The Bugs Of MSR

I make no secret that Metropolis Street Racer is one of my favourite racing games. Sure, I've been pouring hours into Driveclub over the last few months, but no game helped me hone my virtual racing skills more than Bizarre Creations' amazing real-world masterpiece. The way in which deft taps of the handbrake coupled with feathered use of the accelerator allowed me to rack up immense amounts of Kudos was just unrivalled at the time, and while it was bettered - in just about every way - in the following Project Gotham series on the Xbox and Xbox 360, Metropolis Street Racer will always have a place in my heart alongside the likes of Sega Rally, The Need For Speed and Outrun.
This post is slightly different from my recent frothing love letters though. This time I'd like to focus on an aspect that is very rarely mentioned when MSR is discussed, and that is the way the original PAL issue of the game shipped with various (fairly serious) bugs and glitches, and even had to be recalled by Sega. The first batch of MSR GDs featured some fairly major errors that Bizarre Creations either missed or weren't able to iron out in the time Sega had given them before being told that the game simply had to hit the shop shelves in November 2000, and thanks to an interesting blog I recently discovered here is a complete run-down of the bugs lovingly included (for our displeasure) in the various iterations of MSR:

  • Completing Street Race challenges without the required number of Kudos would be considered successful nonetheless (first PAL version)
  • The game would sometimes corrupt VMUs (first PAL version)
  • After some time of playing, Tokyo races would always be at night (first PAL version)
  • When using a keyboard to enter names etc., the keys were mapped incorrectly. Pressing C would give B, pressing B would give A etc. (first PAL version)
  • The "Quick Race" screen in the multiplayer mode would be blank and thus impossible to play (first and second PAL version)
  • The Alfa Romeo GTV cannot be gained legitimately as the 'time to beat' was set too low at 31 seconds (first and second PAL version)
  • The Street Race in Chapter 17, Challenge 8 cannot be beaten legitimately as it was mistakenly set to infinite laps (first and second PAL version)
  • Special Events could be completed without the required car or clock time (first and second PAL version)
  • During wet conditions, it still rains inside tunnels and under bridges (all versions)
  • Ghost cars loaded from a VMU can become corrupt and crash into the sides without reason. This includes ghosts saved within Time Trials (all versions)
  • Two Time Attack records (Asakusa Eki-Iruguchi and Koen Minami) are pre-set to 0.000 (all versions)
  • Creating a Time Trial with 'misty' or 'foggy' weather will default to 'clear' weather once a ghost car is saved (all versions)
  • When selecting a personal music playlist as the default choice, MSR reverts to its own preset list when resuming a game (all versions)

I did also discover that turning off the tire smoke effects and the rear-view mirror improves the frame-rate immeasurably...but that's hardly a bug, and is the only thing I can add from personal experience. Um. Moving on...

As stated in the original article, the second and third releases of the game had most of these issues rectified but I still find it quite fascinating that Sega actually allowed gamers to send back their bugged copies and receive a new version for free. What happened to all the buggy games? Were they simply destroyed or were the cases re-purposed? Or did gamers simply send back the GDs in a jiffy bag? Either way, the logistics of such a program must have been a nightmare. Even so, I would imagine there are a fair few copies of the initial release still floating around in the wild. I personally don't recall experiencing any of the mentioned bugs - apart from the rain inside the tunnels one - so maybe I was lucky (or unlucky in this case) enough to never part with cash for issue one...but it would still be interesting to be able to compare the two (or three) different revisions of MSR first hand.

On that bombshell, I would imagine the only way to tell which version you have is by looking for the bugs yourself, as there appears to be only one serial number for the various PAL releases (MK-51022-50 according to the amazing Dreamcast Collector's Guide).

Source of the list: MSRDreamcast blog

The Dreamcast Internet Guide

One of our unwritten rules here at the 'Yard is that no matter how small, insignificant or useless an item of Dreamcast-related paraphernalia should be, it will always be taken in and given a hot meal (usually gruel). Unless it takes the unholy form of another Dreamcast tissue box holder. Sorry - I did say I'd never mention that abomination ever again lest I have the taste slapped from my mouth by the hand of Zeus himself. So, with deity-administered happy slaps pending, allow me to introduce the newest addition to The Dreamcast Junkyard's outstanding library of (literal) literature: The Dreamcast Internet Guide.

Published by FKB Publishing in 1999, the Internet Guide does exactly what it says on the tin (cover) - it is a handy guide for any intrepid traveller who happens to have a desire to buy a ticket and take a ride on the information super-highway. Albeit, the information super-highway of the late 1990s...on a 33k dial-up modem.
As Sega was also marketing the Dreamcast as a cheap way of getting online back in those halcyon days of MySpace, it makes total sense that they would commission a publishing house to create a tome of this nature, and the book does indeed act like a sort of Yellow Pages for the internet n00b. The version featured in this post is actually a promotional copy and so large tracts of the full version's content is missing, but this is a good taster for what purchasers of the full retail copy could expect.

The first part of the book helpfully explains just what this new-fangled 'internet' thingy is all about, and then goes on to explain stuff like newsgroups, and how to save images to your VMU and turn them into a screen saver. Later sections go on to explain how the NSA are watching your every online move and could burst through your window at any moment with guns drawn. Of course, I jest. It's the FBI you should be worried about, not those amateurs at the NSA. Chortle.
Gonna eBay like it's 1999
I'm not totally clear on what the point of this promo edition of the guide is; maybe it was given away as a freebie with a magazine or some such. Either way, the screenshots offer a fascinating snapshot of how the internet used to look on either a Netscape Navigator-enabled Pentium P90, or a PAL Dreamcast rocking a fully BT-ed up version of Dreamarena. And for that, it holds a certain - if somewhat naive - charm. Well worth the 99p price I paid.

Edit: It's come to light that this promo edition was sent out to magazines for review purposes while the full version sold in shops for around £10.  The source of this information is pretty trustworthy - it comes from somebody involved in the production of the book!

DreamPod Episode Zero

It's been a long time coming, but we finally pulled our collective fingers out and recorded our first podcast episode. We settled on the name DreamPod as both 'Dreamcast' and 'podcast' end in...um...'cast,' and so we just lopped that off and added the remnants together. Seemed like a good idea at the time. Anyway, the first episode is here and can be listened to now:

Future episodes will be publicised as normal but will be listed in the 'podcast' tab up there on the right, underneath the page header. We hope you enjoy the first episode and in future we intend to get members of the listenership on as guests as audience participation is something we really want to push. We plan to get an iTunes account sorted in the future, and big thanks must also go to RetroCollect.com for the use of their server for the recording of this episode while we get our own permanent server set up.

Dreamcast Emulation Comes To Raspberry Pi 2

Got to be honest here - the Raspberry Pi hasn't really appealed to me at all. While I can see the point of this tiny programmable device and it's value as an educational tool, I've just never felt the need to actually purchase one. My standpoint on the the Pi may have just been shifted slightly though, because somebody has managed to get a version of the Reicast emulator up and running on the modest hardware. As reported on RetroCollect.com, the emulation isn't 100% and can get a little choppy (see TechTipster's YouTube video below for a demonstration) but from a technical perspective it's a pretty impressive feat. The Raspberry Pi 2 only costs around £30 in the UK and has decent specs including 1 GB Ram and a Cortex A7 processor, but is lacking horsepower in the GPU department. Regardless, this demonstration shows just how far technology has come - that a credit card-sized circuit board can convincingly emulate a system like the Dreamcast is nothing short of amazing. That said, nothing beats playing Dreamcast games on authentic hardware and this build of Reicast is still very early, but as a starting point the future looks very bright for this project.

You can find out more about the Raspberry Pi 2 on the device's Wikipedia entry here.


Source: RetroCollect.com

Developer Interview: Elysian Shadows' Falco Girgis

Elysian Shadows Team hit the gaming headlines in the summer of 2014 when their eponymous indie RPG Elysian Shadows made it's Kickstarter goal in a matter of weeks. Since then, Elysian Shadows Team have been a constant fixture in the gaming press due to the open and entertaining nature in which lead programmer Falco Girgis and his colleagues have kept us involved in the development process via blogs and the popular YouTube series Adventures in Game Development. Often outspoken yet never dull, Falco very kindly agreed to speak openly to The Dreamcast Junkyard and tell us a little bit more about the rest of the development team, the history of his project, his impression of other upcoming indie games, and just how Elysian Shadows has quickly become one of the Dreamcast's most eagerly awaited games...

DCJY: Could you give a little bit of background on the Elysian Shadows team – who you are and what your roles are in developing Elysian Shadows?

Falco Girgis: Right now we’re just four dudes from different countries who work together every day in our underwear via Skype, haha! Falco Girgis and Tyler Rogers are the resident rednecks, from Alabama. Falco is the one behind the fancy tech like the lights and physics. He’s the engine and toolkit developer and the resident graphics guru. Tyler Rogers marries Falco’s tech with the pixel art and audio to achieve the creative vision we’re aiming for through his Lua scripting. He’s focused more on the gameplay experience while Falco is focusing more on the technology powering the game. Patrick Kowalik and Daniel Tindall are our pixel artist and our level designer respectively. Patrick lives in Poland and Dan lives in Britain. We met both of them through our YouTube series, “Adventures in Game Development.” They both messaged us looking to join our cause.

A lot of people may not know what Elysian Shadows (the game) is – if you had to sell it to somebody who was totally new to the title, how would you describe it?

Elysian Shadows is our attempt at reinventing the old school 2D RPG genre for the next generation of gamers and hardware. It’s about fusing aspects of our favorite 16-bit RPGs like Phantasy Star, Chrono Trigger, and Final Fantasy with modern lighting techniques, 3D positional audio, 3D perspectives, particle physics, and modern gameplay. It’s the ultimate marriage of old and new for us. We want to create something nostalgic and familiar feeling while also bringing something completely new and exciting to the genre, hopefully appealing to newer and older gamers alike.
Elysian Shadows features advanced lighting and day/night effects

Elysian Shadows is coming to a number of different platforms including the Ouya. We have to ask – what prompted you to want to also bring the game to Dreamcast?

I guess most people probably don’t know this… But Elysian Shadows was ALWAYS for the Dreamcast since day 1. It even began as a Dreamcast EXCLUSIVE! I (Falco Girgis) became involved in the Dreamcast scene back in 2004, when I stumbled upon DCEmulation.org. I was only 14 back then, and I was absolutely blown away by the fact that I could run emulators and home-brew on my Dreamcast with zero modification. I was even more impressed that there was a group of crazy motherfuckers who were reverse engineering the Dreamcast and developing their own indie games for the platform.

Back in 2004, there was no Xbox Live Arcade, Indie Marketplace, App Store, or any of that. Console and mobile development was reserved exclusively for huge companies, completely beyond the reach of a kid like me. The Dreamcast completely changed that. Suddenly I could make console games in my bedroom. I viewed the Dreamcast developers as god-like figures in my mind… I was inspired to ride my bike to the local library and teach myself C just to develop for the platform.

The first polygon I ever rendered was on the Dreamcast. I grew up developing for it. If it weren’t for the Dreamcast, I would never have become a computer engineer or half the developer I am today. It was always my dream to release a game for the console, and even if Elysian Shadows has changed drastically from our original vision, I’ve always held onto that dream and have always insisted on maintaining a Dreamcast build. It has become a personal quest for me to give back to the console that was so capable, gave me so much, and died so young.

Elysian Shadows looks to take many visual cues from 16-bit RPGs but also updates them with some fantastic 3D effects and lighting. Which games from previous gaming generations have been the biggest influences on your game?

That’s actually nowhere near as straightforward to answer as you would imagine, haha! We have taken obvious queues from the 16-bit classics like Phantasy Star, Chrono Trigger, Shining Force, Final Fantasy, Secret of Mana, and Dragon Quest, but we have also been highly influenced by many games, some of which aren’t even RPGs. We’ve incorporated platforming elements from games like Super Mario and some of the characters’ moves were inspired by the Megaman X series. Our dungeons were inspired by the Zelda series and the Megaman Legends series.

During development we even found ourselves drawing inspiration from survival horror games like Resident Evil once we realized the potential our dynamic lighting engine gives us to create emotionally tense moods. Everyone on our team comes from a different gaming background, bringing different inspirations and influences to the table with ES. I think it makes the game very unique and will hopefully allow us to appeal to a wider audience than just the traditional 2D JRPG fans.
Environments are extremely varied

The recent trend for indie titles on the Dreamcast has been to release 2D shooters (known affectionately as shmups). Do you think that the Dreamcast scene is ready to embrace a new genre of independently-developed game?

I think everyone on our team is more than ready to see new types of games on the Dreamcast. I was so happy to see our publisher, Watermelon, bring Pier Solar to the Dreamcast. I really feel like that’s ushering a new wave of diversity for the platform. We are also releasing our own SDK for the Dreamcast, allowing indie developers to create their own “next-gen” 2D-style games. These tools are extremely powerful and will hopefully be opening the platform to new developers who would have otherwise passed the Dreamcast by.

On the subject of your publisher, could you talk about your partnership with Watermelon for the Dreamcast release? Did you approach them or was it the other way round?

It was actually the other way around. They approached us, and we happened to both be mutual admirers of each others’ work. Since Watermelon had to invest so much money into creating the infrastructure to create and publish pressed Dreamcast discs, cases, and instruction manuals, it only made sense that we publish through them for both of us. They get a return on their investment, and we save money.

Honestly our involvement with them goes deeper than just creating physical goods, though. Watermelon’s president, Tulio, is a really great guy who drove halfway across the country to hang out with us and coach us on how to prepare for our Kickstarter. He has been a mentor and good friend to us, and we can’t tell you how grateful we are to Watermelon. There is way too much competition and bitterness in this whole indie game development scene, especially once you become successfully crowdfunded. To see such a successful studio selflessly offer support and respect to a smaller team like us is nothing short of humbling. They could have just as easily decided Elysian Shadows and Pier Solar were competing Dreamcast RPGs and blown us off.

Does working with Watermelon games lower the cost at all or is it simply less of a hassle to have a third party help out with this process?

Oh, it would definitely lower the cost for everyone here. A significant amount of money from our crowd funding campaign would have needed to go into the R&D required to develop a physical Dreamcast release. We would have had to sell them for more money just to fund the project, and we also would have had to take funds away from other areas of the game like music to do so.

What are your impressions of other soon-to-be-released indie games such as SLaVE, AMEBA and Hypertension?

While I would definitely not say our team is on good terms with Isotope anymore, we would never let this affect our judgement of their products or our respect for their work. We are all fans of Hypertension and especially SLaVE, which I think is an extremely sexy, unique take on the genre. I was super impressed as soon as I saw it and messaged Corbin immediately to tell her how cool I thought it was.

I actually feel pretty bad about my initial Facebook reaction to Retro SumusAMEBA, as I said something along the lines of doubting the game would ever materialize since there was so little info or content given, and nothing was in-game. I was later contacted by one of the developers who happened to be a fan of ours, explaining how disappointed he was with my post…

We’ve talked quite a bit since, and my mind has been completely changed regarding AMEBA. I think it’s a game we should all be excited for, based on the passion and determination of the team. Those are some really cool guys with some really cool ideas… Even if we’re friends now, I still feel a tinge of guilt for that initial post. Elysian Shadows loves AMEBA. SORRY FOR BEING A DICK! :)
Interior locales feature a pseudo-3D effect

You've been very open so far about the Elysian Shadows development process, regularly updating your development blog and explaining how certain aspects of programming work. I’m way too stupid to understand much of what you blog, but is the intention here to share knowledge and allow other developers to use your practices?

Honestly sometimes I don’t even know. We’ve been doing Adventures in Game Development for so long now that I think our motivations for continuing have changed several times. Part of it is definitely raising awareness for our product, Elysian Shadows, but part of it is really just sharing the fun we have as a bunch of dudes locked in a room for days with too much caffeine and a passion for game development with the rest of the world…

Adventures in Game Development is undoubtedly the only reason we were able to get crowd funded and is the reason we’re even half as popular as we are now. We’ve made friends and relationships through the series that would have otherwise never been possible. I get messages constantly from people telling me we’ve either inspired them to become computer scientists or indie game developers…

We just know that it’s a good, pure thing that we like doing, so we’re going to keep doing it.

Eysian Shadows has a very distinct pixel-art style. Games like Fez and Hotline Miami have used this style to great effect too, but do you feel they may have stolen a little bit of Elysian Shadows’ thunder by coming out first?

Actually no, not at all. The only thing we really have in common with them is the fact we’re using pixel art. The style of the pixel art isn’t even similar, and that is only one small component of our graphics. ES uses dynamic lighting, bump mapping, specular highlights, pixel-perfect shadows, and even a 3D perspective that none of these games had ever explored. I would rather believe these games have prepared the world for Elysian Shadows by reintroducing them to the pixel art style.

And on the subject of Fez and Hotline Miami, what are the chances of Elysian Shadows coming to current platforms like the Vita, PS4, Wii U or Xbox One?

The chances are extremely high. As a computer engineer, I port Elysian Shadows to different platforms just for fun (yeah, I’m that nerdy). We have a 6 month exclusivity deal with Ouya for their “Free the Games Fund” (Dreamcast not included, don’t worry), but once this period is over, you better believe we’ll be coming to every platform we can get our hands on. Prepare your Sega 32xs and Virtual Boys. ;)

Moving away from Elysian Shadows for a moment, as a Dreamcast community we're interested to know if you were you a big Dreamcast fan while the machine was contemporary?

ABSOLUTELY. During that entire console generation, even after the Dreamcast’s discontinuation, I still played the Dreamcast almost exclusively. I even purchased a PS2, but after seeing how much better Resident Evil: Code Veronica was on the Dreamcast, it basically became neglected.

Does the continued popularity of the Dreamcast surprise you?

No, it honestly doesn’t surprise me at all. I’m actually expecting it to become more popular as time goes on and more developers see how successful games like Elysian Shadows and Pier Solar are on the platform. It’s a very capable little console with a bunch of really cool peripherals to play with. It also doesn’t require any hardware modifications to run homebrew… It’s still an indie developer’s dream.

Do you have any favourite Dreamcast games?

Sonic Adventure 1+2, Phantasy Star Online Ver. 2.0, Shenmue 1+2, Resident Evil Code: Veronica, Jet Grind Radio, Rez, and SAMBA DE AMIGO. Oh my god, I used to be so Samba De Amigo obsessed… You have no idea how good I got at shaking them maracas.

Lastly, with the recent news of Sega's radical downsizing, there's almost no chance of us getting a Shenmue III now, but we're curious - do you think Shenmue was really as good as everyone says? Or was it more a matter of style over substance in your opinion?

I freaking loved Shenmue, haha! I think a lot of the ADHD gamers who want something fast-paced and dumbed down hated it, but for those of us who like substance, story, and immersion in our games, it was amazing… I can still remember pissing my pants when I found the Yu Arcade and could play Genesis games IN-GAME.
Elysian Shadows is pencilled in for a late 2015 release on Dreamcast, and is also coming to various other platforms including the Ouya, PC and Mac. The Dreamcast release is being published by Watermelon and you can secure a copy by visiting the official Elysian Shadows website. You can also follow the development and have your mind baffled by Falco's technical jargon by checking out the brilliant YouTube series Adventures in Game Development, and also be sure to follow/stalk Elysian Shadows and Falco on FacebookTwitter, Pinterest, Google+ and Instagram for regular updates.

Finally, I would like to thank Falco for taking the time to answer our questions and being a good sport all round.

A Closer Look At Dreameye

As mentioned here many, many times in the past, present and (probably) future, the Dreamcast has a fantastic number of peripherals - both official and third party. Just look back through our recent articles and witness the unrivalled majesty of the DreamPhoto Treamcast mouse for a good example of the latter. While that isn't technically a Dreamcast peripheral per se, you get the gist of what I'm saying...hopefully. So with this in mind let us turn our gaze, rather fittingly, to another of the Dreamcast's lesser-known peripherals: Dreameye. While it's true that our very own Gagaman wrote a short article on Dreameye back in 2009, I thought it was time that we took a closer look...

Dreameye is a web cam/digital camera that originally came bundled with the Divers 2000 Dreamcast and was intended to turn the Divers into a sort of video phone/email chat device for all the family. It must have occurred to Sega after the Divers failed to really make the intended impact, that owners of regular Dreamcasts might also be interested in utilising the online connectivity of the system and released the camera as a standalone device, complete with microphone and connection cables. Due to this there are actually a couple of different models of Dreameye available and they are differentiated by their colour schemes - the Divers 2000-bundled unit is white and translucent green, while the standalone model is white with a blue battery pack. The one recently acquired by the Junkyard is the standalone variety, and it was actually completely brand new and unopened; the cellophane was still covering the box and so it was rather nice to be the first to open this particular unit. Upon opening the box, first impressions where that it had an almost Apple-esque feel - the presentation is very slick and it really feels like you've bought something that adds tangible extra functionality to your console. What's even more interesting is that the Dreameye predates Apple's redesigned minimalist product presentation by several years...but I digress.
The second thing that hit me after unboxing the Dreameye (apart from being pleasantly surprised that the box includes a set of LR03 batteries) was just how small the camera is. It essentially comes in several parts: the main camera body, the battery compartment (which probably also houses the storage device), the lens cover (which is removable if you twist it) and the weighted base. Here's how it measures up next to a VMU:
Dreameye is tiny and it weighs almost nothing...but this also gives the unit a slightly 'cheap' feel. That said, in 2000 consumer digital cameras were very much in their infancy and so the Dreameye, with it's video streaming capabilities was probably slightly more advanced than most mid-priced cameras available at that time. The minimalist controls and optical viewfinder also echo this sentiment - large LCD displays were just not de rigueur back then; and the simple 'on/off' slider and tiny orange LED that signals when a picture has been taken only amplify the bare bones nature of the contraption when viewed as a standard digital camera.

Also in the package, you will find a headset with adjustable microphone and the corresponding controller plug-in device into which the 3.5mm headphone jack slots. As it doesn't have a screen, I would guess that this is intended to by slotted into the second port on the controller, much like the Seaman/Planet Ring microphone unit does. In fact, I'd be surprised if this wasn't exactly the same piece of hardware internally but simply housed in a differently-coloured case. Here they are side by side, and I think you'll agree that look very similar (by which I mean identical, in all but hue):
The final piece of hardware included is the camera connection cable which allows the Dreameye to communicate with the console. As with pretty much every other peripheral for the Dreamcast, this cable slots into one of the controller ports (I'd recommend port B, folks) and the other end has a proprietary connector that goes into the little socket on the side of the camera. Once you've taken a few snaps with your Dreameye and connected it up to a console, the next thing in the box comes into play: Visual Park.
Visual Park is the only way to really make proper use of the Dreameye - or at least it was back in the early 2000s. It was by using this bundled software that users were able to make video calls, send emails and edit and save still images (taken with an eye-searing 0.3 mega pixels) to the VMU. You'll no doubt appreciate that while all this software is still functional today and the images can be viewed and manipulated with the basic Adobe-powered tools on offer, it's still pretty difficult to work out exactly what each menu is offering without engaging in a lot of trial and error - mainly down to the Japanese-heavy nature. Also, down to the way that my Dreamcast isn't anywhere near a broadband internet enabled (and it's not 2000 anymore) the web chat and all the rest of the functionality is pretty much redundant. Unperturbed though, here's a selection of images detailing the software at it's most impenetrable:
Enjoy the view from my kitchen window
Manipulating the mug tree with aplomb
As far as I can tell, Sega had other plans for the Dreameye that included enabling various games to make use of the extra hardware and if the Dreamcast had been more successful, maybe we'd have seen software that made use of the Dreameye in the same way that the PS2 did with Eye Toy.

So is there any point in trying to get a Dreameye? Honestly - probably not. It's little more than a curio for hardcore collectors, and while the camera itself is a cool novelty that takes pictures of decent quality there's no doubt that your mobile phone is superior in every way. The Dreameye doesn't have a flash either, and unless you're fluent in Japanese it's actually surprisingly difficult to work out what all the little bleeps and flashing LED patterns mean...I basically just held the shutter button down and hoped for the best, and only when I plugged the camera in and messed around with the confusing software was I able to discern which clicks had resulted in a picture being taken. Furthermore, the Dreameye does fetch a fairly high price on eBay these days (although this sealed one only cost £20!) so unless you're some kind of Dreamcast obsessed nutter (like me), you'd be better off spending your cash elsewhere. That said, it's still a functional and interesting device and another little glimpse at the plans Sega had for the Dreamcast before everything went tits up. If the Dreameye had launched in the US as intended, maybe it could have added another sting to the flailing system's bow. As it is, Dreameye is a nice novelty collectable and little else.
If you're still interested in the Dreameye, be sure to check out the Wikipedia entry for a full run down of tech specs. You may also find this IGN article on the proposed Western release interesting, as well as Sega Retro's wiki entry.

Top 5 Games That I Would Play If I Were Stuck on a Desert Island

I'm sure you've seen it before. The "what X would you take if you were stuck on a desert island?" or "What X would you Y if that was the only thing you could Y?" Or something of the sort. Those silly, annoying questions that ask you to pick a few things, not even considering the fact that picking a favourite X may cause you great emotional distress, turmoil and mental unrest and ARRGRGHRGHH...

Sorry about that.

Still, they are interesting sometimes. Trying to think of article subjects the other day, this one was a potential topic. Instead, I went with the fruitless "hidden music track" quest. That quest showed me one thing - my Dreamcast collection is surprisingly small. This top 5 would represent almost 1/4 of my collection of 23 games! Fortunately, this is a hypothetical scenario, so I can give myself all the Dreamcast games, even the unreleased ones. I could even give myself a Dreamcast 2!

Deciding this list depends solely on one thing: replayability. (Or replay value, if you want to be a hater.) Can I play this game many times without getting bored? Can I learn speed-running techniques to learn and master the game? Can I find some wicked glitches to totally break the game? Also, soundtracks are an important consideration. Despite this, it's still rather difficult to imagine that scenario, given that I have over a dozen systems plus a robust emulator on my Mac.

So, in no particular order, here we go:

Number 1: Sonic Adventure 2
First things first. Why not Sonic Adventure, since that game is my favourite Sonic?

Well for starters, it's my favourite - but far from perfect. It still has Big the Cat's fishing segments, relatively short play-through, and unskippable annoying cut-scenes. Sonic Adventure 2 may or may not be longer, but it eliminates the fishing portions, still has the E-102 style shooting segments (I like them, personally) and features 5 different missions for each level, as opposed to the original's 3. Additionally, the Chao Garden provides a distraction from the main story and another element of longevity for the game. Gather cores, raise boss Chao, and destroy the other Chao in merciless competition.

OK, so it's not as intense or involved as that, but it's still something to do.

Number 2: Star Wars Episode I: Racer
One of the best things to come out of the prequel trilogy is this game. Admittedly, it's not a Dreamcast exclusive, but I grew up playing it on the DC and always thought of it that way.

Here, the sheer number of tracks and racers available allows for much time well spent. As the courses get VERY difficult towards the end, there's opportunity for intense practice and perfection of skills. Maybe the music would get repetitive sometimes, but then, there's always options to lower it. (I think. I haven't played it THAT much yet.) I've always wanted to be good at racing games, and being stuck on a desert island with this game would give me that opportunity.

Number 3: Marvel vs. Capcom 2
There's no doubt that crossover fighters are simply wonderful. Smash Bros lets you put the smack down on Ganondorf with Kirby, and PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale does similarly for Sony characters. However, Marvel vs. Capcom games join together two different worlds - here being those of comic books and video games. MvC 2 allows you to see which real American would win in a fight - Guile or Captain America? Or a battle the metal men - Mega Man against Iron Man. Etc, etc...

With combo systems to learn, different characters to master, and fun combinations to try out, Marvel vs. Capcom 2 would be an excellent addition to a desert island roster. Plus, Wikipedia says that the Dreamcast port is the most faithful! I don't own this game (yet), but in this hypothetical scenario, I already have it and an arcade stick - probably the official one WITH the garish green buttons. I have no idea where MvC 2 ranks with the other Dreamcast fighting games - I just want to beat up Capcom characters with Marvel superheroes! That, and my fighting game game is pretty bad. Like, "I can't even win in Smash Bros" bad.

Moving on!

Number 4: Grandia II
Thanks to the likes of Paper Mario, Final Fantasy, and (most recently) Chrono Trigger, I have a great love for the genre of RPG. I actually own this game, but haven't made much progress in it, owing to getting too distracted by Minecraft and iTunes U...

Anyway, I'd bring this along for a few obvious reasons: RPGs usually give a good bit of play time, story and music to explore. Plus, it has several of the voice actors from Metal Gear Solid in lead roles, and I just can't get enough of Cam Clarke's silky voice ("Brother..."). I've arbitrarily chosen this one, I admit, as I've never had the chance to play Skies of Arcadia. It may not be the "Final Fantasy VI" of the Dreamcast, but it still has some promise.

Number 5: Soul Calibur
This one was difficult to decide. Do I choose another racing game, and go for Daytona USA with its neat-o "Game Over" jingle? Do I chose MDK 2 for its different, quirky play styles? Or do I cheat a bit and chose a demo disc. In the end, I decided to take a chance and chose SoulCalibur.

Another fighting game, but this time with swords! Even as I read up on it now, it seems very cool. Freedom of movement? Cool weapons? Another game that's "easy to learn, but difficult to master?" Yes, please.

Honourable Mention: Toy Commander
Toy Commander is one of my all-time favourite Dreamcast games, let alone games in general. However, I wouldn't necessarily want to bring it to a desert island. There are a great number of missions per room, but once done, there's little replayability. Sure I can try to get better times, but the only benefit from getting all the high-scores is a secret level that grants a weapon - with unlimited ammo - for the final boss fight. Plus, the multiplayer would be difficult to do on an island where I'm presumably the only person around.

Honourable Mention: Metal Gear Solid (!?)
Heh. DREAMCAST Junkyard, you say? Well, thanks to the fine people behind Bleem!, I could. Metal Gear Solid is a series I've come to love, even if I've only played one or two of the games. However, since it is a PlayStation title and not a Dreamcast one, it's an honourable mention only. Anyway with Grandia II above, I'll get my Cam Clarke fix regardless.

So there you have it. My arbitrary list of games I'd take to a hypothetical desert island that somehow has electricity and a nice TV to play on - but no internet, otherwise I might try to escape! This list took a surprisingly longer time than I had anticipated, as the first few games were no-brainers, but the games I haven't played required more thought. What games would you take? It's interesting to think about. Maybe you could play a few rounds of MvC 2 with Wilson?
He cheats.

The Ultimate Collector's Guide

A few months ago we had a little look at the DC Collector app for iOS and came to the conclusion that it's a pretty decent way to catalogue your ever-growing Dreamcast library and track the games you may have your eye on. The way it allows users to check eBay prices and create a 'wanted' list also adds to the appeal. The thing is, not everyone has an iOS device. Fear not though - there is an alternative. And boy, what an alternative it is...
Every game is listed. Every game.
The Dreamcast Collector's Guide is a document that spans 52 pages and is the culmination of over 3 years of work by it's creator Mike Phelan. Currently at revision 1.5, the Guide is a mightily impressive tome of knowledge and documents every single Dreamcast game ever released. Every single game. In every territory. Let that sink in for a moment, and then be even more gobsmacked that it also includes information on the slight deferences between various European releases of certain titles and also rates games in terms of rarity, price and special edition status. As well as this, the guide features listings for white label and promo editions, serial numbers and even a playability guide for Japanese releases - which basically allows you to gauge how much fun you'll be able to glean from an NTSC-J bargain without being able to speak (or read) Japanese. It doesn't end there though, as Mike has thought to include all of the indie releases and even includes upcoming games such as SLaVE, Hypertension and Elysian Shadows.
The very useful Japanese accessibility section
This document really is jam packed with information regarding the various release types of certain games and has detailed guides to the Sega All-Stars and Dorikore collections. The best thing about Mike's guide is that it is compiled as a PDF and can be downloaded for free and printed out. You'll need to create a free account at the hosting site in order to download it, but if you're serious about collecting for the Dreamcast, this check list is something you definitely need to have a look at.

Click here to download the DC Collector's Guide.

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.