, The Dreamcast Junkyard: September 2014

Battery Powered Face-Off

I remember being obsessed with RC cars back in my more formative years. At least 3 Christmases that I can remember were spent in a freezing back yard, remotely guiding a shiny new vehicle around a variety of hastily knocked together circuits where discarded bricks and piles of old twigs were quickly refashioned into crash barriers, bustling pit lanes and towering grandstands full of roaring race-goers. Halcyon days indeed...apart from the one Christmas when I got a Tyco Traxx that broke after about 10 minutes of rallying it over some mud. Or the time my brother drove another car off a ramp on the edge of kitchen table at full speed with every intention of inflicting maximum damage. A mission which was completed with IMF-style efficiency, I hasten to add. Over time though, the fascination slowly dwindled and the batteries that were once gobbled up by said plastic vehicles were snatched by a plethora of power-hungry handheld gaming devices...and the rest is history.

Moving swiftly on (but getting slower and slower as the batteries drain), racing games and the Dreamcast go hand in hand. Or should that be controller/race wheel in hand? Probably - nay, most definitely - an irrelevance when we're dealing with multiple impenetrable layers of metaphor, but the fact of the matter remains: the Dreamcast has some absolutely stonking racing titles. As I mentioned in the not-too-distant past, pretty much every genre is catered for on Sega's little beige/yellow lozenge of joy. There are arcade racers aplenty; more serious simulations; cartoony kart 'em ups (quite literally when you consider Wacky Races and Looney Tunes Space Race); and even a couple of lovely Formula 1 games if that's your particular bag of choice.

But what if you're after a link to the past (heh) as I am? What if you want to re-live those bygone days (aka last Wednesday) standing wellington-clad in a puddle and whizzing your little toy car around? What are your options other than going to Argos and y'know, just buying an actual RC car? Well, while it's not strictly true that the RC racer has completely vanished from our consoles and PC monitors - just look at Motor Storm RC and Table Top Racing on the PS Vita, the Choro Q series, and RC Mini Racers on iPad/Mac - the RC racer is not a genre that has been very prominent on the modern systems. Any by modern systems, I mean the Xbox 360, PS3, Wii and their respective successors. The Dreamcast though, has no less than three of the little blighters. How do they compare to playing with the real thing? And more importantly, how do they compare to each other? Read on to find out, Mon'Amie...

Toy Racer
This is by far the easiest of the three games to investigate, simply because there is so little to actually investigate. Toy Racer was a spin-off from Toy Commander that utilised many of the aforementioned game's assets to create an online-only, four player racer that was designed to pique interest in the Dreamcast's internet functionality. It may be a little unfair to include Toy Racer in this little list as it isn't a full blown game - playing it today is an unsatisfying experience to say the least, especially as there are only four tracks and no AI competitors in races. Naturally, back when the Dreamcast was still in the picture, Toy Racer's complement of adversaries would have comprised other human beings logged in through Dream Arena (all six billion of them) and the main premise was to beat the other humans playing on their Dreamcasts around Europe.
Alas, today it is a rather singular experience as No Cliche decided, no doubt at Sega's behest, to include exactly zero in the way of a single player experience. All you can do nowadays is race around the 4 oddly-designed tracks on your own, picking up turbos and missiles and firing them at nobody in particular. I can imagine Toy Racer could have been quite fun with other players, seeing as the handling model of Toy Commander has been replaced with a much more user-friendly one. Vehicles all handle very well and have a really nice centrifugal suspension effect where they lean to one side as you slide around corners. Visually it is very rudimentary, and the tracks (again, of which there are only four) are all comprised of assets from the main Toy Commander engine...so you have a loose kitchen-based one, a bedroom based one etc etc. If No Cliche had fleshed Toy Racer out and turned it into a proper game rather than an 'online only' sideshow, this could have been one of the Dreamcast's hidden gems. As is...give it a whirl if you find it cheap (you will).

ReVolt
Originally an N64 cart, ReVolt is probably the only title many gamers will associate with RC racing. Developed and published by defunct outfit Acclaim, ReVolt was one of the N64's most highly respected racers and the inclusion of a hi-res Expansion Pak mode meant it was also one of the system's best looking games. I first played ReVolt on the Nintendo platform and remember buying the Dreamcast port simply to see if it was any better...and I have to admit that while I was sceptical as to whether there would be any improvement, I was pleasantly surprised to find a game that far surpassed it's predesessor. Not that the Dreamcast version of ReVolt is a sequel as such - it's basically the same game but with vastly improved visuals, vehicle handling and an extra environment thrown in for good measure. It's quite interesting now that I think about it - there is a lot of outcry currently about games being re-released on the PS4 and Xbox One that are simply the same games as found on the last gen systems but with a lick of graphical paint (see Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition)...yet it was going on in the Dreamcast/N64/PS1 era too, and ReVolt is a perfect example.

But what of the game itself? Well, ReVolt is a racer in which you get to drive an RC car around a multitude of circuits against other vehicles. As is the norm in this style of game, you can collect weapons to use against the other racers and these range from fireworks to bowling balls. The best bit about ReVolt though, is that all the circuits are based in locations where it would actually be fun to race RC cars. There's a neighbourhood - complete with sections that go through living rooms and under parked cars and through sewer pipes; a supermarket; a museum, and even a toy shop. The Dreamcast port also had an exclusive 'roof tops' environment that saw racers battle for pole position atop a cluster of skyscrapers. Elsewhere, ReVolt featured a fairly comprehensive career mode where it was possible to unlock new classes where you could graduate from battery powered models to petrol engined vehicles, and also a full-on track designer. It had some great music too. ReVolt is a great game and is also fairly cheap to get hold of these days, so if you're new to Dreamcast collecting it'd be a shame to miss out on this game.

Stunt GP
Another game released by a masterful development house of yesteryear, Team17's Stunt GP is the ying to ReVolt's yang. While it still (obviously) features RC cars, this title limits the races to the professional style where everything is conducted on purpose-built tracks. There is no straying off the beaten track here, my friend: even though there are multiple countries to race in, there is a definite air that you are taking part in an RC race - the track is laid out and you must race the way organisers want you to. So whereas ReVolt has you battling beneath the legs of a dinosaur fossil on the polished floors of a science museum, Stunt GP will always have you contained on a proper, asphalt or wooden track. That's not to say the tracks aren't awesome though - the twists and turns, climbs, drops and loops are a marvel to behold in Stunt GP - especially as the camera has a habit of pulling back and letting you view your aerial adventures in all their splendour. Indeed, as the name of the game suggests, Stunt GP actively encourages the player to engage in any number of ridiculous and spectacular stunts, as well as trying to win the race they may also be taking part in. Your reward for pulling off these flips and somersaults are points which can then be spent on extra parts for your vehicle - lighter chassis, better engines and battery packs, more grippy tyres etc.


Unlike ReVolt, Stunt GP is rooted firmly in pseudo reality, so there are no weapon pickups as such, but conversely you need to keep an eye on your battery or fuel level. To it's detriment, Stunt GP doesn't have a track editor - something you would think ideal in a game of this ilk, but what it does have is a stupendous championship mode which traverses all 30 circuits in the game and features all the tactics of battery charging and upgrading that you'd expect an F1 simulator to employ. Also, and similarly to ReVolt, Stunt GP has a corking soundtrack...so make sure you crank the volume up. Elsewhere, you'll find a four player split-screen mode, arcade and stunt modes to hold the attention. Stunt GP also looks absolutely fantastic - most of the courses are pretty compact so you can view the whole track in most cases: get to the zenith of a circuit and turn back on yourself and you can examine the whole thing laid out before you, with no fogging whatsoever. Sadly, the frame rate suffers in places but this is a small price to pay for such a glorious racing experience. AI is perfectly balanced and the vehicle handling is suitable considering these are meant to be miniature toys. All in all it is a superlative title. So the question remains:

The best RC racer on the Dreamcast is...

It's a tough choice, I wont deny. Toy Racer can't really compete with the big boys so let's discount that one straight away; the main event is between ReVolt and Stunt GP. Both games offer excellent visuals, cracking music and their own individual style of racing. ReVolt is more about the weaponry, while Stunt GP is more about racing skill. They both have their individual merits - ReVolt has a full track editor and a more varied array of environments, whereas Stunt GP offers vehicle upgrades aplenty and a great variety of play modes. But ultimately, like the Highlander, there can be only one.

The best RC racer on the Dreamcast is...

ReVolt

It's the full package - loads of tracks, loads of cars, great music and ultimately it is a lot of fun to play. Stunt GP is also a worthy title, but in this competition it finishes as runner up.
Get some ReVolt it in your Dreamcast, you will not be disappoint!

RetroCollect FM - The Sega Dreamcast

Some people who visit the Dreamcast Junkyard may also be aware that I occasionally talk rubbish on RetroCollect.com's retro-gaming podcast - RetroCollect FM. Seeing as our beloved Dreamcast recently entered puberty (which leads me to question why the VMU's voice still hasn't broken), we recorded a special Dreamcast-related episode. Topics covered include the origins of the Dreamcast logo and name, the peripherals, the best games on the system and also the demise of the Dreamcast and it's legacy. Feel free to go here to give it a listen...and if you're feeling extra generous you could go to iTunes and either post a review or even *whispers* hit the 'subscribe' button! Or don't - you are a free man or woman living in a democracy (I hope). Anyway - enjoy...

PS - You can also click here to listen online without any of that iTunes malarkey.

Kita E - A Journey North In Search Of Summer Love


I like Japanese games. I always have. As for the why, that probably lies with my gaming education, with years of playing imports in my youth sculpting my taste. Indeed, the JRPG is one of my favourite gaming genres, as too the classic SHMUP, with both offering an insanity at radically different ends of the scale. The former necessitates levels of patience and tactical thought often not matched in western titles, while the latter requires reactions of a cornered snake, with players tasked with dodging, diving and striking at high velocity to remain alive.


There has, however, been one Japanese gaming genre that I’ve never touched. For reasons of both reputation and accessibility, the Romance-Communication genre that perpetually reoccurs each gaming generation in Japan, was a place that I never dared to venture. I mean, I couldn’t even if I wanted, as these titles are never ported, never translated into any other language and with the whole raison d'ĂȘtre being talking and listening to people, they offered little to me.
You are based in Sapporo, however you explore wider Hokkaido during your trip.
That all changed however this summer. With a newly found and constantly improving grasp of Japanese - I’ve been been receiving tuition now for over a year - I decided to give it a shot. After all, even if as a game I came away disappointed, at least I’d be involving myself in the language and culture more and improving my overall knowledge base.

The thing is though, these sort of games have a very, very poor reputation in the west. Seen as dating sims for those incapable of forging real relationships - disclaimer: I have been happily married for five years - they very much occupy the dark side of the hobby and are looked down upon almost everywhere bar Japan. I was, to say the least, a little apprehensive.
My real name doesn't work in hiragana so I chose to become 'Robaato Kusakabe'.
Enter Kita e: White Illumination for Dreamcast, a 1999 Rom-Com title from Hudson Soft. Kita e, which translates as ‘to the north’ in Japanese, places you the gamer in the shoes of a 17-year-old high school student from Tokyo who travels north to Hokkaido to spend the summer with family friends. While in Hokkaido, you explore the area, meet up with people and engage in social events like karaoke, shopping and even playing video games in and around your base city Sapporo. Crucially though, in the two weeks that the game is set - August 1 to August 14 - you are tasked with building a relationship with one of eight romanceable females.


The core game plays out like an interactive comic book / film, with you deciding on where to go and with who and then engaging in communication about a variety of topics. When talking to someone the player can interrupt or respond to something said by initialising the CBS, the Communication Break System. This system allows you to respond in a variety of ways that alter or dictate the course of the conversation. Of course, if the person you are with is just boring the socks off you, you can say nothing and ignore them, however this will obviously not help you build a solid relationship with them.
 You sit next to this woman on your flight to Sapporo. We didn't get on.
The finale of the game, or to put it in simpler gaming terms, the way you win the game is to build a relationship with a person to the extent that when you return to Sapporo to celebrate the city’s White Illumination Countdown on New Year’s Eve later that year, your significant other meets you there and kisses you at 12:00 midnight. And, that’s it. There’s no adult content, no new game plus-style mode, no hidden secrets or achievements to be unlocked. There’s just the story that you play out over those two weeks of summer.


After slowly playing this over the summer just gone - as I am no master of the language even I struggled to keep up with dialogue sometimes - while I can’t say that I was blown away or anything, and I certainly have plenty of criticisms about its execution (for example the animation could be better during communication), I’ve got to say that Kita e has helped me understand why these games sell so well in Japan. Just like any piece of fiction, these titles are escapist fantasies, world’s that you delve into and just ‘be’ in, just play a part in like you were in a play. Just because titles like Kita e want to emulate the real world rather than say World of Warcraft’s fantastical Azeroth, doesn’t make them any less valid.
Kotori really likes her cat and lives with her mother. She also likes to talk, like a lot...
Indeed, playing Kita e reminded me that today many western blockbuster titles, titles such as the upcoming Dragon Age: Inquisition, definitely owe these games in part, as the advanced communication systems that allow you decide your own narrative are almost identical. The difference simply is content. While in Dragon Age you may be deciding whether to execute a renegade mage, in Kita e you may be deciding where in Hokkaido to spend a day out with your friend. And, after spending time in its world, I like that. I like how domestic and real it is, despite it being a virtual simulation.
Yuko loves photography and will take pictures of you as you explore Hokkaido.
So what is Kita e? I think its many things, some good some bad. Firstly, I think it is a demonstration that the Romance-Communication genre should be re-evaluated, as it offers more than people often give it credit for. Secondly I think it is incredibly inaccessible to anyone who can’t read and speak Japanese and in places it is cheaply executed, with animation, sound effects and music leaving a lot to be desired. Thirdly, I think that it does a good job in providing a snapshot of life in a culture very different from my own.    

Lastly though, I think Kita e is a gentle reminder of what it was like to be young. To wake up and realise your school was shut due to snow and that you had the day off and anything was possible. To get invited to go on holiday with a friend to a place you’d never been and with people you didn’t really know. To live your life blissfully ignorant of the world’s problems. If you play Kita e, maybe you to will, albeit for just a short time, forget too.
Your end of game reward - a single kiss at 12:00 midnight on New Year's Eve.

Well Oiled Machine

The Dreamcast is knocking on a bit these days - as you're probably no doubt aware, the entire planet celebrated the 15th year since the system's US launch barely a week ago. With age, comes knowledge and wisdom...but also wear and tear, and Old Father Time does not discriminate between the mechanical or the biological. To this end, you've probably noticed that occasionally your Dreamcast may not load certain games or that the system sometimes resets in the middle of a game. You may also be more acutely aware that the console's GD-Rom drive makes way more noise than any of the more modern systems. There are remedies to both the disk reading errors and the cacophony of grinding drives and GD access though, and these videos from Youtubers Mark Fixes Stuff and Carl Eggett will show you how to go about banishing those ear-shredding noises and game resets from your Dreamcast once and for all:


Dreamcast Delta

Elie Ahovi is an industrial designer whose work appears to embrace simplicity and sleek lines. His remarkable body of work ranges from bicycles and mobile phones to medical massagers and washing machines; all of which can be viewed here. However, one particular part of his portfolio caught my eye - concept designs for a gaming system named Dreamcast Delta. Before you get too excited, these concepts are just that - mock-ups created for a design project that was completed several years ago, but the amount of effort that has clearly been poured into this project mean that it stands head and shoulders above most other Dreamcast 2 fabrications.

Clearly the work of a Sega fan, the Dreamcast Delta eschews the square form factor of most other systems and opts for a triangular (or delta) shape. Elsewhere, some of the more interesting features of this particular would-be design for the Dreamcast's successor include being able to use a smartphone or a tablet as a controller and a wireless charging plate on the top of the system (that rules out resting empty beer cans on it, then). In practice, using a smartphone as a controller would be pretty horrible...but top marks for creativity. Below are some selected images from the gallery - but be sure to go here and check out the rest of Mr Ahovi's stuff too, as its all quite impressive.

The Mobile Assault Tour

A cool Youtuber by the name of PCwzrd13 recently got in touch with me after I lamented on Twitter that the fish/human simulator Seaman/Caution Seaman never received a PAL release. Sensing my soul-crushing sadness at the lack of a blue-boxed version of everyone's favourite fish 'em up, he very kindly offered to send me his spare copy all the way from the good ol' US of A...an offer I gladly accepted. To be honest, I totally forgot about our conversation but a week or so later the game arrived on my door mat, and included in the envelope was a promotional sticker for a Dreamcast event that I'd never heard of before: the Mobile Assault Tour...

The Dreamcast Junkyard blasts into orbit with the SEGAbits Swingin' Report Show podcast!



The Dreamcast Junkyard writers Tomleecee and The Gagaman joined me (Barry the Nomad) and my co-host George on the SEGAbits Swingin' Report Show podcast to discuss the SEGA Dreamcast from a European fan's perspective. Topics include UK marketing, the delayed launch, games exclusive to the region, the official and unofficial magazines, the collecting scene, and Tom and Aaron’s thoughts on the US release. We also have a discussion on SEGA’s decision to change the red swirl to blue, and which region had the best box art. Believe it or not, this is the first time Tom, Aaron, and myself have all talked to each other outside of comment sections and emails.

Make sure to follow Tomleecee and The Gagaman on Twitter, and make sure to visit RetroCollect and Lucky Hit!

New indie release announced: SLaVE!


Feels like a tradition now for a Dreamcast indie game to be revealed on this anniversary date, doesn't it? At least I hope it hangs around as a tradition anyway. GoatStore Publishing have just revealed via Dreamcast Scene that SLaVE, a doom-like FPS with Robotron 2084 stylings will be released on Dreamcast in April 2015, and is available to pre-order in limited edition and limited limited edition versions. No that's not a typo, they are actually called that. You can get an additional 5% off the price with the voucher code TJOOS as well!

"This is what happens if Robotron 2084 and DOOM got together and had an illegitimate lovechild. SLaVE is the timewarp of 1984's aesthetic and 1994's tech to make a game that is uniquely 2014. It is relentless neon arcade blasting action from a first-person tech utilizing features in the extended DOOM engine 3DGE that gamers could only imagine in 1984, or 1994 for that matter." - Goatstore

The trailer above is from quite a while back, back when it was just known to be a PC game. It's creator Jay Townsend is an animator and game designer I have been following for years and I had been watching the progress of this game over time, so I'm delighted to discover that this is making it's way to the Dreamcast next year!

SEGA Dreamroom 2014 - 9 hours of live streaming Dreamcast games



The SEGA Dreamroom is here! Enjoy live streaming Dreamcast games from 9am ET to 6pm ET - head on over to our twitch channel to chat as we play.

9/10 Update: Dreamroom 2014 was a big success! Thank you to all those who tuned in. Enjoy the archived broadcast embedded above, and we'll see you in the Dreamroom next year!

Happy Birthday!

Where do the years go? Today (the 9th of September) marks 15 years since the launch of the Dreamcast in the USA. 15 glorious years of grinding GD-Rom drives, whirring fans and beeping VMUs. So, please join us in wishing our favourite system a very happy 15th birthday!
I know they're NTSC-J boxes in the background. Before you say anything ^_^

Please accept my apologies for the quality of this image - I knocked it up in about 5 minutes flat before I rushed out to work!

Incidentally, who knew the US Dreamcast shared a birthday with Leo Tolstoy, Hugh Grant and Gok Wan? Or the deathday (kind of like a birthday, but a bit more deathy) of William the Conqueror? If you take one thing away from owning a Dreamcast and reading this site, you will now always know that William the Conqueror died on the 9th September. On a more personal level, the 9th September is also the birthday of my girlfriend's mother and also my sister. The Dreamcast Junkyard: entertaining and educating the masses since 9/9/1087AD.

The Dreamroom Dreamcast Marathon returns on 9/9 at 9am ET!


From 2009 to 2011 here at the 'yard, I hosted the Dreamroom - a SEGA Dreamcast marathon celebrating the console's memorable American launch date. Since 2011, however, the Dreamroom remained locked. I knew I wanted to host another, but I was busy with work and my increasing duties at SEGAbits. Not to mention, I didn't think aiming a webcam at the TV cut it as a live stream anymore.

This year, however, I'm excited to announce that the Dreamroom is reopening on 9/9 at 9am ET at the SEGAbits SEGA Channel Retro Twitch channel for a special 8 to 9 hour marathon of Dreamcast games streaming directly from the console! Yes, I've finally caught up with streaming technology.

Hope to see DCJY regulars there as we celebrate 15 years of the SEGA Dreamcast!

Watch the full Too Many Games 2014 – “Surviving the Dreamcast Apocalypse” panel



Back in June, Patrick aka Kori-Maru (Website of the Dead), David the Lurker (Sonic Retro), A.J. Rosa (My Life with SEGA), and I - Barry the Nomad - held a panel discussing the life and death of SEGA’s swan song, the Dreamcast. The same panel also included a presentation from Sonic Retro, covering the history of Sonic the Hedgehog 2‘s Hidden Palace Zone – with rarely seen footage of Sonic 2‘s release and early efforts to remake the lost zone. We also met with several fellow SEGA fans, and gave away a pile of rare SEGA swag to an audience that packed the house to standing room only.

The full panel has been online since July, and I fully intended to post it here at the 'Yard, but doing so slipped my mind until today. To rectify that mistake, you can see the full panel above and stay tuned to SEGAbits all month long as we celebrate Dreamcast Month! Who knows, you just might see some DCJY legends on an upcoming Swingin' Report Show podcast...

Breaking The Bank

The rising cost of hardware and software is something that affects us all as gamers – the latest console offerings from both Microsoft and Sony are out of the financial reach of a lot of people (me included), and while Nintendo’s latest system is cheaper than both the Xbox One and PS4, the Wii U will still leave a hole the size of £200 in your pocket if you decide you need Mario Kart 8 in your life (and from what I've played of it, that means everyone). But as I stated in a recent article/rant on emulation, the high price of gaming certainly isn't limited to the contemporary formats – retro-gaming and collecting is rapidly becoming a big business and the prices that some games, systems and memorabilia command can be pretty eye-watering. As an avid Dreamcast collector, I’m only too aware that Sega’s final system is no different to many others in that there are certain hardware variants that are way out of the budget range of most average gamers – look at the prices a Treamcast or a Divers 2000 fetch on eBay, if indeed they ever surface. However, I’m going to talk about a slightly different aspect of this subject in this post: software. More specifically, which Dreamcast games are the ones that will leave your bank account looking anorexic if you do decide to take the plunge? Please note that I’m only really looking at PAL releases here and I don’t actually own legitimate retail copies of any of the games on this list as I refuse to pay the ridiculous sums required, but I thought it would be interesting to have a look at some of the more expensive Dreamcast games out there…