Let's Take a Look at Replacement Dreamcast VMU Shells - Kickstarter from VGNYsoft

 

Back on the 14th of March, VGNYsoft (aka Videogamesnewyork) launched their Kickstarter for replacement Dreamcast VMU (Visual Memory Unit) shells. These new VMU shells are formed of five parts, will be injection moulded, and available in a variety of colours. For more information, including a talk with Dan of VGNYsoft, check out our previous article about the campaign. The campaign has already reached its funding goal, and at time of writing has five days left to go.

VGNYsoft were kind enough to send us some samples of the upcoming VMU shells; a clear one and a silver one. It took me about 10 minutes to put the shells on two of my grubby old VMUs, and, well, the result is amazing. The build quality of the new parts is frankly rock solid, and held up during the replacement process. If it wasn't for the lack of Dreamcast logo and text above the buttons, these could easily be mistaken for the original Sega VMU shells. 

For a more detailed overview, check out the video below that I slapped together, where I um and ah a lot.


A big thanks goes out to VGNYsoft for sending us these shells. Are you excited for these replacement VMU shells? Have you backed the Kickstarter? Let us know in the comments below, or via one of our many social media pages.

Top 12 Disney Games on the Sega Dreamcast

The Sega Dreamcast's short lifespan (relatively speaking) didn't lend itself to a large number of "big" licenses coming to the console. Alongside Sega's own franchises, we received a third-party lineup that was - again, relative to other consoles - not huge, with a couple of noticeable exceptions (think Capcom). This proved to be both a blessing and a curse for the Dreamcast. It allowed the console to hold a rather unique place amongst its peers: it wasn't plagued by sub-standard licensed games, but was also missing some rather popular titles, which led to the console being considered a little more "niche". Of course we did receive our share of big name releases, and alongside the sports leagues, professional skateboarder and vehicle licenses, we did see a small but not inconsequential number of games that fell under the umbrella of the worldwide media behemoth Disney.

Many of Disney's licenses, above and beyond their big-eared animated rodent, are popular the world over. And, as long as there have been licensed video games, Disney have been publishing tie-in games in order to ring as much money out of their animated movie releases as possible. Unlike some of their competitors though, Disney has a rather unique place in gaming with a series of titles released, especially in the early '90s, that were really rather good. Far from being quick movie adaptations, the likes of Castle of Illusion, Aladdin and The Jungle Book helped define the 2D platformer age and have aged particularly well both technically and in the nostalgic memory of players. 

Disney's legacy on the Dreamcast is perhaps not quite so fondly remembered, but there were still some decent animated adventures. Plus, thanks to the company's subsequent attempts at monopolising the entertainment industry, these days the Dreamcast now finds itself the home to several Disney-owned licenses that are worthy of at least a look. Some of the games on this list are probably not what you were expecting to see when you clicked onto this article (sorry!), but thanks to Disney's rather aggressive business pursuits, all of the games on this list technically now fall under the umbrella of The Mouse, even if they didn't originally on release...

(All pictures in this article were either taken by myself using my rather mediocre screen capturing setup, or from the fine folks over at MobyGames.)


12. Disney's Dinosaur

Just breaking into the top dozen of Disney titles on the Dreamcast is this tie-in with the somewhat forgotten 2000s movie "Dinosaur" - which always seems to be referred to as "Disney's Dinosaur" for some reason. Whilst it isn't one of the company's biggest or most fondly remembered films, it was still a decent family-friendly romp, and anything with dinosaurs in is always going to have a ready-made fanbase of kids who can't get enough of the prehistoric reptiles. 

As a game it has some interesting points – it's a puzzle adventure title aimed at the kid's market where you switch between a trio of characters, each of whom have different abilities and skills, and make progress by utilising the right character for the right task. The isometric/top-down graphics are nice and there are loads of snippets from the film included, but the game suffers from being just a bit average – which is a criticism that can be levelled against the movie as well. The puzzles aren't all that interesting, relying on the sort of generic setup that the all-encompassing "action-adventure" genre revels in. The combat is disappointing and the controls leave something to be desired. It's not a terrible game, especially if you're part of the target market or a fan of the film, but it's all a bit too generic and unremarkable to make it any higher on this list.


11. Buzz Lightyear of Star Command

Next up and just missing out on a spot in the top ten is an adaption of an animated TV series which itself is a spin-off from Disney Pixar's ever-popular Toy Story franchise. Centred around the exploits of the Buzz Lightyear character (although not the toy version we've come to love, but rather the character which the toy is based on in the film's own lore) this is a fun if sometimes generic action-adventure title, developed by Traveller's Tales (who are more well known today for developing the incredibly popular and multi-license spanning Lego games).

The action involves platforming, running, shooting and beating similar looking baddies, quite typical for a licensed game of this type. Whilst it is never particularly innovative, it does at least deliver an approachable and enjoyable gameplay experience. Graphically, the PlayStation roots of the game are rather glaring with blocky characters and a lack of texture that stands in stark contract to the best the Dreamcast has to offer, although they are still bright and colourful (it's worth noting the Dreamcast version was the first to release, although it's glaringly obvious that it was developed in tandem with the inferior hardware of Sony's machine). The links to the Sony release are also evident in the game's general performance, which holds up for the most part, although sometimes descends into bouts of slowdown. The game does deliver in other areas though, with a decent soundtrack and plenty of snippets of dialogue taken from the show, as well as some sort video clips. The issue throughout the game is that there isn't anything to really criticise - it does a good job at bringing the TV series to life for its young audience, but can never escape being a quite average, middle-of-the-road licensed title that feels very similar to a bunch of other similar games in the early 3D age. For those who love the character and have nostalgia for the series, it's worth a look today and it's far from being a bad game - but don't expect a poll-topping title here. 


Online Multiplayer discovered in Spirit of Speed 1937!

Incredibly, the most infamous racing title on the Dreamcast, Spirit of Speed 1937 - the Dark Souls of racing games itself - had online multiplayer all along, and we had no idea.


As many of you know, I have previously spoken to the original Broadsword development team on numerous occasions, including a lengthy interview featured in the excellent Dreamcast: Year Two book released last year. Recent discussions have revealed that online multiplayer not only existed in the Japanese version of the game, but it’s now back online thanks to recent efforts.

The online mode was added after the official European and American releases and is only available in the Japanese version of the game, according to the original Broadsword development team:

“We wanted to add online multiplayer into the original release, but the deadline dates for launch prevented us from ironing out a few network bugs. With the Japanese version releasing 9 months later, it gave us the opportunity to do more testing. Ultimately we still decided against officially releasing it just before the Japanese disc went gold, but left the netcode there hidden away. If servers had existed, it would’ve worked online, but they never did.”

That is, until now!

Since this revelation, we connected the original developers to Dreamcast network development expert Luke "Kazade" Benstead, who has helped them re-create the server to restore the online functionality.

The hidden network mode can be accessed on any Japanese copy of the game. On the “Press Start” screen, simply press and hold Y, X, A before hitting the start button and you’ll be taken to the hidden menu allowing network play to be started.
We’ve only tried a few online matches so far, but they’ve all worked great. The online Dreamcast community is constantly growing with new titles being resurrected every year - this is certainly one we were not expecting. Are you excited to hit the Spirit of Speed 1937 courses online? Let us know in the comments below…

April fools!!!