Shenmue I & II: The Ultimate Way To Experience Yu Suzuki's Masterpiece

I thought long and hard about how to approach writing an article like this. I've never made any secret of the fact that while I find Shenmue to be a marvellous technical achievement and a glittering jewel in the Dreamcast library, I also found the original experience to be a rather cumbersome affair. The stilted scripting, the awful controls and the constant loading screens juxtaposed with sublime visuals, deep and interesting storyline and a dazzling amount of extras in terms of in-world detail, meant that - for me at least - the whole experience was rather uneven. On the one hand it is incredible; but on the other there are many minor annoyances.
When Sega initially announced that Shenmue and Shenmue II were being repackaged and released for the current crop of consoles and PC, the gaming community went into a bit of a nostalgia-fuelled meltdown. It was as if a long forgotten king was coming back to reclaim his crown from the usurpers. Shenmue was coming back to reclaim it's crown as the greatest videogame that most people had never played.
1986 never looked so good
See, even though the majority of people who come here to read our articles may be considered dedicated Dreamcast fans, and by extension are more likely to have actually played the original Shemmue or its sequel (on either Dreamcast or Xbox); there seemed to be something amiss with the celebratory outpourings of emotion on social media. That being, that while the re-issue of Shenmue and its venerable sequel was indeed a cause for celebration, it seemed that a significant majority of those voices proclaiming a victory in having 'saved Shenmue' had never actually played the thing in its original guise.
In this life or the next!
For this reason alone, doubt crept into my mind. Would the people screaming to the heavens in ecstasy upon hearing about the re-release of Ryo Hazuki's (as yet) unfinished quest for vengeance actually appreciate the foibles of the game once they actually got to experience it? I won't lie - I was a little worried that resurrecting Shenmue and Shenmue II for a new generation of gamers who didn't have to put up with the grinding of the GD drive, the d-pad controls, and relatively small gameplay areas filled with countless painted on shop fronts and houses in which 'no-one's home,' would sour the experience and rob Shenmue of its deity-like reputation.
Please excuse the battered boxes
Shenmue is a game of its time if ever there was one, it is slow and it is plodding. It makes the player work for the next reveal in the plot line. There is no huge tutorial and there are scant onscreen prompts. You literally have to sit and read Ryo's notebook to work out what you're meant to do next, and in this current climate of instant gratification and the apparent unwillingness of a certain demographic to actually read anything, I was apprehensive. However...

JoshProd Asking Fans To Vote On Next Batch Of Dreamcast Releases

It would appear that video game publisher JoshProd has no intentions of slowing down their release schedule and porting of games to the Dreamcast. The company behind the Dreamcast releases of Flashback, The Escapee, 4x4 Jam, Breakers, Fade to Black, Ganryu and many others currently has a poll running on its Facebook page asking fans to rank order vote for the genre of game they’d like to play sooner.

Here at The Dreamcast Junkyard, we welcome pretty much everything Dreamcast related with open arms, particularly new games appearing on the system; however this development seems especially interesting as a few of the categories pictured are from genres we’ve not seen on the platform since the plug was pulled back in the day.
Fade to Black is now officially a Dreamcast title. Review coming soon.
Feel free to follow the link below to JoshProd’s Facebook page and cast your own vote, and let us know in the comments what you want to see. Here at the 'Yard, we actively encourage wild speculation about which games will come to the Dreamcast next. 3D racer? Another 2D shooter? Survival horror? It seems the choice is in our hands...

Check out the poll on the JoshProd Facebook page. Remember you can also order the latest releases from JoshProd at Videogames New York, Play-Asia, Rush on Game and The Bit Station.

GDC 1999: Accessing The Dreamcast's PowerVR Features

If you're anything like me, you'll find documentation on literally any and every aspect of the Dreamcast to be utterly fascinating. From internal emails announcing the demise of the system, to service manuals detailing schematics; it's all part and parcel of the history of Sega's final console.

Next up in this adventure into the robustly obscure annals of Dreamcast history, we bequeath you with the lesser spotted presentation delivered by one Jason Powell to assembled delegates at GDC 1999. The topic of the presentation? Accessing the PowerVR 2 features under Windows CE, of course! As you can probably tell from the title, it's a real thrill ride through the features offered by the PowerVR 2 chipset and was apparently designed to show off the benefits of the graphics accelerator to potential Dreamcast developers.
The guts of the Dreamcast, with the SH-4 and PowerVR taking centre stage.
For those not aware, the NEC PowerVR 2 is the graphics chipset that the Dreamcast shared with the NAOMI arcade system, and which is essentially why arcade ports were so effortless. Paired with the 200Mhz Hitachi SH-4 processor, the two made for a fearsome combination and are the force behind the Dreamcast's awesome graphical prowess.
The presentation was delivered - according to the first slide - on March 18 at GDC 1999. On first glance, it does look very dry and is a far cry from the garish PowerPoint presentations we're all able to ham-fistedly knock together these days. It's not even in colour, for a start. That said, the content is the star here, with a pretty comprehensive look at what the PowerVR 2 offers in terms of specifications and abilities.

Looking through the presentation today, it all looks fairly tame, but by 1999 standards these specs were at the cutting edge of gaming technology, and I dare say many a developer who attended this conference would have been champing at the bit to get their hands on dev kits.
Unfortunately, it doesn't look as though the GDC Vault website has the actual presentation archived, and so we can't share any photos or video of Mr Powell delivering his keynote. For now at least, the slides are all we have as evidence that this event even took place.
If you'd like to download the full 16 page presentation and have a good look yourself, you can grab the Accessing PowerVR 2DC Features Under Windows CE presentation here, or by hitting the big blue magic button below.
Thanks go to our Facebook group moderator Jon Lee for grabbing this file from a (now defunct) news group back in the early 2000s.

Tanglewood Dreamcast Port Still On Track

You've probably heard of Tanglewood, the cool-looking Mega Drive platform adventure that blasted through its Kickstarter goal back in December 2016. Big Evil Corp garnered an impressive £56,000 - £8,000 more than their target and it's easy to see why. The impressive visuals and interesting premise have certainly captured the attention and imaginations of gamers everywhere.

The premise is that you control a fox-like creature called Nymn, who must find its way back to the pack before night blankets the realm of Tanglewood in darkness. Very 'Animals of Farthing Wood,' I'm sure you'll agree. One of the more interesting aspects to the Tanglewood saga, is that a Dreamcast stretch goal was added - and also reached - and as we near the launch date for the Mega Drive cartridge version, we thought it was worth enquiring about the Dreamcast port.

I asked via Twitter what was happening on the Dreamcast front, and I was pleased to see the response that the game is apparently progressing well:
For the benefit of those who can't see the image for whatever reason, Tanglewood say the engine has been ported and all the basics are up and running; and that full-time development will continue once the Mega Drive version has shipped.
We haven't actually seen anything of the Dreamcast port running yet, but rest assured that we'll be keeping a close eye on any further developments, hopefully culminating in a review of this intriguing little title. Remember to keep an eye on Tanglewood on the official website.

Will you be playing Tanglewood when it hits the Mega Drive? Or are you holding out for the Dreamcast port? Let us know in the comments, on Twitter or in our Facebook group.

Source: Twitter

History of Independent Dreamcast Development

This article is taken from the work-in-progress second issue of the free fanzine, Dream On Magazine.

It's hard to believe that Sega released the Dreamcast twenty years ago! It feels like only yesterday. Luckily, the indie developers have been busy these past decades, so there's lots of dreamy goodness to cover. 

The second issue has taken a long time to come out due to huge mistakes on my part, and I sincerely apologize for that. However, the wait should be worth it, as I've had some awesome help. The DC Evolution crew, the same folks who put together the excellent compilation disc, "The Sandman #1", is helping to make sure that this issue will be the best it can be. 

So, feel free to dive in, and read up on the creation of the independent Dreamcast movement. I hope you find as much enjoyment out of it as we've had creating it. 

Dream On #2, and by extension, this article, would not have been possible without the help of BlueCrab, Christuserloeser, Idarcl, DCDayDreamer, and lyonhrt.

Bernie Stolar opens the floodgates to rumors of Saturn's successor.

On 23 June, 1997, Sega's Chief Operating Officer announced "the Saturn is not our future", publicly revealing for the first time that they were working on a successor. This console would use a
Hitachi SH-4 for its CPU and an ARM processor for sound. The code name for the console was Katana, but it was given the name Dreamcast by the time it hit retail. It was released in Japan on
27 November, 1998, in North America on 9 September, 1999, in Europe on 14 October, 1999, and in Oceania on 30 November, 1999. It was discontinued just a scant few years later when
Sega announced that it was discontinuing the console on 23 January, 2001. Production of new
games continued in North America until spring 2002, in Europe and Oceania until winter 2002,
and in Japan until 2007. However, it continues to have an active commercial life among
independent game developers.

A collection of official MIL-CD enhanced music discs.

The Dreamcast continues to be attractive to indies because the games can be sold on CD without having to obtain a license from Sega, which drastically reduces the overhead that is usually present in commercial game development for consoles. This ability actually stems from a vulnerability discovered early on in the lifespan of the Dreamcast. Sega of Japan developed a multimedia system called the MIL-CD, or Music Interactive Live-CD.

Event: Southampton Game Fest 2018 - Saturday 6th October

As well as running this place, a YouTube channel, an award-nominated podcast, the world's best Twitter account* and the largest Dreamcast-related group on Facebook, we fine folk at the Junkyard also occasionally crawl out of our respective holes to support live events. Indeed, any of you who have visited either the Play Expo or Revival events around the UK in previous years will attest to having witnessed the Junkyard team drinking heavily and beating away rabid fans/autograph hunters with extreme efficiency and accuracy.
October 6th will see some of us donning our protective hazmat suits once again as we attempt to engage the public at another event - Southampton Game Fest 2018. As the name suggests, this is a festival of all things gaming, and will be held in the city of Southampton on the south coast of England. Southampton Game Fest is held entirely in support of various charities, and this year will be held in several locations across the city. We'll have multiple Dreamcast consoles set up, along with a host of peripherals and games for people to play on.

If you're free on Saturday 6th October, why not come down to the event, buy us beer, play some Dreamcast games and get involved with the fun? As well as us, the folks from Bitmap Bureau will also be supporting Game Fest, so it's a perfect excuse to get some first hand experience with their awesome-looking retro inspired shooter Xeno Crisis.
For more information and to buy tickets (or become an exhibitor yourself), head over to the Southampton Game Fest 2018 website here. You can also find out more information on our upcoming events by checking the Events page here.

* This, like the cake, is a lie.

Online Dreamcast Playercount Hits 1000 With DreamPi

Unless you've been living under a particularly large rock for the past couple of years, you'll no doubt be aware that the Dreamcast is once again a viable online gaming platform. This is mostly due to the work of one Luke Benstead, the talented chap behind the DreamPi. The DreamPi software (recently updated to version 1.7) written by Luke uses a Raspberry Pi to enable the Dreamcast to connect to online gaming servers hosted by Dreamcast Live, and as such a burgeoning community of online Dreamcast gamers has sprung up in recent times.
Toy Racer is one of the many games enjoying a renaissance thanks to DreamPi 
It might be a far cry from the initial 6 billion players, however the fact that the number of accounts set up to use DreamPi has recently hit 1000 is an amazing feat, and shows that there's plenty of life in the old Dreamcast yet. Indeed, NFL 2K was recently restored to full online multiplayer functionality by programmer Shuouma, yet again expanding the online gaming library available to Dreamcast owners. In recognition of this milestone (it's probably the highest number of online Dreamcasts since the early 2000s), we spoke briefly to Luke regarding this not insignificant user count. Here's what he had to say:
 
"I'm still amazed that a little side project I started  few years back has had such a massive and unexpected impact on the Dreamcast community. That over a thousand people have gone to the effort of setting up a DreamPi to get their Dreamcast back online shows their love for the console. The community is definitely still growing, too. It's also worth mentioning the work of Pcwzrd at Dreamcast Live and Shuouma, as if it weren't for their efforts I doubt anyone would be bothered about DreamPi."
- Luke Benstead, creator of the DreamPi software

 
Most of us here at the Junkyard are regular participants in the online gaming sessions organised via the Dreamcast Talk forums, and setting up a DreamPi is literally as easy as pie (sorry). If you would like to join the ever-growing community of online Dreamcast gamers, head over to Luke's blog or visit Dreamcast Live for further details. Here's to the next 1000 Dreamcasters joining the party!
A naked Raspberry Pi rocking DreamPi
Do you play online with your Dreamcast? Have you screamed at the sky as I beat you mercilessly at Toy Racer or POD 2?  Let us know in the comments, on Twitter or in our Facebook group.