Dreamcast VR Roundup

Today, lets take a look at the recent developments in Dreamcast VR gaming. If you’re only interested in DC-related content, feel free to skip past my incoherent ramblings to the meat of the post further down the page. I won’t take it personally. You...you...giant talking egg!
The Game On exhibition was held in Tokyo earlier this year.
In May, I was lucky enough to be given the chance to sample the yet to be released PS VR at the Game On Expo in Tokyo; where I was treated to playable demos of the promising 'Getaway: London Heist' and incoming virtual reality adaptation of DC classic Rez. From the instant the headset was placed on my head by the rather beautiful Japanese Sony representative, I was transported to a different dimension, quickly losing any awareness of my real life surroundings and becoming completely absorbed in my new virtual world. 

Anyone who has conversed with me on the topic of modern gaming knows that I held a rather pessimistic view on the direction the games industry has been progressing in recent years, and despite owning all three of the current gen systems, I’ve yet to really be impressed by any of them...until now. I’m not ashamed to say it, but VR caught me completely off guard and has blown me away. This is the leap in gaming I've been impatiently waiting for since Shenmue was booted up for the first time in my childhood bedroom…and well, as of late, I’ve gone a bit VR mad.

If you haven't heard of Bic Camera, it's a chain of mega-stores in Japan stocking all kinds of electronics.
When PS VR pre-orders opened up in July, a friend and I were rushing round every shop in Osaka with the mission of securing our day one units. By 9am, five of the six retailers in the city had already sold out but there was one last hope remaining: an electronics shop called Bic Camera was offering orders through a raffle system. We arrived at the shop and took our tickets, waited until midday for the result and were ecstatic when the news came in that we’d been chosen as two of the lucky few who’d won the chance to pre-order the system (yes, you read that correctly; we were over the moon at winning the right to buy a product for over $500…*sigh* consumerism).
The queue for PSVR pre-orders
The euphoria was short lived however, as we soon realised, there was still a relatively long wait until mid-October before our dirty mitts would finally soil the shiny new technology. In fact, all we really had to show for our efforts was a $500 piece of paper. We’d just have to be patient and wait. At least...that was the plan.
Ever seen a piece of paper worth over $500? Now you have.
A few weeks later, the same friend, driven to breaking point by the thought of having to wait three whole grueling months, finally cracked and bought the HTC Vive. I casually popped round to give it a bash, fully expecting to enjoy it but not prepared to be blown away like I had been with my first experience of the new technology. For those of you out of the VR loop, the thing that differentiates the HTC Vive from its competitors (which are Oculus Rift, PS VR and Samsung Gear VR) is the ability to do 'Roomscale.'

What is this mysterious hokery-pokery roomscale that you speak of?
In short, it’s the breakthrough in gaming you didn’t know you needed, and is a complete game-changer for the industry. Two sensors on either side of the room precisely track your position, direction in which you’re facing, and the movements of your headset and controllers in a 3D space.
Roomscale is the dog's bollocks. Take my word for it.
Remember those early E3 videos of Red Steel at the unveiling of the Wii where the game appeared to track the player’s movements one to one? Remember the sour taste when we finally got our hands on the Wii for ourselves to discover we’d been duped into buying a cheap inaccurate waggle stick? Then when we were duped again by the Wii Plus, Kinect, Move controllers and more? Well, Vive and Roomscale flawlessly achieve everything motion controls have failed to deliver over the past decade -  and then some; not only do they track your movements perfectly, they also allow you to walk around, crouch, pick stuff up and interact with the environment in an intuitive and natural manner.

After trying it for myself and concluding that this is indeed the future of gaming, I couldn’t resist ponying up the cash to get one for myself. While it's only been a week (as of yet) I don’t regret my purchase in the slightest. This is by far the biggest leap in gaming since at least the jump from 2D to 3D we saw during the crossover to the 32/64 bit generation of consoles and I’m having some of the most amazing experiences I’ve ever had in my 25+ years of gaming.
Although it may not look it, the VIVE's box is absolutely massive.
So it’s pretty clear I can’t talk highly enough of VR, and more specifically the HTC Vive, but "What the hell does this have to do with the Dreamcast?!?!?" I hear you ask. Well, not all that much to be honest, I just needed an excuse to shout from the rooftops about this amazing technology. Having said that, there really have been a surprising number of Dreamcast-related developments in the world of VR, so I’ve gone done compiled a list of them below.

Rez Infinite - PSVR
Rez Infinite - Coming soon to PlayStation 4.
As Tom recently reported, we now have an official release date for Rez Infinite of October 13th 2016 and whether you’re intending to become an early adaptor of PS VR or not, there’s still much to look forward to, certainly not least of which is the never before seen 'Area X.'

At this point, there isn't much to say about this one that hasn’t already been said, but if you've yet to do so, I’d encourage you to take a look at our previous coverage:

Play-test and impressions at the Game On Expo, Tokyo

And the clone, VRez – Oculus Rift DK2
VRez is an interesting Rez inspired clone.
VRez is a clone of…well, Rez and was developed by indie developer nosferathoo that even predates development of the official Rez Infinite. The game was made as an entry for the Leap Motion 3D Jam 2015 competition which in itself was held to promote the motion controller of the same name (Leap Motion) and ran on the Oculus Rift DK2 platform. Unfortunately, I don’t own a DK2 or Leap Motion controller (it seems to have been a commercial failure) so I’ve not been able to sample the game for myself, but check out the below YouTube video to get an impression of how this quirky indie clone plays.

Dreamcast Music in Audioshield – HTC VIVE
Audioshield for HTC VIVE
Audioshield is a procedurally generated rhythm action game by the developers of indie sleeper hit Audiosurf. The 'shield' in the title refers to the Tron inspired instruments of defence held in each hand of the player that vaporise incoming orbs of three different colours upon impact: left shield destroys blue, right destroys orange and holding the two over one another defends against purple.
There are many Tron inspired games in the first wave of VR games.
As a fan of the Dreamcast, I couldn’t possibly resist searching through the available songs, courteously of Soundcloud, for some of our most memorable DC beats. Being procedurally generated, some tracks work better than others, but a few of my favourites so far are:
Fear is the mind Killer - Rez

Sonic Adventure 2 - Escape from the City

Jet Set Radio - Let Mom Sleep

 Space Channel 5 - Introducing Ulala

This has been my second most played game on the Vive and I’m thoroughly enjoying smashing out some sick tunes in its other worldly tron inspired futuristic neon setting. Check it out for yourself if you get the chance.

Holoball – HTC VIVE/ PSVR: Cosmic Smash inspired?
Not at all related to the website "Holo Girls VR"...yeah, you can what you'll find if you type that into Google.
Cosmic Smash itself was obviously inspired by Breakout and Tron, with perhaps a touch of Rez and Virtual Tennis thrown in, so with that said, it’s rather difficult to say for sure if the Holoball devs received any influence from the late Dreamcast release itself; or simply shared the same source material (if that makes sense?) for their inspiration. Either way, it certainly has a number of similarities that any Cosmic Smash fan is sure to appreciate.

Come to think of it, it's more like a cross between Tron and Pong than Breakout; the player rallies back and forth with a floating CPU opponent until one of you allows the ball to fall into your own goal area. It feels less of a video game and more akin to playing a game of real squash, albeit at a slower pace.

I play in a roughly 3m x 2m play area which has been plenty for most games but with Holoball, I found myself longing for a more spacious room to jump around in. In fact this was the first game I've played where I really felt restricted by the size of my room. Having said that, I still thoroughly enjoyed my time and worked up a real sweat playing through the first four difficulties.

With only six difficulties and no online features other than leaderboards, content is a little on the light side but that shouldn't be too much of an issue for Cosmic Smash fans, and at least there's a local multiplayer mode where player 2 takes control of the opponent tile with the keyboard.

NullDC in VR – Oculus Rift
When I first heard about this, I almost wet my pants…but the reality is unfortunately not quite as sweet as the dream. YouTube DreamcasticChannel (great name by the way) has used a combination of Null DC and Android application Trinus VR to play Dreamcast games with head tracking in VR on his development kit Oculus Rift. Calling it VR might be a bit of a stretch however, as the image isn't in true 3D, but rather the same image is displayed on both the left and right lens of the headset, meaning there's no real 3D effect, but hey, it's an interesting little tidbit none the less.

 When researching the topic, I discovered some rumblings on forums discussing using an old Stereoscopic 3D compatible version of NullDC in order to create a proper Dreamcast VR experience, but it doesn't seem like anything has come of to fruition...yet. Watch this space.

Linked-Door Loves Space Channel 5 - HTC VIVE and compatible smart phones
Space Channel 5 is coming to VR...
When news first appeared of Space Channel 5 coming to VR, Ulala fans lost their minds. We were all expecting a port akin to Rez Infinite, but what the game...sorry...'experience,' turned out to be was rather underwhelming.

AU Linked-Door is a service in which customers of Japanese telephone and internet provider AU can meet in cyber space to chat, play games and take part in other experiences together - one of which will be Space Channel 5 'related.' Not much more is known at the time of writing, but some of the key developers from the original game, such as producer Mineko Okamura, are onboard.

While it appears to be no more than an 'experience' (there's that word again, you'll see it a lot when discussing VR), news that the series is being revived, even in this rather limited form, should come as a nice surprise for fans who'd assumed Sega had forgotten about the IP; and goes some way towards giving us hope for a fully fledged sequel or VR remake at some point in the future.

The game is currently planned for HTC VIVE and other compatible smart phones (yet to be specified). it'll be playable at this year's Tokyo Game show starting today.
Oh well, at least Sega haven't completed forgotten about the series.
So there you have it. The Dreamcast's impact is still being felt in the gaming industry almost twenty years later, even when it comes to cutting edge technology, such as Virtual Reality. Even if you're not a fan of VR, you have to admit, that's pretty damn cool.

Find out more about PlayStation VR here.

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