Showing posts with label VMU. Show all posts
Showing posts with label VMU. Show all posts

Photos and Video Footage of the VM2 Revealed!

In 2022, Dreamcast fans the world over were buzzing at the announcement of a “next-gen” Visual Memory Unit - the VM2. The news even reached the likes of Yahoo! Japan. Created by Chris Diaoglou, who brought us the very impressive DreamConn Bluetooth controller back in 2016, the VM2 blasted past its goal on IndieGoGo. Congratulations, Chris! 

Including a backlit LCD screen with higher resolution, along with Micro-SD storage internal storage of 128KB (200 blocks), and a rechargeable high-capacity internal battery with USB-C charging; the VM2 looks to be the VMU to end all VMUs. No more having to swap VMUs around when you run out of space, or running through CR2032 batteries every two seconds. Woo!

Anyhow, our friend Derek Pascarella shared some photos on our Discord (as well as his Twitter), courtesy of Chris, of the first test production run of the VM2, and it's looking damn good. Note the larger screen that includes icons for the battery and the SD card, along with a power button (instead of a sleep button).

If you still want to get your hands on a VM2, all hope is not lost despite the campaign having ended. The project has moved to "InDemand", meaning you can still order yourself one. Just head on over to the campaign page and select the VM2 perk you want! It will also be available on Chris’ website DreamMods at some point.

Update: Since putting this article up, Chris has returned to wow us yet again, this time with video footage of the early production units in action. Donning surgical gloves, Chris shows off the many bells and whistles of the VM2. He starts off showing the VM2's many settings options, before diving into some games, all presented on the beautiful backlit display. Some of the options that stood out to me the most included the ability to turn the backlight on and off, view the files contained on the SD card, increase VMU game speed, and change the system's region/language. One of the most notable options that grabbed my attention is one that allows you to turn off the VMUs sound (including toggling the famous startup beep on/off!), which is interesting as it wasn't really made clear if the VM2 was going to include a speaker. While I'm sure many wouldn't miss the VMU's death knell of drained CR2032 batteries, games like Skies of Arcadia use the speaker as a sonar, so good to know one is included on the VM2. Check the footage out below!


Anyway, thanks again to Derek and Chris for the photos and videos. Have you ordered or are planning to order a VM2? Let us know in the comments below!

Let's take a look at Hermes: Limited Edition - the first indie-branded VMU!

If you have dabbled in anything Sega Dreamcast in the last so many years, you'll most likely be aware that the modern indie game scene for the console is bustling, with no signs of slowing down any time soon. Despite the abundance of new indie software releases for the Dreamcast, there was one physical indie release in particular that seemed to peak my interest recently for an entirely different reason unrelated to the game itself, that being Hermes: Limited Edition, and its included Hermes-branded Visual Memory Unit (VMU). 

Hermes is a fun indie platformer developed by Retroguru with a glorious chiptune soundtrack where you play as a chef chasing after a chicken. Mike has already reviewed it on the blog a long while back, and you can check out his review here. In this post, though, I wanted to focus on that special VMU, because it is pretty much the first of its kind: the first indie-branded Dreamcast VMU. The only thing that would have come remotely close to something like this was the VMU lamp for Alice Dreams Tournament, which seems to have have been a Kickstarter-exclusive backer reward, as Adam Koralik and James from Shenmue Dojo both told us they own one.

Released by Video Games New York (aka VGNYSoft), Dreamcast diehards across the globe were understandably eager to get their hands on one of these cool VMUs. Unfortunately, dwellers of the United Kingdom like myself couldn't order from Video Games New York's website as they don't ship here. Luckily, Wave Game studios put a very small batch (ten, I think) of the limited edition up for sale on their website, so I snatched up one of those. Thanks, dudes!

The transparent green VMU is printed with the Hermes logo, as well as the chicken you play as, and the chef's meat cleaver. It actually comes packaged in an official American VMU box, which is stored inside the larger Hermes: Limited Edition box. It is pretty obvious that the VMUs used for this release are leftover brand new official VMU stock, but the printing on the VMU is such high-quality, you'd be mistaken for thinking it could have actually been an official release from Sega back in the day. Also, VGNY made a great choice in using the transparent green VMU!

Because I was so excited to receive my Hermes VMU, I actually mustered up some courage and decided to record a short clip showcasing the VMU, so check that out below! Apologies if I say “erm” a lot, I was ad-libbing!

If you want to get yourself one of these VMUs, there is currently stock available on VGNYSoft's website and Canadian site Video Games Plus. As for whether or not either will ship to your country, I'm not quite sure. Either way, let's hope this is the first of many indie-themed Dreamcast peripheral releases to come!

New Indies, Hardware and Mods galore! - Dreamcast News Round-up August 2022

It’s August 2022 and the Dreamcast renaissance shows no signs of petering out. All kinds of talented and creative folks from across the world clearly haven’t had their fill of the little white dream machine just yet, and a plethora of projects continue to be announced left, right and centre. But how are you supposed to keep tabs on this whirlwind of activity? Don’t you worry, the Junkyard is here to report on all the latest from the Dreamcast cosmos. Buckle up for a bumper news round-up freshly sourced from our network of highly informed sleuths.

Cover of 'Dream Information' volume zero
Move aside 'Dream Information' the DCJY News Round-up is the only game in town now.

Four new indie releases, Jeremy? That’s insane

In the recent past DCJY writers have salivated over the possibility that the indie release schedule of 2022 and 2023 would turn out to be ram packed. Of course, those who are a little longer in the tooth may know that announced indie games sadly don’t always make it through to completion or can fall into cycles of delays, but fortunately this has not been an issue in recent months, with four new titles landing so far this summer.

Shadow Gangs cover image

Shadow Gangs, the hotly anticipated Shinobi-esque side-scrolling beat em’ up, dropped in June. The Dreamcast release was finally made possible by a Kickstarter campaign that met its funding goal in March, after which the developers JKM Corp conspired with Wave Game Studios to rapidly turn out the physical release. Those who want to know more should check-out the publisher’s website, the handful of reviews that have quickly surfaced (The Dreamcast Junkyard, RetroFaith, Games Freezer), or have a gander at the various gameplay videos available on the likes of Youtube and Twitch.

Renkum Souls Adventure cover image
Two further releases quickly followed Shadow Gangs in June. Hailing from sunny Spain, Nape Games made their maiden voyage into Dreamcast territory with the release of Ploid and Renkum Souls Adventure. Both are pitched as action-adventure 2D platformers, each with their own distinctive stories that appear to link-up with worlds that have already been built-up over the course of Nape Games prior releases. Relatively little has been reported on the Dreamcast releases of these two titles so far – perhaps because the initial print-runs were quite limited. The publishers have hinted that a re-print could be on the cards in the future though, so be sure to keep those eyes peeled.

Mawthorne cover and disc
The final new indie release of the summer season, Mawthorne, shares a common thread with the Nape Games duo in that it was also primarily developed for the NES. Where it differs though, aside from being an entirely new IP, is in its simultaneous release on the Dreamcast and the NES. No waiting around here - the Dreamcast bound MIL-CDs shipped out alongside the cartridges in July. Details on this ‘metroidvania platform-adventure’ game can be found over on its Kickstarter page. Fingers crossed a re-print of the Dreamcast version will be coming down the line for those who missed out on the Kickstarter. As with the Nape Games duo, I can’t comment on the quality of this release, as I haven’t got my grubby mits on it, but with a bit of luck reviews will start to surface soon.

More indie releases on the horizon

Of course, there are shedloads of indie releases and re-releases on the horizon too. Read on for a rapid-fire rundown of the forthcoming games: 

  • 240p Test Suite – $24.99, due Q3 2022. Developed by Artemio, published by VGNYSoft. “A homebrew software suite for video game consoles developed to help in the evaluation of capture cards, upscalers, upscan converters, line doublers and of course TV processing of 240p video and scaled signals.”
  • Andros Dunos II - €34.90, due Q3 2022. Developed by Picorinne soft, published by JoshProd. A new side-scrolling shmup that is an officially licensed sequel to Visco’s 1992 Neo Geo game.  
  • Big2Small - $39.99, release date unknown. A cutesy puzzle adventure game, developed and published by RetroRoomGames, due for release on the Game Boy, N64 and Dreamcast. Pre-sales have been live since the end of May.
  • Driving Strikers - £???, development due to be finished by Q4 2022. Driving Strikers does what it says on the tin. You drive about in a car striking a ball into goals. Good, old-fashioned, no-nonsense football with cars, just like your ancestors played. Of course, the game will also mark a HUGE milestone upon release as it will be the first indie Dreamcast game to feature online play. The developer Kazade has indicated that he hopes to wrap the game’s development up before the end of 2022 and has also confirmed he intends for a physical product to be produced, although a publisher has not yet been confirmed. Get hyped for full lobbies from day one.  
  • Flight of the Amazon Queen - $24.99, due TBA 2022. Developed and published by RetroSurge. This Dreamcast port of a classic point-and-click game has been on the cards for quite some time now. Postponements have occurred in the past, so we wouldn’t be shocked if the game doesn’t reach completion this year. Fingers crossed the details begin to be firmed up soon. 
  • Hermes (re-release) - $29.99/$59.99, due Q3 2022. Developed by RetroGuru, published by VGNYSoft. Many will already be familiar with this little jump n’ run game, given that it was originally released on the Dreamcast in 2017. Aside from new box art, this re-release is most notable for the Limited Edition package which features a custom green VMU. 
  • Metal Canary - £???, release date unknown. A promising vertical shmup developed by Titan Game Studios and Frost Byte Games, first revealed in June 2021. It seems likely that a playable demo will be made available by year-end. Follow the Metal Canary Twitter account for gameplay footage and development updates. 
  • Non-Casual Encounter - £???, due Q4 2022. Developed by SEGASaturno Productions, Non-Casual Encounter will be the first graphic novel indie game to be released on the Dreamcast. The prologue (demo) released in December of last year was well received, despite being very short. 
  • Xenocider (re-release) - $39.99, due Q3 2022. Developed by Retro Sumus, published by VGNYSoft. The impressive 3D rail shooter gets a re-release targeted at North American audiences with new box artwork. 

Basically then, there are more forthcoming Dreamcast releases than you will know what to do with. Let me tell you something, the Dreamcast hasn’t even begun to peak. And when it does peak, you'll know. Because it’s gonna peak so hard that everybody in Philadelphia's gonna feel it. 

Mods, hardware and other tinkerings

A slew of announcements about newly invented modifications, improved hardware, and all kinds of other productive tinkerings have been coming in thick and fast this summer. While you’ve been touring Skeggie’s penny arcades and ice-cream vans on your summer hols’, others have clearly been hard at work…

The Dreamcast Broadband Adapter
Scrivani has been busy ensuring owners of the elusive Broadband Adapter can get a little more value out of their peripheral. If you have one, get it out of that dusty box and get online!

Following on from his 2021 invention of a method that allowed Broadband Adapter users to notify others of the games they are playing via DreamcastNow, Scrivani has recently produced a guide on how to use a DreamPi (I.E. a Raspberry Pi configured to enable online play via a simulated dial-up connection) as a WiFi to ethernet repeater. In lay terms, this configuration facilitates the use of the Broadband Adapter over WiFi. So, no more trip hazards from an ethernet cable snaking down the stairs to your router. Admittedly the use of this functionality is likely to be limited, but if you are one of the privileged few who make active use of a Broadband Adapter, then you should definitely check it out.

Advert for the cross-platform capabilities of Capcom vs. SNK 2
Capcom vs. SNK 2 was notable for allowing cross-platform play by Dreamcast and PS2 players on the KDDI service.

Sticking with the online theme but moving onto ground that may have a wider appeal, at the end of May, Dreamcast Talk user ‘dude22072’ revealed that they had undertaken some serious efforts to reverse engineer the online capabilities of the suite of Dreamcast games which were formerly playable online via the KDDI service in Japan. The KDDI service was what enabled a large chunk of Capcom games - including the likes of Heavy Metal Geomatrix, Marvel vs. Capcom 2, and Spawn: In the Demon’s Hand – to be played online. Given the number of games involved, this is significant progress in terms of the ongoing online revival of the Dreamcast. To be clear, the online functions of these games have not actually been restored yet, and there is no guarantee that they ever will be, but a big step forward has nevertheless been made (serious enough for the online restoration of these games to now be considered work in progress on the Dreamcast Live website).

Mock-up of the VM2 showing its planned features, including a backlit screen, USB charging, and USB PC connectivity.
No 'beeeeeep' sound from a dead battery? How can the VM2 miss this essential feature!?

Those who don’t play their Dreamcast online (sacrilege!), don’t fear, as there is some news that may interest you too. Chris Daioglou has released an update on the progression of the creation of the ‘VM2’, a modernised Visual Memory Unit with a whole host of upgrades, including a rechargeable battery, an improved screen and a MicroSD card slot. A funding campaign for the VM2 is due to launch via Indiegogo on the 1st of September, so you won't need to wait too much longer to part with your hard earned cash. Earlier this month, 8BitMods also publicly stated their intention to produce their own VMU but have kept quiet about precisely what this will entail, given that they are only in their initial stages of development. 

Last but not least

During its tragically short official lifespan, countless games were reported to be in development for the Dreamcast which never actually saw the light of day. Some of the titles that were all but complete, such as Half Life and Propellor Arena are well known, and leaked playable versions have been available for years. However, there are others that remain shrouded in mystery. Thankfully, lately pcwzrd13 has put his detective skills into action, tracking down and speaking with the developers who would have worked on these unreleased Dreamcast games, thereby setting the record straight on what was genuinely in the works and what was simply salacious gossip. He posted an extensive list of initial findings on the Dreamcast-Talk forums in May, including some quotes directly from the developers, and has been updating this on occasion since then. 

Mock-up of the cover design for the forthcoming book 'The A-Z of Dreamcast Games'
The mock-up cover design for Mike Phelan's exhaustively comprehensive forthcoming guide.

Early on in August, the Junkyard’s own Mike Phelan announced he had finally reached a cut-off point for his forthcoming tome ‘The A-Z of Dreamcast Games, confirming that the tally of games which it will cover is a whopping 703. Hopefully this means we can stop lusting over the photos of the mock-up edition and have the real deal in our hands before the year is out. Furthermore, thanks to the selfless efforts of those who continue to reliably pump out translations – such as Cool Cool Toon which a team including Derek Pascarella has recently begun work on – a growing chunk of the Japan exclusive titles covered by the book are playable by English-language audiences. 

So, that’s all for now folks. New indie releases, revived online games on the horizon, beefed-up VMUs, translations, and hefty books with as many pages as an old school Argos catalogue. What more could you want?

OK, OK, one last snippet of news, if you must insist. If you’d like to meet the Junkyard’s very-own Lewis and Tom, in person, then make sure you head to the Nottingham Video Games Expo on the 17th and 18th of December. Autographed headshots will be available but please be sure to form an orderly queue.

Next-gen Dreamcast VMU 'VM2' coming soon from DreamMods (updated)

We've seen various mods for the humble Dreamcast VMU over the years, with modders the world over going to great lengths to add extra functionality, or repurpose the thing altogether. From the implementation of illuminated screens, to full-on Raspberry Pi-powered gaming systems crammed inside the unit's diminutive shell; it seems people from across the Dreamcast community have found myriad inventive ways to milk even more out of the little memory card that could. 

It looks like the VMU is about to embark on its greatest transformative journey yet though, as the VM2 nears completion. Coming from Chris Diaoglou, the same genius who brought us the DreamConn Bluetooth controller back in 2016 (and, incidentally the rechargeable backlit VMU linked above), VM2 is a complete technological overhaul for the VMU, and adds such awesome new features as:

  • New monochrome LCD with backlight: Which can also be turned off to save battery
  • Higher screen resolution: Switchable between original (48x32), or scaled (96x64)
  • MicroSD slot: Gives the VM2 almost unlimited capacity
  • 4x VMU memory capacity: If a microSD is not present, a combination of the Sega 4x Memory and a standard VMU will be accessible. The user will be able to cycle through 4 128Kb pages, while keeping the LCD functionality that the official 4x Memory lacked
  • Embedded high-capacity LiPo battery: This will replace the batteries and provide longer operation time (sadly this will eliminate the beeeeeeep 🙃)
  • External charging: VM2 will charge either from its micro-USB connector, or from the controller while playing
  • PC connectivity: VM2 will be able to connect to a PC via micro-USB
  • Memory management: Connecting to a PC and using a custom GUI, the user will be able to backup/restore/manage both the main (4x) and the additional (mini-game) storage

VM2 will benefit from a new injection molded shell

We reached out to Chris for comment on this highly intriguing project and asked just what the hell was going on in his Dreamcast-powered laboratory:

"The VM2 aims at being a total reproduction of the original - the connector, outer shell, electronics, everything will be manufactured from scratch. For this reason, and depending on the community interest, I plan to start a campaign so I can raise the funds to put it into production.

"This means no cheap 3D printing or anything - everything will be made with quality injection molds, etc. and this is the main reason that a campaign is needed.

"Also, instead of the initial plan of 4x VMUs (main) plus 50+ minigame (additional) memory, I implemented the integration of a microSD card slot. This will allow for literally infinite space and virtual VMUs / minigames.

"The user will be able to create/copy/restore VMU files, either at the root of the SD, or organized in folders (i.e. per game). In addition, in case that a user doesn't want to use a microSD card, the VM2 will also support a default 1x(or 3x)VMU internal memory; and the selection of the current VMU file/memory to use, will be selected from the VM2 user menu."

- Chris Diaoglou, DreamMods

The VM2 has been in development for some time now, and you can find details on the various stages of its creation over at the DreamMods website (where you can also register your interest). 

There's no concrete information on when the VM2 will be available for purchase as yet, but as Chris says, a crowdfunding campaign may well be on the horizon in the near future. The projected price will be around the $100 mark - which may sound steep - but when adjusted for inflation the original VMU would have cost you $75 in 2022 money. Do the math. On that note an Atari Jaguar would have cost you less than £40 in 1999. Swings and roundabouts, innit.

Protoype showing the new hi-res, backlit screen

Judging from the exceptional quality of Chris's previous Dreamcast-related creations in the DreamConn and the DreamPort PSU (which adds full Bluetooth support to the Dreamcast without the need for an adapter), the the VM2 is a very exciting prospect indeed. That, and the small matter that VM2 looks set to offer a riposte to many of the main gripes aimed at the original VMU - namely the piss-poor battery life and the limited space on the card. The added bonus of a backlit, higher resolution screen make the VM2 an even more enticing project and one we'll be keeping a very close eye on.

Watch this space...and while you're doing that go to DreamMods and register your interest!

Oh, and thanks to Derek Pascarella for alerting my colleague Lewis to this. Who then alerted me and made me get my arse in gear and reach out to Chris.


Update

Since we posted this article, Chris has released some images of the redesigned prototype. Sexy, eh?!

We'll be sure to fill you in on whether this is a worthy purchase as soon as we can!

Retro Fighters Kickerstarter controller


Everyone and their dog has an opinion on if the Dreamcast pad is any good or not, however today saw a potential actual contender arrive for the much aged original Sega Dreamcast design. So if you do happen to either not be a fan, or just fancy a change after all these years, then more options are emerging in this field.

Retro Fighters, the LA team that has previously successfully Kickstarted and delivered pad designs for the NES and the N64, today launched and then achieved the £10,000 goal they had set for delivery of the project for a new DC pad, that will fully support VMU and rumble too.

Dreamcast pad working on Nintendo Switch


We here at the Dreamcast Junkyard love our sometimes unfairly maligned controller, however have you ever wished you could use your beloved VMU housing beaut on your Nintendo Switch? Well, no me neither, but now you can anyway.

Forced to use a screen shot of a YT video? You betcha!

Sonic Adventure's Christmas DLC and How It Broke the Game

Christmas is coming. The goose is getting fat. Sonic has landed a movie role in which he plays an eldritch abomination.
Anyway. Let's ignore Sonic's mistreatment in the present and look back to Christmases of old, specifically the Christmas of 1999, when the millennium bug was striking fear into the hearts of common man and the Dreamcast was the coolest console money could buy (don't get it twisted: it still is). 
During the dates of the 17th of December and the 28th of December, Dreamcast gamers had the ability to install one of the first instances of downloadable content (DLC) ever (at least the kind we've all grown accustomed to in the last two generations) to their trusty VMU.
The "Christmas Party" download brings festivity to your game of Sonic by placing Christmas trees outside the station and in the town center. When players make Sonic jump at them, festive messages will come up on screen, wishing them a Merry Christmas. The music will also change to the Acapella version of "Dreams, Dreams" from Christmas NiGHTS into Dreams. Hopefully no one back in '99 thought this was a sign that a NiGHTS sequel might be coming to the Dreamcast.



Check Out Pokemon Go Running On A VMU

A while back we reported on guacasaurus_mex (aka Tom Napior) and his quest to port a Pokemon style game to the VMU. It all went a bit quiet as Tom worked on other more important stuff, but now he's revealed the final product running on a lowly VMU:


As he states in the video description, Tom won't be releasing the game for public consumption as he doesn't own the IP; and Nintendo would most likely release the hounds if he did. We can't say we blame him to be honest. With that in mind, we'll have to make do with the video above which shows a pretty competent little Pokemon clone, complete with a randomly generated map. Other features include over 25 Pokestops, a fully functioning Pokedex and full audio.

We had a little chat with Tom, and he told us the following:

"At this stage I've decided not to release Pokemon Go VMU publicly. When I started this project I had no idea Nintendo were so strict on this kind of thing, unlike a company like SEGA who couldn't care less when it comes to fan art. Given it's pretty clear now what their stance is on fan games, I think this is the right decision.

"It's not all a loss though, I have fully functioning map generation, character movement and collision detection code written which I can use in a number of original games I have planned. I already used the timing based mini game concept in my last game Zombie: Player vs Monster.

"I would say the game is 90% complete in it's current state. The only thing I need to do is add more Pokemon (there are about 70 in the game at this stage). Some are just impossible to draw with the limited pixels available, especially in the map grid, but to a lesser extent in the gym battles as well. I'd probably like to tinker with the sound a bit more if I ever release it as well."
- Tom Napior
For more of Tom's original VMU games, check out his Instagram account here. Also have a read of our interview with the man himself here.

Introducing VMU-boy - A RetroPie Powered Console In A VMU Case

Technology continues to get ever more powerful and ever smaller, but sometimes the ingenuity of the modding community serves up a project that beggars belief. This is one of those occasions. Allow us to introduce you to the VMU-boy, a RetroPie powered console inside a VMU shell with the ability to play a host of retro roms on a tiny LCD screen. You thought the Gameboy Micro was small? Wait till you get a load of this!
The result of some stellar work by Giles Burgess (aka Kite), the VMU-boy is truly a wondrous accomplishment and as the images and video show, the contraption fits easily in the palm of a hand. Whether it's actually practical to play games on a device so small for any length of time without causing long term damage to eyes and hands remains to be seen, but 10 out of 10 must be awarded for effort.
The specs and features of the device are fairly impressive too, as detailed in the forum post over at sudomod:

  • Pi Zero/W
  • 128x128 SPI LCD
  • Main PCB with direct Pi soldering
  • 850mAh battery (4 hrs or more gameplay!). If I could find a slightly wider battery it might even make it to 900/1000mAh!)
  • Safe shutdown!
  • Micro USB charging which doubles as USB OTG port (plug in a USB OTG adapter and it will power the USB device and connect it to the Pi)
  • Power switch and status LEDs
  • Battery voltage monitoring + charging status
  • Built in speaker amp
  • 'Basic' OSD (need to work on this more, whipped it up very quickly!)
  • GPIO buttons built into the PCB
  • All inputs available under the 'cap' at the top, including the Pi SD card so it's really easy to work on
  • Internal serial port available as a JST header (made it very easy to see my Pi was working after I had removed the HDMI port!)
  • Battery connectors (1mm JST) or solder pads. Extra pads allow putting 2x batteries in parrallel (e.g. if you have 2x small batts that will fit)


Interestingly, Kite's post suggests he will be offering the VMU-boy for sale at some point in 2018, and a link to a waiting list has already been added to the post.

Find out more on the VMU-boy, including more details on the creation of the fascinating device by visiting the sudomod.com forum here.

Thanks to @pomegd on Twitter for sharing this info with us.

Spooky Happenings In Ready 2 Rumble

One of the most interesting and useful components of the Dreamcast's operating system is that it features an internal calendar and clock function. While this may seem pretty standard today, back in the late 1990s this wasn't the case, with many preceding platforms (and even contemporary hardware, such as the N64) eschewing such features at a system level. The Dreamcast was by no means the first console to employ an internal clock and calendar, but I'd wager it was the first one to make meaningful use of it in a way that actually had any significant importance in gameplay.

Games like Metropolis Street Racer use the clock to set the time of day in the various cities, while Seaman uses it to help dictate the incubation time of your grotesque, aquatic man-faced mutants. One other nice little feature that the internal clock and calendar allowed for, was time-sensitive bonuses and two particular titles make interesting (albeit minor) visual alterations should you set the date to 31st October, All Hallows' Eve.

If you fire up Midway's Ready 2 Rumble on this most macabre of dates, you'll notice some extra spooky spectators in among the cheering fans during the bouts:
See? It doesn't end there though, for if you fire up the sequel Ready 2 Rumble: Round 2 you'll be treated to a fairly grotesque new canvas in the ring - one which is again adorned with a quartet of skellingtons, along with the ambiguous text 'Plays well with others. Well, most of the time':
There are plenty of other downloadable bonuses for Dreamcast games (see Sonic Adventure for the main ones), and plenty of Halloween and horror themed games and levels within said games, but we thought it was worth giving this fairly obscure little bonus an airing on this most spooky of days.

Found any more? Let us know in the comments, in our Facebook group or on Twitter. Pumpkin Hill doesn't count, by the way.

Dreamcast VMU Keychains & Phone Straps Now Available

Ever wanted to decorate your keys, mobile phone, camera, laptop or just your body with tiny Dreamcast VMU-shaped charms? Or what about going through the looking glass and actually decorating your VMUs with VMU-shaped charms? Well get ready because your prayers have been answered! Talented artist and graphic designer Sami Briggs - who also goes by the name SmaiART - has launched a range of cool charms and keyrings in the shape of everyone's favourite Dreamcast-branded visual memory device, and they can be yours for the sum of £8 each.
Measuring 5 cm in length, the charms come in a variety of colours and feature an assortment of Dreamcast-related pixel art on their Potato-powered screens, with Space Channel 5, Jet Set Radio and Phantasy Star Online all represented. Crafted from acrylic, these cool little trinkets would brighten up even the most corporate-looking company-issued Nokia or Blackberry, so inject some VMU-themed fun into your life and head over to Sami's store here and see if there's a particular design that takes your fancy!
We spoke to Sami about these new VMU charms and asked what the inspiration behind them was. Here's what she said:

"This is my first time making merchandise, so I wanted to give back to the Sega community by creating goods you don't usually see officially or by fan artists. Plus I just want to see more retro Sega merchandise out there since that kind of market is dominated by Nintendo. With these different variations of VMUs I thought it'd cater to a lot of people since the Dreamcast is well loved!"
- Sami Briggs

What are you waiting for? Head over here to check out Sami's store. You can also follow her on TwitterInstagram and Tumblr.

Trading in Dozens of Dreamcast VMUs at GameStop


The wind howled through the crack in the window pane, and a crackle of lightning illuminated the room as a cat hissed and fled from the encroaching storm. There was spilled Diet Dr. Pepper on the large cardboard box filled with retro video games, temporarily framed by the flash from the approaching storm. Actually, none of that happened. I just wanted to begin this tale with an over dramatic intro. Everything else here is factual, though.

I was filled with self disgust as I feverishly cleaned up the very small spill which I was sure would get me labelled as "that guy" by the employee who would have to go through the box later on and tell me what pittance they would bring for trade in. We all know who "that guy" is, the disgusting loser who at the age of 35 is trading in over a decade's worth of gaming detritus so he could justify getting a new console that was clearly manufactured with a younger, more attractive audience in mind. Of course I thought I was that guy, but I didn't want anyone else to recognize that fact. So I checked every single game to make sure there was no telltale brown dot of diet soda that would out me as a loser. That was my mindset as I left my condo.
Earlier I was digging through other cardboard boxes and comparing VMUs to each other. I didn't want to be a dipshit and try to sell broken stuff to GameStop but at the same time I couldn't bear to part with immaculate Visual Memory Units with their caps firmly in place that had probably never been used. The irony of course was that the bulk of the VMUs had been purchased from a GameStop for 50 cents each when they were clearanced out. My local store in Watertown, NY had told me that they had no Dreamcast items left. A month later I was in Syracuse, NY and they had a huge double rack of Dreamcast items on deep clearance. When I had asked where they all came from they told me that had been sent from the Watertown store. Now they would be sold back to GameStop for $2.25 each. A true example of the gaming circle of life. As a VMU hoarder, the volatile video game market had finally swung into my favor...

New Projects Archive Dreamcast DLC & VMU Files

We're big fans of digital preservation here at the Junkyard (we've even been preserved ourselves, by The British Library no less), and hopefully with all of these articles, podcasts and other such nonsense we're helping the legacy of the Dreamcast survive in our own little way. Others with far more technical nous are going a step further though, and are creating online repositories for Dreamcast-related digital files that could very well slide into obscurity and vanish altogether in time.
Not a digital archive.
I've touched on the subject of digital preservation several times in the past here, and it's a topic I'm very passionate about - I even worked for the UK National Archives in the field back in 2013. This gave me a great insight into the very real issue of preserving digital files and bespoke media formats and the Dreamcast is a console with its fair share of these. Happily, two separate projects have been brought to my attention that aim to address the somewhat scattered nature of Dreamcast digital files and bring them together in one (well, two) definitive libraries that are open and free for all Dreamcast fans to access.
Sites like Blue Swirl list fan-made VMU games.
The first aims to preserve DLC files for all manner of games; while the other is dedicated to archiving VMU mini-games. And while there are many sites currently online (or accessible via Wayback Machine) that offer similar services already; many offer incomplete lists, are plagued with broken links or only offer homebrew and fan-made mini-games.

A Closer Look At The Dreamcast Memory Card 4X

There are tonnes of third party memory cards for the Dreamcast, almost all of which don't feature the same monochrome LCD display and internal wizardry of the official VMU. There are also a plethora of third party cards that offer an advantage over the official memory unit in that they contain more storage space, and multiple 'pages' that can be switched between using a little button. I have several of these made by Joytech and while they look a bit garish with their blue/green plastic shells, they do the job just fine. Offering four times the capacity of a regular VMU but omitting a screen and face buttons, they are cheap and cheerful alternatives.
What you may not know, is that Sega actually released their own official multi-page non-visual VMU in late 2000, imaginatively titled the Dreamcast Memory Card 4X. This multi card was only released in Japan and the US (in the US, it was called the 4x Memory Card), and never made its way to Europe, like so many other cool devices for the Dreamcast. Anyway, I recently saw one of these Memory Card 4X things on eBay for the bargain price of £20, and having never seen one in the flesh (plastic) I snapped it up. A few days later it found its way through my letterbox in a scrunched up brown envelope and here for your delectation are my thoughts and closer inspection of the thing.

A Closer Look At The Dreamcast MP3 Player

By now, it's common knowledge (well, in the Dreamcast community - probably not down the local pub) that Sega was planning some kind of Dreamcast MP3 player. The device would likely have connected to the system via the VMU slot and shared a form factor with the aforementioned memory device. Indeed, if you do a quick search on the worlds most popular search engine Lycos, you'll no doubt come across this image:
Cheers, IGN.
This whole subject seems to have become quite popular again in recent times, as evidenced by the sheer number of memes and videos showing people fitting iPod Nanos into VMU shells. To be honest, that whole thing isn't really new - we did a little article on potentially fitting a no-brand MP3 player into a VMU shell back in 2006, back when nobody gave a flying turd about the Dreamcast and this was a personal blog where I told fanciful tales about buying tins of beans and cans of Carlsberg with money I found in the street (that hasn't changed in the intervening decade, by the way).

Sega's Telecom Dream

Recently we discovered the Dreamphone, and with the help of the wider Dreamcast community were able to piece together the mystery behind this long forgotten peripheral. The Dreamphone turned out to be a repurposed Fujitsu My Phone YT8100, a simple device that let Japanese Dreamcast users connect to the internet and still allow phone calls to be made. The Dreamphone was given away as a low end Dream Point Bank prize (4000 points) and quietly fell into obscurity. It seems that Sega did have other plans for the Dreamcast when it came to telecommunications though, and here's proof:
This screen is taken from a video recently uploaded to YouTube by user DeChief. DeChief contacted me through the Assembler forums to ask if I would be interested in seeing a video that had been digitised from an old Japanese promo VHS tape. Naturally, even with overtones of the film Ring, I was keen and upon viewing it I realised the video was one I'd never seen before. 
The second half of the upload busies itself with game previews (and includes footage of Geist Force); but it's the first half that offers up the good stuff. At the 3:45 mark, the video shows off some intended uses for the VMU which include being able to attach the device to an arcade cabinet, the VMU attached to a mobile phone, and a VMU stuck in a hi-fi mini system!