Hardware Review: DCHDMI - The 1080p Dreamcast

Playing older games in higher resolutions than they were ever intended to be played in is all the rage these days. Be it through emulation, or via the relatively recent trend of the remaster, getting titles of yesteryear to play on modern display screens in the best possible quality is a prize many are willing to go to extraordinary lengths to attain.
The Dreamcast CD player in 1080p (960p bordered)
Here in our little corner of the gaming sphere, things are no different. There are some people who will never plug their Dreamcasts into anything but a CRT television through an RGB SCART connection. Others champion the clarity of a good old fashioned CRT computer monitor and a VGA box. And for those who simply don't have the space for the luxury of a proper old television or monitor, there's the HDMI passthrough boxes from Beharbros and Pound Technology.
The Akura and Gekko are both well built, high quality devices
The limitations of these HMDI boxes and cables are well documented, but for those with either limited space or on a budget, simply connecting a Dreamcast to a flat panel HD display and enjoying their favourite games in 480p is a perfectly acceptable and affordable way to continue gaming on Sega's old warhorse in the modern era.


Of course, what the Pound and Berharbros adapters do is simply take the VGA signal from the Dreamcast and spit it out through a HDMI cable. There's no upscaling at all, and the larger the screen, the poorer the image. It isn't really true high definition gaming, in all honesty. Things are about to change though, as a new contender has entered the ring: DCHDMI.
The DCHDMI board is an internal mod replete with an onboard FPGA
The DCHDMI is an internal board that is slotted into the Dreamcast shell, beneath the main board and is connected directly to the Dreamcast's GPU. What this means is that a digital signal is taken directly from from the GPU and is output in true HDMI through a mini HDMI port on the back of the console. The results are truly staggering, and as we'll see in this review, outside of emulation, the image quality and clarity afforded by the DCHDMI is leagues ahead of anything ever seen before from a Dreamcast console...

Play Test: After The Fall

Recently, we broke the news that one of the more elusive Quake total conversions, After The Fall, was finally being ported to the Dreamcast after years in the wilderness. The reasons for this were numerous and included technical limitations related to the Dreamcast's RAM, amongst others. A talented programmer called Pip Nayler stepped forward to resurrect the game however, and we have been lucky enough to sample the fruits of his labour.


If you want to know more about After The Fall's history, please check out our previous article here, but for this play test we'll be focussing on the current build Pip was kind enough to let us experience. First things first - this is still pretty early and as such there are a few rough edges. Also, it's running on Mankrip's Makaqu engine, so it doesn't look like a first party, official Dreamcast game. However, if you can look past the low resolution, occasionally low frame rate and the stock Quake sound effects and gameplay elements, what you'll discover in After The Fall is a very enjoyable and pretty engaging first person shooter.
From the off, you'll feel acquainted with the set up if you're a Quake veteran. After The Fall offers you a familiar hub level that acts as a way to select which difficulty you'd like to play. It's probably worth stating at this point that choosing 'easy' is your best bet initially, as the game is brutally difficult from the off - not that this is a bad thing...just don't accidentally chose the 'nightmare' option by pressing the button by the slipgate!

As mentioned, the Quake engine origins of After The Fall are pretty clear to see, with architecture blatantly taking cues from id's original blueprint. That said, After The Fall does take things to some fairly unorthodox places almost out of the gate...

Stampede: The Lost Dreamcast Sheep Herding Sim

Of all the aspects of being a Dreamcast fan, discovering lost and cancelled games is by far the most fascinating to me. Yes, the games we actually got are numerous; and a large proportion of them are pretty darn good, but the merest glimpse at titles that never made it give us a tiny peek into an alternative reality. A reality where the Dreamcast was the commercial success it could have been, and a reality in which all those titles that were unceremoniously shelved received full retail releases.
There are some cancelled games that are widely known about and that have even been released in some form or another. Half-Life, Propeller Arena, Hellgate, Geist Force and PBA Bowling are famous examples; and more recently titles such as Agartha, Deer Avenger and Millennium Racer: Y2K Fighters have shown us that there are still lost games waiting to be discovered. We can now add another to that ever growing list: Stampede.
You'd be forgiven for scratching your head at this point, as Stampede is likely a title you've never heard of. But there's a reason to be excited about this one - Stampede for Dreamcast was running well on Dreamcast hardware when it was cancelled, and now a playable build has found its way into the hands of Xeno Crisis developer Bitmap Bureau. What's even more interesting, is that the guys who make up Bitmap Bureau (developers of the upcoming Xeno Crisis) were part of the development studio that originally worked on Stampede all those years ago.

With this in mind, there's a very real chance that Stampede could finally see the light of day, nearly 20 years after it was canned. But what exactly is Stampede? And why should you care? Read on for the answers, and an exclusive interview with the game's creative director...