<-- -!>

Featured Article

Previously unknown Dreamcast game discovered - The Simpsons: Bug Squad!

Just when we thought that 2020's surprises were all but over, another gem is uncovered by the Dreamcast community!

Dreamcast-Talk user 'sreak' revealed in a recent forum post over at Dreamcast-Talk that they had a Dreamcast development kit that they were going to export the files from. The initial list of contents seemed to be fairly uninteresting, but things  - as they are known to do - developed quickly.

After dumping the contents, it became apparent that there was a very early playable version of a game that nobody knew existed. Behold: The Simpsons: Bug Squad!


There appears to be zero information about this game available anywhere, indicating that nobody even knew it was in development at the time. This isn't the first time hitherto unknown Dreamcast games have come to the fore - things like Millennium Racer and Deer Avenger 3 were complete unknowns when they leaked onto the internet.

The game certainly doesn't look like any other Simpsons themed games we've played and is a fairly bizarre use of the license - almost like a sort of Toy Commander or Roommania style thing but set inside 742 Evergreen Terrace. Perhaps this is why it didn't get any further in development? We can see from the title screen that the development team behind The Simpsons: Bug Squad! was Red Lemon Studios, who were also working on another Dreamcast game that never saw the light of day, Take the Bullet, which Tom expertly covered in his article on that game back in 2015. Update: it appears the same dev kit also contains a beta version of Take the Bullet - more on this soon!


Fascinating stuff, we're sure you'll agree! Hopefully at some point in the near future somebody with the know-how will export what remains of this mysterious title and create a playable version that can be burnt to a disc and finally experienced on the Dreamcast hardware it never managed to officially grace.

We've said it before and we'll say it again, it is absolutely amazing that even now, almost two full decades after the system's natural life was brought to an abrupt end, that we're still discovering things Dreamcast-related that have never been seen before. Thanks also go to Dreamcast-Talk moderator and all-round Dreamcast knowledge miner pcwzrd13 for bringing this to our attention

What do you think? Let us know in the comments below or on Twitter.

Update: Here is some footage of the tech demo, captured by pcwzrd13 from his DreamcasticChannel on YouTube - be sure to go over and subscribe!



Treamcast DreamPhoto DC Photo Hunter is now playable with a standard Dreamcast controller

I know you clicked on this article because you're dying to know what the hell that title means. But first, a confession. This is not a 'new' news story. It's fairly old news - especially for those who spend their time poking around the more obscure corners of the Dreamcast online community. But it's something I saw several months ago while absent-mindedly wandering the lesser-travelled backroads of the information super-highway, and subsequently forgot to write a post about. So now, months later, I'm making amends for that criminal oversight.

What am I blathering about? It's convoluted, but bear with me and we'll get there. Back in 2015 I happened across a rather odd peripheral on eBay and so - naturally - I bought it. Said peripheral was the Treamcast DreamPhoto mouse (pictured above). Treamcast in itself is quite an obscure little device, and for those not in the know, it's basically a semi-portable clone Dreamcast that comes with a 5" TFT screen attached and its own carry case (the image below shows two units loaned to us by Quang of Asobitech at Play Expo Blackpool 2018). They are very cool little units and quite rare these days, and will set you back a healthy chunk of change if you want to own one in present year. Still with me?

The two colour variants of the Treamcast

Relatively little is really known about the Treamcast, other than it originates from China, but what we do know is that the outfit which manufactured the system also released - in very limited quantities - bespoke peripherals and even software designed specifically for the Treamcast. One such peripheral was the aforementioned DreamPhoto mouse, which we investigated here at the Junkyard back when I originally bought one in 2015. The thing is, even though it could operate as a standard Dreamcast mouse and was compatible with official (or rather, genuine) Dreamcast consoles and software, the 'game' that the DreamPhoto mouse was intended to be used with was something of an enduring mystery.

"Dring you play the DC Photo Hunter..."

As detailed in our original DreamPhoto mouse article, the broken English on the sides of the box made reference to something called DC Photo Hunter, but searching online back then turned up practically nothing. Since 2015, more information has surfaced online as to what DC Photo Hunter actually is, and earlier in 2020 the software also miraculously turned up. But not just as the original DC Photo Hunter. No, that would be too simple for this tale. What actually turned up was DC Photo Hunter as a downloadable .CDI, but with the added bonus that it had been reverse engineered and compatibility with standard Dreamcast controllers added.

So in summary, a super obscure piece of unofficial software, designed for use with an unofficial, bootleg mouse designed for use with an unofficial bootleg system, has been released...but with a hack added to allow you to play it with an official Dreamcast controller...which is - as far as I can tell - not a feature that the original, unhacked version of DC Photo Hunter shipped with. Got it?


An interview with Tom Charnock: Father of the Junkyard and Dreamcast Royalty

There hasn’t been much to celebrate in 2020 thanks in no small part to a global pandemic that has kept us locked up inside like Claire Redfield at the beginning of Resident Evil – Code: Veronica. So when we had the opportunity to celebrate the Junkyard’s 15th birthday earlier this month, we took it with open arms.

We talk about the Dreamcast a lot here at The Dreamcast Junkyard. Of course we do. It’s the reason we’re here (and the clue is in the name). But what we don’t talk about enough is the man who made all of this possible. A man who has spent countless hours researching the most bizarre Dreamcast trivia and interviewing even the most tenuously linked people to our favourite console. I felt it was about time someone put a microphone in front of his face for a change and got a little insight into the history of the Junkyard from a true member of Dreamcast royalty.

Tom is far too humble to reflect on what he’s achieved so far with the Junkyard, and indeed the immeasurable contribution he’s made to the Dreamcast community as a whole. So, if I may, allow me to do it for him. 15th birthday celebrations wouldn't be complete without talking to the man of the moment, so I caught up with him for good old fashioned chinwag.

“Before the Junkyard, I’d created an all-format gaming website on a defunct service called Treeway, where I basically just copied news from other sources and created my own articles about them. Around that time I was quite obsessed with making fanzines as well, and made ‘Cast-Aw@y’ - a Dreamcast magazine”, Tom remembers, keen to point out that he’s very proud of his improper usage of an @ symbol in the title, for full late 90s edginess.
Humble beginnings with "Cast-Aw@y" fanzine.

“I had my Dreamcast about two weeks after the UK launch, but a friend of mine had an imported Japanese system just after it launched there. We would play games like Tokyo Highway Challenge and be absolutely blown away by the graphics. That was my first real experience of the Dreamcast and once I’d saved enough money from my paper round, and sold my N64, I was able to get a console for myself.”

Tom grew his Dreamcast collection throughout its short life, and then he did the unthinkable…

“In 2001, I made the very foolish decision to part-exchange my Dreamcast and all of my games for a PlayStation 2 and the latest NHL game. It was only when I got home and played it that I realised I’d made a big mistake,” says a teary-eyed Tom. Luckily for us, it was not too long until he was a Dreamcast owner once again.

“When I went to university I managed to buy another Dreamcast bundled with Metropolis Street Racer, Jet Set Radio and Virtua Fighter 3TB which was ultimately replaced when I graduated, with a shiny new Xbox and Gamecube. And then in 2005, I’d been to visit my dad and I was standing at a bus stop which was right next to a GameStation store. I was just looking in the window and there was a Dreamcast there for £40 or something with a load of games, which was too good for me not to buy. I took it home and showed all my housemates and they loved it too. So I started buying up all the games again and one day had an epiphany to document my purchases and experiences in general on a blog, and the Junkyard was born.”

A blog which would ultimately turn into one of, if not the biggest Dreamcast fansite on the web.

“I had an affinity with the Dreamcast because it was the last SEGA console and me and my brother had a SEGA childhood with the Mega Drive, Mega CD, 32X and the Saturn - it was always a SEGA household. My love for the system really grew after I set up the Junkyard because I started to explore the more obscure and import titles rather than the games that everyone knew.”
Tom was quickly acknowledged as a "Dreamcast expert".

Tom’s early vision for the Junkyard was purely a blog set up out of boredom.

“There was no real vision in all honesty. It was a case of being bored and wanting to document what I’d bought. I was accepted into the Navy and was waiting to join - which took months - so I was taking on temporary jobs and spending the money I made on Dreamcast games and accessories. In reality, going on day trips to different towns to visit small independent gaming shops and then blogging about it was just my way of killing time.”

“It was a bit like a diary. I didn't expect anyone to read it. I was doing it purely for my own enjoyment and entertainment, and then slowly but surely a couple of people started commenting on the posts. I was completely oblivious to other online gaming communities at the time and so to me, this was all quite new and exciting - I felt like it was all happening inside a bubble.”

As the community started to grow and more and more people commented on Tom’s hard work, he’s in no doubt that this pushed him to keep updating the Junkyard and find new ways to engage with his newfound audience.

“Yeah, it definitely spurred me on. You'll notice that there is a definite turning point in the very early days where it went from just being a blog with random nonsense about the games I’d bought to doing actually researched features and reviews. I don't think anywhere else was really doing that at the time, not for the Dreamcast anyway as it was becoming something of a forgotten console.”

Review: Arcade Racing Legends

As the third decade of the 21st century dawns, it's becoming quite clear that we're entering a renaissance of sorts for our beloved little box of dreams. While the masses wax lyrical about their shiny new Xbox 5's and PlayStation Series X's (that's right, yeah?), or relentlessly bore on about ray tracing and load times of 3 nanoseconds, we here at the Junkyard are rightfully far more excited about the impending tsunami of new titles about to wash away all our troubles and restore that blue swirl (red, I suppose, if you prefer) to it's rightful place at the pinnacle of gaming excellence.

Sort of, anyway. 

It's true though that we are spoiled for new content right now. We've got an upcoming Dreamcast games calendar chock full of titles, the likes of such not seen since the time nu-metal was vaguely popular with teenagers with terrible hairstyles and ludicrous length jeans, we can barely go a week without some new-fangled piece of technology to enhance/cannibalise/set it on the path to sentient life, for our Dreamcast getting announced, and we've even got geniuses coming out with ports of post-DC titles from the arcade that we can play on the console too. It feels less like a rose tinted, nostalgia driven website written by Sega fanboys around here now; and more like we're covering some sort of current-gen machine.

The main menu screen you're first presented with.

But I'm blabbering again. We're not here to moan about being too old to keep up to date with latest news today, we'll save that for the podcast. Instead, we're here to take a slightly belated look at the newest addition to the Dreamcast's now substantial indie library - the much anticipated, made for the Dreamcast latest release from JoshProd - Arcade Racing Legends.

Successfully Kickstarted back in 2019, we've been keeping a watchful eye over the development of the title, and had access to some early builds as well. There's a fair few keen racing fans here at the 'Yard, so the prospect of a new, fully 3D racing title for the console, and one promising to bring back some of the blue sky arcade racing pedigree of Sega games of yore, was one that had us positively salivating with hope. 

Scud life. Cough.

JoshProd have been a relentless supporter of the Dreamcast independent scene in recent years, but have so far focused on bringing us ports from other platforms rather than self-developed titles. Indeed, despite what some have said, this isn't the first 3D indie title on the system - JoshProd's own delivery of the Dreamcast port of 4x4 Jam takes that honour. They've got a very interesting lineup of titles on their way to us, and their past output has had some serious hits - Flashback, Another World, The Escapee - as well as a couple of misfires - the disappointing Ganryu for one. But when any developer has the ambition to bring us something completely new - well, we sit up and take note.

Some of the campaign artwork really whetted our appetite for the game

So just what is this new game all about? Well, Arcade Racing Legends wears its inspiration clear for all to see - not least in its title. An old school homage to the golden age of arcade racing games, it gives you a super fast car, exotic track locations and plenty of wink-wink, nudge-nudge references to past Sega titles. In fact, that's probably not quite true - there's little subtle about the inspiration for some of the vehicles here, and that's no bad thing at all. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

15 Years of The Dreamcast Junkyard

The 7th December 2020 marks 15 years since I penned the first entry here at The Dreamcast Junkyard. Many people wonder where the name of this place comes from. Basically my housemate, back in 2005, had the audacity to brand my room a 'junkyard of Dreamcast stuff,' as I re-bought more and more Dreamcast games and controllers because they were so cheap at the time. Said items piled up like an unholy afterbirth of rejected physical media and peripherals, festering betwixt my soil'd, unmade bed and a pile of broken motherboards. And lo, this blog was born. 

A lot (well, a bit) has changed since that day back in 2005. For a start, the Dreamcast has gone from a bargain basement system nobody wanted or cared about; a failure and an embarrassment...to being remembered as one of the greatest misunderstood systems of all time. There still exists a soil'd bed though. And a pile of broken motherboards, much to the annoyance of my beloved slave significant other. Weird how things change over time isn't it?

Anyway. This is just a short message to thank all of you who have been with us over the years, been with us though the lean periods and have subsequently seen us release a popular podcast, social media groups and profiles, YouTube channels and all the rest of it. The Dreamcast Junkyard has been through quite a bit in my time, from Sega itself sending us a Cease & Desist over a printed list of games; to us interviewing and becoming friends with the very people who created the Dreamcast system and some of it's most amazing games; to being nominated for podcast and blog awards. 

None of this has ever been about earning money or being a 'proper' gaming website, it's all just a labour of love in honesty. That we've managed to forge a reputation for unbiased and trusted opinions on Dreamcast stuff, and also created great links and friendships within the Dreamcast community is an amazing, humbling bonus. So thank you. 

Thank you all who read this blog, have visited our event stands over the years, offered superior technical support via our comments; and follow our socials, watch our videos and listen to our podcast.

We'll still be here in another 15 years, and hopefully so will you. Keep dreaming!

Let's play some Atomiswave games on Dreamcast!

As discussed in a recent article here at The Dreamcast Junkyard, Dreamcast-Talk forum members megavolt85 and yzb have been porting Atomiswave games to the Dreamcast. While many people reading this will no doubt get a lot of joy from playing these esoteric titles on an emulator - as did I initially - we thought we should get these titles running on an actual Dreamcast and see how they play with a standard HKT-7700 gripped in our mitts. So that's what we did!

Below is the fruit of our labour, which in reality was no more difficult than grabbing the various GDI files for games such as Dolphin Blue, Maximum Speed, King of Fighters XI, Samurai Shodown VI, Faster than Speed and Metal Slug 6, and dropping them onto the Compact Flash card which slots nicely into the side of the Compact Flash modded Dreamcast. Booting through DreamShell allows you to navigate to the files on the storage and simply boot them as you would any other game. I'm pretty sure this would work with any other type of solid state storage device you may have in your Dreamcast too, so let us know in the comments if it works with things like MODE or GDEmu. If you have any specific questions though, be sure to head to the FAQ on Dreamcast-Talk. Enough waffle, enjoy the video below!

Have you tried any of these games? If so, what are you thoughts? And are there any hidden gems on the Atomiswave crying out to be ported to the Dreamcast? Let us know in the comments, and be sure to head to Dreamcast-Talk, join the forum and thank megavolt85 and yzb for their stirling work.

Shenmue World magazine from Shenmue Dojo smashes Kickstarter goal in less than 24 hours!

I initially planned to publish this article a day ago as a way to help spread the news that Shenmue Dojo had launched a Kickstarter for a fan magazine called Shenmue World. Looks like I needn't have bothered though, as the community has come together in less than 24 hours to fund the project! 

Full disclosure here - several members of the Junkyard team have also backed Shenmue World - so allow us the benefit of the doubt when we describe this project as 'thoroughly deserving.'

Let's step back in time first, though. You may be wondering what all this is about. Basically, Shenmue Dojo is one of - if not the - best known Shenmue fan sites / forums when it comes to...well, Shenmue. Obviously. The clue is in the name. How many people come here for PlayStation 2 news? I digress. 

Personally I have been visiting Shenmue Dojo for well over a decade, and the site actually started in 2000 - five whole years before the Junkyard was but a twinkle in my eye. Quite simply, these guys know their Wude from their Master Chen...if you catch my drift.

Anyway, Shenmue World is a new fan magazine created by Shenmue Dojo and headed up by Jim Brown (aka SkillJim), one of the head honchos over at Shenmue Dojo. A year in the making, Shenmue World is a completely independent fan-created ode to all that is good in the world of Shenmue.

According to the video over on the Shenmue Dojo YouTube channel, the magazine has already been finalised in principle, and the Kickstarter was simply put in place to allow Jim and his team to start a mass print run. The magazine (or at least the initial prototype) looks like a Shenmue fan's dream - lots of original content, features and articles focussing on literally every aspect of Shenmue.

The good news - as intimated in the headline of this article - is that Shenmue World has been fully funded to the tune of £6500 in less than 24 hours, and so the magazine will be produced and everyone who has backed it to the correct tier will receive a physical copy at some point in the not-too-distant future.

We here at the Junkyard realise that not everyone uses Twitter, so allow us to use our own platform - this blog - to point you in the direction of the Shenmue World Kickstarter if you wish to get your mitts on a copy of the magazine.

As ever, be sure to let us know what you think in the comments, and please do visit Shenmue Dojo's website and follow them on Twitter.

Atomiswave games are being ported to Dreamcast...which is awesome

The Atomiswave, for those who may not be aware, was an arcade system co-developed by Sammy and Sega and released back in 2003. As explained in Ross's excellent deep dive on the hardware here, the origins of the arcade platform are thought to have been born out of Sega's pivot out of the home console market, leaving the firm with a surplus of hardware it had no use for (namely, bits of Dreamcast tech). 

The Atomiswave was first unveiled at the Japan Amusement Show in 2002, and piqued the interest of some of the biggest names in the arcade scene at the time, with SNK, Dimps, Psyko, Treasure, Compile, IGS, Visco and Tecmo all lending their support to the fledgling platform.

And lo, the Atomiswave became something of a hit among arcade gamers, hosting numerous inventive and colourful titles; and Sammy went on to purchase CSK's shares in Sega before eventually buying out the company in 2004. The intriguing thing about the Atomiswave is that even though its hardware was quite similar to the Dreamcast and NAOMI systems it was based on, Atomiswave games were incompatible with Dreamcast and so considered to be solely the preserve of dedicated arcade collectors. Until now, that is.

That's because developer megavolt85 has begun porting Atomiswave games to the Dreamcast, and if you head over to the Dreamcast-Talk forums you'll be able to see (and download) the fruits of their (very obvious) labour. So far, several Atomiswave titles have been ported to Dreamcast, and the GDI files made available. Of the handful of titles released so far, I have only played Faster than Speed - an arcade racer which plays (and looks) like the bastard lovechild of Need for Speed Underground and Scud Race.





It's actually a pretty fun racer, with lots of tracks and vehicles and some really nice handling. Oh, and it looks gorgeous. I've been playing this on ReDream on a MacBook Pro, and compatibility with some controllers has been a bit iffy, but as far as I can tell from browsing the forums, other emulators on PC work even better so your experiences may be better than mine. I did try to also play the game using an actual Dreamcast by loading the GDI file onto the Compact Flash modded Dreamcast, and while it would display the Faster than Speed custom artwork in Dreamshell, the game would not boot. So close...yet so far!

Edit - I got games working on a Dreamcast (thanks to Pcwzrd13 once again!). Check out the results.


One thing is clear though - this game and the work of megavolt85 is a revelation for the Dreamcast library. That Atomiswave games can now be sampled - in my case for the first time ever - is truly amazing; and a massive boon for digital preservationists. And this could be just the start of a whole new side of the Sega arcade library being opened up to Dreamcast owners who never knew such experiences existed. Exciting stuff indeed.




Apart from Faster than Speed, other Atomiswave games to be ported to Dreamcast in 2020 include King of Fighters XI, Metal Slug 6, and Samurai Spirits Tenkaichi Kenkakuden, and we'd be a bit daft to think that even more Atomiswave games are not on the cusp of being ported to our beloved console.

Head over to the Dreamcast-Talk forums to find out more. Thanks also to @pcwzrd13 for alerting those of us (me) who have maybe been a bit lax on keeping up with Dreamcast news this year.

Flea! - Brand new release for the Dreamcast

 2020. It's not been great, has it? But whilst we all seclude ourselves in our homes, proclaiming how bored we are whilst ignoring our game backlogs, something has been stirring in the Dreamcast Indie scene. The year kicked off with the rather glorious Xeno Crisis - perhaps the finest Indie game yet on the DC, and we've got some delights on their way with the high speed thrills of Arcade Racing Legends from JoshProd, the wonderful Xenocider in all it's 3D glory from Retro Sumus, and Indie masters Senile Team back with the fantastic looking Intrepid Izzy. That's not even mentioning the impending release of Summoning Signals, JoshProd's Indie onslaught with 8(8!) more titles, and almost certainly others that we've simply forgotten to mention! It's a never ceasing cause of amazement for all of us here at the Junkyard that we could see more than a dozen titles added to the library in a matter of months.


It seems though, that even more is on the horizon - including a game which has come as somewhat of a surprise - Flea! which is out now and available from the developers own Etsy page here. A successfully funded Kickstarter project this year, the game was designed for the NES, but has jumped it's way onto our chosen platform, caught us all by surprise, and left us itching to tell you more. I promise that's the last awful Flea pun I'll be making...

Playing as your cute little Flea protagonist Henry, your task is to collect blood from the games 80 levels, blood which is being horded by the greedy King, and is desperately needed by the Refu-fleas. To that end, each unit of blood you collect can, at certain points, be converted to extra lives. It means that very quickly you'll rack up substantial numbers of lives - but that's something you'll most certainly need here. The game creator, Alastair Low (featured on the DCJY before, for the very cool Dungeon Ross), clearly has a fondness for tough NES era platformers, as Flea! is designed with plenty of tricky sections and death is frequent. Luckily, such death is not permanent in Flea's world, for a few seconds later you're back on the hunt for blood at the beginning of the level. Just as quickly as you build the life stock up though, you'll see the numbers going down when you get to one of the games tougher stages.

The game's deaths don't come by way of Uzi wielding parasites or anything so extreme though - here, death will come by way of your continually jumping little critter finding his way into a particularly nasty obstacle. These litter the stages, and whilst only a few syringes seem to be your issue early on, you soon come face to face with other creatures and more extravagant obstacles. Not every creature you meet is a bad guy though - there are plenty of colourful and interesting characters throughout the game to interact with as well.

The game is a tough one to master, in the time honoured 8-bit fashion. However, this toughness doesn't come with unfairness - if you die, it's due to a mistake you've made. Control is generally simple - Henry jumps continually, but you can press the A button to keep his jumps lower (a skill you will require early on in the game), and later on you can dash as well (although I've got to be honest, I've not actually got that far yet! I've never said I'm any good at games...). The main challenge here is to maximise your blood collection whilst navigating the obstacles with well timed jumps. The instant restart of the single screen levels makes any frustration minimal, luckily, but the game does induce a feeling of rage when your life supply dwindles as you fail at a decidedly crafty stage for the umpteenth time - but there's a not insignificant amount of satisfaction when you finally make it. It's a classic risk-reward strategy of gaming of yore, tried and tested, and it works well here, a tribute to the games developer once more.

At times the game does mix things up a little, ditching the single screen approach and going for a forced scrolling platforming experience - a sort of endless runner type affair, only, er, it ends. It shows a little bit of versatility off that makes for a nice change of pace, and again technically, it runs smoothly.  

Visually, it's not going to blow anyone away. It's clearly a NES game, with chunky pixels and bright colours, a look evocative of an age before the Dreamcast, but one which is very much back in fashion. Of course, it looks this way through functionality (being an actual NES game) rather than style alone, but it's competent, cute, fun and cheery. In fact, I'm officially starting a campaign to get Flea! to become the official mascot of the DC indie scene, as I look at his cute little face looking at me from my VMU during the game. The stages vary in their colour schemes - different beasts that the fleas infest - but all have that 8-bit colour and brightness to them, which is very visually appealing. 

There's no denying the games NES roots though. The pixels are colourful, the action is smooth, but this isn't the sort of title that's going to push the hardware. That doesn't matter at all, of course, as the core gameplay is fun and challenging enough to justify itself a place in the library, but we know there will be some out there who will baulk at the idea of a Dreamcast game looking this way. To them, we blow a giant raspberry. Personally, it's a style of game we've not had much of on the console, and I welcome it's arrival. 

I also welcome the chiptune music, so insanely catchy that I found myself humming it to myself on the bus this morning. It perfectly captures the fun, nostalgic retro-ness of the game, and deserves special mention just for that. The packaging is also great - a US style look (despite Lowtek Games being a Scottish based developer), it has a great disc image, and full colour manual (although it's only 2 pages), and the cover is great. For a game none of us were expecting, it's level of professionalism in design was surprising but most welcome. 

The game is available for £30 from Lowtek Games Etsy store, limited to just 200 numbered copies,  and you can find the games creator Alastair on Twitter  so go give him a follow!


 

A Quick Look At Summoning Signals (Demo)

Summoning Signals is but one of a handful of new games heading to the Dreamcast in the near future, and it also happens to have a demo version freely available to download, burn to a CD and play on actual Dreamcast hardware.

Naturally, we thought it only proper to grab the demo and give it a whirl, and to give our impressions of this early build here at the Junkyard. Just to clarify, this new demo is not the same as the old demo - the old demo being a sort of mini game that featured a two-headed serpent with a penchant for Soul Calibur quips. No, this new demo is a demo of the actual Summoning Signals game, in all its point and click, photogrammetry-enabled glory.

So what is Summoning Signals then? Well, in time honoured fashion, it appears that indie developer 12db.soft have crafted a slightly esoteric sci-fi point and click adventure game, which relies pretty heavily on the sort of eerie, technology focused strangeness you're likely to find in a Mark Z. Danielewski novel. Lots of abstract music and sound effects, very little hand holding, and a leaning on the player to work it out for themselves...imagine that in this day and age!

The game starts with a fairly bizarre cutscene that depicts you crashing your ship on some alien world. There's lots of arcane symbolism and almost Lynchian aesthetic cues as the ship loses power and descends; and you are left to work out how to use your damaged radio to make contact with a benevolent stranger and follow their instructions to get out of your predicament. That predicament being, y'know, that you're stranded on an alien world.

Due to the nature of Summoning Signals' reliance on the abstract, it's probably an intentional design choice that it's all a bit baffling to begin with. You move a crosshair around the screen and focus on items in the world, selecting them as you go - the VMU will beep and display icons when you happen to hover over a point of interest (which is a nice touch). 

You can also pull up an inventory of sorts and activate a radio through which you communicate with the stranger (who goes by the name Copper) and you can move between screens by hovering over arrows that appear at the screen edge and selecting them. Check out the short video I put together of the first few minutes of the demo below.

Overall, from what I've played of this demo I'm even more intrigued by how weird 12db.soft can make this game. Apart from the unique visual style which mixes interesting photogrammetry with a rudimentary day/night cycle, the oddness of Summoning Signals really appeals to me.

There's no set release date for the final game yet, but you can grab this demo from the Summoning Signals website and play it either on a PC or on Dreamcast hardware. I did have a few instances where the demo froze, but that's forgivable in this early state.

Let us know if you've played the demo in the comments or on Twitter.

Peripheral Review: Brook Wingman SD

Disclosure: The Brook Wingman SD was sent to us for review.


The Brook Wingman SD is an interesting device, coming from the powerhouse that is Brook Accessory. I’ve got one of their PCBs in my SEGA Virtua Stick High Grade, which permits its use on multiple formats with ease… and no lag. Brook have quite a catalogue of products, and I believe are building a decent brand name for themselves with quality useful products. 


What is the Wingman SD? In short, it’s a dongle, that allows the gamer to connect a multitude of modern peripherals to their Dreamcast as well as the Sega Saturn (check out Brian's article on The Saturn Junkyard for a look at the Saturn functionality). You can connect your 360, PS3, PS4, Xbox One, and Switch Pro controllers to the Dreamcast for some high quality gaming fun.

There was something a touch surreal pairing my PS3 controller to the DC… but it was incredibly easy to do, and worked extremely well, without any perceived lag. Same goes for the Xbox One controller. The Xbox controllers are often regarded as some of the most ergonomic (and I agree), and using them to play Sega Rally 2, Rez (OK I have that on 360 and PS4), Shenmue, Headhunter, Re-Volt, was really great. The device comes into its own with FPS, though, bringing the DC into the 21st Century proper. Some prefer keyboard and mouse, which you can do on DC, but I am a fan of controllers. And now, Quake, Unreal Tournament, etc… have proper dual analogue support. And wireless!! What a revelation! 


Shenmue Undub: Definitive Edition available now for Dreamcast

Source: Shenmue Forever/Phantom River Stone

One of the most memorable aspects of the original Shenmue - for me at least - was the voice acting. When I say 'original,' naturally I mean the PAL version, y'know living in the UK and all. That disconnect between 1980s Japan and Ryo speaking with a slightly disjointed American accent; and the ensemble cast of weird, over-acted, oddball voices that assaulted the ears whenever you dared interrupt some NPC while they wandered aimlessly through Dobuita before vanishing into thin air outside Tom's hot dog van. That's peak nostalgia right there, kids.

It's apparent that not everyone shares my fondness for this audio aesthetic though, as a number of fan projects over the years have attempted to 'undub' the Western version of Shenmue, replacing Corey Marshall's dulcet tones with the original audio from the NTSC-J release of Shenmue. The latest attempt at this, according to the fine folks over at Shenmue mega-site Phantom River Stone is the definitive edition of these undub efforts, and have now presented to the world the fittingly monikered Shenmue Undub: Definitive Edition.

Source: Phantom River Stone

Before I continue, you really should check out Phantom River Stone in general if you're a Shenmue fan, as along with resources like Shenmue Dojo and Adam Koralik's YouTube channel, it really is a marvellous repository of Shenmue trivia and random musings. But back to Shenmue Undub: Definitive Edition. Created in collaboration with Shenmue Master, Shenmue Undub: Definitive Edition is reckoned to be the ultimate restoration of the Dreamcast title, with original Japanese voice overs, English subtitles and even minor bug fixes and restored original textures. Here's a rundown from Phantom River Stone:

  • Based on the Kogami Undub: this version builds upon the most complete fan-made Undub version, which was created by Kogami and runs on the Dreamcast.
  • Full English subtitles: the official translated lines are used where available. A small number of the Japanese spoken lines (around 3%) which did not have English equivalent translations available have been translated by hand. A few small corrections were also made to fix specific lines that had incorrect grammar or meaning.
  • Full Japanese audio with no down-sampling.
  • PAL-compatible save files: saves can be carried over to the PAL version of Shenmue II.
  • CDDA audio tracks included: recorded audio tracks play as expected during the game (e.g. the music that plays when Ryo rides home from the harbor with Nozomi on the back of his motorcycle).
  • Coca Cola branding: the branding for the vending machines and soda cans in the game shows the Coca Cola branding, as seen in the Japanese version of Shenmue..
  • Fixes for small glitches identified in the previous Undub version (e.g. conversations when Ryo knocked on house doors did not play out properly).
  • Fits on standard CD-R discs: the images have been stream-lined to allow them to be played on a Dreamcast console using standard CD-R discs, with no missing or cut content.
It's worth it for the authentic Coca-Cola cans alone, in my opinion. Of course, this isn't the first time enthusiastic fans have augmented a Dreamcast title - cast your mind back several years and you'll no doubt recall Dead or Alive 2 Final or the Frame Gride English language edition.
Source: Phantom River Stone
For Shenmue fans who want the authentic experience though, Shenmue Undub: Definitive Edition looks to be the real deal. You can grab the download for Dreamcast over at Phantom River Stone, and while you're there stick around and read some of author Switch's other intriguing posts.

Will you be checking out Shenmue Undub: Definitive Edition? Let us know in the comments!

Summoning Signals now has a website and a demo for Dreamcast

Summoning Signals represents one of the more mysterious upcoming releases for the Dreamcast. A point and click adventure in which the player must locate the scattered parts of a crippled spacecraft, the photogrammetry graphical style is unlike anything we've previously seen on the Dreamcast.

Coming from 12db.soft and Retro Surge Games, Summoning Signals is aiming for an Autumn 2020 release (that's Fall for our American readers), and the game now has a dedicated website and a demo available. The demo is interesting as it's not actually a demo of the main game, it's more a vertical space shooter where you have to kill a two-headed dragon with a penchant for Soul Calibur quotes...but this just fits the whole weirdness vibe lead developer Magnes is aiming for:

"I see Summoning Signals like a strange trip to a vaguely familiar planet. Some people say it reminds them of the Myst series or Lack of Love. We're inspired by Kentucky Route Zero for its visuals and storytelling, Hyper Light Drifter and Elemental Gimmick Gear for their worldbuilding and Seaman for its wierdness to name a few. Summoning Signals is a game for those who like to discover strange worlds.

"I've always wanted to contribute to SEGA's last console library. This console (and its community) is what got me into programming and hacking 15 years ago, so it feels right to give back. Also, working with retro console has this hacker-tech-charm vibe to it.

- Magnes, via summoningsignals.com

From the game's itch.io page:

Summoning Signals is a experimental narrative game. 

You are Bertholet, an antique collector with a passion for old technology. As you are making a delivery across the galaxy, your ship starts behaving erratically and crash on an unknown planet. Get to know the planet's strange inhabitant, repair your ship and escape before the fabled Minotaur finds you.

Radio Exploration
Use your radio to call for help and communicate with the galaxy's inhabitant. Make sure to charge your battery and keep the signal alive! 

Repair system
Bertholet will need to find spare parts on this new planet to repair his ship. Break apart old machines and dig for circuits in computers! Make use of your tools to get your ship running again.

Poetic Puzzles
The world inhabitant like to speak in riddle. Are you wise enough to understand them? Use your wits to find the clues and progress through the game.

We have covered Summoning Signals in the recent past, and waxed lyrical about the interesting photogrammetry technique used (think the Google Maps 3D modelling style). I for one am pretty intrigued to know more about this indie offering, and after enjoying the outright oddness of the Reaperi Cycle demo 12db.soft released earlier in 2020, I think I'm qualified to consider myself a fan of this developer.


Keep an eye on the Summoning Signals website for updates (you can sign up to be alerted when new demos are available) and also grab that annoyingly difficult shooter demo. We'll be keeping a close eye on this one...and you should too.

Excited for yet another new Dreamcast release in 2020? Let us know on Twitter or in the comments below. Oh, and follow 12db.soft on Twitter here.

A Dreamcast Launch Retrospectacle: Celebrating/Ranking the Games of 9.9.99

Well, shit. It’s been 21 years since the Dreamcast’s North American launch. That makes it old enough to drink here.

Legally.

Of course, that’s hardly news for all you folks outside of the States. In Japan, the Dreamcast has been of legal libation consumption age for nearly two years, both because it came out almost a year earlier and because the nation’s legal drinking age is 20. Doubly so for most European countries. In Germany, kids as young as 14 can drink wine and beer with their parents’ consent, which means the Dreamcast has been allowed to partake in the devil’s sauce for over seven years (with permission from the Saturn and Mega Drive, of course). And apparently you Brits have been legally allowed to drink at home since you were five (?!) years old. If true, the Dreamcast has been pounding pints in the UK since the Nintendo DS was in nappies.

Anyway, I write all of this because I find it both a convenient and unnecessarily convoluted excuse to crack open some brewskies and reminisce about the Dreamcast’s iconic launch library all those years ago. In the spirit of the occasion, I’d like to think of this feature as a Dreamcast 21 run of sorts.

I’ve always been fascinated with video game console launches and the “next gen” titles that usher us into each new era of gaming. I believe these launches provide unique insights into how platform holders aspire to position their consoles and contribute to the broader evolution of the medium. Console launches give us a glimpse into the creative mindsets of developers seeking to innovate with the new technological possibilities afforded to them. Then there’s the sheer spectacle of it all, which can also be fun in itself.

When it comes to the all-time great console launches, I can’t think of a better time than the sixth generation. Leading the way, of course, was the Sega Dreamcast. You probably don’t need me to sell you on the brilliance of its launch collection. At least in North America and PAL territories (sorry, Japan), there was almost a magic surrounding it. From day one, the Dreamcast hosted a legendary library of excellent games, many of which remain widely revered by the Junkyard community. I’ve recently replayed all 19 of the North American launch titles and I’m surprised which ones have held up at least as well as, if not better than I expected. Others, less so. More than anything, revisiting the Dreamcast’s launch library has helped strengthen my appreciation for the creative risks Sega took with its final console debut, as well as the more enduring impacts its games ultimately had on the medium.

It boggles my mind to consider the rare confluence of factors that could've enabled the Dreamcast to spoil early adopters with such a wealth of launch day riches. Back then, and for a variety of reasons, console launch lineups seemed more crucial for setting the tone and tenor of the experiences we might associate with those platforms. Perhaps the relative technical strides between generations underscored the need to show off a diverse stable of games that could never have existed previously. And before development costs skyrocketed in the HD era, maybe it was easier for more devs to begin and finish their projects in the time between receiving dev kits and preparing for launch. At the very least, developers might've been freer to work in peace without us asshat fans yammering at them on social media all the time.

So now, after 21 years, I figured I’d share my thoughts on all 19 North American Dreamcast launch titles through a not-completely-sober, retrospective lens. Here are my totally biased and nostalgia-be-damned takes on the Dreamcast’s original launch lineup. And in no particular ord—actually, screw it. I’m not usually a fan of ranked game lists but I’m a couple of beers in at this point and I’m fine with being a hypocrite.

OK. Worst to first. Let’s go...