An Interview With Bernie Stolar

There are few people who are more intrinsically linked with the history of the Dreamcast than Bernie Stolar. Along with personalities such as Peter Moore and Hidekazu 'Mr Dreamcast' Yukawa, Bernie Stolar is extremely well known and was the man who kicked the whole party off. Here, in this candid interview we welcome Bernie to the Junkyard and pick his brains on the history of our favourite console and the current trends in the Dreamcast community.

DCJY: Hi Bernie, firstly let me just say how much of an honour it is to have you grace our site with your virtual presence! As huge fans of the Dreamcast, it’s quite awesome to have the opportunity to speak with you first hand. Never did I think way back in late 1999 when I picked up my first Dreamcast, that in 20 years' time I'd be conversing with the man who helped create the console!

Bernie Stolar: No problem, thanks for asking me. I consider it an honour that a product I helped create still has a loyal fanbase to this day. Thank you for keeping the 'Dream' alive.
Bernie delivering the Dreamcast keynote at GDC 1999
To kick things off, I wondered if you could enlighten those readers who may not be familiar with who you are and what your role was with the Dreamcast?

I was President and Chief Operating Officer at SEGA of America from July 1996 to August 1999. I was hired by SEGA of Japan CEO, Hayao Nakayama. I conceived the idea of Dreamcast and hired Peter Moore, Chris Gilbert, and the entire product development team.

You were at Sega of America from 1996 to 1999, all the way through the Dreamcast’s most important and formative years - can you recall the very first time you heard the name ‘Dreamcast’?

I believe it was called 'Dural' and later 'Katana' at one point. I want to say May of 1998 was when I first heard the term 'Dreamcast.'
On the topic of the early days of Dreamcast, can you recall which came first - Dreamcast or NAOMI? Or were they developed in tandem?

I believe NAOMI was released first. If I remember correctly, Dreamcast came about at a time when we were switching from Model 3 arcade hardware to NAOMI. I remember this because, I was disappointed with the fact that the Dreamcast would not really be able to support ports from both arcade units. I had wanted ports of several licensed units, including Star Wars Trilogy and The Lost World: Jurassic Park series. I felt these would be very popular, especially in the American market. To answer your question though, yes they were developed in tandem, definitely with the thought in mind that many of the games such as Crazy Taxi and House of the Dead 2 would be ported to Dreamcast. As a side note, I believe we also licensed the NAOMI architecture to Capcom, Namco, and Taito.
Early Dreamcast concept designs
Just sticking with the origins of the Dreamcast, were there really two different concepts for the Dreamcast in development? There are plenty of forum posts and articles online that state that there were competing projects - one from SEGA of America called Black Belt which was 3Dfx based, and another from SEGA of Japan called Dural which was NEC PowerVR based. Can you comment on these projects and how it was decided that the Dural concept was the one that won? If so, how different do you think the 3Dfx system would have been?

I believe SEGA of America wanted the 3Dfx version and SEGA of Japan wanted the NEC PowerVR. Both made sense for different reasons. With 3Dfx, there were more resources and documentation available for development in the US and Europe. That and it was understood that development would be easier, especially for PC ports. The NEC PowerVR made NAOMI ports simple and was easy to program, however, it was not as well supported (yet) in the US. I doubt Model 3 games would have worked too well on either. Although there was a PowerVR chip shortage when the Dreamcast launched in Japan, both chips had their pluses and minuses. In the end, I'm not sure it would have made too much of a difference.
Famously, you moved from Sony’s PlayStation division to work with SEGA of America in 1996. You're quoted in a VentureBeat interview as stating that the Saturn needed to be killed off as soon as you arrived. What were your initial thoughts on the fledgling successor to the Saturn? Did you envisage that the Dreamcast would become a huge success based on the hardware specs?

When I went to SEGA, they needed a new hardware system because the systems that they had were not selling – all eight of them. Saturn was not being supported by SEGA the way it should have been. When I showed up, it was my idea to develop a new hardware system that had the ability to play online. Before signing with SEGA, I racked my brain on a way to salvage Saturn, but it was just too far gone and too expensive and difficult to develop for. SEGA was nearly bankrupt, they needed a new console and they needed it quick. The only options were to go big or go home.

Dual Shock 4 Compatibility Heading To Dreamcast (Updated)

Have you ever done that annoying thing where you put down your Dreamcast controller and then inadvertently pick up the controller for your PlayStation 4, try to resume your game of Spirit of speed 1937 and then realise you've grabbed the wrong peripheral? I can tell you, this happens to me a hell of a lot, especially since Spirit of Speed 1937 is my favourite game ever and I play it every day for at least 15 hours.

If you're like me, this news will come as a pleasant surprise - soon you'll be able to connect your Dual Shock 4 or Dual Shock 3 to your Dreamcast thanks to peripheral manufacturer Brook Accessory. My consumption of Spirit of Speed 1937 will probably increase exponentially due to this. Send help.
The 'Game Controller Super Converter' allows your to plug PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4 controllers into the Dreamcast via USB and also allows for fight sticks to be used. Obviously, the Dual Shock controllers don't have VMU slots so you'd probably need to stick a regular Dreamcast controller into port B to access saves etc. We've been able to use Dual Shock and Dual Shock 2 (and even Sega Saturn controllers) with the Dreamcast for a while now via the Total Control adapter, but any new technology for the Dreamcast is certainly worth looking at. Update: this device *does* actually allow for wireless connectivity once the controller has been registered with a USB connection, but as stated a second wired controller is needed to access VMU saves etc.

We'll have a review of this unit as soon as we can get our grime and offal-covered claws on one, as Brook have kindly offered to send us one in the post. You can find out more information on this contraption at Arcade Shock in the meantime, where pre-orders are live and cost the princely sum of $39.99. Thoughts? You know what to do...

A Quick Look At V-Rally 2: Expert Edition

Racing games are my favourite genre by far, and within that the sub-genre of rally is easily my preferred flavour. I'm not really a fan of the real life WRC and I couldn't even name the current world rally champion without Googling first, but there's something massively appealing to me about charging a powerful saloon car through muddy trails as the rain lashes the barren digital landscape. The roar of a virtual engine, the co-driver's pace-notes warning of every up coming hazard, the feeling of total isolation on a desolate moor, dark forest or arid desert stage.
Over the years I've played many, many different recreations of the motorsport on a wide range of consoles. The stand out titles for me are games like Sega Rally on Sega Saturn, Colin McRae Rally 2.0 on PlayStation, Top Gear Rally on Nintendo 64, WRC: Rally Evolved on PlayStation 2, RalliSport Challenge 2 and Colin McRae 3 on Xbox, and DiRT Rally and DiRT 4 on PlayStation 4. There are plenty of other high quality rally titles on a range of consoles, both retro and contemporary that stand out but we're here to discuss the Dreamcast so let's get this show on the road/muddy track.
The Dreamcast only really had two rally titles released during its lifespan - Sega's own flagship title Sega Rally 2, and Infogrames' V-Rally 2: Expert Edition. Later came Rush Rush Rally Racing (and Rush Rush Rally Racing Reloaded) from Senile Team; and there was the legendary unreleased Colin McRae 2.0 from Codemasters, but as far as full-on official retail releases go, Dreamcast owners have but two games to choose from.

With the recent announcement that the V-Rally franchise is being awoken from its eternal slumber to be given a new lease of life in the guise of V-Rally 4 on current gen systems (including the Nintendo Switch - hallelujah!), we thought it was high time we took a look at the Dreamcast's other rally title and examined its many pros, and likewise its main con...

Classic Fighter Barbarian Heading To Dreamcast

The latest retro title being given a full-on port to the Dreamcast is one that harks back to the golden era of classic 8-bit computer systems, Barbarian: The Ultimate Warrior. Originally released for the Commodore 64 in 1987 and ported to eight other systems including the BBC Micro and Atari ST, Barbarian is being brought to Sega's console with a range of interesting additional features over previous incarnations. For starters, it'll include emulated versions of all previous Barbarian releases with graphics modes that can be switched at the press of a button, as well as an updated Dreamcast mode with brand new visuals.
Atari ST graphics mode
ZX Spectrum graphics mode
The game is being brought to the Dreamcast by Retro Games Ltd, who recently acquired the original Epyx catalogue. The game's producer (and veteran games journalist) Kieren Hawken told us the following:

"Once we (Retro Games Ltd) acquired the Epyx brand and I.P. we started looking for people interested in porting these classic games to consoles they never appeared on. One of the first people to get in touch were Team Oceo in France, who have also done a DC port of L'Abbaye Des Morts, and they were not only big fans of the game having played the Atari ST version to death in their youth, but had also recovered all the assets!

"As well as emulating all the classic versions of the game they also plan to add a brand new Dreamcast only mode too with improved visuals."
- Kieren Hawken
As well as the Dreamcast, this 'best of' remaster of Barbarian is also being brought to the Nintendo Entertainment System, Atari Jaguar and Sega Mega Drive, but we'll have to wait and see if these versions have the enhanced visuals option.
Kieren also tells us that the Dreamcast game will be treated to a full physical release, later in 2018. More info as we get it, folks. In the meantime, here's an early look at the Dreamcast port in action:

You can keep an eye on the development by visiting the Epyx Facebook page here. What do you think? Excited to see yet more retro titles re-released for the Dreamcast? Let us know in the comments or join the conversation in our Facebook group or on Twitter.

Dreamcast at the Oscars

Disclaimer up front: This news is reported without endorsement or condemnation. It's just news, OK?

A few nights ago, you may have heard that Guillermo del Toro won Best Picture at the Academy Awards for his film The Shape of Water. Like me, you might not have seen it yet, as it's still doing the rounds in cinemas (at least it is down here), and you don't have time to go to the movies like you used to, because you're old and you have to to go to work and not have fun anymore.
Hellboy 3 when?
Checking Amazon, it seems we don't have long to wait for the Bluray, DVD and Netflix release, currently scheduled for 13th March. So I guess that's that then. I'll just wait until then.
Here it is, search over. Or is it?
Not long after accepting this fate, I just happened to be browsing through FuZzCasT's latest Dreamcast Video releases (previously reported here), and stumbled across something that tickled me pink.
Well, whaddaya know?
As of this moment, and for the next few days. The Shape of Water, the Best Picture of 2017, is currently exclusively available on Dreamcast Video! A two disc widescreen edition, yours to own (*cough* illegally download *cough*) only on DcVD!

Ok, not strictly true. A DVD Screener was leaked by pirates (arrr!) on January 7th, and you don't need a Dreamcast to watch it. FuZzCast uploaded .cdi images of this leaked version on Feb 15th, re-coded to work on Dreamcast as a self-boot MIL-CD.
Coming to a store near you
Still, it amuses me greatly that I can watch this on Dreamcast before I can stream it online. It's the future or entertainment!

Hardware Review: DOC'S Infrared Dreamcast Controllers

Wireless controllers are pretty standard in the modern gaming era. The Dreamcast has recently joined the Bluetooth party through the excellent but expensive DreamConn; and the soon to be released wireless peripherals from Retro-bit will hopefully expand that reach (no pun intended) even further, should they get the price point right. However, neither of these options can lay claim to being the original method of playing Dreamcast games without being tethered to a console by a physical cable. Far from it in fact, for you see, way back at the turn of the century an outfit called DOC'S released an infrared controller system for the Dreamcast.
It's hard to ascertain exactly when these controllers were released as information on them is pretty scant online and is mainly limited to old forum threads, but one thing is certain - way before the DreamConn and Retro-bit came along, the Dreamcast did indeed have a wireless controller and with this review we'll take a look at the physical design of the controllers, the antiquated connection method and investigate just how well the DOC'S hardware works. It's also worth noting that DOC'S also produced infrared peripherals for the Nintendo 64 and PlayStation too, and while these are a little more common than the Dreamcast variant, they're still fascinating from a technical standpoint.
First though, a history lesson. DOC'S was a subsidiary of electronics firm Arista Interactive, a company now trading under the name Arista Manufacturing and you can find their website here. Oddly, there is no mention whatsoever of the DOC'S brand on the current site and the firm now appears to be completely out of the gaming business, but for a short period in the late 1990s and early 2000s (I can't be sure which), this outfit was doing some pretty admirable things with wireless console gaming technology, even if it doesn't really stand up by today's standards...

World Series Baseball back online with DreamPi

World Series Baseball 2K2 is back!
Being from the UK, I can't say I've played many Baseball games in my time, the only ones that come to mind are Super Baseball 2020 for the Neo Geo CD and World Series Baseball 2K1, which for reasons unbeknownst to me, I and a friend used to love playing back in our days in 6th form college (high school for you yanks). We even made one custom character each. I remember this quite vividly because my friend's character was named Saddam. Yes, as in Saddam Hussein, and also shared his likeness.
The random images you can find on Google never cease to amaze me.
While Sadam's days of hitting home runs out of the park, along with his save file, are unfortunately long gone, online baseball on the Dreamcast isn't. Thanks to Shuouma, from the Dreamcast Live team, World Series Baseball 2K2 is playable online once again with DreamPi.

Anyone who knows anything about baseball games (so not me) will tell you, WSB 2K2 is the best example of the sport on the Dreamcast, so it's fantastic that its online features have been restored. What's more, now they've successfully got one 2K sports title up and running, no doubt it's only a matter of time before others follow. I'm personally looking forward to NFL 2K1 which according to the Dreamcast Live's website, is currently a work in progress.

As always, great work guys!
Dreamcast Live's Shuouma has once again stepped up to the plate
If you haven't yet rejoined the online party, consider picking up a DreamPi from the Dreamcast Live store.

A Quick Look At Tech Romancer

You have to hand it to Capcom. The Japanese firm really did pull it out of the proverbial bag when it came to putting top notch games out on the Dreamcast. Man, just imagine the Dreamcast without Capcom. There'd be no Power Stone, no Street Fighter, no Resident Evil. Gunbird 2, Mars Matrix, Marvel Vs Capcom...they're all a result of Capcom throwing pretty much everything and the kitchen sink at Sega's system. Capcom were pretty damn cool back in the late 1990s and early 2000s, eh?

One game that rarely gets a mention though, is mecha fighter Tech Romancer; a 3D one-on-one brawler with a slightly ridiculous name but which exudes a level of production value rarely seen in an original franchise without an anime or manga heritage to fall back on. Furthermore, it might sound like a game in which Metal Gear Rex sends C-3PO a bouquet of roses and a box of chocolates, but to dismiss Tech Romancer on name alone would be a big mistake.
Upon booting Tech Romancer (known as Chronicle of Super Steel Warrior Kikaioh in Japan), you're greeted with an overly enthusiastic title screen and intro sequence that feels straight out of a 1980s Saturday morning cartoon that was appropriated from the Far East and syndicated; but only after being dubbed dubiously into English without a single fuck given. The only thing missing is the tracking interference regularly seen on VHS tapes you used to get from Blockbuster that had already been watched and rewound several thousand times before you rented it.
Herein lies the great deception though, for this game and all of its perceived heritage is nought but folly. Just like Wainhouse Tower, Tech Romancer and all of its apparent lore is a fabrication of something grander. While it may appear to be a game based on some obscure cartoon series you didn't know existed (because you're just not cool enough, frankly), Tech Romancer is a totally original IP that was created just for the arcade original, and this subsequent console release. All of the robots and animation sequences were designed by Studio Nue, a well-known animation studio responsible for some of the most widely regarded and respected anime productions around; and it's down to this mastery that you be forgiven for thinking you'd completely missed something awesome.
As an example of pure aesthetic genius, in which pedigree and kudos is demanded from its audience from the off, Tech Romancer is an unadulterated lesson in how to get things totally spot on...

A Statistical Analysis Of Dreamcast Launch Sales

Our good friend Vince19 has been at it again, this time analysing the launch window sales of the Dreamcast in the United States, and drawing comparisons to a host of other retro, contemporary and current gen systems. We recently featured Vince19 's other statistics-based videos here at the Junkyard ( heck out a statistical analysis of overall US games sales and a statistical analysis of Dreamcast game prices), and they're both well worth a watch if bias-free and purely factual analysis are something you're a fan of. Plus, Vince19's soothing mid-Atlantic accent is strangely soothing. Check out the latest video below, and see how the Dreamcast stacks up against the competition in terms of units shifted in the first few days of release:

Remember to give Vince19 a follow on Twitter to stay abreast of his uploads, and you can find his YouTube channel here.

Rare Dreamcast-based digital aquarium sells for US$3650

Ever wanted to own one of the rarest variations of the Dreamcast hardware? With touchscreen controls and an exclusive game where you can interact with digital fish? Sorry to say you've just missed out, but it would have set you back over US$3650. so you probably aren't that gutted.
We've previously covered the Sega Fish Life Digital Aquarium here, and here. If you're too lazy to click the links, it's basically a rare curio from Japan that was mainly sold to businesses like restaurants. While waiting for their steaming bowl of ramen, patrons are soothed by the realistic looking digital fish gently swimming around, and you could even tap the glass to interact with them. Unlike real aquariums, business owners never had to ever worry about forgetting to feed them or cleaning out a scummy tank. Japan thinks of everything.
Chilean-based Juppon Gatana retro store finally sold their unit to an identity obscured ebay member r***i, who dominated the auction with a bid of US$2000 on 22 Feb, and defended against 3 other serious bidders, before the auction ended yesterday at a cool US$3650. Juppon Gatana's reserve was met, so presumably the unit will soon be on its way to a happy (and decidedly poorer) new owner soon.
Here's hoping r***i has the ability and philanthropic compassion to digitally preserve the Sega Fish Life GD-ROM and dutifully release it into the wild, so that maybe one day us mere mortals might be able to experience its esoteric delights via a suitably modified emulator. I jest, that's probably not going to happen...stupid hoarders.

Update: 40 Winks Dreamcast Stretch Goal Announced

Just a quick update to let you all know that the 40 Winks Kickstarter campaign has indeed announced a Dreamcast port stretch goal if funding exceeds US$200,000. *glares at every gumshoe reporter who contacted us on Twitter, Facebook, or just spitting-chip-at-me-on-the-street to insist I update my original rant* Happy now?
The appropriateness of a Dream-themed platformer on the Dreamcast has not escaped me.
Not much new to report other than that. I think most of my reservations still stand. Further comments on the campaign page indicate that a back-up of the source code for the PlayStation version might still be available, which would help aid as a guide for a native Dreamcast port. They seem to know what they are doing and what they are talking about, but I'm still uncertain about whether they are underestimating the task ahead of them, or whether I'm making a mountain out of a molehill.
In any case, 200k would burn a significant hole in anyone's pocket, so wages for some devs to have a crack at it would be covered for at least a little while. If it all goes pair-shaped, a Bleem! based wrap-around solution could also be drawn upon as Plan B, which would also be fine.

But the biggest hurdle is general apathy and overall Kickstarter burnout. It seems fairly premature to be courting the interest of the Dreamcast community at this stage. Other campaigns that have tried and failed at least had a demo running on real hardware as a proof of concept. Maybe if they can provide such a demo before the funding deadline, I'll change my tune, but with so many "fully-funded" Dreamcast games apparently stuck forever in development hell, we've been thrice bitten, frice shy.


P.S. If this gets close to $200k, I'll probably be a hypocrite and still back it. I never learn.

DreamPod - Episode 57

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First new DC game of 2018 - Ghost Blade! (again!)

Breaking news (ok, month old news that I just found out about) that is sure to make our very own Ross jump for joy. We have a release date for the first Dreamcast release of 2018, and it will be another in JoshProd's series of US/J-NTSC style reprints. Ghost Blade will be available to own again on March 23rd 2018.

Help Support SEGA Raise Funds For Special Effect!

SEGA Europe is raising money for the most noble of causes - gaming charity Special Effect, an outfit devoted to enabling those with disabilities to enjoy the most awesome pastime of all time: gaming! The Gameblast 18 event will see various members of the SEGA and Hardlight teams take part in a 24-hour gaming session, during which a multitude of games will be played, rivalries will be formed and souls will will undoubtedly still burn well into the wee hours.

The entire stream will be...erm...streamed on that Twitch thing - you know, that thing the cool kids are all using these days. Personally, I have very little idea what Twitch actually is, and that's because I only ever browse the internet with a Dreamcast and a copy of Dreamkey 3.0. Can't knock me for living the dream, can you?
Anyway, SEGA Europe is trying to raise just £2,000 for Special Effect in an attempt to help all of our fellow gamers who have serious disabilities enjoy games in the same way everybody else does. I'm pretty confident we can help them smash this total though. With me? Then go here to Just Giving and donate what you can. I just gave a tenner because I'm skint after buying a new motorbike, but every little helps. You can also watch the stream here or by using the window below once the stream starts at 6pm UK time on Friday 23rd February. Thanks all!

Watch live video from SEGA on
It appeats that SEGA Europe successfully reached their target of £2000 - well done to all involved and all those who donated!

Dreamcast Hunting in Akihabara

A couple months back, during Japan's Silver Week national holiday, I took a short trip to Tokyo to meet up with a few old friends. Seeing as I was already in the area, I took a day to check out how the gaming scene is doing in the world famous Akihabara (it would have been rude not to really). I focused specifically on the Dreamcast for this article, but it's a similar story for most other consoles. Read on to see my findings...

VS Link cable now available from Dreamcast Live

Dreamcast Live's VS Link Cable
Like myself, I'm sure many of you out there have fantasised about owning the Dreamcast VS link cable for quite some time now. While only compatible with a handful of games, the thought of playing multiplayer F355 Challenge, Virtual On and more, without compromising half the screen, is enough to leave me frothing at the gash. The problem is (or rather WAS), the official and even third party Dragoncast cables are both extremely rare, usually fetching around $200 or more on eBay.
Tom Charnock playing with himself...the loser that he is.

Kickstarter: Not every retro game gets a Dreamcast stretch goal

Another day, another retro game Kickstarter. Refreshingly, today's effort is slightly more interesting affair in that it is targeting the Nintendo 64 audience for a change, aiming to publish a near two decade old cancelled game from the era.

40 Winks (aka Ruff and Tumble) did see the light of day on the original playstation, but the Nintendo 64 port was cancelled when its publisher GT Interactive went belly up, and when Infogrames picked over the carcass, the game ended up in the chaff pile instead of the wheat. Piko Interactive has recently picked up the rights to the game, and have already secured their modest US$20,000 goal within one day. They plan to develop, test and manufacture some brand new minty N64 cartridges for the game, so that it can be finally realised in physical form all these years later.
Some good ol' 90s era 3D platforming (apparently, never heard of it)
Hang on, isn't this the premiere destination for all things Dreamcast? Why are we suddenly talking about the Nintendo 64? Well, with every successful Kickstarter campaign that features a retro, or retro-inspired game, it's only natural that the masses start shouting "Dreamcast Stretch Goal! Dreamcast Stretch Goal!" And with good reason.