POD 2 / POD Speedzone Online Multiplayer Highlights

As I'm sure you're aware, POD 2 (aka POD Speedzone) is the latest Dreamcast title to be restored with its full compliment of online functions. Thanks to the stellar work of programmer Shuouma and the assistance of Pcwzrd at Dreamcast Live, POD 2 can now be enjoyed as it was meant to be - with four players battling it out over the internet, across any of the futuristic circuits that are littered with hazards and weapon pickups.
This past weekend, I was lucky enough to be able to take my Dreamcast back online via the DreamPi and get involved with an online gaming session organised by the folks from the Dreamcast-Talk forum, and I have to admit - it was pretty awesome. My only prior experience with POD 2 was in its offline guise, and I found the game to be pretty lacklustre. Chuck in a grid of human controlled adversaries though, and the game is transformed into something quite special. Below you'll find a little video detailing the session I was involved in.

Thanks to everyone who made it a really positive online gaming experience. If you'd like to know more about DreamPi or playing online with your Dreamcast, be sure to check out Dreamcast Live or the blog of Luke Benstead, creator of the DreamPi.

Thoughts? Let us know in the comments or join the discussion in our Facebook group or on Twitter.

Artist Owns Inktober With Series Of Shenmue Watercolours

Inktober is an online initiative which challenges the more artistic among us to pick up a pen (or a pencil/brush/pile of elephant dung) and create a new work for every day of the month of October. It seems to be a really popular endeavour and social media is usually awash with all manner of awesome drawings around this time every year. You can find out more about Inktober here.

The reason I bring Inktober up though, is because one rather talented artist (who also happens to be a wrestler, by the way) has been steadily tweeting watercolour renditions of scenes from Yu Suzuki's epic Shenmue. The scenes will no doubt be familiar to anyone with more than a passing interest in Ryo Hazuki's adventure, and there are lots of references to some of the more humorous aspects - as well as the more poignant moments - of the game.
Artist Joe Klander - also known by his wrestling alter ego Uncle Clutch - kindly allowed us the reproduce his sterling efforts here, and we also asked him about why he chose to bring Shenmue to life through the power of watercolours:

The Email That Signalled The End Of The Dreamcast

We recently looked at the steady trickle of press releases that were delivered to media outlets, in which Sega's plans to reposition itself as a third party developer and publisher were revealed. As much as we champion the birth and life of the Dreamcast, the demise of the console and the afterlife which is almost entirely fan-supported is also our bread and butter here at the Junkyard, and sometimes we find ourselves privy to stuff that the public probably wouldn't ever get to see. With this in mind, let us turn our attention to something rather awesome: the actual email from January 2001 that was sent out by Sega of America Director of Development Technology John Byrd, in which the death of the Dreamcast was all but confirmed.

I'm pretty sure that this email has never been published online, and while the middle section is just the standard press release I'm sure you've seen before, the introductory section and - most importantly - the final couple of paragraphs make for some very interesting reading. John Byrd is an industry veteran with over 20 years of experience working in games and you can see the passion for the Dreamcast in his words. That said, there's a lot of stuff in here that never came to fruition - the mention of the set top box being made in partnership with Pace, for example. But this sign off is what really gave me a lump in the throat:

"If anybody has a right to be bitter about DC not becoming the dominant platform, I do. But my job and yours is to make good games for the DC. In that regard, you and I don't have a damn thing to be ashamed about."

Never a truer word said, Mr Byrd. Now, on to the (even more) juicy stuff. Here's the full email, unedited apart from the redacted parts where the recipient's details have been removed. For those who don't know, the term 'elite' was used for those on a particular mailing list - developers and publishers working with Sega on the Dreamcast project.
To make navigation easier, I've split the email into three parts with headings so you can skip past the press release if desired. I also liked the idea of highlighting certain interesting passages in a similar style to that weird-ass book House of Leaves, so that's why some of the text is highlighted in different colours. I decided against making certain paragraphs back-to-front or upside down. I'll leave that shit to Danielewski-San.

A Strange Bizarre Creations CD Appears...

We've covered Metropolis Street Racer with alarming regularity in the recent past, looking at some cool locations and trackside details you may have missed; the mystery of the hidden missing persons posters and finally the treasure trove of development images and press releases we were sent by a mysterious benefactor. If you've never heard of MSR, it's a racing game set in three cities around the world and spawned the seminal Xbox series Project Gotham Racing. Also, what are you doing here if you've never heard of MSR? Go and play it!

Anyway, said mysterious benefactor has once again bequeathed The Dreamcast Junkyard with a fairly esoteric item related - we think - in some way to Metropolis Street Racer, and here it is:
As you can see, it's a CD case. The cover shows a bunch of car keys with a Dreamcast logo on the keyring, and the date '30.03.99,' which equates to the 30th March 1999 by UK date standards. Or any standard come to think of it, there only being 12 months and all.

The spine of the case has a sticker with 'Invitation Cover 9.3.99' written in biro (bit of an inconsistency there, Columbo fans):
The CD-R itself has 'Invitation Cover 9/3/99 Bizarre Creations Confidential' written on it in marker:
The back of the case is empty so there's no other detail as to how or why this thing exists, and delving into the contents of the CD itself, there aren't really any other clues to work with:
There are Quark Xpress, PhotoShop and TIFF files, along with a TrueType font file; and the image files are basically just the image from the font cover - a bunch of car keys and the date 30.09.1999 (well, the PSD file does - the TIFF is free of a date). Note: I can't open the Quark Xpress file because the last known person to use Quark Xpress vanished up his own backside 9 years ago and has never been seen since.
Quite what this date means and what the 'invitation' is for, I'm not totally sure but cross referencing this date with the MSR development diary we published a while back could shed some light. See, the penultimate entry in the dev diary is from 29th January 1999, and this passage references an upcoming demonstration of MSR to some 'Sega VIPs':

"Last week was the week of the big telly. We have to demo the game to some Sega VIPs next week, and showing it on a little 15" monitor or a 14" portable TV wasn't really showing it at its full potential. So we went out and got a HUGE 29" TV, which really makes it look cool! Matt (the Lead Coder) has it weighing down his desk and giving him eyestrain at the moment!"

The dates don't line up perfectly, but there in the same ball park so I'm guessing that the artwork on the CD-R, plus the use of the word 'invitation' has something to do with the previewing of MSR to various Sega bigwigs.
So, not the most Earth-shattering of items and nothing as exciting as the confidential press disk (from which the image above is from - see here), but I'm sure you'll agree that it is pretty interesting to see something like this which was never intended for public consumption. Thanks go once again to the nameless benefactor supplying us with all these goodies!

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Cave Story: The Dreamcast's Subterranean Gem

What's in a name? Quite a bit, actually. While some games available for the Dreamcast have pretty descriptive titles - Crazy Taxi, for example - others are sure to leave uninitiated gamers scratching their heads in confusion. Blue Stinger. Giant Killers. Cannon Spike. These are but a trio of games with titles that really don't give any hint as to the experience contained on the GD. Cave Story though? Well, just like the game that involves driving a cab around in a fairly unorthodox manner, the title of this particular piece of software perfectly sums up what the game is all about. You go on an adventure...in a cave. Simple. But what even is Cave Story? And when the heck did this game appear on the Dreamcast? Grab your head torches and guide ropes, and I'll explain.
See, Cave Story is a side-scrolling, rogue-like platform adventure set in a labyrinthine complex of weird and wonderful caves. There are hit points, NPCs to interactive with, fetch quests to embark upon, and all manner of weird enemies to engage in combat with; and the whole game has a charming pixel art style which is complimented by an outstanding chip tune soundtrack. The origins of Cave Story make for an interesting read, with the initial PC release coming in 2004. Since then developer Daisuke Amaya has gone on to create a plethora of critically acclaimed games; and Cave Story has been ported to an astonishing range of systems, one of which just happens to be the good old Dreamcast. The Dreamcast port came in 2013 thanks to the work of programmer 'histat,' when Cave Story's NXEngine was completely re-written specifically for Sega's hardware and a couple of variations of the game were released in different flavours. Namely as an SD card ISO file, and as a burnable disc image.
I have to be honest, when Cave Story came to the Dreamcast in 2013 I didn't really give it much attention and dismissed it - wrongly - as just another crappy-looking homebrew game. So what changed between then and now? Well, firstly I'm no longer an idiot (allegedly); and secondly the recent rise in popularity of games with a distinctly 8 or 16-bit visual aesthetic has really made me appreciate this style of game a lot more than I probably did in the past. Thirdly - and most importantly - I recently spotted a physical, boxed copy of Cave Story on eBay for less than the price of a trip to the cinema, so I jumped at the chance to own it.
The copy I have acquired is clearly the work of a dedicated Dreamcast fan who also happens to own a decent printer and a had a spare PAL game case to hand. There's no manual, but the CD does have some nice bespoke artwork and the front and back covers could easily pass for a proper retail release. Even though the game is actually free to download, the fact that the work of putting it into a case and adding disc art had already been done made the nominal fee a price worth paying...

The Mr Yukawa Dreamcast TV Commercials Have Been Translated

You. You there, reading this nonsense right now. Yes you! Do you know who Mr Yukawa is? Of course you do - he's the total legend of a bloke who not only ran Sega Japan back in the day (or something), but also had his image festooned across all manner of Dreamcast clobber once upon a time. He was also in the Shenmue bonus disc (read about it here) and even had his own Dreamcast game (read about it here). Mr Yukawa became something of an icon for Sega in his home country, and was the star of a series of TV commercials for the Dreamcast but until very recently these adverts were only available in their native tongue.

Enter Mr Jim M. Ballard, a polyglot with - by his own admission - far too much free time on his hands. The devil, it is said, makes work for these idle hands but we would vehemently disagree - especially since Jim turned said appendages to adding English subtitles to the entire series of Mr Yukawa Dreamcast adverts:

You can find the rest of the series here in Jim's YouTube playlist. Thanks to this dedication, the anglophones in the room can now also share the epic ups and downs of Mr Yukawa's struggle to make Sega great again.

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POD 2 Is Back Online

Hey there. Just me again. Erm...there's another online Dreamcast game back online and this time it's POD 2 (you'll know it as POD: Speedzone if you're from the colonies). Personally I've only ever played POD 2 offline, and always considered it to be an absolute dog's dinner of a game; but thanks to the skills bestowed upon code guru Shuouma, said game is now back online:

According to this article and video over at Dreamcast Live, the usual cost of entry is a DreamPi or a lesser spotted Dreamcast broadband adapter, plus a copy of the game (obviously); but I for one am hoping that the ability to play against other, real people will enhance the experience of POD 2. If the experience offered by Monaco Online is anything to go by then I'm pretty sure any fears of mediocrity will be quelled after about 30 seconds of play...but one can never be too sure. All joking aside, it's actually pretty incredible that online-enabled Dreamcast games are being brought back from the dead and I'm looking forward to trying POD 2 out during one of the regular Dreamcast-Talk gaming nights.

I suggest you grab a DreamPi or a BBA and get involved too. See you out on the track...

Source: Dreamcast Live

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Falling In Love Again...

Where my Dreamcast collection was headed..
If you read my last post here at the Junkyard, you'll know that I had transitioned from an obsessive Dreamcast collector/hoarder of extreme proportions, to what one might term a 'retro dismissive.'
My retro gaming passion was not quite extinguished, but had definitely been dampened by the availability of a raft of downloadable Dreamcast titles on both Xbox Live and PlayStation Network. It meant I could lazily access enough Dreamcast titles from my current consoles (initially the Xbox 360, and later the PS3), to ensure that I was getting my fix of retro Sega endorphins from a different source than the undead console.

Another factor in my gradual distance from the Dreamcast, was the fact that I'd been retro gaming for a number of years by this time. I had overwhelmed myself, flooded my brain receptors with more  nostalgic video gaming than it could handle. I'd purchased dirty little 'side collections,' for the Sega Saturn, the Sega Game Gear, The Sega Master System. As well as these, I'd played a ton of PlayStation 2 games, many of them stunning and of course unavailable on the Dreamcast; with Virtua Fighter 4 and the first two Yakuza games helping me through the Shenmue wilderness years.
Not actually Father K, or Simon Early for that matter...

Preview: Intrepid Izzy

Recently we reported on the new Kickstarter campaign from Senile Team, the same studio behind one of the Dreamcast's greatest indie titles - Rush Rush Rally Racing. The new project, Intrepid Izzy is a side scrolling platformer featuring the eponymous heroine Izzy, and tasks the player with battling through a number of worlds, destroying enemies and collecting power ups. Pretty standard fayre for a side-scrolling platformer, I'm sure you'll agree.
Where Intrepid Izzy differs though, is that as well as being a platformer, the game introduces mechanics more commonly found in fighting games, and as such Izzy has a decent array of offensive moves at her disposal, as well as various specials that are activated using combinations of the D-pad and attack buttons. On top of this, different costumes available to Izzy grant her a range of abilities and moves with which to hand out ass whuppings on a case by case basis.

How do I know all this? Well, because I've been lucky enough to have played a demo version supplied by Senile Team. The screens dotted around this post - and the video below - are from an early demo and go to show just how good the game looks and plays, even at this early stage. Running on an actual Dreamcast (no emulators were used in the production of this article!), it's fair to say that Intrepid Izzy looks and sounds pretty damn incredible.

The animation of the main Izzy sprite alone puts many indie games developed for current gen systems to shame, while the general bright and well-drawn backgrounds, enemy sprites and incidental environmental details are simply gorgeous. But the beauty isn't just skin deep with Intrepid Izzy. The various NPCs you encounter have some pretty funny things to say, the levels have branching paths, the music is delightfully hummable and the controls are totally on point and perfectly responsive - something that is imperative for a game of this style.
The game, as stated, is still in the very early stages of development and the Kickstarter campaign is still ongoing (full disclosure - I've already backed it and so have several other members of the DCJY team), but even at this early stage it looks like Senile Team have another winner on their hands.

Hopefully, the Kickstarter will reach its modest €35,000 target and the game will get a full physical release, and judging from what I've played so far it would be criminal if Intrepid Izzy didn't get the backing it so clearly deserves.
Check out the Intrepid Izzy official website here, Pcwzrd's longer playthrough of the demo version here, and find the Intrepid Izzy Kickstarter page here.

The Awesome Dreamcast Kiosks & Display Cases We Never Saw

Kiosks were - and still are - a major part of any console's armoury when trying to woo potential buyers. Go into any game store these days and you'll undoubtedly see a PlayStation 4 or an Xbox One set up and running demos. The same was true back in the days of the Dreamcast, and I have fond memories of playing Virtua Striker 2 in HMV one afternoon back in 2000.

Dreamcast Kiosks come in a number of guises, and they vary wildly from region to region. The ones I'm most familar with though, are the UK PAL-styled ones that adorned branches of Electronics Boutique and GAME, drawing me in with their glowing CRT screens and untold promise of 128-bit gaming, the likes of which I'd never seen before. Obviously they worked a treat on me (hence this place existing), but now we have something pretty special to share with you.
Here are some exclusive, never-before-seen computer generated images of the kiosks and in-store display cases that Sega Europe was intending to deploy across the continent with the aim of enticing the average gamer to part with cold, hard cash for a Dreamcast.

Some of them look pretty familiar, but others are new even to me...

A Quick Look At Centipede

Centipede for the Dreamcast is a curious title for a couple of reasons. It's part of what is, for all intents and purposes, a sort of trilogy of retro reboots that includes two other properties with roots in the very early days of gaming - Q*bert and Frogger. While there are several retro collections for the Dreamcast in the form of Namco Museum, Sega Smash Pack, Yu Suzuki Game Works, Atari Anniversary EditionMidway's Greatest Arcade Hits 1 & 2 and Jimmy White's 2: Cueball, none of these titles feature complete re-imaginings of the classic titles contained therein.
No, Centipede, Q*bert and Frogger are unique in that they introduce updated visuals, new modes and - most notably in the case of Centipede - totally new gameplay mechanics. Interestingly, all three of these titles come from the Hasbro Interactive/Atari mash-up that was borne out of the acquisition of the latter by the former, however for the sake of this being 'a quick look at...' we're only going to focus on the most radically redesigned of the three - Centipede.
Released in 2000 by Hasbro Interactive masquerading as Atari and developed by Leaping Lizard Software, Centipede is a modern take on the classic game of the same name that was released to much critical and commercial success back in 1980. Having only been born in 1982, I don't actually remember the initial arcade release of Centipede, but over the years I've played plenty of variations on the formula and I'm sure you have too. Naturally, coming from an era when hardware was less graphically capable than what we have today, Centipede featured basic visuals but had one very simple premise that was replicated in many titles of the period - shoot the enemies, get a high score...and survive the onslaught.

Dreamcastnoid Gets Mini CD Retail Release

Back in 2016, DCJAM invited homebrew coders to let their imaginations run wild and create a host of new and original games for the Dreamcast. One of these was Dreamcastnoid: 128 Bit Wars from Alfonso Martinez (aka Ryo Suzuki). The game is a humorous homage to Arkanoid, with players controlling a VMU and smashing PlayStation 2 consoles with a ball, and we took a closer look at the downloadable version when it was released for public consumption.
The artwork is great
Mr Yukawa's been hitting the gym, evidently...
Fast forward to the present day, and Dreamcastnoid: 128 Bit Wars has been updated with new graphics, cool artwork, some new music and is now destined to be given a physical release. The most interesting thing about this new release is that it will come on a mini CD, and represents the first time a Dreamcast game has been released in this format (the oddly shaped music CD that comes with some versions of Guilty Gear X doesn't count!).
Segata Sanshiro makes an appearance too
A massive coin...or a tiny disc?
Dreamcastnoid: 128 Bit Wars will be available to purchase at RetroBarcelona in limited quantities for €15 and will hopefully be available to purchase online in the coming weeks. More info as we get it.

For more details (in Spanish), head over to SegaSaturno here.

A Metropolis Street Racer Treasure Trove

OK, this is the third Metropolis Street Racer related article I've posted here in the space of a fortnight, but this time I think you'll thank me for it, rather than shake your head in disgust before falling to your knees and screaming at the sky as dark, ominous thunder clouds gather and threaten to unleash a maelstrom of biblical proportions. After the preceding articles about some of the more interesting track side details to be found in Bizarre Creations' epic racer; and the follow up article detailing the hidden 'missing persons' posters dotted around the San Francisco and Tokyo circuits, comes this third instalment in which I will showcase some images and documents I'm pretty confident have never previously been published online.
A few days ago, I was contacted by somebody on Twitter (a person who wishes to remain anonymous) who asked if I was interested in a Dreamcast-related disc. Naturally I was, and a few days later the disc turned up in the post with no letter and no return address. Very strange, I'm sure you'll agree. Being the kind of person who risks infecting his computer with malware first and asking questions later, I threw the disc into my drive and explored the shit out of it with wanton abandon. I was met with things, most wondrous things...but mainly a treasure trove of Metropolis Street Racer screenshots, artwork, logos, shots of the game's wire frame models and development screens, as well as some press releases and a developer interview.

Personally, I have never seen a disc that looks like this before. I've seen all manner of GDs and prototype discs in my time, but never one of these blue and white Sega Europe branded 'confidential material' discs. That said, I do know that several collectors in the community have these, and their contents vary wildly, and some even contain the Dreamcast SDK on them.
There's over 250MB of stuff on the disc, and for something produced in 2000 that's pretty hefty. On closer inspection, it appears to be the type of high quality, pressed CD-R that would be sent to magazines of the era or other media outlets, and the documentation included reinforces this theory. However, for the preservation of your sanity's sake I'll only be reproducing some of the most interesting stuff here, so the main developer interview and some of the previously unseen wire frame/development screens and hi-res computer generated artwork. If you really want to see the press releases etc., then let me know in the comments.
Are you ready? OK - let's kick things off with some nice shots of the 'behind the scenes' stuff...

When Love For The Dreamcast Dies...

We’ve all got our Dreamcast back story. Some of us bought it at launch, having bought every Sega console since the Master System, including the 32X and Mega CD. Some of us were beguiled by the advertising; cinema adverts between big budget movies, featuring “the Dreamcast Barber”, or the classic “Its thinking…” TV commercial, showing the Dreamcast to be a machine so vastly superior to the existing consoles, that purchase was a necessity. It was new, it was sexy, it was enthralling…
But for me, the whole console launch, the killer apps and the must have games, the wacky peripherals and the arcade perfect experiences, completely passed me by. A proud Sega supporter, I was  first a Megadrive, then Saturn owner, but my kids had rebelled against the Saturn as the “family console”, insisting on a Playstation for Christmas 1998. And not too long after that, my desire to game waned; the chief gamers in the house were now my two eldest sons, (aged 7 and 10 at the time)…we simply 'progressed' to a PS2 (with GTA 3 and a DVD player!) The Dreamcast and indeed Sega as a console maker, was finished before I even realised it had been in the race…
I received my first Dreamcast in the summer of 2004. It had belonged to a nephew of mine, and he thought his younger cousins might be interested in it. Being complete PS2 addicts, they didn’t give it a second look, but I, on the other hand, did. I became intrigued by it, beguiled and charmed by it. I started to use my newly acquired home PC to research the failed enigma that was the Dreamcast, finding Planet Dreamcast, all of the IGN reviews and of course, our beloved Dreamcast Junkyard. I felt gutted that I had missed out on it’s launch, it’s short life and it’s untimely demise…I tried to immerse myself into it’s history, in a vain attempt to recapture something that had been all too fleeting…the Dreamcast burning brightly in the consciousness of gamers everywhere...

Senile Team Launches Intrepid Izzy Kickstarter Campaign

Intrepid Izzy is the latest title from Senile Team, creators of the excellent Rush Rush Rally Racing franchise and Beats of Rage engine. We recently had the pleasure of interviewing Roel van Mastbergen from Senile Team, and now his latest creation has hit Kickstarter.
Intrepid Izzy is a Metroid style platformer featuring some pretty awesome 2D sprite work and animation, and is destined to come to Steam, PlayStation 4 and Dreamcast. The funding goal is set at a fairly modest €35,000 and the different versions do sport some platform-specific features. Obviously, the version most people reading this will be interested in will be the Dreamcast version, and here's a run down of what you can expect:
  • 640x480 screen resolution
  • 60 frames per second
  • Standard controller and Arcade Stick support
  • PAL, NTSC and VGA support
  • Physical release
  • Region free
Naturally, the PS4 and PC releases will be full HD and 60fps and also feature fully customisable controls, but the Dreamcast version is the only one that will be given a physical release as standard. The screens above are from the Dreamcast version, and you can see a video of it running here.

Intrepid Izzy promises to "combine platforming, beat 'em up and adventure elements to create a unique experience with depth, character and above all, fun!" and other promised features include a branching dialogue system and the ability to change the eponymous heroine's abilities with different themed costumes.
Find out more by visiting the Intrepid Izzy website here. The Kickstarter is now live and can be accessed here.

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Online Gaming On The Dreamcast Is As Easy As Pi

I'm going to start this post with a confession. I never played online with the Dreamcast during the console's natural lifespan. The main reason was that we only had one phone line in the house and I wasn't ever allowed to hog the line for longer than about 30 minutes at a time to do some web browsing. Plus, it was pretty expensive using dial up, even with BT's 'friends and family' initiative and evening and weekend reduced call charges. Fast forward to 2017 though, and I've finally managed to shake off the shame of being a Dreamcast fan who has never battled with other Dreamcasters over the internet.
This is all thanks to the sterling work of Luke Benstead, Pcwzrd and all of the talented folks working behind the scenes to resurrect the Dreamcast's online abilities through the DreamPi project. After being supplied with a DreamPi unit several weeks ago (thanks Pcwzrd!), I thought it was about time that I actually got it up and running and jumped into one of the regular online gaming sessions organised through the Dreamcast-Talk forum. It was incredibly easy to set up using the instructions and various guides available over at Dreamcast Live, and with the use of an old DreamKey 3.0 disc I had lying around I was able to get my Dreamcast hooked up to the internet with little more than a WiFi-enabled DreamPi and a tiny USB modem.
As mentioned earlier, the whole online gaming thing is one aspect of the Dreamcast I never dipped into back when I had my original console in 1999, and I honestly didn't think it would be so easy or entertaining as it was playing Dreamcast games online in the modern climate. We're all so used to the effortless online multiplayer options offered by current consoles and computers that I feared trying to get online to play Dreamcast multiplayer games would be a bit of a pain. How wrong I was...