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The Land Before DLC: Toy Commander

Toy Commander is one of the Dreamcast's best games in my opinion. Not only is it an original take on the traditional 3D shooter in that you fly toy aircraft and drive ground units around a fully realised 3D house (toys which are actually being played with by a kid - the titular Toy Commander), but it really is an enjoyable experience. Missions are well balanced and varied in design, and on top of all that it has a great sense of humour. Oh, and it looks bloody fantastic even by today's standards. Yes, No Cliche really did pull a rabbit out of the hat when they put Toy Commander out as a launch title. It looked like something that was truly next-gen and played a mean game as well. Sadly, Toy Commander never recieved a true sequel and it remains a game that was born and died on the Dreamcast; the semi-sequel Toy Racer was little more than a mini game and was only playable online anyway, so those of us who either couldn't afford the dial-up tariff or simply weren't allowed to hog the only phone line in the house to play online games (like me!) missed out on the full experience. 

HP Lovecast

As well as playing, collecting, discussing and writing about games in all of their guises (both retro and current), I also enjoy a good book. Granted, my most recent book purchases have been books about games: The History of Nintendo 1889-1980 by Florent Gorges and Masters of Doom by David Kushner, but I also enjoy reading the works of another author: HP Lovecraft. Lovecraft's most famous creation is arguably the whole Cthulu mythos, and the fear and dread that is encapsulated by that entire sub-genre hinges on the unnerving threat of inter-dimensional beings that possess ageless knowledge beyond human comprehension; and a running theme that being privy to this level of all-knowing consciousness would lead the frail human mind to total breakdown and madness. Personally, I much prefer Shadow Over Innsmouth and The Colour Out of Space to The Call of Cthulu, but that's just my personal preference.

Kojiroh’s Female!?


One of my favourite characters from any fighting game ever made is Kojiroh Sanada, the Shinsengumi captain who was tasked with taking down the crazed Shikyoh in The Last Blade. I mean, that guy just radiated cool in everything he did in that game and, as well as being a great all-round choice for the novice player, had enough depth in move-set to be useful at the high end too. Looking back, I think my allegiance to him paid off too, as when my friends and I used to play I normally ended up with a half-decent win ratio.
Kojiroh's nemesis Shikyoh, the crazed ex-member of the Shinsengumi.

Dream Art

Can games be art? I’d like to say that it’s an age old question, but to say that would make me a complete liar as games are not an ‘age old’ medium. I guess computers, which is essentially what games consoles are at their core, could be described as ‘age old,’ but as usual I’m side tracking myself in a quagmire of completely irrelevant horse crap before I’ve even started to get to the point.

Can games be art? Well, I suppose they can. How is an amazing and emotionally-charged still image rendered on canvas with oil paints any different to a similarly powerful image created on a screen with polygons and pixels? Without getting too bogged down in my own half-cooked philosophizing, there are many, many examples of games and art in a traditional sense crossing over – just take a look at pixel art or bead art in the physical sense, and games like Okami in the gaming sense. But what about gaming hardware? What about the physical machines that we as gamers, all employ as tools to enjoy our favourite pastime? Can consoles themselves be considered as pieces of industrial design art? I’d like to say that yes they can. There are some really good-looking games machines, controllers and removable media out there and they have all undergone a complex system of internal design before being finalised and released to the public. Some games machines do look better than others and their physical forms have cemented themselves in the minds of many gamers, sometimes for better and sometimes for worse.


Everyone knows what a Sony PlayStation looks like for example (if you don't, then apologies - there's one just up there). Likewise with a Sega Mega Drive. The designs of those systems have embedded themselves in popular culture. On the flip side, the Atari Jaguar with a CD unit on top is often referred to as looking like a toilet, regardless of the fact that the Jaguar base system (minus the CD drive) is one of the better-looking games consoles from the past. Why am I rambling about all this though? Well, I’ve created a nice piece of art myself. Dreamcast art, in fact. Dream art. Hmm. Not sure if that works…but look here, me laddo:


These are images of my tiny Dreamcast in an egg that I got off eBay a few years ago. I did a post about it here. It’s been sat in a box in a cupboard for a while and only the other day did I think to myself – why don’t I do something with it?! So I did. I went down to Wilkinson and bought a deep picture frame – this one, in fact:


And then I pillaged a bit of promotional guff from one of my NTSC-J DC games; in this case it was a square flyer out of the Virtua Fighter 3tb box. I then combined the items together as if I was a regular Jill Valentine and came up with this rather lovely piece of post-modern, neo-classical, baroque, brutalist awesomeness:

Same size as the Mona Lisa. True story.
I was toying with the idea of putting a little light in the top of the frame and having it lit up, but for now it looks just great on the mantelpiece. And there it shall stay until I can afford to have a full-size bronze statue of myself constructed and erected instead.

Confidential Mission

The name's Gibson, Howard Gibson and he's on a mission, a Confidential Mission. This hasn't quite got the right ring to it, but take one look at the cover art of the Sega Dreamcast game Confidential Mission and it just screams James Bond 007 at you; the slick black suit and bow tie, the silenced pistol, the pretty girl, the one-eyed antagonist and his chief henchman. Maybe this game would have been more popular if it had been tied to Ian Fleming's famous spy.


Originally an arcade release in 2000, this port came to the Dreamcast a year after that, but never really gained the acclaim or success of its predecessors, Virtua Cop and House of the Dead. The story follows Howard Gibson and his partner Jean Clifford, agents for CMF who are thrown into action to save the world, as predictably the bad guys have done something devious and nasty. This time they have stolen a satellite and plan to use it to destroy CMF and try to take over the world. This reminds me of a certain mouse called The Brain and his trusty sidekick, Pinky.


Cartoon mice aside though, this game is much the same as other light-gun shooters: kill or be killed - simple really. You and your cohort will be tasked with saving CMF and defeating the bad guys, and along the way you'll play through various scenarios, like the museum and train, during which you will encounter dangerous foes and end of level bosses. Make sure you make use of pickups and special weapons to aid you in your fight.


The only downside is really my fault and that's because I had to play this game on a poxy little 14" screen. I can't help but think that my experience would have been magnified tenfold if I'd have played on a screen with a bigger surface area. Confidential Mission is definitely worth a play and to enhance your experience make sure you use the Dreamcast Gun. Get a friend round as well as a shared gaming experience is always a better one, but if you have no friends or they are out of town and you have the urge to play, knock on your neighbour's door and invite them round for some fun and games.

The Dreamcast Premiere Press Kit

I was looking around on eBay a few weeks ago and stumbled across a rather unusual article from the Dreamcast's history. There were no bids and only a couple of days left, so I stuck a cheeky bid of a few pounds on said item. As the timer counted down, I thought I was going to score a massive win and acquire a piece of memorabilia I had personally never heard of before. I was wrong. Within the last few minutes, the bids came in thick and fast and even though I threw caution to the wind and put a whopping £35 on such a frivolous item...the auction ended at almost £60! What is this mystery object?  This:

Shenmue In HD Remake Shocker! (Sort Of)

OK, so the chances are you've already seen this by now as it's pretty much a day old, but images have surfaced online of a fan-made HD remake of Shenmue. I'm not going to say a great deal because I'm honestly not that bothered about Shenmue. It is a vastly overrated game in my opinion and while I thoroughly appreciate the scope of the story and the graphical splendour of the franchise, I just think its almost mythical status has gotten a little bit out of hand. Every two minutes there's some new 'Save Shenmue' guff doing the rounds on the social media networks...and I really have my doubts as to whether the majority of the people supporting these campaigns have even played the original games...or if they just have extremely thick rose-tinted spectacles on. Anyway, I'm going to stop there before I cause a schism in the DCJY readership - I know there are plenty of people out there who genuinely love the games; but for me they are nothing if not a lesson in tedium. And that's fine...because everyone is entitled to an opinion, right?

Regardless - my humble opinion shouldn't detract from the hard work that has clearly gone into dragging the original Shenmue right up to date in the graphics department, and here are some rather lovely-looking images images courtesy of Korean Shenmue fan Ncoonkid:


For further info, be sure to check out RetroCollect's article here, SEGAbits' piece here, and CVG's feature here.

Welcome To Warp Zone!

I appreciate that a lot of people who either follow me (@Tomleecee) or the Junkyard's main account (@SEGAJunkyard) on Twitter will have already seen this, and likewise for those of you who have done the right thing and 'liked' the DCJY on Facebook; but I thought it was only right that I dedicate a full-blown post to here to my recently customised Dreamcast. The job was done by a very talented modding outfit called Warp Zone, and their usual console of choice is the Nintendo Entertainment System:

I, however decided to try my luck and ask if they could do a custom job on a Dreamcast. I didn't want much - just a nice blue shade on a console shell and a matching pad. Nowt fancy -  I'm an advocate of the old 'less is more' mantra. They accepted my challenge and so I dismantled a rather disgusting-looking yellow Dreamcast, put it in a bin-bag full of empty gin bottles and sent it off to the dudes at Warp Zone.

Less than a week later, they sent me these images:


And some time later...this arrived (well, the shells did - I had to employ my 'engineering' skills to re-assemble the console and the joypad)...


Frankly, it looks awesome. I even took it to Revival 2014 to display (see above), and was offered hard cash for it by a member of the public. Naturally, I turned him down but I can totally see why - I can't praise the finish enough...this system looks like it was always meant to be electric blue. I've toyed with the idea of changing the orange LED for a blue one to match the paintwork, but I think the orange original actually works better due to the contrast.

If you'd like to have your Dreamcast 'seen to' in the most positive way, visit Warp Zone's website and drop them an email. Prices are very reasonable, and you won't regret giving your tired-looking console a fresh new look. You can also find them on Facebook here, and while you're there - give us a 'like' too, you barsteward!

Mighty Morphin' Power Boards

Last weekend was amazing. Really, really amazing. For several reasons. The first - and most important - was that it was Revival Events' self-titled Revival 2014, a massive retro-gaming event held at Dunstall Park racecourse in Wolverhampton. I was there as part of the RetroCollect team, running loads of gaming challenges and just generally chatting to gamers and acting the fool. Another reason it was amazing was that I got to meet, chat with and actually touch the flowing hair of John Romero:
The photographer wasn't happy with the focus
In case you're unfamiliar with what the genius behind Doom looks like, that's him on the right. Not the grinning fool on the left - that's me. To be fair I was grinning like that because Mr Romero had just whispered the secret to his flowing mane into my ear, and as you can see this was greatly received as my hairline is receding faster than the Norfolk coastline. He also signed my boxed copy of Doom for the Atari Jaguar, so there was that too. But let's get back to the reason you're here: I also bought a Dreamcast. Yes, another Dreamcast. but unlike all of the others I now have clogging the entrance to my bathroom, this one is different. It came in a box...with an orange swirl:


Yes, I bought my first NTSC-J system for the bargain price of £50 from a trader called Sore Thumb Retro Games. And to say its in great condition is an understatement. The console has no signs of yellowing at all, and has all of the documentation including the Dream Passport (sealed) and manuals. Naturally, being a Japanese system the plug adapter ends with two prongs and simply will not fit in a UK power socket. And even if it could, the power coming out of the wall would likely travel down the wire, into the console and instantly transform the immaculate white box of fun into a large ball of flame, simultaneously causing untold collateral damage to any curtains, throw cushions and random empty beer tins in the vicinity. And in my gaff, there's always a high probability that empty beer tins could also be hidden inside the throw cushions, so the damage bill - in this hypothetical situation - could easily be triple that caused inside your average residential shit-hole. In order to prevent the aforementioned cataclysm, I employed the services of one of these things in order to play on my newly purchased NTSC-J machine:


That's a converter thingy. You put the foreign plug in one side and the UK three-pronged side into the wall socket, and by some kind of magical process no doubt involving a tiny wizard living inside the device, the horrid nasty UK electricity transforms into Japanese Dreamcast-friendly power! See - magic! So anyway, I played the DC for a bit, mucked around with the menu and changed the language to English and marvelled at Sega Rally 2 running a bit quicker...and then I went to do some other menial task that life dictated I must do. It was probably the washing up or something...to be honest I've totally forgotten. Actually, it could have been folding some towels up. Or was it some ironing? Fuck it - I can't remember.

Anyway, I totally forgot (there's a theme here) that I'd left the Dreamcast plugged in to the step-down transformer. It wasn't until a few days later that I went to turn on the Dreamcast again that I discovered it would not turn on. I was pretty stumped until I deduced that leaving the transformer plugged into the mains must have damaged it in some way - indeed, the smell of burning wizard flesh coming from the vents on the side of the thing added weight to my hypothesis. So there I was, left with a Japanese Dreamcast and a dead step-down transformer. I looked on eBay for another one, but being a bit strapped for cash having spent all my money buying the secret ingredients to concoct John Romero's Magical Hair Serum™, I decided that I would investigate an alternative remedy to getting my NTSC system up and running again. I took to Twitter and asked the question - is it possible to put a UK power board inside a Japanese or US Dreamcast in order to use a standard UK plug with it, thus negating the need for a converter. Amongst others, The Gagaman himself answered my call - the answer was a resounding "yes!"

Knowing I had a load of spare PAL Dreamcast bits knocking about, I decided to give it a go - putting a UK power board into an NTSC Dreamcast. Here's how I got on:


And there it is! An NTSC-J Dreamcast happily humming away with a UK plug adapter attached to it, with nary a step-down converter in sight. It's a really easy operation to carry out providing you have the parts handy, and I've also kept the original board and plug in the box just in case I ever move to Japan and feel the need to take a native console back there with me.

I'm off to apply some of my hair serum now. If I end up looking like a Cacodemon, I'll be writing a strongly-worded email to my old pal John.

All The Lights That Light The Way


Are blinding. There are many things that I would like like to play on my Dreamcast. But that's another story (morning glory). Where was I? Oh yes...Driving games! The Dreamcast has lots of them. Some of them are total shite, and some of them represent the very zenith of their respective sub-genres. Ferrari F355 Challenge and Le Mans 24hrs for example, are two of the most impressive track-based racers of their generation. But I'm not here to talk about the quality (or lack thereof in some cases) of the Dreamcast's racing stable. What I'm here to talk (write?) about is a minor part of some of the Dreamcast's racers that I find quite intriguing: headlights! More specifically: which Dreamcast racing game has the most impressive digital rendition of light particles being thrown out of the front of a vehicle as it careens around a course in the pitch black?

Once Upon A DreamShell


I bought a DreamShell SD card reader for about £5 from an eBay seller some time last year. After a few days, it turned up in the post (in surprisingly good condition too, considering it was sent wrapped in a folded piece of A4 lined paper) and I had a quick glance at some forum posts regarding ways to use the thing. All I could fathom was that I needed to burn some disc or other, and put some files on the SD card that should be inserted into the device before implanting it into the serial port on the back of the Dreamcast. And I won't lie - it looked like too much work; my mac wouldn't burn discs that the Dreamcast would see as anything other than a music CD and I couldn't really see what the point of the contraption was anyway. And so, the SD reader went into a box and was never thought of again...until now.

Xump Your Dreamcast


Xump. How do you pronounce a game called Xump? I'd go for "Zump" personally, but to be honest it really doesn't matter. It doesn't matter because Xump is yet another homebrew game that's totally free to download, burn to CD-R and pop in your Dreamcast to play. Here's the jargon from the rather lovely retro-themed, pixel-art Xump website:

Xump - The Final Run is a simple multi-platform puzzler by Retroguru. Initially released by Psilocybin Development in 2005 the game has been improved in almost every aspect you can imagine. New graphics, new levels, new music, new options, new everything...

Help Holger to clean up deserted space fields. As this is a very dangerous task for a human being a headbot named Xump will be the one who has to suffer.

Your main task is to clean all dissolvable tiles on several single-screen levels by simply stepping on them, one by one. Few fields are secured with mines and need a double tap. Mines can be blown up when passing by or de-mined by Xump when staying on this specific field for a short moment. Certainly the mission sounds easier than it will be.

The Elysian Shadows Kickstarter has launched, bringing a new RPG to the SEGA Dreamcast!

 

The Elysian Shadows Kickstarter has officially launched. Dubbed a “next-gen” 2D RPG, the game is slated to hit a number of platforms including our beloved SEGA Dreamcast. The Dreamcast release starts at the $49 level in the Standard Edition which comes in two flavors, signed and unsigned. The signed edition is limited to 100 copies. The $125 level features a Collector’s Edition of the game with several physical goodies that are only digital in the lower tiers.

As far as stretch goals, should the project hit $400,000, the team plans to create a monster training VMU mini-game, while $500,000 will open to game up to the modding community (Dreamcast included).

Make sure to check out the project, and if it appeals to you, show your support!