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Showing posts with label CRI. Show all posts
Showing posts with label CRI. Show all posts

Buggy Heat: The Arcade Racer That's Matured Like Fine Wine

The Dreamcast's stable of racing games is bursting with thoroughbred stallions, with classics like Le Mans and Metropolis Street Racer proudly held aloft as the pinnacles of the genre on the system. But there is one title that many may have simply dismissed or never even given a chance to prove itself as a worthy alternative to the more well-known titles vying for attention on a crowded starting grid. That game is Buggy Heat, a Dreamcast launch title from CRI that initially wowed with its decent graphics and interesting features, but which was lost in the maelstrom and ultimately usurped by Sega Rally 2 in the initial launch lineup melee. Buggy Heat is certainly a game that is worth another look, even now, after almost 20 years have passed since it first burst onto the scene.
Buggy Heat is a game I courted in those first few months after the Dreamcast's UK launch, and I distinctly remember being impressed with the visuals in those warm and un-fuzzy post-N64 wonder years. It looked incredible at the time, and the detailed vehicles and interesting tracks initially won me over. But after a week of playing and seeing pretty much all it had to offer in terms of new environments and vehicles, Buggy Heat was forgotten and I quickly moved on to the next game I could get my hands on. It's only relatively recently that I've gone back to investigate this early offering on the Dreamcast, and in this time I've grown to truly appreciate its nuances and have rediscovered a game that is so much more than the sum of its parts.
What initially seems to be a very rudimentary pretender to Sega Rally's off-road crown is actually a pretty deep and interesting experience, that even offers a feature that wouldn't be seen again until the release of the Xbox One. Behind the paltry track and vehicle selection rosters is actually a racing title that deserves a second look, because with time - not unlike a fine wine - Buggy Heat has aged beautifully and is, for me at least, one of the best arcade racers on the Dreamcast...

A Beginner's Guide To Aero Dancing & AeroWings

Let's go fly a kite, up to the highest height! Let's go fly a kite and send it soaring...Up through the atmosphere, up where the air is clear - oh, let's go fly a kite!

So sang the patriarchal Mr Banks in Walt Disney's 1964 classic horror Mary Poppins. And, oh how we flew our kites and wore the shit out of our pinstripe suits while we did so (I for one can't wait for the upcoming sequel, which reportedly features a dubstep remix). But let's be honest - while kites are fun, they aren't a patch on F-15 Aggressor fighter jets; and happily, the Dreamcast has those in abundance. Yes, the Dreamcast is a console that wasn't left wanting when it came to flight games, both of the simulation and arcade varieties. Indeed, some of the first games I ever played on Sega's final console involved two-winged harbingers of death - namely the Japanese releases of Incoming and Air Force Delta.
Alongside those two, others came: Toy Commander featured some aerial combat missions, while Iron Aces/Imperial No Taka - Fighter of Zero was a pseudo World War II flight sim, complete with a totally fictional theatre loosely based on the events of 1939 - 1945. Later, Propellor Arena promised pure arcade dogfighting thrills before being cancelled - allegedly - due to the horrific events of 9/11, although it's available online if you know where to look. The one series that really grabbed the genre by its horns though, was undoubtedly CRI's Aero Dancing franchise. A series that began primarily as a skill-based jaunt through the clouds as an aerial acrobatics pilot; but which ended with players earning their wings as full blown combat pilots, engaging in aerial dogfights, taking out warships and destroying ground units with well placed missiles and bombs. Quite the turnaround, no?
Join us as we dissect this intriguing and well regarded series of flight sims, and take a look at the dedicated hardware released for the Aero Dancing games; as well as the individual entries in this rich and engaging franchise. Dig our your flight suit, don your helmet and strap in as we get ready to engage in some Aero Dancing at supersonic speeds...

IO SATVRNALIA, er... I mean Dreamcastalia?

It's the most wonderful time of the year, when we honour the ancient Roman goddess Saturn for her bountiful harvests and superlative 2D software library. Where masters and slaves come together to eat, get drunk, puke, eat some more, puke again and then eat some more. Don't worry about the mess, the slaves only get one day off a year.
She's the reason for the season. No joke.
But I digress. An equally important aspect of this time of year is gift giving, and more importantly, gift receiving. And lucky for you, I've been beavering away on a little surprise for you all, our fantastic community, with a little Dreamcast related gift this year. Note: if you're a Sega lawyer, you can skip to the last couple of paragraphs now.

Bonus Feature: The Corpse Bride – Deleted Scenes

While researching for my previous two-part article (Part 1, Part 2), I stumbled across something interesting that I hadn't encountered before. It ended up on the cutting room floor due to space, but I thought it was worth exploring further in this diverting little side topic. If you could just scooch over a bit closer and allow me to whisper conspiratorially in your ear: the MIL-CD enhanced audio disc might not have been the only special multimedia format that Sega invented especially for the Dreamcast - they may have also toyed with the idea of snubbing the DVD Consortium by producing their own proprietary digital video disc format for movies and films. Hush, stifle your gasp, they'll hear you.
N-n-no Mr. Bighead, I didn't tell them. Honest.
You may have noticed some logos during the start up sequence of many Dreamcast games for ADX and Sofdec. These are the CRI developed middleware tools for sound compression and multi-streaming video respectively. ADX allowed for CD quality audio to be compressed and encoded into the high-density GD-ROM layer (as opposed to standard 'red book' audio tracks). Sofdec was an enhanced version of the MPEG-1 video standard which not only encoded standard FMV cut-scenes into games, but was also tailored towards providing 3D game designers with access to some pretty swish graphical trickery. Video files could be rendered as textures over 3D objects and they could also utilise full alpha blending for effects such as explosions, fire and smoke. Multiple video files could be played synchronously or asynchronously and they could also be looped and stitched together seamlessly. All in all, Sofdec is probably a substantial reason as to why Dreamcast games looked so good (and have aged well like fine wines too). CRIWARE, as they are now known, continue to flog their wares to this day, proudly waving their flag in recent games like Bungie's Destiny.