Dreamcast Notepads Finally Ship

We first mentioned the Dreamcast notepads a few months ago and several delays have come and gone since then...but - huzzah! - they've finally shipped! My notepad arrived today, along with my Sega Saturn pad and a free gift to apologise for the delay from the retailing website (in my case, the retailer was Yellow Bulldog). Quite ironic that the free gift was a PS4 card holder, but I'll let that slide. So, how does the pad measure up? Well for starters it's quite a lot smaller than I thought it would be, being roughly the same size and shape as a Dreamcast game case and is notably (heh!) smaller than the gargantuan Saturn pad...but in all honesty it appears to be a high quality item and looks about at authentic as a notepad designed to look like a defunct games console possibly ever could do.

Review: Dreamcast Collector for iOS

The other day I was messing around on my new iPad thingy and came across one of those 'apps' that the cool kids are known to play around with, and I thought it was worthy of a mention innit. Excuse me - I appear to have slipped into 'youth mode' for a moment there. We've previously looked at something similar here at the 'Yard (see Dream Collection), but Dreamcast Collector by PureGaming/Pieterjan Vandegaer is a paid application for iOS which does exactly what it says on the tin - it's a collection tracker for you iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad. On firing the app up, you are presented with a long list on the left of the screen that shows thumbnails of the box art for most of the US and PAL releases (there are 276 games listed in the app). You are then encouraged to tap the icons for the games you have and can enter ownership criteria such as whether you have a complete game, or a copy sans manual or case. It's fairly straight forward and the games are all listed in alphabetical order. 

Dreamcast Collector is the must-have reference app for every Sega Dreamcast enthusiast. This app serves as a reference for every Dreamcast game ever released. Keep track of your own game collection and even keep a wanted list.
 - PureGaming.org

Let It Snow

So, it's almost Christmas once again. Hard to believe there's been 9 of these disgusting, capitalist-driven things since the 'Yard started eh? We'll be celebrating 10 years this time in 2015...but until that glorious and momentous occasion arrives - it's business as usual here at the multiverse's inter-dimensional headquarters of all things even remotely Dreamcast related. Being vaguely 'in charge' of a privately-funded government black-ops organisational quango such as this does have it's perks. I've got a swivel chair in my vast oblong office, a desk, and a bust of Dogs Bower made from recycled Hassy cans. Oh, and a nice free-standing set of Argos' cheapest balsa wood shelves upon which I rest all of my Dreamcast paraphernalia. The only problem is that the weight of said items has somewhat bowed the high-quality beams to the point that the whole thing looks like some form of ridiculous wooden hammock; in which a monster constructed from blue plastic lies like the bloated corpse of a beluga whale. At least the company car is decent - it's basically Slash's cab from Crazy Taxi 2. The only thing is, one of the rules stipulates that I must drop off a group of rappers at a recording studio and Crazy Hop over at least one house during my daily commute. Starts to grate after a while.

Toy Racer Dial-Up Connection In The Works

You may have read recently that the online-only multiplayer title Toy Racer is the latest Deamcast game to be dragged out from under a rock and plonked back onto the interwebs (or whatever it's called). And you'd have read right. The Junkyard was recently contacted by Bob Dobbs, a member of the popular Dreamcast-Talk forums, who confirmed that the game's servers are well and truly back online and running well. Unfortunately for most of us, you can only get your online fix of Toy Racer if you own a highly sought-after and expensive broadband adaptor for your Dreamcast, but those clever chaps are also working on a method that will allow you to hook up via your trusty old 33k (56k in the US) dial-up modem. Huzzah! Here's an info-burst from the man himself:

Dreamcast-Talk (International) & Dreamcast-br (Brazil) has yet another game back online. This one is Toy Racer. For the first time, the original game server software has been released (thanks to petter3k who contacted No Cliche, the programmers of Toy Racer). Dreamcast-br has already had a server running, but we do not know if their server is the original or not (Igor Isaias Banlian was kind enough to allow us the IP addy to play). In both cases, the game only connects via BBA (dial-up wants to go to Dreamarena). Currently, DC-Talk is working on a boot-disc to allow the game GD-ROM to use dial-up.

To note, DC-Talk was where the "Netopia" method of connecting your DC to the internet without a PC of any kind. It has much less latency than the troublesome DC-PC server set-up. I use it, which is purely hardware driven (developed by brourke228). The other is the and the PC-DC windows/VMware server portion to work with the Ryochan Linux PC-DC server method (brourke228 of DC-Talk developed the Windows portion).

Here's the science bit:
Brazil IP:
TCP Port: 2048
UDP Port: 2049

As stated, the guys at Dreamcast-Talk are working on a boot-disc to get Dreamcast gamers up and running with a dial-up connection, and are currently ironing out some issues with the remnants of Dream Arena at present. For a full guide on how to get online with Toy Racer right now though, follow this link; and be sure to check the DreamcastBr Facebook group for further updates.

A Maken X-mas

The Yard is definitely getting in the festive spirit right now. The non-denominational decorations are being liberally deposited on the towers of discarded Sonic Shuffles. The broken down yellowed cases from abandoned Dreamcasts are getting a lick of paint. And, most importantly, the annual dump truck of hard liquor is pulling in as I type. I tell you, there ain't no party like a Junkyard party!

The Odd Case of Monaco Online

We recently featured the Dreamcast's stable of Formula 1 racers here at the 'Yard, and it was concluded that F1 World Grand Prix 2 is probably the best recreation of the motor sport to be found on Sega's final system. However, there was a glaring omission from that list, and only now have I managed to acquire the absent title for analysis. What is this mysterious and largely unknown F1 racer? Why, Racing Simulation Monaco Grand Prix 2 Online of course! Is that the worst name ever for a racing game? It's definitely a contender in my humble opinion - try saying that to an automated cheats line after a few pints and you'll see why. Do cheats lines even exist anymore? Another mystery that needs to be solved...but first, lets get back on track (pun intended). The original Racing Simulation was released quite early in the Dreamcast's life and was one of the first games I played, as it was bundled as part of the Dream On Volume 1 demo disk. A fairly playable and nice-looking F1 game, Racing Simulation is a game that seems to have suffered something of an identity crisis - just looking at the box, manual and the GD-rom you can see that it has multiple names: it's either Monaco Grand Prix: Racing Simulation; Racing Simulation 2: Monaco Grand Prix...or a weird bastardisation of the two:
Did they forget the '2' on the cover?
These odd naming conventions aside, Monaco is pretty playable and has quite a lot going on with it's arcade and simulation modes as well as a 'retro' option where you can race vehicles of yesteryear. It appears that Ubisoft weren't done with the Racing Simulation engine though as they went on to develop F1 Racing Championship (published by Video System, of F1 World Grand Prix fame) which is essentially the same game but with an official license. Quite why Ubisoft didn't publish F1 Racing Championship themselves, I'm not really sure...but to allow their main F1 developing rivals to publish their game is just plain odd. The story gets even stranger though, as in 2001 Ubisoft released the game again under the mouthful moniker mentioned in the opening paragraph: Racing Simulation Monaco Grand Prix 2 Online. Talk about flogging a dead horse.

As you can probably tell from the name, Online is basically the first game (which is actually a sequel itself...damn this is confusing) but with added online functionality allowing players to race each other on any of the real-world circuits. As far as I can tell, Online was only ever released as a PAL title - which is quite strange in itself, seeing as we only got 33k modems stuck to our Dreamcasts - and upon playing it myself, I quickly deduced that it is indeed pretty much identical to the first (second) game but with minor graphical changes (the clouds in the sky are more pronounced in Online, for example - see below) and a modified front end, with the added online lobby options plonked in. Speaking of the front end, Online retains the decidedly 'old school' art style that the offline game used, complete with awkwardly-proportioned humanoids and background graphics that look like they were copied from a GeoCities ghost site last updated in 1996.

Below are a selection of images I grabbed from the two games; the shots on the right are from Online, the ones on the left from Racing Simulation 2 (or whatever it's called). As stated, details on the Online game are very scant but I managed to discover that the servers were finally switched off in 2003. It would have been cool to know if the game could support a full grid of 22 cars all being driven by real gamers...but if Online even sold that many copies, I'd be very surprised.
Super Mario makes a cameo in both games if you drive badly.
Did you ever manage to play Monaco Online...online? If so, how was it? Let us know in the comments.

Fantasy Stars

For me, the very mention of the word 'fantasy' when referring to genre instantly conjures images of semi-naked, sword-wielding warriors rippling with muscle; foreboding castles perched precariously atop crumbling mountains; and hoards of ogres and dwarves. Oh, and dragons. Lot of dragons. Mainly belching fire and soaring through the night sky looking for towns and villages to raze to the ground for their own sordid amusement. I wouldn't call myself a fan of the genre as such, but being someone who likes to occasionally remove myself from the boredom and drudgery of reality, I have dipped into the world of fantasy in the past. I've read a few books (mainly Tolkien's works), seen a few movies (mainly based on...erm...Tolkien's works) and even played a few board games (mainly based on Dungeons & Dragons), so while I would hardly call myself an expert in the subject, I do have at least a little bit of an idea what 'fantasy' is all about.

Total Control Dreamcast Preview

Total Control was a fairly short-lived multi-format magazine from Rapide Publishing that I was a reader of back in the late 90s. Unlike today, back then there were a whole host of multi-format mags to choose from in the newsagents and I spent a hell of a lot of money on games magazines simply because browsing the internet for news, reviews and pokes just wasn't an option. I do recall having the internet at home, but it was slow as hell, dial-up and my mum used to go mental at me and my brother if we used it without her express permission (which we never got), because any time we spent online got added to the phone bill. We actually tried to hide the modem under the couch one time so the old battle-axe wouldn't hear it dialling the number for Virgin Net...but she always heard it and came thundering down the stairs like that maid in the Tom & Jerry cartoons. Funnily enough, screaming "Thomas!" while she did so, ash cascading from the Silk Cut king size clutched between her talons. Ah...those were the days.

Stick it to The Man

You may recall that we featured the Dreamcast Arcade stick here at the 'Yard several months ago when Robert showcased his rather excellent self-modded unit (also pictured below). Being relatively blasé about the library of outstanding 2D fighters on the Dreamcast until fairly recently, I never really thought too much about acquiring a stick for my own collection - I saw one at a recent games expo but the seller wanted a small fortune for it so I passed it up (and it was in pretty poor condition, too). Since then though, I have seen the error of my ways and have been amassing a fairly impressive catalogue of Capcom, SNK and Sammy beat 'em ups and so thought it was about time I took the plunge and got hold of an arcade stick with which to fully appreciate these masterpieces of virtual combat.
I looked to eBay first, but was offended by the outrageous prices on display there. I later saw an Arcade Stick advertised as part of a console bundle on a free ads website but the seller wasn't prepared to sell the stick without the console (and had been harassed by several others before me, it turned out). This weekend though, I visited the city of Exeter and happened across a dedicated retro-gaming shop called Critical Mass Games & Manga. Inside, the small but nicely laid-out store was full to the rafters with games, consoles and peripherals from all eras of gaming...and the best bit was that there wasn't an over-inflated eBay price in sight. I found a plastic bucket full of £1 cartridges (from which I salvaged a couple of carts - Afterburner for the Master System and Super Hang-On for the Mega Drive) and also spotted a copy of Power Drift for the NTSC-J Saturn (which cost me the princely sum of £4). The whole point of this post though, is that I also stumbled across this:
Yes, an official Arcade Stick - priced at a very reasonable £34.99 and in fantastic condition. As soon as I saw it, I pretty much knew I wasn't going to be leaving the store without it...so I just bit the bullet and handed over my debit card. As you can see from the shots, it's a totally un-modded standard unit but to be fair that's fine for me. I'm hardly a hardcore 2D fighting fan, but the thing is a revelation when playing King Of Fighters, Guilty Gear, Mark of the Wolves or any of the other fighters I've recently dug up. The stick feels nice and solid (and makes a reassuringly audible 'click' as you move it around) and the large face buttons are perfectly laid out; and there's a slot for a VMU and a start button too. I haven't tried slotting a rumble pack in there yet, and I'm yet to see if the stick actually works with any other types of game (I can't imagine Incoming or UEFA Dream Soccer being much fun with it though!), but for the fighters I've tried it with so far, it's perfect.

Edit: Of course, if you're not lucky enough to find an Arcade Stick for a reasonable price in the wild, you could always just build your own...?

Atari Jaguar Indie Titles Coming to Dreamcast?

I make no secret of the fact that as well as being something of a Dreamcast fanatic, I also have a soft spot for Atari's much-maligned and under-appreciated Jaguar system. Is it mere coincidence that both of these consoles' failure to penetrate the mass market ultimately lead to their parent companies withdrawing from the hardware manufacturing business (and in Atari's case, any form of business)? I'm starting to wonder if I'm some kind of angel of death - if I am, Sony had better watch out seeing as I recently bought a PS4...
The reason I bring up the Atari Jaguar is that I recently discovered that Orion, the independent developer responsible for several recent Atari Jaguar cartridge and CD-based adventure games is considering porting his wares to the Dreamcast. In a post on both the Dreamcast-Talk and RetroCollect forums, Orion asked whether gamers would be interested in seeing four recent titles make the leap from the Atari to Sega formats:

Mal Custom Consoles' Amazing Modded Dreamcasts

As documented here at the 'Yard several months ago, I had one of my Dreamcast consoles painted a lovely shade of blue by the talented guys at Warp Zone Games. I've always been a sucker for modded systems and even something as minor as a different coloured LED excites me more than it probably should. Imagine my slack-jawed joy then, when I stumbled across Mal Custom Consoles' custom Dreamcasts, pads and even mouse and keyboard setups...

The Games of South Park

South Park, whether you're a fan of the franchise or not, is a bonafide cultural phenomenon. The creation of Trey Parker and Matt Stone, South Park debuted in 1997 and quickly gained a cult following that appreciated the show's adult humour and unique animation style; and it wasn't long before the games industry took notice of the popularity of the series. What better subject matter to turn into a game? With simple stylised visuals, catchphrases and soundbites aplenty, highly-recognisable characters and a fan-base who were champing at the bit to spend money in order to actually be a part of the fictitious world they loved; South Park: The Game wasn't just waiting to happen - it was waiting to be huge.

Ultimately it was the now-defunct outfit Acclaim that managed to bag the rights to South Park, but the highly-anticipated virtual adaptation of the story of four foul-mouthed kids (and the extensive ensemble cast) living in a surreal Colorado backwater turned out to be little more than a massive disappointment.
This is an emulated N64 shot - the original is a lot fuzzier 
This conclusion is drawn because the developer, Iguana merely took their successful N64-based Turok 2 game-engine, stripped out any mention of the Lazarus Concordance, hand-held nuclear weapons or the Primagen and lazily replaced them with even more fog, piss-soaked snowballs and thousands upon thousands of mindless turkeys. Quite appropriate then that this poor excuse for a game consists of little else than throwing said urine-doused snowballs at endless swarms of cartoon turkeys who just constantly charge at you from a thick blanket of fog. Still, it kept the nice Turok-based control system and the N64 Expansion Pak added some sharp hi-res visuals where available.

"Between the abysmal graphics, bad sound, and horrible gameplay, South Park is definitely one of those games that is bound to come up when you start thinking about the worst game you've ever played. It's a real throwback to the days of completely worthless games with decent licenses - the kind Acclaim used to be infamous for back in the days of 8-bit and 16-bit gaming."
- Gamespot on the PS1 port of South Park

This wasn't the last time Acclaim - unperturbed by an almost universal critical panning - attempted to bring an authentic South Park experience to consoles though, and the N64 wasn't the only platform to play host to licensed offerings rooted in Stone and Parker's odd, snowy little town.

The Dreamcast was treated to two further South Park titles, and here I present them for dissection. Will this trip down to South Park end well? Or will we all end up being dragged to Hell by Satan and forced to eat Mr Hanky over and over again until the end of time? Don your best woolly hat and join me as we attempt to find out...

South Park: Chef's Luv Shack
Taking the form of a party game, Chef's Luv Shack sees the eponymous sex-addicted Chef host his own public access TV gameshow. The show's voice-over actor promises Chef that the contestants will be bikini-clad models and that the grand prize is a night of love-making with the host...but sadly due to the lack of any bikini-clad models in South Park, children from the local elementary school will be standing in. Whether this makes Chef a paedophile, I don't know - but it's the premise for the game so don't shoot the messenger. It's all in good humour and I actually found myself quite enjoying Luv Shack, if only because the styling of the game is spot on and the interaction between Chef and voice over guy is so faithful to the style of the TV show.
The game plays like any standard multi-player party title - each player picks one of the four main characters (that's Kyle, Kenny, Stan and Cartman, should you be one of the three people on Earth who don't know their names) and you are quickly whisked off to play a few rounds of quick-fire questions and 'amusing' mini-games. The questions range from being centred on the South Park universe to being completely unrelated to anything at all, and the mini games range from firing frogs onto lilypads to landing parachutes. These basic mini games do break up the monotony of answering a set of quite tough questions and are often governed by a strict time-limit. Today, the idea of being able to play an interactive episode of South Park is not so unbelievable (the Stick of Truth is just that, after all), but back in 1999 this was pretty much as good as it got. And it isn't half bad to be honest. The TV show is hardly Studio Gibli-esque in production value, so it's quite easy to forget you're playing a game and not just watching an interactive episode of the TV show at times. Luv Shack was never going to set the world on fire when it came out, but it does what it sets out to do, and does it well. A worthy title if you like party games and/or South Park.

South Park Rally
The second South Park title released for the Dreamcast is Rally, and it's not hard to see why Acclaim thought it would be a good idea. The kart racer has always been a firm favourite on consoles and contemporaries like Mario Kart 64, Diddy Kong Racing and Crash Team Racing were all big players of the era. The difference between those games and South Park Rally, however, is that the aforementioned racers are actually fun to play. Rally features a fairly large roster of characters and plenty of tracks, and even though the game lends heavily from the overly-simplistic visual style of the show (it'd be odd if it didn't, to be fair), it still manages to look pretty nice.
The frame-rate is smooth, the tracks have lots going on...but then you'd probably expect that from a game on a 128-bit system. No, the thing that stops Rally from being as good as it should have been is that the structure of the actual races is all messed up. In Mario Kart you race around a track, pick weapons up and generally have fun. In South Park Rally you generally do the same thing...but the tracks are free-roaming (of sorts) and the checkpoints are all in illogical sequence. Furthermore, you actually have to drive over the little patch on the floor in order to activate it and it's too easy to completely miss the checkpoint, think you've hit it and carry on to the next one...before realising you hadn't driven over the last one enough for the game to register it. It gets very confusing, and very annoying very quickly. Add to this the sheer number of obstacles littering and roaming around every course (school buses, snow ploughs, cows etc), all of which will bash you about and send you flying into the nearest piece of scenery...

South Park Rally is not a fun experience for these reasons. It has plenty of inventive (by which I mean crude) weaponry on offer, the karts handle well (although the triggers are not the default acceleration/brake controls, oddly) and there are tonnes of voice clips...but the bizarre set-up of the point-to-point races just doesn't work in a racer of this style. It's weird, but I've also noticed recently that South Park Rally seems to be becoming one of the more expensive racers for the Dreamcast. After playing it for a while in order to write this feature, I just cannot see why.

While both games are clearly aimed at a more mature audience (bot have their fair share of expected vulgarity and expletives), I would have no problem recommending Luv Shack over Rally. The former is an enjoyable quiz that gives a lot of fan service with obscure references and the like. Rally smacks to me of being a cheap cash-in game, designed solely to ride the crest of popularity the 'kart' racer was experiencing at the time. There are superior games on the Dreamcast in this genre (see Wacky Races and Looney Tunes Space Race for more info) so it's hard to recommend. Luv Shack on the other hand doesn't have much in the way of competition when it comes to party games. Planet Ring is redundant and Sonic Shuffle is apparently sleep-inducingly dull (or so I'm told). If I could only have one of these games, it'd be Luv Shack every time.
As a little bonus to end this South Park special, it's worth noting that the Dreamcast was actually featured as a plot device in one particular episode: the Season 4 opener involves Cartman discovering that the tooth fairy pays quite well for pristine pearly whites and deduces that with the cash he could raise from his friends' teeth...he could afford to buy a Dreamcast. Ultimately, Cartman's plan fails and he never gets his hands on a DC (and the console is never actually shown in the episode), but it's a nice little homage to our favourite system.

The Dreamcast Messenger Bag

By now, you've probably seen or even bought one of those rather nice-looking Dreamcast-themed messenger bags from online retailer Insert Coin. I almost bought one myself a few months ago, but I have seen people carrying them at various gaming conventions and they tend to end up looking a bit battered after a while; not to mention dirty - white stuff always looks pretty grotty after a while, simply because the colour allows all sorts of grime to be visible, even if you are the most mindful person on Earth. If you're not familiar with the bag I refer to, here's a picture:
I resisted the urge to purchase one for the reasons previously explained, but my quest for a Dreamcast-themed bag didn't end with my reluctance to buy that particular item. No, I found something better. Much, much better:
An official Dreamcast-branded messenger bag from the launch of the PAL system! The pictures don't really convey just how nice this bag is - it's made from really sturdy material and has a nice comfortable strap. The best thing though, is that it's got loads of really cool little details on it. From the swirls on the buckle tags to the Dreamcast logo text on the zips, this really is a quality item. Inside there's a laptop section and pen holders and one of the side pockets is exactly the right size for a VMU! Not that I'll be carrying one around with me (much), but I couldn't resist seeing if one of the little blighters would fit:
It's a great piece of memorabilia that is not only extremely unusual, but very useful. This will most definitely not be stuffed in a cupboard and forgotten about - I intend to make it my primary work bag and will take great pleasure in showing it off.

New SLaVE Trailer Shows Off Gameplay Footage

We've featured Jay Townsend/Goat Store/Isotope's interesting-looking SLaVE previously here at the Junkyard, but until now very few details have been available regarding how the game will actually play. Well, wonder no more - a new gameplay trailer has been released showing lots of glorious in-game footage. The 'Robotron meets Doom' description now doesn't seem so far from the truth having viewed the video. The neon-lit stylised visuals remind me a lot of the early PS1 title Assault Rigs and the frame rate looks super-smooth - I'm a big fan of FPSs and the prospect of a new one for the Dreamcast excites me massively. The projected release date for SLaVE is April 2015 and you can place a pre-order a special edition (complete with poster) for the very reasonable price of $20 by going here.

With AMEBA, Elysian Shadows, Hypertension and SLaVE all on the horizon, the future is looking gloriously bright for Dreamcast fans.

The Vanishing of Shrapnel: Urban Warfare

The popularity of military shooters like COD and Battlefield isn't a modern phenomenon. The tactical (or not so tactical) shooter featuring hard-as-nails military types shooting big guns and blowing stuff up is a trope of games as old as the hills, and the Dreamcast also played host to its fair share of similar titles. Soldier of Fortune, Rainbow Six and Spec Ops II: Omega Squad all followed the familiar template of the genre...and for the most part they all did it well. I say 'for the most part,' because Spec Ops was an unfinished mess of a game that could probably have done with another six months of development time before being pressed to GD...but that's another story. Or is it? Spec Ops was developed by Ripcord Games and Zombie Studios and their series of military shooters enjoyed moderate success on the PC and PlayStation, and more recently on the Xbox 360 and PS3 under the Spec Ops: The Line moniker. However, the Spec Ops connection goes slightly further on the Dreamcast...but ultimately leads down one of my favourite avenues - cancelled games.

New Indie Title Announced: AMEBA

Who would have thought that in 2014 we'd still be writing about exciting new releases coming for the Dreamcast? Shmup fans have The Ghost Blade coming soon from Hucast Games, adding yet another 2D bullet-hell masterpiece to the growing catalogue; and RPG enthusiasts have the fantastic-looking Kickstarter-funded adventure Elysian Shadows to look forward to. Not only those two, but Goat Store’s psychedelic first person shooter SLaVE is looming on the horizon too. So that’s the shmup, RPG and FPS genres covered…but what if you’re into something else entirely. Say, visual novels with a distinctly Western spin on things? Well, you’re in luck - there’s another new Dreamcast title coming: AMEBA. 

Coming from the mind of former Games Tribune journalist Carlos Oliveros and his Retro Sumus development team, AMEBA is described as a 'detective adventure' that he first had the idea for whilst translating Pier Solar into Spanish several years ago. Carlos actually left Games Tribune (which for those who don't know, is a games/technology magazine sold in Spain and Spanish-speaking countries of South America) when he embarked on his quest to transform AMEBA from the stuff of dreams into reality, as he didn’t want the burden of having to evaluate other developers’ games while working on his own - a very noble and magnanimous move in our opinion. But enough from me - Carlos tells it in his own words…

How do you investigate a series of murders that may as well have never existed? Or, how can you be sure you haven't lost it, when you're the only cop in your city who thinks several un-connected deaths were not accidental or natural? These are the questions veteran inspector Hugo asks himself on an everyday basis.

I usually loathe visual novels. With the exception of just a few really good ones, they're too ‘Japanese’ for my tastes, culturally speaking. So we're taking the genre in a new direction: no anime-like art, as the teaser poster shows, obviously a more western take on storytelling and characterization, a serious story. Imagine Davind Fincher's Seven meets Frank Miller's Sin City comic books. Well, that's what I'd like, but I'm not expecting to reach that kind of quality!

Carlos very kindly furnished us with some concept AMEBA art, and to give a feel for how the game will (hopefully) eventually look, here's an image of an inspirational NTSC-J title, Kara No Shoujo:

This isn't AMEBA - it's just to give a feel for the style of game

The visual novel genre is not one a lot of Western gamers will be familiar with, but AMEBA has certainly captured my interest. Like any good story, it promises an intriguing tale and I’m very curious to see how this type of game will make use of the Dreamcast’s processing power - we know they system can produce stunning visuals and sound, so to see it used in a novel way (excuse the pun!) interests me greatly. Retro Sumus have an exciting team of talented industry veterans onboard for AMEBA, and there are some great ideas being put forward, however we have been asked not to reveal too much about the story, setting or characters just yet...even the meaning behind the title of the game. Curiouser and curiouser...

There's no official statement yet on the funding the AMEBA project will need, but Kickstarter is just one of the options being considered at the moment. If it can reach the level of popularity that Falco Girgis’ Elysian Shadows has, we can’t see why won’t be enjoying AMEBA in the not too distant future. Keep an eye on the official website for upcoming announcements and developments on AMEBA.

In the meantime, here's a first look at the AMEBA teaser trailer:

A Tale of Two Cities

Many of the Dreamcast's finest titles lived on after the console's untimely death. Either through being ported to other systems, or having whole new series spawn. The Soul Calibur series, while not really a Dreamcast exclusive as it's roots are on the PlayStation, has gone on to have great success on subsequent hardware generations. Likewise with Jet Set Radio, Virtua Fighter, Crazy Taxi, Virtua Tennis and a whole load of others. It's true that Shenmue still hasn't been granted the final part of it's intended trilogy...but that's a whole different kettle of fish. The point I'm trying to make here, is that the Dreamcast wasn't just a great machine for all the reasons we've been banging on about for the last (almost) decade here at the 'Yard - it was also a springboard for some of the finest games on today's more contemporary systems.

So now the threadbare segue has been reached and jumped like some rickety stile, let's get down to business: Project Gotham Racing is an absolute beast of a racing series on the Xbox and Xbox 360, and was/is a complete masterpiece. The final PGR game in the saga (PGR4) is one of my favourite games ever. Not just favourite racing games - I mean of any genre. It has looks to die for (I'm yet to see a PS4 racing game that looks as good as PGR4, by the way. Drive Club - I'm looking at you) and the car handling is sublime. Tracks are innumerable, the challenge is immense...and above all, the game is super fun. That said, the previous games were also of exceptional pedigree - PGRs 1-3 are all fantastic racing games too. But before this turns into an Xbox love-in, let's go back to the origins of the series - the Dreamcast's magnificent Metropolis Street Racer. At this juncture, I have a confession to make. While I was thinking about writing this post, it suddenly dawned on me that Project Gotham Racing is so-called as it is a reference to the fictional city in which the caped crusader punches creeps' faces in. How did I come to this realisation? Metropolis Street Racer. Project Gotham Racing. PGR's name is a subtle nod to the city of Metropolis (aka Superman's 'hood)! Yes - it's taken me the best part of 15 years for that in-joke to filter down into the inner-reaches of my brain and initiate 'Eureka Mode.'

Prometheus Designed

The nights have begun to draw in as we approach the arse-end of the year. The leaves are falling off the trees, everyone's getting a bit more miserable and the temperature is dropping. It's winter...and it happens around the same time every year. Every single year. But yet we always seem a bit surprised when the clocks go forward and the need to pay our electricity bill in a timely manner takes on a whole new meaning. But what if you cannot my friends? What if you cannot afford to pay your electricity bill? What then? Never ending nights of freezing temperatures and darkness?
"I think I can see a release date...oh wait - my mistake"
There is an answer: Prometheus' gift to us mere mortals. I'm not talking about Promethian Designs' oft promised theft-a-thon Picassio, either (although that would be nice). No, I'm talking about fire. Fire! To light your candles and set a roaring inferno in the fireplace, beating back the darkness and the cold like a righteous boot to the face of...a lack of photons. Um.

How to ignite such a fire though? With this wondrous instrument, naturally:

Yes - the Official Sega Dreamcast Zippo! It can be yours right now if you go here and bid on this eBay auction...which I swear is not mine*, Google. So don't go removing us from your searches again. Please. Have you lost weight, Google?

That's enough ass kissing.

*Google temporarily removed the Junkyard from search results because they accused us of being a spam site or linking to advertising sites or some such crap. I raised a case and we were reinstated in search results.