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Showing posts with label Racing Games. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Racing Games. 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.

Petrol Panic! 6 of the best gas stations in Dreamcast games

For a relatively brief period in late 2021, the UK transformed from a miserable, grey, rainswept dystopia into a miserable, grey, rainswept dystopia that had no petrol at the vast majority of its filling stations. Many reasons were put forward for this phenomenon, but the general consensus was that some shitty 'news' websites were hungry for clicks, so they told everyone to start panicking and go and buy some fuel before it ran out...even though there wasn't actually a shortage. 

What ensued was an embarrasing display of idiocy on a national scale, with people fighting over diesel and miles long queues at forecourts. Meanwhile, Hexxus from Fern Gully was rubbing his oily hands at the prospect of another few decades of humans acting like assholes because they couldn't put some 4* in their Vauxhall Cavaliers.

Oddly, Crazy Taxi features no gas stations. I know, I've looked.

Anyhow, It occured to me - while I too was sitting in a 14 mile long queue for petrol, incidentally - that there are numerous games on the Dreamcast which feature equally queue-less petrol/gas stations. And here, for your pleasure is a rundown of six such virtual establishments. It's worth noting that none of the petrol/gas stations here feature a digital queue of Crazy Taxis or Afro Thunder punching people on the forecourt. Which is a crying shame, if you ask me.


San Francisco Rush 2049

It's actually quite a push to think that people will still need petrol stations in 2049 - surely electric vehicles will be the norm then? That said, one of the cars in Rush has an actual rocket engine on the back. Either way, If you travel to the Haight course in San Francisco Rush 2049, you'll stumble upon this double Shell garage that has perhaps the largest forecourt canopy ever constructed. Furthermore, the pumps appear to be emblazoned with acid faces, so maybe they aren't fuel dispensers at all, and are in fact tiny portaloos inhabited by local drug dealers.

Summary: Massively over engineered roof canopy, poor vehicle access, bizarre signage on pumps. Could be a front for more serious gang crime in the wider San Francisco area.


18 Wheeler: American Pro Trucker

18 Wheeler: American Pro Trucker is a game in which you drive trucks with 18 wheels, while pretendng to be an American. Unless you are an American. And a pro trucker. It's a passable arcade to Dreamcast port that is much less impressive when played on a 14" CRT television in a damp bedroom as opposed to on a huge multi-displayed big rig arcade machine with all of your nonexistent friends cheering you on. But enough of my childhood. On the first stage of the arcade mode (Key West), just after you come off the freeway theres a lovely little Texaco on the right offering various delicious fuels for a bargain price. Also, just beyond said petrol station there's an advertising board with a typo. Which is nice.

Summary: Nice looking, well kept and tidy Texaco branch. Intelligently located next to a busy arterial route. Occasionally an overly aggressive rival trucker buying beers will call you a 'greenhorn' and throw a cup of piss at you.


Retrospective: Stunt GP

Way back in the mists of time, I took a look at the various radio controlled car racing titles on the Dreamcast. It may surprise you that there are no less than three different games featuring such toy vehicles battling for supremacy on miniature circuits in the Dreamcast's library; with Toy Racer and ReVolt complementing Stunt GP in the virtual toy box. This time though, I'm turning my attention squarely on Stunt GP, as it is a game I am very fond of and which doesn't really get a lot of time in the limelight. That's about to change though, as we navigate the plastic highways and byways of Team17's often overlooked foray into the international sport of bashing radio controlled vehicles around a deserted car park.
Released exclusively in PAL territories, Stunt GP joins titles like Giant Killers and Headhunter on the list of games that were never officially released in the rest of the world, and as such I wonder just how many people even know the game had ever seen a Dreamcast release. Stunt GP did receive a PC release and a later PlayStation 2 port, but the Dreamcast game is something of an oddity especially when you consider that Team17 released its other Dreamcast titles worldwide. 
Of course, the Wakefield-based developer is better known for its Worms franchise on Sega's little white box; with Worms World Party still being regularly played online via the magic of DreamPi. It's also worth noting that while Team17 developed Stunt GP, the game was published by Eon Digital Entertainment. Doing a bit of Googling, it appears that Stunt GP was due to be published worldwide by Hasbro but for some reason the deal fell through and Eon stepped in. I'd love to know more about why an NTSC release never happened, and who knows - maybe somebody reading this can shed some light on that particular mystery.


Either way, coupled with the lukewarm reception for the more widely-known PlayStation 2 variant, this PAL exclusivity is potentially the biggest reason for Stunt GP's relative lack of visibility on the Dreamcast. To my eyes, this is a great shame because - in my humble opinion - Stunt GP is actually one of the most enjoyable 'kart' style racers on the system.

The A-Z of Dreamcast Racing Games: Another New Dreamcast Book Releasing in 2021!

I wanted to share with you a personal project that I’ve been working on over the past few weeks behind the scenes, and hope to release this year for the Dreamcast community: a new physical book titled The A-Z of Dreamcast Racing Games.

This book will cover all 50 racing games ever released on the Dreamcast (as well as a few extra that never actually got released), featuring a retrospective review of each game as well as some insight and interviews from the original development teams of select titles. There will be some additional content included as well (I’m not giving away everything just yet!) and it will be the ultimate companion for any Dreamcast fan who loves racing games.

I’ve made a conscious decision not to go down the traditional crowd-sourcing route for this book and instead will be self-publishing via Amazon. This decision enables me to keep costs down as low as possible, not having to commit people to up-front orders and additionally, makes the book readily available to anyone worldwide. It also means that the book will be published in a format that is not too dissimilar to a cheats book from back in the 90s, which I must admit I really like!

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.

Review: Arcade Racing Legends

As the third decade of the 21st century dawns, it's becoming quite clear that we're entering a renaissance of sorts for our beloved little box of dreams. While the masses wax lyrical about their shiny new Xbox 5's and PlayStation Series X's (that's right, yeah?), or relentlessly bore on about ray tracing and load times of 3 nanoseconds, we here at the Junkyard are rightfully far more excited about the impending tsunami of new titles about to wash away all our troubles and restore that blue swirl (red, I suppose, if you prefer) to it's rightful place at the pinnacle of gaming excellence.

Sort of, anyway. 

It's true though that we are spoiled for new content right now. We've got an upcoming Dreamcast games calendar chock full of titles, the likes of such not seen since the time nu-metal was vaguely popular with teenagers with terrible hairstyles and ludicrous length jeans, we can barely go a week without some new-fangled piece of technology to enhance/cannibalise/set it on the path to sentient life, for our Dreamcast getting announced, and we've even got geniuses coming out with ports of post-DC titles from the arcade that we can play on the console too. It feels less like a rose tinted, nostalgia driven website written by Sega fanboys around here now; and more like we're covering some sort of current-gen machine.

The main menu screen you're first presented with.

But I'm blabbering again. We're not here to moan about being too old to keep up to date with latest news today, we'll save that for the podcast. Instead, we're here to take a slightly belated look at the newest addition to the Dreamcast's now substantial indie library - the much anticipated, made for the Dreamcast latest release from JoshProd - Arcade Racing Legends.

Successfully Kickstarted back in 2019, we've been keeping a watchful eye over the development of the title, and had access to some early builds as well. There's a fair few keen racing fans here at the 'Yard, so the prospect of a new, fully 3D racing title for the console, and one promising to bring back some of the blue sky arcade racing pedigree of Sega games of yore, was one that had us positively salivating with hope. 

Scud life. Cough.

JoshProd have been a relentless supporter of the Dreamcast independent scene in recent years, but have so far focused on bringing us ports from other platforms rather than self-developed titles. Indeed, despite what some have said, this isn't the first 3D indie title on the system - JoshProd's own delivery of the Dreamcast port of 4x4 Jam takes that honour. They've got a very interesting lineup of titles on their way to us, and their past output has had some serious hits - Flashback, Another World, The Escapee - as well as a couple of misfires - the disappointing Ganryu for one. But when any developer has the ambition to bring us something completely new - well, we sit up and take note.

Some of the campaign artwork really whetted our appetite for the game

So just what is this new game all about? Well, Arcade Racing Legends wears its inspiration clear for all to see - not least in its title. An old school homage to the golden age of arcade racing games, it gives you a super fast car, exotic track locations and plenty of wink-wink, nudge-nudge references to past Sega titles. In fact, that's probably not quite true - there's little subtle about the inspiration for some of the vehicles here, and that's no bad thing at all. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Preview: Arcade Racing Legends

Announced back in June 2019 and successfully Kickstarted a month later in July, Arcade Racing Legends is a brand new Dreamcast title originally due for release at the end of 2019, but was subsequently delayed until later this year. My Dreamcast Junkyard colleague Mike Phelan wrote a great article documenting the initial project and what it’s all about, so rather than regurgitate that information I’ll direct you here if you want to know the background story for JoshProd and PixelHeart's Arcade Racing Legends.

It’s no secret that I’m a pretty big fan of the racing genre, and nostalgic arcade racers have always been high on my list, so naturally I was quick to back the project in the hope it would turn into a reality. As a backer, one of the most recent perks offered was a downloadable demo, so I grabbed it and thought it would be a great opportunity to let you all know how the game is shaping up.
Graphically, Arcade Racing Legends ticks all the boxes. No, it isn’t a “realistic” setting like you might find in something like Tokyo Highway Challenge but the game screams 90’s arcade racer at you, which is literally the whole point of this release. A bold colourful palette, plenty of variety from one course to the next (there are three available in the demo: Arctic, Desert and Forest), and a lovely garage menu system meant I was very pleased with what my eyeballs were treated to. It certainly looks like a game that could’ve been released back in the day, and a beautiful one at that.

Handling-wise, I was pleasantly surprised. It was my most feared element of Arcade Racing Legends even when I originally backed the project. After watching a few videos of early footage, the car handling looked a bit suspect, but after getting some hands-on time with the demo I was thankful that your car doesn’t constantly feel like you’re driving on ice. It’s still a bit floaty, sure, but the developers seem to have found a good balance here and kept it feeling arcadey without it being too ridiculous. It's actually really enjoyable to play and - for me at least - feels better to play than some original arcade racers.
Available to try in the demo are Career and Time Trial modes. I headed straight to start my Career mode and was presented with a day by day set of challenges as you advance towards turning yourself into a “professional arcade racer”. The challenges do a great job of easing you into the game step by step. On day one, for example, you just have to drive to the goal without any time pressures, just to get a feeling for the car. Day two sees you tackle a different circuit, this time against the clock, in a race to the finish. Day three puts you in the daunting position of not being allowed to use your brake pedal and yet still complete the course within a set time, and so on. It's a nice way of building things up and adding a bit of variety.
Three different cars are available in the demo, all of which have basic tuning options affecting their overall performance on the track. Followers of the Kickstarter will know there are going to be a whole load of different cars in the full release, many of which are based on vehicles from classic Sega arcade driving games like Sega Rally and Crazy Taxi, which is one of my most anticipated things about playing the full version.
The one thing I think really hurts Arcade Racing Legends, from both a gameplay and visual perspective, is that the circuits are all blocked off on both sides by continuous rows of sponsor boards. It very much lessens the experience quite a bit as you’re never in a position where you can run wide, and a mistake is rarely punished as you can just ride along the walls with very little slowdown. It all feels, and looks, just a bit bland and very lazy.
Original screenshots from the Kickstarter showed a few tracks where these sponsor boards did not appear right next to the asphalt or racing surface itself, so I really hope the full release has some wider play areas - I’d go so far as to say it’s the most important thing that PixelHeart need to address between now and the final release. The game won’t have much replayability if it remains as-is, simply because the challenge of learning the layouts of the circuits just isn’t there with the current setup.

Despite this, I’m still really looking forward to the release of Arcade Racing Legends and getting stuck into the Career mode proper when the game does finally get released. The demo did a great job of easing my concerns about the handling, and I just hope they take feedback onboard around those pesky track barriers. If they do, this could be a genuinely enjoyable game to play frequently on Dreamcast in 2020.

For those who missed the original Kickstarter campaign, pre-orders are now available here.

How about you, are you going to pick this up? Let us know in the comments below or on Twitter.

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Every Dreamcast game featuring a Toyota Celica...because why not?

I recently bought a Toyota Celica. When I showed a picture of it to my sister, she asked if I was having a mid-life crisis. I enthusiastically replied that I'm having a whole-life crisis, but that the purchase of this automobile had nothing to do with it. I just happened to see it going quite cheap and was looking for a replacement for the old diesel estate that had trustily transported me and all my Dreamcast crap to countless gamings expos over the years. So yeah, I'm now a member of the Celica owner's club. Not an actual club - although I'm sure something like that exists for conscientious drivers who like nothing better than adding gigantic spoilers, furry dice, diamond encrusted wheels and go faster stripes to their cars.
I've blanked out my number plate so ne'erdowells don't do ne'erdowell stuff with it.
After owning the Celica for a couple of weeks, something odd slowly dawned on me as I mindlessly played various entries in the racing genre on Dreamcast. No, it wasn't the realisation that nothing even comes close to Spirit of Speed 1937 in simulating the thrills of driving a real race car. It was actually something far less interesting to pretty much everyone who isn't me: the Toyota Celica features in quite a few Dreamcast racing titles...and I'm not just talking about the famous GT-Four rally car either. 
The Celica GT-Four as seen in Sega Rally 2
No, I'm specifically talking about the seventh generation Toyota Celica coupe, the final model Toyota released before killing off the iconic marque in the mid 2000s. A car that - for me at least - has taken on baader-meinhof properties since I started driving one. Seriously - I see them everywhere now. I suppose the answer as to why the seventh generation Celica appeared in so many Dreamcast games is quite obvious when you really think about it though.
The real deal...
The Celica - and specifically the seventh generation model (pictured) - was Toyota's flagship coupe slap bang in the middle of the era of the Dreamcast (the seventh generation Celica was produced between 1999 and 2006), so why wouldn't it appear in so many Dreamcast games as a mid-level sportster? A mid-level sportster with outstanding fuel economy, light weight and outrageous road handling, I should add...but that's a topic for another website entirely.
...the digital deal
Anyway, join me, dear reader, as we look at all the titles on Dreamcast that feature the seventh generation Toyota Celica, and a few that feature the iconic GT-Four...

Metropolis Street Racer
Bizarre Creations' seminal driving game has a surprising number of real world vehicles you can sample the delights of, and though you start small with some fairly low-specced runabouts, as you progress through the chapters more and more powerful cars are revealed; their well-rendered showroom blankets thrown off to reveal the glistening virtual paint beneath. The Celica featured in Metropolis Street Racer is ranked with a modest 4.0 CPF (Car Performance Rating), meaning it's not quite the top end of the stable, but does the job for the chapters in which it becomes available. 
MSR's vehicle selection screen is pretty cool
It's the favoured 190bhp model used in MSR
It handles well (like most cars in this game to be honest) and has a decent top speed. The model is very faithful too, although it does lack the interior details seen in some other games listed here. Due to MSR's lack of any real tuning or visual detail options, you can't really change much apart from the tint of the windows, the colour of the paint and the registration plate, but that's OK.
This is taken from the 'Exhibition' mode
Doing a bit of sightseeing in London of an evening
Metropolis Street Racer's Celica is a fine representation of the real thing, and as you'd expect it features the standard 6-speed gearbox found in the real vehicle (7-speed if you count reverse), but to be honest you'd kind of expect this level of authenticity in a game where the developers measured the actual height of curbs in London to make sure everything looked as accurate as possible. It would have been nice to be able to add spoilers or change the alloy wheels, but that wasn't really a thing with any of the cars in MSR, so I'm happy to give it a pass on that front.

5 Dreamcast Racers Which Didn't Quite Make the Podium

There is no shortage of 'best racing games' lists for the Dreamcast - a system which had some of the most critically acclaimed racing games of the early 00’s. Everyone knows just how good Dreamcast classics like Metropolis Street Racer, Daytona USA, Sega Rally and Ferrari F355 Challenge were. Absolutely fantastic driving games that really did move the genre forward in their own way, and games that as a Dreamcast fan reading this article, you’ve probably spent many hours playing.

As you should know by now, here at the Junkyard we like to think outside of the box a little. So here we go, then. In no particular order, I present to you my alternative top five Dreamcast racers that you might not have played yet:

Tokyo Highway Challenge / Tokyo Extreme Racer
Released for the PAL launch (and confusingly called something different in every territory - Tokyo Extreme Racer and Shutokou Battle in the US and Japan respectively), Tokyo Highway Challenge is a game that I rented plenty of times when I was younger and have since put many hours into. I think it’s one of the most underrated racing games on the system and thanks to its evening setting, it still looks fantastic when played today in a smooth 60fps.
Tokyo Highway Challenge sees us buying cars, tuning them up and taking to the Japanese highways to challenge other hoons in a race for cash. Each other driver belongs to a gang, and when you’ve beaten all drivers in a particular gang, you get to face off against their leader.
It’s all a bit like a 'racing fighting game' where all races are 1v1 and you have an energy bar at the top of the screen. Whoever is behind on the road starts to see their energy bar deplete, ticking down faster as the gap between first and second increases. A simple concept but a refreshing one for those who don’t want to race lap after lap.
The biggest criticism of the game is a well noted one - just one 'track,' which itself isn’t particularly big, even though you do get the option of racing in either direction around the highway loop. Nevertheless, the tuning and upgrade system is fantastic and an essential part of the game. As you get further in, your tuning skills will make the difference between winning battles or not, regardless of how well you can drive!

Toy Racer Retrospective: Dreamcast Online Gaming

If you ask most Dreamcast fans what their favourite games are on the system, it’s not unusual to hear things like Soul Calibur, Sonic Adventure, Phantasy Star Online, Crazy Taxi, and so forth. One answer you don’t hear very often is Toy Racer; a budget Toy Commander spin-off focusing primarily on online multiplayer racing.

For me, Toy Racer is one of my favourite and easily most played Dreamcast titles - not because it’s necessarily a fantastic game - but because it genuinely changed the way I enjoyed video games forever by fully opening my eyes to the world of online gaming.
Released in 2000, Toy Racer was developed by No Cliché and published by Sega themselves. It only ever saw the light of day on store shelves in Europe, as a planned US release never ultimately materialised. Toy Racer enjoyed chart topping success in the UK thanks mostly to its insanely budget price of just £5 (approx $6-7 today, but more like $3-4 back then) - the same price as a Dreamcast demo disc - and this was certainly a huge reason why I took a gamble back in the day.
Being a student at the time, new gaming purchases were a rare occurrence. But how could I resist at such a low price for a new racing game promising endless multiplayer fun!  Up until this point, I’d been intrigued by online gaming but had never really invested any significant time into it. I didn’t own a gaming PC and my free copy of Chu Chu Rocket (thanks to being an early sign-up to the Dreamarena) didn’t really have any lasting appeal for me beyond the initial novelty of playing against other real people via the power of the internet...