Dreamcast: Year Two shipping, HarleQuest! funded, Phantasy Star Collection, Sapphire Hotel - Dreamcast News Round-Up May 2023

Title image featuring a pixel art image of Space Channel 5's Ulala with The Dreamcast junkyard logo and the text "Dreamcast News Round-Up May 2023
Pixel art credit: Xtreme Retro

Spring is now well and truly upon us here in the UK. My central heating has finally been switched off, the nights are drawing out, and the air is alive with the sounds of songbirds, neighbourhood kids, and the obnoxiously loud engines of boy racers. The departure of winter typically does wonders for my mood, but this year my nerves are uncharacteristically shot to pieces as my boyhood football club is flirting with the prospect of imminent relegation. Rather than spend another afternoon anxiously inspecting the league table and fixtures list once again though, I thought I’d try to distract myself by penning a DCJY news round-up. The Dreamcast scene continues to bloom, delivering a bountiful harvest all year round, and there are some vigorous green shoots sprouting up too which are likely to bear fruit later in the year. So, dear readers, settle down, get comfy, and feast your eyes upon all the latest from the world of the Dreamcast.

Homebrew Happenings

The Dreamcast has long been blessed with a dedicated cast of coders who love nothing more than cooking up homebrew offerings of all shapes and sizes. The degree to which homebrew efforts have extended the console’s software library and capabilities is truly remarkable and the selfless souls who deliver these goods deserve our thanks (thank you!).

Lately it seems that Ian Michael’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Cowabunga Collection has become a trend-setter, as several other ‘collection’ type projects are now in the works. First of all is Ian’s own follow-up, a Phantasy Star collection, which allows the classic Master System, Game Gear and Mega Drive titles to be played on the Dreamcast in seamless fashion, complete with a menu system that pulls everything together, and extras such as separately playable soundtracks and videos. Sega produced a package of this sort for the Saturn, but its release was limited to Japan. If Ian’s previous work is anything to go by, then we anticipate that this follow-up will be well worth your attention.

Cover image for the Phantasy Star Collection for Dreamcast.
Cover image for Ian Michael's Phantasy Star Collection created by 'caruse'.

Shindougo has joined Ian in flaunting their chops in the DC homebrew collection space too, releasing Castlevania and The Simpsons collections in December and April respectively. Neither of these franchises ever saw official representation on the Dreamcast - exclusive titles were in development, but never made it past their fledgling stages. Leaked builds of both are available but are pretty bare bones. Those who want to scratch that itch they’ve been having for a Castlevania or Simpsons experience on their little white box should check out Shindougo’s releases, both of which are available via the links posted above. Video demonstrations of these collections have also helpfully been produced by friend of the Yard, gamesreup.

Screenshot of Hydro Thunder working in VGA mode.
Hydro Thunder working in VGA mode, as shown by Derek Pascarella (ateam).

Another homebrew project of a different ilk has also surfaced in recent weeks. Dreamcasters who have (justifiably) clung to VGA as their preferred video output option will be pleased to hear that TapamN appears to have delivered a method for playing virtually any DC game via VGA. Until now there have been a few dozen games that have stubbornly resisted efforts to force them into outputting VGA, but thanks to the elbow grease of TapamN, a comprehensive solution seems to be at hand. TapamN first demonstrated the new patching method in action with Bangai-O. A frenzy of further contributions have quickly followed from others within the community demonstrating that the method works for games such as Airforce Delta, Deadly Skies, and Hydro Thunder. A full list of the VGA patches created by TapamN are available on the console mods wiki.

Online Optimisations

Putting your Dreamcast’s modem to work really should be mandatory. If you aren’t swimming in the warm crystal-clear waters of the console’s online capacities then you are missing out - especially so, given that the experiences available keep expanding.

Screenshot of the Crazy Taxi 2 website replay upload function.
Hey hey hey, it's time to upload some CRAZY replays. Crazy Taxi 2 website screenshot courtesy of Xiden.

In mid-April, Xiden announced that the replay upload function of the Crazy Taxi 2 website has been revived. Now, as if it were 2001, that means you can upload replays of your lucrative fare-maximising runs, and find out how paltry they are in comparison to those of your compatriot taxi drivers by downloading their replays. Baggy jeans are recommended for the fully immersive turn-of-the-millennium experience. All you need to know can be found in Xiden’s Dreamcast-Talk post.

In other online news, Johne, a stalwart of Brazil’s DC online community, has launched a Dreamcast Now Android phone app. Dreamcast Now, of course, being the website that provides a live summary of who is currently online on their Dreamcast and what game they are playing. With the app, users are able to set a variety of notifications for different events, including when designated friends have come online, and when favourite games have currently active players.

Indie Intrigues

To the chagrin of decrepit burned-out GD-ROM drives everywhere, commercial indie releases just keep coming for the Dreamcast. Last month copies of Andro Dunos 2 began landing on doormats. The horizontal shmup is the latest title to be released by the prolific developer/publisher duo of JoshProd and Pixelheart. Pixelheart’s last wave of releases were somewhat of a mixed mag, with some games held in high esteem (such as Rocketron) and others generally perceived to be disappointing (such as Tough Guy). Our very own Tom Charnock found the original Andro Dunos to be a decent yet unexceptional experience, but Andro Dunos 2 seems to promise many improvements over its predecessor. The design of the physical product certainly hits all the right notes, as usual, and is available in a whole heap of varieties. Expect a comprehensive review from the DCJY shortly.

Screenshot of the game Sapphire Hotel.
Cats. Hotels. Meowing. What's not to like?

Another indie release to hit the (digital) shelves in April, somewhat out the blue, was Sapphire Hotel: The Little Tales of. This twee adventure game, where you are tasked with exploring a hotel that is run by cats, was originally developed for the Game Boy Color. While Sapphire Hotel doesn’t push the boundaries of Dreamcast indie development in the way that titles such as Xenocider have, some will no doubt get a fair return on the $2.99 price tag. The full lowdown can be found on MrE’s itch.io website.

The last nugget of indie news we’re serving up, and potentially the most exciting, is the fact that Ross Kilgariff’s HarleQuest! has successfully reached its £11,000 funding goal. Indeed, the Kickstarter actually met its first stretch goal too, meaning that a Switch edition of the game will be created alongside the primary Dreamcast version. HarleQuest! has already created quite a buzz thanks to the demos and previews shared by Ross. If you want to learn more about the game, I highly recommend listening to the interview we did with Ross on our podcast, the DreamPod. Here at the DCJY we will now eagerly await the completion of the game’s development, marking off the days on the calendar and staring at our clocks. 

Events Elsewhere

I’ll pull things to a close with a couple of news items that I was unsure how to categorise, so here they are thrown together under a fudged ‘any other business’-esque subheading.

Photo of the book Dreamcast: Year Two
Box-fresh copies of the latest Dreamcast literature to hit the market.
Firstly, we are delighted to see that Andrew Dickinson’s Dreamcast: Year Two book has been published. Backers received digital copies some weeks ago and print editions are currently in the process of being posted out (yes, posted, not “shipped”, don’t @ me). Readers should be aware that Andrew is a part of the DCJY team, so we can’t be considered an impartial source on this matter. With that said, the 182 pages of features, interviews, retrospectives and artwork look stunning and are worthy of a prime spot on your bookshelf or coffee table. Find all the juicy details over at the Kickstarter page.

If anyone has managed to snag one of these beauties then you should know that I'm GREEN with envy.
Lastly, if your sun-bleached Dreamcast is in need of a makeover, then you should be aware that new unofficial console cases with smoking hot designs continue to enter the market. If a neon-green Jet Set Radio look is your thing, then perhaps have a gander - only if you are able to spare the hefty sum of $120 though.


Is there anything our newshounds have been caught sleeping on? What Dreamcast-related news are you most interested in? Drop us a comment below. Oh, and if you’d like to help cover our operating costs, feel free to send a few coins our way.

1 comment:

way2easy said...

What a great article. I really appreciate these round-up articles. Listed heaps of stuff for me to investigate. Great stuff.