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Simulant - a new game engine for Dreamcast

The name Luke Benstead is, by now, synonymous with the world of online Dreamcast gaming. That's because Luke is the man who created the DreamPi and along with DreamPipe and Dreamcast Live, kickstarted the online gaming revolution we now find ourselves in the midst of. Not content with having this impressive credit on his resume, Luke has now launched his next venture - Simulant. Simulant is a general purpose game engine designed to work with Android, Windows, Mac OS, Linux...and Dreamcast.
As Luke explained on a recent episode of our podcast - see DreamPod episode 80 here - Simulant's development actually precedes DreamPi by several years, with work first starting on it back in 2011. As many reading this will no doubt be aware, a game engine is the foundation of a game and is the toolkit developers use to create the interactive experiences we all know and love. In this case, Luke likens Simulant to something like Unity, however unlike Unity, Simulant doesn't have a graphical user interface and instead relies on the developer to use pure code.
Luke explains in his own words:

Simulant is a general-purpose game engine for multiple platforms: Windows, Linux, OSX, and of course Dreamcast. General-purpose means it can be used to build any style of game. It's similar in concept to Unity but it doesn't come with a pretty user interface - games have to be developed purely in code.

I've been developing Simulant for almost 9 years, I started it well before I got involved in the Dreamcast scene and for the majority of that time I've been the only developer. 

It's really very powerful, and is currently being used to build (at least) two Dreamcast games: Swirling Blades (my chopper game) and another 3D game called Dark Space Pioneer.

It's also spawned a whole community and a number of related projects, including a full OpenGL library called GLdc, which is being used by Summoning Signals, and the nuQuake Quake port to accelerate performance. An OpenAL audio library has also been built, as well as a software profiler for the Dreamcast called dcprof.

Even after all this time, Simulant is still in Alpha state. I'm always on the look out for skilled developers who want to help! I particularly could use help with the Android and OSX versions!

If you want to see what Simulant can do, check out Swirling Blades on itch - it's a fairly basic 3D helicopter shooter, but as a proof of concept that can be burnt to a disc and played on a Dreamcast hardware, it is impressive.
So now you know the basics, why not see if Simulant is something you'd like to try out for yourself? The Simulant project is open source, and released under the LGPL license, and the code can be found at the repository on GitLab here: https://gitlab.com/simulant/simulant

There's also a dedicated website with more information, screenshots and documentation at: https://simulant.dev.
It seems there's already a really active scene springing up around Simulant, with some well known Dreamcast indie developers testing the waters; and the Simulant Discord server has become a popular home for all kinds of Dreamcast developers. There are nearly 200 lurkers there, and about 20 or so active people, and everyone shares their work and helps out where they can. If you want to have a go at writing a game with Simulant, or if you just want to dip into Dreamcast development, then the Simulant Discord server should be your first port of call (after downloading the code, of course!).
So there you have it. A very brief introduction to Simulant. It's worth nothing that to use Simulant you'll need some level of C or C++ development skill , or at least some good experience in another language (and enthusiasm to learn), but hopefully this will bring a whole new wave of indie developers to the Dreamcast scene.

Be sure to follow Luke on Twitter for updates on Simulant. What do you think? Will you be taking your first steps into Dreamcast development with Simulant? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter.

Review: Xeno Crisis

It's hard to know whether even the most optimistic of us would of believed that, more than 15 years after it's inception, the Dreamcast Junkyard would still be reviewing new titles for the console which we all share a passion for. Yet here we are, in a year many of us believed we'd be living on the moon and driving flying cars, still hungering after more releases, and our appetites being sated with a steady supply of some of the finest Indie releases we've ever had. Our childhood fantasies of space-age dwellings and hoverboards, neon lit utopias and colonisation of other planets may not have been met - the steady diet of science fiction fueled expectations of our youth replaced instead with social media, disappointing Sega announcements and a global pandemic - but our consolation prize seems to be an incredibly healthy independent development scene, far removed from the 'yet another Shmup' days of old.
I can only imagine Bitmap Bureau grew up with the same dizzying expectations of our future. For them, the future was clearly 'out there', rather than 'stay at home', and in this new release for the Dreamcast, it seems mankind has indeed ventured away from our terrestrial origins, and made a life for ourselves amongst the stars. Of course, for every Utopian prediction that science-fiction gave us, there was a darker, grimmer dystopia waiting around the corner. For every Star Trek, there's an Aliens, after all. It's safe to say, that the universe that Bitmap Bureau believes mankind will inhabit may have just a touch of the latter - even the title of this new release hints at that. Xeno Crisis - not 'Xeno family picnic' you'll notice, paints a universe in which the Earth's best and brightest must deal with a threat of the extra-terrestrial kind. A distress call is received, and our guys at a research station seem to be dropping like flies due to a serious bit of unwanted alien violence. Step forward Commander Darius and his elite marines, our best hope at beating this off-world menace, now tasked with taking on whatever nasties the galaxy throws at them.


It's a classic sci-fi scenario, one we've probably heard many times before, but there's a reason for it's popularity - we all want to be the saviour of the planet against a horde of ugly, puss-ridden, vomit belching aliens, whilst shooting a completely infeasible amount of ammunition and shouting out Arnie-like quotes in a terrible Austrian accent. It's violent, it's action packed, it's all shouty, sweary and loud, and most of all, it's bloody good fun.
Bitmap Bureau promised to deliver this with Xeno Crisis during a highly successful kickstarter back in 2017, with plans to release the game on various consoles, both current gen and classic, and as well as bringing us glorious 80's action flick silliness, it was going to take a not-inconsiderate amount of inspiration from classic twin stick shooters of old as well. It felt like it was ticking all the right boxes, and now it's the Dreamcast's turn to experience the games delights after various other versions had their time to shine. The important question though, as always, is, well... is it any good?

You're damn right it is...

Review: After the Fall

We first got a glimpse of Quake total conversion After the Fall back in August 2018 when the game's designer Pip Nayler treated us to a very early preview. Since then, we've also been lucky enough to sample a playable demo of the game. Now though, After the Fall is ready to be released for the Dreamcast community to enjoy on their own Dreamcast consoles, and come the end of June 2020 (Friday 26th June to be precise) you'll be able to download After the Fall - for the price of absolutely nothing - and experience this romp through a dystopian future nightmare for yourselves. You can't say fairer than that - dystopia with an entrance price of free. Step right up, folks!


As we've been following the development of After the Fall for a while now, we thought it was only right that we cast a critical cycloptic eye over the final product and give you our verdict on whether you should download it, burn it and give it a go; or leave it well alone and go back to watching the endless repeats of Gordon Ramsey's Kitchen Nightmares you somehow have recorded on your digibox (or maybe that's just me).
First things first. As you will no doubt be able to tell simply by pointing your eyes at the screenshots hither and thither, After the Fall is a total conversion of Quake. The origins of this mod can be traced all the way back to the simpler times of 1997, when it was released for the IBM compatible Personal Computer device. A proof of concept port of After the Fall was started for Dreamcast some time later, but the port was left abandoned like a dog in a hot car. That's where Pip Nayler came in to rescue the abandoned Dreamcast version, like a good samaritan with a hammer and bowl of water. You know, to smash the window and give the hypothetical dog/Dreamcast port a drink of water. Not all heroes wear capes, folks. As he told us back in 2018:

"After The Fall is a total conversion of Quake that was originally released way back in 1997. It's been mentioned on Dreamcast message boards before, but nobody has ever really played it on the console as it doesn't fit in to the Dreamcast's RAM without modification. Also, the Quake community largely considers ATF fun, but hampered by bugs and some low quality artwork. My goal is to help the game gain some new recognition and give the Dreamcast community something new to play, whilst also also allowing me to get reacquainted with Quake modding.

"Lowering the texture resolution has allowed me to fit the game in to memory, and it is now playable from start to finish, but my aim is to build upon the original game and make it something really special for the community. As such, I'll be replacing some of the assets from the original game, bug fixing where possible, writing a new backstory for it, and creating some all new levels to help tell the story and make the game feel more connected."
- Pip Nayler, After the Fall Dreamcast developer

Since we played that initial build, Pip has ironed out over 100 bugs in the code, made a whole host of edits and revisions to the graphics, gameplay and the storyline, and now After the Fall is finally ready to see the light of day, over 20 years after it was originally conceived. The crucial question remains: Is it worth your time? Or has Pip Nayler wasted his precious life energy poring over a dud? I can't stretch that dog/car analogy out any further, so let's abandon that and delve in to After the Fall...

To Dream of Love: More Music of Rez

Much has been said about Rez here at the ‘Yard. Some don’t rate the game that highly, thinking it is either boring, or too simple. To me, that simply means that you do not “get” it. When you get it, Rez is like nothing else I have ever played. Well, perhaps WipEout is about as close as it has gotten for me. The reason I say this is the fusion between the “race” or challenge, the gameplay inputs, the visuals, and the music. To play Rez properly is to wear some bloody good headphones, and dedicate yourself to its gameplay. You can’t appreciate Rez if you have the sound low, off, or simply have a “5 minute bash”. Rez is more of an experience.

Rez went through a lot of changes in development (see video below), but the leaked beta is extremely close to the final game (though it's got a higher difficulty level).



I’ve yet to play Rez Infinite on PSVR, but one is on its way to me as I write. However, I do have the game on Xbox 360 and enjoyed playing through and completing it multiple times. I consider myself nowhere near an expert at the game, but definitely feel I am very well connected with it. When I see people write “it’s boring” or “it’s overrated” then to me, they simply don’t get it. It’s gone over their head. That’s fine. Though putting such things to the page makes me sound like an elitist prick (the data is still coming in on that), to say that I am more invested in Rez than the average gamer would be a fair comment. Most of my posts for the ‘Yard have been on the subject of the game; I have a copy of “Vibes”, the prototype beta of Rez:
So, why am I, once again, writing about this legendary game? It’s because yesterday I put on an album I haven’t listened to in ages; Second Toughest In The Infants, by Underworld. I was taken back into the game. 


Mobile Suit Gundam: Federation vs. Zeon & DX for Dreamcast is back online!

More exciting news for the up to 6 billion players still enjoying online Dreamcast gaming today has surfaced recently, with the resurrection of the online service for the rather catchy title: Mobile Suit Gundam: Federation vs. Zeon & DX.

As reported by Dreamcast Live, this is the first ever Japanese-exclusive online Dreamcast to be revived and so it is rightly getting a fair bit of attention within the online Dreamcast community in an ever-growing catalogue of Dreamcast games playable online again.
Online play supports 2-4 players in a battle to the death, and from the early test matches that have taken place, the team who reverse engineered the server to bring it back online have done a fantastic job with the game working well with minimal lag.

Released in 2002, Mobile Suit Gundam: Federation vs. Zeon & DX is based on the anime television series of the same name. Interestingly, this was the last ever online Dreamcast game to be officially released, which makes the resurrection that little bit sweeter.

As well as online battles, Arcade and Campaign modes allow you to don a giant mech suit and cause havoc at various ground locations and even in space. It's fair to say it was not the most groundbreaking release in the new millennium but it's always wonderful to see new games brought back online in 2020.
And let's face it, who wants to play Call of Duty on a Friday night when you could be playing Mobile Suit Gundam: Federation vs. Zeon & DX via a Dreamcast dial-up modem instead?!

All jokes aside, this could become a very popular game within the online Dreamcast community as it offers slick gameplay with battles coming thick and fast.

How about you? Will you be connecting to the server to take on other gamers? Let us know in the comments below or on Twitter.

UPDATE: Well, I've since spent considerable time playing online and I have to say that I'm close to being addicted! The game is so much fun to play online and there is very little lag to speak of, even if you're playing 2v2 with people in Europe, America and beyond. More useful links here for you in the form of the Online Leaderboard and a Connection Guide from Dreamcast Live, with screenshots helping you break the language barrier and get online easily.

Hands on with the 'RetroFighters DC Striker' Pad

I dislike the term Retro gaming, as a label I feel like it's too simplistic a term and not anyway near tangible enough when people try to define what it actually means. Does a game or console need to be from a certain console generation? Does it need to have been released during a certain year or have other technological parameters to be defined as retro? Do you have to be at a certain age or experience level to be able to use the term? And why do other forms of media not have the same fascination with the term that gamers do?

For me a better way to describe 'retro gaming' is as something that is historically important to your age group or own personal life. Space Invaders and Pacman are still great games I am interested in playing, whereas I dislike others from the same period and will give up on them after about 45 seconds, similarly in cinema terms I would just call 'Jaws' a masterpiece and recommend it to anyone despite it coming out 7 years before I was even born, but I don't value or label all films from that era in the same way, there is no retro in other mediums as contentious as in Video games.

10 Times Rappers Have Referenced the Dreamcast in Songs

Continuing with the music theme of Mike's article "12 great punk albums featuring songs from Dreamcast games", I found a way to tie the Dreamcast into an article talking about the second best genre of all time: hip-hop. Or Rap, if you prefer. Being a genre focused so heavily on lyrics, you'd expect the Dreamcast to have been mentioned at least once. Well, turns out it's been mentioned quite a lot. Turns out there's quite a few Dreamcast stans in the hip-hop industry. As you can imagine, a lot of these songs contain naughty words and references to sex and nefarious happenings, so if you don't want to get your sealed game collection confiscated, don't play them round your Mum's house.

1. Del the Funky Homosapien featuring Khaos Unique - "Proto Culture" (2000)
You may know Del the Funky Homosapien from his work with legendary hip-hop group Hieroglyphics. If you don't know who they are, you should at least know him from his rap verses on the song "Clint Eastwood" by Damon Albarn-fronted cartoon megastars Gorillaz.

What you need to know is that Del and collaborator Khaos Unique performed for North American Sega employees at a Dreamcast launch party in San Francisco back in '99. You can view their performance of their song "Proto Culture" here. From the on-stage chatter prior to playing the song, you can really tell that they are hardcore video game heads, and have a lot of praise for Sega. Del even says that he had already been playing Dreamcast games from Japan prior to the US launch.

The beat to "Proto Culture" features a tasty sample of Morrigan's winning theme from
Darkstalkers: The Night Warriors, and lyrics to further exemplify Del and Khaos Unique's love for video games and Sega.

"Rival schools, Batsu - purchase you ought to. It came with one free CD, it's like I bought two. I hope they make part II for Dreamcast."

This song was released on Del's album Both Sides of the Brain in April 2000. A sequel to Rival Schools was released on the Dreamcast in Japan during December of the same year, so I'm sure Del was happy to see the sequel he was desiring in his raps.


12 great punk albums featuring songs from Dreamcast games

There are many reasons to love the Dreamcast. We assume you agree with us, as you're currently reading a blog entitled the 'Dreamcast Junkyard'. Arcade perfect gameplay? Check. State of the art graphics (for it's time)? Check. The last great 'hurrah' of the Sega of old? Possibly controversial, but check. Some of the best music ever committed to a video game library? Oh, you're damn right.

Whether it's the funky beats of Jet Set Radio, orchestral magnificence of Shenmue or Skies of Arcadia, eclectic soundtrack of MSR or the pure joy of the Marvel vs Capcom 2 character select screen...well maybe not the last one.. the musical magnificence of the Dreamcast can not be overlooked.

With that, we also had a fairly large number of games featuring licensed soundtracks. Ever since the compact disc became the games medium of choice in the 90's, games have not been shy about popping on some killer tunes to please their consumers. The Playstation was the epitome of this new gaming frontier, as a Sony product was always likely to be, and the merging of games with music was an integral part of the cultural impact the console had on a whole generation.

Thing is, whilst many of my fellow Junkyard writers were probably spending that period in their lives chilling out to the latest trance hit, or techno rave masterpiece (or whatever it's called, it's not my area of knowledge!), I was happily indulging in my own musical journey - one that very much consisted of a bunch of sweaty gigs, slam dancing lunatics and a healthy disliking of authority. Punk. A misunderstood genre, if ever there was one, was in many ways my first love, and it is a love that is well catered for on that little Sega made mistress of my dreams. Whether it's a nod back to the spit covered, pogoing era of the 70's, the DIY led revolution of the 80's or the ska and skate infused 90's revival, there's plenty for the discerning punk fan to enjoy whilst indulging in some Dreamcast gaming.

But I'm not just going to list a top ten of DC punk songs. Anyone who has read anything else I've ever written for the Junkyard knows that ain't my style. Being a punk fan that just about remembers a time before streaming services were king, it's always been about the mighty album for me. Punk albums are wondrous, beautiful things - full of unheard delights, musical experimentation and just plain weirdness, far beyond the narrow view that some have of punk rock. They're often overlooked, criminally so, dismissed as having just one or two good songs - but nothing could be further from the truth. And I think it's time to start setting the record straight.

So come join me as I take a look at a dozen great examples of punk albums, all of which feature songs from Dreamcast games.
Bad Religion - No Control (1989) 
(featuring 'You' from Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2)

Bad Religion, more so than probably any other band, were responsible for helping shape the sound that punk became in the early 90's. Whilst they were part of the early LA hardcore scene (the fantastic 'How Could Hell Be Any Worse?' standing right up there with the best of that cities output), they didn't truly come into their own until they ended the 80's with a trio of masterpiece albums, 'Suffer' came first, 'Against the Grain' rounded them off, and this, 1989's 'No Control' is slap bang in the middle. It builds on what came before, 'Suffer' being the template of what the band's sound would become, but everything is that touch quicker, that touch harder, and that tad better sounding (although 'Suffer' remains one of my all time favourite albums). Greg Gaffin's lyrics are always a level above the often simple anti-authority diatribes, and on this he effortlessly melds philosophy, politics and the human condition, all laid on top of a melodic, fast southern Californian hardcore punk sound. Bands like the Descendents, Adolescents and D.I. had done similar things before, but it was Bad Religion who perfected this sound. Songs from this album still make appearances in the bands live sets, and there's a very good reason for that. No Control is one of the very best US punk albums ever recorded.

'You' featured in Tony Hawks Pro Skater 2, and is a favourite amongst many, it's upbeat, high speed skate punk sound perfectly fitting the game.

Stand out songs:
- Big Bang
- I Want to Conquer the World
- Henchman

You can listen to 'No Control' on Spotify here.

Xeno Crisis for Dreamcast has gone gold!

Bitmap Bureau have announced via a Kickstarter update that the long-awaited Dreamcast version of their 16-bit styled, Alien-inspired shooter has finally gone gold! This means that the game has been finished and production is due to start imminently; and means it will undoubtedly join the line up of Dreamcast games heading our way in 2020. For the uninitiated, Xeno Crisis was a funded on Kickstarter back in 2018 and the Dreamcast version was added as a stretch goal alongside the standard Mega Drive, Switch, PS4 and Xbox releases; with a NEO-Geo port also on the way.
We've kept an eye on Xeno Crisis ever since it was announced, and several members of the team here at the Junkyard have played the game to death on other formats...but the wait for the Dreamcast version is almost finally over.

Mike Tucker of Bitmap Bureau says in his May 2020 update: 

"We’re sorry that this update has been delayed several times, but these updates often take a few days to put together and we thought we’d push on whilst the development of the Dreamcast version was going well, and the good news is that it has gone gold and has been sent for manufacturing! We’ve tested the gold build thoroughly on all of the Dreamcast variations we have, using a range of controllers and peripherals, and everything seems extremely solid - thanks in particular to Tom Charnock and Mike Phelan of The Dreamcast Junkyard for supplying us with various bits for testing."
- Mike Tucker, Bitmap Bureau

In the name of transparency, the various bits mentioned include an Ascii control pad and a Dreamcast Twin Stick controller, the latter of which can be seen in the video Mike posted on Kickstarter and YouTube:


Personally, I've only played the Switch version of Xeno Crisis so far, and it really is a corking retro style shooter. As alluded to earlier, it does lean heavily on the 'space marines kicking alien ass' tropes laid down in popular works of fiction we probably don't need to name check; and for that it should be applauded. It's a no-nonsense nostalgia trip, which takes you back to when games were hard as nails and there were no save points.
The premise is a simple one - enter the infested base, shoot alien scum in the head, rescue civilians and escape with your life. Power-ups and additional weapons can be collected along the way, and the stats of your chosen marine can be boosted between stages to help level the playing field when taking the fight to the xenomorph hoards and their huge end of level overlords. It's rollicking good fun and is tough as old boots...and that's part of the appeal.
The Dreamcast version in particular looks to make great use of the unique features of the system, with VMU screen logos (above), support for VGA monitors and the aforementioned Twin Stick and Ascii pad compatibility. It looks like we won't have long to wait until Xeno Crisis starts landing in GD-ROM trays around the world, and we'll be sure to give it a thorough play test here at the Junkyard when it hits.
Excited for another new Dreamcast title? Have you played Xeno Crisis on other formats? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter.

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Start your engines - a Dreamcast Test Drive Cycles prototype could be released soon!

The internet is still reeling from the epoch-making news that the long lost Dreamcast port of Heroes of Might & Magic III has finally been dumped, but the potential releases of lesser-spotted cancelled Dreamcast titles don't stop there. The same collector who released Heroes has now started a Go Fund Me in order to release Infogrames' canned motorcycle racer Test Drive Cycles.

As you can see from the footage uploaded to YouTube by FatalistDC (below), Test Drive Cycles for Dreamcast is barely a game in truth - there's only one playable course and it is very early, and is thus full of graphical glitches and bugs. That said, it's still cool to see yet another game dragged back out of the abyss and now tantalisingly close to being dumped online.


The story of Test Drive Cycles is a familiar one. It was released for the Game Boy Color as a full retail game, but the PlayStation, PC and Dreamcast versions were all scrapped in mid 2000 according to Wikipedia. No real reason is given, but it probably came down to money in the end - there's no evidence to suggest the Dreamcast would have had any issues playing what looks to be a fairly bog standard arcade racer; unlike with Heroes of Might & Magic III, which was apparently cancelled due to technical limitations of the Dreamcast hardware.
As a motorcylist in real life, I'm always keen to see any digital recreation of the act of riding bikes - especially so it they also involve the Dreamcast in some way. That said, the very early nature of Test Drive Cycles doesn't fill me with too much enthusiasm. It's doing some interesting things - I especially like the  rear view mirrors effect employed...but there just doesn't really seem to be a lot to do in this prototype as is (although the way the rider appears in various bizarre seating positions after a crash is probably worth the entry fee alone!).
The GoFundMe for the release of the Test Drive Cycles is set at a rather modest €160 and is similarly being run by Jan Baumgartner - the same man responsible for the Heroes of Might & Magic III campaign and also the awesome CF modded Dreamcast we reviewed a while back.

Are you intrigued by this Test Drive Cycles prototype? Willing to chuck some cash at the GoFundMe to get your hands on it? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter.

Preview: Arcade Racing Legends

Announced back in June 2019 and successfully Kickstarted a month later in July, Arcade Racing Legends is a brand new Dreamcast title originally due for release at the end of 2019, but was subsequently delayed until later this year. My Dreamcast Junkyard colleague Mike Phelan wrote a great article documenting the initial project and what it’s all about, so rather than regurgitate that information I’ll direct you here if you want to know the background story for JoshProd and PixelHeart's Arcade Racing Legends.

It’s no secret that I’m a pretty big fan of the racing genre, and nostalgic arcade racers have always been high on my list, so naturally I was quick to back the project in the hope it would turn into a reality. As a backer, one of the most recent perks offered was a downloadable demo, so I grabbed it and thought it would be a great opportunity to let you all know how the game is shaping up.
Graphically, Arcade Racing Legends ticks all the boxes. No, it isn’t a “realistic” setting like you might find in something like Tokyo Highway Challenge but the game screams 90’s arcade racer at you, which is literally the whole point of this release. A bold colourful palette, plenty of variety from one course to the next (there are three available in the demo: Arctic, Desert and Forest), and a lovely garage menu system meant I was very pleased with what my eyeballs were treated to. It certainly looks like a game that could’ve been released back in the day, and a beautiful one at that.

Handling-wise, I was pleasantly surprised. It was my most feared element of Arcade Racing Legends even when I originally backed the project. After watching a few videos of early footage, the car handling looked a bit suspect, but after getting some hands-on time with the demo I was thankful that your car doesn’t constantly feel like you’re driving on ice. It’s still a bit floaty, sure, but the developers seem to have found a good balance here and kept it feeling arcadey without it being too ridiculous. It's actually really enjoyable to play and - for me at least - feels better to play than some original arcade racers.
Available to try in the demo are Career and Time Trial modes. I headed straight to start my Career mode and was presented with a day by day set of challenges as you advance towards turning yourself into a “professional arcade racer”. The challenges do a great job of easing you into the game step by step. On day one, for example, you just have to drive to the goal without any time pressures, just to get a feeling for the car. Day two sees you tackle a different circuit, this time against the clock, in a race to the finish. Day three puts you in the daunting position of not being allowed to use your brake pedal and yet still complete the course within a set time, and so on. It's a nice way of building things up and adding a bit of variety.
Three different cars are available in the demo, all of which have basic tuning options affecting their overall performance on the track. Followers of the Kickstarter will know there are going to be a whole load of different cars in the full release, many of which are based on vehicles from classic Sega arcade driving games like Sega Rally and Crazy Taxi, which is one of my most anticipated things about playing the full version.
The one thing I think really hurts Arcade Racing Legends, from both a gameplay and visual perspective, is that the circuits are all blocked off on both sides by continuous rows of sponsor boards. It very much lessens the experience quite a bit as you’re never in a position where you can run wide, and a mistake is rarely punished as you can just ride along the walls with very little slowdown. It all feels, and looks, just a bit bland and very lazy.
Original screenshots from the Kickstarter showed a few tracks where these sponsor boards did not appear right next to the asphalt or racing surface itself, so I really hope the full release has some wider play areas - I’d go so far as to say it’s the most important thing that PixelHeart need to address between now and the final release. The game won’t have much replayability if it remains as-is, simply because the challenge of learning the layouts of the circuits just isn’t there with the current setup.

Despite this, I’m still really looking forward to the release of Arcade Racing Legends and getting stuck into the Career mode proper when the game does finally get released. The demo did a great job of easing my concerns about the handling, and I just hope they take feedback onboard around those pesky track barriers. If they do, this could be a genuinely enjoyable game to play frequently on Dreamcast in 2020.

For those who missed the original Kickstarter campaign, pre-orders are now available here.

How about you, are you going to pick this up? Let us know in the comments below or on Twitter.

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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...

Shenmusings of Dobuita, Community, and the Friends We Stalked Along the Way

In better times, my neighborhood reminds me of Dobuita, the vibrant business district setting of Sega and AM2’s pedestrian stalking simulator, Shenmue. It bustles with life as people pack the restaurants, bars, shops, parks, arcades, and the streets in between. I can take a quick jaunt down the road and be surrounded by patrons, workers, shop owners, cooks, bartenders, barbers, and even sailors (well, commercial fishermen, actually). These folks are more than cursory non-player characters. They are my neighbors. They are my friends. They are the very fabric of my community.

But for now, they are gone.
These days, walking through my neighborhood feels like I’m in a typical late '90s video game town. Clusters of buildings line the street but the developers were unable to render more than a handful of NPCs to populate it.

Taking a step back: My heart goes out to everyone struggling through this uncertain and challenging time. If there’s a silver lining, it might be that we’re fortunate to have a hobby like video games to help bide our time as our non-virtual world lies in stasis.

It also helps that gaming is a uniquely personal medium. Through our interaction and immersion, games invite us to co-author a broad range of experiences which we can enjoy on a multitude of levels. Games can bring welcome moments of reprieve and distraction. We can find comfort in their escapism and nostalgia. Whether from across the couch or the internet, we can share experiences with old friends and make new friends of strangers. Beyond that, games can challenge us – and not only in terms of precision, reflexes, or strategy. They can push us to expand our understanding, grow our perspectives, and stretch our imaginations through memorable experiences that we carry with us long after we’ve put down the controller.
In its own way, this situation is a unique opportunity to slow down and consider what is most important to us, whether that's friends, family, community, altruism…and video games, of course. Lately, I’ve been reflecting on my time with gaming, what I appreciate most about the hobby, and what I really want out of it going forward. I’ve also thought about the games that significantly shaped how I engage with the medium. In that sense, I can’t help but keep coming back to the Dreamcast’s library.

Nostalgic attachment aside, Sega’s swansong console simultaneously defined and challenged my perceptions of video games. Although the Dreamcast initially drew me in on its promise of more-than-faithful arcade conversions and the triumphant return of a blue childhood icon, it ultimately forged its legacy by striving to redefine gaming’s future more than rehash its past. It showed me how games can be more unique, interesting, and meaningful experiences well beyond their fun factor and replay value. Through its culture of unbounded creativity, the Dreamcast was refreshingly unorthodox and innovative in ways the industry rarely allows.

In some ways, the Dreamcast was as much an art collective as it was a consumer product. Nowhere was this clearer than in the unchecked (and frankly, fiscally reckless) authority Sega gave its development studios and publishing partners to create whatever the hell they wanted for its wacky white box. In that spirit, this essay could've been about any one of the Dreamcast’s unabashedly inventive works: Rez, or Jet Set Radio, or L.O.L.: Lack of Love, or the VMU, or Illbleed, or Maken X, or Chu Chu Rocket, or D2, or Roommania #203, or Seaman, or Samba de Amigo’s maracas, or…you get the idea.

But this is about Shenmue, because of course it is.

Streets of Rage 4 is out now...but do you remember the cancelled Dreamcast version?

Streets of Rage 4 has finally hit the...er...streets, and it absolutely rocks. The 2D scrolling beat 'em up genre has played host to some fairly decent pretenders to the throne in recent years (Wulverblade is probably the best of the bunch), but nothing has really ever come close to knocking Sega's iconic franchise off the top spot. Until now that is. And it is quite ironic that the latest instalment of Streets of Rage is not only that game, but arguably the best in the series yet.
Sublime visuals, nostalgic nods to the original games, superlative controls and addictive as hell gameplay. The music isn't bad either, with lots of toe tapping techno tunes and deep bass lines accompanying the ass-kicking action. But did you know the original Streets of Rage 4 was intended to launch on the Dreamcast? A tech demo is all that remains of Dreamcast Streets of Rage 4 (see the video below), and our friends over at SEGABits showed off some interesting concept artwork a few years ago (also pictured below).


Streets of Rage 4 for Dreamcast never saw the light of day beyond this tech demo though, and some may say that's a good thing. 3D polygonal beat 'em ups did come to the Dreamcast in the form of Zombie Revenge, Soul Fighter and Cannon Spike et al, but they didn't really set the world alight. We'll never know if Dreamcast Streets of Rage 4 could have bucked that trend, but from these images and video it looks like Sega were toying with the idea of implementing features such as co-op combo moves for multiplayer, and even a first person mode.
This tech demo has never been leaked online, and we don't even know if there's actually a playable build; but it's still interesting to see what Sega had in mind for the then-dormant franchise on the 128-bit system after it totally skipped the Saturn. The fact that Fighting Force almost became a Streets of Rage game makes us breath a deep sigh of relief, too. Urgh. As it stands, the actual real Streets of Rage 4 is out now on all platforms and is truly a great continuation of the series from Dotemu, Lizardcube and Guard Crush Games. I would suggest you snap it up asap and indulge your inner vigilante post haste!
Have you picked up Streets of Rage 4? What are your thoughts on this latest instalment of the franchise that rocked a million Megadrives back in the day? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter.

Sakura Wars Returns with Flying Colours (PS4 Review)

The Sakura Wars (aka Sakura Taisen) series is possibly Sega's worst-kept secret, at least for us in the West. Most Dreamcast fans have probably encountered it at some point, but without the ability to understand the Japanese language, most have not proceeded further. This Japanese steampunk-themed tactical RPG series was a massive hit in its country of origin, spawning sequels and spin-offs, as well as crossing into other forms of media. As I'm writing this, the Sakura Wars multi-media franchise has surpassed over 4 million units shipped in Japan.

Despite the series' massive success, Sakura Wars was probably deemed too culturally-different for Western gamers, probably due to its heavy use of unfamilar (at least, back in the late '90s and early 00's), visual novel/dating simulation-style gameplay. The only Sakura Wars game from the original batch to be localised into English was the fifth game in the franchise, Sakura Wars V: So Long, My Love (released on the Wii and PS2). Most would probably agree that it wasn't the best entry the series had to offer, but hey, at least it was something. The series would then remain untouched for many years.
This was no small franchise. A big thanks to our very own Mike for the pics.
But Sakura Wars has stepped back onto the stage and into the limelight once again. Sega have blessed us with a worldwide (albeit, staggered) release of a flashy modern-gen reboot of Sakura Wars, exclusively for PlayStation 4. Developed by Sega's CS2 R&D department, Sakura Wars saw involvement from new and returning staff; including veteran Sega producer Tetsu Katano, director Tetsuya Otsubo and music composer Kohei Tanaka. Tite Kubo, the creator of manga ultra-hit Bleach was responsible for the designs of the main cast of characters. There was also guest artists like BUNBUN (Sword Art Online), Ken Sugimori (Pok√©mon) and Shigenori Soejima (Persona), who contributed their talents towards the designs of various supporting characters. It's clear from such star studded pedigree that Sega really pulled out all the stops for this one, and as an owner of a pre-order copy that turned up three days too early, I'm happy to confirm that it resulted in a big success. If you're a fan of Sakura Wars, you'll be happy to know Sega have done the franchise the justice it deserves. If you're new to Sakura Wars, this is the perfect entry point.

Preview: Xenocider

It was in June 2015 that we first learned of Retro Sumus' ambitious Dreamcast exclusive shooter Xenocider. Back then, we didn't really know much about what was to become something of a labour of love for lead programmer Chui and his team based over in Spain, but now, almost five years later were are very close to having the final product in our hands, and - most importantly - in our Dreamcast consoles. Xenocider has undergone several revisions over the years, but here we are privileged to share with you details of the latest beta build, and our overall impressions of what we have played so far.
What was initially pitched as a sort of homage to 'into the screen' shooters of yesteryear such as Space Harrier, Planet Harriers and Sin & Punishment, Xenocider places the player in control of Xara, a cybernetic heroine tasked with travelling from planet to planet, basically wiping out all life and ultimately causing said planet to self destruct. As you do.


If you'll allow me to be a bit wanky for a moment, this does actually bring up some questions of ethics for me. Why is Xara so hellbent on destroying these alien creatures and the very worlds they reside on? If she didn't come blazing through the atmosphere in her ship and then start marauding around the landscapes shooting everything and setting off nukes, surely these innocent lifeforms could just continue going about their daily routine of floating around and minding their own business? I'm sure the answers will be revealed in the final game's story mode, so we'll leave this aspect of Xenocider alone for now. Wanky mode: off.
The similarities with the aforementioned properties from Sega and Nintendo/Treasure are quite clear to see from a visual and gameplay standpoint, but Xenocider does have its own identity too. The aesthetic is very much one of a sort of corrupt artificial life form being directed by a mysterious commander via a communications codec. You travel to various worlds killing stuff, you collect upgrade points that can be spent on your health, armour, weapon strength etc. This is done via a rather excellent between-level hub section aboard Xara's ship - a ship you also get to control in one of the mid-stage bonus areas that reminded me a little of something like Soul Star on the Sega Mega CD, but is actually based on Galaxy Force.