Let’s take a look at Dreamcast: Year Two

Back in July 2020, Dreamcast: Year Two - the sequel to Andrew Dickinson's Dreamcast: Year One book - went to Kickstarter and smashed its funding goal within 64 hours. It took a while to get finished, but is now complete, printed, and gradually making its way out to backers. As somebody who was involved in the creation of this book, I'm really excited for everybody to get their hands on what has been created here.

And with that, I must now insert my obligatory 'conflict of interest' disclaimer. Unlike the first book in this series, which Tom reviewed on the blog upon its release, Dreamcast: Year Two has full involvement from The Dreamcast Junkyard, and even sports our branding on its back cover. When we interviewed Andrew for our podcast, the DreamPod, little did we know it would be the start of a great friendship, and that he'd eventually go on to join The Dreamcast Junkyard team himself. Because of this, you will also find written content from Junkyard members Brian Vines, Kev Mason, James Harvey, Lewis Cox (me!), Mark Williams, Mike Phelan and Tom Charnock in this book. Myself and Tom also assisted with editing and proof reading. Oh, and we all backed the project too. With all of that in mind, this article will not be a review, but merely a "look" at Andrew's new book.

If you would like to have a peek behind the curtain to hear more about the process of this book's creation and the Kickstarter, I recommend you listen to Andrew's recent appearance on The Sega Lounge podcast.

Dreamcast: Year Two and the accompanying DCY Zine.

So, the book. Just like its predecessor, Dreamcast: Year Two again uses the format originally created by Sandeep Rai for his PS Vita: Year One book (with his blessing, of course!) This time, the book covers the events that occurred in the world of Dreamcast between April 1st 2000 and March 31st 2001. This includes the console's cancellation, the advent of online gaming, the appearance of many notable games, and much more. All of this is presented alongside the excellent art of illustrator Dan Tiller, whose colourful style, with its many paint splatter effects, is a stark contrast to the very clean artwork of Dreamcast: Year One. Andrew explains that there was a clear rationale for this design choice: "I wanted something a bit messier, to show how messy the second year [of Dreamcast] was. It was really colourful and bright and amazing, but it was also the end of the Dreamcast and things were going wrong!" He also went for a predominantly blue theming over Year One's orange, ‘cause European blue swirl for life, yo.  

Other than the Junkyard team, the book also contains writing from members of the wider community such as Retro Faith, the Dreamcast Years crew, and Dreamcast Hub, as well as a great piece from the creator of the 'Years' book format, Sandeep Rai.

After some introductory pages (including a foreword by the Junkyard’s founder Tom Charnock!), the book begins with a detailed breakdown of the events of Year Two, written by Andrew. First, he covers why many consider it to be the Dreamcast's "golden year", before hitting us with the one-two punch of reality that in the grand scheme of things, the Dreamcast wasn't doing quite as well as we thought. Not only was there the looming threat of the PlayStation 2, but poor attempts from Sega to quash rumours that the future was looking grim for the Dreamcast and that Sega were to become a third-party developer wasn't doing much to reassure fans. 

Andrew then takes us back to that devastating moment when the news of the Dreamcast's discontinuation reached the masses, and reflects on how fans at the time handled the news, excellently summed up using Elisabeth Kübler-Ross' five stages of grief model. This analogy-based chapter is definitely one of my favourite pieces of writing I've read from Andrew. Well done, sir.

This segment is then followed by a collection of interviews. One of Dreamcast: Year One's strongest suits was its interviews, and the interviews in Dreamcast: Year Two are excellent too. The selection of interviewees is nicely varied, each hailing from a different creative background, but with an appreciation for the Dreamcast in common. The interviewees are as follows:

  • Corey Marshall (voice actor, English voice of Ryo Hazuki in Shenmue)
  • Darren Jones (Retro Gamer magazine editor-in-chief)
  • Adam Koralik (YouTube Creator)
  • John Linneman (YouTube Creator, Digital Foundry)
  • Iain Lee (TV Presenter, Channel 4's Thumb Bandits)
  • Forbes Longden (Dreamcast Today founder)
  • Mickaël Pointier (developer, V-Rally 2's Dreamcast port). 
It was particularly interesting to hear many of these guys reflect on their memories of first hearing the news of the Dreamcast's cancellation. Even more harrowing than that news, however, is Adam's story about losing a red Code: Veronica Dreamcast controller at airport customs. That tale is going to haunt me for a while...

After the interviews come some longer form articles covering a range of topics. These articles are a new addition for Dreamcast: Year Two and fit naturally within the page order. Dreamcast and Saturn Junkyarder Brian Vines' piece "Beyond Saturn" explores the many ways in which the Dreamcast picked up where its ill-fated older brother, the Saturn, left off. Brian's article is followed by Sandeep Rai's, in which he waxes lyrical about the Dreamcast's many excellent Capcom fighters. After this, Retro Faith provides some great insight into the origins of online gaming, and how the Dreamcast introduced this now hugely popular feature to a generation of console gamers. Finally, our very own Mike Phelan talks about the Dreamcast's many weird and wonderful peripherals (there's a lot).

Retrospectives are up next, and this time, there's loads. Including the backer retrospectives, there are a whopping 35 games covered, a noticeable increase from the first book's 21. The main bulk of these retrospectives were written by Andrew, the Dreamcast Junkyard team, the Dreamcast Years team and Dreamcast Hub. The full list of games covered is:

  • Metropolis Street Racer
  • Quake III Arena
  • Sword of the Berserk: Guts’ Rage
  • Grandia II
  • Maken X
  • Jet Set Radio
  • Power Stone 2
  • F355 Challenge
  • Fur Fighters
  • Le Mans 24 Hours
  • Seaman
  • Resident Evil - Code: Veronica
  • ChuChu Rocket!
  • Sega Bass Fishing
  • Space Channel 5
  • Starlancer
  • Ecco the Dolphin: Defender of the Future
  • Dead or Alive 2
  • The Typing of the Dead
  • Phantasy Star Online
  • Spirit of Speed 1937
  • D2
  • Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater
  • Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2
  • El Dorado Gate Volume 1
  • Samba de Amigo
  • Segagaga
  • Shenmue

And the backer retrospectives:
  • Rayman 2: The Great Escape (Rewind: Year One)
  • Tomb Raider Chronicles
  • Army Men: Sarge’s Heroes
  • Sonic Shuffle
  • Virtua Tennis
  • Zombie Revenge

Now that's an incredible list of games if I ever saw one. People aren't wrong when they refer to Year Two as the Dreamcast's golden year. Also, bonus interview, alert! What started out as a joke between James and Andrew soon turned into one of the most surprising features of the entire book. For reaching a stretch goal of £20,000, Andrew granted James the privilege (*ahem*) of writing a whole ten page article about the much maligned Spirit of Speed 1937, which not only includes a retrospective, but a Monza track guide (which is very reminiscent of something you may see in an old gaming mag), unseen concept images, and an excellent interview with the game's lead programmer, John Jones-Steele. While Spirit of Speed 1937 has become an easy target over the years for its many shortcomings, James' retrospective and interview with John really helps to clear up many misconceptions about the game, and is a peek behind the curtain at the many hurdles the development team faced trying to create what was actually supposed to be a very ambitious sim-racing game. Even if you're the biggest Spirit of Speed hater, I guarantee you will come away from this feature with at least an appreciation for what John and his development team were trying to achieve, regardless of whether you think they succeeded in their goal or not.

The "library" section in the back collects all of the Dreamcast releases for Year Two. The behemoth task of getting the release dates for these games as accurate as possible was undertaken by Andrew and Michael Rogers (who goes by MikeRox in the DCJY Discord).

And there you have it. Finally here, Dreamcast: Year Two. Andrew is currently working hard to ship over 1,000 books to backers. He’s averaging 100 a week, and has already shipped about 500, with the goal to have everything shipped by early August. For non-backers, if you want to get yourself a digital copy, you can find it, along with Dreamcast: Year One and the DCY Zine here. As for physical editions… well, you could try emailing Andrew, but the remaining stock is low, and while the Kickstarter copies are still being sent to backers, it’s hard to know how many extra copies will become available, given that some need to be kept back for potential loss or damages.

Until Dreamcast: Year Three...

A very nice photo taken by @SteJay215 of the book and all the extra Kickstarter goodies.

If you've received your copy of Dreamcast: Year Two, let us know what your favourite piece was in the comments below or via our social media channels!

1 comment:

Tom Charnock said...

Great non-review Lewis! It was an honour to be a part of this release.