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Featured Article

Southend Museums - Where Dreams Are Cast?

Thanks to DCJY Facebook follower Andrew Runagall for alerting us to this - it looks as though Southend Museums in the UK have a secret obsession with the Dreamcast from the look of their corporate branding. Probably best not to let Tivola see this - they'll be forced to change the colours. Well, the orange swirls at least!
The NTSC Gallery is now open
The PAL Gallery is delayed by around four weeks

Circuit Breakers - The Dreamcast's Best Race Tracks

Regular visitors to the 'Yard will probably be familiar with my love of the racing genre, and I've covered quite a few of the Dreamcast's finest examples over the past few months. From examining the best radio-controlled examples and F1 sims, to studying the racers with the best headlight effects; The Dreamcast Junkyard will leave no stone unturned when it comes to looking at even the most obscure aspect of the system's racing games. That said, it's recently occurred to me that possibly the most important component of a racing title has yet to be investigated here in any real depth. No, not the vehicle handling. Or the vehicles themselves. Or the accessibility contrast of the menu screens. No, I'm talking about the tracks you race on - one of the most fundamental parts of any racer. A good circuit can save even the most dire racing game, and will remain in the player's memory long after the crowds have left the grandstands and the smell of burning fuel has evaporated from the silent pit lanes.

Anyone who has played Sega Rally on the Sega Saturn will attest that even though that game only has a handful of tracks (Desert, Forest, Mountain and a fourth - Lakeside - if you're good enough), every twist and turn is etched into the brain, and this is because each and every one of those courses is a masterpiece of track design. Likewise with the original Ridge Racer - that title only really had the one track, but the intelligent design ensured that this paltry complement didn't at all degrade the overall experience. It isn't just the layout of a course that's important though - the setting and track side details all combine to create an environment that is as memorable as the street you lived on when you were a kid, or the bedroom in which you played your first games console. The very best tracks from your favourite racing games will stay with you forever, and even after years of not picking up a particular game, once the lights go green the important details come flooding back as if you never left.

With this in mind, the Dreamcast's very best (and worst) racers do contain some absolutely fantastic examples of track design. Some of them are great simply because they feature devilish corners and straightaways where fierce battles for the podium are a mainstay; others are just set in breathtaking locales - either Earthbound, or set in faraway places that man has yet to step foot in this reality. So, without further ado, lets set a course and take a look at some of the most impressive, memorable and enjoyable circuits from a selection of Dreamcast-based racers...

Mermaid Lake: Daytona USA 2001
At first glance, Mermaid Lake looks like another run-of-the-mill figure-of-eight track with a bit of a lake in the middle. And for the most part, you'd be right. The lake itself barely features in the course though, and that's because the section where you might be expecting to see said body of water is actually a Gale Racer type banked corner that reaches a fairly hair-raising angle. Once this has been negotiated however, the course opens up to reveal an extremely impressive downhill straight that not only takes you back under the track you just screamed over, but also gives a spectacular view of the whole course laid out before you. Mermaid Lake may not be the most exciting course in terms of the variety of trackside furniture - it's mainly a few grandstands and factories - but there are a couple of nasty 90 degree corners thrown in further along that will more often than not see your shiny Hornet transformed into a smoking, crumpled jalopy. Usually in 40th place.

Mars: Magforce Racing
Apart from being an absolute stinker of a futuristic racing game, Magforce has the envious position of being the only true 'futuristic' racer on the Dreamcast. The real issue here is that the vehicle design is laughable (the craft are all three-pronged tripods with wheels at each corner), and the sense of speed is far too sedate for a game of this ilk. The one saving grace though, is that most of the tracks are really well thought out and feature some rather nice details. If only this had been the basis for a WipEout game. Sigh. The shining glory in Magforce's catalogue of circuits though, is the only one not set on Earth: Mars. The track undulates fantastically as it winds through the ancient caverns and valleys of the Red Planet, past the spaceport and through a gigantic domed area that wouldn't seem out of place in Total Recall (the good one with Arnold in it - not that crap with Colin Farrell). Reports of a tri-breasted mutant are unconfirmed, however.

Civic: Rush 2049
Rush 2049 is a game you either love or loath. The cartoonish trappings and overtly ridiculous gameplay and vehicle designs are very much an acquired taste, but as a gamer who loved the original instalments of the series on the N64, I consider Rush 2049 to be the pinnacle of a series that hits all the right buttons. The Dreamcast version of 2049 is regarded by many as the finest available, and I am happy to agree with that notion, and of all the brilliant circuits on offer within the game, Civic is - for me - the best of the bunch. The fairly sedate starting section set within a green and pleasant parkland is soon eschewed for a fairly grandiose vision of a Utopian suburb of San Francisco, complete with skyscrapers and elevated walkways. Naturally for the series, these can be driven on and the emphasis is on finding hidden routes. Stick to the beaten track however, and you'll not only be treated to some fantastic drops (where you can utilise the vehicles' build-in gliding wings), but also a display by a formation of fighter jets.

Ship Graveyard: Hydro Thunder
Possibly one of the Dreamcast's greatest arcade racers, Midway's Hydro Thunder also features some pretty spectacular courses. As you can no doubt appreciate, it's hard to refer to them as 'tracks,' as there's not much asphalt involved here...but you get the drift. To be honest, this was a tough one to call as I had originally limited this list to one circuit per game, and Hydro Thunder has a multitude of outstanding examples, but in the end it was Ship Graveyard that won out. Starting off in a fairly quiet part of a dockyard surrounded by the rusting hulks of forgotten vessels, you quickly carve a path through the waves and blast out of the relative calm and though a working scrapyard where towering cranes precariously move bits of hull around above your head. Not long after this, you'll find yourself powering through the decommissioned superstructure of a radioactive navy warship, before being battered by increasingly choppy waves in a section straight out of Moby Dick - complete with lightning flashes and a solitary lighthouse showing the way. The finale of this amazing course has you blasting through a tunnel only to emerge in a tranquil lagoon with the sun breaking through the clouds as if the angels themselves had decided to call the maelstrom off. Truly, truly brilliant.

Le Mans: Le Mans 24 Hours
One of the only real-world tracks to appear on this list, the legendary Le Mans 24 hour course has to get a mention in this list simply because it is a sublime trip through the French countryside if nothing else. It helps that Infogrammes' racer is one of the best looking games on the Dreamcast, not because it does anything particularly special...but because it's subdued tones and realistically modelled mundanity actually makes it feel so much more lifelike than the brightly-toned Ferrari F355 and other titles in this category. The Le Mans course itself is a 13.6km beast that takes in rural farming villages and towering grandstands alike, as well as a draw distance to die for. This helps immeasurably when you finally get to the monumental straights that seem to go on forever and allow you to reach cheek-flapping speeds. The screenshots here only show the track during a foe-less time trial session, but during a full-blown Le Mans event the race goes on through the night and into the next day, and the dynamic lighting really shows off what the Dreamcast is capable of - you can even have a real time 24 hour long race if you like...although that's not something I've attempted yet.

Oovo IV Executioner: Star Wars Episode 1 Racer
Set on an asteroid and beating a path through a maximum security prison, the Galactic Podracing course Executioner is one that takes racers through various terrains and environs. The start of the course is in a fairly standard enclosed area, with bright floodlit concourses and a nice view of the asteroid belt above. This rapidly changes though, as competitors are soon thrown together as the course narrows and you are funnelled into a muddle of zero gravity mining tunnels - complete with errant floating boulders - and cavernous underground halls, where the entrances and exits have a habit of changing shape as you pass through. There are multiple routes through the course too, and more than one area where turning your pod racer on it's side is essential if you want to avoid certain death. As with Rush 2049, Episode 1 Racer also appeared on the N64 (and also PC and later the PS2) so isn't strictly a Dreamcast-exclusive track...but it's so atmospheric and exciting that I couldn't help but include it in this run down.

Bonus Track - Ridge Racer Type 4: Out Of Blue
OK, so this isn't even close to being a Dreamcast game...but by the magic of Bleem! it's here on the list! Out Of Blue is a course that, for me at least, encapsulates everything that sets RRT4 apart from the rest of the series. The over-saturated, pale and sickly light that seems to penetrate every section of the track gives the environment an almost sterile feel, as if something is completely wrong...but yet seems fine on the surface. It reminds me in a lot of ways of the manner in which The Matrix uses that slightly green filter to unsettle you. The course starts in a perfectly fine built up urban area, complete with towering glass structures and a roaring crowd. But before long, you're out in the middle of an eerily quiet dockland, where your only company is a flock of seagulls and motionless cranes. Maybe this is more down to the technical limitations of the PlayStation, but I like to over-analyse stuff like this, so lets just pretend you're racing through a near-future world where all of the people have been replaced by mindless robotic automatons, and the moment you get out of the car and they realise you're not a 'synth,' they'll all start coming for you. Chasing, endlessly chasing you to the end of the Earth - they will not stop until your organic body has been erased from the planet. Out Of Blue: a vision of a future where humans have no reason to exist. Shudder.

Got a bit surreal towards the end there, but as usual this list isn't definitive - there are plenty of games that didn't make the cut yet also feature some impressive examples of great (and memorable) course mechanics. Games like Wacky Races, Ferrari, Buggy Heat and Sega Rally 2 have some brilliant stages; and the collection of Formula 1 games also have some accurate and interesting real-world tracks. But what do you think? Is there a shining example we missed? Let us know in the comments section...

Gun Lord Test Footage and First Impressions

Long time no see Dreamcast fans.

I finally got my hands on a copy of Gun Lord. It was a bit of a hassle to find a seller that wasn't just a random ebay or amazon store.  I was very eager to test it out.

My current Dreamcast setup includes a VGA adapter hooked up to a VGA to HDMI adapter/upscaler.  I use an Atlona Technologies AT-HDVIEW VGA to HDMI Scaler (which is unfortunately discontinued by the manufacturer.)

The video that Adam Koralik originally did on this device.

Take a look at some of the test footage I captured. Apologies of the bad microphone audio (that will be fixed in future videos).

     

I plan on doing some more videos using this setup in the future. Please let me know if anyone has any suggestions.

Did You Know Gaming? Explores The Dreamcast

The worst type of videos on YouTube are those 'featurettes' where talking heads spout crap about stuff they have no real interest or knowledge of. Gaming look-backs are a particular type of video I personally cannot stand - you get these 'trendy' journos talking crap about consoles they'd previously never heard of before the camera started rolling and a script was shoved into their greasy little hands - Worst Consoles of All Time is a favourite subject for these types of 'production.' Ugh.

I'm not going to implicate any particular channels with negative bile here, but the flip side of this dark underbelly (the overback?) is stuff like The Game Theorists and Did You Know Gaming? - great channels that regularly upload well-made and fascinating content; and the latter has just released a new video looking back at our favourite system. A lot of the stuff mentioned is information we've already covered here at the 'Yard over the last decade, but it's a well put together vid and has some interesting revelations about the Dreamcast's name and the connection between Sega's machine and the Microsoft Xbox. Enough from me - here's the vid:


Once you've viewed the video, be sure to head over to DYKG's channel for more interesting productions about your favourite games and systems, and also check out their website. Thanks to Twitter user @MellorsAlex for linking the video to me.

Why Don't We Play Together?

The American Dreamcast launch has gained something of a mythical status in this zeitgeist period of celebratory retro-overindulgence. The whole 9.9.99 campaign was a major success as far as console launches went up until that point, and the advertising slogan (It's Thinking) was a fairly interesting tagline that implied that the system was so advanced that it could become self aware at any moment, unhook itself from the TV and bludgeon you to death with an iron while you slept soundly in your cosy warm bed. Happily, reports of this type of occurence were swept under the rug by Sega of America's black ops dept and so life just went on as normal for the vast majority of us. The UK release of the Dreamcast was intended for the first half of September 1999, but due to British Telecom's testing of the Dreamcast network running over deadline, the system didn't launch until October. That's not really relevant here though - what I want to look at in this post is the marketing stategy Sega Europe employed in place of the mighty 'It's Thinking' campaign waged by their US colleagues. The story behind the Dreamcast's various UK and EU advertising campaigns is a muddled one, and involves a plethora of different agencies fighting for a slice of Sega's reported £60m marketing war chest.
This man will happily eat your soul. With Cianti.

The World's Coolest Dreamcast Kiosk

No - keep your hair on - you read that right, M'lud. A renovated Dreamcast retail kiosk in the hands of private games collector and games store owner Jason Brassard has been featured in a great YouTube video by Sega Channel. The video is posted below, and in it Brassard explains how he managed to convince the previous owner to sell the retail kiosk to him, and describes the subsequent processes required to get the unit looking as amazing as it does now. The hulking cabinet features spring-loaded game storage shelving (complete with every US game ever released crammed in), a playable system complete with CRT monitor and pads, and a curved plexiglass display window. The kiosk aside, the rest of the collection on show here is phenomenal and boasts over 10,000 games, consoles and items of memorabilia. But enough banal waffling from me - just hit play and prepare to weep hot, sticky, salty tears of pure jealousy joy:


The store featured in the video, Trade-N-Games also has a website from which they sell some fairly reasonably priced games and consoles. Be sure to check them out (although it doesn't say if they ship worldwide).

RPGs Across the Board; or, Grandia II - The Beginning

One of my favorite genres of video games is the RPG. I'm not overly attached to the turn-based combat (although I have come to like it over the years): I like the stories, and the bigger RPGs have great composers, like Final Fantasy, or the Mario RPGs. I had at least one RPG on most of my major systems, like the PlayStation, Gamecube, Gameboy etc...but something was amiss.

I had no RPGs for the Dreamcast! And because my current system had no affordable games available at the time, I made it a goal to get at least one good game. Fortunately, my brother had received a gift card to a local retrogaming shop. I had gotten Final Fantasy 7-9 there, so I hoped that they would have at least one good Dreamcast RPG. They had two.

Dreamcast Notepads Finally Ship


We first mentioned the Dreamcast notepads a few months ago and several delays have come and gone since then...but - huzzah! - they've finally shipped! My notepad arrived today, along with my Sega Saturn pad and a free gift to apologise for the delay from the retailing website (in my case, the retailer was Yellow Bulldog). Quite ironic that the free gift was a PS4 card holder, but I'll let that slide. So, how does the pad measure up? Well for starters it's quite a lot smaller than I thought it would be, being roughly the same size and shape as a Dreamcast game case and is notably (heh!) smaller than the gargantuan Saturn pad...but in all honesty it appears to be a high quality item and looks about at authentic as a notepad designed to look like a defunct games console possibly ever could do.

Review: Dreamcast Collector for iOS

The other day I was messing around on my new iPad thingy and came across one of those 'apps' that the cool kids are known to play around with, and I thought it was worthy of a mention innit. Excuse me - I appear to have slipped into 'youth mode' for a moment there. We've previously looked at something similar here at the 'Yard (see Dream Collection), but Dreamcast Collector by PureGaming/Pieterjan Vandegaer is a paid application for iOS which does exactly what it says on the tin - it's a collection tracker for you iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad. On firing the app up, you are presented with a long list on the left of the screen that shows thumbnails of the box art for most of the US and PAL releases (there are 276 games listed in the app). You are then encouraged to tap the icons for the games you have and can enter ownership criteria such as whether you have a complete game, or a copy sans manual or case. It's fairly straight forward and the games are all listed in alphabetical order. 

Dreamcast Collector is the must-have reference app for every Sega Dreamcast enthusiast. This app serves as a reference for every Dreamcast game ever released. Keep track of your own game collection and even keep a wanted list.
 - PureGaming.org

Let It Snow


So, it's almost Christmas once again. Hard to believe there's been 9 of these disgusting, capitalist-driven things since the 'Yard started eh? We'll be celebrating 10 years this time in 2015...but until that glorious and momentous occasion arrives - it's business as usual here at the multiverse's inter-dimensional headquarters of all things even remotely Dreamcast related. Being vaguely 'in charge' of a privately-funded government black-ops organisational quango such as this does have it's perks. I've got a swivel chair in my vast oblong office, a desk, and a bust of Dogs Bower made from recycled Hassy cans. Oh, and a nice free-standing set of Argos' cheapest balsa wood shelves upon which I rest all of my Dreamcast paraphernalia. The only problem is that the weight of said items has somewhat bowed the high-quality beams to the point that the whole thing looks like some form of ridiculous wooden hammock; in which a monster constructed from blue plastic lies like the bloated corpse of a beluga whale. At least the company car is decent - it's basically Slash's cab from Crazy Taxi 2. The only thing is, one of the rules stipulates that I must drop off a group of rappers at a recording studio and Crazy Hop over at least one house during my daily commute. Starts to grate after a while.

Toy Racer Dial-Up Connection In The Works

You may have read recently that the online-only multiplayer title Toy Racer is the latest Deamcast game to be dragged out from under a rock and plonked back onto the interwebs (or whatever it's called). And you'd have read right. The Junkyard was recently contacted by Bob Dobbs, a member of the popular Dreamcast-Talk forums, who confirmed that the game's servers are well and truly back online and running well. Unfortunately for most of us, you can only get your online fix of Toy Racer if you own a highly sought-after and expensive broadband adaptor for your Dreamcast, but those clever chaps are also working on a method that will allow you to hook up via your trusty old 33k (56k in the US) dial-up modem. Huzzah! Here's an info-burst from the man himself:

Dreamcast-Talk (International) & Dreamcast-br (Brazil) has yet another game back online. This one is Toy Racer. For the first time, the original game server software has been released (thanks to petter3k who contacted No Cliche, the programmers of Toy Racer). Dreamcast-br has already had a server running, but we do not know if their server is the original or not (Igor Isaias Banlian was kind enough to allow us the IP addy to play). In both cases, the game only connects via BBA (dial-up wants to go to Dreamarena). Currently, DC-Talk is working on a boot-disc to allow the game GD-ROM to use dial-up.

To note, DC-Talk was where the "Netopia" method of connecting your DC to the internet without a PC of any kind. It has much less latency than the troublesome DC-PC server set-up. I use it, which is purely hardware driven (developed by brourke228). The other is the and the PC-DC windows/VMware server portion to work with the Ryochan Linux PC-DC server method (brourke228 of DC-Talk developed the Windows portion).

Here's the science bit:
Brazil IP: 200.165.140.20:2048
TCP Port: 2048
UDP Port: 2049


As stated, the guys at Dreamcast-Talk are working on a boot-disc to get Dreamcast gamers up and running with a dial-up connection, and are currently ironing out some issues with the remnants of Dream Arena at present. For a full guide on how to get online with Toy Racer right now though, follow this link; and be sure to check the DreamcastBr Facebook group for further updates.

A Maken X-mas

The Yard is definitely getting in the festive spirit right now. The non-denominational decorations are being liberally deposited on the towers of discarded Sonic Shuffles. The broken down yellowed cases from abandoned Dreamcasts are getting a lick of paint. And, most importantly, the annual dump truck of hard liquor is pulling in as I type. I tell you, there ain't no party like a Junkyard party!

The Odd Case of Monaco Online

We recently featured the Dreamcast's stable of Formula 1 racers here at the 'Yard, and it was concluded that F1 World Grand Prix 2 is probably the best recreation of the motor sport to be found on Sega's final system. However, there was a glaring omission from that list, and only now have I managed to acquire the absent title for analysis. What is this mysterious and largely unknown F1 racer? Why, Racing Simulation Monaco Grand Prix 2 Online of course! Is that the worst name ever for a racing game? It's definitely a contender in my humble opinion - try saying that to an automated cheats line after a few pints and you'll see why. Do cheats lines even exist anymore? Another mystery that needs to be solved...but first, lets get back on track (pun intended). The original Racing Simulation was released quite early in the Dreamcast's life and was one of the first games I played, as it was bundled as part of the Dream On Volume 1 demo disk. A fairly playable and nice-looking F1 game, Racing Simulation is a game that seems to have suffered something of an identity crisis - just looking at the box, manual and the GD-rom you can see that it has multiple names: it's either Monaco Grand Prix: Racing Simulation; Racing Simulation 2: Monaco Grand Prix...or a weird bastardisation of the two:
Did they forget the '2' on the cover?
These odd naming conventions aside, Monaco is pretty playable and has quite a lot going on with it's arcade and simulation modes as well as a 'retro' option where you can race vehicles of yesteryear. It appears that Ubisoft weren't done with the Racing Simulation engine though as they went on to develop F1 Racing Championship (published by Video System, of F1 World Grand Prix fame) which is essentially the same game but with an official license. Quite why Ubisoft didn't publish F1 Racing Championship themselves, I'm not really sure...but to allow their main F1 developing rivals to publish their game is just plain odd. The story gets even stranger though, as in 2001 Ubisoft released the game again under the mouthful moniker mentioned in the opening paragraph: Racing Simulation Monaco Grand Prix 2 Online. Talk about flogging a dead horse.

As you can probably tell from the name, Online is basically the first game (which is actually a sequel itself...damn this is confusing) but with added online functionality allowing players to race each other on any of the real-world circuits. As far as I can tell, Online was only ever released as a PAL title - which is quite strange in itself, seeing as we only got 33k modems stuck to our Dreamcasts - and upon playing it myself, I quickly deduced that it is indeed pretty much identical to the first (second) game but with minor graphical changes (the clouds in the sky are more pronounced in Online, for example - see below) and a modified front end, with the added online lobby options plonked in. Speaking of the front end, Online retains the decidedly 'old school' art style that the offline game used, complete with awkwardly-proportioned humanoids and background graphics that look like they were copied from a GeoCities ghost site last updated in 1996.

Below are a selection of images I grabbed from the two games; the shots on the right are from Online, the ones on the left from Racing Simulation 2 (or whatever it's called). As stated, details on the Online game are very scant but I managed to discover that the servers were finally switched off in 2003. It would have been cool to know if the game could support a full grid of 22 cars all being driven by real gamers...but if Online even sold that many copies, I'd be very surprised.
Super Mario makes a cameo in both games if you drive badly.
Did you ever manage to play Monaco Online...online? If so, how was it? Let us know in the comments.

Fantasy Stars

For me, the very mention of the word 'fantasy' when referring to genre instantly conjures images of semi-naked, sword-wielding warriors rippling with muscle; foreboding castles perched precariously atop crumbling mountains; and hoards of ogres and dwarves. Oh, and dragons. Lot of dragons. Mainly belching fire and soaring through the night sky looking for towns and villages to raze to the ground for their own sordid amusement. I wouldn't call myself a fan of the genre as such, but being someone who likes to occasionally remove myself from the boredom and drudgery of reality, I have dipped into the world of fantasy in the past. I've read a few books (mainly Tolkien's works), seen a few movies (mainly based on...erm...Tolkien's works) and even played a few board games (mainly based on Dungeons & Dragons), so while I would hardly call myself an expert in the subject, I do have at least a little bit of an idea what 'fantasy' is all about.

Total Control Dreamcast Preview


Total Control was a fairly short-lived multi-format magazine from Rapide Publishing that I was a reader of back in the late 90s. Unlike today, back then there were a whole host of multi-format mags to choose from in the newsagents and I spent a hell of a lot of money on games magazines simply because browsing the internet for news, reviews and pokes just wasn't an option. I do recall having the internet at home, but it was slow as hell, dial-up and my mum used to go mental at me and my brother if we used it without her express permission (which we never got), because any time we spent online got added to the phone bill. We actually tried to hide the modem under the couch one time so the old battle-axe wouldn't hear it dialling the number for Virgin Net...but she always heard it and came thundering down the stairs like that maid in the Tom & Jerry cartoons. Funnily enough, screaming "Thomas!" while she did so, ash cascading from the Silk Cut king size clutched between her talons. Ah...those were the days.