- Begging friends and family members to let me use theirs, only to be confronted with a Hadrien's Wall of excuses why I couldn't. To these so-called friends I say this: "you can't keep a good blogger down, you CUNTS."
- Using a Public Library, only to discover that Blogger wouldn't load properly due to the vastly inferior - nay, OBSOLETE - technology on offer.
- Searching high and low for an internet cafe that a) had any terminals with all the letters of the alphabet still embedded in their keyboards; b) had terminals that weren't situated next to hugely obese, sideburned oafs that stunk to high-heaven of pure human excrement; and c) charged less than £6.50 for an hour of low bandwidth, pop-up saturated, 486 hosted internet access where you have to wait aeons for the page to refresh.
Thankfully, and after 3 days of hunting, I have found a suitable place to log-on. But why eh? Why am I so eager to get online and write a post? Well, several reasons really. The first is this:
This post is likely to be my last here at the Dreamcast Junkyard for quite some time. Y'see, I'm off on a bit of an adventure (of sorts) that will more than likely involve some boats, lots of shouting and possibly a few village people jokes being hurled around. Furthermore, my access to either Dreamcasts, Dreamcast games or indeed Dreamcast peripherals will be quite limited. I am sure though, that through the combined efforts of both The Gagaman(n) and FatherKrishna, a reliable and steady flow of luxuriously composed prose will find it's way here over the next few months.
The second reason (which also, in part, encapsulates the third reason) is that I have been doing a bit of eBaying recently (note the capital B there people), and wanted to share my purchases with you all. My most recent purchase is actually quite appropriate when considering what I'm going to be doing for the next few months, and here it is:
Yes! It's a mother-fucking Dreamcast TOWEL!!! With matching SHORTS and BAG! How FREAKING COOL IS THAT?!?!? EH?!?!? And snapped up for the bargain price of about nine quid! I'm totally in the dark about the size of the shorts or the towel, but hopefully they'll fit me - unlike that fucking jacket I got a few months back that makes me look like Billy Bunter if I dare pull it out of the back of the wardrobe and actually put it on. Cough.
But the amazingness doesn't stop there chums. Oh no. Prepare for the biggest thing you've ever read here at the Junkyard.
Ok, I've built it up beyond all proportions now so you'll probably be expecting something really, really amazing. Like Sylvester Stallone writing poetry, or George Bush making a speech without fucking it up and sounding like a remedial four-year-old. But it's almost, almost as good.
You see, last week somebody was trying to sell a Dreamcast version of Half Life on eBay. I bid on it but was subsequently outbid and in the end it went for about £25. Dammit. I accepted I'd lost the auction, cried for a bit, but was ultimatley OK. Unfortunatley for the wanker who won the auction, eBay - in their all consuming knowledge, I might add - decided that the auction was illegal, that the item had to be removed and that the bidder couldn't buy it...or some shit along those lines. Fair enough. But later on, I recieved an email. An email from a man named Gary, who long time Yardites may remember as a God among Dreamcast owners, whose collection we featured here earlier in the year. Why did he contact me? Why, to offer me a copy of Half Life of course, and while we were at it, a copy of Propellor Arena and Rez! Did I accept? YOU BET YOUR FUCKING ASS I DID!
And two days later, my games arrived. Wanna know what I think? Then read on my friend, read on...
Ever wondered what's going on inside the mind of a crackhead? I'm betting it's a bit like playing Rez. OK, Rez received a proper PAL release, but have you ever tried to get a copy? It's like rocking horse shite - and when it does occasionally surface on eBay, the cretin selling it wants about 70 medallions for it. I think not. So a quick email conversation with Gary got me a lovely CD-R copy, and to be honest, it plays like a dream. No boot disks, no faffing about - just put it in the drive and it plays. Bloody marvellous.
But how does it play? Well, from what I can gather, you are meant to be some kind of computer hacker who has to get through a computer mainframe and destroy it. You do this by assuming the role of a floating dude who flies through wierd absract landscapes shooting shit that appears. And that's prett much it to be honest. It's sort of like a cross between Panzer Dragoon and NiGHTS, in that you just seem to float about, locking-on to various enemies with your target and then letting multiple locked enemies have a taste of your firepower by releasing the button. Obviously, there are various power-ups scattered about: some enable you to 'power up' your character and gain a more powerful gun...er...thing; whilst others give you an 'overdrive,' which is your 'special' that kills everything on the screen.
As you can see from the screens here, Rez has a very abstract feel to it, and I fell in love with it as soon as I first loaded up. The visuals may seem a little basic at first, but once you've been playing for a while and sussed it all out, you start to notice the amount of detail packed in. Objects bop along to the music and the lighting effects are magnificent. Speaking of the music - Rez features some of the best I've ever heard in a game, and it's almost as if your actions have an affect on the tempo. Indeed, when your target locks on, it gives out a 'beat,' and when the enemies croak it, they do to - it's as if your killing to a tune. Stunning.
Anyone ever play Deadly Skies? No, not that Deadly Skies - I'm talking about the Saturn Deadly Skies, where you chose a fighter plane and then roared around the sky trying to pop a cap in your opposing number's fuselage. Well, if you haven't, join the club. If you have - give yourself a slap on the back, you big fucking show-off. Anyway, Propellor Arena is a game that plays along the same lines - you choose a plane, choose an arena and then get on with flying around with your guns blazing and trying to destroy everyone else.
I seem to recall reading somewhere that Propellor Arena was cancelled by Sega due to 9/11, but I'm not sure if it's true. The one thing I am sure of though, is that as a result the Dreamcast missed out on one of it's best ever games. Put simply: Propellor Arena kicks so much ass I'm not sure if I can actually do it justice by writing about it. YOU HAVE TO PLAY THIS GAME.
The graphics, for a start are fucking amazing. The level of detail in the planes, the levels you fly around, the menu screens...everything looks superlative. But you'll forget the graphics when you're actually playing. It plays like a dream - the planes handle in a very arcade-y kind of way, and it's all the better for it. Flying around is great fun alone, but when you get a few bogeys in your field of view, ducking and weaving becomes second nature due to the perfectly balanced controls. When it comes to weaponry, you have your basic machine guns - which are suprisingly effective - but you can also collect others such as missiles and the like by shooting little floating boxes that appear dotted around the map. The whole thing is perfectly balanced and there are loads of training missions (flying through hoops etc), a dog-fight mode and a full blown championship. The sound effects are great, and the original musical score (which consists mainly of badly sung rock) matches the action perfectly. An amazing game.
So here it is then. The ultimate piece of Dreamcast vapourware. Not any more people. It's here, and it's in my Dreamcast. Oh yes.
If you read anything about the Dreamcast version of Half Life on forums or lesser websites, you may be fooled into thinking this version is incomplete, has lots of bugs or any number of other things wrong with it. That is utter BOLLOCKS. The version I have here is as close to the PC original - if not better - than anyone could have hoped it would be. I'll sum it up in several of my favourite words: Half Life is one of the best games I have ever played on this console.
Completed by Valve and then mysteriously cancelled, Dreamcast Half Life is a game that up until now has been little more than pure myth - to me anyway. I've played through the PC original twice, and also played through the awesome sequel (HL2) and it's Steam-released add on Lost Coast - so I'd say my Half Life knowledge is better than most people's. And with that qualification, I'd say that in my opinion this Dreamcast incarnation is easily as good as the PC version, and better in some ways.
So, who's never played Half Life then? In it, you play Gordon Freeman, a scientist who's on his first day at the Black Mesa research lab. Unfortunatley for Gordon, the Anomalous Materials department have managed to fuck up (BIG TIME) and open a portal to a strange alien world called Zen, and as you'd expect, lots of nasty things have made the jump into our world. Everything goes tits-up, the military intervene by trying to kill everyone in the facility and cover it up, and all you've got as protection is a crowbar. Cue epoch making first person adventuring, amazing set pieces, brilliant dialogue, head scratching puzzles and hours upon hours of gameplay.
This Dreamcast version has a few new features up it's sleeve: redesigned weapons for a start, and slighty better character models for the NPCs. It's also got the Blue Shift add-on pack bolted on, so you can play a slightly different version of the game through the eyes of Barney Calhoun, a security guard employed at Black Mesa when everything kicks off. The DC version ain't perfect though. You'll need a whole VM to store your progress, and due to the fact that the DC hasn't got a hard drive, the game needs to occasionally pause in order to load up the next bit of the level. It's not as often as some websites would have you believe though, so it's not that big a deal. Apart from those gripes, Dreamcast HL is AWESOME. The controls are perfect, the frame-rate is perfectly acceptable, and the challenge is unrivalled. Get it in!
So there it is. Three of the greatest games on the Dreamcast, for under a tenner. Just a shame we never officially got two of them. Oh well.
If you would like to sample these amazing delights for yourself, feel free to contact Gary via email at firstname.lastname@example.org and don't forget to mention the Junkyard!
Anyway, that's about it from me - for now. I'll be back soon...hopefully.