Showing posts with label F1 Racing Championship. Show all posts
Showing posts with label F1 Racing Championship. Show all posts

You Had One Job! - European Dreamcast Game Box Screw-ups

Since the beginning of time - well, gaming - video games have come in boxes with artwork. The artwork was put there to sell the experience to you, to convince you why the game inside that box was the game you needed to leave the shop with that day more so than any of the others. By the time our beloved little white SEGA box came onto the market, it was the sixth generation of gaming. Even games released for the microcomputers of the 80s had box art, so, by the late '90s, it was very much an established norm.

On the Dreamcast, there was a clear template for each region of how the box artwork should look. In Europe, you had the nice blue base template and logos; a front cover, a spine, and the back cover. So simple and elegant, everything looking uniform on a shelf... what could possibly go wrong?

Well, quite a lot it turns out...

Tokyo Highway Challenge

Right from day one, Dreamcast game publishers found sticking to simple templates difficult. Tokyo Highway Challenge (known as Tokyo Xtreme Racer in the USA) is actually one of the Dreamcast’s more under-appreciated titles. Leaning heavily into an Initial D vibe, the game places you onto Tokyo’s C-1 “highway” and tasks you with challenging and beating all the other illegal street racers in a quest to become the ultimate import racer. Quite how you do that in what are domestic cars in Japan I never did figure out, but that’s not what we’re here to discuss! So, how exactly did Crave fail on the console's European launch day with their game packaging?

Clearly using the white arc of the US theme.

Mistake: Using the US Dreamcast template on the front cover. Although it does at least look like they tried, seeing as they went to the effort of removing the little orange triangle that represents the console's power LED...

NFL Blitz 2000

Also on day one, it wasn’t just Crave who were struggling with the idea of box art. Step forward, Midway! In their defence (“DEFENSE!!!”), they did have more boxes to get right at launch with Hydro Thunder, Ready 2 Rumble and Mortal Kombat Gold all releasing alongside NFL Blitz 2000.

NFL Blitz 2000 is an arcade sportsball game. I hear it's good fun, but I won’t lie, I’ve never understood a sport called football where most of the game has the players holding the ball and running. Anyway, having graced us with multiple launch titles, I can confirm that Midway got the front and back of the game perfect. So far, so good. So what on earth could possibly go wrong from here?

Just the Dreamcast logo and the code on the spine.

Putting the game on a shelf only emphasises the issue even more... 

Mistake: Forgot to put the game's name on the spine.

The Odd Case of Monaco Online

We recently featured the Dreamcast's stable of Formula 1 racers here at the 'Yard, and it was concluded that F1 World Grand Prix 2 is probably the best recreation of the motor sport to be found on Sega's final system. However, there was a glaring omission from that list, and only now have I managed to acquire the absent title for analysis. What is this mysterious and largely unknown F1 racer? Why, Racing Simulation Monaco Grand Prix 2 Online of course! Is that the worst name ever for a racing game? It's definitely a contender in my humble opinion - try saying that to an automated cheats line after a few pints and you'll see why. Do cheats lines even exist anymore? Another mystery that needs to be solved...but first, lets get back on track (pun intended). The original Racing Simulation was released quite early in the Dreamcast's life and was one of the first games I played, as it was bundled as part of the Dream On Volume 1 demo disk. A fairly playable and nice-looking F1 game, Racing Simulation is a game that seems to have suffered something of an identity crisis - just looking at the box, manual and the GD-rom you can see that it has multiple names: it's either Monaco Grand Prix: Racing Simulation; Racing Simulation 2: Monaco Grand Prix...or a weird bastardisation of the two:
Did they forget the '2' on the cover?
These odd naming conventions aside, Monaco is pretty playable and has quite a lot going on with it's arcade and simulation modes as well as a 'retro' option where you can race vehicles of yesteryear. It appears that Ubisoft weren't done with the Racing Simulation engine though as they went on to develop F1 Racing Championship (published by Video System, of F1 World Grand Prix fame) which is essentially the same game but with an official license. Quite why Ubisoft didn't publish F1 Racing Championship themselves, I'm not really sure...but to allow their main F1 developing rivals to publish their game is just plain odd. The story gets even stranger though, as in 2001 Ubisoft released the game again under the mouthful moniker mentioned in the opening paragraph: Racing Simulation Monaco Grand Prix 2 Online. Talk about flogging a dead horse.

As you can probably tell from the name, Online is basically the first game (which is actually a sequel itself...damn this is confusing) but with added online functionality allowing players to race each other on any of the real-world circuits. As far as I can tell, Online was only ever released as a PAL title - which is quite strange in itself, seeing as we only got 33k modems stuck to our Dreamcasts - and upon playing it myself, I quickly deduced that it is indeed pretty much identical to the first (second) game but with minor graphical changes (the clouds in the sky are more pronounced in Online, for example - see below) and a modified front end, with the added online lobby options plonked in. Speaking of the front end, Online retains the decidedly 'old school' art style that the offline game used, complete with awkwardly-proportioned humanoids and background graphics that look like they were copied from a GeoCities ghost site last updated in 1996.

Below are a selection of images I grabbed from the two games; the shots on the right are from Online, the ones on the left from Racing Simulation 2 (or whatever it's called). As stated, details on the Online game are very scant but I managed to discover that the servers were finally switched off in 2003. It would have been cool to know if the game could support a full grid of 22 cars all being driven by real gamers...but if Online even sold that many copies, I'd be very surprised.
Super Mario makes a cameo in both games if you drive badly.
Did you ever manage to play Monaco If so, how was it? Let us know in the comments.

The Formula

I honestly thought I'd already done a post on this subject, but a quick wander through our extensive archives here at the epicentre of all things vaguely Dreamcast (that's the DCJY, in case you wondered) reveals that I was mistaken. I say 'quick,' but I actually had to take a monorail ride into the very heart of the hollow mountain that houses the Junkyard's archive department, and even then one of the service droids that maintain the stacks had malfunctioned so I had to spend half an hour rebooting it. You just can't get high quality droids of ebay these days. Pfft. Anyway, at this juncture you may be wondering what I'm actually talking about. I'd almost forgotten myself until a bowling ball rolled off a shelf onto my head and the memories all came flooding back: Formula 1. Yep, F1. That 'sport' where fast go-karts smash around tracks at ridiculous speeds and the drivers of said go-karts live lavish, decadent lives and bathe in asses milk and snort caviar. Funnily enough though, that's probably the best way to also describe Mario Kart. Hmm. I went to an F1 race at Silverstone a few years ago and the first thing I noticed was how damn loud the cars actually are - unless you've been to a Grand Prix, you can't really appreciate just how loud the things are in reality. But I digress. F1 games on the Dreamcast - there have been several and they all reproduce the atmosphere and thrills of a big race with varying degrees of success. Which ones are worth playing and which ones should be left in the pits? Read on and all shall be revealed:

F1 World Grand Prix
F1WGP was one of my favourite games on the N64. It had amazing visuals for the time and truly showed the N64 doubters what the system was capable of. I personally had never seen graphics as realistic as those I saw in WGP and even though the game engine doesn't support reflections in the wet, and everything looks a little fuzzy through a standard SCART connection, it knocked the spots off anything on the PlayStation. The car handling was a little iffy, but otherwise it was a fine racing game. The Dreamcast release of F1WGP is a souped-up version of the same game with sharper graphics, better car handling and a fresh lick of paint with regards to presentation. It also had some flipping brilliant music - not something you'd think would be worth mentioning in an F1 game. As with all the games in this list (they are all over a decade old now, after all), the teams aren't reflective of current rosters so there is no Hamilton etc...but that's an obvious downside to the incessant and never-ending march of time. Sigh. On that note, I've noticed that I've got loads of grey hairs popping up...not a good sign. Although I suppose I'd rather be grey than fucking bald.

N64 version for comparison

F1 World Grand Prix 2
As the name suggests, the sequel to F1 World Grand Prix. This Dreamcast version again took the blueprint laid by the N64 sequel and built on it to a fantastic degree. Even better visuals and car handling (although still quite twitchy), and lots of little details such as camera flashes in the grandstands etc. Easily one of the best-looking Dreamcast games and the in-car camera views give an outstanding sense of speed. I have noticed that on some tracks, when you race in the rain the sky texture messes up and you get a hotch-potch of what looks like traffic light textures from the starting grid. I'm not sure if anyone else has seen this rare cock-up though. An odd feature of F1WGP and F1WGP2 is that they both feature extremely accurate car models - all the way down to the advertising on the liveries. So you get PlayStation advertising in a Dreamcast game. You certainly wouldn't see that today - imagine PS4 ads in an Xbox One game (or vice versa) just wouldn't happen. As an interesting side note, the N64 version of the game uses the Expansion Pak in a rather odd manner. It doesn't increase the screen resolution or do anything to aesthetically enhance the game...all it does is enable full race replays. Obviously, the Dreamcast version does that as standard, but I thought it'd be worth sharing that little titbit.

N64 version for comparison

Racing Simulation: Monaco Grand Prix 2
Unlike with the World Grand Prix games, Monaco on the Dreamcast is totally different to the versions on the other consoles. The N64 games was OK I guess, but it featured some sloppy visuals and amateurish menus. The Dreamcast version is completely different and has some really nice graphics. It was one of the first games I actually played on the Dreamcast back when it launched and I was stunned by the track textures and how playable the game was. Although the game is called 'Racing Simulation,' there's very little in the way of simulation here - the cars handle beautifully and basically stick to the track when you corner, which is something I really like. Another cool feature is the 'Retro' mode where you get to race old skool racing cars like the type Sir Stirling Moss would've been throwing around in his heyday. It's not much more than a gimmicky novelty, but it's a nice addition nonetheless.

F1 Racing Championship
Racing Championship was a late release on the Dreamcast but you wouldn't be able to tell that by looking at it. It basically looks like a high-res N64 game, and even though it is based on the Monaco engine it actually looks worse. The tracks have a complete lack of atmosphere and where the World Grand Prix games laid it on thick with trackside vehicles, tents, ambulances and roaring crowds...F1 Racing Championship has sterile, empty environments with silent grandstands and no trackside details. It's odd, because Monaco had at least some of that...but it's as if Ubisoft felt obliged to strip it all out. What's also odd is that Video System - the developers of all the Dreamcast and N64 F1WGP games is actually the publisher of F1 Racing Championship. Why they felt the need to publish this tripe when they already had the best F1 games available on their CV is anyone's guess.

Spirit of Speed 1937
This isn't strictly speaking an F1 game but I thought I should include it anyway as it attempts to recreate the top level of motor racing...from 1937. I can't really fault it for originality and aesthetic design. The menu music is very appropriate for the era and the styling of the menus is very art deco. The officially licensed vehicles and tracks are also a nice touch and lend an air of authenticity to the game. Unfortunately things go a bit south once you actually start a race. Again - top marks for trying something different and I must say that the engine effects and in-car view give a real feel for the power and sound of the engines of these archaic beasts...but the handling of the cars is atrocious. The slightest touch of the analogue stick sends your vehicle bouncing off the walls and skidding all over the place. Not fun at all. There are some interesting game modes such as a scenario mode where you have to complete objectives, but overall Spirit of Speed is a bit...shit. Sorry.

There are a few other F1-style games on the Dreamcast, such as Flag to Flag CART Racing but I personally haven't played that particular game due to it being an NTSC-only release. I understand it's quite a competent racer too, so its a shame SEGA didn't feel the need to release it in PAL territories. Ho hum. But the long and short of this post is that if you want a top-quality F1 game for your Dreamcast, you should invest in either of the F1 World Grand Prix games and avoid F1 Racing Championship.

With that, I'm off to colour my grey hairs individually with a black marker pen.

Silver Lining

Howdy. Thought it was about time I checked in with a proper post – it’s been about a month since I actually wrote anything of note for the Universe’s greatest Dreamcast site – The Dreamcast Junkyard (as seen in Retro Gamer Magazine). I almost coughed up a ventricle when I saw that we’d had a rather flattering mention (as documented by the Gagaman several posts ago), but seeing as I was onboard a flight to Turkey for a week in the sun, all I could do was sit there in silent awe – the DC-less cretins all around me oblivious to the fact that we were mentioned in the mainstream…well, niche press. Sigh. Anyhow, many thanks to the people at Retro Gamer.

I tried to keep my eyes peeled whilst in Turkey for the odd DC game, but to be honest I didn’t manage to find even the slightest reference to anything remotely connected to gaming, let alone our favourite deceased console. It appears that the Turkish economy relies solely on the sale of flip-flops, plastic footballs and fake Tag Heurs. On the plus side though, I did wear my Dreamcast shorts whilst swimming in the Aegean Sea. Just keeping it real, people.

Also, I’d like to congratulate Manchester United for winning the Premier League for the TENTH time, and also congratulate Middlesborough for putting EIGHT goals past Manchester City. Snigger.

This is just for you, FK

But that’s irrelevant. You’re here for DC shit, so without further ado, let’s delve into my most recent purchases…

I absolutely detest RPGs. I find them hideously boring and most of them are a patchwork of clichés involving ogres, orcs, wizards and ‘mana’ – all of which are things I have no interest in. There are a few exceptions for me – Ocarina of Time on the N64 and Shenmue held my attention to the end, but they’re more action/adventure games than traditional RPGs. Imagine my surprise then, when playing through Silver, I didn’t actually vomit and fall into a boredom induced coma. Viewed from a 3rd person, static camera perspective, Silver seemed at first to be everything I despise about the genre. It’s Final Fantasy-esque looks and antiquated mechanics looked like surefire ways to induce a sense of hatred from this gamer. But no – I actually quite enjoyed playing Silver. There is no shitty turn-based random combat and the voice acting is really quite good. The graphics are very basic but the backgrounds are nicely drawn, and the storyline – whilst simple (the evil emperor Silver has kidnapped all of the women in the land so he can choose which one he wants for a wife, and you have to gather up a motley crew of bad-asses to go and get you’re missus back. Fail, and its wanking-room only for the rest of your days, me old mucker), is quite original for the genre.

It’s far from perfect – the real time combat consists mainly of mashing the attack button until everyone’s dead; and the distance of the camera from the action in some areas is unbelievable – you might as well be looking through the Hubble Telescope in some instances. Those minor niggles aside, Silver is a perfect RPG for those who aren’t really fans of the genre due to the relative simplicity of the gameplay. Go here, speak to a person, go there, collect key, fight some monsters, get a new weapon etc etc etc. Might sound a bit basic to the average 45-year-old Warhammer geek who still lives at home with his mum, but for me, it’s sweet.

F1 Racing Championship
Hmmm. It’s another Dreamcast F1 game. Based on the Monaco GP engine, F1 Racing Championship betters its spiritual prequel by bringing in official drivers and track names, but in reality it’s got the same problems as EVERY other F1 game in existence: F1 is BORING. So, it’s got the SAME tracks as every other F1 game, has the SAME engine noises, the SAME championship…I could go on.

This is from the PC port, but you get the idea

And because it's based on the 2000 season, there's no Lewis Hamilton. What a shame. To be fair, the visuals are quite good (but not as good as F1WGP2’s), and the choice of either Arcade or Simulation modes adds something new…but again, I’m hardly a massive F1 fan so it’s hard or me to get excited. Bias? You bet your ass. As far as F1 games go on the DC, it’s probably joint second with the first F1WGP game, but as a general racer its several racing leagues below the fabulous Le Mans, F1WGP2 and even Vanishing Point. Ho hum.

Spec Ops: Omega Squad
Fuck me. What a load of shite. Omega Squad looked like it could be the game to finally put the epiliepsy-inducing ghost of DC Rainbow Six to bed, but in actuality its worse. Horrific, in fact. Things start off well, with you getting to choose your weaponry and mission etc – all fine and good. There are lots of missions to take and there is a frightening arsenal of guns, grenades and other pointy things to equip your soldier geezer with, but that’s all irrelevant because when the game actually starts it’ll take somewhere in the region of 9 seconds to realize that this really is a game you don’t want to play. The graphics, for a start are barely above PS1 standard – the character models look like something out of 1970s Doctor Who and the ‘animation’ they exhibit is akin to Pinocchio’s. Before he was a real boy, you understand. Add to this the general murkiness, the flat, drab textures and the pop-up (yes, pop-up in a first person shooter!) and you’ve got one ugly game.

A Lego gun! That'll keep the baddies at bay

Of course, beauty I only skin deep, but Omega Squad doesn’t even play well. The controls are far too complex for a joypad, but even with a keyboard they stink. The view can be switched to a 3rd person one, but all that does is show you how horrendous your Spec Op-ist looks, especially when you kneel down or go prone and sink into the floor. Want more? How about being able to shoot through walls because collision detection is out to lunch? Or shooting a ‘baddie’ in the head at point blank range and the hit not being registered? Absolutely pathetic.

Pen Pen
One of the weirdest games you’re ever likely to play, Pen Pen was a launch title for the DC and one of my earliest Blockbuster rents back in the day. I didn’t really appreciate it’s charm back then, but now I have my wiser head on I can see it’s appeal. Possibly spawned from the depths of an opium den, the idea behind Pen Pen is that these brightly coloured penguin-type things from some far off planet like nothing better than to race around acid-trip worlds by sliding on their guts, swimming and running. Like you do. So, you pick your Pen Pen, get out onto the track and then try to beat all of the other contenders by rythimcally tapping the various controls in order to build up speed. Sliding is a bit like the luge from the winter Olympics, whilst swimming and running are self explanatory.

Graphically quite impressive and aurally quite sickening (in a sweet way, you understand), Pen Pen is very original and features some nice ideas – such as winning races to buy new clothes and hats for the various characters. There are some bizarre aspects, such as putting your Pen Pen to bed - but it comes with the territory I suppose. It kind of reminds me of that old N64 game Snowboard Kids, albeit with massively improved graphics and more abstract weirdness. There are only 4 courses to race but they’re all suitably long and the idea of collecting all of the clothes adds longevity. If you like that sort of thing. Still, Pen Pen is a unique title and worth picking up if you see it going cheap.

Wild Metal
Quite why Rockstar removed the word ‘Country’ from the title of this PC to DC conversion is beyond me, but they did. If you ever played the PC version of Wild Metal (Country), you’ll feel right at home with the DC port – it’s exactly the same. You drive a little tank around a rather barren and foggy landscape with the intention of destroying all of the other tanks and flying meanies roaming about. There is a slightly contrived story about how machines have taken over man’s galactic empire but its bollocks really. All you need to know is that there are enemy units bopping about and they have to be stamped out like the goddamned vermin they are. You do this by correctly aligning your turret and tuning your trajectory from afar and then letting them have it, in a sort of 3D Death Tank kind of way.

There’s little else to it than that to be quite frank. Once you’ve killed everything in a level, you move on to the next where it’s more of the same. Hardly the most complex or involving title on the Dreamcast, but the inoffensive nature of the proceedings makes for quite a relaxing experience. Graphics are very basic and sound almost non-existent, but the gameplay can be quite satisfying – the tanks handle very well and lining up shots with the turret is quite good fun. It’s not Alien Front, but it’s still a decent little shooter.

Finally, I appear to have lost my copy of Buggy Heat. How? I have no fucking idea. How do you lose a game? BAH!

Next up: Freestyle Scooter. Oh yeah baby!