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Showing posts with label Crave Entertainment. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Crave Entertainment. Show all posts

Retrospective: Surf Rocket Racers

Developed by CRI Middleware and released by Crave Entertainment in late 2000 in Europe and early 2001 in the rest of the world, Surf Rocket Racers picked up where Nintendo’s Wave Race 64 left off, and brought the world of jet skiing to the Sega Dreamcast. Confusingly, in Japan the game was published by CRI and released under the title Power Jet Racing 2001, meaning that in a tenuous way it could actually be considered a first party title (what with CRI, CSK and Sega's convoluted business relationship during that time).

Surf Rocket Racers is a lesser-known Dreamcast title that I stumbled upon recently as part of research for another project I’m currently working on, and it instantly appealed to me as a fine example of an arcade racer. If you’re bored of racing cars around street circuits, then this might just be the racing game you’ve been looking for.

Players must select one of the various characters on offer to start their jet skiing career. The usual suspects are on offer and you can decide if you want top acceleration, speed or handling whilst compromising the others. “Ryan” is the Super Mario of the group who has average stats in every category and thus a great starting point. Controlling your rider is about as simple as you could make it; with the right trigger being used to accelerate and the analogue stick being used to steer. A flick of the analogue stick in a direction will pull off a trick when jumping off a ramp, and that’s all there is to it.

I was slightly disappointed to discover that there aren’t too many tracks to race on, but there is enough variety across the different locations and routes here to keep you entertained. Racing takes place in venues such as the Bahamas, Manhattan, Rome and the Amazon. Each location has a short and medium route and each has a very unique and distinct colour palette and style. The background detail on each course is particularly impressive and as you ride past things like the Statue of Liberty or as dolphins jump out of the water in front of you, you can’t help but sit up and take notice.

A Quick Look At SnoCross Championship Racing

Snow. Everybody loves Snow. His 1992 hit Informer sat pretty at the top of the US billboard charts for seven weeks, for example, proving that yes - everybody loves Snow. Of course, I jest. I am of course referring to the frozen white stuff, not the Canadian reggae artist from the 1990s. Snow is great fun and if it's not threatening to destroy the planet like in that film with Donnie Darko and Bilbo Baggins in it, it also heralds the coming of winter and Christmas. One of the most useful properties of snow is that it can be scooped up, fashioned into a throwable missile and then launched at someone's face with great force, thus enabling the age-old practice of the snow ball fight. As well as this, people with lots of money can use snowmobiles to race on it. And that's exactly what happens in SnoCross Championship Racing.
Developed by Unique Development Studios (aka UDS), SnoCross is actually the only title this obscure Swedish studio ever produced for the Dreamcast, having previously worked on No Fear Downhill Mountain Biking for the PlayStation. The game was published by Crave Entertainment and Ubisoft in 2000 for the Dreamcast and it sits alone in the racing genre as the only snowmobile racer for Sega's console. That said, it isn't the only game to feature snowmobiles as the D2 Shock demo that shipped with Real Sound: Winds of Regret also features a sort of open world mini-game where the player is tasked with locating various objects in the snow covered wilderness, careening about on a snowmobile.
The first thing you notice about SnoCross upon starting the game proper is just how bad it looks. It really does look like a PlayStation game, with boxy riders and badly textured, low detail environments par for the course. There are some nice little visual effects, such as reflective ice sheets and lens flares from the vehicle headlights, but for the most part SnoCross just looks bad. In fact, it's probably one of the worst looking games on the Dreamcast, and easily identifiable as one of those titles that was most probably developed with the original PlayStation in mind, before being slightly upgraded and chucked onto a GD-ROM as an afterthought.
That said, where SnoCross makes up for this visual horror show is in the gameplay and options. There are the usual quick race and time attack modes to play around with, but the main meat of SnoCross is in the main championship. There are three different tiers of difficulty, all of which are represented by ever increasing snowmobile - or sled - engine capacities. It's a bit like Mario Kart with differing displacements equating to skill level, with 500cc the lowest and easiest and higher ccs used to identify an increase in difficulty. All of the vehicles are officially licensed too, meaning Yamaha logos are abundant. On top of this, the championship does throw in some nice features, such as being able to win cash from races that enable you to buy new parts and upgrades for your sled, and also pay for repairs to various components that get damaged during races. No loot boxes or upgrade cards here, y'all (topical joke - check).

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...