Hardware Review: GD-ROM & Compact Flash Modded Dreamcast

Technology fails. It's as simple as that. With the passage of time, and daily wear and tear, eventually even the most robust equipment will suffer a breakdown. We can do plenty to prevent this atrophy, but inevitably, anything that employs moving parts will break. As Dreamcast owners, we're probably all too aware of the various failures that can besiege our favourite console, and the list of potential faults is long. Power boards, main boards, controller boards...pretty much everything in a Dreamcast is prone to the ravages of time, and public enemy number one is undoubtedly the GD-ROM drive. More than any other component as the Dreamcast rapidly approaches its twentieth anniversary, the main, bespoke optical drive that is a key component to enjoying those brightly hued games of yore is becoming a weak link. Raise your hand if you've ever put a game in a Dreamcast only to be met with the dreaded 'please insert game disc' message.
The catalyst for many a clenched fist and jaw
To remedy this, there are several devices on the market that allow users to negate the need for a GD-ROM drive; and in many cases they allow for the complete surgical removal of the optical drive in favour of solid state storage for games and other applications. The two most popular variants currently available are the GDEMU and the USB-GDROM.
GDEMU
USB-GDROM
These two devices require complete removal of a Dreamcast's optical drive and offer the option of using either an SD card or USB flash drive respectively from which to boot Dreamcast ISO files. There are also further alternatives that employ the use of a traditional hard drive, but these are not as popular or widespread as either of the two options mentioned above.
Internal HDD mod (courtesy of Pcwzrd)
Both GDEMU and USB-GDROM are great alternatives to the ailing GD-ROM drive - with both offering minimal loading times and enhanced curation of game files. Both also employ proprietary software for operation and boast almost 100% compatibility with games in the Dreamcast library. With the Compact Flash and other alternatives, DreamShell (the open source OS created by DC-SWAT) is employed, and while this benefits from being customisable, it doesn't offer the near full compatibiltiy enjoyed by GDEMU and USB-GDROM. That said, DreamShell is in a constant state of flux, with new updates always being worked on, so in the future full library compatibility is more than possible. In the meantime, here's a handy list of Dreamcast games that will work with DreamShell, courtesy of Pcwzrd of Dreamcast Live fame. The crux of the matter is this though: all of the other options for eschewing optical media listed here require the removal of the GD-ROM drive.
So, what to do? How can you have the best of both worlds? The solution is combining the convenience and enhancements that come with solid state storage, with the ability to still use a standard game GD (or CD) if the need arises. Enter the latest modification on the market that hits both these targets with quite some accuracy: the Compact Flash Dreamcast. Coming from Austrian modder Jan, this Dreamcast keeps the standard GD-ROM drive intact and perfectly functional, but also adds a fairly discreet CF card slot on the right hand side and a BIOS switch on the rear. This switch allows for the console to be booted in either 'standard' mode where the console is just a normal retail unit able to read disc-based games; or to be booted in DreamShell mode, where the CF card is interrogated and any game files on the card are presented in a rather nice menu using aesthetically appealing icons. There's plenty of other functionality too, but first, let's take a look at the hardware and just why Jan chose to use Compact Flash in this modification...

The Great MSR Missing Persons Poster Hunt

Once again, I start this post with an apology. Mere days ago I wrote about the hidden delights in Bizarre Creations' fantastic Dreamcast-exclusive racing game Metropolis Street Racer; but I thought that this new discovery needed its own post. That's because it's never previously been discussed online, and also because I need the help of the community in solving this particular mystery. So, at the risk of this turning into an MSR overload, let's go.
A while back, I was contacted by a member of the Dreamcast Junkyard Facebook group who claimed to have been photographed (along with his brother and a friend) and had his image hidden inside MSR's game world. I have to admit I was skeptical, until this gentleman - known as Grant - offered photographic evidence and an explanation of why he and his sibling were secreted away inside one of the Dreamcast's greatest games. Grant...over to you.

Hi Tom,

The back story is that one of my best mates 'back in the day,' was a guy called Mark Sharratt. He was working for Bizarre Creations and was one of the lead artists for Metropolis Street Racer and even got to travel to San Francisco and Tokyo as part of research for the game. He took photos of my friend, brother and myself and then secretly scanned them into the game, uploading them into the game as 'missing persons' posters, of which two were hidden in San Francisco and one in Tokyo (if I remember correctly). 

As it is with most people, friends move and lose contact over time, so unfortunately I cannot get the exact locations of the posters. I think you would be the first person to point out the missing posters if you did include them in your story, as they have been a secret between friends ever since the game came out all those years ago.
- Grant

Pretty amazing right? This is the first time these missing persons posters have ever been covered online, representing yet another surprise in the storied history of the Dreamcast. They were literally sneaked into the game without Bizarre Creations knowing about them, which is inconceivable in this day and age. These posters have literally remained a secret for 17 years, and they still kind of are...

Some Metropolis Street Racer Details You May Have Missed

Yes, I'm writing another post about Metropolis Street Racer. I simply refuse to apologise for it, and that's because this is a game I adore. The world of MSR just feels so tangible, so credible and so authentic, and not least because Bizarre Creations spent hundreds of hours accurately modelling the three cities in which the vehicular challenges and races take place. However, there's a little bit more to the sterile, simulated reality of Metropolis Street Racer than first meets the eye.
While London's Horse Guard Parade and San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf may look very close to the real thing as you whizz around in your sports car, if you stop to take a closer look you'll discover some rather interesting - and sometimes suprising - extra details that you may have otherwise missed.

With this in mind, let's buckle up and go for a little joy ride, and investigate some of the finer details you may have overlooked scattered throughout the world of Metropolis Street Racer...

Monaco Grand Prix Online Is Back...Online!

Racing Simulation 2: Monaco Grand Prix Online is a mouthful, and is a title you may not be familiar with. It was a PAL only re-release of the Dreamcast launch title Racing Simulation 2: Monaco Grand Prix, and it allowed - as the name suggests - players to race each other online using the Dreamcast's internet connection. We featured it here at the Junkyard a while back and looked at the way in which it differs from the original version, but now we're revisiting it...because it's back online.

As reported by our good friend Pcwzrd over at Dreamcast Live, Monaco Online (as I'm going to call it from now on because the actual title is ridiculously long) has been resurrected by Shuouma, a programmer far more intelligent than I could ever hope to be. Races can host a maximum of 6 racers at once and there are also online leaderboards just begging to be dominated...but probably not by yours truly. Because I'm shit at games, period.


You'll need a DreamPi to get involved in this whole Monaco Online thing, but you can head over to Dreamcast Live here for the full story, details on how to create or buy a DreamPi and also a handy Dreamcast internet connection guide.

Source: Dreamcast Live

6 Dreamcast Games That Would Perfectly Suit Nintendo Switch

Earlier in 2017 we pulled off a fairly ridiculous April Fools prank that garnered far more attention than we ever intended, or expected. Remember the whole 'DreamStream' thing? It got picked up by a fair few groups on social media and it fooled more people than I'm comfortable admitting, but that's probably just down to my amazing skills of internet tomfoolery. As awesome as it would be to stream Dreamcast games onto a Switch via an internet connection, the very premise is as daft as a brush - that is, why wouldn't Sega just release the games as downloadable ports, as opposed to stream them and require the user to have a WiFi connection? Tsk!
Anyway, this got me thinking. After Damon's rather excellent recent post about Splatoon 2 being the Dreamcast game we never knew we wanted; and after recently purchasing a Switch myself, I started to think about the other jewels in the Dreamcast's library that would make great additions to the Switch's steadily growing software suite. Sega has been a strong supporter of Nintendo hardware ever since the Gamecube and there's been a big enough length of time since the Dreamcast graced us with its presence that there are bound to be millions of Switch owners who have never played many of the system's greatest titles. Surely, with the almost mythical status the Dreamcast has garnered over the past few years, it would be a license to print money for Sega to release - either as budget downloadable games; or as a 'best of' multi-pack - a selection of the finest software ever to grace the little white box of tricks?
With this in mind, here are my picks for the best first party Sega games that would fit right in on the Switch. Please bear in mind that this is just first party stuff, so unfortunately it doesn't include a Switch port of the amazing Spirit of Speed 1937 - a game that was clearly passed down from heaven by the hand of God him/herself (delete as applicable). They'd mostly have to be re-worked with an aspect ratio more in keeping with the Switch screen too, but this is all just wishful thinking in the first place so don't go all keyboard warrior on us. Anyway, here we go...

Sega Dreamcast: Collected Works Hits Kickstarter

We all love a good book, especially if said tome features a glut of previously unseen Dreamcast-related photos, interviews and concept art. It looks like our dreams are about to come true, as journalist Simon Parkin has launched a Kickstarter campaign for just such an item of merchandise - Sega Dreamcast: Collected Works.

Working in collaboration with veteran publisher Read-Only Memory (who previously released the incredible Sega Mega Drive/Genesis: Collected Works), and also Sega, this new Dreamcast-flavoured release looks set to really delve into the history of our favourite console and the finest games to grace the system.
As detailed in the press release, Sega Dreamcast: Collected Works will feature the following:

  • Production artwork, design documents and game artwork from pop hits such as Crazy Taxi and Sonic Adventure to arcane curiosities like Space Channel 5 and Segagaga.
  • Hardware manufacturing drawings, concept paintings and original photographs.
  • An in-depth, interview-led editorial piece by New Yorker writer Simon Parkin. Assembling voices from late 1990s Sega boardrooms around the globe, as well as the game developers who helped to define the platform, this revealing retrospective will chronicle the rise and fall of this lauded videogame console.
  • Directory of stand-alone developer interviews and Sega team members including: Masayoshi Kikuchi (Jet Set Radio), Yuji Naka (Sonic Adventure, Phantasy Star Online, ChuChu Rocket!), Naoto Ohshima (Sonic Adventure).

The Kickstarter project at the time of writing has already garnered nearly £60,000 of its £68,000 target (update - it has reached its funding goal with 28 days to go), and naturally we here at the Junkyard have already pledged our support. Quite how different the book will be compared to the soon-to-be-released Dreamcast book from Pix N'Love remains to be seen. However, if you'd like to back Sega Dreamcast: Collected Works on Kickstarter, then follow this link and give generously!

Thanks to Darren Wall at Read-Only Memory for the assets used here, and also to all the other Sega sites for reporting on this while I was away on holiday in Bulgaria with no access to a computer!

DreamPod - Episode 52


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Dreamcast Presents Ozzfest 2000: The Official Event Programme

A while back, we featured an eBay auction for a Dreamcast console signed by none other than The Prince of Darkness himself, Mr John Michael Osbourne. You may know him better as Ozzy Osbourne. He's a Brummie musician who was quite famous in the 1970s, apparently. And he got so famous that he even had a music festival named in his honour: Ozzfest.
Back in 2000, Sega sponsored Ozzfest and supplied the eponymous superstar with a bounty of Dreamcasts that could be won by members of the public who competed against various headline acts in Dreamcast-related game challenges. One of these units was offered up for sale recently, although it doesn't appear to have fetched the $995 asking price. Can't think why. It'll take an entire bottle of nail polish remover to get that pen mark off. Tsk.
As you'd imagine, a touring music festival of this magnitude - sponsored by Dreamcast or not - generated a large amount of merchandise, and this post is about such an item: the official Ozzfest 2000 event programme. A gigantic book comprising 45 pages of interviews and band biographies, and made of high quality glossy paper; a book that feels like it is made from the forgotten dreams and weaved wigs of ten thousand 50-year-old men who used to wear skin tight silver trousers but who now wear beige slacks and drive their 12-year-old daughters to school in a Nissan Juke.
Taking place over the summer of 2000, Ozzfest took in numerous locations around the US and featured some of the biggest heavy metal and alt rock bands of the era. And I just happened to stumble across a mint condition copy of the aforementioned programme while browsing eBay...

Review: Ganryu

Ganryu resurrects legendarily unbeaten Japanese warrior Miyamoto Musashi for one final fight. The problem is, in this ugly, lazy, soulless, Frankenstein of game...everyone loses

What hurts most in playing this near-perfectly ported Dreamcast edition of Neo-Geo game Ganryu is that the original creators seemingly just didn't care. They didn't care that they were besmirching and cynically exploiting the name and legendary story of, Genji aside, arguably Japan's greatest historical hero. The bloody life of Miyamoto Musashi and his epic duel-of-duels with Sasaki Kojirō on Ganryū-jima, an island located between Honshū and Kyūshū, is literally the stuff of Japanese legend and here, in this side-scrolling 2D hack-and-slash, it is used as inspiration for what, simply put, is a poor and crassly unimaginative title.
Giant floating doll's head? Coming right up, sir!

A legendary tale

This duel, which has been dramatised many times in film - including in the final movie of an epic three-part series staring famous Japanese actor Toshiro Mifune as Musashi - is often seen as the greatest of Musashi's victories as Kojirō was a lethal swordsman himself, with his deadly use of a nodachi, a Japanese great sword, earning him the title of The Demon of the Western Provinces.

While his deeds have reached mythological proportions, Musashi was very much a real person and one who, arguably, perfected the two-blade fighting style. Musashi's Ni-Ten Ichi Ryu technique (two heavens as one), as detailed in his epic The Book of Five Rings (anyone with an interest in kenjutsu should read a modern a translation), was revolutionary for the time and, no doubt, a large part of how the greatest Japanese swordsman of all remained undefeated in over 60 duels.
The cutscenes are nicely drawn.
Musashi wasn't just the ultimate swordsman either. In his later life he mastered numerous arts and crafts - with arguably the finest being his beautiful broken ink pieces such as Shrike Perched on a Withered Branch. Simply put, Miyamoto Musashi is one of Japan's most well-known and beloved historical figures.

Why then would original creators Visco Corporation - a Japanese software house no less - use him and his most famous adventure as a vehicle to publish what is essentially a shoddy, cheap, bolted together Shinobi clone devoid of all soul?

The answer, of course, is money...

Alice Dreams Tournament OST Available For Pre-Order

Alice Dreams Tournament finally hit the Dreamcast earlier in 2017 and went down pretty well with the community. The frantic, multiplayer focused Bomberman homage also impressed this gamer (read the review here), and overall Julien Desquenne and Nicolas Pochet delivered what they promised with their admirable Kickstarter campaign. One aspect of Alice Dreams Tournament that was especially noteworthy was the music - anyone who has played it will know all about the ear worm tunes that accompany the explosive action.
Thanks to online store and publisher Côté Gamers, a brand new Alice Dreams Tournament OST music CD is coming in October 2017, featuring 27 tracks - two of which are original compositions not found in the main game. Priced at a very reasonable €13/£12/$15, the 'day one' edition of the Alice Dreams Tournament soundtrack is limited and ships with a numbered certificate of authenticity.
You can pre-order the CD from Côté Gamers here (site is in French, so diligent use of a translation tool is encouraged...unless you can read French, of course!), and international buyers can take advantage of the 'books and brochures' shipping option for reduced delivery costs.

Finally, if you haven't had the pleasure of playing Alice Dreams Tournament yet, or didn't back the Kickstarter, you can now buy the game from the Alice Dreams store here.

Tech Demo Video: Taxman's Sonic CD Running On Dreamcast

As Sonic Mania grips the globe, more than a few minds have pondered whether a Dreamcast port would be possible. We even did a stupid video editing the launch trailer to include the Dreamcast logo. No one can imagine that Sega would commission such an enterprise, but the question remains, would it be technically feasible?
How did Namco's lawyers not catch wind of the blatant plagiarism?
Tom reached out to Christian Whitehead, aka 'The Taxman', one of the key persons behind the Retro engine that powers Mania and the recent ports of Sonic 1, 2 and CD to Android and iOS devices. He was optimistic that a DC port would be possible.
And just yesterday, a new post on the Sonic Retro forums provides some videographic evidence of such a feat being achieved. Forum member 'sonicblur' has posted a video of Taxman's 2011 remake of Sonic CD running on real Dreamcast hardware. While this isn't Sonic Mania, it is in the same family of games, running on the same engine, or at least an earlier version of the same engine. While the video shows many glitches and graphical bugs, it is still an impressive technical achievement.


Remember, sonicblur is quick to point out not to make too big a deal about this. He has little time to work on it, so don't expect to be downloading a disc image any time soon. There are also some copyright issues to be wary of, as Sega is still profiteering from the 6 year old game.

So don't get too excited, just sit back and bask in the warm glow of the knowledge that Sega's last little white box is still full of surprises, and in small corners of the globe, talented coders can still produce magic from its rusty, two decade old hardware.

Trickstyle Now Available On ZOOM Platform

Trickstyle refuses to pass into antiquity quietly, it seems. Only recently we were being wowed by the awesome Trickstyle iOS stickers that somehow became a thing (no, seriously - look here). It appears the internet's insatiable thirst for Acclaim's futuristic hover boarding title knows no bounds though, and while it has been available on GOG for a while, the game has now also been added to online retailer ZOOM Platform's library. ZOOM Platform, for those not in the know, is a digital distribution service for PC and Mac games, and its mission is - and I quote - "to design, create, and publish traditional and interactive entertainment with a Generation X trans-media appeal."
Well, Trickstyle certainly has Generation X trans-media appeal, and it has it by the bucket load. Shame about the framerate in the Dreamcast version, but it's all about the Generation X trans-media appeal, so I'm prepared to overlook that. Anyway, Trickstyle is now on ZOOM Platform and as an added bit of Sega-related trivia, ZOOM's executive chairman is none other than Bernie Stolar. Yes, that Bernie Stolar. Cool eh?

Trickstyle for PC and Mac costs $6.99 and you can grab it here if you don't already have it for your lovely Dreamcast.