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The Final Indignity

When Sega released the Dreamcast on November 27, 1998, they kick-started the 128-bit generation, or what would now be known as the 6th Generation of gaming consoles. After years of working on a 'Saturn 2' to beef up the 3D capabilities of their flagship device in response to Sony's all conquering (but ageing) PlayStation, they were primed and ready to go to contrarily sweep away their recent history of failure to reclaim the lost throne in the West and also to build upon their newly found and long sought after success in the East. 

It seemed like a good idea to get in early; to build up a good quality software library over the coming year to potentially have the edge over what would turn out to be a lacklustre collection of launch games for their sword of Damocles weilding rival lurking just beyond the horizon. However, despite tempting the masses with a veritable smorgasbord of very tasty gaming treats, they underestimated the patience (and brand loyalty stubbornness) of the average consumer, who were prepared to wait for the privilege of buying a "free" DVD player with their “emotion engines.” 
Aw, what the hell, I don't got that long a lifespan anyway...
To add insult to injury, there were further unintended consequences from getting things off to an early start. The decision to use standard Compact Disc jewel cases for Dreamcast games in Japan and the US was simple, elegant, sensible and unpretentious. There was no stigma associated with the jewel case in Japan, as it was the de facto standard for just about all the recently successful video game systems (with the exception of Nintendo's bewildering use of flimsy cardboard boxes), including but not limited to the NEC PC Engine, Sony's PlayStation and Sega's own Saturn, which was not the downtrodden aborted foetus that it became in the West, but a glorious golden child that was much loved in its home country. 

I imagine that Saturn games and Dreamcast games sat proudly side-by-side in Japanese game stores, much like how the Master System and Mega Drive games would be joined at the hip in PAL territories during the early years – a state-of-the-art older brother pushing graphical prowess to the cutting edge, alongside an entry-level younger sibling who offered a large back catalogue of unique, simpler but no less charming games. 
It's surprisingly difficult to find photographic evidence of a glorious
Japanese Saturn and Dreamcast retail display from the late '90s
(or maybe my google-fu is lacking)
The jewel case was also well suited to the US market, as it created some distance from the bad history associated with the monstrosity that was the oversized Sega CD/Saturn plastic cases of old, and put the Dreamcast on equal footing with the reigning champ at the time, ensuring the new breed of casual playstation-era gamers wouldn't be confused by any unconventional game case designs. This was a victory for common sense, as Sega doesn't have a particularly good track record when it comes to designing their own game cases (the less said about the PAL territory game cases the better).

Sega Direct Chaos Field Bonus CD

Chaos Field, for the uninitiated (including me!), is a Japan-only shooter that was released in 2004 by Milestone. The game was later released for the Gamecube, PS2, Wii and others but the Dreamcast version came first, possibly due to the game being a NAOMI conversion. While Chaos Field generally garnered average review scores, that the Dreamcast was still receiving official releases in 2004 proves how popular the system remained in it's homeland. Technically, the USA is Sega's homeland...but you get the idea.

Anyway, people who ordered Chaos Field from Sega Direct received not only the game in it's lovely jewel case, but also a special edition bonus CD containing remixed tracks from the main game. Last week I managed to bad this bonus CD in an eBay auction for a few pounds...and here it is:
While there are only four tracks (with a total running time of around 12 minutes), this is a nice item to own. I had never even heard of this special edition CD before spotting the auction and I'm guessing the reason I got it so cheap is that a lot of other people were also ignorant to its existence. The tracks themselves are all suitably 'dancey,' and you can totally imagine them pumping away in the background as you face boss fight after boss fight in the actual game. I say 'imagine' because I haven't personally had the pleasure of playing Chaos Field just yet. Hopefully this will change in the future.

Game Designer and Voice Actor Brian Silva Reveals Info on Hydro Thunder 2 and the Original Concept for Floigan Bros.


Over at SEGAbits, where I spend a bulk of my time writing about games, I host a podcast called the SEGAbits Swingin' Report Show. While the show initially was a weekly recap of the latest SEGA news, it slowly morphed into an interview show featuring game developers and industry talent. Suffice to say, interviews proved far more popular and we stuck with the format. Our most recent show is a real gem, as it is one of those shows where we feature somebody who really hasn't been asked about his work in the games industry. That's a shame, because our guest Brian Silva is a man with an insane amount of talent and a resume that would make any gamer's jaw drop.

Brian worked at Accolade, Midway, Visual Concepts and Blizzard creating many games you probably played and a few you wish you played but never could because they went unreleased. Brian served as a voice actor and game designer on the Bubsy series in the 16-bit days, Midway's Hydro Thunder for arcades (a Dreamcast favorite!) and he created the initial concept for Floigan Bros in 1996 when the game was to be released on Sony's Playstation. That's right, the voice of Bubsy is the Hydro Thunder announcer and he played a key role in developing both franchises. Is your mind blown? Well prepare for more, as I tell you that Brian also told us about the cancelled Hydro Thunder 2.

So quit reading and check out the latest Swingin' Report Show featuring Brian Silva!

DreamConn Wireless Dreamcast Controller Appears On eBay

Here's something we haven't seen before - A true wireless controller for the Dreamcast. While the system has a butt-load of peripherals, they're all wired - even the Samba De Amigo maracas are tethered by a cord. Wired controllers were very much par for the course in the late 90s and early 2000s though and stuff like the Nintendo Gamecube Wavebird came a little later (although the Sega Saturn - amongst others - did get infrared wireless controllers iirc). Wireless is all the rage now and it seems one hardware modder thought the old Dreamcast needed to get in on the action. Enter the DreamConn:
Here's the blurb from the eBay France auction:

DreamConn is the first REAL Wireless Controller for the Sega Dreamcast.

As seen in the photos, DreamConn is an original Dreamcast controller that is modified to be wireless. Enjoy your beloved console with no more cables!

DreamPod Episode 10


iTunes
Stitcher
Buzzsprout
YouTube

As well as being available on iTunes, Stitcher, Buzzsprout and YouTube, DreamPod is also listed on the UK Podcast Directory. Nominations are now open for the 2015 UK Podcast Awards, and while our podcast suffers from the usual issues an amateur production encounters, we have one thing a lot of the others don't: absolute passion for the subject. None of the team get paid for any of this content, yet we do our best to bring new, fresh content to the Dreamcast community as often as we can. We do this all in our spare time.

To this end, we'd be honoured if you'd show your support for the only Dreamcast-centric podcast around by giving us a nomination. The very notion that a Dreamcast podcast could be at a prestigious awards ceremony like this is mind-blowing in 2015 - 14 years after the system was cut loose. Please consider nominating us by visiting our listing page here and clicking on the big red button!

スーパースピードレーシング - A Super Speed Surprise

Super Speed Racing was never released in the PAL territories, which is a bit of shame. The reasons for this statement I will reveal in due course, but before that here's what you need to know about this oft maligned racer. Based on the now defunct CART racing league, Super Speed Racing was a Japanese launch title for the Dreamcast that also made an appearance in the US as Flag to Flag. Featuring 19 tracks of both traditional oval and street varieties, 27 real drivers and 18 teams there's a lot to interest any fan of the real life motorsport. Well, the real life motorsport of 1999. 

Up until few days ago I'd never played either the Japanese or US iteration - I'd never really had any inclination or desire to investigate due to the overwhelmingly negative reviews Zoom's game garnered on release. So why am I writing this now? Well, it's because I bought it for £3 and was expecting an absolute car crash (excuse the pun), but upon experiencing it I felt that the record needed to be put straight: Super Speed Racing is one of the most enjoyable racers I've played on the Dreamcast. You read that right. 
I walked into this expecting to be totally underwhelmed by shoddy graphics, rubbish controls and hardly anything of any worth, but in actual fact I discovered a highly playable and entertaining racing game with a lot of positives. I'm not an expert by any means when it comes to CART, the history of the sport or the minutiae of the culture, but I do know what makes an enjoyable experience and Super speed Racing just has it.

Review – 式神の城 (Shikigami no Shiro 2)


Release date: March 25, 2004
Developer:  Alfa System
Genre: Shmup (Vertical scrolling)
Current retail: £70-75 (eBay)


‘Right, number one, fuck you Jeff! Number two, yes Neal you are right as ever, a shoot-em-up necessitates a fucking spacecraft and three, if I hear another fucking teenager saying that Sine Mora is the best shmup ever...’ – Steve, Super Red Green Blue


Depending on how much of a shmup purist you are – in my case I would say I'm now a kind of Guardianista shmupper – either one or both of the latter two assertions in the quote above will resonate with you. Technically speaking, at least according to some of the more hardcore areas of the genre fan base, a shmup has to have a flying craft to be considered cannon.  No ifs no buts. If you aren't flying some hunk of heavily armed metal then that’s fine, we can hang out and enjoy blowing stuff away, down some beverages and chase score, but that title is never going to enter the historic halls of the shmup guild. You either have it or you are dead to the genre.
Each character has a primary and secondary attack. They vary in usefulness.
At one time I counted myself among these chosen brethren. The purity of the ideal was powerful. You either have it or you are dead. It helped reaffirm my gaming identity, putting down a marker that separated those who were in-scene and those who were casual, pretenders, far younger than me and had missed the shmup golden years. No fucking wanna-be hipster teenager was going to gate-crash my party and start expounding how Sine Mora was the best shooter ever. How could this moron understand? When you've ridden the fever dream dragon of Radiant Silvergun and drunk the milk of paradise, how do you even explain what you once saw? Far from bullet hell, it was bullet heaven.

Game Heaven PS1 Dreamcast Controller

Here's an interesting item. It's an unashamedly unofficial third party controller for the Dreamcast. Nothing unusual in that - there are plenty of third party Dreamcast peripherals, produced by a myriad different companies and they vary wildly in quality. Oddly, the best third party peripheral I've personally come across is the Treamcast DreamPhoto mouse I looked at a few months ago and that thing is about as unofficial as it's possible to get without calling your device the Mega Breamcast. But back to the present - here's the Game Heaven 'For DC.' That's actually what it says on the packaging, and as your eyes will no doubt be telling your brain as you look at the lovely images, it's a Dreamcast controller in the shape of a PlayStation pad.

Quite why this exists is something of a mystery, but I'm glad it does because without it, I wouldn't be writing this tripe for you lovely people to read.
According to the garishly-coloured cardboard inlay, the Game Heaven (I can't bring myself to refer to it as the 'For DC,' even though that's technically what I should be calling it, going by the box) was produced in that country where copyrights and trademarks are little more than rumours -  China. Due to this, I'm willing to bet that this was actually created for the Treamcast, but don't quote me on that - there's every possibility it was just made there to be exported so that fools like me could spend money on one. But am I a fool? Am I? I'd like to offer the notion that no, I am not a fool. Far from it. How so? Well, because the Game Heaven is actually a fantastic controller. No, wait - hear me out.

DreamPod Episode 9


iTunes
Stitcher
Buzzsprout
YouTube

As well as being available on iTunes, Stitcher, Buzzsprout and YouTube, DreamPod is also listed on the UK Podcast Directory. Nominations are now open for the 2015 UK Podcast Awards, and while our podcast suffers from the usual issues an amateur production encounters, we have one thing a lot of the others don't: absolute passion for the subject. None of the team get paid for any of this content, yet we do our best to bring new, fresh content to the Dreamcast community as often as we can. We do this all in our spare time.

To this end, we'd be honoured if you'd show your support for the only Dreamcast-centric podcast around by giving us a nomination. The very notion that a Dreamcast podcast could be at a prestigious awards ceremony like this is mind-blowing in 2015 - 14 years after the system was cut loose. Please consider nominating us by visiting our listing page here and clicking on the big red button!


Star-Spangled Box Art

I realise that this post will date extremely quickly, but as it's US Independence Day I thought I would take a quick look at something relevant, but that we haven't really touched on in the past - the different types of US Dreamcast hardware and software packaging. But first: a public service announcement:
Happy Independence Day!
Now that's out of the way, let's begin. The PAL Dreamcast packaging never actually changed from the day the system was launched, to the day Sega drop-kicked the Dreamcast into a wheelie bin. It was always the same - the blue and white boxes, minimalist text and a few warning labels. From a design perspective, this packaging was perfectly serviceable and suited the Dreamcast's image well. There were a few special edition cardboard sleeves that went around the console boxes (and the House of the Dead 2 gun set), but for the most part PAL hardware boxes didn't vary. In the US though, the packaging underwent something of a major redesign about a year after the system's launch.

The original packaging looks like this:
How a Dreamcast looks when you've got a hangover.
As far as console boxes go, it's quite nice. The slightly out-of-focus console lit from various angles with orange and blue is certainly eye-catching, and the design on the left that mirrors the Dreamcast GD drive door and LED lens is a nice nod to the actual physical styling of the console. Indeed, Sega also used this 'side bar' design on the game boxes/manuals too. Elsewhere in the hardware catalogue, the imagery was replicated - the keyboard and controller boxes also used a similar design:
How the controller looks when you've got a hangover.
How the keyboard...you get the idea. Sigh.

Developer Interview: Isotope SoftWorks' Coraline Annis

Isotope SoftWorks is a developer with a plan - a plan to bring independently developed first person shooting action to the Dreamcast. Isotope currently has two such titles in development - SLaVE and Hypertension: Harmony of Darkness. Both are FPSs, and both are coming soon via GOAT Store...but they really couldn't be further apart in terms of aesthetics and narrative. The Dreamcast Junkyard really wanted to know more about what makes Isotope tick, and so we got together with founder and lead programmer Coraline Annis to discuss the exciting projects currently under way and due for release in the near future.

DCJY: Hi Coraline, thanks for taking the time to talk to us. Could you give a little bit of background to Isotope SoftWorks and TDG Mods? Who are you and how did you form as a developer?

Coraline Annis: My name is Coraline Annis (Corbin) and I’m the founder and lead programmer for Isotope SoftWorks. TDGMods stands for “The Doom Gods Mods” and was the name of my first independent mod team that formed Hypertension. The name change was done to move away from the “mod” and “Doom” mindset, and to differentiate that the current team working on Hypertension is completely different from the previous. The TDGMods monikor is only kept on to honor the previous developers throughout the lifetime of the game itself.

I was very small when I figured out I wanted to work on computer games. I got my start through a utility called DeHackED for DOOM, and BUILD for Duke Nukem 3D in my early years. It was awhile before I tried bigger things, but I got my start pretty much like everyone else in the 90’s industry. Determination led to the formation of TDGMods in high school, and many failed projects later, we are where we are today. Isotope SoftWorks is the ultimate culmination of all of our hard work to get where we are now, and believe me, it was very hard and complicated. None of this was started with a plan, we just kept rolling with it until we had enough to say “Hey, check us out!”
Hypertension features some impressive lighting effects
If you notice, historically, we have always presented our games with actual media, and not a bunch of concept art or babbling to a camera. In the end, I think that’s why people still believe in us, because we have never been big on ‘talk now, show concept art later’ - it’s always like, here’s in-engine material, suck on that! Haha!

And, despite my formal name being Corbin, I underwent a transition and now go by Coraline, but you’ll see my legal name accredited simply because it seems to confuse a lot of people or they don’t have the maturity to show respect towards me. I’ve never really addressed that part of myself publicly in detail, so there might be a time when I will, but for now it’s not important. I’m still the same person that’s worked on these things all these years anyway. Just prettier ;)
Isotope SoftWorks' new logo.

DreamPod Episode 8



iTunes
Stitcher
Buzzsprout
YouTube

As well as being available on iTunes, Stitcher, Buzzsprout and YouTube, DreamPod is also listed on the UK Podcast Directory. Nominations are now open for the 2015 UK Podcast Awards, and while our podcast suffers from the usual issues an amateur production encounters, we have one thing a lot of the others don't: absolute passion for the subject. None of the team get paid for any of this content, yet we do our best to bring new, fresh content to the Dreamcast community as often as we can. We do this all in our spare time.

To this end, we'd be honoured if you'd show your support for the only Dreamcast-centric podcast around by giving us a nomination. The very notion that a Dreamcast podcast could be at a prestigious awards ceremony like this is mind-blowing in 2015 - 14 years after the system was cut loose. Please consider nominating us by visiting our listing page here and clicking on the big red button!

10th Anniversary Competition - Part Two

Part one of our 10th anniversary competition went spectacularly well. Your submissions were fantastic and really showed how much the Dreamcast still means to us all as gamers. It's time to move on though, and we're pleased to unveil your second opportunity to win one of the fabulous Dreamcast Collection vinyls kindly donated by Sega Europe.

Last time we wanted your memories, but this time we're going to test your knowledge of the Dreamcast's outstanding library. Below, you will find cropped screens from 25 of the Dreamcast's finest, worst, most common and not-so-common titles. It's a real mixed bag but the one thing linking them together is this: guess them all correct and you could win the second vinyl and find yourself rocking out to the dulcet tones of Crazy Taxi, Sonic Adventure and Space Channel 5. Well, the PSN/XBLA versions of Crazy Taxi, anyway.
A worthy prize.
A keen eye will be required here, as will an in-depth knowledge of every genre from the Dreamcast's library. Once you think you've got them all, put your answers in a numbered list and email your entry to admin@thedreamcastjunkyard.co.uk. In the likely event that we get multiple correct entries before the deadline, the winner will be drawn out of a hat - it's best to keep these things fair and simple.

What are you waiting for?! Get studying these images...

Rare Dreamcast Premiere Posters Surface On eBay

The UK launch party for the Dreamcast is the stuff of legend. I've heard many a recounted tale of booze and debauchery from industry types who were lucky enough to be invited, in some cases (rather interestingly) by means of a VMU with a 'golden ticket' attached:
Look who it is!
The event took place during the annual European Computer Trade Show (ECTS) in September 1999, where a private party was held at the Empire Theatre in Leicester Square, London. The thing that makes this private launch party so interesting is that a lot of fairly (now) extremely rare merchandise was handed out to revellers. How rare? How about 'I bet you've never, ever seen these' rare? Here you go: