Showing posts with label Suzuki Alstare Extreme Racing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Suzuki Alstare Extreme Racing. Show all posts

Revisiting the Aesthetics of TrickStyle and Dreamcast 20XX Futurism

You can tell a lot about a society’s hopes and fears by how its fictitious works depict the future. In this regard, the Dreamcast is a fascinating time capsule of our most prevalent insecurities at the turn of the millennium. As we’ve come to view the Dreamcast through a retro lens, we can also try to understand the historical context behind its own brand of retro futurism.

Revisiting a smattering of early Dreamcast games on the console’s 19th anniversary, I’m reminded of some of the common themes and aesthetics imbuing many futuristic Dreamcast and PC titles of the late '90s and early aughts. Notably, these games depicted vaguely dystopian futures that were all at once gritty, vibrant, desolate, and shrouded in a thick fog, both literally – to mask pop-in due to hardware constraints – and figuratively in their perturbed sense of uncertainty.
For me, this aesthetic characterized a fair share of the Dreamcast’s library, propagating a trend of worn, sterile, and heavily-industrialized future settings. I feel compelled to interpret this style – let’s call it “Dreamcast 20XX” for now – as a reflection of our most prevalent cultural anxieties at that time, both real and embellished. In other words, it is easy to imagine late ‘90s game developers – particularly western ones – depicting a future where the Y2K bug could’ve actually fucked up some shit. These themes manifest themselves in numerous games across a variety of genres.
They feature prominently in action titles like MDK2, Slave Zero, and Red Dog; but also in first person shooters Quake and Unreal Tournament; the open-world adventure game Omikron: The Nomad Soul; even racing games like the spectacularly boring Magforce Racing. Although these depictions vary in their degrees of cynicism, they broadly portray the toll that years of industrial and economic disrepair could take on the world in the wake of vague, societal catastrophe.
Towards the surprisingly bleak end of this spectrum is one of my favorite Dreamcast racing games, Criterion’s TrickStyle. Its chief conceit surrounds an international community struggling to rebuild itself following worldwide, war-torn devastation. In TrickStyle’s post-war future, society pulls itself up by its hoverboard binding straps and instills racing as a shared cultural tentpole, both as a means to stave off boredom and to strengthen global stability by way of awesome fucking hoverboards. It’s Marty McFly’s new world order.

Separated at Birth: Redline Racer & Suzuki Alstare

Redline Racer was a very early release for the Dreamcast and was little more than a technical showcase for the hardware. Developed by Criterion (yes, the same Criterion behind the Burnout series) the game initially launched for PC where it received average reviews, and a few months later in April 1999 it hit Japanese Dreamcasts to a similarly lukewarm reception. When Redline Racer was released in North America and PAL regions the following year, it came with official branding and a new name: Suzuki Alstare Extreme Racing.

Thinking back, Suzuki was one of the first titles I experienced on the Dreamcast and I clearly recall renting it from Blockbuster when the price of a new game of my own was something way out of my price range. I also remember thinking it was a fairly decent, nice looking racer and to this day I still don't think there's anything particularly offensive about it. Sure, the visuals haven't aged well and the handling model is fairly rudimentary when compared to more contemporary motorcycle racers like Moto GP et al, but as a simplistic arcade jaunt there are worse titles out there.
I was aware of the connection to Redline Racer, but never really paid much attention to the Japanese ancestor because I always just assumed it was the same game without the Suzuki license and thought nothing more of it. However, in the recent past I acquired a copy of Redline (£3 well spent!) and gave it a whirl just out of curiosity; and I can honestly say that while many sites simply label Redline Racer as the Japanese version of Suzuki Alstare, in truth they couldn't be more different...

Two Wheels...Good?

Well, the weather’s finally decided to behave and we in the UK have been blessed (temporarily at least) with a fairly decent few days. No grey mornings, no torrential afternoons and no evenings where you think it might be safer to move your car away from the trees that are swaying dangerously close to the telegraph pole outside the front door. Yes - this happened just a few weeks ago. Granted, our weather here in good old England isn't as severe as in some other countries, but for the past few years it has been consistently shit. But hurrah! The sun has come out and stayed out for the past week, and that can only be good for someone like me...someone who rides a motorcycle! Yes, the recent fine weather has meant that I’ve been riding the highways and byways of Northern England, taking in the sights and sounds. But this ain't no Goddamned travelogue. No, this is the Dreamcast Junkyard: the epicentre/epicenter of all things Dreamcast, depending on where you reside.

So why am I bleating on about weather and motorbikes and all sorts of other unrelated crap? Well, it’s because I got back from my most recent bike ride and suddenly realised that the Dreamcast has a whole host of two-wheeled-mode-of-transport-related titles. Well, three dedicated ones anyway. And I figured it was about damn time that I had a look at them. There’s also another game that features motorcycles, and I'll get around to that. Eventually. But before then...let us cast a critical eye on the Dreamcast’s stable of ‘proper’ bike ‘em ups...