NBA Showtime - For The Industry

Designed and published by Midway Games, Inc for the Sega Dreamcast in 1999, NBA Showtime is still worth playing in 2024, and its 128-bit graphics are worth preserving — for character artists and gamers alike.

When we position NBA Showtime on the Dreamcast amongst today’s sports games, something interesting happens. Showtime feels surprisingly fresh with its simple controls and tight playing moves. That is because Showtime is accessible in a way that modern NBA 2K purposefully never will be.

What’s more, Showtime’s old-school graphics and big time dunks led me to a major premise — design choices can impact the lives of the people who create and consume a game. That is because design choices made by big tech directly impact game budgets, development staffing decisions, and can even manipulate player spending habits, too. Powerful.

Without question, economical and responsibly made sports games are needed in the 2024 sports game market. NBA Showtime is a reminder of what is possible on hardware from over 20 years ago; and its 128-bit design may serve as a prescription in the face of an industry profiting billions off of gambling mechanics in sports games.

NBA Showtime’s Economical Design


Showtime’s economical design for the Dreamcast illustrates why arcade sports games are still worth playing. "The NBA on NBC", as it was known in the arcades at the turn of the millennium, is fun and super competitive without complex gameplay controls.

I did not expect to play Sega Dreamcast sports games in 2024. And upon powering up, I did not anticipate Showtime’s orchestral strings to invoke such strong emotions about its standing. But when we position it amongst today’s lineup of sports games, nothing actually compares. Whereas NBA 2K, the top selling NBA Basketball game series of the last decade, adopts a model of endless combinations and movesets, Showtime has just four buttons. Easy. One of those buttons is capable of launching three point shots high into the atmosphere, where the basketball seems to sky just long enough to remind yourself to breathe. Hence, the game does fun things with the sport through its iconic presentation — taking a three-pointer and turning it into an exciting event to replay over and over.

More importantly, Showtime is offline, and thus not connected to your credit card. It feels honest — unlike today’s games ruined by wallet exploits and complicated control schemes. The NBA 2K series, a prime culprit, builds its obfuscated player ratings and movesets into its game economy systems. Yes, the NBA’s flagship game has endless shops of in-game items to purchase. Everything is for sale.

Moreover, sports gamers today are at the mercy of the engineers at 2K Sports because 2K’s gameplay is constantly patched, often without notice — an unethical and potentially illegal business practice. For example, an animation purchased in week one of a game release might lose all value by week ten. Thus, 2K’s confusing layers of ratings systems are purposeful, designed to extract maximum funds out of players’ pockets.

Contrasting with 2K, Showtime’s rosters are locked in at specific ratings, and the game features a handful of player archetypes. Bigs, mids, and guards. That is it, and it works. Showtime is a game to enjoy, and its designers emphasized quick-hitting matches to keep the gameplay loop moving. For arcade machines, the gameplay loop was profitable, but on Dreamcast, players can play endless matches for a flat fee. For context, I purchased the game on eBay for the fitting price of $19.99 in late 2023.

Additionally, Showtime provides an abundance of what it calls its “coaching tips” in-between quarters that provide insight into the game’s AI and logic. Hence, we know a good deal about how Showtime works. And Showtime is not going to unilaterally change its player ratings any time soon via an online update.

When we look at Midway's arcade baller today, its simplicity comes across as a bit underrated. The graphics are blocky, the animations — awkward. But that is part of its charm, and the game can still hammer home the dunks on the genre to remind everyone it is still fun.

A 128-Bit Prescription for the Industry


Perhaps more importantly are the moral and ethical benefits of 128-bit gaming in 2024 in its various polygonal forms. In a word: remasters.

Remasters of 128-bit polygon arcade games like Showtime may be a compromise for all parties to the sports gaming ecosystem. That is because NBA Showtime’s art-style is highly affordable for the industry to adopt in 2024. As such, a remaster of an NBA Showtime in 2024 would be less laborious on designers, and cost less than most AAA games. For an industry known to run artists into the ground, a remaster is a win. While this argument glosses over the issue of obtaining the requisite licensing for all the players, there are always solutions when there is money to be made. We can trust in that notion.

The benefits of 128-bit games also extend to graphic designer and artist employment terms. Silicon Valley’s unethical practice of hiring and firing artists in waves is unnecessary when a 128-bit game costs a fraction of a major simulation sports production in 2024. The 128-bit graphic design choice is an act of acknowledgement to the artists from generations ago. Remasters can take us back to our roots, and maybe that is something the industry needs right now.

Lower development costs for a 128-bit production also thereby lessen big tech’s need to exploit players through in-game monetization systems. And while we cannot conclusively draw a line between development costs and microtransactions in our games, we can certainly argue the correlation. Lower costs have numerous benefits on the industry. Art direction matters.

Thus, remasters of classic sports games like Showtime represent a path towards dignity for everyone the game touches. Remasters can honor the original artists of NBA Showtime, while treating the artists of today with dignity. And remasters lessen the need for companies to build in morally bankrupt gambling modes into sports games. The premise is simple — companies should have a profound respect for persons and dignity. Human rights should be a part of our game design choices and the industry as a whole.
When we revisit NBA Showtime in 2024, it is less about nostalgia and more so about what the game now represents in the sports genre. The use of 128-bit graphics in sports games in 2024 is a practical path to more humane treatment of game artists and sports game players.

Dreamcast Light Gun title Death Crimson 2 has been Translated into English!

For a console that famously championed peripheral use, the Sega Dreamcast sure had slim pickings when it came to games that utilised the light gun. Most notably, the console received arcade-perfect ports of both The House of the Dead 2 and the severely underrated James Bond 'em up Confidential Mission; but what else was there? Those who dared to discover were met with Silent Scope without light gun support, a port of Virtua Cop 2 that was stuck on a disc with a load of poorly emulated Genesis games (unless you imported the standalone Japanese release), a hidden light gun mode in Demolition Racer: No Exit (yes, really), and the Death Crimson series.

Developed by Ecole and released exclusively in Japan in 1999, Death Crimson 2: Meranito no Saidan has the very distinct privilege of being the sequel to a game so notoriously bad that it had a particularly masochistic set of Japanese fans gluing the game's disc into their Sega Saturn so as to make sure the console could never play any other game. Luckily, Ecole did improve, and Death Crimson 2 was received better than its predecessor. Perhaps the most intriguing part about this sequel was the inclusion of a full story mode with almost Resident Evil-esque free-roaming sections where you explore in a third-person perspective outside of the light gun gameplay. While an "improved" version of Death Crimson 2 called Death Crimson OX did receive a Western release (in the USA, at least), it completely dropped the story sections, meaning non-Japanese speakers never got a chance to experience this weird mishmash of gameplay in the English language. 

Well, fret no more, as a fan translation of Death Crimson 2 has just released today! And who translated this Dreamcast light gun oddity, you ask? Well, it's the same guy who did the last English Dreamcast fan translation, too, and many before that! That man being - of course - the ever-busy Derek Pascarella.

With Derek's patch, everything in the game is now translated into English. This includes everything from the story sections, to cutscenes, to textures and graphics; with misspelled English place names (such as street signs) also being corrected to match the official Western release of Death Crimson OX. 

As always with Derek's releases, he's gone above and beyond with extras and enchantments. First up, Derek has added a VMU icon for the game, because Ecole were too lazy to implement one themselves. Next, he added a cheat function, which can up your lives and reset any countdown clock with a simultaneous press of the Dreamcast controller's left and right triggers. The reasoning for this is to allow players to experience the game's story without being having to endure going through numerous difficult stages repeatedly.

Then you have the bonus content section, which is accessible from the game's main menu. Utilising a modified version of the Dream Passport browser, players can access a variety of extras from the series, including a video of composer Kunitaka Watanabe tearing it up on the keyboard as he plays the original Death Crimson theme, along with an archive of fan support messages from Ecole's now-offline official Death Crimson 2 website, which have been machine-translated into English.

So, to download Derek's fan translation patch for Death Crimson 2, just head to its dedicated GitHub page to download it. For detailed steps on how to apply the patch for your desired method of play (i.e. burning to a CD-R, playing on an ODE), see the patching instructions section of the README. While the game does support the standard controller, if you're going to be using a light gun I recommend consulting the section on light gun compatibility. Make sure you report back to Derek if you experience any issues with a particular light gun setup, as he will aim to try and resolve such compatibility bugs in the future.

Are you going to crack out the light gun and give this English fan translation a go? Let us know in the comments below, or by hitting us up on one of various social media channels!

Dreamcast Covers that Go Hard (and Some More that Can Go Straight in the Bin)

Like the greatest album covers in the world, some games make a great impression even when sitting on a shelf. Whilst previews in the media, video trailers and word of mouth are vitally important, it would be wise not to underestimate the immediate impact a game’s cover can have on those with more impressionable minds. Generic artwork or uninspiring stylistic choices may be fine if the game has loads of pre-release hype or a big name license, but stick some glorious artwork from a talented artist on the cover and you're near enough guaranteed some extra interest.

The Dreamcast's small but beautiful library of games is jam-packed with turn-of-the-millennium style and innovation, and this is present in some of the artwork which adorned gaming shelves worldwide. Some are of course, iconic - Ulala's presence on the Space Channel 5 artwork, the striking simplicity of the PAL/Japanese covers of Crazy Taxi, Shenmue's epicness - but there are some that deserve more attention. These are works of art - they deserve to be blown up to a larger size, framed and hung in the finest of art galleries. So it's time to put my best gallery curator hat on and showcase why I think these fifteen choice cuts of Dreamcast cover art glory are examples worthy of so much praise, followed by five duds that deserve the complete opposite...

All covers used in this article come from Sega Retro, unless stated otherwise. Let's get into them...


The Dreamcast covers that go hard...

Spawn: In The Demon's Hand

I could have picked any of the cover variations of this release, as they are all absolutely epic in nature, but I've chosen the standard Japanese cover. Looking more like some great, unknown fantasy war metal album cover, this puts Todd McFarlane's comic masterpiece centre stage with a swirling mass of metal, cloak and spikes. Spawn is the ultimate badass antihero, an imposing demonic hellspawn, and a character that is designed to be visually interesting in whatever angle, pose or situation he is depicted in. As a game, In the Demon's Hand falls a little short, but the cover art surely must have led to a few extra sales.

The artwork for the standard Japanese version, as well as that used on other examples of the game, seem to have been taken from Spawn issue 95. The limited first print edition of the game released in Japan came with a cardboard slipcase with artwork similar to the US and PAL releases - all of which are based on the cover of 95.

The Japanese limited first print edition slipcase artwork (Credit: PlayAsia)

The US cover has the same artwork as both the Japanese slipcase and the PAL release. It's a bit cleaner than the standard Japanese cover, and not as impactful.

The cover art for Spawn issue 95, the artwork of which was the basis for the game covers above.

Mars Matrix (Japanese cover)

Takumi's underrated shooter delivers a depth to the genre that's unrivaled on the console, and has the best cover of any shooter on the system (particularly the Japanese version's cover). I will take no criticism of that viewpoint! This cover is a dynamic, colourful burst of energy which breaks away from the usual clichés seen on the covers of other shoot 'em ups, whilst never going so far out there that you'd be confused as to what genre of game it actually is. Taken as a whole, it's a piece of art; from the fonts used for the title (to continue with the metal references of this article, this text wouldn't look out of place as the logo for some sort of cosmic math metal band), to the colour gradation, to the sleek sci-fi lines and shapes in the background. The US cover (below) isn't awful either, but it lacks the eye-punching appeal that the Japanese release displays.

The US version does many things the Japanese version did, but the change of colours diminishes the appeal somewhat. Still, a decent attempt.

Minecraft-Clone "ClassiCube" now available for Dreamcast - supports Online Play

Do you know Minecraft? No? Have you been living under a block? Joking aside, if you seriously don't know what Minecraft is, then it is a game where you jump around swinging a pickaxe at all different types of blocks to build or destroy whatever your heart desires. It's like Lego with minerals... or something.

The reason I'm referencing a game that is hugely popular with people too young to know that the creators of Sonic once made video game consoles, is because today I was made aware that ClassiCube, a free, open-source clone of Minecraft, has hit the Dreamcast, and it supports online play! Seems the news trail went as follows: YouTuber (and friend) The Sega Guru told YouTuber (and friend) James Jarvis (aka ItsMuchMore) and then I found out from a post by excellent Dreamcast online gaming resource (and friends) Dreamcast Live.
Screenshot from the PC version of ClassiCube.
This Dreamcast port of ClassiCube is currently only in the early alpha stages, which means it is likely to crash/freeze or have issues with performance, but as a proof of concept, it really is an exciting project. Click here to download the .cdi file for it, and if you want to try getting it online, I highly recommend checking out James' video below, along with The Sega Guru's (which includes an interview with the developers).



Believe it or not, we actually saw another homebrew Minecraft project for the Dreamcast back in 2017 called "Crafti". Tom wrote about that here.

Are you going to give ClassiCube a go? Do you think this is an exciting project? Let us know in the comments below, or via our social media channels?

Fragmented Almanac: Unique Dreamcast Puzzle Collection goes up for Pre-order!

One of my favourite memories from when I first got involved with The Dreamcast Junkyard happened towards the end of February 2020, when I played the demo for "Reaperi Cycle" in preparation for an episode of our podcast, the DreamPod. Interesting extra tidbit: I'd got engaged to my now-wife just the day before! 

Upon booting up the Reaperi Cycle demo, I was met with a point-and-click game in an isometric style, with really compelling pre-rendered graphics indicative of 90s PC titles, such as Sanitarium. This was not a style of game I ever expected to hit the Dreamcast, but something that I'm so glad I played. The mission of the demo was to solve puzzles in an alchemist's study to try and unlock a strange floating cube in the middle of the room. Not being that smart a puzzle game aficionado, I found some of the puzzles quite tricky to solve, which had me turning to fellow Junkyarders Tom, Mike and James for help, as they were also playing the game in prep for the podcast. 

Reaperi Cycle

In this age of instant information, even if we'd tried to look for a walkthrough to this demo, we would've come back empty handed, so what followed was something I'd not experienced in a long time: we started exchanging hints and tips with one another about what we'd each managed to figure out. With everybody's help (particularly Mike's, if I recall correctly), I eventually managed to get that cube open and complete the demo, and it felt awesome. It took me back to my playground days of yore, when my friend who was a year older than me would effectively function as a walking walkthrough guide, helping me out with advice whenever I got stuck on Pokémon Red. Reaperi Cycle reminded me of that, and it was amazing to feel that same buzz once again of utilising the advice of friends to finally beat a game. 

So then... why did I share this sentimental little tale? Because developer of Reaperi Cycle, ANTIRUINS, is finally releasing definitive versions of not only Reaperi Cycle (now known as The Hideout), but also Summoning Signals, another excellent demo that they also showcased back in 2020. And what's more, they're both combined into one release, called the Fragmented Almanac, with enhanced visuals and audio. That's two really unique games for the price of one, and you can pre-order them today, for an expected release date of March 2024.

Fragmented Almanac will be available digitally for $14.99 (for play on emulator, ODE, etc), with disc copies costing $29.99. The physical game comes in two editions with different cover art, and they both look absolutely sick. You'd be forgiven for mistaking them for some underground band's short-run release on some boutique indie label's Bandcamp. "Dude, I really hope they release Fragmented Almanac on vinyl next!"

On ANTIRUINS' store page for this release, the collection is described as follows:

"The Fragmented Almanac is a strange document, an oddity even amongst Dreamcast games.  At the junction of video games, art and alchemy, this project is the culmination of 7 years of Dreamcast development, spread over 5 different games. The Fragmented Almanac re-unites two of these experimentations under a multifaceted and complex timeline."

And the games contained within:

"THE HIDEOUT : This place is filled with alchemical knowledge, old tales and mystical symbols. It's the hidden path in the forest, seen by very few. Can you unlock its secret?

"SUMMONING SIGNALS : Sprinter-2 crashed on an Unknown Planet. Help the Pilot and figure out a way to leave the labyrinth. Discover this strange world where new technology and old ruins coexist."

The games also boasts such features as a "new Almanac system [which] guides you through the complex world", an "eerie soundtrack composed by Gabriel Ledoux" and the useful extra of "hints [being] displayed on the VMU". Nice.
The developers of Fragmented Alamanac are Canada-based, but did confirm in our Discord that they are currently working to try and get a distributor arranged for Europe, although $11 to get one of these sent to the UK (where I'm based) isn't too bad a delivery cost. Once again, you can pre-order the game here.

Are you going to check out The Hideout and Summoning Signals as part of the Fragmented Almanac? Let us know in the comments below, or on our socials.

Hands On with the Retro Fighters StrikerDC Wireless Dreamcast Controller

Retro Fighters have recently released the Wireless update to their StrikerDC “next gen” Dreamcast controller. We took a look at the original wired version way back in 2020, which was so long ago I forgot that it was me who did the actual review.

Well, we here at the Junkyard have the new version in our grubby little hands (thanks to Retro Fighters for sending us some units to review), and we've started to put it through its paces… and everything is so far, so good. In the video below, you can see my initial thoughts and feelings pretty much in real time, with just one or two edits in and around the fat of the content.

Can't be bothered to see my stupid face? I get that. Then to briefly summarise my initial impressions: this is a product that improves on the original in most ways, the triggers and analog stick both feel nicer when in use. Having stopped to think about it, I’d say the triggers feel similar to something like the Razer controllers I have, as they have a nice audible click when pressed. It will be interesting to see if they hold up over time, unlike those of the wired version, which many had to send off to Retro Fighters for replacements. Also, as far as I can tell, the controller has no input lag.

For more information on all the controller's new features, check out Lozz's original news post about it.

If you have one of these, owned the original, or have a question, then let us know in the comments below or on one of our social media channels.

The Top 25 Dreamcast Indie Games 2024 - Voting Now Closed

It's been eight years since we last went to readers, viewers, listeners and followers of The Dreamcast Junkyard to ask YOU what the best indie games for the Dreamcast are... and what an eight years it's been! Incredibly, no less than 43 new indie games have seen release for the console in that time - and that is just those that received actual physical versions.

As we're officially in the Dreamcast's 25th year of celebrations (I am now dubbing the time between the Japanese launch in 1998 and the PAL release in 1999 "the Dreamcast anniversary year"), it seems only fitting to bring this vote back and see what the current fan favourite indie games are, especially considering the increased number of releases since we last did the vote. Pier Solar topped the charts last time, just beating out Sturmwind, but a lot has happened since then!


How to vote:

Simply click on the form at the bottom of the page (or here, if its easier!) and name your selection of a minimum of three indie releases, with a maximum of 10. There's no need to order them, however you will be asked to select one of your choices as your absolute favourite on the second page of the form. I will then have the Junkyard gremlins work their magic, run the spreadsheets, click the dials and receive brown paper envelopes in dark parking lots so that we end up with the definitive Top 25 list of indie games.

That's not all though. As well as using this chance to work out the Top 25 indie games, we've also got a few additional votes that you can take part in, namely Best Indie Developer, Best Indie Publisher and Most Anticipated Future Indie Release.


Criteria:

I suppose we better clarify what an "indie release" is. Any commercially released or free game that runs on the Dreamcast that was not officially licensed by Sega but was sanctioned for release by its developers or rights holders, qualifies. This includes all the games listed in my Complete Guide to Commercially Released Dreamcast Indie Games article, along with any other game that can be downloaded digitally for play on the Dreamcast for either a price or free, as long as it was allowed by its developer or rights holders.

The only titles that don't qualify for this voting would be unofficial ports of games, such as the Atomiswave ports, or unofficial mods or hacks of existing games (including any Beats of Rage mods, although Beats of Rage itself does qualify). Basically, if the developers or rights holders didn’t authorise it for play on the Dreamcast, it doesn’t qualify. Also, any unreleased games from the Dreamcast's official lifespan (such as Millennium Racer or Propeller Arena, for instance) don’t qualify either.

You have until the 31st of January 2024 to vote, and once we have closed the polls and had the time to write up the results we'll be announcing the final list on the blog and across social media.

Voting has now closed.

The Complete Guide to Commercially Released Dreamcast Indie Games

The fact that we're still blathering on about the Dreamcast some 20 odd years after the console's demise is testament to two things - the fact that we're sad little people still holding on to a mere glimmer of nostalgia about our youth as we rapidly approach middle age, and also the fact that the community will just not let this console die. We obviously don't talk about the first of those points much (we don't want to remind ourselves that we're becoming less and less culturally literate with every rotation of this damn rock around the sun), but we do talk about how "alive" the system is all the time. Probably too much, to be honest, as many people like to put the Dreamcast firmly in the "past" folder in their brain, preferring to remember what it was like when it was new and current. This is completely understandable, to view the console solely through a sense of nostalgia especially now that we have so many ways of experiencing the console's library which don't rely on having shelves full of games (or spindles full of CD-Rs). We're in that stage of the console's post-life cycle that has many people who left their video gaming behind when they were young dipping into the console once more, stirring up their memories of happier times, and no doubt probably quite confused as to why some of us never left the machine in the past and have continued to be fascinated by Sega's last great home endeavour to this very day.

Whilst the nostalgia is to be expected, it is the vitality of the current Dreamcast scene which keeps us writing about it. In between the tired posts of social media influencers asking people if they remember Sonic Adventure or Crazy Taxi, there has been an incredibly active scene covering every element of the Dreamcast for years. We have new hardware and controllers, games with online modes re-activated, more translations of Japanese games than I can actually keep track of, books, magazines, an entire series of arcade titles ported to the console, and a strong homebrew community that is creating some astonishing things. And it's that last point that allows me to pivot, finally, towards the point of this article. Alongside homebrew ports of classic titles (as I write this, the recent demo of the Metal Gear Solid 2 port is literally mind blowing) and fun little projects, we've now had 20 years of "proper" retail-released indie titles for the Dreamcast. My aim here is to document all of these in one article. I do love a long article...

I love Dreamcast indie titles. While they are not officially licensed by Sega, there is something very special about receiving a physical version of a game to be played on a console a quarter of a century old. The quality of the Dreamcast indie scene varies, which is to be expected, but even when a game is a bit crappy, I still have a certain sense of respect that it has been released on the console at all. Of course, I am a big weirdo, and will pick up anything you slap a "Dreamcast" label on, but for those who want to be a bit more selective with their hard-earned cash when expanding their Dreamcast library, a subjective view is always useful. In this article I hope to do just that - as well as take a look back at the various versions of the games that were released, where you can pick them up today, and any other interesting things that I can cram in before losing all excitement about writing this already massive article. This will also be constantly updated (hello, future people!) with my views on any new indie release, which will hopefully allow it to be a one-stop-shop for anyone interested in the broad DC indie scene - this will of course sit alongside our regular indie reviews from the entire DCJY team (I can also recommend Laurence's superb roundup of the indie scene in this article, if you want a slightly different perspective). It's also worth checking out our directory of indie developers and publishers, where you'll find direct links to all those involved in the indie scene.

Now, I need to add some context and "rules" here. The scope of this article will not include every single homebrew port or project - the first rule of the article is that it had to have been released physically and could be purchased by anyone. Of course, you can pick up a copy of any of the homebrew ports with nice printed inlays on Etsy - so that's when the second rule comes in: the physical release must have been officially sanctioned by the developer or rights holder. Finally, only full releases will count - so no demos, hacks or mods will be included, although total conversion mods that became standalone games in their own right do count. For the context of this article, only the games that meet the criteria I've just established will be called "indie releases". Will I probably end up breaking these rules to include something that I probably shouldn't? You betcha. Welcome to the wonderful world of "Mike doesn't stick to his own rules". 

Enough of my nonsense (well, enough of this opening bit of nonsense, there's a lot more nonsense that lies ahead, I'm afraid!)  - on with the article!

Vanishing Point: The Dreamcast's Secret Ridge Racer

In early January 2001, while most were still nursing hangovers and recovering from eating too many mince pies, Vanishing Point released on both the Dreamcast and PlayStation to little fanfare in what was an already overcrowded genre. As such, it unfortunately drifted off into obscurity as one of the most misunderstood and underappreciated racing games of its era.

The titular "Vanishing Point" was actually a reference to developer Clockwork Games' ambitions to create a racing game with neither graphical pop up or fog masking the draw distance. It was also inspired by popular arcade racers of the time, such as Sega Rally, SCUD racer, and there is definitely a taste of Ridge Racer in the visual and course design, with planes flying overhead, yachts in harbours, windmills, trains and of course, lots of big fancy bridges. 

Image credit: MobyGames

But before we go any further, let’s get the elephant in the room out of the way. The game's intro footage is about as misleading as any opening FMV could be for a game. You do not directly race against opponents, there are no aggressive two-way or even three-way races, nor are there oncoming tankers with explosions to satisfy even the craziest of pyromaniacs. That said, what is here, is a rather unique take on the arcade racer. Instead of starting at the back and working your way through the pack to first place, the structure is more like an open time trial. This has led to the misconception over the years that Vanishing Point is just a time trial game. While the aim is to beat each race's set time, the real hook of the game is the traffic you have to weave through as efficiently as possible in order to be able to hit that time - you can’t just follow the most obvious path around the course. The traffic is also multi-tiered, adding an extra layer of depth to how you must approach your driving.

There are two types of traffic AI, the first being basic "drone" vehicles which are just cars that happen to be on the road. They pose very little risk, as long as you just don’t plough into them. But what does make the driving of Vanishing Point much more interesting are other racers on the road who are also vying for the fastest time. Being ready to respond to whatever is going to happen in front of you makes getting past these particular drivers much more challenging; they are much less predictable, and will even try to get around the drone traffic, often taking themselves out in the process.

Image credit: MobyGames

This brings the three key pillars of Vanishing Point into view:

  • Momentum
  • Anticipation
  • Threading the line

In order to keep your speed up, you need to carry momentum through the corners of the course into the straights, which entails not slowing down too sharply or steering too heavily. At the same time, you have to anticipate the traffic ahead, and may find that the fastest path forward is also going to lead you directly into a three-car pile-up, adding a great risk/reward hook. This makes threading your line around the course and through the traffic vital, and once you're familiar with the handling, this is an extremely satisfying gameplay mechanic, especially when combined with the incredible sense of speed the faster cars have.

There are a variety of licensed vehicles from several manufacturers available, including Ford, Toyota and Audi, each with their own unique handling and physics models. The differences between the cars provide a good level of variety to races, as it means there are better ways to approach certain courses depending on the vehicle you have selected. The courses and also nicely varied in both layout and aesthetics, which helps to prevent the game from looking and feeling samey as you progress.

Image credit: MobyGames

The structure of the game is very much of its time, having you start with a very limited choice of vehicles and courses, with more choices opening up the further you progress. Not only do you unlock additional vehicles and courses, but there are entire new game modes to discover, including a "Stunt Driver" mode, with objectives for stunts to carry out, and a "Rally" mode. There are also some multiplayer modes, including the usual head-to-head racing, but also "Balloon Buster" and "Chicken Races", which altogether makes Vanishing Point a surprisingly well-rounded package with plenty of replay value. What’s more, although only two can play at a time, the "Knock Out", "Tournament" and "Winner Stays On" modes support up to eight participants.

Image credit: MobyGames

Visually, Vanishing Point has that "PS1 game" look about it… except, with a higher resolution, cleaner textures and a silky smooth frame rate of 60fps. The car models are rendered authentically, if a little lower in detail compared to other games on the system. 

The game is no slouch on the sound front, with some pretty beefy engine sounds and a soundtrack that never quite hits the highs of Sega or Namco’s greatest, but is far from terrible and fits the high-speed action well.

Clockwork Games didn't quite achieve their ambition of making a game that feels like Sega Rally, but once you learn to ignore the urge to correct the oversteer, there is a very smooth and responsive arcade racer worth experiencing. All in all, Vanishing Point stands out as a unique racing title on the system, and with its relatively cheap preowned price, it is a worthy of addition to any Dreamcast owner's collection.

Have you played Vanishing Point? If so, what are your thoughts on it? Let us know in the comments below or via one of our many social media channels.

6 Games that Scratch the Shenmue Itch

There really isn't anything quite like Shenmue. As most Dreamcast fans know by now, the gameplay of Yu Suzuki's magnum opus, which juxtaposed snail's pace sleuthing around Japanese suburbia with frantic Virtua Fighter ass kicking, was polarising back when it surfaced in 1999. I am one of those many crazy people who absolutely loved everything Shenmue had to offer, especially the game's focus on the minutiae of everyday life. While some might prefer to escape to lands of medieval fantasy or vast universes of the future, I was completely entranced by the real world in which Shenmue was set, and the ordinary people that inhabited it. It felt like I'd finally found the game I'd always wanted to play.

In the 18 year absence of the series' third entry, I still needed something to scratch the Shenmue itch, and with many now wondering when a fourth instalment is going to happen, I find myself searching once again (seriously though, #LetsGetShenmue4). That's why I thought I'd present to you, dear reader, a selection of games that I believe capture the essence of Shenmue, some in more ways than others. Of course, I'm not implying that any of these games trump Shenmue in stature or quality. I'm simply suggesting that you may find some of the same enjoyment in them that you found that first time you assumed the role of Ryo Hazuki, as he set off on his quest to irritate his fellow townspeople with excessive deadpan and waste all his money on plastic Sega-shaped tat (a man after my own heart, really).

The Yakuza Series
For those of you who aren't aware of the Yakuza series (if you even exist at this point), it is a modern Sega franchise that often draws comparisons to Shenmue for obvious reasons. While Yakuza didn't necessarily copy Shenmue's homework, we'd be lying to ourselves if we didn't admit that the later games in the series definitely take some inspiration from Shenmue, at least when we compare the two at face value. A man walks angrily around a Japanese neighbourhood, beats up a load of thugs, chugs a drink, then heads to the arcade to play Space Harrier… I could be accurately describing Shenmue or Yakuza with that sentence, and the internet’s gaming population at large have picked up on these somewhat shallow similarities also. There’s not a single day that goes by without someone shouting "why don't you just play Yakuza?!" at some poor unsuspecting Shenmue fan on social media.
Image credit: New Game Network
When you start to play any of the Yakuza games, however, you soon learn that the series very much has its own identity and its gameplay differs in many ways to the adventures of Ryo Hazuki. Sure, later Yakuza games started to incorporate a lot of the same time-waster stuff that is a beloved staple of the Shenmue series, like arcades and gambling, but Yakuza is overall much faster paced, and its beat-em-up style of brawling is even more dynamic and ridiculous than Shenmue's. Think Dynamite Cop on steroids. Let's just say you're not really taking time to appreciate the scenery in Yakuza, unless that scenery is a bicycle you can pick up to smash a dude's head with. Which style of game you prefer is all down to individual taste, of course.
Image credit: New Game Network
What the two series do have in common though is a commitment to escapism. Just like Shenmue, the Yakuza games contain excellent stories, all featuring likeable characters and gameplay loops that will keep you immersed for hours on end as you bond with characters through missions and become fully encapsulated in Japanese nightlife. For those still longing for that fourth Shenmue, Yakuza is a pretty fitting game to fill the void, and with a whopping number of instalments to play that span multiple console generations, you've got plenty to work with. Go forth and be the best organised crime bloke you can be.

The Persona Series
In the past, Shenmue has been branded a "life simulator" by fans and critics alike. Well, if there was ever a series that took that concept and ran with it, it's the Persona games. Created as a spin-off of Atlus' dark-as-heck Shin Megami Tensei RPG series, Persona has grown from a quiet cult hit to a monolith franchise in the last decade. Combining turn-based RPG gameplay and creature fusing with (from the third game onwards) time management and relationship building, Persona will steal your heart and not give it back. Play it for a few hours and you'll soon find yourself thinking in the same mindset as the Japanese high school student turned defender of humanity you play as, asking yourself such questions as: "should I slay demons tonight or go sing some karaoke?"
Image credit: New Game Network
While turn-based RPG battling and creature training has more in common with Pokémon than Shenmue, Persona's commitment to exploring the finer details of real life and asking you, the player, to make decisions on how to spend the main character's precious free time definitely shares some similarities with what Yu Suzuki was going for back in '99. While Persona is a lot less interactive than Shenmue (it's a JRPG, so be prepared for text galore), it goes a bit further in some ways. In Persona, you form more than just one-sided Ryo Hazuki relationships, and most activities you do in your free time have purpose (such as karaoke), boosting stats of some kind, rather than being there to simply kill time.
Image credit: New Game Network
As far as recommending a game in this series to start you off, I'd say start with Persona 5 Royal or the upcoming Persona 3 Reload (both of which can be found on modern gen systems and PC), simply for their sheer size, depth of mechanics, and level of graphical detail. The best storyline, however, is definitely that of Persona 4 Golden, which was previously stuck on the PS Vita, but eventually got ported to PC and Nintendo Switch, along with eighth/ninth generation PlayStation and Xbox systems. Small town countryside vibes, combined with the best plot and characters of the whole series, definitely makes Persona 4 Golden a candidate for everyone's first Persona game. Reach out to the truth!

The Dreamcast Junkyard's choicest cuts and hottest takes of 2023

Well, here we are again. A whole 12 months since the last time we did one of these yearly roundup articles, and 10 months since I decided to retire from the Junkyard for the sake of my fragile sanity. Going against my better judgement, I thought it would be nice to pop in to the 'Yard at this special time of year to look back in anger with fondness at some of the highlights of 2023, published by the hard-working and dedicated team of nerds who keep this place going in earnest. Even with the AI-powered threat of the Dead Internet™ and Big Gaming Websites™ slowly terraforming the entire World Wide Web into a sanitised, homogenous wasteland of black text on white backgrounds and carefully prepared press bullshots, The Dreamcast Junkyard is still here showing that little niche blogs can survive in the present era. But, y'know, that's not to say if some conglomerate wants to buy us out for a few million quid we wouldn't listen to offers. Of course, I jest...cough.

Now, back to that actual topic at hand. The dystopian nightmare that is/was the year 2023AD. It's been...interesting. So much new Dreamcast news to report on, new releases to salivate uncontrollably over, and original features that simply wouldn't write themselves without the aid of an advanced large language model and a few clever prompts. Yes, the humble Dreamcast has had quite the year, and so without further ado, I present to you a concise(ish) whistle-stop tour de force of the choicest cuts and hottest takes published here over the last 365(ish) days.

Are ya ready? Here we go...


Reviews

  • Not actually a Dreamcast release, but a title heavily influenced by Jet Set/Grind Radio, Lewis laced up his roller blades, donned his finest DayGlo lycra and tackled Team Reptile's excellent homage Bomb Rush Cyberfunk. Reports of lycra chaffage are wholly unfounded, refuted and are to be quashed immediatley.
  • Taking a pinch of inspiration from Rocket League, the first online-enabled retail release in nigh on 20 years arrived on Dreamcast in 2023. As expected, Lozz buckled up, checked his mirrors, signalled and then manouvred into battle in Luke Benstead and David Reichelt's indie hit Driving Strikers.
  • Another game heavily influenced by a much-loved Dreamcast original, Cosmic Smash homage C-Smash VRS from RapidEyeMovers and Wood & Wolf was given a thorough going over by a VR-helmeted Brian. Rumours that he destroyed his living room while jumping around in said VR helmet are wholly unfounded, refuted and are to be quashed immediately.
  • After Tom checked out the Dreamcast re-release of Visco's 1992 Neo-Geo title Andro Dunos (brought to us by JoshProd and PixelHeart), Lozz entered the very same (heavily sanitised) cockpit to take on the challenge presented by Andro Dunos II.
  • Our colleague Andrew Dickinson wrote a book once - did he mention that? Well, guess what - he wrote a sequel to it and it was released this year. Dreamcast: Year Two featured many contributions from across the Dreamcast community and Lewis was on hand to leaf through it. Will there be a Dreamcast: Year Three? Will Andrew mention he wrote a book again? Answers on a postcard.
  • Mike kicked off his Dreamcast-themed loafers, donned his velvet smoking jacket (probably) and delved betwixt the pages of Fusion Retro Books' Dreamcast-themed special edition, the snappily titled Fusion Dreamcast Magazine.
  • Mike also cast a critical eye over two indie releases this year, with PRO's physical release of Wolfenstein 3D mod Witching Hour and Lowtek Games' semi-sequel to Flea!, Tapeworm Disco Puzzle, both getting the Phelan treatment. Which sounds way more ominous than I thought it would now I've typed that sequence of words out.
  • Drunk on nostalgia while waiting for some form of Crazy Taxi reboot to appear (it'll never happen), Brian hailed down Cassius John-Adams' Fifth Element-inspired Crazy Taxi homage MiLE HiGH TAXi - a game which presumably also took at least some naming inspiration from psychedelic Saturn k-hole NiGHTS into Dreams.


Features and News

  • A highly skilled Dreamcast developer who goes by the name Frogbull decided they wanted to see PlayStation 2 stalwart Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty running on Sega's superior hardware. So they went out and created a proof of concept demo. No, we aren't making this up, and Lewis was on hand to investigate.
  • Tom noticed that it was high time he delved back into the Atomiswave library that was recently made playable on Dreamcast, with a look at Sammy's lesser-spotted Need for Speed: Underground rip-off homage Faster Than Speed.
  • 2023 represented a major milestone in the history of the Dreamcast - 25 years of existence. To mark the occasion, Brian revisited the Japanese release of the console, and even looked at the four launch titles on offer, particularly zooming in on one of the more maligned of the four - Godzilla Generations.
  • Y'know, it wasn't always like this. Not very long ago, just before your time, right before the towers fell, circa '99, this was catalogues, travel blogs, a chat room or two. And loads of random Dreamcast-themed fan sites. To illustrate, and take a look at what became of our brothers and sisters in arms, Lozz sampled a load of other online Dreamcast resources that were founded after the Dreamcast was discontinued (some even before the Junkyard started)...and where they are now. Thanks to Bo Burnham for this guest entry.
  • Back in 2022, Tom lamented over the lost Dreamcast boxing game Title Defense. With the help of Dreamcast community legend PC Wizard, he managed to track down and speak to someone who was heavily involved with said game's development and ultimate demise, and uncover the true story of why Title Defense never came to the Dreamcast. Spoiler alert: it never existed.
  • Apparently modern Sega isn't simply a hollow shell and shadow of its former self, and this year teased reboots of two of its most popular Dreamcast franchises. So you can disregard the previous comment about Crazy Taxi never coming back. Because it is, along with Jet Set/Grind Radio. Hopefully not as mobile games, but only time will tell. As ever, Lewis was on hand to take a look at the teaser trailer.
  • Long time Junkyard contributor Aaron "The Gagaman" Foster checked in earlier this year with a rather fascinating investigation into the smallest Dreamcast games. Not small in stature, but in file size. No, it's actually more interesting than you'd think. Honest.
  • How many versions of The Typing of the Dead are you aware of? Apart from the Dreamcast release of this zombie-themed Mavis Beacon homage, you might be surprised to know that there were numerous spinoffs and ports to both computers and other console platforms. Want to know more? Of course you do, so be sure to check out Lewis' superb dissection of The Typing of the Dead's weird and wonderful ports.
  • Many Dreamcast releases were originally promoted via the arcane medium of the humble flyer or leaflet, and in this excellent deep dive into one of the more esoteric aspects of Dreamcast lore, Lozz investigated the myriad flyers and leaflets now preserved online for all and sundry to gawp at.
  • If you've been online for as long as most of us have, and have been trawling the Dreamcast-flavoured underbelly of the internet for an equally terrifying stretch of time, you'll have undoubtedly come across heavily compressed images of Dreamcast consoles modded to resemble the Microsoft Xbox, Nintendo Gamecube and Sony PlayStation 2. Ever wondered where these curiosities came from, or what became of them? Enter contributor Dark, who investigated the origins and fate of these mysterious variations of the Dreamcast.
  • Tom took time out from shaking his fist at a cloud, put some clothes on and ventured out of his delapidated shack; and then took a train to London to experience C-Smash VRS and interact with some real life humans. Read his report on the launch event here, and then scratch your head in bemusement at the final paragraph where he annouces his retirement from the Junkyard...while you simultaneously read these very words which are being written by him on a keyboard right now.
  • Contributor Oliver Luddy announced his debut at the Junkyard by checking out the various iterations of steering wheel peripherals with which Dreamcast users can control onscreen vehicles. Some are good, others are not so good. But how will you know which is which without checking out Oliver's Dreamcast Steering Wheels - An Overview?
Credit: The Sega Guru
  • Dreamcast indie royalty and wombat appreciator Ian Micheal fully inserted himself into something commonly known as 'Christmas spirit' by releasing his latest creation - a compendium of Christmas-themed games for the Dreamcast. Featuring rom hacks and ports of games from a multitude of genres, the Dreamcast Christmas Collection is also notable for featuring covers of various festive songs which are sung by Ian himself. Ian, your talents are clearly wasted on indie dev.
  • The DreamPod crew asked our listeners to share their favourite Christmas Dreamcast memories from years gone by, and boy did they not disappoint. In this festive roundup which served as a companion piece to DreamPod episode 125 for RadioSEGA's WinterFest, Lozz packages them all up for your reading pleasure, while nursing a hangover inevitably brought on by enjoying too many Creamcast ales.
  • Bet you didn't know Radirgy/Radilgy received a spinoff on the Nintendo 3DS. Well, it did, and in his deep dive, Lewis discovers that not all is rosy in this particular entry's cel-shaded garden. To be fair, the clue is in the title of the feature: Radirgy De Gojaru! - Radirgy's Terrible 3DS Spinoff.
  • It's been a good few years at this point since Retro-Bit teased their wireless Dreamcast controllers. While wireless controllers for the Dreamcast have been available for quite some time thanks to the work of Chris Diaoglou, the Retro-Bit ones are officially sanctioned by Sega and were spotted "in the wild" a few months ago in 2023.
  • Fresh from his recent foray into the world of Dreamcast soccer management blockbuster Giant Killers, Kev decided it was high time to turn his attention to American sports games. More specifically, the unusual Japanese releases of NFL 2K1 and NBA 2K1. What makes these two titles so notable? Well, it's the fact that they received special “bible” editions. Want to know what any of that means? Then check out Kev's feature on the Sega Sports 2K1 Bible Editions. Note: God and/or Jesus are not involved. Sorry.
  • Sticking with Kev for a moment, he also investigated the experience of playing a range of games with the Dreamcast Arcade Stick (see what I did there?), but the twist here is that they aren't games that any normal person would actually want to play with an Arcade Stick, but which are fully compatible. The things we do in the name of science, eh? You can read about Kev's highly empirical findings in his feature here.
  • Last but by no means least, and after a whole year, many hours of work and hundreds of contributions, The Dreamcast Junkyard's refreshed Top 200 Dreamcast Games 2023 was finally unveiled to coincide with the 25th anniversary of the system. This really was a Herculean effort from all of those involved, and the final list throws up some very interesting placings in the definitive ranking as voted for by you - the loyal readers of t'Junkyard.

English Translations

This year saw even more Japan-only titles translated into English by the dedicated Dreamcast fan translation community. There are many talented people involved in this niche within a niche (with a special nod to the likes of Derek "God" Pascarella, VincentNL, SharkSnack, Rolly, RafaMGam, TheKitchenSunk, Harpu, Ozidual, DocHikari, dukeblooders, Marshal Wong, Duralumin, James Tocchio/GGDreamcast, Yuvi, Cargodin, rio de popmocco and TapamN, to name but a few).

Some of the most notable titles to receive an English language translation were covered by Lewis here at The Dreamcast Junkyard, with one of them even being worked on by him (Nakoruru). Check 'em out:


Interviews and Podcasts

  • Daytona USA 2001 was brought back online in 2023, restoring much of the original multiplayer experience that was enjoyed by Dreamcast owners in Japan and the USA back in the day. The bulk of the work to bring the game back online was completed by developer ioncannon, and Lozz was on hand to get all the details on this excellent resurrection project.
  • On episode 126 of our podcast DreamPod, Lewis and Kev welcomed Nick Thorpe, Retro Gamer Magazine Features Editor. The conversation covered a wide range of topics, including how Nick's career in games media started and progressed, some contentious entries in the 2023 Top 200, Nick's memories of the Dreamcast launch and favourite games, and how he would get hooked on playing the Dreamcast demo pod in order to get his Sonic Adventure fix, much to the frustration of the other kids.
  • Seasoned games journalist Chris Scullion joined Kev and Mike for episode 121 of the DreamPod, during which Chris detailed the process of writing his latest book The Dreamcast Encylopedia, his memories of the Dreamcast, and some of his favourite titles. Mike mentioned that he is also writing a book. Andrew wrote a book once, too. Not sure if he's ever mentioned that.
  • Episode 120 of the DreamPod saw Andrew and Lewis welcome YouTuber Dreamcast Enjoyer (aka Dominic) to the podcast, during which they spoke about a range of topics, from the Dreamcast's “cosiest” games to Dominic's foray into the world of YouTube.
  • Regular hosts Lozz and James welcomed guests Harvey (aka Pizza Hotline) and Holsten to episode 118 of the DreamPod to discuss the burgeoning online gaming scene, which has had something of a resurgence on the Dreamcast thanks to DreamPi. If you ever wondered how to go about getting your Dreamcast online, and which online games are worth your time, then this is the episode for you!
  • Harlequest developer Ross Kilgariff joined Lewis and Lozz on episode 115 of the DreamPod, during which the jolly trio discussed all things indie dev, Kickstarter and of course Harlequest - a brand new 3D platformer heading to Dreamcast in the not too distant future.
  • Of course, you can find all of the other episodes of The Dreamcast Junkyard DreamPod on all of your favourite podcatchers, so be sure to give us a review and a rating if you can be bothered. We'll love you forever if you do. It doesn't even have to be positive. I left a one star review myself on all the ones I'm on, for example. Can't stand the sound of my own voice.

Community Collaborations

  • Mike and Lewis were special guests on episode 377 of the excellent podcast The Retro Hour, chatting all things Dreamcast and Dreamcast Junkyard. Turns out the episode Mike and Lewis appeared on was one of The Retro Hour's most popular episodes of the year...who'd have thunk it?
  • We also appeared as guests once again on RadioSEGA's WinterFest 2023, sharing fuzzy memories of Dreamcast Christmases past for the 125th episode of the DreamPod, joined this time by none other than Patrick Traynor of Sega Saturn, SHIRO! fame. WinterFest is an institution within the Sega community at this point, so as ever we thank the team at RadioSEGA for having us.
  • Lewis was invited to appear on episode 201 of The SEGA Lounge podcast by venerable host David "KC" Luis, where he spoke about his own personal history with the Dreamcast and gave a little glimpse at what goes on behind the scenes at the Junkyard (hint: it's organised chaos).


What's next?

I'm pretty confident that the Dreamcast scene will continue to go from strength to strength in 2024, and no doubt the fine team manning The Dreamcast Junkyard will be on hand to offer a familiar torrent of news, features, reviews, previews, podcasts and interviews. If you haven't already, please go and give The 'Yard a follow on Twitter, or join our lovely Discord community so you don't miss anything.

I'll return at the same time next year to post my annual round-up of other people's hard work; but until then, I wish you all a very happy 2024 and give you my thanks - as ever - for continuing to support the Dreamcast, the Dreamcast community at large, all the indie devs doing amazing stuff, and of course this very blog. Ciao for now!