, The Dreamcast Junkyard: October 2014

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.

In the Land of the Giants

When people talk about the rarest games on the Dreamcast, the same names tend to be bandied around. Friend of the Junkyard Racket Boy published a rather nice article focusing on the Dreamcast's rarest and most valuable titles a while back (click here to reveal it's delights), and we looked at a few of the more expensive PAL games right here at the 'Yard a few weeks ago...but here's the thing - a clear distinction needs to be made right now: 'expensive' and 'rare' are not the same thing.

One game that is forever being listed on eBay as 'rare' and commanding some ridiculous prices is Conker's Bad Fur Day for the Nintendo 64. It is a fantastic title and an example of Rareware of old at their finest, but as any well-read N64 collector will attest, Conker is not a rare game - it is merely desirable. Quite where the horrific price tag came from is anybody's guess (maybe someone saw the Rareware sticker and got a little confused), but the snowball became an avalanche and now Bad Fur Day has become the fodder of the more affluent collectors out there. Unless you own an Everdrive...but we won't go down that particularly grey alley.

Back to the original point - rare Dreamcast games. Games like Rival Schools 2, Bangai-O and Cannon Spike regularly get a mention; as do titles like SegaGaGa and Mars Matrix. Whether it was down to low print runs or low sales figures, all of these are uncommon titles. There is one game however, that never gets mentioned in these 'rare games' lists. A game that I believe is so rare, it transcends the very lists it should proudly sit atop. This game is Giant Killers - a UK exclusive football (soccer) management sim released by Smoking Gun Productions in May 2001.
Before we go any further, I want to address the rather odd name of this particular title. In British football terminology, 'giant killer' is a name afforded to a team from a lower league who manage to create an upset and defeat a team from a much higher division. This generally only happens in either the FA Cup or League Cup and is the cause for much celebration/egg on face when say, a non-league outfit sees off Championship or Premier League opposition. There is a long history of bigger teams slipping up against sides they should easily have beaten (for further info see Manchester United vs Anyone during the current season), and giant killing is an oft-used expression on these shores. So that's the science bit done - anyone from overseas seeing the name Giant Killers would be forgiven for thinking UK Dreamcast owners were privy to some hitherto unknown David vs Goliath simulator...alas, the truth is a little less exciting.

What of the game itself then? Well, I have a little confession to make: I hate football management sims. I've never seen the point of looking at screens of stats and never actually getting to play the beautiful game for real. I love stuff like FIFA and all the behind the scenes tinkering that the career mode in said EA Sports flagship title offers...but if you take away the ability to actually play the game, my interest levels wane. By 'wane,' I mean 'vanishes altogether.'
That said, I had an open mind when I approached Giant Killers. I powered the PAL-exclusive title up and settled down into the manager's chair, ready to get stuck in to the day-to-day running of a full blown professional football club. The first thing I noticed when I started the game was that all of the teams are from the English leagues and the conference - there are no international leagues at all, and this has the rather odd knock-on effect that players cannot be purchased from foreign teams. As previously hinted at, I'm a bit of a novice when it comes to management sims, but Giant Killers has a pretty basic and beginner-friendly menu system. You switch between the different management screens via the icons at the bottom of the screen and follow the button prompts in each sub-area in order to set your starting 11, your substitutes, the rather limited gameplan and tactics, and also read emails from your chairman and board of directors. Compared to something like Championship Manager, this is management lite...which I must admit, is quite commendable on the part of the developer when you consider the rest of the Dreamcast's library and the target market for the system. I picked to play as Manchester City and it quickly dawned on me that this game is also very much a snapshot of the English game in 2001. Names like Shaun Goater and Danny Tiatto loomed out of the mists of time like miss-kicking leviathans...and the Dreamcast sponsoring on the Arsenal shirts in the backgrounds got me all dewy-eyed.

Once you've picked your starting lineup and tinkered with the slightly threadbare team tactics, you are encouraged to start your first game from the dug-out, and I must say that it's about as exciting as you would imagine: text-based commentary scrolls up the screen while crowd sound effects play in the background. There's no Premier Manager 64-style 3D representation of the game here - just text. It's quite detailed to be fair, but you'd have to be a hardened statto to get excited about this aspect of the game...and this is where the action happens.
There's not much more I can say about Giant Killers. It's a competent management sim from what I can tell with my n00b eyes, but it really isn't my cup of tea. The menus look uncluttered and the button prompts are helpful...but the lack of any real excitement or 'game' left me wanting to put King Of Fighters '99 back in my Dreamcast after about 10 minutes. This wasn't helped by the fact that I lost all but one of my first 8 games as the new manager of Manchester City - and that was a draw against Sunderland on the opening day of the new season. The shame.

So Giant Killers then. It stands alone as the only football management game on the Dreamcast (unless you count the Japan-only Let's Make A Soccer Team! as a proper management sim, and not an RPG), and also the only UK-exclusive title. That fact alone makes it pretty special in my eyes...it's just a shame I'm not really into this genre.

Price-wise, I've seen copies of Giant Killers fetch a few hundred pounds on eBay...but I paid £8 for this boxed and complete copy at a recent gaming expo so there's proof that you don't have to pay through the nose for genuinely rare Dreamcast titles.

Dream? More Like Nightmarecast!

Long time, no write, fellow Dreamcast enthusiasts! When I first started writing for the Junkyard, I had assumed it would be easy for me to think up topics for one of my favorite systems of all time.

Apparently not. However, recent events lead me to a (potentially) troubling topic. Well, at least for me.

Emulators. (Disclaimer: Umm... I don't support piracy, emulators are tricky legally, don't steal from the companies, etc...)

They're great fun! I mean, without them, I would never have been able to play most of the Final Fantasy series. Or Earthbound. At one point, I had several programs, spanning from NES all the way to N64. Recently, though, I got a new laptop. Because it was a Mac, I needed to find alternate emulators, which was not as big a problem because I would have done so anyway. Gradually, I moved from generation to generation. NES & SMS --> SNES & Genesis --> N64 (that situation was complicated. Not a topic for this blog, however) --> PS1.

Then I reached a road-block. I obtained emulators for both GameCube and Dreamcast. I'll be the first to acknowledge that my snazzy Mac isn't all about what's under the hood, so to speak. But gosh-darnit I have 2.4 GHz processor and more than enough RAM for older generation emulation! These emulators, though, were still a pain! I'll save you the details from the GameCube one (I only tried a few games, by the dubs. The games are still pretty big to download.)

The offender for the Dreamcast emulator was called "lxdream." On my main source for Mac emulators, it was the only option available. Ech. Naturally (for me) the first game I try on it is Sonic Adventure. And then, because I must have a penchant for misery, Sonic Shuffle. After trying these games for just a few minutes, here's a tip, at least for Mac users considering running the Dreamcast:

Don't.

As I played through Sonic Adventure while writing this article, I had to deal with messed up graphics, choppy music, and controls occasionally sending me to fall into the water. I could understand the graphical and control issues, but the speed? Really? And in previous play-throughs, it locked up partway through the first level. Uggh. Oh, and certain audio samples were missing, or way too loud. Even their own site gave it a poor rating in the compatibility section.

The other game I tried was Sonic Shuffle. I'll admit, I didn't really try playing Shuffle until now. As per usual, it ran slow, but the graphical errors weren't as bad as Adventure's. The sound however, was practically nonexistent in-game. I think at some point it played something, but really softly. In-game was mute. Knuckles got to the first Precious Stone (sp? Not sure, don't care at this point) and the battle screen saw some weird graphical errors. Plus, the slowness of the emulator and having to wait through the CPU's turns made it unbearable to play, even for mere minutes.

Anyway, further play and writing would lead to an obvious conclusion: the Dreamcast emulator kinda works, but is far from finished. As it is, I own a Dreamcast and those games. I can enjoy Sonic Adventure or torture myself with Shuffle whenever I want. It is unfortunate that the emulator doesn't work, though, because of emulator features I appreciate: namely, save-stating and ROM hacks. Like, I dunno, a hack that makes the CPU characters less awful and cheat-y.

That all being said, I haven't tried any of the non-Mac-specific emulators, of which I've found at least 4. Through all these exploits with emulators, from the excellent ones to the mediocre ones, and these OK ones, I've gained more appreciation for console developers. The lesson I learned was that there is more to emulation than just raw processing power. It may seem obvious at first; however, I am one of the people who are disappointed whenever it is announced that a system is not backwards compatible.   I'd much rather have a good current gen console than one that plays older games, but at risk to the hardware itself.

TL;DR? Well, the simple point is that a crappy Dreamcast emulator helped me understand that emulation is not always a easy task to accomplish.

B# Major General out!

Dreamcast Notebooks For Everyone!

Thanks to Sega Nerds for alerting me to this one. It appears that online retailer Yellowbulldog have secured a truckload of cool-looking Dreamcast, Saturn, Megadrive and Playstation-themed notebooks, and are offering them for the princely sum of £5 each, with free postage. These officially licensed notebooks come complete with 96 fully lined pages of 140 gsm papyrus nestled betwixt the highly detailed console-themed covers, and will be the envy of all your classmates/workmates/people you shout at in the street while drinking from a can of value super-strength lager you found in a wheelie bin behind the supermarket. Last Tuesday. This happened. Help.
Before you get too excited, please note (comedy gold!) that the books aren't available until December 7th...but you can place a pre-order and have your desired flavour delivered after the release date. Just in time for the big old commercial, capitalist, disgust-o-thon that occurs every year without fail. Yay!

Click here for further info my fine friends.

Caution! Weekly Seaman videos!



In case you haven't seen them yet, Gaga and Cherry Faff About In.. is a series of let's plays me and my partner in crime CherryTerrier do about weird, bonkers, and just plain daft games, and as most Dreamcast fans should know; games don't get much weirder than Seaman, the talking pet fish game that took Japan by storm and thankfully also received an American release and ranked 31st on our Dreamcast User Top 200.

Starting this week and continuing every Monday, we have recorded an entire playthrough of Seaman which have been cut down to the very best bits, so don't worry, you won't have to watch us upping the temperature and the air vents every single time among some of the other more tedious elements of the game, with roughly two "days" of the game per video. Good thing you can just adjust the day settings on the Dreamcast to play the game faster!

If you wanna keep up with the weekly episodes every Monday along with episodes of other games every Friday, please subscribe to Lucky Hit!

Oh by the way the artwork in the thumbnail is by Cherryterrier and is amazing, isn't it? Here, have a wallpaper of it!



The Dreamcast Suitcase

Thanks to a tweet by fellow Dreamcast site Dreamcast Gaga, we have been alerted to the existence of a previously unknown item of DC memorabilia. Now, we've all seen the Insert Coin shoulder bag, and the Kawaii back-pack styled in the form of a Dreamcast controller...but what about a wheeled suitcase modelled after our favourite system? It looks like it's only available to Japanese Dreamcast nuts for now, and can be purchased from the Ebten Sega Store website, but I absolutely guaran-damn-tee you would be the coolest person in the terminal if you rocked through Heathrow pulling this bad boy...

Edit: it has been brought to my attention that the case was only availible for 1 day back in March 2013...so unless you have access to a DeLorean with an aftermarket Flux Capacitor fitted, you'll just have to make do with drooling at these images!