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

A Quick Look At SnoCross Championship Racing

Snow. Everybody loves Snow. His 1992 hit Informer sat pretty at the top of the US billboard charts for seven weeks, for example, proving that yes - everybody loves Snow. Of course, I jest. I am of course referring to the frozen white stuff, not the Canadian reggae artist from the 1990s. Snow is great fun and if it's not threatening to destroy the planet like in that film with Donnie Darko and Bilbo Baggins in it, it also heralds the coming of winter and Christmas. One of the most useful properties of snow is that it can be scooped up, fashioned into a throwable missile and then launched at someone's face with great force, thus enabling the age-old practice of the snow ball fight. As well as this, people with lots of money can use snowmobiles to race on it. And that's exactly what happens in SnoCross Championship Racing.
Developed by Unique Development Studios (aka UDS), SnoCross is actually the only title this obscure Swedish studio ever produced for the Dreamcast, having previously worked on No Fear Downhill Mountain Biking for the PlayStation. The game was published by Crave Entertainment and Ubisoft in 2000 for the Dreamcast and it sits alone in the racing genre as the only snowmobile racer for Sega's console. That said, it isn't the only game to feature snowmobiles as the D2 Shock demo that shipped with Real Sound: Winds of Regret also features a sort of open world mini-game where the player is tasked with locating various objects in the snow covered wilderness, careening about on a snowmobile.
The first thing you notice about SnoCross upon starting the game proper is just how bad it looks. It really does look like a PlayStation game, with boxy riders and badly textured, low detail environments par for the course. There are some nice little visual effects, such as reflective ice sheets and lens flares from the vehicle headlights, but for the most part SnoCross just looks bad. In fact, it's probably one of the worst looking games on the Dreamcast, and easily identifiable as one of those titles that was most probably developed with the original PlayStation in mind, before being slightly upgraded and chucked onto a GD-ROM as an afterthought.
That said, where SnoCross makes up for this visual horror show is in the gameplay and options. There are the usual quick race and time attack modes to play around with, but the main meat of SnoCross is in the main championship. There are three different tiers of difficulty, all of which are represented by ever increasing snowmobile - or sled - engine capacities. It's a bit like Mario Kart with differing displacements equating to skill level, with 500cc the lowest and easiest and higher ccs used to identify an increase in difficulty. All of the vehicles are officially licensed too, meaning Yamaha logos are abundant. On top of this, the championship does throw in some nice features, such as being able to win cash from races that enable you to buy new parts and upgrades for your sled, and also pay for repairs to various components that get damaged during races. No loot boxes or upgrade cards here, y'all (topical joke - check).