PlayStation Emulation, Silent Hill 3, Metal Slug, New Indies and more on Dreamcast! - Dreamcast News Round-Up July 2024

It's 2024, we’re now into July, and the SEGA Dreamcast is still not dead. Critics are baffled. "It was supposed to have been declared dead in 2001, dammit!" - some PlayStation 2 owner, probably. In fact, there's been so much Dreamcast news recently that I've found it hard to keep up with it all, so in an effort to convince you all that I'm still in the loop (perhaps not sanity-wise), I've rounded up all the best items of recent news into one post. So, here's everything that has happened in the world of Dreamcast recently...

Indie and Homebrew

Or "bedroom coders" as people used to apparently say back in the '80s. I wouldn't know, as I literally didn't exist. Anyway, this supremely talented bunch are doing some cool stuff with software on the Dreamcast. Let's take a gander.

A huge breakthrough in Dreamcast development...

Credit: Orc Face Games

A few weekends ago, Ross Kilgariff, the Dundee-based maestro behind the highly anticipated Dreamcast indie HarleQuest and head of Orc Face Games, dropped the Junkyard a DM about a big breakthrough in Dreamcast development which will result in a significant performance upgrade for new games being developed for our beloved platform. Take it away, Ross... 

"We (Orc Face Games) recently hired TapamN to get the HarleQuest! engine running as fast as possible. For those who don't know, he's one of the best programmers in the unofficial Dreamcast scene, with over 20 years of experience and he's helping elevate everyone's understanding of the platform. 

While optimising the code, he found a critical bug in the operating system that's used as a basis for many unofficial projects including HarleQuest!, Simulant Engine, Spiral 3D and more. This operating system, KallistiOS, is a community-driven effort to provide re-usable code that makes Dreamcast development easier for everyone.

The issue is quite technical but I'll try to keep it simple. There's a special kind of memory inside the CPU called the cache. It's way faster than RAM, but also way smaller (only 16KB in the Dreamcast's case). Normally the cache works automatically and doesn't need any special programming - it just stores things you've accessed recently so it's faster to get them next time. However, the Dreamcast's CPU has a special feature called OCRAM that lets you take control of half the cache manually. This can let you get great performance, but you need to actually program it. It's not on auto-pilot anymore. 

The bug is that since November last year, OCRAM mode was being enabled by default in KallistiOS. This meant every game was saying "give me manual control over half of the cache" on startup, then simply not using it - in effect being left with only 8KB of automatic cache instead of the full 16KB. 

As soon as we made the KallistiOS community aware of this they got straight to it and fixed the bug within a few hours. Falco Girgis identified the cause and worked with darc and BBHoodsta to coordinate the fix. The developer responsible for the Doom 64 port (jnmartin84) verified the fix and reported that with this change along with another optimisation, the busiest areas of the game don't chug any more and play much more smoothly. 

On one hand, it's unfortunate that the bug occurred in the first place, but the benefit is that all those cool 3D demos and games we've been seeing recently will be able to pull the latest version of KallistiOS and might get an automatic speed boost. 

Hopefully this is one step closer to seeing more high-quality games on the platform. I have a good feeling about 2025."

Thanks to Ross for letting us in on this big development and for supplying us with an explanation. The future sure is bright for Dreamcast game development! Speaking of Ross, last month he put out the first part of a video series showcasing the results of his "What Dreamcast Gamers Want" survey, which is well worth a watch.

Bleem! is dead... long live Bloom! - New PlayStation emulator for Dreamcast

Credit: Sega Wiki

So you've probably heard of bleemcast!, Rand Linden's commercially released PlayStation emulator that allowed some of Sony's biggest titles to be played on the Dreamcast, arguably even better than how they performed on their original hardware, or even via the PlayStation 2's backwards compatibility. The boot discs released were for use with Gran Turismo 2, Tekken 3, and Metal Gear Solid, with more due to come, but a lawsuit from Sony stopped any further plans. An incomplete beta build did later leak online, which works pretty well with some games, but alas, it was well, incomplete

Blast forward to 2024, and a talented individual who goes by the name "ZCRC" has brought us "Bloom" (geddit?), a work-in-progress PlayStation emulator for Dreamcast, which is effectively a tiny wrapper around other open-source projects, such as the PlayStation emulator PCSX, and more things that I honestly don't really understand. The emulator will allow you to play PlayStation CD-ROMs using the Dreamcast's disc drive. This is demonstrated by ZCRC in the video below, which shows a retail copy of Final Fantasy VIII playing on the emulator. Impressive stuff. 

Right now, the emulator uses software rendering as opposed to hardware rendering, meaning it's currently more for the interest of other developers wanting to lend a hand, as opposed to those wanting to seriously play their PlayStation games with it, but it's still a project to keep an eye on, nonetheless. Here's the GitHub page if you do want to get stuck in.

Silent Hill 3 running on the Dreamcast?

We now turn our attention to a brand new 3D game engine for the Dreamcast called "Spiral", which is currently in development from MigDps. We’ve discussed this engine previously on the DreamPod, and were very impressed by what we saw from MigDps' original video showcase of it. The video showed off a highly impressive -if not slightly creepy- 3D space, with amazing lighting and textures. We were definitely intrigued as to what MigDps would come out with next... 

Well, here we are two months later, and MigDps has returned to showcase the Spiral engine running one of the creepiest games of all - Silent Hill 3. Definitely a series I would've loved to have seen on SEGA's final console, what we have here is simply a proof of concept showing the game's lead heroine Heather sat in her room, with the camera panning round, but it still manages to recreate the unsettling grit of the original game really well, and I love the little Yukawa easter egg. It would be really cool to see MigDps' engine used by developers to create new Dreamcast games... possibly some horror titles?

Neo Byte Force: A Barrel of Fun 

If you've listened to the DreamPod recently, you may have heard us talk about Neo Byte Force's hard-as-nails (but awesome!) Neo Geo run-n-gunner Cyborg Force, which also received a Dreamcast port about six months ago. Originally released digitally and (kind of physically) on a USB stick, a physical CD version of the game is due imminently, with our pal The Sega Guru already receiving an early pressing of the final product.

But that's not all from Neo Byte Force, as they've already confirmed a new game! They sure move fast. With a completely different theming to the gritty Terminator-esque Cyborg Force, Neo Byte's new title Captain Barrel is brightly coloured and pirate-themed. No, not the kind of pirates who sold burnt Dreamcast games at the car boot back in the early 2000s, but pirates of the sea. The kind who have eyepatches, wooden legs and drink a whole lot of rum. Sega Guru got the scoop on this one, showcasing its single-screen arcade action where you trap enemies in the titular barrels and send them rolling across the platforms into other baddies. The Neo Geo version of the game is currently available for pre-order, with Dreamcast physical editions confirmed for the fourth quarter of this year. 

Also, shout out to Ian Micheal for his terrific work on getting these games to run natively on the Dreamcast and not via emulation. Neo Byte Force may be new to Dreamcast releases, but getting someone as talented with Dreamcast development as Ian onboard is proving their commitment to quality right out of the gate.

Ian strikes again! Neo Geo CD Emulation

Speaking of Ian Micheal... the Dreamcast scene extraordinaire has been very busy recently, particularly in regards to getting the Neo Geo family of systems running on the console (such as the Neo Byte Force games mentioned above). He's also been going all in on Neo Geo CD emulation, and, as mentioned on a recent DreamPod, has gotten some games running on the Dreamcast that previously wouldn't boot at all. What's more, he's managed to get a game like Metal Slug performing even better on the Dreamcast than how it played on the Neo Geo CD itself. The original Neo Geo CD release was known to suffer from major slowdown and was locked to 30 frames per second. Ian has stepped in with his coding wizardry and got Metal Slug running at a constant 60fps with no frame skip, making this the smoothest Metal Slug experience on Dreamcast. I bloody love Metal Slug, so I'm excited to give this one a go.

Other games Ian has got running on the Dreamcast include Art of Fighting 2, Voltage Fighter Gowcaizer, The King of Fighters '94, Magical Drop II, Windjammers, Alpha Mission II, Neo Turf Masters and Cyber-Lip. Head over to the dedicated Dreamcast-Talk thread to download them.

New game from Retro Sumus - SOVIETBORGS!

I can't believe it's been over three years since Spanish development outfit (and friends of the 'Yard!) Retro Sumus released their excellent 3D shooter Xenocider for Dreamcast. Since then, the game has gone onto receive oodles of praise, and placed at the staggering position of fifth in our Top 25 Dreamcast Indie Games poll back in February.

But what's next for Retro Sumus? Well, say hello to SOVIETBORGS, a title which is apparently going to be kind of like Cannon Fodder and will be playable on both Mega Drive (Genesis for you Americans) and Dreamcast. While it won't be the graphical powerhouse that Xenocider is, it still looks to be heavy on worldbuilding and very stylish, featuring a post-apocalyptic "what if the Soviets won and got their hands on crazy technology" almost Wolfenstein-esque plotline. While not much else is known about the game at this point, you can follow Retro Sumus on Twitter for updates, along with the Dreamcast-Talk thread about the game.

Pre-alpha screenshot

Monaco GP for... VMU?

There are plenty of Dreamcast homebrew projects coming out all the time, but if I included all of the most recent ones here, this round-up would end up as long as the Dead Sea Scrolls. So, to end this section, I thought I'd include something that's been floating about since April, but warrants being honoured here on the blog. Developer Marble_Granite has ported Monaco GP to the VMU. To clarify, this isn't an adaptation of the Dreamcast Ubisoft title that has like 100 different names, but the SEGA arcade game which was released in Japan in 1979 and worldwide in 1980.

Credit: The Sega Guru

While it's currently only in the demo/preview phase, what Marble_Granite has developed here is a fairly faithful recreation of the original, especially considering the graphical limitations of the VMU. It's been a while since we saw any new software for the Dreamcast's trusty little memory card, and so this is definitely welcome. To get this app for your own VMU, you can download it here. As for some gameplay footage, look no further than the video below from The Sega Guru.


Fan Translations

It's not a Dreamcast news round-up without at least one English fan translation being added to the bulletin. Well this time there’s three to talk about; with two being available to play now, and another in the works. 

Sega Tetris translated and back online!

We have a bit of a double whammy for the whimsical Japan-exclusive Sega Tetris. Firstly, it's back online (supporting up to four players!) thanks to the work of online community stalwart Shuouma. What’s more, PC Wizard has worked on translating all of the online menus, messages, and dialogues into English to allow English-speaking players easier navigation when playing online.

For more information on this release, as well as how to get Sega Tetris online for yourself, head over to PC Wizard's blog post on the Dreamcast Live website. You'll need a special patched version of the game to play online, so go and download that and tell that weird monkey the Junkyard said "Hi". Check out some gameplay footage from PC below.

Virtua Cop 2 translated into English

Derek's back. Back again. Derek's back. Tell a friend. This time, the industrious Derek Pascarella has brought us an English translation patch for Virtua Cop 2, that - in his own words - "almost didn't even need to be created!" 

Basically, while Japan were lucky enough to receive a standalone release of Virtua Cop 2 for the Dreamcast, the only Western release of AM2's acclaimed light gun shooter was the one included in the US-exclusive Sega Smash Pack: Volume 1 collection. What Derek has essentially done with his latest patch is swap in the English assets from the Smash Pack release so English-speaking players can also play a standalone version in their native tongue. For the sake of convenience it's definitely handy to just load this up on the GDEMU rather than proceed through the Smash Pack menus.

To download this patch, head on over to Derek's GitHub page for the project, and be sure to read the patching instructions to apply the patch. Also check out Derek's plethora of other Dreamcast projects at his website

Credit: Derek Pascarella

Capcom Vs SNK 2 English translation in the works

Derek can't be stopped! Next up in Derek's mission to correct all the ways in which the West suffered when it came to certain Dreamcast releases being exclusive to Japan to (but then sadly showing up later in English on frankly, *ahem* inferior consoles), is the fantastic Capcom vs SNK 2. Turns out that the game's English assets were already "hidden" within the game's Japanese release this whole time! 

This is currently a work in progress from Derek, with "way more assembly hacking than [he] initially thought, but it's coming along." So keep an eye out for this English translation patch in the near future! You can of course follow Derek on Twitter for updates.

Of course referring to our esteemed Junkyard colleague Andrew Dickinson, here. (Credit: Derek Pascarella)


So that's all for June 2024. As I was writing this, I did hear that the first Marvel vs. Capcom and its sequel will be releasing on Switch, PlayStation and Steam as part of the Marvel vs. Capcom Fighting Collection, which is pretty cool. It also looks like a remake of The House of the Dead 2 is coming out soon too, which is cool, I guess. Hopefully it’ll be a lot better than the remake of the first game that came to the Switch in 2022.

As for me, I'll just be playing all of these games on my slowly yellowing, extremely loud SEGA thing. Anyway, let me know in the comments below or on social media if any of the recent Dreamcast news in this round-up excites you. Until next time!


Caspian said...

Thanks for this huge news update.

Le Rowe said...

The Spiral Engine looks beautiful. Really captures that Dreamcast era vibe. In the same way Crow Country has recently aped PS1 aesthetics I would love to see an original game use this Spiral Engine. Even a (whisper it) Shenmue III demake...