, The Dreamcast Junkyard: May 2014

Mariopolis Street Racer

Seeing as everyone and his wife (or husband - we're a politically correct outfit here at the 'Yard) is going crazy for Mario Kart 8 right about...now, I thought it'd be fitting to combine two of the racing genre's finest offerings. Happily, one of them just happens to be a Dreamcast game...


Please excuse my shoddy Photoshop skills - the image wasn't actually created in Photoshop. No, that up there was done with Preview on the Mac. So I guess I should be asking for my shoddy Preview skills to be forgiven.

We Have the Technology...

You may recall that very recently I attended a fantastic gaming event by the name of Play Blackpool. I wrote about my experiences here, here and here. The experience I want to refer to today though is the first link. And if you can't be arsed to move your mouse pointer back up to the previous sentence (or your finger - I know some of you hipster Dreamcast owners are reading this on iPads, for fuck's sake), you can just click here instead. Sorry - I meant here.

In that post, I mentioned in passing that I bought a 'new' Dreamcast console because it was white and not yellow. I won't go into that whole hideous saga again, but know this: the new Dreamcast didn't work. I only discovered that when I actually hooked it up to a TV and attempted to play my recently acquired copy of Skies of Arcadia on it. I'd previously 'tested' said system simply by plugging the machine into the mains and turning it on - the orange LED burst to life as one would expect and so I just thought all was fine and dandy. Imagine my complete and utter disgust then, when I finally got around to inserting some AV cables and attempting to play an actual game, and was confronted with a slow-motion, flashing boot screen which was then replaced by a totally white square where either a 'date/time' screen or a system menu should have been. Not impressed, was I. Hmmm... (that was meant to be an impression of Yoda, by the way).

I did a bit of Googling and deduced, after a good hour of trawling through posts from 2009, that my 'new' Dreamcast was pretty much fucked. There was only one thing for it - take the innards out of my yellow system and put them into the white case of the deceased machine. Simple, I thought. But upon opening up both machines and preparing for some surgery, I noticed that there were some discrepancies between the two consoles...

The Formula

I honestly thought I'd already done a post on this subject, but a quick wander through our extensive archives here at the epicentre of all things vaguely Dreamcast (that's the DCJY, in case you wondered) reveals that I was mistaken. I say 'quick,' but I actually had to take a monorail ride into the very heart of the hollow mountain that houses the Junkyard's archive department, and even then one of the service droids that maintain the stacks had malfunctioned so I had to spend half an hour rebooting it. You just can't get high quality droids of ebay these days. Pfft. Anyway, at this juncture you may be wondering what I'm actually talking about. I'd almost forgotten myself until a bowling ball rolled off a shelf onto my head and the memories all came flooding back: Formula 1. Yep, F1. That 'sport' where fast go-karts smash around tracks at ridiculous speeds and the drivers of said go-karts live lavish, decadent lives and bathe in asses milk and snort caviar. Funnily enough though, that's probably the best way to also describe Mario Kart. Hmm. I went to an F1 race at Silverstone a few years ago and the first thing I noticed was how damn loud the cars actually are - unless you've been to a Grand Prix, you can't really appreciate just how loud the things are in reality. But I digress. F1 games on the Dreamcast - there have been several and they all reproduce the atmosphere and thrills of a big race with varying degrees of success. Which ones are worth playing and which ones should be left in the pits? Read on and all shall be revealed:

F1 World Grand Prix
F1WGP was one of my favourite games on the N64. It had amazing visuals for the time and truly showed the N64 doubters what the system was capable of. I personally had never seen graphics as realistic as those I saw in WGP and even though the game engine doesn't support reflections in the wet, and everything looks a little fuzzy through a standard SCART connection, it knocked the spots off anything on the PlayStation. The car handling was a little iffy, but otherwise it was a fine racing game. The Dreamcast release of F1WGP is a souped-up version of the same game with sharper graphics, better car handling and a fresh lick of paint with regards to presentation. It also had some flipping brilliant music - not something you'd think would be worth mentioning in an F1 game. As with all the games in this list (they are all over a decade old now, after all), the teams aren't reflective of current rosters so there is no Hamilton etc...but that's an obvious downside to the incessant and never-ending march of time. Sigh. On that note, I've noticed that I've got loads of grey hairs popping up...not a good sign. Although I suppose I'd rather be grey than fucking bald.





N64 version for comparison

F1 World Grand Prix 2
As the name suggests, the sequel to F1 World Grand Prix. This Dreamcast version again took the blueprint laid by the N64 sequel and built on it to a fantastic degree. Even better visuals and car handling (although still quite twitchy), and lots of little details such as camera flashes in the grandstands etc. Easily one of the best-looking Dreamcast games and the in-car camera views give an outstanding sense of speed. I have noticed that on some tracks, when you race in the rain the sky texture messes up and you get a hotch-potch of what looks like traffic light textures from the starting grid. I'm not sure if anyone else has seen this rare cock-up though. An odd feature of F1WGP and F1WGP2 is that they both feature extremely accurate car models - all the way down to the advertising on the liveries. So you get PlayStation advertising in a Dreamcast game. You certainly wouldn't see that today - imagine PS4 ads in an Xbox One game (or vice versa)...it just wouldn't happen. As an interesting side note, the N64 version of the game uses the Expansion Pak in a rather odd manner. It doesn't increase the screen resolution or do anything to aesthetically enhance the game...all it does is enable full race replays. Obviously, the Dreamcast version does that as standard, but I thought it'd be worth sharing that little titbit.





N64 version for comparison

Racing Simulation: Monaco Grand Prix 2
Unlike with the World Grand Prix games, Monaco on the Dreamcast is totally different to the versions on the other consoles. The N64 games was OK I guess, but it featured some sloppy visuals and amateurish menus. The Dreamcast version is completely different and has some really nice graphics. It was one of the first games I actually played on the Dreamcast back when it launched and I was stunned by the track textures and how playable the game was. Although the game is called 'Racing Simulation,' there's very little in the way of simulation here - the cars handle beautifully and basically stick to the track when you corner, which is something I really like. Another cool feature is the 'Retro' mode where you get to race old skool racing cars like the type Sir Stirling Moss would've been throwing around in his heyday. It's not much more than a gimmicky novelty, but it's a nice addition nonetheless.






F1 Racing Championship
Racing Championship was a late release on the Dreamcast but you wouldn't be able to tell that by looking at it. It basically looks like a high-res N64 game, and even though it is based on the Monaco engine it actually looks worse. The tracks have a complete lack of atmosphere and where the World Grand Prix games laid it on thick with trackside vehicles, tents, ambulances and roaring crowds...F1 Racing Championship has sterile, empty environments with silent grandstands and no trackside details. It's odd, because Monaco had at least some of that...but it's as if Ubisoft felt obliged to strip it all out. What's also odd is that Video System - the developers of all the Dreamcast and N64 F1WGP games is actually the publisher of F1 Racing Championship. Why they felt the need to publish this tripe when they already had the best F1 games available on their CV is anyone's guess.




Spirit of Speed 1937
This isn't strictly speaking an F1 game but I thought I should include it anyway as it attempts to recreate the top level of motor racing...from 1937. I can't really fault it for originality and aesthetic design. The menu music is very appropriate for the era and the styling of the menus is very art deco. The officially licensed vehicles and tracks are also a nice touch and lend an air of authenticity to the game. Unfortunately things go a bit south once you actually start a race. Again - top marks for trying something different and I must say that the engine effects and in-car view give a real feel for the power and sound of the engines of these archaic beasts...but the handling of the cars is atrocious. The slightest touch of the analogue stick sends your vehicle bouncing off the walls and skidding all over the place. Not fun at all. There are some interesting game modes such as a scenario mode where you have to complete objectives, but overall Spirit of Speed is a bit...shit. Sorry.





There are a few other F1-style games on the Dreamcast, such as Flag to Flag CART Racing but I personally haven't played that particular game due to it being an NTSC-only release. I understand it's quite a competent racer too, so its a shame SEGA didn't feel the need to release it in PAL territories. Ho hum. But the long and short of this post is that if you want a top-quality F1 game for your Dreamcast, you should invest in either of the F1 World Grand Prix games and avoid F1 Racing Championship.

With that, I'm off to colour my grey hairs individually with a black marker pen.

Hypertension Update

OK, so I admit straight off the bat that I nicked this information from RetroCollect...but c'mon - this is BIG news! Most of the recent indie games released for the Dreamcast have taken the form of (rather exquisite) 2D shmups or puzzle games, so to have a first person shooter being developed is really quite exciting. I'm a massive fan of the FPS genre so Hypertension: Harmony of Darkness is something I've been following for a while...and I'll be honest - I thought it had been quietly cancelled. But no! It's still alive and kicking, and developers Isotope Studios and TDGMods have released a new trailer showing some new gameplay sequences:



Looks pretty good for an indie game, no? Hypertension runs on a modified DOOM engine and certainly looks superior to Kiss: Psycho Circus and Soldier of Fortune. Apparently the game will feature a two-player co-op mode and will be getting a full physical release later this year...hopefully the delays have now been and gone and we'll get our hands on this great-looking FPS.

All hail the Undead Console!

VMU What?!

I mentioned a few posts ago that even though the Dreamcast is 15 years old (or 16, 17 or maybe even 32, depending on where/when you live), I'm still finding out things I never knew. Today, that happened again. I was looking at some of my VMUs whilst trying to find a game save for Sonic Adventure (don't ask - the answer you're looking for cannot be found unless you know the question, and to know that you must build an organic, planet-sized computer), and I noticed something odd about my rather rag-tag band of memory devices:


No, it wasn't that they're all battered and mostly minus their lids. Neither was it that they all have dead batteries (that's pretty standard after a week of use, to be honest). I already knew both of those things. What I actually noticed was this:

"Retinal scan complete, Judge McGruder"

Some of the official ones have swirls and some don't. After a brief flurry of Tweeting on that there Twitter, it became apparent that the ones with swirls are exclusively of the NTSC variety and the ones sans swirl are PAL variants. This is quite odd, as there really isn't any need to differentiate between the two flavours: both will work equally well in either a PAL or NTSC Dreamcast console or controller. It was suggested that the swirl was removed from the PAL VMUs due to the legal ramifications SOE faced due to the whole orange/blue swirl issue, but that doesn't wash as the swirls printed on VMUs are grey, not coloured.

Maybe it was just so that Sega could differentiate and identify stocks between the two regions, but it's still a nice little curio that I was totally unaware of up until now.

Thanks a Million!

I don't know how it happened, but we've managed to clock up over 1 million page views. Sure - 90% of those are mine...but this is just a quick message to thank you - the readers - for continuing to come here and read our posts and opinions. Obviously, as time goes on and there is less activity around the Dreamcast scene, our posts become less frequent, but the Dreamcast is such an amazing console with such a mind-blowing catalogue of games and peripherals...many of which we've barely mentioned. So rest assured - there's much more to come and here's to another million hits!

Mellow Yellow

I went to a gaming event this past weekend. It was Play Blackpool in...erm...Blackpool. If you've never been to Blackpool, try to imagine a slightly shitter version of Las Vegas and you're half-way there. Actually, that isn't really fair on Las Vegas - probably the only thing the two locations have in common is a worrying penchant for neon lights. Joking aside, Blackpool is a bit of a dump. No, seriously, joking aside - it is*. But I digress. So Play was held in Blackpool this weekend and I was there. And to be honest the event was really, really good. There were loads of consoles and arcade games to play on, and a few minor Youtube celebrities were knocking about too. Oh, and Clive Sinclair made an appearance (riding around on that three wheeled mistake he pulled out of his ass a few decades ago, if I recall. I'm trying very hard to un-delete the whole unfortunate sequence from my memory banks as I type this so please forgive the vague description). I also met a whole load of really cool fellow gamers and made a lot of new friends, which is always great and basically what gaming events are really all about. But look, we're here to talk about Dreamcasts right. Dream. Casts. Guess what? I got one!

Toejam & Earl 3

The main gaming hall

Before you reach for your mobile and start to look through your phonebook for the local psychiatric ward's number, I do already own a Dreamcast. How else do you think I managed to stretch this crap out for nearly nine years?! The answer is that I had a lot of help from some very talented DCJY team members...and I already had a Dreamcast. But the thing is, that Dreamcast has gone yellow. Very yellow. I like to think that a yellow Dreamcast is a Dreamcast that has lived a full life: a life of Soul Calibur battles, Power Stone multiplayer sessions and House of the Dead 2 marathons. A yellow Dreamcast has been out in full view and had beer spilt on it, pizza fumes sucked into it's vents and the weapons-grade bacteria of a thousand student hands smeared across it's joypads. That is my Dreamcast. It's been with me since before I started this site and it still works great to this day, complete with that bit of speaker wire still bypassing the blown fuse on the controller board. But as a bit of a perfectionist and also a collector at heart, I knew that owning a battered and discoloured console simply wouldn't do. Sure - I have the box, but that's besides the point.

So (getting back to the point), when I spotted a rather nice-looking totally white Dreamcast console at Play this weekend, I knew it would have to be mine. I paid a little over £20, and even through the cellophane that it was bound in, I could tell that it was a nice specimen. My initial impressions were confirmed when I was able to get it home and unwrap the system and compare it to my other Dreamcast:

Left: White. Right: Yellow

The modems show the most contrast

The images don't really convey just how yellow the old system really is, but trust me when I say that the recently purchased one looks practically new when compared to it.

I was considering putting a vinyl cover on the older system just try to preserve the plastic in it's current state but now I have the whiter one I don't think I'll bother. I understand that the yellowing is down to sunlight reacting with the chemicals in the plastic so I'm planning on putting the recently bought console inside the older machine's cardboard box in order to preserve it's colour.

In other news I have managed to acquire some new DC games in the last few weeks, One of which is Bangai-O; the other of which is Skies of Arcadia. As soon as I get a minute to sit down and play them both for an extended period of time, I'll be plastering my thoughts and opinions up here. Stay tuned...

*Disclaimer: No part of Blackpool was harmed or offended by the production of this post. And it was a joke, so there. Blackpool is full of lovely, friendly people, has a great nightlife and is full of great attractions. Well, the seafront is. Actually...no - it's a dump. Sorry.