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Review: Xeno Crisis

It's hard to know whether even the most optimistic of us would of believed that, more than 15 years after it's inception, the Dreamcast Junkyard would still be reviewing new titles for the console which we all share a passion for. Yet here we are, in a year many of us believed we'd be living on the moon and driving flying cars, still hungering after more releases, and our appetites being sated with a steady supply of some of the finest Indie releases we've ever had. Our childhood fantasies of space-age dwellings and hoverboards, neon lit utopias and colonisation of other planets may not have been met - the steady diet of science fiction fueled expectations of our youth replaced instead with social media, disappointing Sega announcements and a global pandemic - but our consolation prize seems to be an incredibly healthy independent development scene, far removed from the 'yet another Shmup' days of old.
I can only imagine Bitmap Bureau grew up with the same dizzying expectations of our future. For them, the future was clearly 'out there', rather than 'stay at home', and in this new release for the Dreamcast, it seems mankind has indeed ventured away from our terrestrial origins, and made a life for ourselves amongst the stars. Of course, for every Utopian prediction that science-fiction gave us, there was a darker, grimmer dystopia waiting around the corner. For every Star Trek, there's an Aliens, after all. It's safe to say, that the universe that Bitmap Bureau believes mankind will inhabit may have just a touch of the latter - even the title of this new release hints at that. Xeno Crisis - not 'Xeno family picnic' you'll notice, paints a universe in which the Earth's best and brightest must deal with a threat of the extra-terrestrial kind. A distress call is received, and our guys at a research station seem to be dropping like flies due to a serious bit of unwanted alien violence. Step forward Commander Darius and his elite marines, our best hope at beating this off-world menace, now tasked with taking on whatever nasties the galaxy throws at them.


It's a classic sci-fi scenario, one we've probably heard many times before, but there's a reason for it's popularity - we all want to be the saviour of the planet against a horde of ugly, puss-ridden, vomit belching aliens, whilst shooting a completely infeasible amount of ammunition and shouting out Arnie-like quotes in a terrible Austrian accent. It's violent, it's action packed, it's all shouty, sweary and loud, and most of all, it's bloody good fun.
Bitmap Bureau promised to deliver this with Xeno Crisis during a highly successful kickstarter back in 2017, with plans to release the game on various consoles, both current gen and classic, and as well as bringing us glorious 80's action flick silliness, it was going to take a not-inconsiderate amount of inspiration from classic twin stick shooters of old as well. It felt like it was ticking all the right boxes, and now it's the Dreamcast's turn to experience the games delights after various other versions had their time to shine. The important question though, as always, is, well... is it any good?

You're damn right it is...

Review: After the Fall

We first got a glimpse of Quake total conversion After the Fall back in August 2018 when the game's designer Pip Nayler treated us to a very early preview. Since then, we've also been lucky enough to sample a playable demo of the game. Now though, After the Fall is ready to be released for the Dreamcast community to enjoy on their own Dreamcast consoles, and come the end of June 2020 (Friday 26th June to be precise) you'll be able to download After the Fall - for the price of absolutely nothing - and experience this romp through a dystopian future nightmare for yourselves. You can't say fairer than that - dystopia with an entrance price of free. Step right up, folks!


As we've been following the development of After the Fall for a while now, we thought it was only right that we cast a critical cycloptic eye over the final product and give you our verdict on whether you should download it, burn it and give it a go; or leave it well alone and go back to watching the endless repeats of Gordon Ramsey's Kitchen Nightmares you somehow have recorded on your digibox (or maybe that's just me).
First things first. As you will no doubt be able to tell simply by pointing your eyes at the screenshots hither and thither, After the Fall is a total conversion of Quake. The origins of this mod can be traced all the way back to the simpler times of 1997, when it was released for the IBM compatible Personal Computer device. A proof of concept port of After the Fall was started for Dreamcast some time later, but the port was left abandoned like a dog in a hot car. That's where Pip Nayler came in to rescue the abandoned Dreamcast version, like a good samaritan with a hammer and bowl of water. You know, to smash the window and give the hypothetical dog/Dreamcast port a drink of water. Not all heroes wear capes, folks. As he told us back in 2018:

"After The Fall is a total conversion of Quake that was originally released way back in 1997. It's been mentioned on Dreamcast message boards before, but nobody has ever really played it on the console as it doesn't fit in to the Dreamcast's RAM without modification. Also, the Quake community largely considers ATF fun, but hampered by bugs and some low quality artwork. My goal is to help the game gain some new recognition and give the Dreamcast community something new to play, whilst also also allowing me to get reacquainted with Quake modding.

"Lowering the texture resolution has allowed me to fit the game in to memory, and it is now playable from start to finish, but my aim is to build upon the original game and make it something really special for the community. As such, I'll be replacing some of the assets from the original game, bug fixing where possible, writing a new backstory for it, and creating some all new levels to help tell the story and make the game feel more connected."
- Pip Nayler, After the Fall Dreamcast developer

Since we played that initial build, Pip has ironed out over 100 bugs in the code, made a whole host of edits and revisions to the graphics, gameplay and the storyline, and now After the Fall is finally ready to see the light of day, over 20 years after it was originally conceived. The crucial question remains: Is it worth your time? Or has Pip Nayler wasted his precious life energy poring over a dud? I can't stretch that dog/car analogy out any further, so let's abandon that and delve in to After the Fall...

To Dream of Love: More Music of Rez

Much has been said about Rez here at the ‘Yard. Some don’t rate the game that highly, thinking it is either boring, or too simple. To me, that simply means that you do not “get” it. When you get it, Rez is like nothing else I have ever played. Well, perhaps WipEout is about as close as it has gotten for me. The reason I say this is the fusion between the “race” or challenge, the gameplay inputs, the visuals, and the music. To play Rez properly is to wear some bloody good headphones, and dedicate yourself to its gameplay. You can’t appreciate Rez if you have the sound low, off, or simply have a “5 minute bash”. Rez is more of an experience.

Rez went through a lot of changes in development (see video below), but the leaked beta is extremely close to the final game (though it's got a higher difficulty level).



I’ve yet to play Rez Infinite on PSVR, but one is on its way to me as I write. However, I do have the game on Xbox 360 and enjoyed playing through and completing it multiple times. I consider myself nowhere near an expert at the game, but definitely feel I am very well connected with it. When I see people write “it’s boring” or “it’s overrated” then to me, they simply don’t get it. It’s gone over their head. That’s fine. Though putting such things to the page makes me sound like an elitist prick (the data is still coming in on that), to say that I am more invested in Rez than the average gamer would be a fair comment. Most of my posts for the ‘Yard have been on the subject of the game; I have a copy of “Vibes”, the prototype beta of Rez:
So, why am I, once again, writing about this legendary game? It’s because yesterday I put on an album I haven’t listened to in ages; Second Toughest In The Infants, by Underworld. I was taken back into the game. 


Mobile Suit Gundam: Federation vs. Zeon & DX for Dreamcast is back online!

More exciting news for the up to 6 billion players still enjoying online Dreamcast gaming today has surfaced recently, with the resurrection of the online service for the rather catchy title: Mobile Suit Gundam: Federation vs. Zeon & DX.

As reported by Dreamcast Live, this is the first ever Japanese-exclusive online Dreamcast to be revived and so it is rightly getting a fair bit of attention within the online Dreamcast community in an ever-growing catalogue of Dreamcast games playable online again.
Online play supports 2-4 players in a battle to the death, and from the early test matches that have taken place, the team who reverse engineered the server to bring it back online have done a fantastic job with the game working well with minimal lag.

Released in 2002, Mobile Suit Gundam: Federation vs. Zeon & DX is based on the anime television series of the same name. Interestingly, this was the last ever online Dreamcast game to be officially released, which makes the resurrection that little bit sweeter.

As well as online battles, Arcade and Campaign modes allow you to don a giant mech suit and cause havoc at various ground locations and even in space. It's fair to say it was not the most groundbreaking release in the new millennium but it's always wonderful to see new games brought back online in 2020.
And let's face it, who wants to play Call of Duty on a Friday night when you could be playing Mobile Suit Gundam: Federation vs. Zeon & DX via a Dreamcast dial-up modem instead?!

All jokes aside, this could become a very popular game within the online Dreamcast community as it offers slick gameplay with battles coming thick and fast.

How about you? Will you be connecting to the server to take on other gamers? Let us know in the comments below or on Twitter.

UPDATE: Well, I've since spent considerable time playing online and I have to say that I'm close to being addicted! The game is so much fun to play online and there is very little lag to speak of, even if you're playing 2v2 with people in Europe, America and beyond. More useful links here for you in the form of the Online Leaderboard and a Connection Guide from Dreamcast Live, with screenshots helping you break the language barrier and get online easily.

Hands on with the 'RetroFighters DC Striker' Pad

I dislike the term Retro gaming, as a label I feel like it's too simplistic a term and not anyway near tangible enough when people try to define what it actually means. Does a game or console need to be from a certain console generation? Does it need to have been released during a certain year or have other technological parameters to be defined as retro? Do you have to be at a certain age or experience level to be able to use the term? And why do other forms of media not have the same fascination with the term that gamers do?

For me a better way to describe 'retro gaming' is as something that is historically important to your age group or own personal life. Space Invaders and Pacman are still great games I am interested in playing, whereas I dislike others from the same period and will give up on them after about 45 seconds, similarly in cinema terms I would just call 'Jaws' a masterpiece and recommend it to anyone despite it coming out 7 years before I was even born, but I don't value or label all films from that era in the same way, there is no retro in other mediums as contentious as in Video games.