Gauntlet Giveaway Pewter Miniatures

I recently acquired a copy of the NTSC-U version of Gauntlet Legends. We have featured Midway's multi-player fantasy roaming beat 'em up here at the 'Yard in recent times, but I wanted to investigate something that is particular to the US iteration of the game. As a side note, I actually purchased this NTSC copy from an eBay seller for less than the price of a pint of lager simply because my PAL copy's case has mysteriously vanished from my collection. Very odd, but these things are sent to try us. Now I've told you my life story - lets get on with it. If you look at the front of the NTSC-U box (which is also the front of the manual, owing to the design of the US game cases), you will note this little graphic:
Likewise on the back cover, you will see this:
It seems that to coincide with the US release of Gauntlet Legends, Midway commissioned Reaper Miniatures to create a small number of pewter models of the in-game characters. The best bit is that these miniatures were offered free of charge to anyone who bought the game and completed the in-manual proof-of-purchase form that could be pulled out and mailed back. Obviously, whoever originally bought the copy now in my possession had better things to do with their time than tell Midway how often they rented games before buying them, and as such the form is still intact.
Upon doing a little research into these miniatures, it appears that they were also offered to buyers of other versions of the game, and in the case of the N64 port (in the US at least), special edition boxsets were produced that included a random miniature from the collection. It seems that Dreamcast owners got the better deal here though, as sending the form off bagged you the complete set:
These pewter figurines seem to have been created in pretty small numbers and as such the few that do come up on eBay and other sites fetch high prices. Not sure I'd be willing to smash $300+ on a tiny pewter model these days, but if you sent the form off and claimed your free figures back in 2000, let us know in the comments.

Respect

We're not ones to jump on a bandwagon here at the Junkyard. We pride ourselves on reporting on the lesser-known stories surrounding our favourite over-looked system. But the passing of Leonard Nimoy is an event that cannot be ignored by any media outlet - especially one influenced by the talents of such an iconic entertainer.

Mr Nimoy, as you probably know, was the voice of Caution: Seaman for Western gamers - at least for those whom SEGA deemed worthy. As a resident of the United Kingdom, I personally never experienced a PAL version of Caution: Seaman but I have played the NTSC-U game, and the reassuring dulcet tones of Leonard Nimoy eased me into a game released in an era way before celebrity voiceovers were even a recognised marketing tool. The Dreamcast Junkyard, regardless how unimportant we are, would like to recognise Leonard Nimoy's contribution to games and his outstanding career as an actor and icon.

Abandoned Dreamcast Needs A Home

Once upon a time, a guy out walking in the woods finds an abandoned Dreamcast amongst the grass and bushes covered in mud, leaves and - quite possibly - dog excrement. What happens next is just pure magic, and - I won't lie - brought a single, swirl-shaped tear to this gamer's eye. Click here for the full story, as detailed on imgur.
Thanks to friend of the Junkyard PCwzrd13 for the heads up - be sure to check out his YouTube channel for some great Dreamcast and general gaming-related content.

The Rarest Dreamcast Hardware On Earth?

Sega Dreamcast SFL-20001P Control Unit

Allow me to be presumptuous, but I'm going to guess that if you're here at the Junkyard reading articles about a console that has been out of production for well over a decade, you're either a) a Dreamcast enthusiast; b) a retro-gaming enthusiast; or c) both. For these reasons alone, I'm also going to presume that you, dear reader, know a thing or two about so-called 'rare' hardware; and more specifically rare or lesser-spotted Dreamcast hardware. You know the kinds of thing I'm talking about - the Divers 2000 and the various special edition consoles that occasionally pop up on eBay for astronomical sums of money. Think the Resident Evil STARS edition, or the Hello Kitty variants that surface every now and then. Hell - you might even own one or two. There's something that I can guarantee the vast majority of people reading this don't own though. Not only that - I would wager that the vast majority didn't even know of this Dreamcast variant's existence - I certainly didn't until I stumbled across DreamcastGaga's article a few days ago. Allow us to present the Dreamcast SFL-2000P1 Control Unit.
Sega Dreamcast SFL-20001P Control Unit
As mentioned in DCGaga's original article, the Control Unit originally surfaced on eBay in late 2014 and was snapped up for a mere $123 (that's about £80) by an eagle-eyed bidder. This was probably down to the fact that the item was listed rather ambiguously as 'Vintage Sega Dream Cast Japaneses Metal Console,' [sic] and not (as I would have listed it) 'Rare as Rocking Horse Shit Hitherto Unknown Dreamcast Box Thing.' 

Upon further investigation and after conversing with the new owner of the Control Unit - regular DCJY reader, commenter and Dreamcast expert CD ageS - it has become apparent that the unit was originally used, or at least intended for use in Japanese internet cafes at around the time of the Dreamcast's reign. The thing is, there really is little to no information online about this device. Several forum discussions have brought to light the only information we have on this unit, but there really are more questions than answers at present. Why is the motherboard installed upside down? Why does the unit only read certain types of GD? Why do you have to take the top of the case off in order to plug in a controller? And why have we never seen this thing before?

The Control Unit does actually resemble the prototype Dreamcast DVD player in a lot of ways, and the push-button media drive on the right hand side is interesting in it's placement...but why the lack of accessible controller ports? Maybe this device was intended to be located behind a display unit or something, and customers in internet cafes would only see the keyboard and mouse...but that just begs the question: why not just use a bank of cheap PCs or net-enabled set-top boxes instead?

As stated, this unit has been discussed in the past in a few forum threads, but they have only been seen by a very small number of people - hopefully with this exposure, somebody who knows more about the SFL-2000P1 Control Unit will come forward and enlighten us as to the device's true purpose. Want some more pictures of this mysterious box? Here you go:
Sega Dreamcast SFL-20001P Control Unit
Sega Dreamcast SFL-20001P Control Unit
Sega Dreamcast SFL-20001P Control Unit
Sega Dreamcast SFL-20001P Control Unit
Sega Dreamcast SFL-20001P Control Unit
Here's some further info on the actual unit from CD ageS on the composition of the Control Unit:

"You basically have to unscrew and remove the entire upper panel of the unit to expose the innards. On top of that, you have to unscrew the motherboard from where its placed to gain any suitable access to the 4 control ports to connect a controller in (the motherboard is positioned upside down so the ports are located right underneath and placed backwards to make matters more tedious). So to actually play games on it (and it definitely can play games) requires you to take it apart more or less. It's a rather inconvenient endeavour especially when I have tons of DC consoles that can do that already.

What I want to know is how many of these did SEGA manufacture, where did they end up after their stint, what do the dip switches do, and more importantly, was the unit purposefully designed to be taken apart for proper use?"

Referring to the image above:

"The hardware has a built in control panel. But it appears to be designed strictly for menu navigation. You'll see the back of the unit has 6 small holes. One set with 4 holes positioned in a flat diamond shape and 2 holes side by side. The flat diamond is the D-pad and the other are buttons A and B. You can access these buttons switches by inserting a pin inside these holes."
Sega Dreamcast SFL-20001P Control Unit Motherboard
Sega Dreamcast SFL-20001P Control Unit Motherboard
Sega Dreamcast SFL-20001P Control Unit Motherboard
Sega Dreamcast SFL-20001P Control Unit
All of the images above are taken from either the original eBay listing, the Dreamcast-Talk forum thread or supplied by CD ageS himself. Also, special thanks to Chojin from DreamcastGaga for alerting me to this awesome mystery in the first place.

Got any further information on the SFL-2000P1? Do you know what the dip switches on the main board are for? Do you know how many were made or if there are any more out there in the wilderness? Enlighten us all in the comments section please!
A possible application for the SFL-20001P?

Indie Review: Powder

I'm going to level with you: I don't particularly like RPGs. While I can totally appreciate why a lot of people love them, I've just never got on with sprawling story arcs, random battles, item collection and all of the other aspects one would generally associate with the genre. I'm also totally aware that there are many, many sub-genres within this particular channel of gaming and that to say I don't like RPGs is probably a little bit short sighted on my part. I mean, I really enjoyed Link's Awakening on the Game Boy and Ocarina of Time on the N64, have battled through all of the Mass Effect games and even got pretty far into Virtual Hydlide on the Saturn before the desire to vomit explosively enveloped me...but those aren't really the kinds of game I'm talking about.

I'm talking about learning spells, calculating hit points and wading through loads of text. Frankly, I just find traditional RPGs boring. That's just my (admittedly ignorant) opinion and I totally respect that people reading this may have just spat either cornflakes or a Pot Noodle (or both?) all over their computer or phone screen, but I haven't even attempted to play Skies of Arcadia yet because I just know what I'm going to get in that particular package; and I spent about 8 minutes playing Final Fantasy 7 before I removed it from my PlayStation and stuck Alien Trilogy back in. You can take a horse (me) to water (RPGs), but you can't make it drink (play them). Brackets were used in that last metaphor to clarify what I was trying to convey with my cack-handed grasp of wurds and stuff. Keeping that last sentence at the forefront of your cerebellum, allow me to explain that very recently I was made aware of a home brew roguelike RPG that has been ported to the Dreamcast and can be played using an SD Reader.

Powder started life as a Game Boy Advance project and is the brainchild of programmer Jeff Lait. Writing on the Powder website, Jeff explains that the game was borne out of his desire to play a roguelike RPG on his handheld:

"I created POWDER for one simple reason: I wanted a roguelike on my GBA. The standard RPGs were annoying me with endless battle screens against weak enemies to unfold a drug induced plotline. I wanted a game I could just jump into, and start killing things. Having had more hours than I'd care to log playing Nethack, ADOM, and the Diablos, I knew the exact type of game I wanted. The problem was I didn't see anyone publishing it any time soon."

Since the GBA original, Powder has been ported to various other formats including the Nintendo DS, Windows, Macintosh and Linux. Recently though, Dreamcast.es forum admin Indiket successfully translated the source over to the Dreamcast and the source has - rather helpfully - been turned into an SD Reader-compatible ISO file by DCeric so that morons like me can get involved and begin dungeon crawling.
The first thing I noticed when playing Powder was just how helpful the game is - even a complete n00b like yours truly was up and running within a few minutes. The story is presented via a few screens of text (you must descend through 25 levels of an underground dungeon and slay an almighty daemon known as "He who the author cannot spell consistently," or simply Baezl'bub. You can tell from that description alone that Powder is also a game that revels in having a fantastic sense of humour. Played from a top-down perspective, you must control your hero or heroine through the dank halls, opening stuck doors, finding weapons, potions and spell books and doing battle with all manner of hideous beasts and monsters (and eating the odd corpse along the way). The controls are - like the visual style - extremely basic and easy to pick up; but don't be fooled - there is a lot going on in Powder.

The sheer volume of lore and literature within the game is stunning and what's equally impressive is that it's so well written and humorous. Not laugh-out-loud ROFL funny...just very dry., almost Discworld-esque in places. There's a whole wealth of items and weapons that can be equipped, Gods to pray to and secrets and puzzles to beat. Going back to my opening gambit (where I said I didn't like RPGs, remember?), I have to say that after half an hour of playing Powder I'd totally forgotten that I don't like RPGs. Granted, I was on my second play session having been defeated in battle by a giant rat the first time round (permadeath is alive and kicking here, folks!) but Powder just makes you want to keep playing to see what's though the next door or down the next ladder. There was no sound at all in the version I played but this didn't really detract from the overall experience: I was playing a totally free game and dammit, I was enjoying it.
In the next hour I spent playing Powder I didn't get very far (only about 5 levels down into the dungeon before being killed), but I can attest that it is a pretty interesting and enjoyable game. There's levelling up aplenty and the dungeon changes with each new game so you'll never see the same layout twice...meaning lots of longevity if this is your type of game. Has it changed my overall impression of RPGs? Not really - but for a free, downloadable home-brew game there's a lot worse out there.

If you want to give Powder a go, head over to either Dreamcast.es or The Iso Zone for more information. Also be sure to check out Jeff Lait's incredibly detailed guides to the game at the official Powder website here. Special thanks to DCeric for creating the ISO for me and also to Indiket for the conversion work.
Take heed, neophytes.

Having A Blast With Cosmic Smash

There are some games on the Dreamcast that I'm pretty sure would not have translated well from their original Japanese to the West. Only recently we looked at a dating sim from the land of the rising sun, and while it did look intriguing, I think it's safe to say that it would probably have sold less units than a DVD boxset of a wall of wet paint drying. With this in mind, let us turn our attention to another title that never saw the light of day outside of it's native homeland - Cosmic Smash. The reason I draw a comparison between it and the aforementioned dating sim is that Cosmic Smash is a game that by it's very nature transcends all of the usual barriers for localisation, and yet it is glaringly absent from both PAL and NTSC-U libraries.
The premise is achingly simple: you simply take control of the Rez-like translucent character and hit a ball against moving blocks with a paddle. Hit the blocks and they disappear, don't hit them all before the timer runs out...and it's game over. The gameplay options are incredibly threadbare - there's simply a 'main game' mode...and that's it. No character select, no variations or training modes and certainly no career or championship. And it's for this reason that Cosmic Smash represents something of a mystery. Due to the incredibly simple nature of the game, the basic controls (jump, normal and charged shot) and the lack of options it just seems downright odd that Sega didn't think it worthwhile releasing anywhere else but Japan. The localisation efforts would have been minimal - even the text and voice-overs are all in English (you've got to love the uber-cool announcer with his 'couldn't care less' vocal style), so the question remains - why didn't we get a PAL version and why wasn't it released in the US?
Cosmic Smash started life as a NAOMI arcade title (tellingly, it is compatible with the arcade stick), was later ported to the Dreamcast and was the only official title to be shipped in a rather nice-looking, semi-transparent DVD-style case. The game really is a masterclass in stylised design; from the minimalist box art and menus, to the 'less is more' approach to gameplay and progression. Playing like a mixture of squash and breakout and (once again) taking more than a few visual cues from Tetsuya Mizaguchi's musical shooter Rez, Cosmic Smash is a puzzling release from Sega that raises more questions than it answers. The setting is unique in that you appear to be travelling through some sort of tube or underground network complete with branching paths (an Outrun-style 'map' presents itself at the end of each game - see above), and the way the countdown timer is embedded in the stages themselves is a nice visual touch.

You can also kind of tell that there are some minor similarities in the way the on-screen player moves to the way the Virtua Tennis characters do - maybe Sega re-used some of the animations here? Ultimately, Cosmic Smash is an aesthetically interesting, yet fundamentally primitive game that transcends any type of language or cultural barrier...yet wasn't deemed suitable for a Western release. Or maybe Sega had just seen that the writing was on the wall and decided that to release it overseas was nought but another way to haemorrhage even more cash prior to the cancellation of the Dreamcast?

Either way, Cosmic Smash represents an obscure, and fun - if infuriatingly tough - way to spend half an hour if you get the opportunity.

500 Likes!

Just a little update to say thank you to everyone who has clicked the 'like' button on our Facebook page (it's here incase you're interested). There's not been much activity here at the 'Yard in the past week due to real life commitments getting in the way, but normal service will be resumed from tomorrow...so stay tuned. Once again - thanks to everyone who reads and supports the site/Facebook page.

Strafing, Not Stirred


I make no secret of my love for the Doom franchise - as I've stated here and on other sites many, many times previously, Doom is one of my all-time favourite games and it's sequels and spin-offs are games I hold in extremely high regard. Due to this slightly worrying affection for all things Doom, I have amassed quite a collection of variants of the game and have pretty much every iteration of it for consoles - the only one I don't have in the collection is the 32X port and that's only because I don't actually own one of those mushroom-shaped monstrosities anymore. I have waxed lyrical about my penchant for id's sprite-based (and polygonal, the the case of the 3rd instalment) shooting series here at the 'Yard in recent months, but in this post I wanted to share some images I took from within one of the best mods I think I've ever seen for Doom...and one that I have had the pleasure of sampling via my Dreamcast SD card reader: the GoldenEye 007 total conversion.
8:27 to complete a par 0:30 level? Shocking.
I don't think I've yet played a Doom mod that has excited and intrigued me as much as this one - it takes the original N64 game and recreates it perfectly in the Doom engine. From the weapons to the level layouts and even the mission objectives, the creator of this mod has not scrimped on the detail. Obviously, due to the limitations of the Doom engine, things like the sniper rifle and remote mines have been omitted, but other details such as the placement of body armour, the appearance of Sean Bean's Alec Trevelyan and even the locations of boxes and explosive barrels from the N64 are faithfully recreated with amazing accuracy.

Some levels, such as the Severnaya stages (where you spent forever wondering around in the snowy wilderness looking for that satellite dish) are broken up into several areas that are traversed via teleports, and some of the more ambitious aspects of the N64 cart (such as ladders and transparent windows) are substituted for slightly different takes. Other notable omissions include the ability to call up the iconic red targeting reticule, but the auto lock-on that Doom is famous for makes that redundant in any case; and certain mission objectives where that ability would normally be required (shooting padlocks, destroying CCTV cameras etc) have been removed...but for all intents and purposes, this really is about as close to playing GoldenEye 007 on a Dreamcast as you're likely to get. Until somebody gets an N64 emulator running at a playable speed, that is.
For England, James.
This Doom mod is actually part of a larger collection of total conversions and player-created expansions that I downloaded from the SD iso section of DC Iso Zone. If you've got a spare SD card and reader (or even one of those swanky GDEmu iso loaders installed in your Dreamcast), you should definitely give this (and the other outstanding mods) a whirl. Sticking with the N64 theme, here are some shots from another pretty imaginative variant: Nintendo Doom...who knew shooting Yoshi in the face with a plasma rifle could be so satisfying?!

Sports Jam: The Devil's Playground

That odd title will become clear soon enough, but first let's get down to business. Sports Jam is a conversion of an arcade game that is really little more than a collection of short and sweet mini-games based loosely on a plethora of different sports. Developed by Wow Entertainment for the NAOMI system and then converted - almost perfectly - to the Dreamcast, Sports Jam encourages players to pick one of twelve events to try their hand (or some cases feet) at, in an attempt to get either high scores or meet the criteria to move on to the next of four rounds.

Complete each round successfully, and you win the game...and that's pretty much the entire game in a nutshell to be honest. Unlike most other arcade-to-home conversions of the era (Crazy Taxi, Virtua Tennis, Virtua Fighter 3tb et al), Sports Jam doesn't really add much bespoke content to the mix and so the replay value is somewhat limited...especially when you take into consideration that a lot of the 'events' on offer here actually only last for around a (Swatch-sponsored) minute and a half each, or a set number of 'tries.'
Sports Jam Baseball
Sports Jam Hockey
Sports Jam Golf
Sports Jam Soccer
That's not to say there isn't a lot of fun to be had with Sports Jam - indeed quite the opposite is true...while it lasts. For whatever reason, Sega decided not to release the game in PAL territories - it was an NTSC-only title, and as such this was my first experience with it..and (to reiterate) I have to admit that after around half an hour I'd pretty much seen everything Sports Jam has to offer. The twelve different sporting events (composing variations of ice hockey, American football, proper football (soccer), basketball, baseball, tennis, cycling and golf) are all fairly enjoyable but extremely short-lived in the main, and the vast majority of them consist of you either hitting one button repeatedly; waiting for a moment where you have to press a button within a certain power-meter area; or simply lining up a target and hitting fire. Some of the games are more involving than the others, though. For example the ice hockey games are quite fun - one of them sees you assuming the role of goal tender and you have to block an endless stream of high and low shots; while the other is a mix of Breakout and one of those air hockey tables you see at bowling alleys. Elsewhere, the cycling event will give you a sore arm from repeatedly hammering the A button to give your rider the adrenalin needed to beat your opponent; and the baseball sim lets you swing wildly at a pitcher's balls (pun intended).

The graphics and animation are really quite impressive and I can't help but feel that if Sega had taken any one of the engines employed for these mini games and poured more resources into it, they could have been great fully-fledged games in their own right - the golf sections in particular look pretty darn good, and feature some lovely picture-in-picture camera shots and great scenery. If they'd taken this and turned it into a full-blown arcade golf game, then the Dreamcast could have had yet another ace up it's sleeve in the sports genre. As it is, Sports Jam is little more than a great-looking, nice sounding curiosity that will pass half an hour or so, but won't see many players coming back for more once the initial spectacle of the visuals has worn off. There is one final aspect of the game I really do want to touch on though - and it is the reason for this post's somewhat strange title: the 'host.' Here he is:
Sports Jam Presenter
Sports Jam Demon
Sports Jam Host
If you choose to play the arcade version of Sports Jam, the presentation takes a slight turn for the bizarre as this plastic-faced, scary-eyed, Albert Wesker-esque sports presenter appears on the screen and introduces each round of the game. With his odd Southern drawl and hideous gap-toothed grimace, he invites you to choose your category and announces the action during the event. Once you pass the first challenge though, things start getting even more bizarre - his hair develops definite horns and the colour scheme changes to a pallid green...being further replaced by a red tinge after the next stage.

Finally, this abominable denizen of the uncanny valley appears to be seated in a darkened theatre, where his chair suddenly transforms into a massive trophy once he stands up. The question needs to be asked: is Sports Jam a Dantean metaphor for a trip into the very depths of Hell itself, with Beelzebub taunting your every failure and inviting you to travel deeper into his otherworldly lair? The evidence strongly suggests so. But then, I could - once again - be reading way too much into this. Look at the facts though: his hair growing into horns and his shiny red smoking jacket bear all the classic hallmarks of a modern spin on Lucifer - his appearance at first seems as plain and ordinary as you could hope, but upon closer inspection everything just seems a little 'off.' To use an old adage - the Devil is in the detail. And to use another (well, a line from The Usual Suspects to be honest), the greatest trick the Devil ever pulled, was to convince the world he doesn't exist. Except in Sports Jam for the Dreamcast...
Sports Jam Demonic Host Dreamcast
Pure Evil
Shudder.