Real Racer IX: Cancelled Game or Student Assignment?

I was browsing the hellscape of Reddit the other day, looking for something to frustrate me, when I found a rather interesting photo featuring demo footage of an unreleased Dreamcast game called Real Racer IX. Despite being tangled up in the antics of the Junkyard, I'd never heard of it. Not even a murmur. Real Racer IX never saw any kind of release, whether it be official or unofficial. All we have is the photograph below to serve as evidence of its existence.
This photo was taken during the Spring Tokyo Game Show of 2001, which was held from the 30th of March to the 1st of April. It shows a chap doing his best Wesley Snipes impression in a trendy leather jacket, as he plays the demo of Real Racer IX. Next to him, a much smarter-looking guy is watching him play. Obviously the assumption here is that the guy on the right was probably someone who had some kind of involvement with the development of the game, and was overseeing the demo booth. The game itself, like its name suggests, is a racing game, appearing to be of the long-distance running variety.
The gameplay onscreen shows a female athlete running down what looks like the longest, loneliest highway in existence. Despite the woman being the only runner on screen, the HUD shows a position counter of 6 out of 6, meaning there was bound to be a mob of computer opponents lurking somewhere around the corner ahead. The guy playing was probably just a bit rubbish.
Doing a reverse image search on the photo in question, I was led to one result: this old article on a Japanese gaming website called "Game Watch", detailing the Tokyo Game Show of Spring 2001. Browsing through, there's some bits about presentations from Nintendo (showing off the upcoming Game Boy Advance!), as well as Capcom and Konami, and it appears that Microsoft were gearing up to unleash their first ever game console into the Japanese video game market, with what looked like a pretty heavy advertising campaign, featuring Bill Gates holding a Burger in one hand and an Xbox controller in the other. This can be seen in the photo below, trapped under the most unphotogenic bowl of Ramen I've ever seen.
Relegated to the end of the article, is the only bit of Dreamcast-related information, and that is where we find the photo that prompted this entire search...

We'll come back to the few words the article has to say about Real Racer IX in a bit, but before that, let's take a closer look at that photo:
Beady eyed readers may have already noticed the red maraca in leather jacket guy's hand. For those not in the know, the Dreamcast maraca controllers were utilised by beloved rhythm game Samba de Amigo. The maracas work in tandem with a sensor bar to send signals back to the Dreamcast, telling the console the position of the controllers and how often they are being shaken. In this game, I imagine the aim was to shake them up and down in order to make the onscreen character move quicker, just like how the later Wiimote was used to control similar running gameplay. Of course, this is all just speculation on my part. It is believed that the maraca controllers may have been created with more games in mind, and it appears that the developer behind Real Racer IX was attempting to explore their use in new types of games.

If you look even closer though, below the screen, you can see a normal Dreamcast controller, but more interestingly, a fishing controller. There are even what look to be some instructions on how to use both controllers too. How the fishing controller was utilised in this game is something I can't even begin to wrap my head around, but it was probably another motion controller-based experiment on the developer's part.

So while the idea of new avenues for Dreamcast motion control being toyed with sounds cool, you might be wondering how this particular instance fared. Well, that's where we return to the Game Watch article, and with the help of our trusty friend Google Translate, we are able to find a tiny two-sentence summary of Real Racer IX:
"The race queen runs on the circuit. It is quite difficult to operate with Maracas controller of Dreamcast."
Ouch. I'm sure the developer was probably a little disheartened when they saw that. Might explain why leather jacket bloke was so crap though. Speaking of the developer, the article also potentially mentions them by name, saying that Real Racer IX was "exhibited" by "Digital Entertainment Academy".


A search for Digital Entertainment Academy taught me that it was established as a partially owned subsidary of Enix in 1991 (see here). The school was established to teach game development, with support and funding provided by many large video game companies, with many students winning awards for their work (source). The school had incredible contacts with the industry, which opened up opportunities for its students to present their work to potential investors, with the result being their work getting a commercial release or even being hired by big name companies (see here).
Sadly, a trip to the Academy's official website tells us that the school closed its doors on March 31st 2009.

However, exploring the archives of the DEA, I was able to find the following page, which provides us with an interesting bit of information about a particular award that some of the students won during the academy's existence.
"DEA participates in the CESA Student Game Awards every year. The CESA Student Game Awards is a contest organised by the Computer Entertainment Association (CESA) for the purpose of discovering and developing human resources. The target is unpublished game works produced by students, and excellent works will be announced and awarded at the Tokyo Game Show.
The CESA had awards for big budget commercial games (source), but it also had an amateur division for student-developed entries, the awards of which were presented at the Tokyo Game Show. Real Racer IX, however, is not listed. This was where the Junkyard's good buddy pcwzrd13 of Dreamcast Live got involved. We both wondered if perhaps the "nominated work" the DEA's list mentions could have perhaps been our mysterious Dreamcast motion game. However pcwzrd13 soon found not one, but two pages that were to solve this mystery once and for all.
On the Tokyo Game Show 2001 Spring website, ten nominated works are listed (see here), none of which are Real Racer IX, leading us both to start wondering if the game was part of the CESA awards at all. Our suspicions were confirmed when pcwzrd13 found probably one of the most vital pieces of information in this quest: a page on the Game Show's website that gives information on a booth at the show (located in hall 2) hosted by the Digital Entertainment Academy. Real Racer IX (or "Real Racer Nine", as it's listed) is on the list, along with some (but not all) of the games that were nominated (and later won) the CESA amateur division awards that year. Below the list, the purpose of the booth is summarised:
"[the Digital Entertainment Academy] is a game creator training school operated by the cooperation of 20 leading game manufacturers. At the booth, a large number of student works are exhibited, including works using actual [Dreamcast] and [WonderSwan] development machines. Please come by all means."  
So with that information fresh in our minds, we come back to our photo. It is extremely likely that the suited gentleman on the right (or maybe even someone off camera) was a DEA student, and Real Racer IX was the project that he had brought to the Spring Tokyo Game Show of 2001 as part of a showcase of DEA student work. The showcase's purpose was most likely to show off to potential/current investors of the school, companies looking to recruit new developer talent, or maybe even to interest prospective students (the game show was open to the public).

Sadly, it seems that Real Racer IX was probably never meant to be commercially released, but was instead a student project, an assignment, if you will. The fact that the booth's showcased work actually ran on real development units may mean that somewhere out there, this game still exists. We can only hope.

Regardless of whether or not this game will ever see the light of day, I sincerely hope that the creator of this game, whoever they are, went on to do truly great things in the industry. Either way, they definitely managed to attract the attention of some nerds on the internet, and that's what really matters, right?
Thanks for reading my article. A big thanks goes out to pcwzrd13 of Dreamcast Live, whose involvement really helped to wrap this case up! Hopefully though, spreading the knowledge of Real Racer IX's existence will help energise the community to unveil even more! Be sure to share your thoughts on this mystery in the comments, on Twitter, or on our Facebook page! Sayonara!

7 comments:

pcwzrd13 said...

Great article man! Happy to help with the research! :-) Just too bad we couldn't find out the name of the student (or students) that developed it. The list of projects on the DEA website only goes back to 2002. You never know though, maybe they'll see this article. lol

Tom Charnock said...

This is outstanding. Amazing article Lewis! I agree with pcwzrd13...hopefully they'll see this and come forward :)

Blondejon said...

Splendid article, I'll search my archives later and see if i have any data on this and other demos

Ribbon Black said...

Wow! Always interesting to hear about a lost DC game, even if it wasn't meant to be a full product...

lerabot said...

Excellent article and research. Super entertaining writing as well ;)

DCGX said...

Dreamcast Mysteries!

Segasocks said...

There is only one real racing game on the Dreamcast and that's The Spirit of Speed 1937!