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Showing posts with label Dreamcast Football Games. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Dreamcast Football Games. Show all posts

World Cup Qatar '22 lands on Dreamcast

The Dreamcast never played host to an official FIFA World Cup title for a couple of obvious reasons - namely that the console lived and died in the four year gap between the France '98 and 2002 Korea & Japan competitions; and that Electronic Arts held the licence for the official simulation of the tournament. Yes, we know there was also a Konami-produced World Cup '98 game, but they were too busy vomiting out Grinch games onto the Dreamcast to bother porting any of that ISS goodness.

I suppose the closest we ever came to getting an official football tournament tie-in game was Sega Worldwide Soccer 2000: Euro Edition, which aimed to capitalise on the 2000 European Championships; and while that game is decent enough, it doesn't really come anywhere near the best football offerings hosted by contemporary platforms.

Things are about to change though, as a fan-made 'official' World Cup Qatar '22 game has now launched for Sega's retro beast, bringing all the thrills and spills of the 2022 Qatar World Cup to the Dreamcast...sort of. When this title was first announced a few months ago, I was quite rightly very interested. I'm a huge fan of football and football games, and so to get a new indie developed football game on the Dreamcast sounded like mana was finally being delivered from heaven. Then the news filtered through that this 'new' game was little more than a fan mod of one of the most lacklustre efforts on the Dreamcast - European Super League - and my anticipation was replaced with the normal background disappointment that only a Manchester United supporter can truly understand. Sigh.

So then, I write this news piece in two minds. On the one hand World Cup Qatar '22 (or D.E.S. / Dreamcast Evolution Soccer, as it sometimes refers to itself) is simply Virgin Interactive's European Super League in wolf's clothing. It plays the same essentially - and I hate to say this - but it's a bad game. On the other hand though, one can't help but be impressed by the effort that has gone into this release. Meu Dreamcast, the team behind World Cup Qatar '22, have gone to great lengths to add all manner of cosmetic changes to the base European Super League game, with an impressive FMV intro, up to date international squads, kits, new pitch textures, crowd effects and even play-by-play commentary (of sorts) - something the original game oddly lacked. 

Strangely, there are lots of remnants of the original base game left unedited though, such as team names during gameplay and player likenesses - I'm pretty sure Edgar Davids never played for England, for example. The game is still only a 95% complete beta according to the file name though, so maybe these things will be ammended in time.

In summary then - World Cup Qatar '22 is a game that can't really be faulted when it comes to sheer dedication on the part of the modding team. It's a free update for an existing game that adds a whole lot in terms of aesthetic upgrades; but when the engine underneath is so lacking in terms of quality there exists something of a dichotomy. It's like buying a Lamborghini only to discover someone has replaced the engine with that of an Austin Princess. 

That said, it is totally free to download and try for yourself, so there's nothing to lose in giving this spirited upstart a trial. If the squad behind this release have the inclination to turn their attention to a superior base game (say, UEFA Striker or Virtua Striker 2), then things are looking promising for the future. If they give it 110%, naturally. Back to the studio.

At this point allow me to apologise for all of the piss poor football cliches included in this news report. And now you've forgiven me, feel free to grab World Cup Qatar '22 for Dreamcast over at the Dreamcast Talk forums, and/or check out some gameplay comparison footage here.

The hunt for Premier Eleven - the lost Atomiswave soccer title

As we've detailed here in the recent past, the Sammy Atomiswave is a gold mine of interesting and lesser known titles that are now playable on the Dreamcast. This is thanks to talented Dreamcast community members such as megavolt85, yzb and others; and is possible in part due to the hardware similarities between the prematurley cancelled arcade system and the Dreamcast on which it is based.

Although the vast majority of the games released on Atomiswave have now been ported to the Dreamcast, there still remain several 'lost' titles that are either in the hands of private collectors; or really are lost to the annals of gaming history. One such game is the now almost legendary Chicago 1929/The Roaring Twenties - a racing game set in prohibition era America. Another of these lost 'holy grail' Atomiswave titles is a football/soccer game developed by Dimps Corporation and titled Premier Eleven.

Source: The Arcade Flyer Archive

As is well documented, the Dreamcast's stable of soccer titles never really hit the heights of titles on contemporary systems, with PlayStation, Nintendo and Xbox owners all having superior kick ball experiences at their disposal. But what of Premier Eleven then? Details are relatively scant on just how good this game could have been, but the small amount of video available online shows a Virtua Striker style experience with some outstanding animation and excellent visuals. Regardless, I for one would love to sample Premier Eleven simply out of pure curiosity (and my love of soccer games); and who knows - Premier Eleven could be the top tier football game Dreamcast owners have been waiting for.

Alas, that's unlikely to happen. Not least because Premier Eleven was never relased. Or was it? Here's where things get interesting. Over on Dreamcast Talk, there's a thread all about a Premier Eleven arcade board coming up for sale on eBay. The thread was started back in January 2021 by user Ro Magnus Larsson and the eBay auction is still live, with the seller 'neotropolis' asking for $15,000 in return for a 'fully working, 100% complete' example of Premier Eleven. The listing goes on to claim: "To my knowledge, this game only exists in the form you see here; a true holy-grail centerpiece for any arcade-gaming collector!"

What would appear to back this claim up is that the only footage of this game actually running comes from the previous owner of the Premier Eleven board up for auction. Upon learning of the video, several members of the Dreamcast Talk forum commented on the upload pleading for owner 'bowser 123' to dump the rom, but they responded saying that they'd already sold the board to the person who now has it listed on eBay: "I made this video because I sold the game for USA, specifically for an ebay seller called neotropolis, I think he is still selling it for a fortune, even if I wanted to make the dump I couldn't because I don't have it anymore."

So end of story right? There is one known copy of Premier Eleven for the Atomiswave. The person who owned it made a video to show it working, and then sold it. The buyer now has it listed on eBay for $15,000 and it's unlikely that the rom will be dumped unless a super wealthy Dreamcast fan buys it and releases the rom online out of the goodness of their own heart. Well, not quite.

There is some proof that this copy of Premier Eleven is not in fact the only known version out there. First, back in 2017 when we covered the discovery of a dev kit containing previously unseen Chicago 1929 assets, friend of the Junkyard and MSR authority RJAY63 commented: "I actually played Chicago 1929 at Southsea Island Leisure Arcade (Clarence Pier, Southsea, UK) circa 2005. They briefly became a test site for Sega Amusements with an Outrun 2 SP set-up and quite a few Atomiswave titles. Only played it once but I wasn't very impressed so I'm not surprised it got canned."

The key information here is the Southsea Island Leisure Arcade in Hampshire, UK. And furthermore that this location was a test site for Sega Amusements back in the 2000s. This could be written off purely as a baseless rumour, if not for the further evidence backing this up in the form of photos. Photos of a Premier Eleven arcade cabinet running at Southsea Island Leisure Arcade, circa 2004:

Dreamcast Talk forum member Baseley0o frequented the same arcade as RJAY63, and also took photos of the machines at the time, stating: "This game deffo went out into circulation/arcades. I took these snaps at my local arcade Clarence Pier, Southsea (UK) not too long after Atomiswave came out and one of them was Premier Eleven. I'm unsure if the 2004 date my camera shows is accurate. I thought maybe 2003 but it's a while back now! The arcade in question wasn't a test site for anything that I recall, though did have the odd surprise like these."

So what does all this mean? To me, it points to the very real possibility that there is more than one single copy of Premier Eleven in existence. That there is a small chance that somewhere - possibly even in the UK - the Premier Eleven Atomiswave cartridge in final, working form exists. And this is very exciting, for various reasons - not least for video game history preservation.

All of this would not have been possible without the investigation of the Dreamcast Talk forum members and people like RAY63 and Baseley0o; but there's still a lot of work to be done to discover the fate of the Premier Eleven game that was playable in Southsea in the mid 2000s. 

To this end, I have contacted Sega Amusements to ask if they have any records of what happened to Premier Eleven and if they can help to shed any light on this mystery. Likewise, for what it's worth I've emailed Dimps via their corporate website. Furthermore, Southsea Island Leisure Arcade is still in operation to this day, and according to the UK Government's Companies House website, the same directors who ran the location in the mid 2000s are still in charge. It's probably a long shot that they would even remember the Premier Eleven machine being placed in the arcade (or indeed what happened to it), but I've also reached out to them, too. If this article can help to shine even a slither of light into the darkness and assist in the release of this long lost Atomiswave title, then all the better.

For now though, I guess waiting for a reply from Sega Amusements or Southsea Island is our best bet. Unless anyone wants to cough up $15,000 for the copy on eBay...


Update

After I published this article, I took a trip down to Clarence Pier in Southsea and located the very arcade in which the photographs above were taken. Naturally, in the intervening decades since Baseley0o took the photos, the arcade has been completely redecorated and there relatively few recognisable video arcades on offer; much of the floor space now being taken up by gambling machines and toy grabbers. 

I'm not sure what I was expecting really - maybe a faint glimmer of hope that the passage of time had somehow avoided this little corner of Hampshire and that the Premier Eleven Atomiswave machine might still be there in some forgotten corner, covered in dust and be happily chiming away to itself in attract mode. Alas, this wasn't the case - the machine had obviously long since been removed. I asked a member of staff but they had no recollection of it either, again this is not surprising considering how long ago the photos were taken.

In a slightly more bountiful turn of events, I did recieve a response from Sega Amusements, with several members of the team responding to my emails. The most interesting reply came from Martin Riley, the International Sales Manager:


Hello Tom,   

Yes, actually I was the one who placed those games into the Southsea arcade, but it was later than 2000.   

I was the Sales Manager at Sammy Europe based in London at the time that we launched Atomiswave into the UK. In your picture you can see the standard modular version first launched, and then the squarer box cabinet which was the deluxe version for the larger arcade. 

Premier Eleven was indeed a game we looked to launch in UK market and only really tested, but it didn’t go into wide circulation. However, I’m not 100% sure it was the only prototype. This was from either Japan or USA Sammy studios and was supposed to be an on-line version with servers in each country, but was a little before its time and wasn’t popular, or worked as planned, if I remember correctly, and in the end was never continued. So, you are right that there are very few of these cartridges around as it was never on general release in the UK.

I hope this helps.

Martin Riley

International Sales Manager


This update doesn't really add a great deal to the quest to locate other copies of Premier Eleven, although it is cool that we managed to track down the very person who put the Premier Eleven cabinet into that arcade in Southsea.

Retrospective: Virtua Striker 2 ver 2000.1

When is a football game not actually a football game? When it's Virtua Striker, of course! The Dreamcast iteration of Virtua Striker 2 was initially released in Japan in 1999, under the slightly odd moniker of Virtua Striker 2 ver 2000.1; a title which you'd be forgiven for mistaking as a Windows update patch. This comparison isn't actually as outlandish as you might think though, when you consider that previous Model 3 arcade based versions of Virtua Striker 2 were bequeathed with similarly date specific nomenclature - Virtua Striker 2 was previously delivered to arcades in ver '98, ver '99 and ver 2000 before ver 2000.1 finally made its way into homes as part of the Dreamcast library.

Naturally, that this Sega AM2 developed soccer title has a numerical suffix hints that it is indeed a sequel, and not only that; for if you were to be even more inclined to combine inquisitive cognition and the human ability to conceive of future tenses (even though we are technically going into the past, here), then you'd also be totally correct to hypothesise that it is also simultaneously a prequel. Basically, what that absolute nonsense means in a nutshell is that there was a prequel (Virtua Striker) released in arcades 1994; and two sequels in the form of Virtua Striker 3 released on Nintendo Gamecube and in arcades in 2002; and Virtua Striker 4 released exclusively as a coin-op in 2004.

Now we've covered the potted history of Virtua Striker releases in very abridged form, let's get down to brass tacks. Cast your mind back to when you first started reading this badly constructed article and you'll recall that I rather brazenly announced that Virtua Striker is not a football game. And that's because it's not. Rather, it is football in the most arcadey format you're ever likely to see...which kinda makes sense given the actual arcade cabinet based origins of the series. Apologies if the constantly backpedaling mess of contradictory meandering is confusing the whole situation here, but I've had a long day and I just need to write something. Anything. And it's turned out to be this. Sorry.

Designed to be played in short sessions, easy on the eye and spectacular almost to a fault, the Virtua Striker games are divisive in the extreme...and Virtua Striker 2 ver 2000.1 for Dreamcast does nothing to upset this particular apple cart. Indeed, I think I'm well within my rights to pompously declare Virtua Striker the Marmite of football games - you'll either absolutely loathe it; or you'll think it is the best thing since sliced bread (and then try to spread it on said staple before ravenously devouring it, you contemptible monster).

I remember when games magazines of yore would show screens of Virtua Striker, sometimes even going as far as to state that a Sega Saturn port was in production. I would gaze longingly at those chunky-legged polygonal footballers contorted into impossible shapes while toe-poking sharp-edged footballs into bulging nets, and dream of them someday adorning my beloved Saturn. Alas, that dream never became reality, and so my first real taste of Virtua Striker's flavour of footy came when Virtua Striker 2 ver 2000.1 burst onto the PAL Dreamcast in 2000. 

Feverishly I loaded the GD into my console and was instantly mesmerised by opening cinematics of highly detailed footballers lining up for Sega-ised anthems in cathedral-like stadia. Footballing nirvana was a mere button press away. The hype was real, Virtua Striker 2 was finally in my living room and memories of ISS '98 on the Nintendo 64 were ready to be overwritten with the barnstorming return to glory of the mighty Sega. And then the game started and I almost cried. With sadness, that is.

Before I go on, I want to remind you that I'm writing this from memory - I was a teenager who had heard about how amazing Virtua Striker was, had never played it but been a fully paid up passenger on the hype train since the first time I saw the amazing screenshots of Virtua Striker 2 in magazines. And now here it was, finally being pumped into my eyeballs via the power of a Tatung CRT television (with full on mahogany surround and Fastext, I might add)...and yet I was heartbroken. Why? Because - and to be blunt - it played like absolute arse crack.

I was expecting something like ISS 64 but with CGI graphics; instead I was playing a computerised version of Subbuteo with a cloth pitch that hadn't been ironed properly so the ball never made it over the creases to the intended destination. Virtua Striker 2, here, in all it's amazing looking glory...but with no commentary, no changeable camera angles, about two buttons and a stupid 'swooshing' noise every time you attempt to tackle. Idiotic AI teammates, hardly any teams to actually play as, a daft time limit on matches, no half times, and no substitutions. I hated it. I hated what I was witnessing. How could they have gotten something that looked so right, so awfully and harrowingly wrong...?

Retrospective: UEFA Dream Soccer

If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. So goes the age old mantra; and try, try again Silicon Dreams did with its Dreamcast reimagining of the World League Soccer franchise. See, Sega Worldwide Soccer as it exists on the Dreamcast is not Sega Worldwide Soccer at all - it is in fact World League Soccer - a totally different game rebranded at the behest of Sega Europe desperate as it was to get a semi-decent footy title onto the Dreamcast. You may be confused as to why I mention Sega Worldwide Soccer here in a retrospective focussed on UEFA Dream Soccer, and this is because UEFA Dream Soccer is the threequel in the Sega Worldwide Soccer trilogy on Dreamcast. Clear as mud, no?

As a follow up to Sega Worldwide Soccer 2000 and Sega Worldwide Soccer 2000: Euro Edition then, UEFA Dream Soccer had a fairly steady, if not spectacular platform to build upon. Those previously mentioned titles were - as alluded to - remasters of sorts of the World League Soccer games from the PlayStation, Saturn, Nintendo 64 and Windows. As standalone titles, they were passable but not really in the same league as the original Sega-developed Worldwide Soccer games from the Saturn. The Saturn titles were an evolution of the Victory Goal series and completely unrelated, and I dare say if Sega had continued this franchise onto the Dreamcast instead of charging Silicon Dreams with taking the baton, then things could have been totally different. But I digress.

Released in 2001 (and previously known as Sega Worldwide Soccer 2001 during development), UEFA Dream Soccer arrived on the Dreamcast to relatively little in the way of fanfare. The stable of pre-existing football games on the platform boasted very little in the way of competiton to the FIFAs and the PESs of the world, and so there wasn't really much buzz around Dream Soccer. The fact that it was released exclusively in PAL territories probably didn't help, either.

The Dreamcast is often cited as a console that has no good football games, and EA's reluctance to bring FIFA to the platform (or indeed support it at all) is usually mentioned when reasons for its failure to gain mass market appeal are discussed. Likewise, the lack of a Pro Evolution Soccer/International Superstar Soccer game is somewhat puzzling when you consider that Konami did offer some decent support to the Dreamcast. So what you're left with if you want some kick-ball action on Dreamcast is a rather threadbare lineup consisting of a collection of titles that range from utterly dire (90 Minutes, European Super League) to average at best (everything else). 

But allow me to contradict my previous statement, because after spending some considerable time re-playing UEFA Dream Soccer and learning its foibles and accepting its flaws, my opinion on it has changed somewhat; I'd probably now go as far as saying not only is UEFA Dream Soccer the best football game on Dreamcast...it's also actually a pretty damn good game of footy in its own right.

Retrospective: European Super League

If you spend any time on the internet these days, especially perusing Dreamcast news sites, forums and discussion threads, you'll inevitably encounter the notion that the system was 'ahead of its time.' In some ways, this is probably true - the VMU, the myriad A/V connection types, Spirit of Speed 1937, the internet connectivity and online gaming in an era when it wasn’t really standard for consoles...I could go on. 

There's another example of the Dreamcast being ahead of its time though: European Super League. Yes, 20 years before the eponymous debacle that shook European club football to its foundations, the good old Dreamcast was predicting the future of the beautiful game. And in time honoured fashion, the Dreamcast's version of the European Super League was every bit as dodgy as the real-life iteration that appeared (briefly) in early 2021.

Before you spit your cornflakes out, I know European Super League was a multi-platform release...I'm just desperately trying to somehow craft a relevant introduction to a retrospective on what I consider to be a pretty turgid football game.

To give some context, we have mentioned the Dreamcast's relatively lacklustre complement of football (soccer) titles here in the past, but European Super League is one we haven't looked at in any real depth. In fact, I'm pretty sure the only summary we've ever published goes a little like this: it has 16 teams. There is no commentary. It is unplayable. It has graphics like a Master System game. Do me a favour.

But now we're taking a slightly more in-depth look. Cough. Lining up alongside the likes of Sega Worldwide Soccer 2000, Sega Worldwide Soccer 2000 Euro Edition, UEFA Striker, UEFA Dream Soccer, Virtua Striker 2 and 90 Minutes, European Super League completes a team of also-rans that would make even the ever-optimistic Ted Lasso weep; and while that may sound a little harsh - as some of those games are at least passable - not one of them comes close to recreating the fun or spectacle of contemporary footy games on competing platforms.