Dreamcast On The Go With PlayStation Vita

The PlayStation Vita is quite easily one of my favourite handheld systems. I've owned plenty of other portable gaming devices - and still do - but for me the PS Vita blends console-quality gaming with the types of games you'd expect on a handheld. Currently in my collection I have an Atari Lynx, Neo Geo Pocket, Nintendo DS, Game Gear, PSP Go, Gameboy Micro and Gameboy Pocket. I appreciate them all, but not as much as the Vita. I wouldn't go as far as saying it is my all time favourite pocket-sized gaming device, for that title would undoubtedly go the the Gameboy Advance SP AGS 101 (the one with the sexy backlit screen), but it is definitely up there at the top of the pile.
Regardless of the way Sony has handled the business side of things when it comes to the PS Vita, the fact remains that it is a great bit of gaming tech and a worthy successor to the PSP in terms of features and technology. Much like the Dreamcast with Sega, the PS Vita does represent something of a missed opportunity for Sony as there are so many things that could have been done with the hardware; but ultimatley the system is now being kept alive by third parties and indie devs. Now, you'd be forgiven for asking yourself why the hell I'm praising the Vita on a Dreamcast site? This is The Dreamcast Junkyard, not The Vita Lounge dammit!

Calm down, dear - I'll tell you for why. But before I do, let me just say that after having more than a passing interest in the Dreamcast for the best part of 20 years, I'm well aware of actual portable Dreamcasts. Oh, and Treamcasts. Now that's out of the way, on with the show...!

See, the other day I was scrolling through my downloads list (for those not familiar with the PlayStation set up, anything you buy or download previously is stored in your cloud-based library) and one after the other I saw games that I already own on the Dreamcast and have either been ported to the Vita, or which can be played on the Vita through PSP emulation/backwards compatibility. Naturally, I thought I'd bash out a quick article listing the games you can find on both systems, as I figured it might be of some use to people who may want to experience said games but either cannot find them for the Dreamcast or...simply cannot afford to buy them in this current climate of extortionately expensive retro games.

Incidentally, Sega has offered far more in the way of classic game support to Nintendo's 3DS than the PS Vita, what with the awesome Sega 3D Classics compendiums and all, but with regards to actual titles that you can also play on a Dreamcast...well the Vita has many more. And while they may not be necessarily based on Dreamcast code, they're basically the same games in most cases. So, with this in mind which Dreamcast games, or those with Dreamcast derivatives can you expect to find on your trusty old PlayStation Vita? Below you'll find a little list, along with some observations on the conversions and comparisons to the Dreamcast originals.
Jet Set Radio
The Vita port of Jet Set Radio was released in late 2012 and is pretty much identical to the original Dreamcast version. All of the same stages and music are present, but there are some noticeable improvements. These come in the form of HD widescreen visuals and the use of that second analogue stick to position the camera. The game also came to other platforms of the era, such as the PS3 and the Xbox 360, as well as other portable devices that ran iOS and Android.
The main bonuses with the Vita version though, are the physical controls and that lovely screen. The Vita port was handled by Blit Software (now BlitWorks), who were previously responsible for the PS3, Xbox 360 and Steam port of Sonic CD and they have since gone on to do some pretty stellar work on other systems as a professional porting studio.
As with the other HD remasters, the Vita game features Trophies and online leaderboards, and the ability to move the camera with the second stick really does enhance the game more than you'd think. While you can get a version of Jet Set Radio for Gameboy Advance, this is by far the best way to play Smilebit's seminal graffiti 'em up while you wait for a bus or during the commute.
Crazy Taxi 1 & 2
Crazy Taxi Fare Wars came to the PSP in 2007 and was developed by Sniper Studios, a short-lived developer made up of ex-Electronic Arts and Sega staff, according to the Wikipedia entry. Sniper Studios no longer exists and this curious outfit only have the one credit to their name...which is Crazy Taxi: Fare Wars. Fare Wars is a double game pack comprising the first two Crazy Taxi games, but not the third...which may have been down to a licensing issue with Microsoft as Crazy Taxi 3 was an Xbox exclusive on consoles.
What you get with Fare Wars is a pretty bare bones two-in-one pack that is everything you would expect to find in the first two games from Sega's beloved cabbie series, but with a few notable omissions. First, the soundtrack doesn't feature the Offspring or Bad Religion. Second, pretty much all of the licensed stores and brands have been taken out of the environments. This doesn't really take anything away from the experience as a whole as Crazy Taxi is Crazy Taxi. The only mark against Fare Wars' good name is that both of the games in this package are pretty rough around the edges and do feature some pretty noticeable pop-in and slowdown.
Obviously, this being a PSP game at heart you can almost forgive it for the odd stutter here and there, and the game does have a couple of visual effects not present in the Dreamcast originals, such as motion blur. There's also a new multiplayer feature in both games, where you can try your luck at getting a high score before passing the system to a friend so they can have a crack, and an ad-hoc online mode is located in the same menu but it doesn't connect using a Vita (and probably wouldn't using a PSP either, in this day and age).
Power Stone 1 & 2
Another PSP game masquerading on the Vita, Capcom's Power Stone Collection fares slightly better than Fare Wars in that both of the games it contains are pretty much identical to the originals. There is no slowdown and the graphics are pretty faithful and on top of this it even features the VMU mini games as extras. Initially, only Falcon's Aerial Adventure is available but with continued play in the main Power Stone games you can unlock others. Naturally, the GUI isn't a VMU (it looks more like a Game & Watch), but it does a pretty good job of emulating the authentic LCD experience of the humble VMU. A VMU being emulated on a PSP being emulated on a Vita. Now there's a thing.
Unlike the two previous games listed here so far, Power Stone Collection was handled in-house by Capcom and both games in the package do have some minor additional enhancements. Naturally, being on the sharp Vita screen the game looks pretty good - easily as good as how Power Stone looks on a Dreamcast through via on a proper CRT computer monitor. There are additional viewing options to cater for the 16:9 display on the PSP and Vita, so you can switch between wide, stretch and 4:3 options should you so desire. Obviously, with the handheld nature of the hardware, multiplayer is limited to online (which again is pretty redundant) but it's still admirable that Capcom included 2 player online play in Power Stone and full on 4 player battles in Power Stone 2.
One of the main selling points of the franchise was the ability to play with friends so the fact that the online functionality was included as a priority is laudable. I did try it out as I was writing this article, but alas nobody was online to play with. In a nutshell, if you can't find or can't stretch to buying either of the Power Stone games and want to check them out then this PSP collection running on a Vita is a perfect way to get involved (albeit in purely single player mode...unless anyone wants to arrange a match?!). Music and sound effects are all pretty faithful to the originals and the gameplay - even against CPU opposition - is as fun and frantic as it ever was. Power Stone Collection is a title every Vita or PSP owner should seek out.
The Last Blade 2
SNK's The Last Blade 2 is widely regarded as one of the finest 2D fighters on the Dreamcast, and with good reason. Set in feudal Japan, the game's combat leans more towards precise weapon-based techniques and is a far more skilful experience than many a 2D brawler. Indeed, upon first sampling The Last Blade 2 (on the Neo-Geo AES, no less), I couldn't help but feel a little overwhelmed by just how uncompromising the fighting mechanics were. That said, after a good while with the Dreamcast game I found my rhythm and The Last Blade 2 revealed its delights as one of the finest one-on-one fighters not just on the Dreamcast, but to ever grace a cartridge or optical media.
Being a digital download, that accolade can now be extended to hard drives and Memory Stick Duos as The Last Blade 2 on Vita is a cross-buy title for both Sony's handheld and the PlayStation 4. As a true remaster, The Last Blade 2 is hard to fault. It brings with it everything that the Dreamcast version had but bolsters it with tonnes of extra content and upgraded visuals. If you're a veteran LB2 player then you'll feel right at home with the new port - all of the music and cutscenes are present and correct and the artwork, character sprites and stage backgrounds have never looked better.
Fear that the Vita's controls might not be up to scratch are allayed pretty early on - every move I tried to execute with the d-pad was initiated without issue (and the same can be said of Garou, below). As far as extras go, there are the usual online multiplayer modes (which are cross-play on both Vita and PS4 as far as I know), ranking modes and the obligatory Trophies. On top of these, there are lots of display options to tinker with, such as the ability to add scan lines and filters, the aspect ratios can be altered and you can even unlock hidden characters by following the hints and codes given to you if  you hit the select button during the character select screens. Overall, The Last blade 2 on Vita is a stunning update to an already stellar 2D fighter and really is a showcase of how older games should be repackaged for a new audience. Everything from the menu screens to the options to the controls - I honestly cannot fault. And this (whisper it) is coming from someone who isn't really a massive fan of 2D fighters, much less an expert at them.
Garou: Mark of the Wolves
As with The Last Blade 2, Garou: Mark of the Wolves is remaster of sorts for both the PS Vita and PlayStation 4 and has pretty much the same going for it as the other SNK fighter mentioned above. Garou (or Fatal Fury in the US) is another Dreamcast brawler that pushed the envelope for how good these types of games could get on home consoles. The music is outstanding and the artwork is the typical SNK mastery. It has a truly awesome cast of characters and some fantastic locations in which to put fists and feet on a direct collision course with someone's chin. Between Garou and The Last Blade, you really do have two of the best 2D fighting games ever created.
The one stand out aspect that - for me at least - gives Garou the edge over The Last Blade though, is the unbelievable hand drawn animation. Quite simply, this represents the pinnacle of animation for an SNK game - certainly that I've seen anyway. If I'm wrong, I'm sure I'll be corrected but damn - Garou looks like a cartoon at times. The silky-smooth way in which costumes billow in the wind and lithe bodies roll with every punch and kick - it needs to be seen to be fully appreciated and here on the Vita's gorgeous little screen everything about Garou's visuals just pops.
Naturally, it plays a mean game too - in a very similar style to The King of Fighters series which it is kinda based. Again, I'm not an expert on these matters - just a layman saying it how I see it so apologies to the hardcore fighting contingent out there who may be spitting cornflakes all over their phone/laptop/486 PC screens as they read this waffle. It has all of the same visual enhancement options as The Last Blade 2 (scan lines, filters etc) and is just full of unlockable content and oozes hallmark SNK style. Garou: Mark of the Wolves is a stunning game whichever platform you play it on, and it's no different on the Vita. A fitting way to mark the 25th anniversary of the franchise.

Dragon's Crown
OK, so I'm taking liberties now with Dragon's Crown but there's a couple of interesting points when it comes to Vanillaware's medieval phantasy beat 'em up. First and foremost, while it categorically isn't a game you can (or ever could) play on a Dreamcast, Dragon's Crown started life as an intended Dreamcast game. There is plenty of documentation to back this up over at Unseen64, and the Wikipedia entry on Dragon's Crown also has some intriguing information on the early roots of this fine Guardian Heroes-style side-scroller.
The other interesting point is that for some reason, the game was pulled from the European PlayStation Store back in June 2016. According to this Eurogamer article the game was going to be reinstated, but as of January 2017 Dragon's Crown has still not reappeared, so the only way you can get it if you're in Europe is if you purchased it before it vanished and can still access the download from your library. Very strange.

PlayStation Classics
Of course, the PS Vita and the PSP before it both have the ability to play emulated original PlayStation games, many of which also appeared on the Dreamcast. Naturally, the Dreamcast versions of these titles were enhanced in various ways due to the Sega system's vastly superior specifications. However, in the name of completeness I thought it should also be noted that the following games are all available through the PlayStation Store and can also be found on the Dreamcast: Rayman 2, Street Fighter Alpha 3, several Guilty Gear games, Fighting Force 2, Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation, and Tomb Raider: Chronicles.

Of course, if you want to get technical you could say that any PS1 game that also appeared on Dreamcast can be played on a PSP if it is cracked and has the right firmware installed...but for the sake of consistency and not getting thrown into the black hole of Calcutta, we'll just keep it to 'official' titles available through 'legal' channels.
Once again, let me assure you that I am fully aware that the PlayStation Vita is not really a portable Dreamcast, I just thought it was worth listing the various games that are available on both Vita and Dreamcast in case you fancied taking a few games with roots on the Sega platform with you on a long, boring train journey. Obviously, there are actual portable Dreamcasts out there (check out Ben Heck's awesome video series on the subject here, and the DreamTrooper video here), but these aren't really within reach of the general consumer. The Vita on the other hand, totally is.
There are other systems that have far more Dreamcast ports than the Vita of course. The PlayStation 2 is one such system, for example. But is it portable? Not really. Ultimately, the point of all this is that I love the Vita and I personally believe that if you own one, the titles detailed above are well worth seeking out if you're also a Dreamcast fan.

4 comments:

DCGX said...

This is a pretty cool comparison. It always struck me as odd, though, that Capcom re-released so many Dreamcast games on the PSP instead of other systems. Power Stone especially. Four player over Xbox Live or PSN would've been great!

The Vita is hands down my favorite handheld as well, and I appreciate that irony given how much I hated Sony during and after the Dreamcast's official life cycle. I approach my purchases with the Vita the same way as the Dreamcast: try to find good, official games before they skyrocket in price, and preorder the indies/Limited Run Games as soon as possible. Between the Dreamcast and the Vita, that's pretty much where all my gaming purchases go these days.

Robert Jones said...

Just read this Tom and I couldn't agree more - especially about LB2 and Garou. Really nice comparison piece. Vita is turning into the ultimate handheld thanks to its incredibly diverse library.

Administrator said...

Your list should also include PSP games such as:

Virtua Tennis World Tour
Soul Calibur
Outrun 2006
Sega Rally
Virtua Tennis 4 and more
Sonic and sega all star racing

They may never have been released for dreamcast that they were supposed to...

I treat all such games as dreamcast games play them either on PC,PS3 or PSP.

Tom Charnock said...

Administrator - I put a lot of thought into the games I should include, and decided to simply list ones that are on both systems. The games you list are not on the Dreamcast. Series entries may be, but the actual same games are not.