Showing posts with label PAL games. Show all posts
Showing posts with label PAL games. 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 on the shelf around it. 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 that 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.

Dreamcast Gaming on the High Street Stock CEXchange

This article is not endorsed by or sponsored by CeX.

With it being harder and harder to find retro games in the wild, especially PAL Dreamcast titles with an intact case, retro gaming is becoming an increasingly online-only affair.

Here in the UK, all but one of the brick-and-mortar gaming chains (GAME) have died out. There are some excellent independent game shops still soldiering on, though they are sparse and dwindling in number too. Fortunately though, we do have one last bastion of the high street in CeX (formerly Computer Exchange, and yes, it’s pronounced “sex”) where it is still possible to walk into a store and find surprisingly well-priced Dreamcast games on the shelves.
Better still, if you are looking for particular games, their website tells you exactly what they have in stock and where, allowing you to plan your very own road trip to secure your next classic. Or, if you don’t fancy the effort of leaving your house, you can order direct to your door, oblivious to the condition your purchased game is in, and running the risk of a brittle old PAL case being obliterated in the rough and tumble of the postal service.

Recently, the risks of what has become known amongst retro circles as “the CeX lottery” have been reduced marginally, as the retailer now distinguishes between games with and without their manuals (though you may still be left guessing whether or not the manual has ketchup stains). The other useful thing CeX provide is regularly refreshed pricing which tracks the current market, and, here at the Junkyard, we have meticulously studied these to bring you some small insights into the current PAL Dreamcast market.

CeX is actually how I unintentionally ended up re-entering the rabbit hole of all things SEGA Dreamcast back in 2016, when I stumbled upon a very nice condition Virtua Tennis for a mere £3.50 - which was possibly one of the most expensive “bargains” I’ve ever had.
How it all started (again)!
Believe it or not, despite what many say, the Dreamcast does still have a good selection of affordable games. Sadly, the console is also beginning to see an increasing number of titles with three-digit prices. We’re all aware of the MoHos and the Cannon Spikes, but 2024 seems to have ushered in more unexpected additions to the high-stakes ranks, and seeing as I have little else to do on this rainy British bank holiday Monday, I figured what better time to delve in to this than now?

Trapped on Dreamcast: 10 exclusives that never left

In the dog days of the Dreamcast's reign, it became somewhat obvious and inevitable that Sega would take many of its most beloved franchises and port them to other systems. The pivot into becoming a major third party publisher was pretty much written in the stars, and Sega had the catalogue to pull off such a previously unthinkable task. The Sega of 2001 had a glittering array of first party gems that were screaming out to be unleashed onto the PlayStation 2, Xbox and Gamecube (and beyond), and nobody can deny that those first few years after the Dreamcast bit the dust were truly epic for Sega, as it left the hardware business and forged ahead as a major publisher.

"Sega is a company that has always dared to innovate and push this industry forward. Sega will continue to do so with its new strategy, and the result for consumers will be what you would always expect from a 'rules-breaker' like Sega - a library of pioneering, jaw-dropping content now available any way you want to play."

- Peter Moore speaking to IGN, February 2001

As well as arcade ports and first party games that were originally destined for the little white box, Sega took many of the Dreamcast's most iconic titles and either ported them to other platforms in-house, or farmed out responsibility to third parties. For the most part, this worked out pretty well for Sega and the games that made the leap often ended up having extra features imbued upon them. Sonic Adventure and its sequel, Skies of Arcadia, Ferrari F355, Crazy Taxi, Sega GT, Shenmue II, Rez, The House of the Dead, Space Channel 5...the list reads like a veritable smorgasbord of 'triple A' (Jim Sterling voice optional) experiences and franchises. Of course, this could also be said of the myriad third party releases that debuted on the Dreamcast; with esteemed titles such as Dead or Alive 2, Soul Calibur, MDK2, Headhunter and Resident Evil Code: Veronica all being ported. In the case of the latter, ported to death...which is ironic.

What I'm getting at is this - if you were a Dreamcast owner when the power cord was pulled from the console on that fateful day back in early 2001, you could quite easily have gone and bought a competing platform from any of the other major manufacturers and continued the Dreamcast party like it was 1999 (or 1998 if you were, y'know, in Japan). But what about the Dreamcast titles not only from Sega, but from third parties, that never made the leap from the sinking ship like so many digital rats? The titles that still to this day have never been ported to alternative platforms and can still only really be played on a Dreamcast, or an emulated Dreamcast, at the very least? Let's take a little look at 10 titles (in no particular order) that are effectively trapped on the Dreamcast, and never left for pastures new...


1. Seventh Cross: Evolution

We covered this little oddity a while back here at the Junkyard, so if you'd like to read a more in-depth analysis please feel free to check it out here. For brevity though, Seventh Cross is a game quite unlike anything else on the Dreamcast, in that you begin the game as a helpless organism that must adapt to survive the harsh alien landscape it is born into. 

From slopping about in a primordial pool trying not to become lunch for other lifeforms, to escaping the aquatic cradle and embracing a more land-lubber-esque (yep, just made that term up) approach to this crazy little thing called life, Seventh Cross is a truly bizarre experience. The game was localised in English but never received a PAL release, and it's not really very difficult to see why. I can't imagine many people would have been champing at the bit to give this a go during the early years of the Dreamcast's life when stuff like Pen Pen TriIcelon was vying for attention on store shelves. Um.


2. Gundam Side Story 0079: Rise from the Ashes

The Dreamcast isn't lacking when it comes to games featuring mechs head butting each other after spilling each other's pints, and Gundam Side Story is one of the better 'simulation' style offerings. Unlike the arcade brawlers like Tech Romancer, and the battle arena shenanigans of Virtual On and Frame Gride (see below), Gundam Side Story allows the player to slip inside the cockpit of a building-sized mech and take part in a first person tactical battle against enemy units on sprawling maps.

Cast your mind back to stuff like Iron Soldier on the Atari Jaguar, but add vastly superior graphics and a really quite engaging storyline and you're on the right track. While Gundam Side Story may look like a pretty basic military shooter, there's a huge amount of tactical play involved, and giving orders to your fellow mechs on the battlefield is an integral part of proceedings. Add to the mix a healthy dose of ranged combat and hand-to-hand mech fisticuffs and this is about as close to Pacific Rim as you can get on Dreamcast. Sort of.


3. Armada

Armada is a game that's quite difficult to categorise. In some ways it's an arcade shoot 'em up, in other ways it's almost an RPG, while in others it could be classed as a multiplayer couch co-op experience. Either way, it is an intriguing title that never experienced much in the way of success due to the fact that it was only released in the United States. A PAL release was scheduled and cancelled, as was the planned sequel. We have looked at Armada briefly in the past, check out our article featuring it here.

Essentially a top down space opera style adventure, in Armada you spend your time traversing the vast distances of the cosmos, plotting courses with co-ordinates and battling marauding alien fleets on the way. You can hire allies to help you fight off the alien threats you encounter throughout your journey and the game is playable by up to four people on one Dreamcast. It's almost like a couch co-op forerunner to stuff like Helldivers, where having some human comrades to assist you will make the game much more manageable (and enjoyable). It's also worth mentioning that Armada was originally conceived as an online multiplayer experience, but that option appears to have been removed during development. Still, it's an interesting and ambitious title that could have been way more popular had it been released with an online component as originally intended.


Replacement PAL Game Covers

Over the years I've picked Dreamcast games up from a variety of sources. The most prolific supplier of new titles these days is undoubtedly eBay, as finding games in shops and at car boot sales (at least, for a realistic price) is something of a rare occurrence in this climate. In the past though - and certainly when I first started the Junkyard back in 2005 - it was quite easy to find Dreamcast software for peanuts in most branches of now defunct UK games retailer Gamestation. Sadly, as well as being covered in 'BOGOF' stickers (that's 'buy one, get one free'), a lot of these games usually came with the caveat of either having a broken box, missing manuals, missing inserts...or a combination of the three. Does this type of thing look familiar?

NTSC vs PAL game storage

PAL game storage has always been a bit of a nightmare. I used to have to store my games in a box, as I couldn't afford the storage racks back when they were on sale in Electronics Boutique. I finally got some on eBay...


... and they can stack on each other too! This saves even more space. Unfortunately, I have only got 3 of these racks (totalling £11.50 though - not bad) and they hold 10 games each. I had 52 games as of this post, but I have about 64 now... so I still have some in a box.

At least this way I can put my favourite PAL games close to my mini games centre here in my bedroom. I can then play backups and Japanese games in the lounge on on of the other Dreamcasts.

Japanese games on the other hand, like their American counterparts, come in standard CD jewel cases most of the time, allowing for easy and sexy(?) storage.


Some people have used this storage issue as an additional reason to get NTSC games, and leave the PAL ones alone with their big, bulky cases, which disintegrate if in contact with air or even when just being looked at.

Share your Dreamcast storage woes! Share tips and ideas! Do PS1 game racks hold DC PAL game cases? Share your thoughts, dig deep into your heart.