Expanding the Dreamcast Collection Part 5: The Sega System SP

It’s been an interesting journey, and one that I for one have certainly learnt a lot from, but unfortunately this won’t quite be the send off befitting a series of systems that once dominated the arcade scene for over a decade. You see, rather than going out with a bang, the Dreamcast family of hardware ended with a silent wet fart - a shart, even -  from a once great arcade behemoth. Hardly riveting stuff, but for the sake of completion and bringing this barrel-scraping topic to a close, let’s take a quick look at the not-so-almighty System SP.
The System SP. Picture taken from www.system16.com - a great resource for
all things arcade related, so check it out.
Now how’s that for an opening to get your attention? How could you possibly resist the temptation to expand your ever increasing knowledge of pointless Dreamcast trivia? So gather round and prepare to be bored to death! You - yes you, the person whose time would be far better spent learning to play an instrument or practicing that language you’ve intended to learn for the past decade.
This is how the Dreamcast ended up. A sad/hilarious sight indeed.
Where was I again? Oh yes, the System SP. Time to share a few useless tidbits about the most boring, pointless and least interesting system in the Dreamcast family. Well, we had to wrap it up somehow...

First though, a reminder to check out the previous parts in our 'Expanding the Dreamcast Collection' series:

As with the Atomiswave before it, the System SP came into existence as another means to make use of Sega’s excess stock of Dreamcast and NAOMI components. By 2005, Sega had already moved their flagship titles away from NAOMI/Dreamcast related arcade hardware onto newer systems such as the Chihiro and Triforce. Moreover, the true follow up to the NAOMI, the Lindbergh was only a matter of months from release; so rather than use the System SP for their big hitters, less graphically intense titles such as those marketed for children found a home on the on the younger sibling.
Before the DCJY, Sega struggled to find a festering hole big
enough for their excess SH-4 and Power VR2 chips.
The System SP was released with zero fanfare in 2005, and basically amounts to not much more than a re-purposed Naomi with on-board flashcard reader instead of cart slot. From what we can tell the first games to be made available were Dinosaur King, Mirage World and Monopoly: The Medal. Due to a lack of games appealing to an adult demographic, very little publicity or interest was given to the system by the press or gaming community at large. To this day, information online is sparse to say the least, so much so in fact, for many years the community wasn’t even sure what to call it. Even today there are inconsistencies out there, so let’s get to the bottom of this.

System SP or Aurora?
When my attention was first drawn to the system, it was known online as the Aurora. Why this was so, I can’t explain but it seems to be a case of mistaken identity. You see, one of the many Saturn code-names was Aurora. Since then, scans of official Sega produced manuals have surfaced online confirming the name as 'System SP.'
Picture courtesy of Sega Retro
In 2009, a splutter of games were released for the system; Tetris Dekaris, Future Police Patrol Chase, Brick People and Battle Police. In the same year, Sega Bass Fishing Challenge was also released on the Atomiswave. Pinpointing which of these timeless classics deserves the lengthy title of “last ever officially licensed game for Dreamcast family hardware” (phew, that was a mouthful), is beyond my pitiful research abilities but it’s safe to say that one of these gems truly marked the death of our beloved Dreamcast and its PowerVR2 graphics chip.

Tech Specs
Here are the tech specs for the System SP, as listed over at System 16:
  • CPU: Hitachi SH-4 32-bit RISC CPU (200 MHz 360 MIPS / 1.4 GFLOPS) 
  • Graphic Engine: PowerVR2 (PVR2DC) 
  • Sound Engine: ARM7 Yamaha AICA 45 MHZ (with internal 32-bit RISC CPU, 64 channel ADPCM) 
  • Main Memory: 32 MByte 
  • Graphic Memory: 16 MByte 
  • Sound Memory: 8 MByte 
  • Network: CPU - AMD AU1500-333MBD, BOOT - 2MByte Flash, RAM - 8Mbyte, Ethernet PHY 
  • Game Media: Compact Flash 256Mbyte 
  • On Board Program Storage: 128Mbyte (8x128MBit or 2x512Mbit) or 512Mbyte (8x512Mbit) Flash Memory 
  • Security IC: PIC16 Dongle 
  • Simultaneous Colors: Approx. 16,770,000 (24bits) 
  • Polygons: 2.5 Million polys/sec 
  • Rendering Speed: 500 M pixel/sec 
  • Additional Features: Bump Mapping, Fog, Alpha-Bending (transparency), Mip Mapping (polygon-texture auto switch), Tri-Linear Filtering, Anti-Aliasing, Environment Mapping, and Specular Effect.
Ports
For those big Thomas the Tank fans among you, I’ve got a bit of bad news – the System SP Thomas game never did make it to a home console. It's not all doom and gloom however, as there were a few ports/ spin off games released on portables, so with nothing else to fill this space with, I may as well tell you a bit about those. Yawn.
A few of the System SP ports and spin offs.
Well, this is embarrassing. I had intended to give these games a proper play-through and report my findings, but unfortunately I only have a 3DS these days and they refuse to even boot to the main menu without the card reader (see below) slotted into the GBA cartridge slot. As you may be aware, the 3DS doesn't have GBA backwards compatibility...so, yeah. Erm...sorry about that.

From what I can tell, Mushi King and Dinosaur King are Pokémon like affairs where you travel around collecting, training and battling beetles and dinosaurs respectively. Oshare Majo on the other hand is a rhythm action game that allows players to customise the appearance of their character with clothes and accessories corresponding to collected cards. There were two more Mushi King games released on the Nintendo DS, but judging by the user reviews on the official Famitsu website, all five games range from bad to average. Probably not worth learning Japanese to play these then.
Oshare no Majo cards and card reader.
The only game of the five that doesn't utilise the card reader is Dinosaur King for the DS. It also happens to be the one that got a western release, so there you go - enjoying an obscure System SP spin-off is within your grasp! Or maybe not, as the case may be; the game currently has an average critic score of 61/100 on Metacritic after all. Perhaps using the word enjoying is giving far too much credit to the game.

Aside from these DS/GBA games, there were three more titles released on the Pico and Advanced Pico Beena Systems. Member? Member those? Them failed Sega consoles that looked a bit like one of those books for babies with thick cardboard pages? Yeah, me neither. My fellow Dreamcast Junkyard writer Aaron 'The Gagaman' Foster has one though...the saddo. 

Exclusives

Tetris Dekarisu
Of all the titles, Dekarisu is perhaps the most well known in the west, as photos of this beast of a cabinet seem to get shared periodically among the gaming and weaboo communities online. It also happens to be one of the few games on the list, I’ve had the pleasure (or displeasure) of playing myself, so I can tell you with quite some confidence that the game doesn’t live up to the grandeur of its gargantuan pair of rigid joysticks. You see, rather than the traditional 10 x 16 Tetris grid we’re all used to, the game squashes things down to a 6 x 10, making games feel claustrophobic and shortening their length considerably. Sure, chuck 100 yen in the slot to get your greasy mitts all over those massive joysticks, but after one quick go, you’ll be done. Alternatively, save that 100 yen and simply pretend to play like when u woz a likkle kiddy winkle.
Look at those joysticks! Shame about the game though...
Brick People
While clearly designed with the family in mind, Brick People remains one of the more interesting titles on the system, largely due to the the rather ingenious way its mechanics break the fourth wall. Players stack physical plastic bricks in front of the screen to help the onscreen 'brick heads' eat various items on screen. Periodically, the 'brick bully' destroys the carefully built wall by violently shaking the cabinet, toppling the player's bricks in the real-life-world. Check out this YouTube video for a better sense of how the game works. While a mobile version of the game was released, it paled in comparison to using the original cabinet and has since been removed from sale anyway.
Brick People, worth a try just for the novelty of it all.
So there you have it, the System SP. I told you not to bother reading this tat and you probably listened to be fair. I'm just talking to myself at this point...here's the usual list of crap at the bottom for those that like lists and stuff.   

Games List
Battle Police (2009)
Beetle DASH! (2008)
Bingo Galaxy
Block Pipo/Brick People (2009)
Dinosaur King (2005)
Dinosaur King Operation Dinosaur Rescue (2006)
Dinosaur King 2 (2005)
Dinosaur King : D Team vs The Alpha Fortress (2008)
Disney Magical Dance (2008)
Future Police Patrol Chase (2009)
Isshou ni Turbo Drive (2005)
Isshou ni Wan Wan (2005)
Maniac Panic Ghost (2007)
Marine and Marine (2008)
Mirage World (2005)
Monopoly: The Medal (2005)
Mushi King 2K6 (2006)
Mushi King 2K7 (2007)
Mushi King: Battle Terminal (2005)
Oshare Majo: Love and Berry 1st and 2nd Collection (2006)
Oshare Majo: Love and Berry 3rd, 4th and 5th Collection (2007)
Tetris Dekaris (2009)
Thomas the Tank Engine (2006)

Spin offs/ports
Brick People (2011) - iOS
Kodai Ouja Dinosaur King: D Kids Adventure Dino Slash! Dinosaur Battle!! (2007) - Advanced Pico Beena
Kodai Ouja Dinosaur King: Nanatsu no Kakera (2007) - DS
Mushi King Greatest Champion he no Michi (2005) - GBA/DS
Mushi King Atsumete Asobou Kouchuu Zukan (2005) - Pico
Mushi King Mori no Tami no Densetsu: Minna de Tanken! Kouchuu no Mori (2005) - Advanced Pico Beena
Mushi King Greatest Champion he no Michi 2 (2006) - DS
Mushi King Nebu-Hakase to Kazu Katachi ni Challenge! (2006) - Advanced Pico Beena
Mushi King Super Collection (2007) - DS
Oshare Majo Love and Berry (2004) - DS

And that concludes out 'Expanding the Dreamcast Collection' series. Hope you enjoyed it! Any time you want to revisit this glorious series, just click on the orange ribbon under the page header and you'll have all this wondrous information at your finger tips. Eye tips. Whatever.
Be sure to check out System 16 for more information on the System SP and plenty of other arcade oddities.

8 comments:

Tom Charnock said...

This is a fascinating article, Ross. I had never heard of the System SP before reading this. Shame about your 3DS though - cheapskate XD

Florian Wallin said...

The brick game looks like a blast ! Must be hilarious for kids at least :D

doceggfan said...

Great work Ross, though there is one stone you left unturned in this feature. I shall endeavour to cover it in another article in the near future.

Furthermore, you could argue that Chihiro and Triforce are semi-close second cousins to the Dreamcast family, since the both used the GD-ROM system? If you wanted to end on a less sour note.

The 1 Ross said...

I'd be interested to hear what stone I've left unturned. Hmm...what could it be? Yeah, using a GD-ROM drive alone isn't enough for me to be honest. Chihiro and Triforce are their own thing. The Lindbergh on the other hand, as the true successor to Naomi, now that would be interesting. I did consider a quick piece on the other arcade hardware out their that birthed games that would eventually wing up on the DC; Model 2/3, CSP2 etc etc. Maybe someday...

The 1 Ross said...

*wind up on

The 1 Ross said...

The multi-board!

Anthony817 said...

Great read. Never heard of this board either. The more you know...

MetalliC said...

good read, thanks.
about Triforce/Chihiro conection - it is, SP have same network subsystem (AMD AU1500 based) but integrated on main board.

simply speaking SP is Naomi with integrated:
+ flash ROM board, same as later cartridge games like Dynamite Deka EX or Melty Blood Actress Again
+ network board, same as used in Triforce or Chihiro
+ CF card interface
+ IO chip, game controls wired directly to main board
- JVS host MCU was removed, because of ^^^above^^^
so SP is later and cost optimized/reduced Naomi iteration.

Aurora... it is completely different beast, developed by SI Electronics Inc, former Sammy subsidiary.
it was cheap single chip solution, mainly targeted for pachinko and similar gambling/redemption machines.
its not known if there was developed "regular" arcade games for this platform.