Showing posts with label Capcom. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Capcom. Show all posts

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.

Bounty Hunter Sarah: The Capcom Dreamcast Game You Never Knew About

Ask any Dreamcast fan about Capcom's legacy on the console and you'll be told that good old Cappy are probably as synonymous with the box of dreams as even Sega themselves. Then, if you asked those same fans what kind of games they'd associate Capcom's mighty stint on the Dreamcast with, they'd most likely tell you "fighters", maybe even shoot-em-ups or survival horror. No one, and I repeat, no one would respond: "a text-based near future crime thriller featuring a digitised actress".

Bounty Hunter Sarah: Holy Mountain no Teiō was released onto the Dreamcast and PlayStation on the 24th of May 2001. Published by Capcom, this Japanese-exclusive "sound novel" (more on that in a moment) was developed by Flagship, a fresh-faced independent studio founded by ex-Capcom developer Yoshiki Okamoto. With funding from Capcom, Nintendo and Sega, Flagship would develop or assist with the development of games from huge franchises such as Resident Evil, Kirby and The Legend of Zelda, before sadly closing its doors in 2007. Bounty Hunter Sarah was Flagship’s first and only original IP, with its big selling point being that its plot was written by the same scenario writer as Resident Evil 2, Noboru Sugimura, who had also left Capcom to be part of Flagship.

The staff of Flagship at a 2001 presentation

The game's plot takes place in the year 2060, and revolves around Sarah Fitzgerald, a bounty hunter who roams the crime-ridden Neo Tokyo with the goal of assassinating a notorious mafia boss known as the "Lord of the Holy Mountain". The game's action-packed opening cinematic sets this all up really well, with plenty of flashy stop-motion spy stuff and enough explosions to make Michael Bay blush. But then when you start a new game, all that energy witnessed in the intro suddenly takes a turn as you soon realise that Sugimura's plot is told in the form of a "sound novel," a type of game fairly similar to a visual novel. For those not in the know, visual novels are...well, novels that are visual

Some would argue that they aren’t really games due to them essentially being flashy reading exercises, with little interaction required from the player other than to progress countless paragraphs of text with a single button and, in the case of the most common type of visual novel, have them occasionally select a choice. Despite their text heavy nature, they still include plenty of varying background scenery and colourful characters (usually anime-style) to accompany the stories being told, and often feature plot lines that can devolve down branching paths to multiple endings, leading some to liken visual novels to interactive choose your own adventure books. Sound novels, on the other hand, while still including a decent helping of artwork, often have it serve as a backdrop to screens filled with text, with the game instead relying more on sound effects and music to immerse the player into the plot taking place (source). 

Gunbird 2 - Dreamcast & Switch Comparison

Another day, another Dreamcast shooter comes to the Switch. Following in the wake of both Zero Gunner 2 and Ikaruga comes Gunbird 2, the wacky sequel to one of the Sega Saturn's most beloved vertical shmups. In the very recent past we took a good look at the Dreamcast version of Gunbird 2 (check out our review here) so there's little point going over the whole game again. However, now that it's hit Nintendo's sleek hybrid, we thought it was only right that we did a little comparison of the two different versions at our disposal. So here, for your viewing pleasure is a video showing gameplay of Gunbird 2 on both the Dreamcast and Switch.

The Dreamcast game is not particularly expensive or rare, and likewise the Switch game retails digitally for a pretty low price so we wholeheartedly recommend either version if you like the genre. Interestingly, at the time of writing the Switch version of Gunbird 2 has mysteriously vanished from the eShop (update: it's now back on the eShop), but it's every bit as good as the Dreamcast original.

The Switch version does have some nice added extras, such as the ability to add screen filters and also the option to rotate the screen on the fly from the pause menu. That said, there are some notable absences, such as the different display types (arcade, original etc.) from the Dreamcast version.
Switch Gunbird 2 offers some nice filter options
The Dreamcast footage here was recorded using the Beharbros Gekko HDMI adapter (employing the RGB/VGA trick to force the VGA mode), and the Switch footage was recorded in TATE mode and then rotated in the edit for a better view of the play area. For some reason, the Dreamcast footage kept slowing down while recording, and I think it could be down to the way I was recoding it (forced VGA mode, through a HMDI cable) but then again, I'm only guessing - it certainly doesn't slow down like that when playing through a SCART cable. Check out a better video of the Dreamcast version, recorded by my colleague James here.

What do you think? Will you be picking up the Switch game or are you happy with the Dreamcast original? Let us know in the comments, on Twitter or in our Facebook group. Alternatively, call us all idiots in the comments on our YouTube channel.
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A Quick Look At Tech Romancer

You have to hand it to Capcom. The Japanese firm really did pull it out of the proverbial bag when it came to putting top notch games out on the Dreamcast. Man, just imagine the Dreamcast without Capcom. There'd be no Power Stone, no Street Fighter, no Resident Evil. Gunbird 2, Mars Matrix, Marvel Vs Capcom...they're all a result of Capcom throwing pretty much everything and the kitchen sink at Sega's system. Capcom were pretty damn cool back in the late 1990s and early 2000s, eh?

One game that rarely gets a mention though, is mecha fighter Tech Romancer; a 3D one-on-one brawler with a slightly ridiculous name but which exudes a level of production value rarely seen in an original franchise without an anime or manga heritage to fall back on. Furthermore, it might sound like a game in which Metal Gear Rex sends C-3PO a bouquet of roses and a box of chocolates, but to dismiss Tech Romancer on name alone would be a big mistake.
Upon booting Tech Romancer (known as Chronicle of Super Steel Warrior Kikaioh in Japan), you're greeted with an overly enthusiastic title screen and intro sequence that feels straight out of a 1980s Saturday morning cartoon that was appropriated from the Far East and syndicated; but only after being dubbed dubiously into English without a single fuck given. The only thing missing is the tracking interference regularly seen on VHS tapes you used to get from Blockbuster that had already been watched and rewound several thousand times before you rented it.
Herein lies the great deception though, for this game and all of its perceived heritage is nought but folly. Just like Wainhouse Tower, Tech Romancer and all of its apparent lore is a fabrication of something grander. While it may appear to be a game based on some obscure cartoon series you didn't know existed (because you're just not cool enough, frankly), Tech Romancer is a totally original IP that was created just for the arcade original, and this subsequent console release. All of the robots and animation sequences were designed by Studio Nue, a well-known animation studio responsible for some of the most widely regarded and respected anime productions around; and it's down to this mastery that you be forgiven for thinking you'd completely missed something awesome.
As an example of pure aesthetic genius, in which pedigree and kudos is demanded from its audience from the off, Tech Romancer is an unadulterated lesson in how to get things totally spot on...

A Quick Look At Gunbird 2

Whenever there's a discussion about the best shmups on the Dreamcast, the usual names get bandied about. Ikaruga, Mars Matrix, Sturmwind, Under Defeat, Castle Shikigami 2, Dux. Well, maybe not that last one...but you get the idea. As epic and deserved of praise as all of those games are, there's one that rarely gets a look in when said hypothetical discussion is taking place - Gunbird 2. And since the original Gunbird has recently been released on the Nintendo Switch, I thought it would be fun to jump into the sequel Gunbird 2, and see if it really does deserve to be mentioned in the same sentence as its illustrious peers in the genre.
The Dreamcast is well known for certain genres: 2D fighters, arcade racers, crap football (soccer) games...and shmups. Apart from the Saturn and the NEO-GEO, I'm pretty confident that there is no other home hardware format that boasts such an exquisite library of shoot 'em ups, and in amongst the crowd of quality examples rests Gunbird 2. Released in arcades by Capcom in 1998 and then ported to the Dreamcast in 2000, Gunbird 2 builds upon the prequel's gameplay and features, adding several new characters, updated visuals and some pretty fantastic writing and unusual extra features.
A top-down, vertically scrolling shooter, Gunbird 2 will feel very familiar from the off to anyone who has ever played a shmup in this vein. I personally have never played the original Gunbird either in the arcade or on the Sega Saturn, so the fact that it is coming to the Nintendo Switch interests me greatly; and if it plays anything like as well as the Dreamcast sequel a fun time is almost guaranteed...

Resident Evil Code: Veronica X Infects PS4

Capcom's Resident Evil Code: Veronica was a stand out release for the Dreamcast, and really wowed with its fully rendered environments back in the day. While other games like Dino Crisis had already introduced fully polygonal, textured backdrops to the survival horror genre it was Code: Veronica that really pushed the envelope in terms of graphical excellence. Since those heady days, Code: Veronica has been ported to a number of systems and now the latest platform to play host to Claire Redfield's blood-soaked adventure is the PlayStation 4.
Resident Evil Code: Veronica Kanzenban start screen
If you missed it the first time round, you could do much worse than pick up Resident Evil Code: Veronica X on the PS Store for £11.99. While this version is actually based on the PlayStation 2 game; it is worth noting that Code: Veronica X was also released on the Dreamcast in Japan (as Resident Evil Code: Veronica Kanzenban), before later being fan-translated into English and released onto the internet in 2016. If you'd like to know more about the differences between regular Code: Veronica and the X variant, check this article out; and if you want to try the English language Dreamcast version, find it over at DC-Talk here.

Source: Eurogamer

SEGAbits Swingin' Report Show podcast interviews SEGA tournament champ and former Capcom employee Chris Tang

This past weekend was the culmination of SEGA Week at Galloping Ghost Arcade in Brookfield, IL. The week consisted of ten tournaments on new (well, new to the arcade) SEGA arcade machines as well as other special events which were held on SEGAbits Saturday. One big happening on the big final day was the reveal of Strike Harbinger, a very early look at an upcoming indie title from HitSparks Games which is led by competitive gamer and developer Chris Tang.

In the past, Chris took part in the historic 1990 Nintendo World Championships and was the winner of SEGA's Sonic & Knuckles Rock the Rock competition in 1994. Since then, Chris has worked on games at Atari and Capcom, including Gauntlet IV, Primal Rage, Street Fighter III, Rival Schools, Tech Romancer and Power Stone. Now, Chris is hard at work on a new game inspired by classic SEGA titles like Space Harrier and Phantasy Star. The game, titled Strike Harbinger, combines the fast paced forward flying gameplay of Space Harrier with the RPG and combat elements of Phantasy Star while utilizing a unique control structure that evokes Virtual On.

I had the pleasure to meet Chris and the game’s Senior Artist Kiyoshi Okuma, whose past work includes Gauntlet: Legends, World Series Baseball 2K2, The Sims 2 and Darkspore. I also had the honor to be the first member of the public to play the game, and following that experience I chatted with Chris about his life as a tournament gamer, his career, and his plans for Strike Harbinger.

I wanted to share this episode on the 'Yard as I thought fans of Capcom's Dreamcast titles would enjoy some of the stories Chris shared. So give it a listen and enjoy!

More ways to listen:
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Five Dreamcast Games Better Than Street Fighter V

It’s no secret that the launch of Street Fighter V has been more than a little disappointing; an unfinished story mode, no arcade mode, a broken online component and the implementation of a quite frankly scary pay-to-unlock system.

While 'real' journalists have mostly rated the game highly, giving it the benefit of the doubt and assuming that because the core gameplay is solid, it will one day live up to their review scores, many fans have been extremely vocal in expressing their displeasure at the direction in which Capcom has taken the series. After spending a few days with the game myself, I’d mostly agree with them.
Probably not the best place to practice your drumming.
My first impressions were somewhat positive. The core gameplay and mechanics are certainly up there with the best in the series (if perhaps a little too similar to SFIV), but unfortunately it's been released in a drastically unfinished state. The general presentation and structure feels more like a free-to-play MOBA than a new entry to one of gaming’s biggest and longest running franchises. That’s all fine and dandy with me, many MOBAs are of high quality, but where they crossed the line was by charging full retail price. Capcom, you can’t have your cake and eat it. Either market and price the game as a free-to-play entry, or wait until the game is complete and release it in a finished form that warrants the price tag.

Zombies, Zombies Everywhere

The End of Days is here. The dead are walking the streets and the zombie apocalypse is upon us...are you prepared?

Well you should be, because I am - I've had plenty of tuition; George A Romero, Simon Pegg, Woody Harrelson, and more recently Brad Pitt have all given me plenty of survival tips. It also feels like I've been killing zombies for years anyway thanks to current games that have zombie-themed modes, like Read Dead Redemption and Call of Duty Black Ops; and series like House of the Dead, Dead Rising, and Resident Evil. Which brings me nicely onto my favourite zombie game: Capcom's Resident Evil 2, or Biohazard 2 as it was known in Japan.

After the events of the first game, Chris and Jill barely make it out of the mansion alive, the T-Virus has been contained and the world is blissfully unaware that there was ever a crisis. Everybody will go about their normal routine and live in perfect happiness and harmony...yeah right. Thanks to those nasty people at the Umbrella Corporation, the virus is still around, mutating and growing stronger and is spreading rapidly across Raccoon City and beyond, and we are all still in deep trouble.

All is not lost though as this sequel introduces us to two new protagonists, Leon S Kennedy, a rookie cop and Claire Redfield, sister of Chris, whom she is looking for. After meeting in the opening sequence, they are separated and must now try to survive any way they can. Their paths cross at various times in the game and they will meet key people in the Resident Evil timeline along the way, like Ada Wong and Sherry Birkin, people who we see in later games.

There is a huge amount to do in the game, with zombies everywhere and mutated people and creatures to deal with, weapons to discover, puzzles to decipher and secrets to be found. This game will certainly challenge you as you play through the campaign, which is split into two separate stories on two separate discs, with decisions in one story affecting the other.

The defining moment in the first Resident Evil game is when you come across that first zombie, who is happily gnawing away at what is presumably his last victim, but what makes it particularly creepy is the little cut scene where the zombie slowly turns his head and then goes after you - fresh meat. There is an equally disturbing scene in Resident Evil 2 when you first encounter the Licker in the police station corridor which is preceded by it scuttling past a window. It gives you a sense of fear, you know something is coming and there is nothing you can do about it, your heart is racing, your palms are getting sweaty and you are struggling to hold onto the controller. This is survival horror at its finest and the best thing about this game is not knowing what is around the next corner.

So again I ask the question, are you prepared? No? Then go and play Resident Evil 2 on the Sega Dreamcast, the best training for a zombie apocalypse that I can think of.


Capcom – undoubtedly one of the Dreamcast’s staunchest allies – brought some superb games to the swirl-shaped table. You only have to look at stuff like the Marvel Vs Capcom fighters, Resident Evil Code Veronica and Power Stone to see that when it came to the DC, they had their fingers on the pulse. It is for this reason alone that I decry Capcom releases like Dino Crisis. Why? Three little words for ya: Shitty PlayStation Port.

Look at Code Veronica. Look at it! It’s frigging awesome! The graphics are some of the best on the Dreamcast, so why does Dino Crisis look like it was dragged backwards through a hedge before being thrown up on and then shat on by Brian Blessed? I’m getting ahead of myself here, but come on people! The DC is capable of so much more and Capcom should be shown up as the money-grabbing twats they are for releasing such a shoddy looking cash-in on our favourite defunct console.

But before I really start laying in to Dino Crisis, let’s view the whole picture.

Dino Crisis was originally a PlayStation game very much in the vein of Resident Evil – you know the sketch: fixed camera angles, badly animated characters, appalling voice acting and laughable cut scenes. These things are all present and correct in Dino Crisis, but where Resi had shambling zombies and stuff, Dino Crisis has been out and employed a gang of immigrant dinosaurs. Possibly for below minimum wage, judging by the game’s production budget. And that’s about as complex an explanation I can give: it’s Resident Evil with dinosaurs. You play as a sassy female member of a sort of rescue team (hmmm…S.T.A.R.S, anyone?) dispatched to a remote island to investigate the disappearance of an undercover agent who has vanished whilst trying to infiltrate a dodgy laboratory. Once there (and after the team gets – surprise! – split up), you get to explore the deserted facility, find keys, open doors (by using the most contrived key/code set up I’ve ever encountered in a game, I hasten to add), stumble across half dead lab workers who hand you vital items before kicking the bucket, and shoot/run away from various time displaced dinosaurs.

The old Resident Evil-style loading screens also make an appearance, but you get the added bonus of being able to see your character now, instead of being a disembodied head clunking up the stairs.

Quite why Capcom decided to release Dino Crisis on the Dreamcast is something of a mystery to me. From the outset you can tell it’s a direct port from an inferior platform with virtually no attempt at making use of any of the extra system resources available. The options screens are bargain basement, the music and sound effects akin to what you would expect from a Megadrive game and the graphics…well, lets have a looky…

The game is viewed from a third person perspective, but the locations switch from fully rendered 3D to 2D pre-renders depending on where you are. For example, in some rooms the camera will follow you as you wonder about, ducking under pipes and around corners; whilst in other rooms it just stays static because the background just appears to be nothing more than a low-res drawing. I may be wrong here (as I usually am in these matters – as I’m sure some smug cunt will gladly tell me via the comments thingy), but that’s just how it looks to me. The characters themselves are bereft of any real detail and are generally quite angular – nowhere near the standard of Code Veronica or even Blue Stinger’s protagonists. Pick-ups take the form of rotating floating boxes no matter what they are, so health, ammo etc all look the same until you acquire them and can see what you’ve got in the ‘items’ subscreen. It’s a bit like Deal or No Deal but without the Lovecraftian horror of Noel Edmonds’ goatee and strange tattoos. The map too is very antiquated – you just get a basic line drawing of the floor plan of the facility and whichever room you’re in glows blue whilst your destination glows red. Your character (who goes by the improbable name of Regina) isn’t actually shown on the map though, so it can get confusing and annoying when you’re trying to work out which door you’re meant to open to get to where you’re going. Especially when two of the three exits have raptors lurking behind them and your health and ammo are both minimal.

Look! A floating, rotating box! Wonder what's inside...

One of the remedial class puzzles. Put the fuses in the right order and press the button. Krypton Factor it ain't.

The dinosaurs don’t actually look too shabby – they move quite well but they’re just as dense as the zombies were in Resi so you can just run past them if you can’t be arsed standing there popping caps into their leathery green asses. To be honest, running past them is probably the best course of action in most cases considering the relative scarcity of ammunition and pathetic stopping power of the weapons at your disposal.

There are a few nice ideas in Dino Crisis – such as the branching storyline, the way you drip blood after being attacked and the way dinosaurs can follow you through doors so you can’t just keep being a cowardly be-atch by running away.

On the plus side, Regina's quite fit. Wonder if she's a natural red head.

However, as you’ve no doubt gathered, I’m not Dino Crisis’s biggest fan. On the 32-bit consoles it’s probably par for the course, but not on a console that has stuff like Shunmue, Nomad Soul, Code Veronica, Headhunter or even Carrier knocking about. If you want a decent adventure game, go and seek out one of those badboys. If you want a by the numbers Resident Evil clone with a shit, cliché-ridden story, poo graphics (it’s even got that weird texture-warping thing going on that most PSX games have), and acting straight out of the Barry Burton Academy of Drama and Dance then by all means have a crack at Dino Crisis.


Verdict: More Barney the Dinosaur than Jurassic Park.

In the next gripping installment? Why it’s a double header! F1 Racing Championship and Spec Ops: Omega Squad. I can almost feel the testosterone welling up inside me. Fast cars AND guns? Lock and load, people – Lock and Load.