A Quick Look At What's Shenmue

What's Shenmue? A good question. What is Shenmue? Is it a game? Is it an interactive movie? Is it a cultural phenomenon that has built up so much of a frenzied mythical status that nobody even remembers how flawed it was in the first place? However you look at Shenmue, the fact is that the legend now precedes that actual game, but it wasn't always like this. Back before Ryo Hazuki's quest had even begun, Sega wanted to announce that Lan Di was on his way to kick ass and take names and so they released What's Shenmue - a sort of playable teaser trailer/demo disc hybrid to give Dreamcast owners a small taste of what to expect. Last week I was lucky enough to find a copy of this game on eBay for the bargainous price of £9, and naturally I snapped it up with no questions asked. In a way, this is totally linked to my recent look at Former Managing Director Yukawa's Treasure Hunt, because What's Shenmue uses the former head of Sega as a pivotal character in the plot of the main demo...but I'm getting ahead of myself.
Upon booting What's Shenmue, you are presented with a small but perfectly formed menu. The first menu item leads to a sort of technical demo area where character models from the main game give a brief explanation of who they are, their roles in the quest and also some other features present in the final game. Mark, the only English speaking character explains that he works at the docks driving a forklift truck and that money and convenience stores are a large and integral part of Shenmue's game world. There are also demos featuring other characters, including Ryo himself (naturally) but these are all spoken in Japanese so I have no real idea what they're saying. I can probably hazard a guess that Ryo is saying something like: "Hi, my name is Ryo. That bastard Lan Di is going to pay for shooting up my ride. It's time to kick ass and wear a bandaid on my face..." Or words to that effect.

The Lost Content Of Soul Calibur (Now Found!)

Man, I love the Internet Archive's Way Back Machine. It's literally a real-life version of the chronoscope as described in Isaac Asimov's short story, The Dead Past. Well, not quite...but you get the idea. In The Dead Past, the chronoscope is designed to view the real world of the past, as opposed to the internet, but the similarities are there. Also, I just wanted a reason to mention Isaac Asimov because the dude was a freaking genius. If the chronoscope ever does become a thing, I'll be hitting him up to write a guest article for the Junkyard. Anyway, the point of all this is that I was browsing the internet of 1999 with Way Back Machine, with a specific mission.
See, I was trawling Namco Japan's old site looking for the fabled special VMU save file that gave players access to a hidden Voldo costume, but I inadvertently found myself looking through the pages of the old Namco US site, too. Naturally, I navigated to the Soul Calibur sub-site and my, what a treasure trove that is. There are tons of downloadable files, images, guides and walkthroughs for the game, but perhaps the most interesting thing was the desktop themes section. Yes, Namco created some official Soul Calibur themes for Windows 95 and while the files themselves are no longer accessible, these screen shots are...and I thought they were worth sharing.

Top 200 Dreamcast Games 2016 Voting Is Now Closed!

Just a short info post this. We're updating our Top 200 Dreamcast Games list and we asked for votes from you, the readers of this fine blog to help us compile the definitive list. Well, you answered the call and we've now closed the voting to allow Mike to start the arduous task of compiling the results. Over the coming week, he'll be locked away in a grotty basement somewhere, meticulously going through the voting forms and occasionally stirring a massive cauldron full of slime and body parts. Nothing to do with Halloween - it's just something he likes to do in his spare time. And yes, local authorities have been informed. Anyway, thanks for voting if you did and look out for an announcement soon on who won the fabled 'Mountain of Dreamcast Crap.'

Classic Gaming Volume 2 Features The Dreamcast

The latest instalment of Future Publishing's retro gaming bookazine has hit the shops, and this time it features our beloved Dreamcast. Gamesradar Classic Gaming Volume 2 is 144 pages of retro loveliness, and it contains sections focusing on five different consoles plus a selection of the best games for each platform. The Commodore 64, Atari ST, Super Nintendo, Neo Geo AES and (of course) the Dreamcast are all included, and each chapter gives an overview of the hardware, a selection of peripherals and console variants. As a nice extra touch, contemporary magazines covering each platform are also mentioned, meaning classic mags like Commodore Format, Super Play and DC-UK are all given a shout out.
The games sections aren't exhaustive, but they do cover the best titles for each system, most of them with huge full-page images. The Dreamcast section in particular features games such as Sonic Adventure, Shenmue, Rez, Resident Evil Code Veronica and Soul Calibur; and there's a double page feature on the output of Capcom in general. There are a lot of other bookazines of this type also available from rival (well, former rival) publisher Imagine, and of course there's the monthly magazine Retro Gamer which consistently produces high quality articles on a range of retro topics.

A Closer Look At The Dreamcast Memory Card 4X

There are tonnes of third party memory cards for the Dreamcast, almost all of which don't feature the same monochrome LCD display and internal wizardry of the official VMU. There are also a plethora of third party cards that offer an advantage over the official memory unit in that they contain more storage space, and multiple 'pages' that can be switched between using a little button. I have several of these made by Joytech and while they look a bit garish with their blue/green plastic shells, they do the job just fine. Offering four times the capacity of a regular VMU but omitting a screen and face buttons, they are cheap and cheerful alternatives.
What you may not know, is that Sega actually released their own official multi-page non-visual VMU in late 2000, imaginatively titled the Dreamcast Memory Card 4X. This multi card was only released in Japan and the US (in the US, it was called the 4x Memory Card), and never made its way to Europe, like so many other cool devices for the Dreamcast. Anyway, I recently saw one of these Memory Card 4X things on eBay for the bargain price of £20, and having never seen one in the flesh (plastic) I snapped it up. A few days later it found its way through my letterbox in a scrunched up brown envelope and here for your delectation are my thoughts and closer inspection of the thing.

Resurrecting DcVD: Dreamcast Video Disc

What if DVDs never existed? Maybe Sega would have followed through with their speculated plans for a Dreamcast Video Disc (DcVD) - an alternative video format similar to Video CD, but one which exploits the Dreamcast's natural affinity with the Sofdec video and ADX audio codecs and the extra capacity of the proprietary GD-rom format.
Scott 'DocEggfan' Marley recently looked into the history of DcVD here at the Junkyard and he's been eagerly working away behind the scenes to bring the dead format back to life. Now, for your enjoyment we are proud to present the teaser trailer for Scott's endeavours. Turn the lights down, the volume up and prepare to be wowed by the dulcet tones of our very own Caleb in the trailer for the upcoming DcVD Dreamcast Video format!

We hope to release several copyright free movies using this resurrected format in the near future, movies that can be played directly in a Dreamcast GD-rom drive with no extra hardware required. Watch this space!

DreamPod - Episode 40

[iTunes][Stitcher][Buzzsprout][UK Podcast Directory][YouTube]

You can find all of our previous episodes of DreamPod here, and there's more information regarding our exploits at Play Expo Manchester 2016 here. If you'd like to grab HankyAlienDC and play it using your SD card reader, be sure to head over to Simian Zombie and click the download link. Further information on In The Line Of Fire can be found here, and below you'll find me (Tom) and Rob in Maych TV's YouTube video which we took part in during Play Expo. Finally, if you like what you've heard on this episode of DreamPod (or not - we know the sound quality was a bit shit due to using Skype and a free recording app I found literally 5 minutes before starting the podcast); please feel free to leave us a rating or review on iTunes. Cheers!

A Quick Look At Former Managing Director Yukawa's Treasure Hunt

Mr Yukawa. The man, the myth, the legend. But who was he, really? Well, Hidekazu Yukawa was the  senior managing director of Sega Japan during the early part of the Dreamcast's reign, and he was used as the main character in a fairly successful series of TV adverts. You can find them all on YouTube, but the TV commercials in question tell the story of Sega's boss on the eve of the Dreamcast's launch, where he is besieged by thoughts of self doubt and nightmares of the console's failure. He is harassed by children who want PlayStations instead of Dreamcasts, and even gets beaten up at one point.
Naturally, Mr Yukawa's fears are allayed when the Dreamcast becomes a success and everybody lives happily ever after. The series of TV ads catapulted Yukawa into semi-stardom in his native land, and his image was used on Dreamcast console boxes and in print adverts, such was his popularity. What you may not know is that he also starred in his very own game on the Dreamcast - Former Managing Director Yukawa's Treasure Hunt.

HankyAlienDC: A New Homebrew Space Invaders Clone

This one kinda came out of nowhere, but there's a new Space Invaders clone available for the Dreamcast and it can be downloaded for free. The work of a lone hobbyist coder known as ant512 on the DC Emulation forums, HankyAlienDC is available as a free file that can be run on either your choice of Dreamcast emulator, on Dreamcast hardware using an SD card reader, or burnt to a CD and played in the Dreamcast's GD drive. It's a pretty accurate recreation of the Atari original and is also available for Nintendo DS, should you have an R4 card to play it through.

"The archive contains a .elf version that will run in lxdreams, and presumably other emulators, and a .bin version that will run via an SD adaptor and DreamShell RC4. It will presumably run if you somehow burn it to a CD, but it’s been so long since I’ve made a CD of Dreamcast homebrew that I’ve completely forgotten how to do it. Plus I’m on a different OS and don’t have an optical drive any more."
- ant512

Having recently got a new MacBook, I know exactly how ant512 feels! Anyhow, before this becomes an Apple-bashing humblebrag circle jerk, check out VasiliyDC's video of HankyAlienDC in action:

And once you've finished, be sure to head over to Simian Zombie to download the HankyAlienDC game files for free. Thanks to VasiliyDC for sharing this information with us.

Play Expo Manchester 2016 Show Report

The weekend of the 8th and 9th of October 2016 saw Replay Events' huge Play Expo gaming event return to the north west of England, with Play Expo Manchester. The event has been a staple of the gaming calendar for many people in the UK and European gaming communities for the last few years as it blends retro, current, PC, console and board gaming; and supplements them with cosplay competitions, indie game showcases and more arcade and pinball machines than you can shake a stick at - all set to free play. Oh, and there are hundreds of sellers on hand to offer event goers the opportunity to pick up all kinds of gaming paraphernalia, should their budgets stretch to it.
Naturally, The Dreamcast Junkyard was there and our booth in the community zone was the biggest one we've put on yet, featuring 8 Dreamcast systems of all different flavours and a whole range of games and peripherals for the public to experience. The turn out at Play Expo was stunning and was quite possibly the largest and busiest to date, with thousands upon thousands of gamers and collectors flooding the Event City venue over the course of the two days.
As exhibitors, it was amazing to see so much appreciation and love for the Dreamcast, and our little corner of the event hall was barely ever empty and on more than one occasion it was absolutely teeming with people keen to play on the games we had on offer.

The DCJY Top 200 Games 2016: Your Vote Counts!

It's that time again folks. As the DCJY family has grown in the past few years, with listeners to the DreamPod, members of a Facebook group and new Twitter followers coming onboard to enjoy the tripe we concoct; we thought it was about time that we updated our Dreamcast Junkyard Top 200 games list, and allow all of our readers and listeners, new and old alike to have another say in the endless question of just what the very best titles on our beloved little console really are. Aaron 'Gagaman' Foster did a fantastic job on our last Top 200, but in the fast-moving world of the Dreamcast, we've seen many new titles, new found appreciation for old classics, and old friends falling out of favor. Plus, who doesn't like a shiny new list?

So what do we want you to do? Simple! Simply scroll to the bottom of this article and click on the voting link. You'll then be whisked away to our sparkly form, where you can enter up to a maximum of 20 of your favourite game titles (in no particular order) and then we will get our hired team of professional stat bods/shaven monkeys to do the hard part.

Someone is turning the Dreamcast version of Re-Volt into Mario Kart

There's not really much more to add. There's a guy, and he's modding the Dreamcast version of Acclaim's radio controlled racer Re-Volt to look and play like Nintendo's flagship kart 'em up. It's early days at present, and only runs on NullDC thus far but this could be worth keeping an eye on. Thanks must go to our pal Pcwzrd for alerting me to this brilliantly bizarre fan project.

I wonder if this is even worth Nintendo slapping a cease and desist on, as the only people it will likely appeal to is sad sacks like me and you reading this now. Yes you. That said, you only have to look at Pokemon Uranium and the Metroid project from a few months ago to see how Nintendo reacts to even the most harmless of fan projects.

One thing is certain though: Acclaim won't be making any noise.

New Dreamcast Game Revealed: In The Line Of Fire

A few months ago we showed off some images of a brand new first person shooter that didn't actually have a name. If you don't know what I'm talking about, cast your mind back to those pictures of the clowns holding invisible guns. If you still don't know what I'm blathering on about, simply cast your peepers downward a few pixels and refresh your memory:
Remember now? Excellent. The guys behind the 'unnamed shooter' have been hard at work behind the scenes, it seems and have finally put together a fully playable build of the game. Oh, and it has a name now too: In The Line Of Fire. I'm not usually one to blow my own trumpet (much), but I thought I should mention that I had a small hand in choosing that name...but this isn't about me. It's about a brand new story-driven first person shooter coming exclusively to the Dreamcast...and we've played the alpha build!

Time for some Grandia II...nes

To say I've been putting off playing Grandia II would be an understatement - the game's sat on my shelf for upward of a year now, with only a few plays on it so far. The idea of playing a JRPG on the Dreamcast is still an odd one to me, having grown up playing most of my RPGs on Nintendo consoles (or that time I binged a bunch of Skyrim on my bro's PS3).

But I'm not here to commiserate about video game backlogs. Rather, let us look to a particularly nifty feature of the Dreamcast release of Grandia II: the bonus "Music Selections" CD included. With a total of 12 pieces coming in at 50 minutes of music, it's a nice sampling of the game's soundtrack, with what appear to be a few remixes thrown in for good measure. Thankfully, no jingles or short sounds are included, so the CD works as a standalone listen.
My own personal copy
Oddly enough, the album begins with a remix. Both "Cançäo do povo (Little Shelter MIX)" and the last song, "Cançäo do povo," feature the vocal talents of Kaori Kawasumi. The song and its remix provide nice bookends for the whole affair, as the remix opens up with a catchy dance-like beat, and the original ends it on a more mellow, longing note.

A Closer Look At The Dreamcast MP3 Player

By now, it's common knowledge (well, in the Dreamcast community - probably not down the local pub) that Sega was planning some kind of Dreamcast MP3 player. The device would likely have connected to the system via the VMU slot and shared a form factor with the aforementioned memory device. Indeed, if you do a quick search on the worlds most popular search engine Lycos, you'll no doubt come across this image:
Cheers, IGN.
This whole subject seems to have become quite popular again in recent times, as evidenced by the sheer number of memes and videos showing people fitting iPod Nanos into VMU shells. To be honest, that whole thing isn't really new - we did a little article on potentially fitting a no-brand MP3 player into a VMU shell back in 2006, back when nobody gave a flying turd about the Dreamcast and this was a personal blog where I told fanciful tales about buying tins of beans and cans of Carlsberg with money I found in the street (that hasn't changed in the intervening decade, by the way).