Does it Matter if You're Black or White?

I know what you're thinking. You're thinking that this post will relate to the design shift from white to black in the old US of A-NTSC land. Well, you'd be wrong, I'm not going to talk about that. It's already common knowledge and well understood, though I will just quickly mention that it's supremely handy that both designs use a standard 10.2mm CD jewel case with a clear plastic tray. These are dime-a-dozen and can easily be replaced if you want to return your collection to showroom condition.
Nope, not going to talk about these.
The situation is completely unlike our horrendous PAL counterparts. While it's nice that they stayed pretty consistent in design over the brief lifespan of the Dreamcast, which appeals to the OCD in me (more on that later) as they look nice and uniform on the shelf, it is a hell-ish nightmare-scape of torment to keep them in pristine condition, and often involves spending a small fortune on duplicates and crappy games, just so you can cannibalise the unbroken hinges and crackless facades for incorporation into your core set.
Early and late releases aren't much different, apart from the giant Dreamcast banner on the latter.
Did they think that a larger font was going to solve all their problems?
But I've already kind of got off topic, in a sense. I started going down this rabbit hole when I wanted to replace the black trays of recent independent releases James & Watch: Arm and Leona's Tricky Adventures with more appropriately coloured white trays. I could have gone with clear trays, like the American releases, but since there is no inlay art, the white plastic of the Japanese style release was the way to go if I wanted these new games to look the part on any respectable Dreamcast shelf. White trays are usually hard to source, but I found a supplier in Australia (officeideas.com.au) and bought up quite a few. Not just for these games, but also for a lot of my Japanese releases that had sun-faded or damaged white trays that needed replacing.
Before: Bad
After: Good
The white tray design for Japanese Dreamcast games was probably based on a conscious decision to distinguish the Dreamcast pack from the black trays of its younger sibling Saturn, but perhaps also to invoke some rose-tinted memories of the PC Engine days of yore. NEC released its games with white trays during its successful campaign against Nintendo's carry-over champ Famicom, and presumably this might have given the Dreamcast a small nostalgia bump against its own Famicom-style adversary, the Sony Playstation.
PC Engine on the left, Dreamcast on the right. 
Also notice the similar placement of company logos too, although I'm 
probably starting to sound like Jesse Ventura.
After hunting through my collection though, I started to notice a small black tray infestation amongst all my gleaming white Japanese releases. How could this be? Why would Sega deny me uniformity in my collection? It seemed that the problem was limited to games released in 24mm double CD jewel cases, but not always, only some of the time.
Here are some of the culprits.
The only commonality that I could deduce from these six games as to why they were black while other double cd Dreamcast releases were white was that perhaps games with a darker theme - such as the war simulator Advanced Daisenryaku 2001, the werewolf themed visual novel Interlude, and the blood splattered interactive movie es - could opt to go with a black case instead to match their dark soul. es is also worthy of note, as it has 3 discs, which meant a standard white double case wouldn't hold all of them, which could also indicate a reason for turning black. 

However, my theory was thrown out of the water when I looked at D2 - a dark game with 4 discs in a white plastic case. 
That's right! Even our beloved Shenmue, one of the dreamcastiest of Dreamcast games, is guilty
of shunning the white case standard. 
Now, I'm not sure whether myself or the seller I bought these games from replaced the broken or damaged white plastic case in which the game was originally sold with a shiny, new and more readily available black case, but a quick search seems to indicate that these games are always found in black cases. The decisive indication is that Shenmue is always in a black case, so it would seem that while 95% of Japanese games conform to the white standard, sometimes particular releases would stray from this uniformity. 
Why Shenmue? D2 got its act together.
Being the OCD, anally retentive nut that I am, I could not let this stand. I was also curious to see how these games would look in a respectable white suit, so I started by testing Shenmue out in D2's case.

Much better, it now seems even more Shenmue-ier than ever, thanks to the power of the white plastic. What about the especially dark looking es, would it also look good in white, or would it contrast too greatly against the game's angsty dark tone? Let's find out:
I used a spare flip tray to account for the 3rd disc.
They look much better, and the itch at the back of my skull is starting to ease. Now to tackle the rest of these renegades. Luckily, my supplier also has white double cd jewel cases for sale, but I've run out of white inner trays at the moment and am waiting for a re-up. I also need to buy some extra copies of D2 for that unusual quadruple CD white case to fix all my copies of Shenmue. Handily, D2 came out in 4 different flavours, so I can plug some holes in my collection at the same time.
You're next jerks! You will soil my collection no more!
While I'm waiting, I'll just go and re-fold my socks and order my sock drawer by colour and size. Hmmm, that picture isn't hanging straight, I'll have to remember to go tear up the carpet then...

5 comments:

noiseredux said...

I think my OCD is worse than yours. It would be bother me far more to know that the white backtray was not the way the game was actually released.

lastcallgames said...

OOOh man, I really hate getting DC games in black cases. Even as an American, I still every now and then get one in an opaque case because the seller probably broke the original case. Luckily I don't need to buy more DC duplicates to replace the case.

DCGX said...

I only have around 100 Dreamcast games, about a third of which are Japanese. Luckily, I suppose, the three double cases are white to match the other Japanese cases. I'm not as much of a stickler about cases though, as long as the game has its original case (or style of case) that it was released in.

That said, Leona's Tricky Adventures drives me nuts with its green spine (I also swapped out its black disc tray for a white one). I'm also really hating the ReDux: Dark Matters 'Steelcase' version I have since it doesn't match the other DVD-style Dreamcast cases. I've actually been looking to trade just the steelcase for the limited edition case to make them uniform.

Anthony Harrap said...

Hi, slightly off topic but I recently sent Water Melon an email asking them if they sell PAL cases. As they seem to be the only company making new PAL cases I thought they may be able to sell a significant amount. They responded with a "sorry, but we don't sell these cases".
Maybe if they get enough emails they may start selling them?........

Patrick Elumba said...

aha. While they look good I think my OCD sense is more along the lines of it has to be
the way the original manufacturer released the game. I currently have problems with my own DC collection as not all Clear CD cases are the originals. For example, the plastic that fits into the Center of the CD might be designed differently so simply finding a spare clear case won't always fix my itches.

I've always wanted to find a database which defines what type of CD case the Dreamcast Game's original came in. Maybe we can work together.

But damn...white does look good.