Showing posts with label Retrospective. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Retrospective. Show all posts

NBA Showtime - For The Industry

Designed and published by Midway Games, Inc for the Sega Dreamcast in 1999, NBA Showtime is still worth playing in 2024, and its 128-bit graphics are worth preserving — for character artists and gamers alike.

When we position NBA Showtime on the Dreamcast amongst today’s sports games, something interesting happens. Showtime feels surprisingly fresh with its simple controls and tight playing moves. That is because Showtime is accessible in a way that modern NBA 2K purposefully never will be.

What’s more, Showtime’s old-school graphics and big time dunks led me to a major premise — design choices can impact the lives of the people who create and consume a game. That is because design choices made by big tech directly impact game budgets, development staffing decisions, and can even manipulate player spending habits, too. Powerful.

Without question, economical and responsibly made sports games are needed in the 2024 sports game market. NBA Showtime is a reminder of what is possible on hardware from over 20 years ago; and its 128-bit design may serve as a prescription in the face of an industry profiting billions off of gambling mechanics in sports games.

NBA Showtime’s Economical Design


Showtime’s economical design for the Dreamcast illustrates why arcade sports games are still worth playing. "The NBA on NBC", as it was known in the arcades at the turn of the millennium, is fun and super competitive without complex gameplay controls.

I did not expect to play Sega Dreamcast sports games in 2024. And upon powering up, I did not anticipate Showtime’s orchestral strings to invoke such strong emotions about its standing. But when we position it amongst today’s lineup of sports games, nothing actually compares. Whereas NBA 2K, the top selling NBA Basketball game series of the last decade, adopts a model of endless combinations and movesets, Showtime has just four buttons. Easy. One of those buttons is capable of launching three point shots high into the atmosphere, where the basketball seems to sky just long enough to remind yourself to breathe. Hence, the game does fun things with the sport through its iconic presentation — taking a three-pointer and turning it into an exciting event to replay over and over.

More importantly, Showtime is offline, and thus not connected to your credit card. It feels honest — unlike today’s games ruined by wallet exploits and complicated control schemes. The NBA 2K series, a prime culprit, builds its obfuscated player ratings and movesets into its game economy systems. Yes, the NBA’s flagship game has endless shops of in-game items to purchase. Everything is for sale.

Moreover, sports gamers today are at the mercy of the engineers at 2K Sports because 2K’s gameplay is constantly patched, often without notice — an unethical and potentially illegal business practice. For example, an animation purchased in week one of a game release might lose all value by week ten. Thus, 2K’s confusing layers of ratings systems are purposeful, designed to extract maximum funds out of players’ pockets.

Contrasting with 2K, Showtime’s rosters are locked in at specific ratings, and the game features a handful of player archetypes. Bigs, mids, and guards. That is it, and it works. Showtime is a game to enjoy, and its designers emphasized quick-hitting matches to keep the gameplay loop moving. For arcade machines, the gameplay loop was profitable, but on Dreamcast, players can play endless matches for a flat fee. For context, I purchased the game on eBay for the fitting price of $19.99 in late 2023.

Additionally, Showtime provides an abundance of what it calls its “coaching tips” in-between quarters that provide insight into the game’s AI and logic. Hence, we know a good deal about how Showtime works. And Showtime is not going to unilaterally change its player ratings any time soon via an online update.

When we look at Midway's arcade baller today, its simplicity comes across as a bit underrated. The graphics are blocky, the animations — awkward. But that is part of its charm, and the game can still hammer home the dunks on the genre to remind everyone it is still fun.

A 128-Bit Prescription for the Industry


Perhaps more importantly are the moral and ethical benefits of 128-bit gaming in 2024 in its various polygonal forms. In a word: remasters.

Remasters of 128-bit polygon arcade games like Showtime may be a compromise for all parties to the sports gaming ecosystem. That is because NBA Showtime’s art-style is highly affordable for the industry to adopt in 2024. As such, a remaster of an NBA Showtime in 2024 would be less laborious on designers, and cost less than most AAA games. For an industry known to run artists into the ground, a remaster is a win. While this argument glosses over the issue of obtaining the requisite licensing for all the players, there are always solutions when there is money to be made. We can trust in that notion.

The benefits of 128-bit games also extend to graphic designer and artist employment terms. Silicon Valley’s unethical practice of hiring and firing artists in waves is unnecessary when a 128-bit game costs a fraction of a major simulation sports production in 2024. The 128-bit graphic design choice is an act of acknowledgement to the artists from generations ago. Remasters can take us back to our roots, and maybe that is something the industry needs right now.

Lower development costs for a 128-bit production also thereby lessen big tech’s need to exploit players through in-game monetization systems. And while we cannot conclusively draw a line between development costs and microtransactions in our games, we can certainly argue the correlation. Lower costs have numerous benefits on the industry. Art direction matters.

Thus, remasters of classic sports games like Showtime represent a path towards dignity for everyone the game touches. Remasters can honor the original artists of NBA Showtime, while treating the artists of today with dignity. And remasters lessen the need for companies to build in morally bankrupt gambling modes into sports games. The premise is simple — companies should have a profound respect for persons and dignity. Human rights should be a part of our game design choices and the industry as a whole.
When we revisit NBA Showtime in 2024, it is less about nostalgia and more so about what the game now represents in the sports genre. The use of 128-bit graphics in sports games in 2024 is a practical path to more humane treatment of game artists and sports game players.

Vanishing Point: The Dreamcast's Secret Ridge Racer

In early January 2001, while most were still nursing hangovers and recovering from eating too many mince pies, Vanishing Point released on both the Dreamcast and PlayStation to little fanfare in what was an already overcrowded genre. As such, it unfortunately drifted off into obscurity as one of the most misunderstood and underappreciated racing games of its era.

The titular "Vanishing Point" was actually a reference to developer Clockwork Games' ambitions to create a racing game with neither graphical pop up or fog masking the draw distance. It was also inspired by popular arcade racers of the time, such as Sega Rally, SCUD racer, and there is definitely a taste of Ridge Racer in the visual and course design, with planes flying overhead, yachts in harbours, windmills, trains and of course, lots of big fancy bridges. 

Image credit: MobyGames

But before we go any further, let’s get the elephant in the room out of the way. The game's intro footage is about as misleading as any opening FMV could be for a game. You do not directly race against opponents, there are no aggressive two-way or even three-way races, nor are there oncoming tankers with explosions to satisfy even the craziest of pyromaniacs. That said, what is here, is a rather unique take on the arcade racer. Instead of starting at the back and working your way through the pack to first place, the structure is more like an open time trial. This has led to the misconception over the years that Vanishing Point is just a time trial game. While the aim is to beat each race's set time, the real hook of the game is the traffic you have to weave through as efficiently as possible in order to be able to hit that time - you can’t just follow the most obvious path around the course. The traffic is also multi-tiered, adding an extra layer of depth to how you must approach your driving.

There are two types of traffic AI, the first being basic "drone" vehicles which are just cars that happen to be on the road. They pose very little risk, as long as you just don’t plough into them. But what does make the driving of Vanishing Point much more interesting are other racers on the road who are also vying for the fastest time. Being ready to respond to whatever is going to happen in front of you makes getting past these particular drivers much more challenging; they are much less predictable, and will even try to get around the drone traffic, often taking themselves out in the process.

Image credit: MobyGames

This brings the three key pillars of Vanishing Point into view:

  • Momentum
  • Anticipation
  • Threading the line

In order to keep your speed up, you need to carry momentum through the corners of the course into the straights, which entails not slowing down too sharply or steering too heavily. At the same time, you have to anticipate the traffic ahead, and may find that the fastest path forward is also going to lead you directly into a three-car pile-up, adding a great risk/reward hook. This makes threading your line around the course and through the traffic vital, and once you're familiar with the handling, this is an extremely satisfying gameplay mechanic, especially when combined with the incredible sense of speed the faster cars have.

There are a variety of licensed vehicles from several manufacturers available, including Ford, Toyota and Audi, each with their own unique handling and physics models. The differences between the cars provide a good level of variety to races, as it means there are better ways to approach certain courses depending on the vehicle you have selected. The courses and also nicely varied in both layout and aesthetics, which helps to prevent the game from looking and feeling samey as you progress.

Image credit: MobyGames

The structure of the game is very much of its time, having you start with a very limited choice of vehicles and courses, with more choices opening up the further you progress. Not only do you unlock additional vehicles and courses, but there are entire new game modes to discover, including a "Stunt Driver" mode, with objectives for stunts to carry out, and a "Rally" mode. There are also some multiplayer modes, including the usual head-to-head racing, but also "Balloon Buster" and "Chicken Races", which altogether makes Vanishing Point a surprisingly well-rounded package with plenty of replay value. What’s more, although only two can play at a time, the "Knock Out", "Tournament" and "Winner Stays On" modes support up to eight participants.

Image credit: MobyGames

Visually, Vanishing Point has that "PS1 game" look about it… except, with a higher resolution, cleaner textures and a silky smooth frame rate of 60fps. The car models are rendered authentically, if a little lower in detail compared to other games on the system. 

The game is no slouch on the sound front, with some pretty beefy engine sounds and a soundtrack that never quite hits the highs of Sega or Namco’s greatest, but is far from terrible and fits the high-speed action well.

Clockwork Games didn't quite achieve their ambition of making a game that feels like Sega Rally, but once you learn to ignore the urge to correct the oversteer, there is a very smooth and responsive arcade racer worth experiencing. All in all, Vanishing Point stands out as a unique racing title on the system, and with its relatively cheap preowned price, it is a worthy of addition to any Dreamcast owner's collection.

Have you played Vanishing Point? If so, what are your thoughts on it? Let us know in the comments below or via one of our many social media channels.

Sonic Adventureland: A Roller Coaster of Love

If you’ve visited a Disney theme park in the last half century, you may be familiar with Space Mountain (or “Star Wars Hyperspace Mountain” per its Disneyland Paris branding). Originally conceived as Walt Disney’s roller coaster homage to the boundlessness of human ambition, today the attraction wallows in retro-futuristic parody. Steeped in the influences of iconic ‘60s and ‘70s sci-fi films – however superficially – Space Mountain evokes the unsettling, sinister tone of a future we'd never want but may only be marginally worse than the one we got. As we wait in the queue, its dim spaceport catwalks usher us through a thematic mess of obtuse angles and space-age mainframe panels. We lift off in garish pod cars and uneasy anticipation mounts as we ascend its pulsing blue tunnel. And then, the pitch-black void of space.
Image credit: TheCoasterViews

Over the next couple minutes, Disney’s spacefaring voyage pulls us up to 3.7Gs through a flurry of drops, twists, and jolts. The darkness deprives us of just enough senses for a more potent and unpredictable thrill; one we feel more than see. In the void, we’re blind to its gaudiness. It becomes clear Space Mountain was born out of the calculated ingenuity of chain-smoking Imagineers at the peak of their craft. It's almost viscerally Kubrickian, however lacking in allegory or irony. Primitive and unpolished in its interstellar kitsch, Space Mountain’s artistry endures in another sense: it’s just a darn fun ride.

And so it goes for Sonic Adventure.
If you’ve played a Dreamcast in the last quarter century, you may be familiar with Sonic Team’s ambitious 3D platformer (also the console’s best-selling game). You’re also likely to have an opinion of it. I can relate, I’ve had many. My volatile views on Sonic Adventure have practically been a roller coaster of their own. It was the reason I bought a Dreamcast and I loved playing it back when it was the first and only game I owned at launch. I soured on it in the decades since, often echoing the criticisms people spout whenever the internet convenes to complain about the game. More recently, I replayed all its characters' campaigns and it is safe to say I’ve opened my heart to Sonic Adventure once again. These days, I revisit it more often than just about any video game, period.

I’m still recovering from the whiplash.
Sonic Adventureland: A theme park where the only lines are the load times!

For me, Sonic Adventure is best enjoyed as an amusement park, and it is in that spirit that I am always eager to jump back into its queue.

Blue Stinger: On a Hello Market Slay Ride


"And when those blue snowflakes start falling

That's when those blue memories start calling

You'll be doing all right

With your Dreamcast of white

But I'll have a blue, blue, blue, Blue Stinger"

- Elvis Presley, or a Vegas impersonator thereof

Every year, I must indulge in a series of holiday rituals before I can even think about getting into the Christmas spirit. First, I’ll string up multicolor lights around my living room. Then I’ll help bring cheer to the folks of Twin Seeds City with a couple runs through Christmas NiGHTS into Dreams. Inevitably, I’ll watch Clark Griswold be an asswart to his neighbor Julia Louise-Dreyfus in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. It’s a process.

With those nostalgic boxes checked, I’ll then turn to more subtle, personal ways of rediscovering the holiday magic. I'll take a simple reprieve from the stressful work season with my puppy. And stuff my gullet with my mom and aunt’s dueling cookie platters. My girlfriend and I also tried hate-watching Lifetime holiday movies until we realized we were just normal-watching them. Shout out to the one about the family's struggling fruitcake company and the one with Reba McEntire, btw. By this point, I’m really starting to feel the Christmas spirit.

Then – when the time is just right – I’ll pop the star atop the proverbial tree: Climax Graphics’ Christmas-adjacent Dreamcast classic, Blue Stinger.

Here comes Santa Dogs, Here comes Santa Dogs...

Whether the Dreamcast fan community regards it as a brilliant cult classic or a survival horror(ible) jankfest, Blue Stinger doesn’t much give a fuck what we think of it. All told, it's an absurd and campy holiday action game that makes my cup runneth over with Yuletide joy.

Retrospective: Sega Extreme Sports

Sega Extreme Sports, released in 2000 and published by Sega in Europe and Japan as part of their “Sega Sports” series, was one of a multitude of titles in an ever-increasingly popular genre on the Dreamcast. The game’s title clearly wasn’t edgy enough for the US-audience however, and was instead published by Infogrames and simply called “Xtreme Sports” - with an X just to sound gnarly!

As part of this retrospective, I was fortunate enough to have Henning Rokling, then-CEO of Innerloop Studios who created Sega Extreme Sports, provide some fantastic insight into the production of the game. Henning kicked off by saying how impressed they were with the Dreamcast hardware in general, the first console they’d worked with: “As we learned more and more from Sega, we were very impressed with the specs of their platform. We received dev kits prior to the console’s release, and worked closely with Sega Europe and Sega of Japan.”

There are six different disciplines included in Sega Extreme Sports: ATV, Snowboarding, Mountain Biking, Bungee Jumping, Sky Surfing and Speed Gliding. What’s interesting in this game over other similar titles is that each course sees players transition from one discipline to the other. This basically means that after driving your ATV down a muddy or snowy track, you have to smash the A button as frantically as you can as your character runs from the ATV to their snowboard or hand glider to start the next section.

I really liked how this worked and it meant you had a good amount of variety in each course that you played, as each course uses a mix of disciplines coupled together with the transition phase each time. Things can get pretty frantic as you see your 5 second advantage slip away as you fumble your transition onto your mountain bike!

It is fair to say that some disciplines are a little more enjoyable to play than others. Driving the ATV is great fun and I honestly think they could’ve made a game just from this mode with some longer tracks. But I think it’s snowboarding that gets my ultimate seal of approval. It looks gorgeous and is great fun to rack up the tricks along the way down the slope as you race to the finish, which in turn give you a replenishment on your turbo meter. None of these different disciplines are perfect by any means and some, like bungee jumping do feel a little tacked on, but it’s nice to have quite a bit of differentiation between them.

Graphically, Sega Extreme Sports is a smart looking title. Both the terrain and character models are all very detailed and it is certainly one of the better looking, more realistic games on the Dreamcast. Despite this, I have to comment on the strange texture-warping that goes on as you make your way through the stages. It’s not something I’ve seen in many other Dreamcast games but it can be pretty distracting when you’re in a cave and it looks like all of the walls are moving!

Bounty Hunter Sarah: The Capcom Dreamcast Game You Never Knew About

Ask any Dreamcast fan about Capcom's legacy on the console and you'll be told that good old Cappy are probably as synonymous with the box of dreams as even Sega themselves. Then, if you asked those same fans what kind of games they'd associate Capcom's mighty stint on the Dreamcast with, they'd most likely tell you "fighters", maybe even shoot-em-ups or survival horror. No one, and I repeat, no one would respond: "a text-based near future crime thriller featuring a digitised actress".

Bounty Hunter Sarah: Holy Mountain no Teiō was released onto the Dreamcast and PlayStation on the 24th of May 2001. Published by Capcom, this Japanese-exclusive "sound novel" (more on that in a moment) was developed by Flagship, a fresh-faced independent studio founded by ex-Capcom developer Yoshiki Okamoto. With funding from Capcom, Nintendo and Sega, Flagship would develop or assist with the development of games from huge franchises such as Resident Evil, Kirby and The Legend of Zelda, before sadly closing its doors in 2007. Bounty Hunter Sarah was Flagship’s first and only original IP, with its big selling point being that its plot was written by the same scenario writer as Resident Evil 2, Noboru Sugimura, who had also left Capcom to be part of Flagship.

The staff of Flagship at a 2001 presentation

The game's plot takes place in the year 2060, and revolves around Sarah Fitzgerald, a bounty hunter who roams the crime-ridden Neo Tokyo with the goal of assassinating a notorious mafia boss known as the "Lord of the Holy Mountain". The game's action-packed opening cinematic sets this all up really well, with plenty of flashy stop-motion spy stuff and enough explosions to make Michael Bay blush. But then when you start a new game, all that energy witnessed in the intro suddenly takes a turn as you soon realise that Sugimura's plot is told in the form of a "sound novel," a type of game fairly similar to a visual novel. For those not in the know, visual novels are...well, novels that are visual

Some would argue that they aren’t really games due to them essentially being flashy reading exercises, with little interaction required from the player other than to progress countless paragraphs of text with a single button and, in the case of the most common type of visual novel, have them occasionally select a choice. Despite their text heavy nature, they still include plenty of varying background scenery and colourful characters (usually anime-style) to accompany the stories being told, and often feature plot lines that can devolve down branching paths to multiple endings, leading some to liken visual novels to interactive choose your own adventure books. Sound novels, on the other hand, while still including a decent helping of artwork, often have it serve as a backdrop to screens filled with text, with the game instead relying more on sound effects and music to immerse the player into the plot taking place (source). 

Sakura Wars Columns 2 has been Translated into English!

This year in Dreamcast has already been one for the books. The indie titles, the Easter eggs, the unearthing of massive franchise entries once thought to be lost. One of the biggest deals for me personally has been the current surge of translation projects gracing our favourite system. Just like House of Pain back in '92, Dreamcast translation fever is in effect, y'all. Outdated Hip-hop references aside, most recently, we've seen many patches released, with plenty more in the works (you can see a megathread of all of the upcoming projects here). One individual in particular, Derek Pascarella, has been particularly busy in the first quarter of this year, releasing translations of Neon Genesis Evangelion -Typing E Keikaku-, and the infamous French-exclusive Taxi 2. While the translations of those games were more of a solo effort on Derek's part, he decided to take it up a notch for his next project, so much so that he had to recruit the talents of a whole team. This brand new patch is an English translation of Japan-exclusive Hanagumi Taisen Columns 2. Derek was kind enough to send me some early builds of the translation prior to the public patch release, so thank you, Derek.

Released in 2000, Hanagumi Taisen Columns 2 is the second instalment in a short-lived Columns spin-off series to the Sakura Wars franchise. For those not in the know, Sakura Wars (aka Sakura Taisen) is a Sega franchise that was ridiculously popular in Japan, where it remained exclusive for a very long time. The mainline entries in this series are known for their fantastic steampunk plots set in the Taishō period of Japan (with the plots of later entries finding their way to other countries), as well as a seamless combination of tactical RPG gameplay with visual novel sections, where building up relationships with members of your squad strengthens their morale in battle. If you want to read a bit more about Sakura Wars I've covered it on the blog twice now, with the most recent coverage being on the very good PS4 reboot that was released in April of last year. I've also chatted about it a little on the DreamPod too. 

At face value, Sakura Wars Columns (as the game's title was localised by Derek et al.) appears to simply be a Sakura Wars reskin of the classic Sega falling-block puzzler Columns, which probably saw its most prominent success as Sega's flagship puzzle game for the Mega Drive (or Genesis for you Americans!). But Sakura Wars Columns 2 stays true to the roots of its franchise, with story modes available in the game incorporating its signature visual novel/date sim-style gameplay in between blasts of gem stacking puzzle mayhem. All 12 characters of the Imperial Combat Revue's Flower Division have their own dedicated storylines (all of which are extremely charming - as is typical of the writing in Sakura Wars), as well as various strengths and weaknesses when it comes to column stacking. And with a tonne of different modes, unlockables and extra content, it's a really great package. I imagine Japanese gamers who picked this game up back in 2000 weren't disappointed, especially since it contained a network match service that allowed players to face off with each other online. These network capabilities have long since been retired, but let’s hope the release of this translation inspires the awesome peeps over at Dreamcast Live to restore them. Knowing them, they're probably already working on it.

Retrospective: Taxi 2 (French-exclusive Dreamcast title now translated to English)


Thanks to the efforts of Derek Pascarella and his team, for the first time in history we can enjoy the obscure French-exclusive Dreamcast title, Taxi 2: The Game, in English. Derek has released the English translated version of the game just a few weeks ago and as a result I thought it was a perfect time to dive into this curious Dreamcast game that I’d never played before.

Before we dive into the game itself, let’s have a quick recap of the movie it is based on:

Taxi 2 is a French action comedy film directed by Gérard Krawczyk, released into French cinemas in 2000 with pretty significant commercial success. According to their website, the film attracted more viewers in its opening week than the latest Star Wars movie! Taxi 2 would go on to enjoy 10.3 million admissions in France, underlining its relevance. After discovering just how popular the movie was, maybe it isn’t such a crazy thing that this game exists after all!

As you’d expect, the plot of the game follows the storyline from the movie. Things get pretty wild. In a nutshell, the overall plot is that the Japanese minister of defence is traveling to Paris to sign a weapons contract between Japan and France. During the visit he is kidnapped by a group working for the Japanese Yakuza. Throw in some more kidnappings and law-breaking incidents before our very own protagonist, Daniel the taxi driver, has to step up and save the day with his high speed driving skills and blatant disregard for the law.

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.

This Month In Dreamcast History - July 2000

In a new monthly feature, join me as we re-live the months of yesteryear - Dreamcast-style.

It’s July 2000. We’re over halfway through the first year of the new millenium and summer has kicked off (for us Europeans, at least) with the Euro 2000 football tournament in Holland and Belgium. July 2000 was the month Eminem scored another worldwide hit with his single The Real Slim Shady; and elsewhere, the newly disbanded Spice Girls were still tearing it up with their own brand of horror pop. July 2000 also saw the very first Big Brother reality TV show launch in the UK. But for those of us who were too busy playing Dreamcast to bother watching a dozen strangers locked in a house and forced to interact with total strangers, this is what we had to look forward to...
Spoiler: it never 'came home'
July’s PAL Dreamcast chart featured a few new titles:
  1. Tony Hawk's Pro Skater*
  2. Resident Evil: Code Veronica
  3. Wacky Races*
  4. Ecco The Dolphin*
  5. Crazy Taxi
A whopping three new entries made it into the top of the Dreamcast chart in July; Tony Hawk's Pro Skater knocked the absolutely sublime Resident Evil: Code Veronica off the top spot, the hugely underrated (in my opinion) Mario Kart clone Wacky Races debuted solidly in the top 3, whilst Sega’s own Ecco The Dolphin also started strongly.
Wacky Races is a standout kart racer for Dreamcast
Looking at July 2000’s gaming magazines, Dreamcast owners were spoiled for choice. Hidden & Dangerous received a massive 92% from Dreamcast Magazine, with the reviewer claiming that it could “take over your life”. In the same magazine, “the definitive F1 racer for Dreamcast”, F1 World Grand Prix 2, scored 90% and was a personal favourite of mine. Elsewhere in the most random magazine from July 2000 that I could find, Brazilian publication Super Game Power gave Sega’s answer to the popular Gran Turismo, Sega GT, a solid 8.3/10.
Super Game Power in Brazil seemed keen on Sega GT
The US Official Dreamcast Magazine were not impressed with Lara’s Dreamcast debut, scoring Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation a 5/10 and, probably fairly, suggesting that the game “did little to take advantage of the Dreamcast’s hardware”. Just a few pages later though, they gave 6/10 to the diabolical Nightmare Creatures II, whilst Dreamcast Magazine could only give it a woeful 39% and cited that “the only good thing is that you can kick doors down”. Many years later, our very own Tom Charnock would find himself agreeing with the latter review.

If you hadn't yet picked up your Dreamcast, now was as good a time as ever, with some great deals around. Popular UK-based mail order company, Gameplay, were offering a Dreamcast console and a copy of Chu Chu Rocket! for just £149.99. An absolute bargain and some £50 cheaper than the console's launch price less than a year ago.
Not picked up a Dreamcast yet? Plenty of bargains around in July 2000!
For those lucky gamers who did already own a Dreamcast, July's PAL-region releases saw a real variety of options to spend their hard earned cash on:
  • NHL 2K
  • Roadsters
  • South Park Rally
  • Tech Romancer
  • Dead or Alive 2
  • Marvel vs. Capcom 2
  • Gauntlet Legends
  • Midway's Greatest Hits Volume 1
Personally, I remember picking up the outstanding Dead or Alive 2 and taunting my PlayStation-owning friends with just how beautiful it looked. The rather attractive female cast had absolutely nothing to do with my teenage opinion, honestly. 

There you have it. In short, July 2000 was a bloody good time to be a Dreamcast owner. It was in the height of summer, there were a load of great games coming out and online gaming was right around the corner.
Big Brother is always watching. Always. Yes, even when
you do that thing in your bedroom on your own.
How about you? Were you a Dreamcast owner in July 2000? Did you pick up any of the games released this month? Were you salivating at the reviews in gaming magazines of the games coming out soon? Tell us all about it in the comments below. Join us next month as we take a look at what was happening in the Dreamcast bubble during the month of August in 2000.

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...