Dreamcast 2: Arcade Version - Expanding the Dreamcast Collection: Part 3 - Naomi 2

The Dreamcast Junkyard is finally breaking its silence on the topic of the Dreamcast 2… well, sort of. The Naomi is often described as the arcade version of the Dreamcast, and the true successor to the Naomi was of course the Naomi 2, thereby making the Naomi 2 the arcade version of the Dreamcast 2! Yes? Get it...? Am I right? AM I RIGHT? Well, OK, that was pretty shameless click bait, but you're here now anyway, so why not let us tell you a bit more about the third system in the Dreamcast arcade family.

In part 3, we’ll be covering one of the other systems in the Dreamcast family, the Naomi 2. Much of the information from part 1 (such as how to play Naomi games) applies, so if you haven’t already, then I suggest reading that before making a start here. In part 2 we took a look at the Hikaru system, and while not essential to understanding this article, feel free to take a look back for a complete perspective of the family.

Part 1 – The Naomi Connection
Part 2 – The Hikaru 7

1. Naomi 2 Overview
2. Some Naomi 2 Exclusives
3. Naomi 2 Home Ports
4. The Dreamcast's Virtua Fighter 4 Passport VF.NET and History/VF4 Disks
5. Naomi 2 Games List

OK, back now? Great let’s get started.
Naomi 2 Overview
It’s often incorrectly stated that the Naomi 2 was released in the year 2000, but this seems to be another mistake brought around by poor translations of Japanese. According to Famitsu magazine, the Naomi 2 was first unveiled at the 38th JAMMA trade show towards the end of September 2000 along with Virtua Fighter 4 (then known as VF-X), Wild Riders, Club Karts, Virtua Striker 3 and the new Naomi/ Naomi 2 GD-ROM drive add-on.

At the time, Virtua Fighter 4 had no release date but the other three games were given the tentative release window of “early 2001”. In fact, only the GD-ROM drive made it into arcades by the end of the year 2000, along with the first GD-ROM games for the original Naomi (Sports Jam and Confidential Mission).  The remainder of games, including the system itself, hit arcades as planned beginning with the release of Club Kart in early 2001. Eventually, Virtua Fighter 4 was released in August.
One of Sega's lesser known titles from the Dreamcast family of arcade games.
On January 31st 2001, Sega announced, they would be ceasing production of the Dreamcast, so by the time the Naomi 2 got into arcades, the company had already begun looking towards a future void of the DC. As such, not a single Naomi 2 game was ever ported to the system. A port of VF4 was announced to be in development by Sega but alas was cancelled during the initial planning stages and moved to the Playstation 2. In the end, the closest the Dreamcast ever got to a port of the game (or any Naomi 2 game for that matter) was the Japanese exclusive Virtua Fighter 4 Passport VF.NET and History discs that came bundled with Shenmue 2. Interestingly enough, the VF.NET disk was supported until as late as the end of 2002, but that wasn't much consolation for Sega’s last line of hardcore fans. At least we got one Naomi 2 related release for our collections though, eh? (more on that disk later)

In all fairness, the Naomi 2’s hardware (while on paper very similar to the Hikaru in that it doubles up on most of the original Naomi's components) was in many ways up to four times more powerful than the DC. It could handle 10-12 million polygons per second with up to six light sources. The DC on the other hand could only handle a paltry 4-6 million polygons with just one light source. Had any Dreamcast ports come to fruition, big compromises would have surely had to have been made to get them running in any sort of playable form on the under-powered console. Even future ports to systems with more competent specs such as the Gamecube and PS2 were far from arcade perfect and dropped a number of graphical features seen in the originals.

From an arcade collector’s perspective, (unless you’re lucky enough to have some sort of steering wheel set up) it’s rather difficult to recommend the Naomi 2 as a must have. Sure it has some great games, but only three (five if VF4 upgrades are counted as individual games) are compatible with the standard stick and button control inputs commonly found on arcade machines. On the plus side, the Naomi 2 utilises a unique lockout feature that effectively disables the extra hardware seen in the Naomi 2 affording it backwards compatibility with all original Naomi games and accessories. Taking this and the relatively cheap price of second hand systems into consideration, perhaps it is worth picking up if you really must play the arcade originals of VF4, VS3 and Beach Spikers.

Fortunately, most of the more notable releases were ported to other home consoles and shape up fairly well.  Anyone seeking to collect all seven ports will be rewarded with a selection of games placed comfortably in the upper tier of the Dreamcast family titles.

Fellow DCJY member, DrEggfan has already written an excellent article on the GD-ROM drive add-on. For a great read, click here.

Some Naomi 2 Exclusives
Wild Riders - Write up by Scott Marley (AKA Dr Eggfan)
On paper, Wild Riders is a Dreamcast fans wet dream. It has the art style and evading police mechanic of Jet Set Radio, coupled with the spirit of Crazy Taxi - driving through a city and getting bonus points for doing it the coolest way possible, mostly by flying off ramps into death-defying jumps. This time, you've traded your roller blades and pimped out taxis for a motorcycle, which only amps up the cool factor further. As you'd expect, the game is as fun as it sounds... but only to a point.
The perfect recipe of Dreamcasty goodness?
To be fair, I probably haven't given it a proper go. I've never seen a ridgey-didge cabinet in the wild, with the special hydraulic handlebar controller, which is probably where a large chunk of the fun comes from. Part of the gameplay is to push down on the handlebars to slide under barriers, and to pull back to get air off ramps when making jumps. My setup for racing games on the NAOMI only has the standard controls wired up - steering, accelerating, braking - so I couldn't fully experience the game as it was meant to be played. Having said that, I still found plenty of enjoyment riding around the city, avoiding jumps and barriers where possible, and still managed to finish the game with one of the two characters without getting caught be the police.
You kind of need this to get the full experience
And that's probably a reflection of the games main strength and also its weakness. Even being as handicapped as I was, I found the game was too easy. It's a great thrill ride from start to finish, but once you've played through it with each character a couple of times, there's not a lot left to do - the game is quite shallow. It would have benefited from the branching pathways mechanic of Outrun to add some replay value. It seems to be very linear, but there might be little detours resulting from successful jumps that I was unable to make. However, this is assessing the game outside of the context for which it was built. It is meant to provide a fun experience in exchange for a few bob, and in a way, the fact that the game is quite easy means you get pretty good value for some loose change, and I would highly recommend it if you happen to stumble across a cab.
Sliding is a big part of the gameplay, I just kept crashing through barriers
If the game had been ported to Dreamcast, there's no doubt it would have got the same treatment as the Crazy Taxi port - a remixed or entirely new city course, more characters, and probably a Crazy Box/Pyramid style mini game. Even as it stands, you'd get a fair bit more mileage out of it by chasing a perfect run high score, but acquiring the full cabinet or the right parts to experience it fully is probably out of the reach of most people.
Perhaps my assessment of the game is a bit harsh, high-score chasers and "S Rank"
perfectionists will love it
Note: if you plan to Net Boot this game on original hardware, it won't work due to some unique piracy protection that has yet to be cracked - you have to acquire an original cartridge. Otherwise, emulation appears to be possible based on a number of YouTube videos showing the game in action, but the comments seem to suggest you need a rather beefy PC to get it running at a decent frame rate.
Damn you copyright protection *shakes angry fist*
Thanks for sharing Scott. I'm sure I'll run into the game in an Arcade sooner or later...who am I kidding, I'll never find it...*cries self to sleep*

The Naomi 2 Sega Driving Simulator 
I found this game/simulator intriguing enough that it became its own post. I won't clog up this article with a repost so click here for more.

Some Naomi 2 Home Ports
We may not have been lucky enough to get any DC ports, but seven of the twenty three (or four depending on how you count them) games eventually appeared on other consoles of the time. Quality varies between them, but all are competent ports and none are particularly rare or expensive so I recommend picking them up if you get the chance. The initial D games were exclusive to Japan, but the rest can also be found in the European and American territories. Strangely enough, "The King of Route 66" never received a Japanese release outside of the Arcade. I guess it was considered "too western/ American" for Japanese tastes.

Let's take a look at some of my favorites... 
A complete collection of Naomi 2 ports.
Virtua Fighter 4/ Virtua Fighter 4 Evolution – PS2
So much has been said about this game elsewhere, there’s no need for me to go into detail here, I'm sure you've all played it by now. Needless to say, it’s an excellent port of what many consider to be the best VF game of all time. Having said that, it’s by no means arcade perfect; nothing looks quite as smooth as in the original and reflection effects have been removed entirely.

The new mode, "Kumite"attempts to recreate the Naomi 2's online mode...only, without any online functionality. The various accessories and costumes used to customise the player's character are all here, but the the mode basically consists of fighting an infinite number of AI opponents gradually increasing your rank, much like the "Arcade Mode" seen in Tekken 5 on PS2. While fun, it of course doesn't come close to matching the experience of playing against real human opponents online. Still, it's a nice inclusion that goes someway to giving the single player side of things a bit more longevity than in previous entries.

In the sequel Virtua Fighter 4 Evolution, Kumite mode was thrown out in favour of the more engaging "Quest Mode". Here, the player must travel to various arcades on a city map battling a total of 400 AI players. The most interesting thing about this mode that the aforementioned AI characters were in fact based on player data from VF.NET. Rather cool if I do say so myself. What an honour that must have been for anyone whose player data made the cut and became immortalized on PS2 DVDs. Evolution also featured the two new characters from the arcade version as well as a small update to moves and balancing issues.

The third game in the VF4 series, Final Tuned, wasn't given a release outside of the arcades, and it's not hard to see why. The game added a few more modes, a new ranking system and, as the name suggests, further tuned the game's moves list and balancing. But with no new characters, it just wasn't seen as worthy enough for yet another release.

You can currently pick the original game up on eBay as a buy-it-now for the princely sum of three pounds and seventy eight pence, perhaps even less if you have the patience to wait for an auction. Who said retro gaming needed to be costly?
I never did like Goh. He looks like some kind of Tekken reject or something. Loser...
Initial D Arcade Stage – PS2
Starting up the game, one of the first things that hit me was the amazingly upbeat J-pop dance soundtrack. It really is an absolute pleasure to listen to while racing down the winding drift inducing turns of Japanese mountains.

For those not in the know, the Initial D series is defined by it's one-on-one races. Taking inspiration from the comic and anime of the same name, instead of the usual GPs, tours, Kudos systems, leagues and so on, Initial D sticks to a series of simple one-on-one races interluded with manga stills and voice over (Japanese only I'm afraid). The game-play is tight and responsive, and differentiates itself by focusing on drifting; think Outrun 2 levels of sliding and you're about half way there. Without knowledge of Japanese, the story will be pretty indecipherable, as will most of the menus and options, but for those of you who'd like to just sit down and experience the game, it's perfectly possible to play from beginning to end and have a great time.

When compared to the arcade version, it's not quite as smooth; the frame-rate seems to have taken a bit of a dip and the game is plagued with jaggies. Rated on its own merits however, it's a fine game that wields plenty of Sega finesse. I recommend it (or the sequels on PSP and PS3) to any Sega fan searching for a new franchise to sink their teeth into.
Get used to drifting at ridiculous angles, you'll be doing a lot of it.
Beach Spikers – Gamecube
While not quite up to the standard of Virtua Tennis, Beach Spikers competently recreates the sport of volleyball with good old fashioned Sega blue skies and style. Again. while damn close, the port is not quite arcade perfect; both the lighting and sand deformation effects are lacking when compared to the original. Still, this is a fun game, especially when played with friends, and can be picked up relatively cheaply these days, so why not give it a shot?

Not quite as pleasing on the eyes as the DOAX3, but a far better game.
You'll find a complete list of Naomi 2 arcade games and console ports at the bottom of the page.
Virtua Fighter 4 Passport VF.NET and History/VF4 Disks
These disks are nothing to get excited about but they do serve as a taste, the only taste, of Naomi 2 on Dreamacst, plus they’re free…well, sort of.

The disks came as part of the original print run of Shenmue II in Japan. Enclosed in a beautiful, but not so sturdy, cardboard sleeve are the Shenmue II double disk sized case and the two aforementioned disks.
The Japanese release of Shenmue 2, complete with Virtua Fighter Bonus disks.
Virtua Fighter 4 Passport
VF.NET was an online service for Virtua Fighter 4 that allowed users to check their fight records and customise their characters' appearances. As I've never used the service myself, I can't really tell you too much more about it to be honest. Only that it was also accessible through NTT Docomo mobile phones or a regular PC web browser, and that the service was also available for Virtua Fighter 5. It officially closed only last month on February 29th 2016.

As for the disk itself, well, there's not much to say really. Upon booting the disk you're greeted with this lovely title screen.
Nice title screen! Make sure you enjoy it...
From here you can try to connect to the service, but obviously the servers are loooong gone, so you wont get very far....wait, what's that? rotating 3D models of character accessories! Woohooo! Virtua Fighter 4 3D models on Dreamcast. Get in you beauty!
This breaking news will surely raise the value of the disk. Buy it now, while you still can.

Lastly, the game creates a two block system file on your VMU complete with VF.NET logo.
What wonders lie inside this two block save file? Sadly, we'll probably never know.
Well, that was a bit of an anticlimax, let's hope the second disk is a little more interesting...

Virtua Fighter History/VF4
For those of you still with me, this disk actually contains a few enjoyable features for any fan of the series.
Another beautiful title screen. Good start.
Upon pressing start, you're given the choice of selecting "History" and "Making of VF4" Let's take a look at the history section to begin with. 

Selecting "History" yields a selection of movies and music for each of the four previous VF games.
VF Remix for the STV and Saturn never existed apparently.
Most of the videos for each game are simple game-play footage, opening movies or attract mode recordings from both the arcade and home console versions of each respective game. The most interesting thing on this disk, are certainly the original Virtua Fighter development and prototype videos.
It's common knowledge that the Virtua Fighter character models began life in Virtua Racing.
These early prototype models almost look closer in style to Tekken than Virtua Fighter.
Being a big fan of Sega's arcade hardware, there was one more video I found rather interesting; a Model 3 tech demo using the characters from Virtua Fighter 3. You can watch it below.
Model 3 Virtua Fighter 3 tech demo on YouTube.

The second selection from the title screen, "Making of VF4" is rather less interesting unless you happen to be a huge fan. Here you can view various character information and art from Virtua Fighter 4...
Virtua Fighter 4 menu.
...and movies from the arcade version of the game. 
Ignite your Heart!
Come to think of it, the title is rather misleading, there's not a single thing about the making of Virtua Fighter 4 on the whole bloody disk! Meh...can you tell I'm bored of writing about these disks yet? Let's put a line under it all and never mention them again.
(^line under it all^)

Games list:

Beach Spikers (Gamecube)
Club Kart
Club Kart European Session
Club Kart Cycraft
Club Kart Prize
Initial D Arcade Stage
Initial D Arcade Stage 2 (Initial D Special Stage - PS2)
Initial D Version 3 (Initial D Street Stage - PSP)
Initial D Version 3 Cycraft
Jet Squadron
King of Route 66 (PS2)
Mobile Suit Gundam 0079 Card Builder
Mobile Suit Gundam 0083 Card Builder
Sega Driving Simulator
Soul Surfer
Virtua Fighter 4 (PS2)
Virtua Fighter 4 Evolution (PS2)
Virtua Fighter 4 Final Tuned
Virtua Striker 3 (Virtua Striker 3 ver.2002 Gamecube)
Wild Riders
World Club Champion FootballSerie A 2001-2002
World Club Champion Football Serie A 2002-2003
World Club Champion Football European Clubs 2004-2005
World Club Champion Football European Clubs 2005-2006


RJAY63 said...

I remember playing Wild Riders when it appeared on location test at Bournemouth Sega Park (early 2001). Only managed to play it a few times and my impression was nice graphics, but shallow gameplay.

I think Club Kart was the first coin-op game in the UK with the IC memory card feature; it predated Initial D by a few months. Again, another title I hardly played as I wasn't much of racing fan back then.

The Initial D games I did play extensively in the arcade although I never got the hype for it. While the track design was cool and the Eurobeat soundtrack fitted the game, the racing itself never really clicked with me. I abandoned the game after a few plays on V3, and threw my IC card down a drain!

Tom Charnock said...

This is fascinating, my knowledge of Naomi 2 stuff is quite limited. Thanks for this article Ross, made my morning commute an educational trip!

MetalliC said...

if anyone interested - here is early NAOMI 2 tech demo

fwiw, according to inside documents I have - NAOMI2 development was almost completed at autumn 1999, about same time Dreamcast was released in US.

The 1 Ross said...

Is that so? I'd love to learn about more about those documents sometime if you're willing to share. Interesting video by the way, I'd never seen it before. Thanks for the comment.

MetalliC said...

can't make this things public, sorry. in any way there is nothing useful for regular people who have no very deep tech knowledge. with exception information about it's internal design development. it was started about autumn 1998 and year later was mostly complete.

The 1 Ross said...

Sounds like a load of old cobblers to me.

Peter Lind said...

@The 1 Ross, I don't think you realize who you are talking to ;)