Review: Hermes

2017 is fast becoming a bumper year for new Dreamcast releases, and may well take the crown for most productive year for commercially released indie titles since the demise of the platform we all love so much. Not only do we have JoshProd porting classics to the console, Orion bringing us Escape 2042 and several highly anticipated titles on the horizon, but we now also have the second Dreamcast offering from Retroguru (who released the fun puzzler Fruit'Y a couple of years ago) and Dragon Box Shop. Hermes is a little 8/16-bit inspired run and jumper that opened for pre-orders a couple of months ago, and has now been received without much fanfare by those who purchased it.

Hermes sees you play the role of the title character, a French chef who has an almost unhealthy appetite for some grilled chicken. But rather than take a trip down to the nearest supermarket (which wouldn't have made a very good game - let's be honest. Bit short. Still more fun than Spirit of Speed though...); our Gallic hero does what every red-blooded meat eater who values good food would do, and that's slaughter the chicken himself.
If video games have taught me anything, it's that the slaughtering of animals usually involves jumping on platforms, avoiding snails and risking agonising death all in pursuit of the ultimate nutritious goal, and that is exactly what happens in Hermes. The chicken, unsurprisingly not keen on becoming the next gastronomic experience for our eponymous hero, decides to leg it, leading Hermes on a merry dance to chase down what is fast becoming a poorly chosen source of nourishment.

Playable Demo Of Cancelled Dreamcast Game Agartha Discovered

Here's a turn up for the books. It seems that No Cliché's long-lost Dreamcast adventure game Agartha does indeed exist in playable form...and below you'll find some video of it running. The video was posted to the Assembler forums recently and upon asking about the origins of the demo, it appears to have been discovered in a bundle of GDs purchased on eBay some time ago. The most important takeaway here though, is that the footage shown in the video below confirms the existence of a fully playable section of one of the most enigmatic games ever teased for the Dreamcast:

The story of Agartha is an interesting one, and up until now it was thought that the game never actually got past the concept stage, with various rumours swirling around the internet that the images released to the press back in the day weren't actually from a build of the game running on genuine Dreamcast hardware. Happily, we can now report that yes, there is a playable version of No Cliché's long-lost snow-bound adventure out there.
The game was to be No Cliché's second major foray into the Dreamcast library after Toy Commander, and is set in 1920s Romania. The main theme is supernatural in design, and the search for the entrance to the mysterious titular city of Agartha is a key plot thread. The video gives a glimpse at the interactions players could expect with card-playing villagers, a look at the menu screens and items, and some of the snow-covered outdoor areas. There's also a (fairly gruesome) demonstration of the real-time lighting used in the engine. Sadly, the promising title was cancelled and promptly vanished after Sega announced discontinuation of the Dreamcast.
Naturally, the Agartha shown in the video is very early, but the fact that a playable version exists is pretty incredible. The footage here (and the image below) is taken from an emulator, but the GD does run in a Dreamcast too according to the owner. It's slightly annoying that all we're allowed to see is this video (but hell - it's better than nothing!), and we're hopeful that at some point the owner will release it for everyone to have a good look at.
In the meantime, why not check out this previous article exploring Agartha's cameo in Toy Racer?

Splatoon 2 Is The Dreamcast Game I Never Knew I Wanted

I am loath to make comparisons between the commercial flop Sega Dreamcast and the commercial darling Nintendo Switch but the latest first-party offering from Nintendo on its home/portable console hybrid might as well be the home of DJ Professor K. I’m comparing, of course, the paint-splattering Splatoon 2 with the flashy Jet Grind Radio on the Dreamcast.

I could give you a surface level analysis and discuss how both games involve a metric-ton of paint sloshing but at the ‘Yard we like to go a little bit deeper. Splatoon 2 is a vibrant online shooter with compressed matches that resemble the rhythm and pointedness of Dreamcast’s library of competitive games and not just the amazing Jet Grind Radio. Ooga Booga. Outtrigger. Power Stone. Hydro Thunder. The Dreamcast is home to a healthy supply of arcade-style games that require minimal investment and an honest desire for amusement. Journalists in the ‘90s categorized the Dreamcast as the last 'hobby' console, i.e., a fun little box that - not obsessive types that like to achievement hunt and spend hundreds of hours gawking at Geralt’s platinum hair - could enjoy. The Dreamcast represented the end of an era. Its games were a testament to the hobbyist philosophy.
But let’s get back to Jet Grind Radio for a moment. In Jet Grind Radio you play as a variety of rollerblading hoodlums (as I’m sure President Trump would call them, I like to call them artists) who skate around the streets of Tokyo-to looking for areas to spraypaint their tags. In order to achieve this, you must battle a crescendo of Tokyo-to police forces up to and including a damn tank. Apparently vandalism is punishable by tank in the streets of Tokyo-to. The spraying and skating is accompanied by a funky soundtrack from DJ Professor K. Poppy hip-hop and female Japanese chanting fills your ears while you race around the cell-shaded environment.

Sonic Mania Is Here...Anyone For Sonic Adventure?

Sonic Mania has finally landed on consoles and the reviews have been overwhelmingly positive - hurrah! We think now is a great time to celebrate this with the first YouTube upload from our new video maestro James Jarvis, and what better game than Sonic Adventure? James is a bit of a veteran when it comes to creating videos focusing on the Dreamcast, having been producing similar content for his own channel ItsMuchMore since 2013; and now we're thrilled that he's come on board at the Junkyard to continue the great work that Aaron 'The Gagaman' Foster started all those years ago! We'll be sharing all of the latest videos from our YouTube channel here anyway, but be sure to head over there to subscribe, like, share, comment and all that other stuff the cool kids are doing these days! Please enjoy this cool lets play along with James' commentary...

A Closer Look At The Dreamcast Internet Starter Kit

In this day and age we kind of take it for granted that the internet is a thing we have at our disposal with almost effortless availability. It truly is a ubiquitous resource of entertainment, learning, communication and screaming at each other on forums. The internet is, I'm pretty confident in stating, one of the most important inventions the human race has ever come up with. I'd even put it up there with the wheel, the microchip, the instant noodle and the screw-top beer bottle. Yes, old Tim Berners-Lee really hit on something back in the early 1990s when he and his motley crew of super nerds at CERN gave birth to what we now more commonly refer to as the t'interwebs. It goes without saying that anybody reading this right now is doing so using the power of said network, be it on a mobile phone, a tablet, their watch, games console or even - heaven forfend - an actual desktop PC or Mac.

Now, the Dreamcast was - as most of you will be aware - the first console to come as standard with a modem and the ability to browse the internet and access multiplayer games right out of the box. Well, unless you lived in Europe for the first few months...but that's a moot point. The fact of the matter is that the Dreamcast was marketed first and foremost as a games machine, but also as a cost-effective way for people to get a taste of the internet without having to buy a computer; and in those heady days of the late 1990s and early 2000s, when flannel shirts, Backstreet Boys and Eiffel 65 were still en vogue, that wasn't something to be sniffed at.
For my sins, I did go through a short-lived spell of buying a UK-based magazine called .net after getting my Dreamcast, just so I could sit on the bus reading it looking like I was 'jacked in' to the power of the 'information superhighway.' In reality I still looked like a scruffy, fat nerd. But this is the point I'm trying to make - back in 1999, the internet wasn't as ubiquitous as it is now and people didn't have 3G and 4G enabled smart phones bouncing around in their pockets, getting scratched up by a bunch of keys. The internet for many - me included - was a vast and wondrous new frontier and by God I was ready to ride the wave on my digital surfboard, tits akimbo.
But herein lies the conundrum. Sega probably knew that the pseudo tech-savvy among its target demographic for the Dreamcast would be onboard with this idea of web surfing and online gaming. How then, would the Japanese firm entice the average person? The outliers in this new digital wonderland? The ones who didn't know a byte from a flimflam, or a googolplex from a Yahoo!? Here's how: by devising a 'starter kit' for the unlearned, one that was created with basic and easy to understand instructions and a guide to what this whole 'internet' thingy was all about. And to top it all off, by including an internet guide...for housewives.

Review: 4x4 Jam

There are adults out there, probably people reading these very words, who didn't exist when the Dreamcast was a newly released gaming platform and Sega's great hope of winning back the home console war. That's an astonishing thought to a grizzled old gamer like me; that people who I can have serious, grown up discussions with did not exist when I walked out of the shop with my new Dreamcast console under my arm. The at the time revolutionary ideas Sega were talking about; the 6 billion players online, the portable game playing memory card, the PC quality graphical power - things that I sometimes still find remarkable when looking back at the little 14 inch portable CRT TV and a wobbly spectrum keyboard that were my introduction to gaming, these things defined my gaming, set me on a course to being a self confessed Dreamcast addict. But they mean nothing, had no impact, on the gaming lives of a vast number of current gamers. Online

console gaming isn't a pipe dream, but an expected standard. Graphical capabilities are blurring the lines between reality and digital fiction. And as for portable gaming, none of us could have imagined the rise (and rise) of smart phones and the shift towards that platform as a gaming behemoth when we all got excited by a digital screen on a memory card.
4x4 Jam emerged on this new frontier of gaming late in the last decade, before Hungarian developer Invictus Games took it across to a more familiar platform via the Sony PSP minis selection - you know, those cheap and cheerful independent games that were a welcome addition to an often maligned handheld system. It received a good critical reception on both mobiles and PSP, and has even seen an HD update since, as smartphones continue their relentless technological improvement. And now... it appears on the Dreamcast, published by the newly emerged force in the indie Dreamcast scene JoshProd, in some way completing this possibly clumsy circle that I've been trying to create through these meandering opening paragraphs.
But take a moment just to think about this. A game, released on platforms not even conceived within the lifetime of the Dreamcast, ends up being ported to a console approaching it's 20th birthday. The possibilities this opens up are mouth watering. But let's not get ahead of ourselves. It's all well and good being excited by a well received game on later hardware making its way to our beloved little box of dreams, but the execution of the port, and the quality of the end result, is what really matters. And so this is how I approached 4x4 Jam - excited by the prospect (not to even mention the fact that this is the first proper 3D game to appear in the commercial indie Dreamcast scene, beating the long delayed SLaVE in the process), but with a slight sense of trepidation as to how it would turn out, and what sort of quality I could expect from this unexpected arrival to the Dreamcast party. There was nothing left to do but strap on my imaginary helmet, slip into my virtual driving gloves and take the game for a spin...

A Quick Look At Seventh Cross: Evolution

The Dreamcast library is full of odd games, and really is a testament to how the Sega of yore was quite keen to push boundaries when it came to game design. Stuff like Seaman, Roommania #203, Samba de Amigo etc show how imaginative and downright wacky Sega's in-house development teams could get. But it wasn't just first party developers who took things a little bit left field when it came to the Dreamcast. There are some truly bizarre third party games on the Dreamcast, games that we'll probably never see the likes of again. Titles such as Lack of Love, Bomber hehhe! and Pen Pen Triicelon are all pretty strange by today's standards and for the time they were released offered a glimpse into the imaginations of designers who were doing things in the console sphere that was rarely seen. Another game that should be added to this category is Seventh Cross: Evolution, a game in which you start as an amoeba and literally play the game of life, evolving into new intelligent life forms and eventually shamble out of the primordial ocean and conquer the ancient landmasses of a prehistoric world.
When the Dreamcast was first announced and the console was being shown in magazines of the era, Seventh Cross was one game I vividly remember being really intrigued by, simply because it showed a sort of metallic humanoid walking around a barren archipelago. I'm not sure why it stuck in my mind but it just looked so weird and made me want to follow the development of the Dreamcast closely. Sadly, I never got to experience the game back then because it wasn't picked up for a PAL release and getting imported games wasn't something I was especially interested in back in those days. I would just buy what was on the shelves of Gamestation or Electronics Boutique and Seventh Cross: Evolution wasn't a game that ever made the leap across the pond.
A Japanese launch title, Seventh Cross: Evolution did make it to the US (the NTSC-J version is simply titled Seventh Cross, while the NTSC-U game is called Seventh Cross: Evolution) and it's the American version I recently managed to get my hands on and finally satisfy the curiosity that began all those years ago, after seeing that metallic bloke in those low quality screen grabs in magazines. I also have to be honest here - I went into this game totally blind as other than the few scant details I picked up about Seventh Cross: Evolution through magazine previews, it isn't a title I'd ever really investigated in any depth. So, join me as I try to make sense of what is a truly unique and deliciously bizarre little game...

Review: Flashback

Flashback is one of those games that really doesn't need an introduction, but for the benefit of those who have never played 1992's hottest cinematic platform adventure, I'm prepared to ignore that adage and fill you in on the backstory.

You are Conrad B. Hart, an academic who creates a device to scan the molecular structure of organisms as part of his thesis. Rather than get his thesis published, a slap on the back and a job offer from his educational institution though, Conrad inadvertently discovers a plot by an alien race of shape-shifters who are planning to conquer the Earth. Cue a kidnapping, a brief escape from captivity and a marooning on an alien planet (with a few other familiar tropes such as lost memories and pre-recorded holocubes thrown in for good measure), and you have one rollicking sci-fi adventure on your hands. I won't go into any more detail than that, lest I spoil it for those who have yet to experience Flashback; and for everyone else I'm sure you've already played it multiple times and know all about the rest of the narrative that plays out across the game's various dystopian theatres.
As mentioned earlier, Flashback was initially released back in 1992 for the Amiga, although as documented in an interview with Retro Gamer, lead developer Paul Cuisset revealed it was initially programmed for the Mega Drive. The pseudo sequel to 1991's Another World, Flashback went one step further than Delphine Software's previous side-on adventure by introducing some pretty spectacular rotoscoped animation and clever puzzles, as well as some really intense gun play and an interesting plot. When all cut together with some amazing-for-the-time cinematic sequences, Flashback presented gamers with something that was a good few leagues ahead of previous games in the genre, such as the aforementioned Another World and Brøderbund's Prince of Persia.
Since those days of the early 1990s, Flashback has appeared on more systems than you can shake a brown, sticky thing at; and I have personally owned it on Mega Drive, SNES, Jaguar and 3DO. There are also versions for Amiga (as mentioned), PC, CD-i, Mega CD, FM Towns and even the Acorn Archimedes amongst others. It's almost the DOOM of platform games, in that if a system has a screen and a microchip; then it can run Flashback. Happily, that list now also includes the good old Dreamcast, thanks to the hard work of publisher JoshProd and seasoned programmer Chui...

7 Year Old Secretly Documents Her Dad Playing Shenmue

Get ready to have your heart of ice melted into a pile of mush, dear reader. While Dreamcast Junkyard Facebook group member Michael Brown was hammering Shenmue recently, little did he know that his 7 year old daughter Aiyla was secretly documenting his progress in her notebook. When he discovered the following tale depicting Ryo's on-screen trials and tribulations, he couldn't help but share it in the group. And we're glad he did - if this doesn't put a smile on your face, we're afraid nothing will!
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Naturally, a lot of people were pretty impressed. Simon Early replied: "As both a primary school teacher of 25 years and a Shenmue addict, I can honestly say that it is one of the finest pieces of Year 2/3 writing I've ever seen."

And Dave Moore commented: "It's a lovely piece of independent writing. I always enjoy reading writing which children have put together without help from any professionals! Let children write about what they are interested in and the results are clear!"

While Daniel Vasquez quipped: "That is cute man! Cheers to your girl! That should be seen by Yu Suzuki!" - and we totally agree.

Thanks to Michael for sharing this with us and allowing us to reproduce it here. Judging from the quality of the prose on display, we reckon there could be a role on Shenmue III's scriptwriting team for Aiyla here!