Review & Emulation Analysis: Breakers

Until very recently, I'd never heard of Breakers. A game that was solely the preserve of Neo-Geo aficionados - and even then those who tended to walk on the more obscure side of the tracks - Breakers is a game that very few outside of the more niche corners of the gaming fraternity will have much affinity with. Released by Visco Games in 1996, the game remained in its native Japan and was never given a western airing, even when the home conversions for the Neo-Geo AES and Neo-Geo CD came around. Breakers is one of those games that unless you know about it, will pass you by.
That's about to change though, as French publishers JoshProd and Rush On Game launch a joint assault on the Dreamcast library with a collection of 5 new or re-issued titles; and the crowning glory amongst this lineup (along with Rush Rush Rally Reloaded) is considered to be Visco's obscure 2D fighter. With little prior knowledge of Breakers on a personal level (a boat I'm sure I crew with plenty of other people), I decided to approach this upcoming release with a three-pronged attack. First, I wanted to give my own opinions on it as somebody who is not au fait with the original games in the Breakers series; to review the sum of the game's parts from the point of view of a newbie to the series with no prior experiences to compare it to. Second, I wanted to get an unbiased opinion on how well the emulation holds up; and third I wanted to get a comparison between this Dreamcast iteration and the original 1996 version of Breakers running on genuine SNK hardware of the era. With this in mind, it's time to settle down with a mug of tea/coffee/vodka for a bloody long article...
Before I continue with this review though, allow me to address the elephant in the room. I'm not an expert when it comes to fighting games, and even less so when it comes to rare and obscure NTSC-J exclusive 2D fighting games for the Neo-Geo. Sure, I own the majority of the King of Fighters series and many, many other Capcom and SNK 2D fighters for the Dreamcast and beyond...but I'm not an expert in the genre. That said, I do enjoy the odd round of digital fisticuffs and I know what makes for a fun and enjoyable gaming experience.
I can clearly appreciate the comical gulf in quality between things like Double Dragon V, Rise of the Robots and Shaq Fu; and games like Marvel Vs Capcom, X-Men: Children of the Atom and Vampire Hunter D. I've sampled the delights of BlazBlue, JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, innumerable Street Fighter titles and even stuff like Groove on Fight, Garou and Samurai Shodown. Even though I'm no expert, I feel I'm pretty well versed in the genre and I know what differentiates the wheat from the chaff. So with that in mind, let's jump in and give this Breakers thing a good seeing to...

Metropolis Street Racer: The Development Diaries

I do occasionally find myself browsing old websites via the Wayback Machine, and they usually tend to be websites linked in some way to the Dreamcast. Whenever I flick through the manual of an old game and spot a URL, I have an urge to just go and have a look at the contemporary online presence the developer or publisher had. I know I've waffled on about my affection for the Wayback Machine on multiple occasions but there's just something so fascinating about trawling the long forgotten sites of old, sites that date from before the internet was as ubiquitous as it is today. I mean, even fridges and dishwashers can connect to the internet these days, but back in the early 2000s just getting online was an arduous process - even if you had a Dreamcast. 
Anyway, due to my insatiable thirst for the widely forgotten, I found myself looking at the Bizarre Creations website when I noticed a tab for a development diary. Weirdly, it is now only accessible by using the 'console friendly' (read: Dreamcast compatible) version of the site, but upon clicking it I was met with a fascinating insight into the development process of one of my favourite Dreamcast games. Here, buried in time being read by precisely nobody was a glimpse into the past. Anecdotes about nights out on the town with other Dreamcast developers of the era, office politics and even some fascinating tales of pranks played in the MSR engine by the programmers (I'd kill to see the 'MSR with rabbits' that's referred to!). I had never read any of this before, and I thought it was worth preserving and sharing with like minded fans of Metropolis Street Racer. 
Naturally, what makes this even more poignant is that Bizarre Creations, even after the critical and commercial success of later titles such as Project Gotham, no longer exists. So, read on and get ready to be whisked back to 1998 and the inner sanctum of Bizarre Creations' Liverpool offices...


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...

Video Review: Millennium Racer: Y2K Fighters

At the risk of this becoming the Millennium Racer Junkyard, I've put together a shortish video review of the recently discovered futuristic racing game. Hopefully you'll find the video informative and it'll give you a taste of what to expect before you head over to the original reveal article, where download links and the full story of the discovery are detailed. Enjoy!


Thanks to Kuririn84, japanese_cake and Eric Fradella for their various work in getting Millennium Racer: Y2K Fighters out into the hands of Dreamcast gamers everywhere; and thanks to Eurogamer for giving this story a bit of exposure and giving the old Junkyard a mention. If you download the game and want a CD inlay for it, here's one courtesy of Facebook group member Larkos McEnroe:
Once again, the Dreamcast community can be utterly awesome at times. I need to lie down.

Previously Unknown Dreamcast Game Millennium Racer: Y2K Fighters Discovered

This is pretty damn cool. Ever heard of Millennium Racer: Y2K Fighters? Not many people have. It was developed by Creat Studio and released on the PC back in 1999 and it appears that a Dreamcast port was in the works. For whatever reason it was never shown to the public, the press...or anyone outside of Creat Studios by the looks of things. This is particularly odd because the game was recently discovered on a Dreamcast dev kit and it appears to be fully playable and complete!
Millennium Racer is a futuristic racer with combat elements in the same vein as Extreme G or WipEout, and looks as though it could have given the genre a shot in the arm as the only other titles in this style are limp to say the least. Pod 2 and Magforce Racing are the only true attempts at this style of game on the Dreamcast (I'm not counting Episode 1: Racer) and they're both pants.
Anyway, back to Millennium Racer. I was contacted a few weeks ago by the owner of the dev kit, a Dreamcast aficionado known as Kuririn84 and he told me the following:

"Hi, I just wanted to give you a heads up that I have found an unreleased Dreamcast game called Millenium Racer: Y2K Fighters. 

"I am working with another member of the community to get it running, and I do plan on releasing the game and files to the community. I know the PC version was released, but there was never an announcement of a Dreamcast port. The files I found are on the HD of my Dev kit, so certainly Dreamcast files. I'm working with another member of the community to get it running.

"I have sent the game to two people, one of them was unable to do anything with it, the other person is very well known in the Dreamcast scene and seems confident they can get it running. If he can get it running I will put the game out there for the community, if not I will post the files for people to look at. I've been a Dreamcast fan and a member of the community since 1998, I hope this can be my contribution."
- Kuririn84
Since then, it appears that Millennium Racer has indeed been extracted from the dev kit on which it has been hiding for all these years, and the best bit is that it's 100% playable...

A Very Early Look At Dungeon Ross

Dungeon Ross is a self-titled dungeon crawler for the Dreamcast that was put together in a weekend for Global Game Jam back in January 2017. Created by the two-man team made up of Ross Kilgariff and Alastair Low, Dungeon Ross is a charming little proof-of-concept that is still in the very early stages of development, but holds plenty of potential. The game was actually revealed back in late 2016 after the Global Game Jam event held at MakerSpace in Dundee, Scotland but we wanted to allow the guys a bit more time to add more content to the dank, subterranean world of Dungeon Ross before really delving in and showing it off.
For the uninitiated, Global Game Jam is a worldwide event during which game developers and programmers have a set amount of time (usually a weekend) to come up with a totally original game or piece of software. The idea is to allow developers to get as creative as they can over the 48hr period, nurturing teamwork and collaboration with a view to producing original games and concepts.
While Dungeon Ross is still very early and the game consists of little more than a fairly small section of dungeon, the engine is up and running and the visuals are pretty crisp. There's also a pretty interesting two player mode in which gamers can assume the role of either Ross or Alastair, and the way the camera zooms out to reveal more of the map is a nice touch. There's no collision detection and the AI is also fairly rudimentary but from what we've seen the beginnings of a really cool game could be in the offing with Dungeon Ross. We spoke to the eponymous Ross to get the full lowdown on his brand new Dreamcast adventure...

You Can Still Use Dial-Up To Surf The Internet With A Dreamcast

In recent times much has been written about the Dreamcast's ability to get online with a Raspberry Pi and a few other easily available components. The DreamPi method has single handedly revitalised the online gaming scene on the Dreamcast, and sites like Dreamcast Live have made it their mission to breathe new life into titles such as Chu Chu Rocket and Worms World Party. But what if you don't have a DreamPi or you just don't play online games in general? What other things can you still do in 2017 with a Dreamcast when it comes to exploring its online abilities? Well...um...you can still browse the internet with a dial up connection if you so wish.
Line Di. See?
I already know what many people are going to say or write in the comments sections without actually looking at this article: what's the point? What's the point in using a dial up connection and a 33k or 56k modem to go online with a Dreamcast in 2017? It's slow, most of the sites won't load anymore and it's expensive. The point is that we can. And that's the only excuse I need, to be honest.
Don't act like you've never Googled yourself!
While it is true that all of these hypothetical points are valid, there's just something cool about once again firing up Dreamkey, and throwing information through those long redundant wires and circuits that reside inside the plucky little dial-up modem stuck to the side of the console. And the best bit is that you can do it right now, with very little effort if you so desire...

Dreamcast, GDQ, and Speedrunning

During the past three years, I've biannually destroyed my already terrible sleep cycle due to a certain event: Games Done Quick. GDQ is a fun speedrunning marathon that raises money for two main charities and a few smaller ones. In fact, they raised over $2.2 million dollars during Awesome Games Done Quick, their winter event held in aid of the Prevent Cancer Foundation.

Two runs in particular (Big's story in Sonic Adventure and Sega Bass Fishing) got me wondering about something. What about the Dreamcast speedrunning scene? To be sure, it's not as popular as the perennial favorites like the SNES, Genesis, N64, PC, etc...but surely there are at least some decent Dreamcast console runs out there?
With the games I mentioned, Big's story was played on Sonic Adventure: DX, but Sega Bass Fishing was on the Dreamcast (see above). However, most times that a Dreamcast game was run, it was inevitably played on a different console or on PC. Sonic Adventure 2 was run that year, but it was the Gamecube version (Sonic Adventure 2: Battle). However, the previous year's Crazy Taxi had the famous Sega swirl underneath the game's name.

Going like that would take ages though, since GDQ has literally hundreds of runs to look at. Instead, let's take a look at the first 10 games of this very blog's Top 200 Dreamcast games...

Xenocider Box Art & Pre-order Poster Revealed

Xenocider is coming, and Retro Sumus is determined to make an impression with its impressive 3D shooter. If you grabbed the demo version in 2016 you'll already know that the game is well worth waiting for, but now there's another reason to get excited: the revised artwork has been revealed and it looks positively amazing!
Drawn by none other than DC Comics artist Agustin Padilla (Green Arrow, Transformers, Borderlands, GI Joe), this new artwork really brings Xenocider to life, and gives heroine Xara a whole new look. To be honest, I think it looks absolutley badass (to quote Sgt. Apone) and the best bit is this: if you pre-order Xenocider you will get this artwork as a bonus poster to stick on the wall of your choice. Can't say fairer than that. Here's a video from Retro Sumus:


You can find more words and details about this whole Xenocider shebang by clicking this link here.

Senile Team Reveals Intrepid Izzy For Dreamcast & PC

Senile Team recently teased us with news of a brand new Dreamcast game in development...and now they've unveiled full details! Intrepid Izzy is a 2D side-scrolling platformer in the style of Nintendo classic Metroid. Details are a little thin on the ground at present, but Senile Team promises that Intrepid Izzy will mix role playing, platforming and beat 'em up elements.
"Intrepid Izzy is a 2D action adventure platformer or "metroidvania", currently in development by Senile Team. Mixing platforming with beat-'em-up and RPG elements, the titular character must jump, fight and puzzle her way through various imaginative, colourful worlds.

A lot of time and attention was spent on developing the visual style of the game. The crisp and cartoony HD graphics come to life thanks to bright, warm colours and smooth animations. The game is being developed on PC (Windows), and a Dreamcast version is also in the works (though obviously not in HD). Additional platforms are also being looked into."
- Roel van Mastbergen, Senile Team

AGES II: Sega Game Archives Music Arrange Album

When is a Dreamcast game not a Dreamcast game? Why, when it's a music CD of course! AGES II from Japanese studio Woodsoft is just that - it's a music CD full of re-imagined music tracks from classic Sega titles of yesteryear, delivered in a package that looks very similar to a legitimate NTSC-J Dreamcast game case. Released at the tail end of 2014, this is actually the third in a trilogy of compilations under the AGES brand from Woodsoft, and before acquiring this CD from an eBay seller located in Japan, I was totally oblivious to the existence of such a collection. And while it isn't strictly Dreamcast related, I think the intriguing packaging and subject matter make AGES II a perfect subject for a minor investigation here at the Junkyard.
When I first saw AGES II listed on eBay, it caught my attention because I wasn't aware of a Sega Ages collection ever being released for the Dreamcast. Obviously, we have stuff like Yu Suzuki Game Works, but a proper entry in the Sega Ages series never actually came to the Dreamcast and it is that fact which initially drew my eye to it. Upon closer inspection (the description wasn't overly clear on what it was), I discovered that the Dreamcast logo shown in the photos was back to front, and it doesn't say Dreamcast - it says 'Dreamnalt.' AGES II represented something of an intriguing mystery to me, and so off I went to Google to get more information on this Dreamnalt outfit...only to find, well, very little to be honest.
If you search AGES II or Dreamnalt, Google doesn't really produce anything other than a few images from an old Tumblr account and it was only by changing the search terms several times that I came across this review over at Hardcore Gaming 101. It's a review of the first AGES collection which features music from such legendary games as Power Drift, Lunar and Fantasy Zone. From that article, I discovered that Woodsoft have several more CDs listed on the Video Game Music Database (VGMdb), which is a repository of information similar to IMDB but solely for the collection of resources pertaining to music used in games.

A Quick Look At Free-DC

As you're no doubt aware, the Dreamcast was served by a plethora of online services depending on the territory. In Europe we got the Dreamarena service; the US got SegaNet and in Japan Dreamcast owners were treated to the Dricas service. Dricas - to me at least - looks like it was by far the most feature rich of these three services, and offered such delights as video calling (through the Dreameye) and the ability to spam your friends with nonsense in the form of Dreamflyer. Dricas itself is a truly vast topic of discussion but due to the nature of the internet I fear much of the features and functionality that users enjoyed is lost to the mists of internet lore. No amount of internet archaeology or Wayback Machine plundering can bring back a service that just cannot be accessed anymore because the servers are now in landfill (probably).
Dreamarena went through a flamboyant midlife crisis.
Dreamarena was totally serviceable for web browsing; and SegaNet was fine for gaming (at 56k speeds) over in the US as far as I can ascertain...but Dricas was the real deal. Going from the scant details I can find trawling the internet, Dricas offered Japanese Dreamcast owners some really intriguing features, including something called Dream Map which was powered by Japanese mapping firm Zenrin and allowed Dreamcast owners to locate each other on a Google Maps-style thing and connect with people in their locality. It sounds a bit like the Near function incorporated into the Sony PS Vita...but y'know, actually used by people.
Garish enough for ya?!
There was also a thing called MailChum!, which - and I quote - "...provides you with an instant e-mail penpal, from a variety of characters ranging from beautiful girls to mythical animals." Erm. Anyway, the reason I'm banging on about Dricas and other long-dead internet services for the Dreamcast is that I wanted to discuss something I knew of previously...but just didn't think anyone else would be interested in reading about: Free-DC.

Why Dreamcast?

As popular as this blog may have become in recent years - I still have no idea why people want to read my rambling diatribes about a long-dead games console, by the way - I don't go around in real life announcing myself as some kind of saviour of the Dreamcast. True, I bore my gamer friends to death with stories about long cancelled games and how this series or that game originally started life on the Dreamcast...but generally in my day to day life I barely speak about my affection for Sega's final console. It's like a dirty little secret in some ways. However, on occasion people who aren't really involved in my gaming stuff do find out about this place or see something on social media that I may have tweeted or posted, and inevitably the question comes: "why the Dreamcast?"

Work colleagues who have a passing interest in gaming or retro tech find out that I spend my free time writing this guff, and at first they think it's cool or intriguing...then become a little puzzled. And sometimes I have to just sit there and ponder to myself...why Dreamcast indeed? What is it about the Dreamcast that has fuelled my desire to continue to churn out podcasts, videos and articles and haul all my stuff across the country to events for the last 11 years? I generally fall back on the old "the Dreamcast represents so many missed opportunities" response; but the more I think about it, the more I think I have another reason. But before I share it with you, dear reader, some more about my other gaming habits...

Senile Team Teases New Dreamcast Game

I can't keep up with all these new Dreamcast releases. First we had the announcement about Rush Rush Rally Reloaded and Breakers et al; and then there's the imminent release of Alice Dreams Tournament and the impending Xenocider from our good friends at Retro Sumus...and now we have news of yet another brand new Dreamcast game. Do you ever wake up from a strange dream thinking that you might still be asleep because you feel weird? No, me neither...but I thought I should add some kind of cliché because that's what the mainstream cool kids do.
Anyway, the as-yet-unnamed title again comes courtesy of Senile Team, but it categorically isn't the mythical Age of the Beast. As Senile Team head honcho Roel van Mastbergen explains in his recent post over at the developer's website:

"First I have to get one thing out of the way: it's not Age of the Beast. In case you didn't know, Age of the Beast was a project we started soon after the release of our firstborn, the moddable beat 'em up engine called Beats of Rage. But we stepped into the same traps as so many other indie developers - we announced it prematurely and watched it grow over our heads. I suppose this is a natural part of growing up for a game dev. It has certainly taught us a lot."
- Roel van Mastbergen, Senile Team

Age of the Beast never came to fruition but that's not to say work didn't forge ahead, and Roel goes as far as sharing some previously unseen sprite work with us. That first image below is just something I created myself from individual frames from the animated GIF on the Senile Team site because (full disclosure) the archaic technology keeping this site together can't cope with animated GIFs:
I'm sure you'll agree it's quite impressive and looks like it could give Guardian Heroes a run for its money. However, that's all water under the bridge. A new title is coming to the Dreamcast and so far Senile Team are being very coy with details. Indeed, Roel has only released a single image:
What could this new game be? A shadow puppet simulator? Personally, I think shadow puppetry is underrepresented on the Dreamcast...but I'm pretty sure it won't be a shadow puppetry simulator. Damn you Senile Team, damn you. Anyway, we'll be sure to keep you updated on this new game and hopefully we'll be able to shed more light on future releases in a developer interview very soon!

Senile Team now have a Facebook page too - go give them a like!