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Revisiting the Aesthetics of TrickStyle and Dreamcast 20XX Futurism

You can tell a lot about a society’s hopes and fears by how its fictitious works depict the future. In this regard, the Dreamcast is a fascinating time capsule of our most prevalent insecurities at the turn of the millennium. As we’ve come to view the Dreamcast through a retro lens, we can also try to understand the historical context behind its own brand of retro futurism.

Revisiting a smattering of early Dreamcast games on the console’s 19th anniversary, I’m reminded of some of the common themes and aesthetics imbuing many futuristic Dreamcast and PC titles of the late '90s and early aughts. Notably, these games depicted vaguely dystopian futures that were all at once gritty, vibrant, desolate, and shrouded in a thick fog, both literally – to mask pop-in due to hardware constraints – and figuratively in their perturbed sense of uncertainty.
For me, this aesthetic characterized a fair share of the Dreamcast’s library, propagating a trend of worn, sterile, and heavily-industrialized future settings. I feel compelled to interpret this style – let’s call it “Dreamcast 20XX” for now – as a reflection of our most prevalent cultural anxieties at that time, both real and embellished. In other words, it is easy to imagine late ‘90s game developers – particularly western ones – depicting a future where the Y2K bug could’ve actually fucked up some shit. These themes manifest themselves in numerous games across a variety of genres.
They feature prominently in action titles like MDK2, Slave Zero, and Red Dog; but also in first person shooters Quake and Unreal Tournament; the open-world adventure game Omikron: The Nomad Soul; even racing games like the spectacularly boring Magforce Racing. Although these depictions vary in their degrees of cynicism, they broadly portray the toll that years of industrial and economic disrepair could take on the world in the wake of vague, societal catastrophe.
Towards the surprisingly bleak end of this spectrum is one of my favorite Dreamcast racing games, Criterion’s TrickStyle. Its chief conceit surrounds an international community struggling to rebuild itself following worldwide, war-torn devastation. In TrickStyle’s post-war future, society pulls itself up by its hoverboard binding straps and instills racing as a shared cultural tentpole, both as a means to stave off boredom and to strengthen global stability by way of awesome fucking hoverboards. It’s Marty McFly’s new world order.

San Francisco Rush 2049 & ChuChu Rocket! Websites Restored


As reported recently over at Dreamcast Live, the websites for both San Francisco Rush 2049 and ChuChu Rocket! have been added to the ever-growing list of restored online resources for Dreamcast games. Just to be clear - this isn't related to online gaming per se. ChuChu Rocket! has been playable online with DreamPi for some time now, and Rush 2049 doesn't have any online multiplayer modes. It's the dedicated websites that can be accessed from each game's menu that have been dragged back from the depths of the internet's Bermuda Triangle and put back online.
That's not to say there aren't some really useful and interesting features on both websites, which, thanks to the work of programmer Jial and DreamPipe, are now available once again. The Rush 2049 website in particular offers some really cool and interesting features, including the ability to upload and download ghost times and participate in an online leaderboard for certain circuits. At the time of writing, yours truly is ranked number 1 in the world at the Marina track. As ever, autographs will be available for a nominal fee. Edit: I'm now ranked number 2, dammit. I will have my revenge!
The ChuChu Rocket! website has been restored by Xiden and similarly is hosted by DreamPipe. Sadly, there is no ability to upload scores to the ChuChu Rocket! site, however there are still some pretty cool features available, such as the ability to download puzzle stage DLC to your VMU. What's worth noting here though, is that with the resurrection of the website along with the previously restored online multiplayer modes, ChuChu Rocket! is one of several games that now has all of it's online functions fully back online.
In order to make the most of these features, you will need to sign up for a fake Sega.com account which you can do here. Because these sites are hosted by DreamPipe, the account details once stored by Sega no longer exist and it's actually a stroke of genius that the folks over there created this workaround to allow idiots like me to 'sign up' to a no longer available service once offered on Sega's main website. These two additions add to the previously restored Sonic Adventure, Sonic Adventure 2, Ecco and Jet Set Radio websites that can now be accessed direct from your Dreamcast. Bravo to everyone involved in this continued online restoration project.

Will you be checking out these two resurrected sites? Will you dare to challenge me for the title of world's number 1 number 2 racer on the Rush 2049 Marina track? Let us know in the comments.

Source: Dreamcast Live

Examining Yu Suzuki's 'Tower Of Babel' 1998 Dreamcast Tech Demo

Way back in May 1998, Sega of Japan held a conference announcing the impending arrival of its new console. It was to be named Dreamcast. The Sega New Challenge Conference was the first time that the world was formally introduced to Sega's successor to the Saturn, and the hype was very real. The gaze of the world's press was focused on a small lectern on a darkened stage, as Sega of Japan President  Shoichiro Irimajiri revealed the final form of the new console; while on a huge screen behind him tech demos showed off what the hardware was capable of.
1998 was a magical year.
The first of these demos showed a Irimajiri's head rendered in real time, while various effects were applied to it - lighting, textures and morphing effects showed what the Dreamcast could do. It also featured a glimpse of a fully rendered 3D Sonic the Hedgehog, the first time we got to see the model that would later be used in Sonic Adventure. To this day, the 'Iri-San' tech demo has remained undumped and is most likely locked away in a vault somewhere in Sega's Japanese headquarters.
 Image source: Edge Magazine issue 60
The second tech demo, and the focus of this particular article became known as the 'Tower of Babel' demo, where viewers were taken on whirlwind tour of a fully polygonal settlement built around the base of an enormous tower. The squat buildings set on an idyllic isle, the sun setting in the distance while the huge cylindrical tower rose above the winding streets. It really is a striking and curious scene, and while it may not seem very impressive by modern standards, back in 1998 these types of sequences had never been seen running in real time on console hardware; and as you might expect they were spread across the pages of gaming magazines the world over.
Image source: Edge Magazine issue 60
I personally remember seeing the images of the Irimajiri and Babel (or Babylon, as it's sometimes referred to) tech demos reproduced in glorious fuzz-o-vision in the pages of several magazines at the time of the Dreamcast's announcement; and being amazed and excited in equal measure. But then, after the initial excitement made way for the actual launch of the system (and with other tech demos coming along too - which have similarly never been leaked online); I pretty much forgot about Irimajiri's floating head and the mysterious little village huddled on that lonely rock in the shadow of a tower. That was until I finally got to see the thing for myself in real time, and thanks to the power of the internet, so can you...

Review: Battle Crust

There was undoubtedly a period, not too long ago, when the mention of yet another shoot 'em up for the Dreamcast would have brought a deafening sigh from the community. It seemed that for a time, every single post-mortem indie release was another vertical or horizontal shooter (I hasten to add that I'm not a fan of the term 'shmup,' just as I cringe at the term 'Metroidvania'), and even though the majority of them are pleasant, highly competent examples of the genre, overkill set in. This probably came to head in 2015 with the release of Ghost Blade - a game I personally quite enjoyed, but one which also drew derision and ultimately signalled a hiatus for shooters on the system.
Indeed, the reliance on the shoot 'em up has largely vanished from the indie Dreamcast scene, what with JoshProd stepping up to the plate and releasing a bunch of new titles for the Dreamcast with nary a spaceship in sight. That's about to change though, as the latest wave of releases from the French publisher includes a port of Picorinne Soft's well received retro-styled vertical shooter Battle Crust. The game initially launched on Steam back in 2016 and I must admit that prior to learning of the Dreamcast port, I was totally unaware of its existence.
Of all the games to bring to the Dreamcast, it's a curious choice then. Especially when you look at the other titles that are making up this third wave of new releases from JoshProd: Another World, Fade to Black, Bang Bang Busters and The Escapee. However, variety is the spice of life, and if anything JoshProd is proving that Dreamcast gamers are thirsty for a range of experiences from a range of genres; and now that the tsunami of shooters seems to have slowed to a mere trickle, it's actually refreshing to see a new title of this ilk on the Dreamcast.

Hyperbole aside though, games like Battle Crust live and die on the quality of the experience they provide, so enough with the procrastination - let's see if Battle Crust deserves a place in the Dreamcast's ever-growing indie library, and more importantly, in your collection...