A Quick Look At 4x4 Evolution

There are quite a few off-road racing games on the Dreamcast, with rally and baja-style scrambling featured in the likes of Sega Rally 2, Buggy Heat and 4 Wheel Thunder. The one thing all of those games have in common though (apart from the hills and the mud), is that they're primarily arcade racers. Bright, brash and unashamedly unrealistic in terms of vehicle handling and physics, they present an idealised version of racing through the wilderness and power sliding through turns. One entry in the Dreamcast library goes in the complete opposite direction though, instead positioning itself as a more real-world approximation of the sport of ploughing huge vehicles through forests and across sand dunes: 4x4 Evolution.
4x4 Evolution (or 4x4 EVO as it sometimes refers to itself) is a racing game stuffed to the gills with real-world licensed trucks and SUVs from a plethora of manufacturers, all of which can be driven to the very limits through a range of different environments. Interestingly, it also represents one of the only games on the Dreamcast where online multiplayer races could be held between console and PC gamers. Indeed, in it's heyday 4x4 Evolution had a burgeoning online scene, and was one of the few Dreamcast games that was still played extensively online. Sadly, this is no longer the case and using this guide over at Dreamcast-Talk and the dial-up connection detailed in my recent article here, I was able to log on to the servers but there were no other players in any of the lobbies. In 2017, it doesn't appear that many people are still playing 4x4 Evolution online with their Dreamcasts, but that's not to say the game isn't worth playing offline - it totally is. Furthermore, there's a fantastic website dedicated to everything you could possibly want to know about the online side of 4x4 Evolution, so if this is your bag head over to the 4x4 Evolution Revival Project here.
Developed by Terminal Reality and released in October 2000, 4x4 Evolution is a US exclusive with an emphasis on big trucks being driven at speed through big environments. The fact that it was never released in other territories outside the USA is an interesting footnote, as the game was advertised as coming to PAL regions and was featured on 'coming soon' pamphlets inside other games. You can see an example of the PAL box art in this article at Sega Retro, so quite why the game wasn't localised is something of a mystery. In any case, the fact remains that 4x4 Evolution never saw a release outside of the US and due to this many people may never even have heard of it, which is a shame because it's probably one of the best Dreamcast racers you've never played...

New Dreamcast Games From JoshProd Ship

You'll no doubt recall a few months ago we shared the news that French publisher JoshProd was lining up a range of new Dreamcast releases and re-releases. One of these was Breakers (our review is here), and another was the new Rush Rush Rally Reloaded. The good news is that the games have now been manufactured, the PAL cases have been acquired and shipping has commenced for everyone who pre-ordered. We heard some real horror stories about the website of choice (French games site Rush On Game), but is seems many of the niggles have been ironed out. JoshProd shared some amazing images on Facebook and we thought they were worth sharing here too:
Did you order? Have you got your games yet? If so, what are your thoughts on these new releases and re-releases? Let us know in the comments or join the discussion in our Facebook group.

Trading in Dozens of Dreamcast VMUs at GameStop

The wind howled through the crack in the window pane, and a crackle of lightning illuminated the room as a cat hissed and fled from the encroaching storm. There was spilled Diet Dr. Pepper on the large cardboard box filled with retro video games, temporarily framed by the flash from the approaching storm. Actually, none of that happened. I just wanted to begin this tale with an over dramatic intro. Everything else here is factual, though.

I was filled with self disgust as I feverishly cleaned up the very small spill which I was sure would get me labelled as "that guy" by the employee who would have to go through the box later on and tell me what pittance they would bring for trade in. We all know who "that guy" is, the disgusting loser who at the age of 35 is trading in over a decade's worth of gaming detritus so he could justify getting a new console that was clearly manufactured with a younger, more attractive audience in mind. Of course I thought I was that guy, but I didn't want anyone else to recognize that fact. So I checked every single game to make sure there was no telltale brown dot of diet soda that would out me as a loser. That was my mindset as I left my condo.
Earlier I was digging through other cardboard boxes and comparing VMUs to each other. I didn't want to be a dipshit and try to sell broken stuff to GameStop but at the same time I couldn't bear to part with immaculate Visual Memory Units with their caps firmly in place that had probably never been used. The irony of course was that the bulk of the VMUs had been purchased from a GameStop for 50 cents each when they were clearanced out. My local store in Watertown, NY had told me that they had no Dreamcast items left. A month later I was in Syracuse, NY and they had a huge double rack of Dreamcast items on deep clearance. When I had asked where they all came from they told me that had been sent from the Watertown store. Now they would be sold back to GameStop for $2.25 each. A true example of the gaming circle of life. As a VMU hoarder, the volatile video game market had finally swung into my favor...

Huge Official Dreamcast Magazine Prize Surfaces On Ebay

The November 2000 issue of the UK's Official Dreamcast Magazine ran a fairly large competition, where entrants were given the chance to win a glut of Dreamcast-branded paraphernalia lifted - rather impressively - from Sega Europe's offices. Fleeces, bags, frisbees, t-shirts...even a snowboard and football signed by Eric Cantona and his teammates from the Sega Beach Football Championship we featured some time ago. It was an impressive prize back then, and I'm pretty sure I entered it but alas I wasn't a winner. The good news is that the guy who did win the competition is now offering up the prize in an eBay auction.
Everything (bar the snowboard and some Dreamcast-branded sweets) still appears to be in the same condition it was in when he won the competition 17 years ago, and most of the stuff is still sealed in the polythene. You can see from the pictures I took from the auction (reproduced here with permission from the seller, I hasten to add) that most of the stuff is still in pristine shape, and while the starting price of £600 might be a bit outside most people's price range it's still cool to know that these items are still all together after all these years. At the time of writing there's a day to go and the auction has no bids, but you can find full details on this veritable hoard here.

Saber Rider and the Star Sheriffs Playable Demo Available Now

Work on the Kickstarter-funded 2D side-scroller Saber Rider and the Star Sheriffs has been trundling on behind the scenes, and the latest update gives us a glimpse at how the game is shaping up. Based on a fairly obscure animated series of the same name, Saber Rider is planned for several platforms including the Dreamcast and now there's a playable demo available. Head over to the Kickstarter page here and grab the files, or alternatively click here to get the Dreamcast image and burn it to a CD to play in your console.
This demo represents the first mission of the game and let you try the Hero Mode. The mission in this demo has some changes, so that the game's story won't be spoiled. The first mission in general is based upon the two Saber Rider series episodes 'Wild Horses Couldn't Drag Me Away' and 'Little Pardner.' In the final version, this level will have a few more story driven events and a different end boss. The current boss in the demo will later be a mini boss.
- Saber Rider Kickstarter Update 40

In light of this new demo, we reached out to lead developer Chris Straß for further info on the progress the game is making and he told us:

"The development of our game is challenging but we've made very good progress. I am very happy with the results and also with the great feedback so far. A big thank you goes to my small but fine team - without them it would not be possible. There is still a lot of work ahead but I am looking forward to a great game!"
- Chris Straß

So what do you think of the demo, or Saber Rider in general? Let us know in the comments or join the discussion in our Facebook group. You can also follow the game's development in the Saber Rider Facebook group here.

Review: Alice Dreams Tournament

In recent times, the rise of online gaming has all but phased out the local multi-player experiences of yore. I'm sure I'm not alone when I reminisce about hours spent playing Golden Eye or Mario Kart 64 on the Nintendo 64; or long periods taking turns on PGA Tour Golf on the Mega Drive. As a kid growing up through the 16, 32 and 64-bit eras, multi-player gaming was all about getting together with a group of friends or siblings and battling it out in front of one TV with a single console and multiple controllers plugged in.

The Dreamcast represents one of the last major consoles to feature four controller ports as standard, and the inclusion of a modem makes it a system that truly straddled the eras where playing with others became an oxymoronic experience with gamers connected via the internet as opposed to being sat on the same couch. Obviously, there are still plenty of games that offer local multi-player play modes but these days it's seen as a unique selling point or gimmick rather than a standard feature. Enter Alice Dreams Tournament, an independently developed Dreamcast exclusive that borrows heavily from the Bomberman series and is all about recreating the local multi-player sessions of old, but with a modern twist.
The final look of Alice Dreams Tournament.
Alice Dreams Tournament has a pretty interesting development history, so we'll start there. The game we see today actually started life as an end of level mini-game in a totally different project, titled simply Alice Dreams. Entering development back in 2003, Alice Dreams was a 2D side scrolling platformer based loosely on the Lewis Carrol novel Alice in Wonderland, and at the end of each stage the player could unlock a short bonus game if certain parameters were met. One of these bonus stages involved a simple Bomberman-like multi-player stage that was only ever intended to be a hidden extra, but it quickly proved popular and was turned into its own game - Dynamite Dreams.

It was with this blueprint that developers Julien Desquenne and Nicolas Pochet launched a Kickstarter to get Alice Dreams Tournament turned into a reality; and the project quickly reached its meagre €8,000 target, finishing with a total of €28,000 from 374 backers (full disclosure - one of those 374 backers was me, along with several others from the Junkyard team).
How the earlier Alice Dreams game looked.
It's a great story and you can read the full history of the game here and the find the Kickstarter project page here; but let's get down to business. Alice Dreams Tournament is finally finished and many backers now have the game in their hands, so how does the Dreamcast's latest new release measure up? Let's go through the looking glass and find out...

New Projects Archive Dreamcast DLC & VMU Files

We're big fans of digital preservation here at the Junkyard (we've even been preserved ourselves, by The British Library no less), and hopefully with all of these articles, podcasts and other such nonsense we're helping the legacy of the Dreamcast survive in our own little way. Others with far more technical nous are going a step further though, and are creating online repositories for Dreamcast-related digital files that could very well slide into obscurity and vanish altogether in time.
Not a digital archive.
I've touched on the subject of digital preservation several times in the past here, and it's a topic I'm very passionate about - I even worked for the UK National Archives in the field back in 2013. This gave me a great insight into the very real issue of preserving digital files and bespoke media formats and the Dreamcast is a console with its fair share of these. Happily, two separate projects have been brought to my attention that aim to address the somewhat scattered nature of Dreamcast digital files and bring them together in one (well, two) definitive libraries that are open and free for all Dreamcast fans to access.
Sites like Blue Swirl list fan-made VMU games.
The first aims to preserve DLC files for all manner of games; while the other is dedicated to archiving VMU mini-games. And while there are many sites currently online (or accessible via Wayback Machine) that offer similar services already; many offer incomplete lists, are plagued with broken links or only offer homebrew and fan-made mini-games.

DreamPod - Episode 49

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

Music in this episode is from Alice Dreams Tournament, and the AGES II disc we recently looked at. Find out more about the Shenmue bomber jacket here, the Pix ’N Love book here and the new game from Orion here. Feel free to join our Facebook group, like our Facebook page and follow us on Twitter; and if you’re feeling flush and/or generous our Patreon is here. Oh, and one last thing - give us an iTunes review if you can be bothered. Cheers!

Check Out Peter Moore's Fascinating Interview With Glixel

Peter Moore has become something of a hate figure in certain Dreamcast circles. He's (incorrectly) credited as the guy who pulled the curtain down on the Dreamcast, and also accused of jumping ship and taking the US version of Shenmue II with him to Microsoft when Sega hit the rocks in the early 2000s. Whatever you think about Mr Moore though, you can't deny that he's had an amazing career in the video games industry; and now on the eve of his departure from Electronic Arts to take up a position at Liverpool FC, Peter Moore has spoken candidly to Glixel.
In the revealing interview, Peter speaks openly about his time at the head of Sega America and also the tough decisions he had to make when it came to pulling the plug on the whole Dreamcast project. There's also a really fascinating recollection of the time he told Yuji Naka (through an interpretor) to "fuck off," and how he believes Naka and Yu Suzuki were actually holding Sega back during the Dreamcast era. Again, it's a mesmerising trip down memory lane and gives some hitherto undocumented snapshots of what it must have been like to have the weight of an entire floundering gaming giant resting on his shoulders.

Head over to Glixel and read the full interview here.

Shenmue Bomber Jackets Now Available

Veteran games merchandise store Insert Coin has launched a new Shenmue-related product, and fans of Ryo Hazuki's adventures are likely to be lapping it up in droves. If you've already used your eyes to look at the images below, you'll no doubt be able to tell that it's a bomber jacket fashioned after the attire sported by Ryo as he traverses the back streets of Dobuita and Hong Kong in Yu Suzuki's as-yet-unfinished magnum opus.
In this day and age it's all too easy to just froth about anything Dreamcast related, but I'm going to give my honest opinion here: I think this jacket looks bloody awful.

It appears to be made of bargain-basement nylon and while the patches on the chest and arm are embroidered, the one on the back is screen printed. I suppose this is to be expected of a jacket that costs £60, but that doesn't explain why the colours are way off the mark. Yes, Ryo's jacket was leather in the game and leather replicas do exist...but this is just a cynical example of big businesses churning out shite to fleece (heh!) fans of a franchise. Again, I've got nothing against Insert Coin - they do some really top quality stuff and I own several t-shirts by them. But this Shenmue jacket is an affront to the Hazuki family name. Interestingly, Insert Coin did have a slightly more accurate Ryo Hazuki jacket for sale in the past (check it out here), but even that still looked a bit on the cheap side.

Check out the Shenmue bomber jacket here. If you must.

Pix 'N Love Editions Announce Dreamcast History Book

A couple of years ago, we humble bloggers at The Dreamcast Junkyard released a physical collector's guide for the Dreamcast. It wasn't much - basically a 'trainspotter's guide' to the Dreamcast library that featured no images or any Sega or Dreamcast logos and which was intended as a handy chaperone for Dreamcast fans to keep a physical track of their collecting. It went down quite well, and we still get emails to this day asking if the book is available. It isn't (at least in physical form), because Sega Europe told us to stop selling it.
We were a little confused at the time, as to why a behemoth like Sega would care about something that amounted to little more than a printed list of Dreamcast games (the PDF is still available here). We asked about working with them to produce an official guide, but they simply ignored us...and now we know why. They had commissioned French publisher Pix 'N Love Editions to create an officially licensed Dreamcast history book...

Dreamcast Streaming Service DreamStream Announced For Nintendo Switch

People with only a passing interest in research and development processes, business procedures and manufacturing fundamentals have been calling for a sequel to the Sega Dreamcast for some time now; but the desire for a bonafide 'Dreamcast 2' has fallen on deaf ears for the most part. However, it now looks like Sega is ready to give the notion at least a slight nudge in the right direction. This week, Sega announced a new partnership with old rival Nintendo which will bring Dreamcast games to the new handheld hybrid system Switch.
The service, tentatively titled 'DreamStream' will allow Switch owners to connect to a cyber razor-powered service that will initially offer a handful of HD remasters of popular Dreamcast titles like Jet Set Radio, Sonic Adventure, Spirit of Speed 1937 and Space Channel 5. Details on further games, and just how the service will work are sketchy at best right now, but this information has literally only just leaked through this article on art and tech website Art News. Quick to capitalize on the leak, Sega Europe spokesperson Avril Tonto responded to the claims:

"Sega Europe and Nintendo have a long and storied history. With this new partnership, we hope to bring much-loved franchises to a new audience."

As stated, details are thin on the ground at the moment, but we hope to bring more details as they emerge. With the strong initial sales of the Switch, and the heavy leanings toward retro emulation and classic gaming experiences, we think this can only add another string to Nintendo's bow in the fight against Sony and Microsoft.

Source: Art News