Top 5 Dreamcast Games for Studying Japanese

The title of this article is a bit misleading so a disclaimer is necessary. Firstly, you will not learn Japanese through playing Dreamcast games alone but they can be a great tool when used to supplement regular study and great fun to boot. If you really want to learn Japanese to any significant usable level then you need to study some textbooks (Genki textbook* is a good place to start), go to a class and/or visit Japan for a significant period of time. A more appropriate albeit less catchy title would have been 'The Top Five Dreamcast Games to Supplement the Gruelling Years of Japanese Study Required to Play Most Story Heavy Games… with difficulty… whilst referring to a dictionary regularly,' but that's perhaps a little harsh and not nearly as click-bait-worthy.

Even something quite basic, accomplishable (is that a word? Well, it bloody well should be) in a weekend, such as memorising Katakana* (Japanese letters used to write foreign loan words usually imported from English) will enhance your experience with Japanese games. Now, let’s get started!
5. Fire Pro Wrestling D (Arcade Style Games)
This really includes any game that isn’t reliant on story or excess text to be playable; fighters, puzzlers, racers, platformers etc. You can jump right into these games without knowing a single word of Japanese and still have a blast. Where you can often run into difficulty however, is in the menus. Despite being of Japanese region, many games have their menus and option screens written entirely in English, but there are just as many where this is not the case. Learning Katakana* will go about 70% of the way to making them understandable, luckily they can be memorised in as little time as a weekend or two. During or after the learning process, decoding menu and option screens can be a great way to improve your reading ability.
Fire Pro Wrestling D's menus are full of katakana*

This HKT-01 Dev Box Can Be Yours...For £1000

I have issues sleeping. Most nights I just lie there awake until Hypnos leaves his sunless cave, breaks in through the bedroom window and kindly grants me the power of divine rest at around 5am. Which isn't much help when I usually get up at 7, but I appreciate the sentiment. Yes, I've read all that guff about not looking at phones/tablets/PS Vitas/ Tapwave Zodiacs at night...but even when I don't, I still just lie there like an idiot staring into the darkness waiting to drift off.

Inevitably, I end up looking at Twitter or some other rubbish online but occasionally I stumble across something worthy of sharing here on this hallowed blog. Last night was no different, as I unwittingly found myself mindlessly browsing online retrogaming store Imagine my surprise then, when I stumbled across this HKT-01 Dreamcast development machine, complete with GD burner and a stack of GDs:
These don't come up for sale very often, and this one comes with all the relevant cables and software required to use it (providing you have an old Windows 98 PC to connect it to). Priced at £1000, this particular specimen is way out of my price range, and to be totally honest I don't want any more useless old technology cluttering up my house...but I thought somebody out there may find this to be of interest. There's a nice article here giving further details on what you can (and can't) do with the HKT-01, and that this one comes with the HKT-04 GD-Rom burner as an added extra is pretty cool.
Sometimes, these units have tags on them giving clues as to where they've been recovered from, but this one doesn't. That said - who knows what could be lying in wait on the unit's hard drive? As an interesting side note, the same site is also listing a box of 50 blank GDs (priced at £250) so the chances are both of these items came from the same place. If you're particularly well off and end up purchasing this item, please be sure to let us know if you find anything interesting on it. Right, it's 6.50am now - I'm off to get some sleep.

SLaVE: An Update

Those Dreamcast owners savvy enough to have pre-ordered the awesome-looking SLaVE from Goat Store will already be aware of this, but if you're yet to take the plunge you may find this news to be of some interest. Jay Townsend's SLaVE was announced quite some time ago and looked to be nearing completion when some game-breaking bugs were discovered in the code. Fast forward to 2016 and we're still waiting to play this retro-themed mash-up of 'Robotron 2084 and Doom.'
Pre-orderers who have checked their inboxes recently will find an update from Goat Store though, informing them that work is continuing apace and that SLaVE should be hitting Dreamcasts in the very near future. How near, we're not sure...but we thought it was worth spreading the news that this indie release is far from dead.  Here's the update:

"Quick update on your pre-order of Jay Townsend's SLaVE - a couple of the pesky bugs have been put to rest. We are now in process of finding and eliminating any others. We expect the process to go quite quickly at this point, although we do not yet have a final delivery time frame for the game, as we do not want to declare a date until the game is in official production. We hope to be able to provide this date soon!"
 - Goat Store

It's also worth mentioning that developer Coraline Annis recently issued an appeal for a Dreamcast coder's cable (and directly referenced that it was for debugging SLaVE) via Facebook so the game could be closer than we think. Fingers crossed!

SLaVE can be pre-ordered from Goat Store here for the bargain price of $20.

Developer Interview: KTX Software

The first Dreamcast game of 2016 - Leona's Tricky Adventures - is on sale now and currently making its way to longtime supporters who pre-ordered the game way back in 2013. The game's developer, KTX Software, graciously accepted our invitation for an interview to talk about the release, and we got a chance to sit down (ok, exchange emails, but sit down sounds more professional so just go with it) with the company's CEO Thomas Musal, and Chief Technical Officer Robert Konrad.
It's out now! Go buy it!
DCJY: Tell us a bit about KTX Software, who are the people behind the scenes? Is it a one person band or a team? How did you come together to work on Leona?

KTX is a subsidiary of European company SyA, which is basically an agency working on graphical products for more than 30 years, based in Spain since 2005 and represented in UK and Germany. At the end of 2009 there was a meeting with respect to a German software project when it was decided to create a department for software development at SyA.

Expanding the Dreamcast Collection: Part 2 - The Hikaru Seven

In part 2 of my Expanding the Dreamcast Collection series, we’ll be covering one of the other systems in the Dreamcast family, the Sega Hikaru. Much of the information from part 1 (such as how to play Naomi games) applies here, so if you haven’t already, I suggest you go and read part 1 now.

Back now? OK, great  - let’s get started.
Part 2: The Hikaru Seven
The Sega Hikaru was released into the arcades in the year 1999 becoming the third system in the Dreamcast family (the first and second being the Naomi and Dreamcast respectively). Development of the Hikaru was born out of the necessity to convincingly recreate fire, water and the subsequent lighting and particle effects required for such a task in the game 'Shouboushi Brave Firefighters.' Rendering such effects in a semi realistic manner was cutting edge at the time and beyond the capabilities of the original Naomi hardware, so a beefed up version of the system was hastily developed at the request of the game's development team.

The specs of the Hikaru differ from the Naomi in that it utilises a custom Sega GPU and doubles-up on many components; 2 x Hitachi SH-4 CPUs and double the amount of RAM and VRAM. Furthermore, Hikari units are standalone systems not designed for games to be easily interchangeable like the carts seen on the Naomi. Each unit comes with a ROM board containing a specific game fixed in-place inside a heavy duty metal case, much like the House of the Dead 2 board and the predecessors to the Naomi, the Sega Model 2 and 3.
Left: Model 2. Right: Hikaru
The word 'Hikaru (光/ひかる)' means 'to shine' in Japanese, and comes from the system’s ability to generate lighting effects far superior to other gaming hardware at the time. Hikaru was in fact the first piece of arcade hardware cable of rendering scenes with phong shading and Brave Fire Fighters was the first EVER game to use the shading technique. On a side note, the first game for home consoles to use this kind of shading (albeit on far more limited scale) was Space Channel 5, giving a shimmer to Ulala's dress. So there you go, another example of the Dreamcast family leading the pack in terms of advancements in the games industry.

A Quick Look At Sega Smash Pack

The Sega Dreamcast is a pretty versatile piece of hardware. Not only is it capable of running operating systems like Linux and Dreamshell et al, it is pretty adept at mimicking other console formats too. Since the early days of the Dreamcast, talented coders have been tricking the system into convincing itself it was a Nintendo Entertainment System, a Neo-Geo or even a Sony PlayStation. The latter example of console emulation on Dreamcast is well documented and eventually resulted in Bleem! being shut down by Sony's legal department, but let us also remember that Sega itself utilised the hardware of the Dreamcast to bring emulation to the masses.
While the inclusion of PC Engine and Megadrive emulators on certain Dream Passport internet browser discs is well known in the wider Dreamcast community, Sega opted to bring Genesis titles to the general populace in the United States via the Sega Smash Pack collection - an official release containing 12 retro titles from various eras in the company's illustrious history spanning both the 16 and 32-bit generations. I have it on pretty good authority that a PAL version of Smash Pack was in the works at Sega Europe (having both played a variant and by way of the article below as proof), but only the NTSC-U version ever saw the light of day.

Dreamcast Magazine Issue 7

Issue 7 of Paragon Publishing's Dreamcast Magazine was available to buy from all good (and quite probably some slightly cruddy) book stores and newsagents on the 30th March 2000. Back in those halcyon days of VHS boxsets and massive MP3 players that took four AAA batteries, Dreamcast Magazine was by far the most popular and best-selling alternative to the official Sega-sanctioned periodical from Dennis Publishing. Issue 7 isn't a rich source of unreleased games like some other issues have been, but it weighs in at 114 pages and this represents a lot of content for the princely asking price of £2.99 a copy. According to the cover issue 7 also came with a free book worth £9.99, but just quite what it was is a mystery as it is not referenced at all in the magazine itself.

The Games That Never Were: Episode 6

Episode 6 of Pcwzrd's The Games That Never Were has dropped, and naturally we thought it was only right to share it here at the Junkyard. Episodes 1-5 have been featured here, so why break the habit of a lifetime? This time around, Pcwzrd takes a look at cancelled Dreamcast games from a number of genres and these include speedboat racer Thunderboats, an adventure game based on the cartoon series Roswell Conspiracies, arcade racer Midnight GT, real time strategy game Star Trek: New Worlds, and also offers further information on the Dreamcast version of Renegade Racers from our old pals at Promethean Designs. Enough from me though - here's the excellent video:

Remember to subscribe to Dreamcastic Channel and if you can, support Pcwzrd's Patreon here.

Previous Episodes:
The Games That Never Were: Episode 1
The Games That Never Were: Episode 2
The Games That Never Were: Episode 3
The Games That Never Were: Episode 4
The Games That Never Were: Episode 5

Unknown Dreamcast Game Unearthed - Traveller

In recent months we've had a steady torrent of previously unseen games to marvel at. Titles thought lost to the mists of time have come to the fore in partially complete and fully playable states - just look at Take The Bullet and Colin McRae Rally 2.0 for instance. For me though, the real jackpot comes when we find something that was previously unknown (like the unnamed Tantalus tech demo). Well, it looks like we've got another one to marvel at: Traveller from defunct developer Fenris Wolf.
Showcased by veteran game developer and graphic artist Mark Jones on his website The Dragon's Eyrie, Traveller was to be a space-based RPG in the vein of Elite, where players could pilot their own ship in 3D space but also walk around the interior of the vessel in first person. Interestingly, Mark's descriptions of this cancelled adventure hint at first person shooting sections featuring firefights with enemy boarding parties and trading of cargo.

"Traveller, the space based RPG, was licensed to Fenris Wolf, and we had intended it to be a first person, 'PC-Like' role playing game for the Dreamcast. Unfortunately, it was cancelled by Sega as they wanted to concentrate on more action/sport type games for its launch."
 - Mark Jones

Sadly, Fenris Wolf was dissolved in 1999 and Sega cancelled Traveller while it was still in the early stages of development, but Mark kept much of the early artwork and has kindly allowed us to share them here.
That the game never amounted to more than these stills is a massive shame as the Dreamcast has a host of amazing space shooters and RPGs. Traveller could have been the one to rule the roost, but now we'll never know.

Thanks to Mark Jones for the images and to Adrian Brown for alerting me to the existence of Traveller via the Dreamcast-Talk forums.


Inspired by the recent tenuously-related-to-Dreamcast article (I kid, Tom. :P ) and inspired by a book on different typefaces, I thought about our own lovely Dreamcast:
No nonsense, elegant
The logo featured is a simple, elegant one. It doesn't wear on the eyes, unlike certain fonts which will go unmentioned (coughinserthatedfontnameherecough) although extended use might tire one a bit. Still, it would be a nice font to have on hand, just in case.

I assumed that the search would be difficult, as some fonts look almost exactly like each other, and many companies have custom lettering made up for a specific purpose. It would take hours - or at the very least, several minutes.
Detective time!
Turns out, nope. There were the false leads of Tahoma, Myriad and Verdana - but even a cursory examination showed this to be false. Fortunately, the site My Fonts came to the rescue, positing the font Basilea (not to be confused with Basilia, a completely different font). Upon downloading the font and trying it myself, I found it to be a 98% match.
Lovely, eh Tom?
By way of a little background, all I could discover was a My Fonts' user noting that it was "designed by Markus Low in 1965." Further search reveals that it won the "1965 VGC National Type Face Design Competition."

And there you have it. Another lovely piece of trivia about our beloved console.

The PlayTape Conspiracy

We're big fans of fanciful and completely false conspiracy theories here at the 'Yard...especially ones we fabricated ourselves. Who can forget the time Sony implanted PlayStation logos in a Dreamcast game? Or when Southend Museums stole the Dreamcast's logo and used it to their own nefarious ends? Of course, this is all just a bit of fun, but there's a chance we've unearthed another (completely tenuous) Dreamcast conspiracy. Have a look at this video from YouTube channel Techmoan:

If you can't be bothered to watch it, allow me to explain. PlayTape is a fabulously obsolete music format that was apparently quite popular for a brief period in the late 1960s. That is, until the magnificence of the 8-Track swept it aside with the swagger of a pre-digital iPod in platform shoes and a flowery shirt. I know that doesn't actually make a lot of sense, but I'm sure you get the (extremely weak) analogy. Anyway, as I was watching the video above I noticed that the PlayTape logo shares a particular aesthetic with the Dreamcast logo: swirls.

CSK Holdings: A Brief History & Connection to the Dreamcast

Hey guys, I'm Ross and welcome to my first article as an official DCJY member. Seeing as my guest articles went down so well, Tom decided to ask me to join the team...and so I naturally obliged!

To give a little background to this article, Tom asked me if I had any knowledge about a variant of the Dreamcast that isn't well documented online. I looked into it and realised that what I'd discovered might make an interesting company profile. So, read on to find out more about the Japanese conglomerate that played a major role in the shaping of not only Sega, but also our beloved Dreamcast - CSK Holdings Corporation.
CSK Holdings Corporation?
CSK Holdings Corporation (株式会社CSKホールディングス Kabushiki-gaisha Shī Esu Kei Hōrudingusu) is a multi-billion dollar Japanese conglomerate with heavy involvement in I.T. industries.

Formed in 1968, they've played a big part in the history of Sega since 1984 when they bought the company and renamed it to 'Sega Enterprises Ltd.' Isao Okawa, a personal friend of David Rosen, became the company's chairman and two years later shares of the company were put on the Tokyo Stock Exchange to be traded.

CSK remained the parent company of Sega until 2004 when they sold their remaining shares to Sammy Corporation which led to the two companies merging to form the one we know today, Sega Sammy Holdings Inc.

Scraping the Bottom of the Barrel

I thought I was more or less done with Dreamcast game collecting. With over 400-500 games in my possession (depending on how you count regional duplicates, demo discs, etc.), I felt that I had pretty much royally overdone it and owned far more than was ever going to be necessary. It would be almost impossible to find the time to play them all in the remaining weekends and evenings I have left before the sun sets on my miserable pile of secrets, but that sobering thought never slowed me down. I even went the extra mile, acquiring many of the games originally destined for Dreamcast but ended up on competitor's consoles when Sega lost their marbles and went third party. I invested in arcade hardware like NAOMI and Atomiswave in order to get all the Dreamcast games that were never ported into the home. I had traveled not just one extra mile but all of the extra miles and reached every dead end. I was done.

And then this happened:
Damn you Mike Phelan!
It turns out I was not done, I was in fact far from done. There were all these tiny little dark and twisted narrow detours and blind alleys that my Dreamcast searchlight had originally failed to reveal. Games I never knew existed. Little known games by developers I loved. Games whose impenetrable Japanese seemed less frightening with the helping hand of Mike's accessibility guide. My collection now seems woefully incomplete and my interest was reborn. I think I might just get a few more games, maybe a couple of dozen, no more than two score tops. I don't need all of them, I can totally stop anytime I want. Seriously.

Dreamcast Magazine Issue 6

Issue 6 of Paragon Publishing's unofficial Dreamcast Magazine was available from the 24th February 2000 and marked the first time Lara Croft appeared on the mag's cover. Following in the tradition set by preceding issues, several features on arcade games that either weren't announced or had nothing to do with the Dreamcast are included, although to off-set that there is a fairly lengthy 'history of racing games' article, complete with previews of upcoming Dreamcast driving titles. Issue 6 is particularly interesting in that several high profile abandoned games are showcased, with Picassio, DroneZ and Felony Pursuit all being covered, and Midnight GT also gets a small mention.

DreamPod - Episode 24: DreamPi

UK Podcast Directory

If you'd like to know more about Dreamcast Now! or DreamPi...just click on the links! DreamPipe can be found here. Enjoy your time online and please leave us an iTunes review if you can find the time.

Make Your Own Dreamcast Games With Elysian Shadows Toolkit

By now, you'll no doubt be aware of Elysian Shadows - the successfully-funded Kickstarter RPG that is coming to Dreamcast, Steam and a whole host of other platforms. Now, this isn't widely known, but Elysian Shadows Team will be bundling the ESTk development tools with every copy of the game. ESTk stands for Elysian Shadows Toolkit and as anyone with even a passing interest in game development will know, this is massive news for the Dreamcast indie scene. ESTk will allow gamers to create their own content for use within the Elysian Shadows engine and it will also allow more talented coders to create whole new games from scratch. Yes - you read that right.

"ESTk is the custom multiplatform Toolkit/Level Editor developed with C++ and the Qt framework written specifically to create the immersive worlds of Elysian Shadows. It shares a significant amount of code with ESGamma and boasts advanced tiling and sheet management tools, including the ability to create 2D worlds with 3D depth."
- Elysian Shadows Website

While this isn't new news, a lot of people may have missed the initial announcement, and I certainly wasn't aware of this - even though it was made public back in 2014! Regardless, this is simply incredible and literally blows the the door wide open for a whole new generation of indie Dreamcast games with all manner of cool audio and visual features, accurate environment physics, light sourcing, particle engines and more. On top of this, there's also Dreamcast SD reader and coder cable support. Jaw-dropping stuff. Here's the original video from Elysian Shadows lead developer Falco Girgis:

Remember, you can still support Elysian Shadows - go here and pledge what you can!