JoshProd announce 5th wave of Dreamcast releases - 8 games incoming!

The last few years has seen a surge of new independent releases on the Dreamcast, keeping this 20 year old love affair we have with the console going strong. This year we've already seen Xeno Crisis from Bitmap Bureau - a multi platform, multi directional shooter that we liked quite a lot - and we're not far away from seeing the release of Xenocider from Retro Sumus, another title that is shaping up very well (something we can personally guarantee here at the Yard). The masters of the recent surge of releases, however, is undoubtedly JoshProd/Pixelheart. The French indie publisher has now released over 20 titles on the Dreamcast, and already had us excited for their upcoming release of the very promising looking Arcade Racing Legends, but have now upped the ante once more, with the announcement of a 5th wave of releases - all due (currently) to be released before the end of the year. I don't know about you, but any good news in this year of unpredictable craziness is most welcome.

As with their previous titles, JoshProd like to announce a batch of games at a time, with varying developers, genres and packaging formats. This wave we see 6 titles that cover platforming, fighting and lots of shooting, the return of a popular indie developer and a rather interesting multi-game set. Before we get ahead of ourselves, let's have a look at the list of titles announced:


  • Alice Sisters (Orionsoft)
  • Rocketron (Astro Port)
  • Satazius Next (Astro Port)
  • Tough Guy (Panda entertainment)
  • Supercharged Robot Vulkaiser (Astro Port)
  • Wolflame (Astro Port)
As well as these, there's two other new titles coming to the Dreamcast - we'll get on to them later:
  • Gigantic Army (Astro Port)
  • Zangeki Warp (Astro Port)
It's an interesting lineup of titles, and one that will certainly please the shooter community, adding a grand total of 6 new titles to that genre's already prestigious library on the console. Information is scarce on some of these titles yet - although we know that there will be the PAL style release, in a PAL case, as well as the reversible US/Japanese cover versions, just as with previous JoshProd published titles. One thing we did notice was that the cover art for most of these titles, at least in the shots on the Pixelheart website, are the same for all versions, something that wasn't the case for older releases. Whether that's a good or bad thing is undoubtedly a personal view, but it's a shame we don't get some different artwork across regions, especially considering the previous high quality JoshProd have delivered. 

We thought we'd take a brief look at each of these titles, as that may be useful for those of you who haven't decided on whether to dip into your pockets and pre-order - especially as each of these releases is €34,90, a not inconsiderate sum to pluck up for an Independent release.

Alice Sisters
The return of Orionsoft to Dreamcast indie titles is a welcome one. I very much enjoyed his previous titles, especially Escape 2042 and Alice's Mom's Rescue, and this new release appears to be a sequel to that latter title. Like the original, this appears to be a 2D platformer, but with the interesting addition of co-op mechanics. Each player guides one of the sisters (or a single player can switch between them) through a promised 28 stages, each using different abilities to combat the games puzzles. 4 game modes are also promised, and screenshots show a charming, colourful world, very much in the style of Orion's previous titles. 
A DC release was hinted at in the summer of 2019, but little was revealed for this cross-platform release (a Steam and Mega Drive/Genesis release are also on the cards), and as far as I know, there's still no DC footage out there (although Orion seems to have hinted this is coming on the 7th September). I'm looking forward to this one though, a proven developer, a genre we've not seen much of, and an intriguing co-op mode which could be very enjoyable indeed.
Both screenshots taken from the Mega Drive version
You can pre-order the PAL version here, the US version here and the Japanese version here.

Rocketron
The second title of the wave is a return to the library of PC shmup developer Astro Port, a back catalogue that has already delivered us Armed Seven, and which much of this wave of releases seems to be made up from. Rocketron is a little different, in that it's a relatively new title (releasing on Steam in 2020) and it's not quite the traditional shooter type game that Astro Port are more famous for. Bearing a few similarities with Bangai-O, this is a side scrolling action shooter where you control your cybernetic humanoid through several stages, face off against screen size bosses and get to play with quite the arsenal of weapons. 
 Most interestingly enough, the game is described by many as a metroidvania style experience - something we're lacking on the DC, and a mouth watering prospect. Having played a few Astro Port shooters, it's obvious they know their craft well, and with some very positive reviews of the Steam release, it's quite possible that this could be a legitimate contender for the top tier of the DC indie library. Of course, we currently don't have any screenshots of the DC version, or how well it runs, but fingers crossed to the prospect of yet another great indie shooter. And as a bonus - that cover art is just superb!
Screenshots from Rocketron come from the Steam version
You can pre-order the PAL version here, the US version here and the Japanese version here.

Satazius Next
The second Astro Port title announced in this wave, Satazius Next is an intriguing game for many reasons. First released on Steam back in 2011, Satazius built up a small but rather strong fan-base, its horizontal shooting action recalling the Gradius series, and receiving a very positive response. This 'Next' version promised a completely reworked game, and found it's way onto Pixelheart's Shmup collections for both Switch and the Wii U - again, receiving a good response from reviewers. Solid shooting action, colourful graphics and a well designed weapons upgrading system all sound very good indeed. 
It is, however, difficult to ignore the fact that whilst this DC version will cost you a little over £30, it comes with two other titles on the Switch, for a lower price. And the PC version is a little under £5 (although that's not a problem solely for this title, it's a rather common occurrence amongst DC indie releases). There is a slightly cheaper way of getting it... but we'll get onto that later.
All in all, it's hard not to be impressed that a well received Switch title will be coming to the DC, and it promises to deliver a good, solid game - but the price is a little on the high side. We've also yet to see the game running on a DC, so at the moment, we're not sure just how well it will run on the console.
Screenshots for Satazius Next are from the Switch version.
You can pre-order the PAL version here, the US version here and the Japanese version here.

Tough Guy
Taking a little break from all the shooting action, we see the second indie one on one fighter, this time Panda Entertainment's Tough Guy. If it's not a game you're familiar with, you're forgiven - originally coming out in 1995 on PC, it's a fighting game which... let's be generous and say 'respectfully takes inspiration from'... Street Fighter II, developed and released by Panda Entertainment, a Taiwanese developer that is also known for Sango Fighter, a Chinese Three Kingdoms fighter, released on PC's and the Super A'can. If you know Street Fighter, you know what awaits you in this title - a globe spanning cast of fighters, interesting worldwide stages and some combo-based fighting action. It has a couple of unique features - most prominently the ability to regenerate your fighters health - and does what it sets out to do without much fuss. An updated version of the title was released for PC, for free, in fact, in 2019 by Super Fighter Team, who bought the rights to the developers back catalogue, and you can download it here to give it a try. 
Whilst it's again a little aggravating that we're being asked to cough up £30+ for a title available free elsewhere, a new addition to the DC's fighting library is always welcome. The last indie fighter - or more correctly, JoshProd's release of the 90's Visco fighter Breakers - was criticised by many, but was enjoyable enough, and we hope the same can be said of Tough Guy. How the game runs on the DC is by far the most important question here though - if it's not able to keep a smooth, consistent speed, it will not make for a great example of the genre. We await this one with some hope, but a little concern as well.
Screenshots from Tough Guy taken from the PC version
It's also interesting to note the involvement of Piko Interactive in this release. Presumably, they hold the right to release physical versions of the game, but it does open up yet another possibility - Piko Interactive hold the rights to a large number of retro titles, and if this hints at possible future Dreamcast releases of some of these titles... well, we'll have an awful lot of indie titles to look forward to...

You can pre-order the PAL version here, the US version here and the Japanese version here.

Supercharged Robot Vulkaiser

The third Astro Port title announced, Supercharged Robot Vulkaiser is a now 13 year old title, first seeing life on the PC back in 2007, and the oldest Astro Port game yet to see it's way to the DC (a year older than Armed Seven). Taking a massive dose of inspiration from 70's Japanese animation, it's a brightly coloured, horizontal shooter for fans of the sort of so-cheesy-it's-good, massive combining robots style of Saturday morning cartoons. It met with a generally positive response upon release, and for it's 2015 Steam release, although hardcore shooting fans do point out the rather naive nature of the game. 
The only one of this wave of titles to have differing regional artwork (so far at least), JoshProd definitely can ramp up the glorious silliness inherent in titles of this ilk, and it looks like they are indeed doing so. Whilst it probably won't quite reach the levels of past DC indie hits such as Sturmwind, it's certainly a nice little addition to the library - although as always, how the game runs, and any slowdown it may be effected by will be the real litmus test upon release.

You can pre-order the PAL version here, the US version here and the Japanese version here.

Wolflame

The 6th and final release announced as part of this wave is yet another Astro Port shmup - Wolflame. This vertical shooter, familiar to anyone who has ever played a Toaplan title, it a bullet drenched blast-fest which has received a very positive response on Steam since it's release. It also made it's way onto the Switch shooter collection from Pixelheart, so it's again really quite impressive that it sees it's way onto the Dreamcast. Whilst we're not lacking in quality horizontal shmups, if the game runs smoothly, it's 90's aesthetics and full on action will be most welcome.
Of course, the same criticism can be levelled here as it was with Satazius Next - for £5 less, you can get this and two other titles to play on the Switch, and for £4.79 you can get it on Steam. The Dreamcast premium we have to pay is something we've never been very happy with at the Junkyard, regardless of how good the game itself is.
Wolflame screenshots from Steam version
That being said, if the technical side of things has been ironed out, Wolflame has the prospect of being yet another solid addition to our indie shelves - and we won't have long to wait to find out.

You can pre-order the PAL version here, the US version here and the Japanese version here.

Astro Port Collection

That's not quite where it ends with this latest batch of releases though. Alongside the 5th wave's 6 titles, and without much fanfare, an Astro Port Collector release was listed on the Pixelheart website. There was no cover art, other than a placeholder, and not much information, but it listed a box set which would include 4 Astro Port titles - Satazius Next and Wolflame, both also seeing standalone releases, alongside 2 titles that are only available, it seems, as part of this collection - Gigantic Army and Zangeki Warp. 
The contents of this set is listed as being a 4-fold digipack DVD case, so it'll certainly look different than other JoshProd releases. Of course, the most intriguing element are the two titles only available in this set, so let's take a little look at these.

Gigantic Army is a side scrolling platform shooter, a gentle homage to the genre's 90's glories, and a game which was released originally on the PC a decade ago, before seeing a standalone release on the Switch in 2019. It's original release saw a decent response, and fans of of this type of game will certainly get something out of it.
Zangeki Warp is a more recent Astro Port title, coming out in 2015, and another Horizontal shooter from the developers. It takes it's cues from R-Type and Gradius, has nice visuals (Astro Port titles show a marked improvement in this as the years progress) good gameplay and a solid response from players. Whether the 'newness' of the title will mean more technical issues may be present, we'll have to wait and see, but it's certainly another exciting prospect to see it on the DC.

Why these two titles won't see a standalone release - and we're possibly being presumptious here - is unknown, as both are games with a decent reputation, arguably better than some of the other wave 5 titles. Instead, you can only get this as part of the Astro Port Collection - which is being sold at a slightly eye watering €99,90. Whilst this does work out at only €25 each, it's a pretty hefty amount for a collection which, as far as we know, doesn't have anything extra included. Again, we have to say that this feels a little like a rather arbitrary addition of a 'Dreamcast premium'. There's a possibility that the package as a whole will have some additional bits, so we will withhold a final opinion until we see it, but as it is, it's very difficult to recommend this release if you've also purchased Wolflame and Satazius Next on their own.

You can pre-order this collection (there's only the one version) here

Overall, this new set of releases is an intriguing mix; somewhat of a step back in terms of genre variety, back to a time where Shmups seemed to be all we ever received, it still nevertheless has some interesting titles which, if they run smoothly and without technical issues, will be much appreciated additions. 





16 comments:

Ross said...

I'll be ordering these as it seems that I'm contractually obliged to buy all the new Dreamcast games... but I have to be honest, there's nothing here that really excites me.

It's a shame that there's no chance they'll drop in price either.

way2easy said...

What a great write up! Thank you as I was very confused about the collection when I saw it on the website for preorder. This makes it clear.
I love that new PAL DC games are being released although I can't figure out why these guys won't sell new empty dreamcast PAL game cases. They could make a killing.

Ray said...

*yawn* no, no and no.

Can we, pretty please, agree to stop supporting all these lazy and lame ports?

All JoshProd does is exploit completionist Dreamcast collectors - and as is evident from the first comment, the scheme works.

Nobody gives a flying f*ck of any of those titles on the other platforms (hint: they're readily available elsewhere for cheaper, if you're so inclined - as the article mentioned).

Go ahead, support "real" developers such as Senile Team, just to name one example, that come up with original ideas for our beloved DC and drop those that command premium prices for what is, essentially, shovelware.

Outlaw said...

Good article, thanks. I totally agree with the posts above, though. Nothing to be excited about and highly overpriced

DDT said...

Seriously.. they are way overpriced.

You can get the Astro Saga bundle on Steam (7 games!) for 28 euros right now.

While I am glad they are bringing games to the system, Josh Prod ports pretty much sucks. They butchered Battle Crust, downsampled and ruined the incredible soundtrack. Sad. One of my favorite retro style indie shooters ever (on PC).

YesterPlay said...

Honestly, as much as I love the DC and some of these games (especially Vulkaiser), the price is turning me off completely. 35€ for games you can get for some € on Steam, some of them over a decade old... It's just not my cup of tea. But then, I'm probably not collector enough.

DCGX said...

An excellently detailed write-up, I'm with everyone else here. Just say no, Ross!

Tom Charnock said...

Great stuff Mike :)

Spaceturnip said...

Cheers everyone for reading. I'm personally quite excited by the prospect of a couple of these, from a purely gameplay point of view, especially Alice Sisters and Rocketron. I've been a big fan of what JoshProd have brought to the DC, and it's still cool that we're getting these new titles 20 years on. But here at the Junkyard we've never been afraid to tell it like it is, and the price point to these can't be ignored, and neither can the rather narrow range of genres included. There's still some amazing titles to come from JoshProd in the future, I'm sure of, but this is the first misstep from their release lineup in my opinion.

teo (aka the Living Legend) said...

@spacetulip well maybe you should start your own video games production company since you don't like the range of games on this batch, and yeah since you're at it feel free to charge 5 euros for each of them (since you don't like the prices either) and try to make a profit out of it.. not to mention that if i saw correctly on twitter JoshProd gave 40.000 euros to that Austrian dude with the sheriff game (don't remember the exact title of the game) in order to help him release the game and he run away with the money.. but they are still here helping us out only to hear complains

so yeah since you care more about the community, and you'll do a better job with the genre of the games, im waiting for the news of your own DC games production company

Spaceturnip said...

What a stupid comment. Should everyone who has mentioned the price is *maybe* just a little too high also start their own production company? I've bought the games,and as I said here and in the article, I'm looking forward to them. But many who would of bought them won't be buying them, due in a very large part to the pricing. Are you so incapable of critical thinking that you think every single element of Indie game releases should be praised?

JoshProd are releasing games, and we should look at those games objectively - and that includes looking at the pricing. We're the first to praise JoshProd in the past for some of their great releases which were worth the money - and as I said in the comment (another element you didn't mention in your reply, of course) I know there's some awesome games coming in the future. So, no, we'll be continuing covering JoshProd releases in the same way in future, cheers.



DCGX said...

I don't know if this will help lower cost, but, especially in the beginning, JoshProd was releasing a version for each of the three major regions. I think they started combining the North America and Japanese styles with reversible manuals and back cover art. It would suck for aesthetics, but they could stick to one region or at least the dual covers. I know they're French and I know people like their PAL cases (understandable), but if that brings the price of games down by, like, $10 per title, it would make a huge difference.

Unknown said...

This is spot on and indeed a price point for these games is ridiculous.

Teddy Rogers said...

Nice article, thank you. Like others have mentioned previously, those prices! A little excessive in my eyes. I want to support Dreamcast development even if it means porting age old games to the DC however, these are just too high for what they are. Even the Breakers port that come out the other year is still pricey and all the while whilst there is an emulated version of it on the net. I would be interested in sales/volume numbers for all of these.

Deef said...

Well since the first releases are still at their original price (ie very expensive) I guess they must sell well.. Joshprod must have read the high number of complaints about the high price, but they didn’t take them into account, it’s a pity..
if they find people willing to pay that much for emulated games (and not the best ones..), cool for them, but I gave up buying them since a long time.

DCGX said...

@Deef there's a slew at a discount at Play Asia right now, including 'The Escapee' for $14.99. Though buying from Play Asia has become a pain between shipping prices and the Coronavirus.

But I think you hit the nail on the head: JoshProd has heard complaints and they don't care. They don't even acknowledge if they've heard them.