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Showing posts with label Nintendo 64. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Nintendo 64. Show all posts

Retrospective: F1 World Grand Prix II for Dreamcast

For a console that lived and died in such a relatively short span of time, the Dreamcast sure did rack up a veritable bounty of top class racers. No doubt if you're a fan of either the genre, the Dreamcast, or both - as I am - then you don't need me to list the big hitters here. If you're not au fait though, rest assured that if you're new to the Dreamcast and you're partial to navigating large, wheeled boxes down tarmac lanes at wholly ridiculous speeds, then you're in for a treat.
As a sub-genre of racing games then, the Formula 1 fan is equally well catered for when it comes to the Dreamcast library. There are no less than 5 separate F1 titles on the platform (well, 6 if you count Spirit of Speed, but in truth that's barely a game; and 7 if you count Super Speed Racing / CART Flag to Flag), each offering its own unique take on the real world motorsport and we have covered them all - albeit briefly - here at the Junkyard in the semi-distant past. But in this retrospective I wanted to focus on the game many aficionados consider to be the pinnacle of F1 racing on the Dreamcast, and also a title - it turns out - which has a fairly interesting origin story and an equally curious legacy: F1 World Grand Prix II for Dreamcast.
Before we even attempt to discuss the game's many positives and numerous failings, I think it is worth investigating the history of the F1 World Grand Prix franchise, and the enigmatic firm behind it - Video System. Video System Co Ltd was a Japanese developer and publisher that began putting out games in the 1980s in both the arcades and on home consoles such as the TurboGrafx-16 and Nintendo Entertainment System. Video System's foray into the world of F1 games began in 1991 with F1 Grand Prix on the Super Nintendo and in arcades; and this game spawned two sequels - F1 Grand Prix: Part II and Part III in 1992 and 1993 respectively.
F1 Grand Prix: Part II is playable on MAME
It was in 1998 that the series was rebooted as F1 World Grand Prix for the Nintendo 64, a game which was developed in partnership with a studio called Paradigm Entertainment. It's here where things start to get interesting, as the Nintendo 64 game and its 1999 sequel (F1 World Grand Prix II) are completely separate titles to the games that made an appearance on the Dreamcast, and they share very little other than a name. The Dreamcast version of F1 World Grand Prix was developed in-house by Video System, and received the suffix 'for Dreamcast,' simply to differentiate it from the Nintendo 64 version.
The N64 version of F1 World Grand Prix
Likewise, that game's sequel - the subject of this very article - was developed by Video System in a silo away from the Nintendo 64 version of F1 World Grand Prix II and comparing the two titles side by side demonstrates just how different they are in almost every way. If they didn't share a title and a publisher, you'd be forgiven for thinking they were from totally separate franchises that featured an FIA license. It gets even more curious when you learn that neither sequel was given a US release (though the prequels were), and the Dreamcast game was distributed in Europe by Konami.
Distributed exclusively by Konami...for some reason
There's precious little information available online about why this was, as Video System was still in a position to distribute its own games in the early 2000s; so why Konami - of all firms - was engaged to distribute F1 World Grand Prix II for Dreamcast in European markets is something of a mystery. Are you still with me here? OK - it gets a bit more interesting now. According to recently published information over at the Lost Media Wiki, a third game in the Nintendo 64 series - imaginatively titled F1 World Grand Prix III - was around 80% complete and fully playable before it was cancelled due to the console's waning popularity.

Retrospective: Wetrix+

They are tricks. And they are wet. Wet tricks. Wetrix. See? It's taken me approximately 20 years to actually realise that's what the title Wetrix means. It is quite the revelation, I can tell you. Not quite as earth shattering as when I realised Project Gotham Racing was so called because it's a tongue in cheek nod to Metropolis Street Racer's eponymous fictional setting (Batman vs Superman began on Dreamcast, folks).

So Wetrix then. Or Wetrix+ as it is known on the Dreamcast. A sort of remaster of the Nintendo 64 game of the same name, which was developed by Zed Two and released in 1998. The original game does have a fairly interesting back story, with the Wikipedia page documenting that the title began life as a tech demo within in an entirely different project, demonstrating the Nintendo 64's ability to effectively simulate the properties of water. Alongside the stunning Wave Race 64, Wetrix clearly shows that you can never have too many games that show off just how wet your digital water looks.

But what is Wetrix+ though? Well, it's a puzzle game that involves the player manipulating the game 'board' by terraforming it into a series of lake beds and valleys. Bubbles of water then fall from the sky and fill these lakes; and the sole aim is to balance the amount of landmass and water in a state of equilibrium, amassing points the longer you can keep it all in harmony. Sounds fairly simple on the surface - and it is - but there are a number of things that are thrown into the mix to tip the scales against you.

See, as well as water falling from the sky, you'll also receive bombs which will blow holes in your board, meaning that water will escape off the sides and fall into the drain (represented by a meter at the side of the screen). You'll also receive flaming meteors which will burn off any water they come into contact with. Then there's the actual game pieces themselves which are a bit like Wetrix+s' equivalent of tetraminos.

These pieces (which come in an assortment of shapes) are what you use to raise and lower the terrain in order to create your lakes and valleys...however if the landmass becomes too much for the board to take, an earthquake will be initiated, destroying your carefully designed canals and oxbow lakes. Naturally, this means more opportunity for that pesky wet stuff to roll off the board, into the drain and shortening your game session. When that drain fills up, it's game over.

So you see, Wetrix+ is a game of balance, in more ways than one. You need to monitor how much land mass you're chucking onto the game board, how much water you're losing off the sides and through holes, and also be mindful of the various hazards reigning down from the heavens. Sounds like there's a lot going on - and there is - but in practice it's all fairly straight forward once you get your head around it.

Kickstarter: Not every retro game gets a Dreamcast stretch goal


Another day, another retro game Kickstarter. Refreshingly, today's effort is slightly more interesting affair in that it is targeting the Nintendo 64 audience for a change, aiming to publish a near two decade old cancelled game from the era.

40 Winks (aka Ruff and Tumble) did see the light of day on the original playstation, but the Nintendo 64 port was cancelled when its publisher GT Interactive went belly up, and when Infogrames picked over the carcass, the game ended up in the chaff pile instead of the wheat. Piko Interactive has recently picked up the rights to the game, and have already secured their modest US$20,000 goal within one day. They plan to develop, test and manufacture some brand new minty N64 cartridges for the game, so that it can be finally realised in physical form all these years later.
Some good ol' 90s era 3D platforming (apparently, never heard of it)
Hang on, isn't this the premiere destination for all things Dreamcast? Why are we suddenly talking about the Nintendo 64? Well, with every successful Kickstarter campaign that features a retro, or retro-inspired game, it's only natural that the masses start shouting "Dreamcast Stretch Goal! Dreamcast Stretch Goal!" And with good reason.