Fun with (Dreamcast) flags: a study on the accuracy of flags in Dreamcast games

Hi, I'm Mike, chairman of the 'Junkyard Geographical Society,' Dreamcast department (JYGS for short) - the world's leading authority on the geography in Dreamcast titles. We here at Dreamcast JYGS have one mission in our lives: to investigate, promote and generally get a bit weird about real life geographical elements that find their way into Dreamcast games. We're a relatively new organisation but, if like us, you like to criticise minuscule details on flags, point out incorrectly placed landmarks, or otherwise just generally like to be a bit of a dick when it comes to tiny details in Dreamcast games, then we may very well be an organisation that would appeal to you.
Our flag. Merchandise line coming soon (possibly?)
I've had conversations with Tom (I think he's blocked me now, I don't know why, I only sent him 43 messages), reputable creator of The Dreamcast Junkyard, and he agreed to let me have this space to talk to you all about this vitally important sub-sector of the Dreamcast scene. For too long have my fellow JYGS members been hiding away in their musty rooms, afraid of making their presence known amongst all you cool kids with your talk of 'fast cars,''alien space ships' or 'epic Japanese martial arts revenge story/capsule toy simulators.' The times, like that Bob bloke said, they are a changin' – we draw the line here, this far, and no farther! It is time for us to make our presence felt. Geography Nerds of the (Dreamcast) world...unite!

I'm sure like me you are all fans of the wonderful sitcom 'Fun with Flags' (we weren't a fan of the fluff around it with those other people though) - so to announce our arrival, we thought we'd take an idea from one of my personal heroes, Dr. Sheldon Cooper, and delve into the world of vexillology within the Dreamcast games. Vexillology - as I'm sure you all know - is the study of flags.
An inspiration to us all.
Whilst some may talk about gameplay, depth, graphics or - God forbid - 'fun' as being the most important part of gaming on Sega's last console, we hope you agree with us at the JYGS that flags are really the most important element in any video game. Would Mario have ever reached his princess if it wasn't for that flag pole? Were first person shooters any good until we got 'capture the flag' modes? We know the answer, and you do too, so let's not beat around this particular bush any longer.
Look at Mario, he loves a good flag.
I'm here today to take you on a short journey through a carefully curated selection of games on the Dreamcast, in which I will painstakingly look at how each title depicts flags, praising the very best with years of unwarranted fan-mail and possible restraining orders from the developers, whilst condemning to the fiery pits of Hell those that dare take a relaxed attitude in vexillology matters. The much coveted JYGS ribbon will be awarded to those games who take flag matters seriously – multiple ribbons if a game goes above and beyond.
Are you ready? Then let us embark on this vexillological adventure of Dreamcast proportions...

Power Stone
A legendary game for the Dreamcast, right? That's the lie you've been told. In actual fact, I'm here to expose Capcom for this shoddy attempt at vexillology. More specifically, we're looking at Falcon, arguably the cover star of the game. Ever wondered why Falcon's right arm can't be seen clearly?
There's a reason you can't see his arm. I'm not sure why Rogue is looking at Falcon's arse though...
I'll tell you why. Someone royally f***ed up when trying to depict the Union Flag, the beloved symbol of my mother country. We're led to believe Falcon is a pilot – but I don't personally believe any airman worth his title would ever depict the St Patrick's cross part of this flag in such a mangled fashion.
Just look at that abomination.
Sure, Capcom try and hide their capitulation to the anti-vexillogical agenda by noting that Falcon comes from 'Londo' in the manual (oh my, we'll get on to that in a future article, I can tell you!), sneakily getting out of identifying his origin as 'London', a vague attempt to distance themselves from having to use the real British flag? I see you Capcom. JYGS see you.
Londo. Nice try Capcom. Nice try.
In all artwork for the game, Falcon's arm-patch Union Flags are at least not committing the usual video game crime, of making the St Patrick cross line up (it should never do so and is counted as treason in the UK, punishable by death. Look it up) – oh no, it's not that simple. In fact, as is correct, the cross of St Patrick (the red diagonal cross) occupies the upper section inside the cross of St Andrew (as you know, this is the white diagonal cross on the flag) on the fly side of the flag, and the lower part on the hoist side.
As it should be.
If that was the end of it, I would have no complaints, and Capcom would not be receiving my hate mail daily. The issue is that, rather than the cross of St Patrick being contained within the confines of the cross of St Andrew, it (and I can barely bring myself to say this) TOUCHES THE BLUE FIELD OF THE FLAG:
Disgusting.
Is this some sort of anti-Scottish bias? It may be. It's a bloody disgrace regardless. It gets even worse though. The flag of St George in the centre of the flag has a clear line around the white section. What is this, amateur hour?

Final JYGS assessment: Capcom show no regard for either the cross of St Andrew or St Patrick and should be boycotted due to this fact alone. No ribbon for this one. 


Virtua Tennis 2 / Tennis 2K2
There was a suspiciously large absence of flags in the first Virtua Tennis – another example of the anti-flag media? Possibly. But as with just about every other aspect of the game, Virtua Tennis 2 (or Tennis 2K2 if you're in the USA) ups the ante on the flag front, and the guys at Sega's vexillology department (which is clearly a real world department, and not just my dream job) did some great work here.

The player select screen, so often the first sign of trouble in any game when it comes to incorrect flag depictions, has several on display. Pat Rafter's Australian flag gets both the Union Flag and the stars correct, even if the field is a rather light shade of blue. Tim Henman, the greatest tennis player ever, gets a solid Union Flag himself. Good start! Haas and Kafelnikov get accurate German and Russian flags, respectively, although any developer which messes up a tri-colour flag would be instantly blacklisted by ourselves. Similarly, the French flag is correct for Pioline and Mary Pierce – although again, the shade of blue is a little off. We'll forgive them this time.
Pat Rafter here, looking rather sharp. Unlike this picture, taken on a phone due to 'technical difficulties'. I'm a geographer, not an IT specialist.
The Swedish flag for both Thomas Enqvist and Magnus Norman is fine, and Jelena Dokic has an accurate depiction of the Yugoslav flag (it even has the correct shade of blue) and, yes, the country was Yugoslavia at the time. We did check. We at no point thought it changed names the year before the game was released. Nope.
Definitely the right flag, and the right country abbreviation. We checked. Twice.
The Spanish flag is often the first sign of a lazy developer. The crimes against this flag are multitude – three even stripes (wrong), no coat of arms (doubly wrong), coat of arms incorrect (please no), coat of arms in the centre (kill me now). But, pleasantly, this doesn't seem to be an issue with this game. Both Carlos Moya and Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario are blessed with accurate, if a little low resolution, flags. Virtua Tennis 2 is seemingly doing everything right here.
Ah, the time when Carlos Moya was the most famous male Spanish tennis player...
It's last challenge on this select screen, is the abundance of US flags, with four Americans in the game. A challenge, then, as the Stars and Stripes has been a pain in the side of every vexillophile since the late 70s. The number of stars is the usual downfall, and the really bad ones even get the 13 stripes wrong. But, again, VT2 does it right. Solid flags, 13 stripes, and in the right order. There are 50 stars, correctly laid out. Amazing. Top marks for Virtua Tennis 2! It's a little disappointing that we don't get to see many more beautiful flags in the game (although of course we have noted the Christ the Redeemer statue in the background in Brazil, and oh boy are we going to be covering that in a future article too!), but we will settle for what we have.
The Williams sisters - not a bad career they've both had, eh? 
Final JYGS assessment: The guys at Sega did a good job here. Accurate flags abound, even if they picked a slightly off shade of blue. Also – not enough flags. It's one ribbon from the JYGS for this game.


F1 World Grand Prix
One might think that the appeal of these older Formula 1 titles, is roaring around famous tracks in your favourite retro F1 cars. In fact, it's trying to spot what the flags look like without crashing into a wall at 200 mph. F1 World Grand Prix, with an official license, all the correct teams and locations – you'd think that they'd be a top tier example wouldn't you? You'd be wrong.

It starts okay. Down the first straight at Albert Park in Australia, there's numerous flags waving in the crowd. I spotted a Union flag, the Australian, Finnish and Canadian flags, and even a lone Saltire, presumably waved around by a Coulthard fan (but in fact waved by some mysterious ghostly force, as are all flags in the game). There's also some sort of hybrid monstrosity of a Ferrari flag being flown, with a chequered flag style hoist, and prancing horse badge in top fly. I don't know if this is official, but it shouldn't be. And this signalled the game's demise in my eyes.
You'll have to squint a little... but that is the Canadian flag and some weird Ferrari flag too. Honest. 
I've written to the parliament of Australia to complain about how the stars are shown on their national flag in this game. First off, we seem to be lacking one. Secondly, one seems to have somehow fallen to the bottom of the flag as if it's just got really narky with its fellow stars and pissed off. As for the ones remaining in the upper fly part...well, there are three in sort of the right areas, but it just looks ridiculous without the top one. Southern Cross? More like 'makes geographers cross.' I hope the Australian government deal with this in the seriousness it deserves. But fine. Let's try the next track: Interlagos.
This is what the real Australian flag looks like...
...and this is what the game presents. I don't even know what to say. Handy of that glitch popping up to show me the detail though.  
At least now we're in Brazil we should see the sexy Brazilian flag, plus maybe a few other nations, right? Uh...no, actually. You just get the same flags as in Australia. There's not even a Brazilian flag on display! Utter incompetence and disregard for flags on blatant show here! There is a black fielded FIA flag, for all that's worth, but you can't have Brazil without that green, yellow and blue.
We should have got this....
...but we got this. Yes, you'll have to squint. But trust me, they are the same flags as in Australia.
Hoping this wouldn't be the case for every track, I tried more. Imola. Monaco. Nurburgring (which, thanks to F1's hate of geography, was the Luxembourg Grand Prix in 1998.). Nope. On every one, there were Aussies, Canadians, Finns and Brits – and some Scottish Saltires – but nothing else. This was a horrible realisation for me. No matter what the game was like, my opinion on it was now shattered into the broken dreams of a very tired and lonely geography nerd. I turned it off after this. I don't want to talk about it anymore.

Final JYGS assessment: There are more than 4 countries in the world. And those stars are a disgrace. No ribbon for you.
Virtua Striker 2

Football (or soccer, I suppose) games. The absolute bane of JYGS. Too many of them decide to play very loose with the flags they include - some of the atrocities we've seen include upside down German flags, utterly repulsive US flags and several instances of England playing under the Union Flag. These all make us hate football games. Which, really, makes it easier on the Dreamcast, as the console is not known for its football (yes I know, soccer) lineup.

Virtua Striker 2 plays probably the best of the lot of them (if you like arcade gameplay), but of course, all we care about is the flags. There are numerous nations to play as, and on the team select screens you're treated to a little animated flag in the top right. Lovely. Of course...it's all about how accurate they are.
Nice Cameroon flag on display here. Hang on... that map looks odd...
Going through the continents on the map screen (oh and boy will we cover THAT in another article – why is New Guinea attached to Australia? Where's Sri Lanka? Why can you move from Jamaica to Alaska without touching water? What is GOING ON?), we touch on Africa first. 5 nations, and all pretty damn good. Tunisia's crescent is a bit off but overall it's a nice display.
Tunisian star is a little off, but not bad. Also.. what ever happened to Iceland?
Europe has lots of nations on offer here and again, they're not bad at all. The Saltire for Scotland (why is this a recurring theme in these games?) is a little too thin, but they are mostly rather accurate. Asia too, is represented well, with all 4 of its flags, including the notoriously detailed flags of Saudi Arabia and Korea all looking good. Are we on course for our first two ribbon award here?
Korean flag looking nice, yes. But the real question is how long I can tolerate that map.
There are 8 nations in the 'Americas' region, and whilst we divert our attention away from that godawful map (Newfoundland doesn't exist! Baja California is no longer a Peninsula! Where the hell is Greenland!), the first 7 are all done well. And then, we have the USA. A country which has given us so much culture, so many superstars, so much...freedom. But yet, we repay them with this. The Stripes aren't the issue – it's those stars. Welcome to America – all...24 states! Yes, that's right, they managed to get a grand total of 24 stars in. They're not properly laid out. This instantly makes me hate this game. You have reached peak vexillological anger now.
'Oh, that doesn't look too bad' you say, naively...
...but on closer inspection, the true horror becomes apparent. 
It gets worse though. The game loves to throw a thousand flags into the crowd during a match. These all look fine for every other nation - although I do question the flag waving protocol of some of these 'fans' - but when the USA play, it just serves to underline the truly horrendous crime being committed here. Hundreds of patriots, happily cheering on their favourite soccer players, waving a flag from...1822-1836. That's right, this flag is out of date by 163 years, and yet these fans think nothing of it! I despair!
Look at them all, ignorantly waving a flag from the era of John Quincy Adams.

Final JYGS assessment: I thought this was the one. Plenty of flags, pretty flags, flying beautifully – and then Sega went back 160 years, resurrected an old US flag (inaccurately as well, I might add!) and thought nothing of the utter madness this would cause. Zero ribbons, and I hate you.


The Spirit of Speed 1937
I've read in some places on the Internet, that The Spirit of Speed 1937 is, apparently, not very good. Well, frankly, this is the sort of fake news, anti-flag agenda that we at JYGS detest. On playing this game it is now quite clear to us that, rather than being 'an atrocious game' as some would have you believe, SOS 1937 is in fact quite possibly our favourite DC title (because, as I keep saying, geographical elements are all that matter). But I'm not here to wax lyrical about the accurate depictions of 1930's Tripoli this time - we're here for the flags only. It's quite clear to me that the developers of this game were avid vexillologists, and would fit in very well amongst my colleagues and I.
Clearly, lovers of flags. 
It starts off (in the PAL version at least) with a language select screen. Germany, France and Spain (with a lovely coat of arms) are all great, and we'll forgive them for including the US flag for 'English', as it has – and I've counted – 13 stripes and 50 stars. Which is fine. They obviously haven't used 1937 flags for this screen, so it doesn't confuse the lay-person casual gamer out there.
It is a rather nice language select screen.
Once we get into the main menu, after the 25 minute long loading screen (clearly they needed this to include all the flags), we get to choose various options, none of which are really important other than the 'Circuit' option, which lets you pick which track to race on. Each one, in a lovingly flag-appreciative manner, has an overlay of the track on it's national flag. Fantastic. Possibly against national flag laws, but fantastic.
Technical issues again here at the JYGS. Your not falling over, this is on a slant.
There are 9 tracks on offer here, representing 6 nations. It's not a massive selection, to be sure, but just look at that gently floating flag and you'll not mind one bit. A couple are pretty simple ones that the masters of vexillology at Broadsword couldn't really get wrong – both France and the United Kingdom have had the same flag for a couple of centuries by this time, and only lazy developers (or undercover time travellers) don't do them right. The Union Flag in particular is just a beautiful thing to behold. So clear, so crisp. God save the queen. Rule Britannia.. sorry, got carried away. Anyway, great start.
Brings a tear to the eye that flag. Beautiful. 
The historically legendary track of Monza lays over an Italian flag that may not be familiar to those of you who aren't fanatical flag devotees like we are. This is actually the flag of the Kingdom of Italy, which was very much the correct flag of the time period in this game (although you may see some with a crown atop the arms). The flag is of course still the tricolour of Italy, but has the arms of Savoy in the middle, the house of the Italian royalty. And they said this game was bad? It has correct period flags of Italy for goodness sake!
Flag look a little unfamiliar?
It's actually an accurate depiction of the flag of the Kingdom of Italy. 
Next up, is the American flag shown on both tracks set in the USA. Broadsword knocked it out of the park with the flag of the Kingdom of Italy, and they've done it here again. The flag of the US, between 1912 and 1959, reflected the country with it's 48 states, by having 6 equal rows of 8 stars – as well as the usual 13 stripes. It's completely accurate here, in all it's symmetrical-star glory. These developers really were masters of the craft (I suppose they may just have hated Alaska and Hawaii, but we should give them the benefit of the doubt) – that's two US flags in this game, both accurate. Marvellous.
The US flag as depicted in the game...
...a fantastic, period accurate representation of the 48 star flag.
The final two flags on offer here are both intriguing, but not quite right. But we're not talking 'not quite right' in the sense of having 24 stars (Virtua Striker.. I'll never forget). We're talking 'not quite right – but actually, that's pretty cool fellow Vexillological nerd!'

First up, we have the Avus track – better known as the Automobil-Verkehrs- und Übungsstraße ('the Automobile traffic and training road'), and more accurately called AVUS. It now forms part of the Autobahn, but was formerly also a race track which held the German Grand Prix, as well as other motor racing events. Now you may look at the flag under this track and think 'I'm sure the German flag in 1937 wasn't that', and you'd be right. Perhaps wisely, the developers didn't want Spirit of Speed to be known as 'the game with a Nazi race track', and so instead of using that dreadful era-appropriate flag, they chose instead the flag of Berlin, where the circuit is located.
If it had the accurate national flag, this game would have a very different reputation...

As it is, this is a much better option. 
Only, it's not quite right. That is indeed the state flag of Berlin – but was only adopted in that form in 1954. 17 years after the game is set. The correct flag would have instead just had the bear on the middle section (a later flag added a red outline and red crown, but this too was post-1937).
It's a great flag, you have to admit. 
So, should I dismiss this as a piss-poor attempt? I would – but dammit, I just can't. The fact they even used any Berlin state flag is cool – and it's so well done! Sure, it's not quite right, but it is an awesome attempt that us flag fans can really get behind. Basically, what I'm saying, is Broadsword Interactive 1 – Nazis 0. Result.

The final flag on offer on this select screen (we're still only on the select screen! Spirit of Speed, with this lineup of historically accurate flags, you really are spoiling us) is Tripoli. Now, it may appear to be at first the flag of Turkey, but it's not quite the same. The star is larger and isn't orientated in the same manner – what's going on?
Well, we need to place Tripoli first of all. The Tripoli Grand Prix was held in Tripoli, Libya which, at the time the game is set, was in Italian Libya. Tripoli itself was in the Tripoli province, but under the colonial rule of the Italians, would have flown the same flag as we saw so wonderfully depicted at Monza. There doesn't appear, at first glance, to be a flag like the one shown, for Tripoli at the time – certainly, it could be an inaccurate Ottoman Empire flag, which would have been used by Tripoli up until the Italians took control after the Italian-Turkish war of 1912, but could we really accuse the same developers who have been so good to us so far, with making two mistakes like that?
Could it be an inaccurate version of the Ottoman Empire's flag, as shown?
Should it not have been the flag of the Kingdom of Italy, again?
Well, no, we can't. You see, the flag used, is a reported flag flown in Tripoli, as a local flag, at around the end of the 19th century. It's caused a little bit of debate amongst Vexillologists, as to whether it really was ever flown – the Tripoli flag debate, in fact. Most believe it's inaccurate, and was never actually used, simply a mistaken depiction of Ottoman-era flags at the time, by colonial powers that were largely ignorant. But the fact that this is IN THIS GAME is quite remarkable. It's like a little knowing nod and wink to all us flag-fans out there. Truly amazing. And you know what the best part is? When you actually race, what flies next to this flag on the track? The flag of the Kingdom of Italy. As it would have. Broadsword Interactive truly spoiled us with this one.
It's like a little vexollology Easter egg, but found 20 years too late.

Final JYGS assessment: Forget what you hear about this game from those lovers of 'fun' game play mechanics – Spirit of Speed 1937 is a vexillological wet dream, period flags abound, they look gorgeous, and frankly, this game deserves much more credit. Oh and it literally beats the Nazis. 3 RIBBONS TO YOU!


What a Journey I've taken you all on today, I'm sure you all agree. What are the major takeaways from this article? Well:
  • First, Geography is Fun! That's obvious.
  • Secondly, Virtua Striker hates America.
  • And thirdly, Spirit of Speed 1937 is the best game on the Dreamcast. I'm sure some of you may not have been expecting this outcome when you started reading this article.
We at the JYGS have loved spreading our profound interest in the geography of the Dreamcast with you today, and we'll be back soon with another article – maybe we'll explore 1937 Tripoli a bit closer next time? Who knows. But we will be back. Right Tom?

Tom?

Hello?

Do you like flags as much as me? Did you enjoy this article? Did you hate it? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter.

5 comments:

Tom Charnock said...

I'm here Mike. I read every word. But I'm not answering your phone calls about flags at 3am. Great article mate, hilarious stuff :)

JRod said...

Love that this article didn't cover the Game Flag to Flag

NowConvertedToFlagLover said...

Amazing that anyone could dream up an article on this subject. Wonderful!

Robert said...

Don't know about Falcon's ('Fokker' in the Asian versions) Jack, in the anime they didn't even give him the Jack but the Scots flag - representation of the blue sky, with the white lines representing Andrew's saltire in the foreground, even though he's actually English and lives in Londo (London). The anime was a later adaptation but completely strips away the English colours (red on white) in the foreground for some reason which looks even more obvious ~ https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=KIL6EJABNbU
Interesting post none the less.

Robert said...

Don't know about Falcon's ('Fokker' in the Asian versions) Jack, in the anime they didn't even give him the Jack but the Scots flag - representation of the blue sky, with the white lines representing Andrew's saltire in the foreground, even though he's actually English and lives in Londo (London). The anime was a later adaptation but completely strips away the English colours (red on white) in the foreground for some reason which looks even more obvious ~ https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=KIL6EJABNbU
Interesting post none the less.