I, the GagaMan(n), anti-Playstation extraordinarie, have bought myself a PSone.
Before you all come charging down to my house with pitch folks and axes, I have my reasons. First, it wasn't the butt ugly early model, but the cute as puppies smaller model that looks a little bit like the Dreamcast. Second, it was in next to brand new condition. Third, it came in a cool little official carry case, and forth, and most importantly, it only cost me five quid.
Now I would give any console a go for that kind of price, so here I am, plugging up a console I swore I would never own, but hey, I already have games for it, remember? The one's I bought dirt cheap to try on the Bleemcast beta emulator? Yeah, those. Now I can actually save my progress for them! Sadly, I can't run the burned discs of rare Japanese games I've got, as I'd need to get a mod chip in it to run them, but at least I can compare how the games look on the console they were made for and the console they weren't. I had gotten used to the smoothness of Time Crisis running on Bleem, so sticking the game into the PSone gave me a bit of a shock as everything is much, much more pixellated. It's all to do with the fact that in Bleem the games run at twice the resolution they do on the PSone and even the PS2 (and, by the sounds of recent news, the PS3 as well). Haha!
Now don't get me wrong, the Playstation had some true classics and under rated gems on it, but you try finding proper copies of them. Browsing through Gamestation and GAME in various towns, it seems that everyone has held onto these gems and given these shops nothing but football games. I swear to god, the PSone has about a million of them, even one just focused around David Beckham! Compare this to the six or seven that the Dreamcast has. Not being a fan of Football myself, I'm kind of glad I don't have to bury my way through every month's FIFA release when searching for good Dreamcast games, but it could have had at least one really good one, like Worldwide Soccer 98 on the Saturn. If it's not football, it's some other sports sim, wrestling, or one of the early racing games like Porsche Challenge and RIIIIDGE RACER. Sigh.
I was lucky to find one gem last week, however, at a boot sale for £1. R-Type Delta, a rather lovely 2.5D (Read: 2D game with 3D graphics) shump. Although I am a big shump fan, I never really got into the R-Type series, so this is a first go at it. For the fun of it I ran it through the Bleem Beta and, what do you know, it worked almost perfectly in it! With it being an arcade game and all, you don't really need to save this game unless you want to keep your rankings, so it's the prefect kind of game to run well in Bleem. Here's the clip I ripped from it, in which I do pretty terribly.
- 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 email@example.com and don't forget to mention the Junkyard!
Anyway, that's about it from me - for now. I'll be back soon...hopefully.
I'm quite fond of the image SOA created for their Dreamcast - it was much darker and imposing than the identity Sega Europe gave the PAL system and cost around $100m - probably about $99.9m more than Sega Europe spent. The pastel hues and cryptic, slightly aloof ads of the UK launch didn't really do much to stamp the Dreamcast brand on the collective consciousness of Joe Public, and for that I say "Damn you Sega Europe, damn you to Hell!"
In the meantime though, ever looked at a roller coaster and thought "Goddamit, I could design a better one than that!"?
No, me neither come to think of it...
Well, those of you who own Coaster Works can, anyway. Costing the princely sum of about £2.50 off eBay, I picked this little beauty up out of sheer curiosity. Like Floigan Brothers last week, I've never seen Coaster Works on sale in a shop and only saw the one review of it - and that was an import review, so naturally thought the PAL release had been shelved. Obviously this wasn't the case, as last night I spent a few hours ripping my hair out at the expense of building (and I quote) 'The ride of my life.' Actually, the ride of my life would probably involve Shakira and a tub of Nutella, but that's a different post, on a different site. Cough.
No, as the name so cleverly suggests, Coaster Works is a game in which you, as a young and fresh faced churner-outer of the world's best roller coasters, must take on assignments from various theme parks and create big dippers that meet their specific requirements.
You start, as ever, small - developing a rather basic roller coaster for a kiddies park. After a well implemented tutorial introduction where the (information overload) 4-way split-screen display is explained to you, you are left to get on with creating your metal snake of fun (what?!). As you are just starting out, you only have a limited number of track pieces at your disposal, and only a rudimentary footprint for your track but with these you are expected to design and build a suitable track with enough dips, corners and banks to give the passengers specific levels of G-force, and a minimum top speed to reach. You are also accessed on the number of passengers who black out, throw up or feel queasy. Once these criteria have been met, you move up to the next fair ground in the sequence and are given more space in which to build your ride, more track pieces, the ability to add corkscrews and loops and of course, higher goals to beat in the catergories of top speed; safety; maximum Gs; and passenger black outs.
The 'construction' screens are at first a little daunting: the default view shows a screen split into four equal squares, each with a different perspective on your creation that help you to judge the pitch, angle and degree of banking with considerable ease. To further simplify things, all of the button commands are displayed at the bottom of the screen, so you can never really forget what each button does. Nice.
A second view does away with the slightly confusing split-screen set up to give you one fully rotate-able camera angle on your roller coaster that can be panned and zoomed around to your hearts content.
Once you think your ride is up to scratch, it's possible to take a ride on it. The ride itself switches the game from the rather dull, grey dominated wireframe model screens and plonks you in the front seat of the ride. A press of the 'A' button sets things moving and you're then treated to fully rendered, first person trip around your newly created steel leviathon and depending on how good/inventive you are, it can actually be rather a thrilling experience as the the carriage picks up speed and throws you around corners with an alarming amount of screen-juddering realism.
On the whole there's not really much to say about Coaster Works that I've not already detailed above. You get your grid, you get your track pieces, you build your roller coaster by altering the pitch and angle of the sections, and then you ride it. If it meets the described requirments - it's on to the next stage. If it fails, it's back to the drawing board - literally.
Like Ronseal, it does exactly what it says on the tin, and for that there can be no complaints. However, once you get past the first few stages it becomes apparent that there really is very little else to Coaster Works. Games like V-Rally and Re-Volt feature track creation sections that are just as intuitive as Coaster Works, but are only included as extras - not the whole game. To be fair, there's not a lot else Xicat (the people also behind the lamentable survival horror title Carrier) could possibly have added to the Coaster Works equation, but if I was expected to pay £30-£40 for it and not the actual £2.50 I did, I'd probably be a bit pissed off. As it is though, and for the asking price, Coaster Works is a relaxing diversion for those Dreamcast gamers who need a break from kicking the arses of unfeasably fit manga babes (DOA2); running away from cartoon fascists with stubble-covered lantern jaws (Jet Set Radio); or saving the world from aliens who like nothing better than getting down to the cheesiest and most cringeworthy muzak in the known galaxy (Space Channel 5).
Take, for example, last night's Daytona 2001 session. Instead of cooly placing my pad on the floor and turning my Dreamcast off when I failed, yet again, to place in the top five of the first Championship series (ie, the 'easy' series); I instead found myself spinning around on the floor on my hands and knees, punching the couch and growling like that retarded dancing bear on the RSPCA advert. Naturally, after catching a glimpse of my actions in a nearby mirror, composure was quickly restored. It seems though, that there is many a game on the Dreamcast that can bring forth the inner fury locked deep within all but the most emotionally repressed of gamer's souls, and hence we proudly present:
10. Jet Set Radio
First off, this isn't a list of poor or bad games - and that's illustrated by the inclusion of Jet Set Radio: arguably one of the Dreamcast's finest moments. The whole thing reeks of pure quality, from the graphics and outstanding soundtrack, to the presentation and gameplay. So why include it? Jet Set Radio makes this list for only two reasons (and that's why it sits so far from the top spot):
i) The horrific 'boss' levels where you have to tag members of a rival gang. If you're unfamiliar with these stages, basically you have to chase several members of an enemy skating crew around specially designed circular levels. When you get close enough - tag them. Sounds simple. It aint.
ii) The horrific 'copying' stages where you have to copy a prospective new gang member's actions in order to get them to join your club. When the AI character shows you what you have to accomplish in order to unlock the new character, it looks simple enough: grind a rail, jump a gap, grind another rail...until you attempt it and fail every single time because the camera won't align properly and you fall to your doom. AAAAAAAAAAAAARGH!
Grrr-O-Meter Rating: swear, turn it off and make a brew.
Again, not a bad game by any means, infact Re-Volt is a rather good little racer and is certainly unique on the Dreamcast as the only RC Car simulation. My first encounter with Re-Volt came on the N64, and I recall it being rather fun - and the Dreamcast is superior in terms of visuals, sound and number of tracks...although it retains the unbelievable uber-sensitive controls that mean the difference between finishing a race on the podium, or languishing in last place. And that's why Re-Volt makes this list - the awful, twitchy behaviour of the vehicles, and the way just the slightest mistake can send you right to the back of the pack, even if you've been leading the race for the last few laps with no AI cars in sight.
Grrr-O-Meter Rating: punch the air, swear and turn it off.
HeadHunter - the DC's answer to Metal Gear Solid. And what a game it is. Solid storyline, brilliant voice acting, hours of excellent Tarrantino-style shoot outs...until you get to the mission where you have to race around the city streets on your trusty superbike, getting to the checkpoints before the bomb timers run out. However, it's not that the timer counts down too quickly that earns Jack Wade a place in this countdown. It's the ridiculously poor handling of the bike that makes it simply impossible to complete the section.
Now, there's analogue control, and there's analogue uncontrollability: Wade's bike falls into the latter catergory. Pull in the analogue trigger quickly and the bike rears up on it's back wheel and careers in a straight line into the nearest wall. Pull the trigger in slowly...and the bike rears up on it's back wheel and careers into the nearest bus. Granted, motorbikes on their back wheels generally don't steer that well due to the front wheel being a foot off the floor - but to over-do the power differential so much makes the bike sections in HeadHunter almost impossible to complete.
Grrr-O-Meter Rating: Scream into a cushion, and turn it off .
7. Vanishing Point
Acclaim's highly polished racer likes to do things differently. Playing like the bastard love-child of The Need For Speed (the original) and Club Drive, VP shuns the regular formula of racing against AI cars in an attempt to get ahead of them in the rankings. Instead, it throws up a bizarre system where you still race against AI rivals, but it's all based on times and each vehicle's lap is compared to the others,' and your position is calculated every time you pass a certain checkpoint. The reason behind VP's inclusion here is only in part connected to this system of ranking though, for combined with this unorthodox ranking procedure are (booming voice) "The Controls from Planet X."
If you've ever driven a car that's had it's suspension replaced with water beds, you'll know what to expect in Vanishing Point. The super-squishy nature of the vehicles' suspension makes VP an excercise in trying to keep your car in a straight line as it bounces around like a fat kid on a trampoline. Turn too sharply and the centrifugal force sets it off, wobbling back and forth across the road like a 300 bhp jelly. This, in turn causes you to over-compensate by opposite-locking ad nauseum, until you inevitably pile into the back of a drone vehicle. Your car spins, the clock ticks, you're in 22nd position. You'll never get back up to 1st - you might as well quit and start the stage again. What do you mean I have to do the ENTIRE FUCKING CHAMPIONSHIP ALL OVER AGAIN?!
Grrr-o-meter rating: Thrown joypad, kicked cat, several minutes of swearing.
6. Resident Evil: Code Veronica
What can you say about Resi Veronica? It's a superlative adventure that we've studied many a time here at the Junkyard. Not only is it a great game in it's own right, but it represents a true evolution of the Resi series into the age of 3D. The visuals are astounding, the sound perfection, the plot twists come in thick and almost as often as rotting hands reach for your throat...that is until you get to the end of the first disk...
Yep, you've spent a few hours running around the military installation; met the whining Steve Burnside; killed his dad; been puzzled by the jeep enclosed in a coutyard with a door that's too small for it to fit through; systematically cleared the mansion of the undead room by room; opened up a family-sized can of whup-ass on a mutant with Dhalsim's arms; collected a Taliban's hideout full of weaponry and even fired a crossbow at a dog. Cool.
So, wearily, you put the last 'proof' in the hole by the sea plane, race against time to raise the bridge, get back to the plane and take off before the whole installation goes tits up in a ball of fire...and escape from Ashford's Harrier jump jet. At last. Disc 2 beckons. Or so you thought.
Armed with no ammo and no guns, and having only saved a few minutes previously, enter the fucking mutant in the back of the plane. Marvellous. Better start again, then. Or not.
Grrr-o-meter rating: WTF? AAAAAAAARRRGH!! Thrown pad, kicked cat, disk skimmed.
5. Super Magnetic Neo
Super Magnetic Neo is a delightful little platform game much in the vein of Crash Bandicoot or Pandemonium. You play the Titular Neo, a white panted moron with a magnet for a head. LSD, anyone?
Anyway, for the first few levels, it all rolls along at a comfortable pace. You swing across gaps and avoid the attention of various baddies by switching your magnetic field's polarity, thus attaching or propelling your diminutive frame to/from various magnetic surfaces.
Easy, right? WRONG. With a capital W, a capital R, and a capital ONG.
As you get farther into the game, delightful little tricks are introduced, such as magnets that switch allegiance (+ to - and vice versa) and spin around and all sorts of shit. What was originally a lovely, twee, garish, vomit inducingly cute cartoon platform adventure morphs into the game that Satan gets out when his mates come round for a beer. You'll die - oh God you'll die. A thousand times. High blood pressure? Don't buy Super Magnetic Neo.
Grrr-O-Meter Rating: Joypad dessimated, disk ripped from drive and skimmed across the room in direction of the nearest family member.
4. MDK 2
One of the Dreamcast's best adventure games, MDK 2 features so many insanely difficult areas you could fill the Library of Alexandria with written accounts of them, and still have to use the bins round the back to store the overspill.
Where do I begin? The opening stage where Kurt is skydiving to earth and you have to avoid the missiles being fired in your general direction? The boss at the end of the first proper level where you have to sniper the weak points whilst avoiding being shot at by parachuting goons? The bit where you have to guide Max's rocket through the asteroid field? the section where you have to shoot grenades through the tiny openings in the tops of the shields on the floating platforms? The bit where you have to fly up through the vertical tunnel avoiding overwhelming enemy fire and watching your jetpack fuel? I could go on and on and on. Sure, the graphics are very pretty and the dialogue and comic-book style cut scenes are genuinely amusing...but it's so hard many people will give up way before they should because it's causing skull-ripping migraines. A shame.
Grrr-O-Meter Rating: Contrary to the name, Murder, Death and indeed Kills will ensue.
3. Daytona USA 2001
I only recently learned to love Daytona. Sure, it all looks very nice at first glance but when you sit down and play it, how many can say they truly appreciate the subtleties of the handling model? It's only after several hours play that you can truly get a feel for the way the cars handle, and only after a few hours on top of those that you realise that these cars were intended to go around corners sideways...
But it's not the handling that gets Daytona a perch at Number 3. No - once you unlock the potential of the power slide, the handling is second nature. Daytona is at 3 because the Championship mode is the most unforgiving I've ever played. In the first two series, you only have to finish the the season in the top 5 to progress. Fair enough you'll think. Untill you try. For some reason, tracks you could lick in single race mode become impossible to beat - I raced a perfect race on 777 Speedway and still came in third and when the pressure heats up because you need the points to progress, you cave in and almost always end up coming 9th. Grrr. But that's not all - if enemy vehicles come alongside you and bang into you, it's your car that loses speed - not theirs!
OK, my reasons for putting Daytona so high may be down to my own ineptitude under pressure, but when you spend so long perfecting your game only to be constantly rewarded with a 'game over' screen, it's a bitter pill to swallow. Fortunatley, Daytona has such a powerful 'just one more go' effect, you can't help but play on into the night - but the unfair advantage AI cars have when cornering or in the speed-boost stakes...well, it makes me want to cry sometimes.
Grrr-O-Meter Rating: Spin around on the floor with your head in your hands, screaming.
2. 4 Wheel Thunder
The psuedo sequel to Midway's other arcade racer, Hydro Thunder, 4 Wheel Thunder enters the chart at number 2 for good reason. Sure, it features an impressive game engine that virtually eliminates pop-up, fade in, clipping or whatever you want to call it; and there are plenty of tracks and multiplayer games bolted on. All fine and dandy. But when the methods you are forced to employ in order to win races are as cheap those executed in 4 Wheel Thunder, there's only going to be one outcome: the shot-putting of a Dreamcast through a closed window.
As an arcade racer, 4 Wheel Thunder ticks all the right boxes. Awesome visuals, wank rock soundtrack, bouncy controls, nitro boosts, hills, jumps, shortcuts - it's all here; but therein lies the reason behind 4WT's ascent to the penultimate spot in this run down of the most blood-vessel busting Dreamcast software: the reliance on short-cuts and nitro boosts in order to win.
Fair enough, umpteen games grace our favourite console that feature alternative routes - Rush 2049, Speed Devils and Super Runabout are but three - but in these games taking deviations from the beaten track are not compulsory in order to place in the points, and neither is the collection of every single nitro boost on the circuit. As in Hydro Thunder, these nitro pick-ups come in two different flavours - one gives a short boost, the other gives a long one. Fair enough, but 4 Wheel Thunder forces you to collect every single one and keep your finger on the 'boost' button for the duration of the race, otherwise you ain't coming in the top 3 and you ain't progressing any further. To put an even finer point on why 4 Wheel Thunder is at number 2: if you miss a single boost or fail to take a single shortcut, you might as well kiss your prospects of victory goodbye before you've even completed the first lap.
Grrr-O-Meter Rating: Ever used a joypad with bite marks in it? Thank 4 Wheel Thunder.
1. Soul Calibur
Ah Haaa! Weren't expecting that were you?! Yes - Soul Calibur is THE Number 1 most wall-punchingly infuriating game on the Dreamcast! "How so?!" I hear you collectively gasp. How could such a good looking, massively playable, easy-to-pick-up-but-difficult-to-master title be placed at the zenith of such a chart?
You've just answered your own (well, my rhetorical) question.
Remember - this isn't a chart detailing how good or bad it's components are; it's a chart detailing levels of frustration that lay a 5-week siege to your cerebral cortex whilst playing them - and Soul Calibur scales to the very pinnacle for the following reason:
No matter how good you think you are at Soul Calibur, someone who has never even seen a Dreamcast before can shuffle along, pick up a pad...AND KICK YOUR ARSE! AAAAARGH!
It's happened to me many a time. Just when you think you're an unstoppable tetsujin, laying waste to all and sundry - up steps a new challenger with the question "what are the buttons?"
With an all knowing smirk, and with the carcasses of fallen heroes scattered all around your feet, you oblige "just press anything."
And they do. And you get the shite knocked out of you by a cretin with Yorkshire puddings for hands but the onscreen persona of one 'Kilik.' Round two is much of the same: whist you try to get close and unleash a devestating combo or special, your adversary mashes at the buttons and pulls off special after combo after special, intercut with the odd accidental Soul Charge that inexplicably heralds the introduction of an accidental parry and 'accidental' victory.
So you see, all those hours battling through the story mode and kicking ass in arcade mode to open new characters...it all inevitably leads to nothing but smashed teeth at the hands of a gaming virgin. And that's why Soul Calibur is the single most soul crushing, infuriating, aneurysm inducing game on the Dreamcast.
Grrr-O-Meter Rating: Kneeling in the backyard, in the thundering rain, screaming at the Heavens with upstretched arms whilst all around you lie the scattered shards of a smashed Dreamcast:
It's not all (Final) Doom and (shit Amiga rip-off) Gloom, though. Oh no. This weekend I got some new shoes, a new coat...and, YES!, new games! True, the shoes/coat combo gave Sunday an air of 'back to school' after a particularly long and hot school summer holiday, but the arrival of new Dreamcast games lent an atmosphere of Christmas. Only without a glut of Cadbury's selection boxes and a general wave of dissapointment when you've ripped the wrapping paper off your presents to discover that most of them were gleaned by mum from the shelves of the local Pound Shop.
Speaking of Pound Shops, there's one near me that sells things for £2 each. Where's the justice in that, eh? THE JUSTICE?!?! And staying on this rather banal of subjects for yet another sentence, I recall seeing a stack of Dreamcast keyboards in a Pound Shop several years ago. Unfortunatley I was going through my PS2/Gamecube/Xbox* (*delete as applicable) stage at the time and as such said items were irrelevant.
Moving swiftly along (as is generally the order of the day), I present to you a layman's account of the games that this weekend unearthed:
Evolution: World of Sacred Device
Evolution was the first RPG released for the Dreamcast and seeing as I hate all things RPG with a Die Hard-like vengeance, I was a bit reluctant to ever give it a go. Recently though, I discovered that it was developed as a sort of 'beginners introduction' to the RPG genre, replete with simple controls, diluted storyline and easy to understand gameplay mechanics. The only RPGs I've ever played to the end are Zelda: Link's Awakening on the Gameboy and Zelda: Ocarina of Time on the N64 (oh, and Shenmue), but they're more action-RPGs than bona-fide ones; so you'll believe me when I say I'm a bit of a n00b when it comes to the proper, turn based combat variety. Indeed, I ripped Final Fantasy VII from my PlayStation's disc tray in disgust after a mere 15 minutes of play: Ace visuals? Check. Amazing CG scenes? Check. Random Battles? Check. Random? Battles? WTF?!
Does not fucking compute I'm afraid. Anyhow, I saw Evolution as my opportunity to finally see the error of my ways, delve into what is a widely admired genre and see what all the fuss is about, without getting bogged down with such hideous things as 'mana,' 'HP,' and reams upon reams of pseudo-intellectual goobledygook about myths, legends and the return of a mighty warrior or similar shite.
And, in part, that's what you get with Evolution. In part.
The story is a mildly interesting one: The world has regained it's interest in technology after a period of primitive lifestyle, and it's up to certain members of society, called Adventurers, to investigate the various ruins of the land in order to discover lost technological artifacts in order to bring them back to the fore. The organisation behind all this is called simply 'The Society,' and it's down to them to pay you for your finds once you deliver the goods. You play as a young Adventurer by the name of Mag Launcher (whats wrong with normal names in these games?), who's the last in the lineage of famous Launcher family of explorers after mum and dad went missing. Now, with mounting debts, it's up to you to accept missions from The Society, pack your bags and set off to find some artifacts with which to pay the families' debts off. Quite a relevent story actually, when you consider that the UK is Europe's most debt-laden nation. If only there really was a 'Society.' I'd have my Barclaycard paid off in no time.
Anyway, Evolution is basically you, your comrades (of which there are usually two) and your wierd back-pack based weapon (a 'Cyframe'), wandering around randomly generated dungeons looking fo' shit to flog to the Society in order to pay off your debtors. Pretty straight forward really. The graphics in the outside areas are pretty good, but in the dungeons it's just plain corridor after plain corridor broken up by a few rooms full of enemies. The character models are quite good, and the dialogue is well written and believable...it's just that the whole affair is a bit repetitive and, dare I say it, dull. If you're a fan of the genre it may be worth looking into if you've already done Skies of Arcadia and Grandia (both of which I'm going to steer a good few miles wide of), but if you're new to RPGs and prefer stuff like Daytona or Virtua Tennis...avoid it. I've never seen the point of 'turn based' combat, and Evolution (even though it's not 'random') has done nothing to change my opinion. Bah.
Now this is what I'm talkin' about. After the ultimate tweeness and plodding nature of Evolution, Starlancer was exactly what I needed to inject some adrenaline back into my gaming sesh. Not content with having one of the coolest names in the history of gaming, Starlancer goes one better by actually being one of the most exciting experiences on the Dreamcast. You play a volunteer starfighter pilot in the Alliance - a sort of space federation consisting of the space navies of various Earth nations such as the US, Blighty, Japan, France, Germany, Italy and Spain. The enemy federation, The Coallition, is made up of the usual stereotypical baddies - the Russians, Chinese and a few anonymous Arab nations (suprise, suprise). Seeing that Starlancer is an American game, I'm suprised the Brits aren't on the 'bad' side too - we're the evil villians in many a Hollywood Blockbuster. Meh.
Alliances aside, Starlancer thrusts you, as an inexperienced young rookie, into the fray with alarming abruptness. No sooner are you sent on a routine convoy mission, the naughty Coallition appear and attempt to kick your ass. Luckily, you have the means to take that big old communist boot, plant it firmly on your foot and kick their posteriors instead. How so? Firepower, my friends - and there's a whole wheely bin full of the stuff in Starlancer. But I'm getting ahead again.
At base level, Starlancer is a story driven space-based shoot 'em up (from the guy who created Wing Commander, apparently). In it, you get to choose your class of fighter craft, the type and number of weapons you carry and then set off on your mission to deal out laser death to some infidels. You are detailed on your mission by a Commander and the use of a Thunderhawk-style briefing conference (ie, a pull-down projector screen), then it's off into the void. The great thing about Starlancer though, is that the story is played out in real-time via radio chatter from your comrades - a bit like in Lylat Wars, but without the cretinous Slippy Toad getting into shit all the time. You can also interact with other members of your squadron via the intuitive commands toggle, meaning you can request help with certain targets or ask for a formation. Very cool. When blended with a superlative control system (how did they manage to get so many keyboard commands onto a joypad?!), Starlancer is a joy to play.
The music is very atmospheric and adds a movie like quality to proceedings, and the voice acting in general is of a suitably high standard - as are the visuals. Enormous motherships hang in space, whilst tiny fighter ships zip between them, beautiful explosions erupting all around - all set to the background of massive, slowly rotating planets. Stunning.
There are some minor detractions from the overall brilliance of Starlancer - namely the repetitiveness of some of the dogfights and the absurd difficulty of some of the missions...but overall, the quality of the other departments shines through: I especially liked the news broadcasts at the end of the missions that relay other goings on in the solar system and even, occasionally, mention your exploits too. Fame...at long last!
If you like your space 'em ups, Starlancer is definatley for you.
First Deep Fighter and now Starlancer? In the space of one week? Incredible...but there's more to come chums, oh yes...
So I get to know them, can appreciate what they're all about, and put a plug in my big, whiny, fat, white ass. Since when is playing games a chore? Hmmm... Now lets set out the parameters for said proposition...
O.K.... As learned bespectacled Professors at Harvard have debated studiously for decades... (about three) What constitutes 'playing them'? (As opposed to just experiencing them...) Lets think ...Time?, Commitment?, Enjoyment? etc.
I've decided that I should devote at least three hours to each. Thats about as realistic as I can manage.
Was that the playability and durability that each game developer intended the person who spent their hard earned dollar, bought, saved up for and played their game should spend? FUCK! Well no... and if they did back in 2000, when games cost £40 odd, they should have hung their spotty heads in shame and had nipple clamps attached to their 'diddies'.
But in 2006, when games cost as little as £2.50, it's piss easy to 'score' them, look at them, and then tuck 'em away without ever playing or acknowledging the work that went into them. And that's NO TIME... Correct?
Damn straight! And we can't have that...
Now...there were two things that made me think of embarking on this nerdfest mother-loving odyssey.
One was the recent decision by media 'giant' IGN, that, (in the face of a lot of up-coming 'work', in terms of reviewing next gen consoles and games), they would give up their geek related free time to Re-Review every Dreamcast game that was ever released by Sega.
(Just for the love of the most beautiful console ever created) God love 'em (sniff!)
The other (and perhaps more pressing) reason was that I'd just added four games to my collection via impulse buying on eBay (Typing Of The Dead, Floigan Bros, (see previous post) Evil Dead and (cough) Kao the Kangaroo) whilst knowingly and callously 'fobbing' the mountains of worthy games, thus unexplored, within my huge collection.
Every time TeeLeeCee or the Gagaman write about a game, it seems they are able to impart to you all out there, an incisive personal perspective, or an in-depth enlightening analysis of said game (levels, modes, graphics, playability, secret stuff etc.)
Every time I write about a game it is padded out with bullshit, waffle, nonsensical guff and silliness. Whilst I know the 'Yard is intended to have some 'junk' scattered about the place, this does not mean that a serious review, that might allow a potential buyer to choose wisely, should be oscured by personal musings, bollocks, and pithiness, liberally sprinkled throughout the most recent rambling account posted by the Father on the 'Yard.
Whilst pledging to try out all the games currently gathering dust on my shelves, it doesn't mean I wont ever...
a.) Fuck the whole project off because it is boring the arse off me.
b.) Submit random posts on a whim, because of the fact that my intended project is boring the arse off me.
c.) Get a sex change, learn to speak Welsh, relocate to Bangkok and live as a Lady-Boy (should I have added that one?) Hmmmm...
For the time being however, it does mean that I have to leave behind trusted and much played lovelies such as...Soul Calibur, Crazy Taxi, Jet Set Radio, Shenmue, Metropolis Street Racer, SegaWorldwide Soccer (Euro Edition), HOTD2, Confidential Mission... and a plethora of other well loved games for...utter shite like Chicken Run, Disney's Dinosaur, Toy Racer, Kao The Kangaroo and erm...Urban Chaos. (Choke)
In the unlikely event that I actually carry out my intention, it's gonna take me months or even years to play 'em and report back. I am worried about the success rate of this mission 'cos of a personal experiece which kinda relates to putting your intentions up in the public arena...
(There was a vey fat bird at my work who once famously announced her intention to diet, and got us to sponsor her "for charity". She's currently gorging her way through six meals -a-day (plus copious amounts of doughnuts) whilst awaiting stomach stapling surgery...)
It might mean I have to 'cheat on' my selected unplayed games, by playing other more loved familiar ones, during moments of DC related weakness...
Still my intention is to play through (alphabetically- it seems like as good a system as any other...) all my titles. Are you with me? We'll see...
Well, gasp! Here goes. I'll have to get one of the Gingers to alphbeticize them and shortly will impart my first review.
God this seems like fucking hard work already... 'Alone In The Dark' here I come...
Goodnight children, wherever you are.