movies include Ecco, Phantasy Star Online and Metropolis Street Racer. This is particularly interesting considering MSR wasn't given an official release in Japan.

Volume 7
(Double disc)

The final set in the series carries on the trend set by Volume 6 in that it comprises an 'Trial and Movie' disc and  a 'Special Disc.' Candy and Dandy's continued absence (apart from on the cover) can only be speculated on, but I would hazard a guess that people fed back to Sega that they were annoying as shit and totally unnecessary. Playable demos this time include Cool Cool Toon and Virtua Athlete, while the movie section consists of Tomb Raider, Spawn in the Demon's Hand and a really cool-looking submarine game called Time and Tide that I'd never heard of prior to seeing it on this disc. Certainly looks better than Deep Fighter, anyway.
The 'Special Disc' again has the same departure lounge type feel, but has a few more playable demos of Giant Gram, Napple Tale, 18 Wheeler, F355 and Sega Marin Fishing. Along with those, there are more VMU save files and the second part of a Skies of Arcadia encyclopaedia detailing various characters and items from the game. Again, it's all in Japanese so I haven't got a clue. Interestingly, there's also a little featurette on the Dreameye, but I couldn't get it to work. Maybe you need a Dreameye attached to get it to run? I don't know. And to be honest, by this point I'd completely had enough of trawling through screens of unreadable text so I'm calling it a day.

Final Thoughts
So there you go - each of the Dreamcast Express discs described in easy to digest nuggets. The whole premise is quite an interesting one and the fact that a lot of the video content on these GDs is exclusive to the series makes it quite exciting to be able to view. I'm sure most of the content has since been ripped and uploaded to YouTube, but it still feels quite A privilege to be privy to  items that were essentially delivered to a relatively small number of gamers and see what Sega was offering as exclusive bonus content. Once again, the Dreamcast Express series was not on general sale or given away like the Dream On or Generator demo discs in Europe and the US; they were sent out by post to people enrolled in the Dreamcast Partners initiative, so I'm guessing the total number of these volumes is actually quite limited. As a curio, they are very nice things to have in the collection and a thought-provoking snapshot of an era where it wasn't really possible to just jump online and have as much video or demo content available to you at the touch of a button.
There is another volume of Dreamcast Express available that I currently do not posses (it was a special edition or something), so if you have that let us know in the comments.

BBC News: The Unexpected Archive

The BBC News website is a service I use on a daily basis - indeed it's usually my first port of call if I want to read the news while I drink my coffee in the morning. Interestingly though, it's also a rather unexpected mine of forgotten Dreamcast-related news items, preserved in an internet-based time capsule for future readers to pore over. I've known about this for some time now, having done quite a bit of internet-based digital archaeology and digital preservation work in a previous employment role, but I thought it might be nice to share this valuable - and reputable - information source with you.

By simply typing the term 'Dreamcast' into the BBC News homepage's search box (in the top right of the page), a whole series of Dreamcast-related news items is produced, in an eery chonological order that almost entirely documents the rise and fall of the system in less than four results:
The rise and fall of one screen grab
Further down in the results, there are some interesting items about features we never saw; such as the planned ability to play the stock market through the console's online interface, and there are even some nice shots of the Dreamcast launch event and early MSR screens featured too. Here are a few more images of these largely forgotten news articles (click the pictures to go directly to the articles on BBC News):
The Dreamcast Junkyard even gets a mention in the results, as we were featured in 2013 as part of a story about the British Library's 100 Websites initiative:
It's quite strange to re-read those articles that were full of promise and really upbeat opinions on the Dreamcast prior to it's launch; and equally quite sad to read about the demise of Sega as a force in the console business almost as it happenned. A true archive of the history of our favourite system, hidden in plain sight.

The Games That Never Were

We're big fans of the search for unreleased and leaked beta software here at the Junkyard, and in the past we've featured plenty of material focusing on the games that were rumoured yet never saw the light of day. There are a few games that we doubt we'll ever get to see running, let alone get the chance to play - Colin McRae Rally 2.0 is one - but as the recent discovery and release of Toejam & Earl 3 shows, sometimes miracles do happen.

It seems we're not the only ones with a fascination of the subject of unreleased games though, as YouTuber and friend of the DCJY pcwzrd13 has created a series of interesting videos detailing some of the lesser (and more well-known) games that were promised, but for whatever reason never made it to shop shelves. Here are episodes 1-3 for your enjoyment...

Throwing Sticks In Rivers

Why did the Sega Dreamcast fail? It's an interesting and popular question that, in light of Sega's current existence as a sort of undead shadow of its former glory, is never too far removed from the gaming community's consciousness.

Indeed, I think you can argue that the Dreamcast's failure and Sega's demise haunts the industry today. That idea that a company so fundamental to the business and culture of an industry can, with one infamous phone call, suddenly cease to be, end in such a messy and brutal way, hovers now like a grim spectre over all of gaming.

It's hard to translate today what a massive shock Sega's collapse was at the time. The closest, arguably, we can hypothetically come to it is if tomorrow Nintendo suddenly announced that the Wii U would be its last home console, that it was pulling out of the mainstream video game industry and was disbanding almost all of its in-house development teams. It's crude, and nowhere near a 1-for-1 scenario, however it does carry the the same weight of fallout.

So why did the Dreamcast fail? The answer is, with everything in life, complex and indefinite. Here are a list of just some of reasons that have since been postulated:
  • The Dreamcast's name was vague and did not go down well in the West.
  • Japan's economy entered recession when Sega was financially at its weakest point.
  • Sega allowed spending on development for the Dreamcast - such as the $50 million dollar Shenmue - to spin out of control.
  • Sony released the PS2 early on in the Dreamcast's lifespan.
  • Sony turned a blind eye to piracy on the PS2, at least in the system's early years, to rapidly grow a hardware base.
  • The PS2 sported a DVD player.
  • The PS2 was a more powerful and reliable console.
Is there any truth in any of these? Probably, however after much thought on the subject, I'm coming round to the conclusion that none of them really had any serious bearing on the Dreamcast's and Sega's fall.

You can't warp the figures, Sega lost a lot of money developing and launching the Dreamcast.

Looking back, I believe that Sega did almost everything right when developing and launching the Dreamcast. They delivered a clean and sleekly designed console that banished any lingering images of the ugly Saturn. They produced and licensed a wide variety of high-calibre peripherals. They innovated in both console connectivity with online gameplay and features, as well as with how they marketed the console and courted developers. They even managed to produce the first proper, stand-alone 3D Sonic game and do a fantastic job too (Sonic Adventure is arguably one of the best launch titles for any console ever released).

Yes, the official controller's design was a miss, and the first-year software library wasn't great, but both of those are hardly company-ending issues. Indeed, since the Dreamcast's release, console launch libraries have been frequently lack-lustre, with launch days spread cynically into 'launch windows' that can stretch from months to years. It is now par for the course for the first year in a console's lifespan to be devoid of killer, console-selling titles.

So, why did one of the founders of the video game industry and the creator of one of the most iconic video game characters of all time suddenly implode? I think it was just their time.

In the grand scheme of things, I think the real reason Sega went under was an unquantifiable number of decisions made, consciously or subconsciously, at a micro scale. The decisions made were probably, according to logic, the right ones, however the series of events that unfolded after them could not have been controlled or predicted. The law of chaos ruled and, just as if you throw stick after stick into a fast-flowing stream, eventually one will get snagged on a rock and held in place against the torrent, Sega did what they had always done, innovated, created and went to market, only this time the conditions had changed and they became stuck and struck out.

Could Sega have mitigated against this happening? Maybe, maybe not. What they definitely couldn't do though was control the chaos of reality. A reality where, unfortunately, their time was up.

Guest Article: Why I Hate The Dreamcast

The Dreamcast Junkyard is, as the name suggests, all about the Dreamcast. While we do tend to focus on some fairly obscure and largely forgotten aspects of the console's criminally brief lifespan, one thing it'd be fair to say is that we tend to be - on the whole - quite positive about the system. Rose-tinted spectacles may or may not be involved in some respects, but the fact remains that the Dreamcast was a commercial failure and it's legacy as an almost universally acclaimed and unfairly shunned platform is something of a recent trend. With this - and the notion of freedom of expression - in mind, occasional freelance games journalist Martin Hinson offers an alternative perspective on the Dreamcast and it's current status as an almost mythical machine.

Martin, you have the floor...

I was asked by the lovely (ahem) man that runs this place to write an opinion piece on the Dreamcast. Why? Well, I've spent the majority of the last 13 years hating the system...or have I?

My journey started in November 1998. My local import shop, The Joypad, received their first batch of Japanese launch consoles, in which I initially had no interest. Three of the games were pretty poor in my opinion - probably the worst launch of all major systems - but when I saw VF3tb running, I decided I had to have one and subsequently shelled out a hefty £400+ for the pleasure.  
The system got off to a rocky start, however. Not only was the buggy Virtua Fighter 3tb the only decent game on launch, the system shipped with no RGB cables at all. Now, for those of you that don’t know, RGB was the best available connection to the vast majority of TVs during the standard definition era; and gave an arcade-quality image as opposed to the very muddy image from the standard cables. This irked me greatly as I already had an RGB-enabled PS1 system and a modified Nintendo 64 which output the same high quality signal. 

Next up was Sonic Adventure; a game that was hotly anticipated by all of us at the shop but which ultimately managed to disappoint on most levels. On the one hand it looked occasionally incredible and was certainly fun as a spectacle, but on the other the sheer amount of glitches and camera made the game a complete mess which felt unfinished. 

The next great hope to justify my increasingly poorly-judged purchase was Sega Rally 2. That arrived shortly after Christmas following several frustrating delays, and much like Sonic Adventure the game was something of a mess. Scruffy visuals and a very choppy frame rate did nothing for the game which was actually really playable and full of content. I battled past the issues and managed to garner some enjoyment for the first time since Virtua Fighter 3tb. February gave us two stunning things, Power Stone and the hitherto absent RGB cable, and these two items transformed the machine for me. The former is a game that was brimming with excitement, style and fun, and was wonderfully fluid to play; whilst the latter cleaned up the image and the power of the console came shining through. Intense two player battles were fought at work and weekly at the shop as favourite characters were discovered and cheap techniques deployed. Well done to Capcom!

Blue Stinger came next - a terrible game! The only reason it got any attention was because there was nothing else like it on the system at the time.

Moving into the spring and summer and things started to improve with the excellent Shutokou Battle, the fun and underrated Buggy Heat, the superbly enjoyable Dynamite Cop, two really different and popular aircraft games in Aero Wings and Airforce Delta and of course, the visually mind-blowing Soul Calibur. 
While most of these weren’t perhaps the pinnacle of gaming, they were generally polished and highly enjoyable titles, something lacking from the system until then. Soul Calibur of course was stunning, although I didn’t quite love it as much as Soul Edge. 
Late 1999 saw both the North American and PAL releases and many more top games came flooding in. The system was also unlocked with a free disc on a magazine, a demo of an Xploder or something similar. By loading this demo, it allowed the console to be region free which opened the door to all regions on my Japanese unit. This was both a blessing and yet another curse. 
It seems that Sega had coded various TV out options into each game, or at least allowed it to be coded. Japanese RPG Skies of Arcadia was one such game. I imported a US copy only to find it didn’t run via RGB which brought opening day frustrations flooding back. Furthermore, several high profile Japanese games had no RGB support before this so it was becoming something of a waiting game to see if a game would work on the system. 

These niggles aside, things were picking up nicely on the software front with lots more to choose from and my £500 outlay had become a distant memory. 

2000 was arguably the golden year for the Sega Dreamcast. Crazy Taxi arrived in arcade perfect form in January and was loved universally, although to this day I am still terrible at it! 
Dance Dance Revolution arrived in February and gave us many a laugh using the mats you could buy for it (never seen by the public!). Dead or Alive 2 also came in February and is simply my all-time favourite 3D fighter. MSR, Virtua Tennis, Power Stone2, Jet Set Radio, Ecco, Ferrari, Marvel Vs Capcom 2 and my all-time favourite Dreamcast and 2D fighting game, Capcom vs SNK. 
There really was a lot to love, and I really did develop a fondness for my Dreamcast. Sadly it didn’t quite hit all of my gaming juices for as many good arcade style games it had, I always felt it lacked something truly special in the other areas. It lacked good football (soccer) games, decent RPGs (Skies of Arcadia aside, and I didn’t like Grandia 2), top first person shooters, high level action games and the absolute best racing games. 

The PlayStation 2 launched in March 2000 and I tried to avoid it with all of my might, telling myself I didn’t need it. I went to the import shop and saw Ridge Racer V running and declared it wasn’t very impressive. The thing is...I was lying. I was craving it badly. It had the Namco presentation, the music, the flawless software that I didn’t have with the Dreamcast until several months after launch, that bitter taste was resurfacing. The PS2 felt professional, it felt ready, felt a lot more 'next gen' in many areas - a main one being the controller. I had never gotten over the terrible DC controller, why would a world leader in 3D arcade technology gives us a controller with just one analogue stick? It felt short sighted then, it just seems outright stupid now, not that the PS2 controller was incredible, just suitable. I didn’t buy the PS2 on launch but several months after, just a few months before the US release, and it cost me a staggering £500 with 4 games and a memory card. 

The PS2 then, was wrestling with my attention along with the Dreamcast and still the PS1. With games like Final Fantasy IX, Chrono Cross and Vagrant Story, the Dreamcast saw less and less playing time and it's fate was sealed when the first images of Winning Eleven 5 appeared in magazines, this was to become Pro Evolution Soccer. 
March 2001 saw Winning Eleven 5 hit my PS2 and this title alone reduced the Dreamcast’s playing time to a minimum. April saw Gran Tursimo 3 with graphics and handling the terrible Sega GT could only dream of. Final Fantasy X came in summer and by Christmas with Metal Gear Solid 2 and Jak and Daxter among others, the Dreamcast was sold. 

So why did I sell the machine? I clearly loved the best part of 2000 playing it. It was simply because I didn’t play it anymore and any cash towards new games was welcome back then. 

All of this waffle does nothing to explain why I hate the Dreamcast though. I didn’t hate the machine at all, despite the many issues it has. Why do I hate it then? I’ll tell you. 

Sega fans. 
Fanboys are the one thing that annoy me more than anything else in video games, the illogical inability to see flaws or balance something simply because you love a company unconditionally. Sadly I was surrounded by tons of Sega fans, and more importantly, Sony haters. 
I was constantly being sniped at for playing and loving PS1 and PS2 because Sony ‘had no soul’, they killed Sega or that Final Fantasy was boring and had no gameplay but Shenmue was the most exciting RPG known to mankind. 
Oh yes, even someone like myself who tries to keep the most balanced opinion on everything ended up crumbling to the wall of hate aimed at me. 

Another issue with many Sega fans is the constant desire to blame everyone else but themselves for the downfall of Sega. The Mega CD was an expensive joke and despite housing some good games, hardly had a lot to offer over the Mega Drive and SNES. The 32X was the worst possible way to follow up the Mega CD and the Saturn was seemingly so badly thought out, the 3D felt like more of an afterthought. Not that the Saturn wasn’t capable, more it was so poorly designed it wasn’t worth developers trying to match the PS1 in terms of 3D, and sales reflected this: consumer confidence was at an all-time low with Sega. Nintendo remained fairly strong and Sony was riding the crest of a very large, self-made wave. Too many people use the argument that people only purchased the PS2 because of the DVD player, which is a notion I find laughable. PS1 sales were still absolutely huge during Christmas 1999 absolutely hammering the Dreamcast, I worked at GAME and we had queues of 50+ per day to buy systems. People were tied into the brand. It was strong, and it delivered on all counts. 
Another issue with the Dreamcast is how it appears to be placed on an untouchable pedestal. You simply do not seem to be allowed to say anything bad about it. No mention of the high failure rates; and the VMU which was pretty useless by all accounts is oddly held up as being some odd forerunner to the Nintendo DS (that said, I do like it when it displays energy bars). The controller is absolute toilet too. Completely useless for 3D games and not exactly great for 2D ones either. The system has no real media functions, hard drive capabilities and the stupid clock keeps resetting! 
Granted, the online features are good however it wasn’t the first console with online features and certainly wasn’t the first time a console could be played online against other people...although I'll concede that it was the first to have functionality out of the box. 

For me, the Panasonic 3DO was much more of true visionary console. It wanted to be a set top box, a console that did everything and that is pretty much what we have ended up with today. Personally I would love a set top style console but that’s another topic. While it's true that the Dreamcast had some cool ideas, they were mostly within software and I don’t believe this 'ahead of it's time' nonsense. It was clearly a product of it's time - the internet was always going to be intergrated fully into consoles of that generation, especially with Microsoft weighing in; the Dreamcast was simply first to the market and took the lead with the online side of it. However you look at it, online gaming would have happened eventually anyway. 

Don't get me wrong though, the Dreamcast did offer some great software with many fresh ideas. Samba de Amigo, Sega Bass Fishing, PSO with multi-lingual voice chat and Seaman to name a few. Sega were certainly very creative. 

So, when my Dreamcast was sold, my barriers were up and I hated the thing. I had forgotten all of the things I loved about it, the wonderful fighting games, the outlandish Sega software, arguably their most creative period, and the superb all around fun the console offered. I even adored the Japanese cases so much, especially the slightly thicker ones that came with games like Marvel vs Capcom 2. I had forgotten it all. 

In 2008 rolled around I moved house. Upon opening a cupboard I came across a console carry case, emblazoned with Nintendo logos. I had no idea what it was so I opened it up and to my surprise I found a PAL Dreamcast inside. I had no idea how it had gotten there or when I even purchased it, and even to this day I don't know how it came to be in that cupboard. But I fiddled around and started to play it and couldn’t really muster up the energy, I still didn’t like it much. The games I had were Skies of Arcadia, Capcom SNK, Crazy Taxi and a couple of others. I sold all of the games and again buried the console. 

Come 2014 and Twitter saw me chatting to Tom Charnock of this site rather a lot, and being the Dreamcast fan he is we started to chat Dreamcast. He inadvertently ignited something inside of my when showing his first import Dreamcast purchase. Upon seeing the case I had a sudden nostalgic desire to own it myself. So off to ebay and I scored a copy for £8. The game arrived with all inserts and it felt like I was back in 2000 - it was Capcom vs SNK. I realised one of the reasons I struggled in 2008 to enjoy the machine again was all because all of the stuff was PAL and came in those truly hideous cases and I am clearly an import snob. Back to eBay and the games starting coming in: Buggy Heat, Shutokou Battle 1 & 2, Sonic Adventure, Dead or Alive 2 Special Edition and several others were all purchased, all Japanese. I was in love again. I was finally reminded of why I enjoyed the machine so much in the first place. The only thing left for me to do now is to get another Japanese console to replace my PAL one as I don’t feel comfortable with that blue swirl!

To sum up then, I don’t really hate the Dreamcast at all, I’m actually pretty fond of it as it offers lots of high quality games, most of them in the arcade style. What I have grown to dislike over the years are Sega fans, the blind ones that is. The fanboys. Example: one such fan actually posted a comment last month on a YouTube video stating the Dreamcast was ‘much more powerful than PS2 because the games loaded faster.’ I truly despair.  

Although I can’t pretend Nintendo and Sony fans aren’t just as bad...

Thanks for your time, and go easy in the comments section.

 - Martin Hinson 

The Stars My Destination

Space. The final frontier. The immortal words of many a commanding officer of the Starship Enterprise. As a species, we have pretty much conquered the surface of our homeworld so why not cast our eyes towards the heavens? Explore the vast gulfs between the celestial bodies that make up our own solar system and the void beyond? Surely this is our day. I'm enough of a fan of science fiction and science fact to know that this grandiose vision will never be realised in my lifetime, or the lifetime of my (hypothetical) children's children, but the notion of mankind's migration from this planet to spread our seeds amongst the stars and conquer the vast emptiness of the cosmos is one that has excited us since the dawn of civilisation itself.

Countless works of fiction have focused on humanity's struggle to leave the safety of planet Earth and create far-reaching networks - be those lowly colonies or planet-destroying galactic empires. Star Wars, Star Trek, Aliens, Firefly...Red Dwarf. The list is endless, and doesn't stop with the motion picture - 2001: A Space Odyssey (and sequels), The Stars My Destination, Gateway, The Forever War, Altered Carbon...all outstanding literary works with a common theme - that of our harnessing of wondrous technology and the breaking of the chains that hold us to the planet we call home. But what of games set in the black void? They too are numerous and the Dreamcast plays host to some of the finest space-based shmups known to man, but in this post I don't want to talk about those. I want to focus on the games that take the space-based shooting template and weave it into more of a dramatic story-driven production. Those games that involve a little bit more than dodging bullets and getting to the end of the level; and focus more on story lines, character development and fighting a tangible threat for a worthy cause. I want to talk space operas and happily, the Dreamcast has several that are actually rather good. Join me as we step beyond the veil and enter hyperspace to look at the best space shooters available for Sega's final entry into the games race...

Year: 1999
Developer: Metro3D
Publisher: Sega
Armada is a game that was only released to an NTSC-U audience, and this really beggars belief. I do remember reading a review in a UK magazine, getting really excited for it...and then being hugely disappointed when it's PAL release was canned. I'm still yet to find out why this happened, as Armada is a fantastic space-based shooter-cum-strategy romp. Played from a slightly isometric viewpoint, you are tasked with taking command of a starship and must pilot it across vast distances, fighting the titular bio-mechanical armada and hailing other ships in order to gain allies and free the galaxy of the alien threat. The story is quite involving and depicts a universe in which mankind has split into six distinct tribes but are forced to work together in order to fend off the aggressive armada who - for reasons unknown - are hellbent on destroying humanity. Controls are a little irksome at first - you control your ship's direction with the analogue stick in a sort of 'circular' motion (whichever way you rotate the stick is the way the ship points) and must use thrusters or the main engine to propel yourself, also using the ship's momentum to guide it safely through fields of marauding enemies.
Throw in plenty of combat, side missions, resource gathering, trading and teaming up with other wandering spacecraft and you have one brilliant adventure on your hands. You also have the ability to venture down to the surface of various planets and also to dock with space stations in order to buy and sell goods; and the coordinates-based map system makes finding hidden treasures and locations quite an engaging experience. As is the norm with this type of game, upgrading your ship and weaponry is as you'd expect, but perhaps the most interesting aspect of Armada is that it's intended to be played, Gauntlet style, with up to four players. I haven't personally experienced this (yet) but I would imagine it makes the game a lot easier with four commanders all flying around together and kicking alien ass. Armada is a game that is well worth tracking down if you're a US-based Dreamcast gamer, but likewise if you live elsewhere it's definitely worth looking for an import copy.

Bang! Gunship Elite
Year: 2000
Developer: Rayland Interactive
Publisher: Red Storm/Ubisoft
Yet another space-themed shooter that never saw release outside of the US, Bang! is a port of a fairly popular PC game that eschews Armada's RPG-lite gameplay in favour of all out combat. Played from a traditional first person cockpit perspective, Bang! throws the player into a universe where talk is cheap and big guns are all the rage. Actually, that's not wholly true as Bang! has a plot that is extremely convoluted and is explained in several fairly lengthy opening cut scenes. Having it's roots on the PC and being a game in the same mould as Wing Commander, this is probably to be expected, and the usual MacGuffin-based reasons for an intergalactic war between several different races is standard stuff. In this particular war, the magical source of all of mankind's energy is a substance known as Khá, and the Alliance is fighting a losing battle against the invading Sektar forces. Cue you, a rookie pilot, being fast-tracked through the academy and then pushed out into space on your own to complete a variety of missions that tread familiar ground for fans of the genre: skirmishes, seek & destroy and convoy protection missions are all par for the course here.
Controls are good and tight, even with the Dreamcast's lop-sided analogue options - accelerate and decelerate are on the triggers, you 'look' with the stick, and activate shields, fire and alternate your weapons with the face buttons and d-pad. Aside from the long-winded story and varied missions, the other ace up Bang!'s sleeve is the fantastic visuals. While the various ships and space stations do look a like tired by today's standards with their lo-res textures, the actual theatres themselves are packed full of lens flares, huge planets and asteroid belts and all manner of other spectacular particle effects. Once the action heats up, there's so much going on at times that you have to remind yourself that the Dreamcast is a system from the late 90s - Bang! really does look very, very nice even by today's standards. A great game in truth, and the only one I've yet found that features a 'fat bloke' in the credits:

Year: 2000
Developer: Digital Anvil/Warthog
Publisher: Crave/Ubisoft
While US gamers had a pretty decent choice of space shooters with both Armada and Bang! Gunship Elite also vying for their money, Dreamcast owners in PAL territories had pretty much one place to get their thrills - Starlancer. That's no bad thing though, because out of the three Starlancer is by far the best of the a country mile. Coming from Chris and Erin Roberts - the designers of the previously mentioned Wing Commander games - Starlancer is a full-blown space opera in every sense of the word. Where Armada and Bang! are great, story-driven experiences in their own right, Starlancer takes it one step further by throwing the player into what is essentially a science-fiction blockbuster of a game, complete with pretty much every cliche of the genre you could care to mention. It also differs from the others in this list in that the enemy threat here is actually human - an alliance of space communists out to destroy the network of colonies and space stations created by the peace-loving allied nations of Earth. It's basically the cold war, but in space. You, as ever, take on the role of a rookie fighter called up to join the 45th volunteer squadron and provide fighter cover for the remaining vestiges of the allied battle fleet as the top brass try to come up with an effective strategy to thwart an overpowering enemy. While Starlancer does look quite similar to Bang! aesthetically, the similarities pretty much end there: Starlancer is all about tactics and commanding your wingmen to attack serious targets, deploying counter measures and working together to take down swarms of intelligent enemy fighters and gigantic capital ships. All the while, radio chatter from your comrades bursts from your headset and the orchestral music adds to the tension. Cut scenes are brilliantly utilised to advance the story and the missions can branch depending on your actions, making Starlancer a truly huge adventure.
As well as the main campaign in which you increase in rank the further you get, there is also as 'instant action' skirmish mode that lets you jump straight in to a dogfight and also try out some of the ships you unlock later in the main game. Another way in which Starlancer differs from Bang! is that there is a multiplayer mode, but whether it is still operational today (even with a broadband adaptor) is something I'm not sure on. The real show-stopper with Starlancer though, isn't the brilliant voice acting, outstanding visuals or rousing soundtrack; it's the way in which the game actually makes you feel like you're a small piece in an even bigger sequence of events. You aren't the absolute hero, there are other hotshot pilots out there too, and you all band together to fight a common enemy. Not only that, but you also have dialogue with enemy pilots so you aren't just blasting faceless AI drones and this goes a long way when creating a tangible living, breathing universe (so to speak) in which to set a story.

The three games I've covered in this article are all outstanding titles in their own right. They all offer a unique experience yet are set in similar environments and all share the key elements of a good space-based adventure. In all of them, you play a lone pilot who is part of a threatened alliance. You are the archetypal underdog with the odds stacked against you and the fate of your people resting on your shoulders. The only thing standing between freedom and certain death are well-maintained laser cannons, a quick trigger finger, and - in some cases - the help of an ally or two. That said, all three of them are different enough to warrant owning them all in my opinion. Armada is more about exploration and upgrading; Bang! is more about solitary dogfighting and Starlancer's game is focussed on commanding squadrons and using tactics. That said, if I could only choose one out of the three, then it would surely be Starlancer; it just has it all - great looks, amazing gameplay and a totally engrossing storyline. It is easily one of the best games on the Dreamcast and if you like space-based shooters it should already be in your library.
Special thanks to friend of the Junkyard Pcwzrd13 who sourced both Armada and Bang! Gunship Elite for me from his native America and sent them over to Blighty in a package that also included a bonus game - Creature Shock for the Sega Saturn. Be sure, as ever, to check out his Youtube channel for some great gaming-related content.

Anyway, enough from me - what do you think about the Dreamcast's space shooters? Agree? Disagree? Let us know in the comments or head over to our new DCJY Facebook Group and get involved in the discussion!