NBA Showtime - For The Industry

Designed and published by Midway Games, Inc for the Sega Dreamcast in 1999, NBA Showtime is still worth playing in 2024, and its 128-bit graphics are worth preserving — for character artists and gamers alike.

When we position NBA Showtime on the Dreamcast amongst today’s sports games, something interesting happens. Showtime feels surprisingly fresh with its simple controls and tight playing moves. That is because Showtime is accessible in a way that modern NBA 2K purposefully never will be.

What’s more, Showtime’s old-school graphics and big time dunks led me to a major premise — design choices can impact the lives of the people who create and consume a game. That is because design choices made by big tech directly impact game budgets, development staffing decisions, and can even manipulate player spending habits, too. Powerful.

Without question, economical and responsibly made sports games are needed in the 2024 sports game market. NBA Showtime is a reminder of what is possible on hardware from over 20 years ago; and its 128-bit design may serve as a prescription in the face of an industry profiting billions off of gambling mechanics in sports games.

NBA Showtime’s Economical Design


Showtime’s economical design for the Dreamcast illustrates why arcade sports games are still worth playing. "The NBA on NBC", as it was known in the arcades at the turn of the millennium, is fun and super competitive without complex gameplay controls.

I did not expect to play Sega Dreamcast sports games in 2024. And upon powering up, I did not anticipate Showtime’s orchestral strings to invoke such strong emotions about its standing. But when we position it amongst today’s lineup of sports games, nothing actually compares. Whereas NBA 2K, the top selling NBA Basketball game series of the last decade, adopts a model of endless combinations and movesets, Showtime has just four buttons. Easy. One of those buttons is capable of launching three point shots high into the atmosphere, where the basketball seems to sky just long enough to remind yourself to breathe. Hence, the game does fun things with the sport through its iconic presentation — taking a three-pointer and turning it into an exciting event to replay over and over.

More importantly, Showtime is offline, and thus not connected to your credit card. It feels honest — unlike today’s games ruined by wallet exploits and complicated control schemes. The NBA 2K series, a prime culprit, builds its obfuscated player ratings and movesets into its game economy systems. Yes, the NBA’s flagship game has endless shops of in-game items to purchase. Everything is for sale.

Moreover, sports gamers today are at the mercy of the engineers at 2K Sports because 2K’s gameplay is constantly patched, often without notice — an unethical and potentially illegal business practice. For example, an animation purchased in week one of a game release might lose all value by week ten. Thus, 2K’s confusing layers of ratings systems are purposeful, designed to extract maximum funds out of players’ pockets.

Contrasting with 2K, Showtime’s rosters are locked in at specific ratings, and the game features a handful of player archetypes. Bigs, mids, and guards. That is it, and it works. Showtime is a game to enjoy, and its designers emphasized quick-hitting matches to keep the gameplay loop moving. For arcade machines, the gameplay loop was profitable, but on Dreamcast, players can play endless matches for a flat fee. For context, I purchased the game on eBay for the fitting price of $19.99 in late 2023.

Additionally, Showtime provides an abundance of what it calls its “coaching tips” in-between quarters that provide insight into the game’s AI and logic. Hence, we know a good deal about how Showtime works. And Showtime is not going to unilaterally change its player ratings any time soon via an online update.

When we look at Midway's arcade baller today, its simplicity comes across as a bit underrated. The graphics are blocky, the animations — awkward. But that is part of its charm, and the game can still hammer home the dunks on the genre to remind everyone it is still fun.

A 128-Bit Prescription for the Industry


Perhaps more importantly are the moral and ethical benefits of 128-bit gaming in 2024 in its various polygonal forms. In a word: remasters.

Remasters of 128-bit polygon arcade games like Showtime may be a compromise for all parties to the sports gaming ecosystem. That is because NBA Showtime’s art-style is highly affordable for the industry to adopt in 2024. As such, a remaster of an NBA Showtime in 2024 would be less laborious on designers, and cost less than most AAA games. For an industry known to run artists into the ground, a remaster is a win. While this argument glosses over the issue of obtaining the requisite licensing for all the players, there are always solutions when there is money to be made. We can trust in that notion.

The benefits of 128-bit games also extend to graphic designer and artist employment terms. Silicon Valley’s unethical practice of hiring and firing artists in waves is unnecessary when a 128-bit game costs a fraction of a major simulation sports production in 2024. The 128-bit graphic design choice is an act of acknowledgement to the artists from generations ago. Remasters can take us back to our roots, and maybe that is something the industry needs right now.

Lower development costs for a 128-bit production also thereby lessen big tech’s need to exploit players through in-game monetization systems. And while we cannot conclusively draw a line between development costs and microtransactions in our games, we can certainly argue the correlation. Lower costs have numerous benefits on the industry. Art direction matters.

Thus, remasters of classic sports games like Showtime represent a path towards dignity for everyone the game touches. Remasters can honor the original artists of NBA Showtime, while treating the artists of today with dignity. And remasters lessen the need for companies to build in morally bankrupt gambling modes into sports games. The premise is simple — companies should have a profound respect for persons and dignity. Human rights should be a part of our game design choices and the industry as a whole.
When we revisit NBA Showtime in 2024, it is less about nostalgia and more so about what the game now represents in the sports genre. The use of 128-bit graphics in sports games in 2024 is a practical path to more humane treatment of game artists and sports game players.

Dreamcast Light Gun title Death Crimson 2 has been Translated into English!

For a console that famously championed peripheral use, the Sega Dreamcast sure had slim pickings when it came to games that utilised the light gun. Most notably, the console received arcade-perfect ports of both The House of the Dead 2 and the severely underrated James Bond 'em up Confidential Mission; but what else was there? Those who dared to discover were met with Silent Scope without light gun support, a port of Virtua Cop 2 that was stuck on a disc with a load of poorly emulated Genesis games (unless you imported the standalone Japanese release), a hidden light gun mode in Demolition Racer: No Exit (yes, really), and the Death Crimson series.

Developed by Ecole and released exclusively in Japan in 1999, Death Crimson 2: Meranito no Saidan has the very distinct privilege of being the sequel to a game so notoriously bad that it had a particularly masochistic set of Japanese fans gluing the game's disc into their Sega Saturn so as to make sure the console could never play any other game. Luckily, Ecole did improve, and Death Crimson 2 was received better than its predecessor. Perhaps the most intriguing part about this sequel was the inclusion of a full story mode with almost Resident Evil-esque free-roaming sections where you explore in a third-person perspective outside of the light gun gameplay. While an "improved" version of Death Crimson 2 called Death Crimson OX did receive a Western release (in the USA, at least), it completely dropped the story sections, meaning non-Japanese speakers never got a chance to experience this weird mishmash of gameplay in the English language. 

Well, fret no more, as a fan translation of Death Crimson 2 has just released today! And who translated this Dreamcast light gun oddity, you ask? Well, it's the same guy who did the last English Dreamcast fan translation, too, and many before that! That man being - of course - the ever-busy Derek Pascarella.

With Derek's patch, everything in the game is now translated into English. This includes everything from the story sections, to cutscenes, to textures and graphics; with misspelled English place names (such as street signs) also being corrected to match the official Western release of Death Crimson OX. 

As always with Derek's releases, he's gone above and beyond with extras and enchantments. First up, Derek has added a VMU icon for the game, because Ecole were too lazy to implement one themselves. Next, he added a cheat function, which can up your lives and reset any countdown clock with a simultaneous press of the Dreamcast controller's left and right triggers. The reasoning for this is to allow players to experience the game's story without being having to endure going through numerous difficult stages repeatedly.

Then you have the bonus content section, which is accessible from the game's main menu. Utilising a modified version of the Dream Passport browser, players can access a variety of extras from the series, including a video of composer Kunitaka Watanabe tearing it up on the keyboard as he plays the original Death Crimson theme, along with an archive of fan support messages from Ecole's now-offline official Death Crimson 2 website, which have been machine-translated into English.

So, to download Derek's fan translation patch for Death Crimson 2, just head to its dedicated GitHub page to download it. For detailed steps on how to apply the patch for your desired method of play (i.e. burning to a CD-R, playing on an ODE), see the patching instructions section of the README. While the game does support the standard controller, if you're going to be using a light gun I recommend consulting the section on light gun compatibility. Make sure you report back to Derek if you experience any issues with a particular light gun setup, as he will aim to try and resolve such compatibility bugs in the future.

Are you going to crack out the light gun and give this English fan translation a go? Let us know in the comments below, or by hitting us up on one of various social media channels!

Dreamcast Covers that Go Hard (and Some More that Can Go Straight in the Bin)

Like the greatest album covers in the world, some games make a great impression even when sitting on a shelf. Whilst previews in the media, video trailers and word of mouth are vitally important, it would be wise not to underestimate the immediate impact a game’s cover can have on those with more impressionable minds. Generic artwork or uninspiring stylistic choices may be fine if the game has loads of pre-release hype or a big name license, but stick some glorious artwork from a talented artist on the cover and you're near enough guaranteed some extra interest.

The Dreamcast's small but beautiful library of games is jam-packed with turn-of-the-millennium style and innovation, and this is present in some of the artwork which adorned gaming shelves worldwide. Some are of course, iconic - Ulala's presence on the Space Channel 5 artwork, the striking simplicity of the PAL/Japanese covers of Crazy Taxi, Shenmue's epicness - but there are some that deserve more attention. These are works of art - they deserve to be blown up to a larger size, framed and hung in the finest of art galleries. So it's time to put my best gallery curator hat on and showcase why I think these fifteen choice cuts of Dreamcast cover art glory are examples worthy of so much praise, followed by five duds that deserve the complete opposite...

All covers used in this article come from Sega Retro, unless stated otherwise. Let's get into them...


The Dreamcast covers that go hard...

Spawn: In The Demon's Hand

I could have picked any of the cover variations of this release, as they are all absolutely epic in nature, but I've chosen the standard Japanese cover. Looking more like some great, unknown fantasy war metal album cover, this puts Todd McFarlane's comic masterpiece centre stage with a swirling mass of metal, cloak and spikes. Spawn is the ultimate badass antihero, an imposing demonic hellspawn, and a character that is designed to be visually interesting in whatever angle, pose or situation he is depicted in. As a game, In the Demon's Hand falls a little short, but the cover art surely must have led to a few extra sales.

The artwork for the standard Japanese version, as well as that used on other examples of the game, seem to have been taken from Spawn issue 95. The limited first print edition of the game released in Japan came with a cardboard slipcase with artwork similar to the US and PAL releases - all of which are based on the cover of 95.

The Japanese limited first print edition slipcase artwork (Credit: PlayAsia)

The US cover has the same artwork as both the Japanese slipcase and the PAL release. It's a bit cleaner than the standard Japanese cover, and not as impactful.

The cover art for Spawn issue 95, the artwork of which was the basis for the game covers above.

Mars Matrix (Japanese cover)

Takumi's underrated shooter delivers a depth to the genre that's unrivaled on the console, and has the best cover of any shooter on the system (particularly the Japanese version's cover). I will take no criticism of that viewpoint! This cover is a dynamic, colourful burst of energy which breaks away from the usual clichés seen on the covers of other shoot 'em ups, whilst never going so far out there that you'd be confused as to what genre of game it actually is. Taken as a whole, it's a piece of art; from the fonts used for the title (to continue with the metal references of this article, this text wouldn't look out of place as the logo for some sort of cosmic math metal band), to the colour gradation, to the sleek sci-fi lines and shapes in the background. The US cover (below) isn't awful either, but it lacks the eye-punching appeal that the Japanese release displays.

The US version does many things the Japanese version did, but the change of colours diminishes the appeal somewhat. Still, a decent attempt.

Minecraft-Clone "ClassiCube" now available for Dreamcast - supports Online Play

Do you know Minecraft? No? Have you been living under a block? Joking aside, if you seriously don't know what Minecraft is, then it is a game where you jump around swinging a pickaxe at all different types of blocks to build or destroy whatever your heart desires. It's like Lego with minerals... or something.

The reason I'm referencing a game that is hugely popular with people too young to know that the creators of Sonic once made video game consoles, is because today I was made aware that ClassiCube, a free, open-source clone of Minecraft, has hit the Dreamcast, and it supports online play! Seems the news trail went as follows: YouTuber (and friend) The Sega Guru told YouTuber (and friend) James Jarvis (aka ItsMuchMore) and then I found out from a post by excellent Dreamcast online gaming resource (and friends) Dreamcast Live.
Screenshot from the PC version of ClassiCube.
This Dreamcast port of ClassiCube is currently only in the early alpha stages, which means it is likely to crash/freeze or have issues with performance, but as a proof of concept, it really is an exciting project. Click here to download the .cdi file for it, and if you want to try getting it online, I highly recommend checking out James' video below, along with The Sega Guru's (which includes an interview with the developers).



Believe it or not, we actually saw another homebrew Minecraft project for the Dreamcast back in 2017 called "Crafti". Tom wrote about that here.

Are you going to give ClassiCube a go? Do you think this is an exciting project? Let us know in the comments below, or via our social media channels?