Come chat with us in IRC!

Come in and shoot the shit at #ReviveDC on!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Tony Hawk's Pro Skater Review

Release dates:
North America: June 29, 2000
Europe: June 29, 2000 (As Tony Hawk's Skateboarding)
Japan: Unreleased

Game details:
1-2 players
Standard controller
VMU compatible
Jump Pack compatible
VGA box

The Tony Hawk's Pro Skater series is one that has had euphoric highs and miserable lows. Thankfully, the Dreamcast is home to two of the best titles in the series. The Dreamcast version of the first game came some time after the PlayStation version and shortly after the Nintendo 64 release and easily proves to be the definitive version.

If you're familiar with the modern THPS games, this one will prove a bit different. There are two kinds of stages; ones that have objectives which earn you tapes when completed, and competitions. In objective levels, you'll earn tapes for high scores or performing certain feats, such as grinding five picnic tables. Six of the levels are in this form, and each have five tapes to collect. There is a two minute time limit on these levels however, all tapes do not have to be collected in one run. The objective levels are the most enjoyable of the game, and give you wide open areas to explore. Competition levels are broken into three minute-long heats. You'll be graded on your performance and compete against the other pros in the game. You won't actually see their runs; just their performance on the score board.

The gameplay is very easy to grasp, but takes time to master. There are four buttons- ollie, grab tricks, flip tricks and grinds. There are 10 different pros to choose from, with relatively unique move sets, and each with their own special moves. As you collect tapes in levels your stats will increase, making it much easier to perform combos. This is not a difficult game, and you can easily complete the game with all characters in an afternoon or two. The rewards for doing such are slim, but you'll have a great time doing it.

In a dystopian future, the only way to take down the evil dictator Robert Gray is to shred. Rescue your wife and daughter (even if you're playing as the sole female skater...) from the totalitarian regime...and okay, I'm kidding. It's a sports game. There is no story to be told of.

While it's unlikely that this game was built from the ground up for Dreamcast (coming about 10 months after the PSX version), you wouldn't know it from the graphics. It's leaps and bounds away from the N64 and PSX versions. The graphics won't be blowing anyone's minds, but they aren't an eyesore either. The game also keeps a steady frame rate and never stutters.

The soundtrack of this game is something of a mixed bag. There are definitely some standout tracks (Primus' "Jerry Was a Race Car Driver" and The Ernies' "Here and Now"), but most aren't so great. This game surely didn't have the budget of the later entries when it came to the soundtrack, and it shows. The songs aren't bad, but there's nothing here that's going to make you run out and grab any of the bands' albums. For those of us who remember what skateboarding was like at that time, it's an interesting time capsule of the music tastes that permeated a sport which is at times annoyingly focused on image.

One unique feature of the Dreamcast version is screens around the levels which play the music videos for songs that have one.

Don't pass this one up. It comes cheap, and there's a lot of play here. Even if you tear through the single player game, you'll want to return to up your scores and play the multiplayer modes with friends. This is certainly the definitive version of the game, and you won't be disappointed.


Monday, July 18, 2011

New 3D homebrew engine coming to Dreamcast

Homebrew games on the Dreamcast have had graphics that are little better than Saturn games. This is because it is highly frowned upon to use the official Katana or Windows CE developing environments as Sega and Microsoft own the rights to them.

Most homebrew games have been made with the KallistiOS developing environment, which doesn't really push the Dreamcast to its limits. However, this is all about to change for the better.

Behold CubicVR 3D Engine. This thing is going to blow the homebrew scene wide open. Now worlds can be created that push the system to its limits. The developer had started the project a few years ago and published a video showcasing the engine and its capabilities. What you will see is advanced physics demonstrated by a vehicle driving into various objects placated about the world.

Looked amazing didn't it? This engine will have all the bells and whistles we are used to seeing in our retail games. Take for instance this render here. It looks just as good at GTA 3.

Even independent game developers are talking about financially backing this project to get it pushed out sooner. Is 2011 the renaissance of Dreamcast development? Only time will tell.

You can follow the development of the engine here.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Phantasy Star Online Ver. 2 Review

Release dates:
Japan: July 6, 2001
North America: September 24, 2001
Europe: March 1, 2002

Game details:
One player
Standard controller
VGA box
VMU compatible (45 blocks)
Online Multiplayer (Official servers offline, unofficial alternatives available)

Phantasy Star Online is a game that has become an addiction to many people over the years. While recent titles have been hit or miss, the Dreamcast versions are still spoken of highly. However, the official servers have been offline for years and for most a broadband adaptor is incredibly cost prohibitive and out of the question. This review will take the angle that you will be unable to play the game online.

PSO's gameplay is rather bizarre. The gameplay is almost frustratingly simple; there's a button for a normal attack and a fierce attack; your attacks are difficult to combo together, and they're generally pretty slow. Somehow this isn't a deal breaker and it ends up fun in a way. In this manner, PSO channels classic hack and slash games like Blizzard's Diablo. The gameplay itself is largely unimpressive, but the atmosphere and desire to loot is what draws you in.

Where the online game used cooperation to make it through a dungeon, playing offline you'll experience the game quite differently. There will be a heavy level grind, which isn't ever too exciting. The enemies are never quite so powerful that you're completely helpless, and they never quite give you enough experience that you'll level rapidly. You'll fall into a comfortable pattern of getting a short quest from the Hunter's Guild, exploring the dungeon and looting items, teleporting out when your inventory is full, selling items and then going back to the dungeon. Rinse and repeat.

There's not much of a storyline here. Basically there's some missing people and they were pioneers and you're also pioneers to some distant alien planet and... well, you see how interesting this is. Some of the quests from the Hunter's Guild have intriguing premises which fire up the imagination about what's going on beyond the world that is presented to you. It's this sparking of the imagination that makes sci-fi great in any medium, and PSO somehow manages to have a story even though there isn't much of one given to you. Playing the game offline only, you're exploring a vacant world, attempting to find out what happened to the people before you. The atmosphere is lonely and mysterious, and the game is better for it.

Absolutely beautiful. There's nothing here that's going to give any other 6th generation console games a run for their money, but what is here is incredibly well executed. If there were a game equivalent to the Academy Awards, this game would've swept the visual categories. The game has a bright, bold color scheme which is excellent for portraying PSO's stylized world. The enemy, character and environment designs are fantastic. This being an older game, the areas are considerably smaller, but there is probably more to look at in the main area of Pioneer 2 (the hub ship) than most new games.

You'll be hard pressed to find a better soundtrack than the one in PSO. The music is heavily electronic and fits the visual style perfectly. I've been sitting here staring at this section trying to think of something not so hyperbole filled to write about it, but I can't. You're just going to have to take my word on this that it's excellent and see for yourself.

This is a hard conclusion to make. I can't truly recommend the game in good faith. The offline gameplay is going to be intriguing in its own way for some, and a bore for others. The music and visual style will probably grab most people, but that's not a good enough reason to continue playing a game. I've got to say that this is a try before you buy. Sealed copies are cheap enough on eBay, but it's probably still better to be safe. Playing the game offline, you'll probably fall into a habit of putting it in once or twice a week and doing a bit of grinding.


Wondering about the differences between Ver. 2 and the original? Check this site out.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Jet Set Radio Review

Release dates:
Japan: June 29, 2000
North America: November 1, 2000 (as Jet Grind Radio)
Europe: November 24, 2000

Game details:
One player
Standard controller
VMU Compatible: 4 blocks
VGA box
Jump Pack

When The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker was released, alot of people were impressed by the special graphics. The graphics looked like they were taken from comic or a cartoon; this technique is called cel-shaded animation. But one of the first games to use this
technique was Jet Set Radio, also known as Jet Grind Radio in North America.
Jet Set Radio was developed by Smilebit and published by Sega in June, 2000.
It was later re-released for Game Boy Advance and a sequel (Jet Set Radio Future) was made for the Xbox after Sega became a software-based company.

-Hard tutorial and annoying enemies

Before getting to the actual game, there is a mandatory tutorial. The first two
”levels” are pretty easy, but it's after that the hard stuff starts. First you need to jump to a platform and spray some graffiti on the wall. To spray on the wall, you have to
move the analog stick in certain directions. I found it hard to accomplish the exact movements, so
I just moved the analog stick in circles and that worked much better. The last thing in the tutorial is to hang on to a car up the street and then let go. You then have to collect the spray cans and go all the way down again while having to avoid all the cars coming in front of you and behind you! When you finally reach the bottom you have to grind and spray on two graffiti tags. Then you're done! Personally, it took about three tries to finish the tutorial. Maybe it's just me, who knows?

When the game starts for real, you get to choose from three different characters;
Beat, Gum and Tab. After that you get to see a map which is used to select your mission.
You have to make the area a part of your territory. You do that by ”tagging” busses, walls, signs and cars. You also have to spray over tags from other gangs.
Meanwhile, the cops and their leader, Officer Onishima, are trying to prevent you from tagging, and it's here that the game gets really frustrating. While the regular cops are annoying as
hell, throwing themselves at you and slowing you down, Officer Onishima is one of the most annoying enemy I have ever met in a video game. He has a gun, yes, a gun!
If you stand still for just a moment he will be right behind you, shooting you and slowing you down. He's also incredibly fast! You can never think ”now he won't be able to catch me," because he will be like a tick on your back. The only way to lose him is to either grind your way out of there or jump down a bridge or something.

Other than that the game is really fun when you get the hang of it. The air-tricks you can do are awesome! Unfortunately, you don't have much time to do them.
Speaking about time, there is a time limit! I've always hated time limits. I get so much pressure on me when I look at the numbers counting down and there's about seven tags to spray. Speaking of tagging, theres always a need of spray cans and it always takes time to find them. You run out of cans very fast!
What I was trying to say was that it's a great game and the idea was very fresh and new at the time. One cool thing Sega added was that you could connect online and share graffiti tags! (There are a few websites that people have uploaded custom tags. If you have a Nexus memory card, you can download these and upload your own to the site. BlueSwirl is one such site. - comradesnarky)

-Confusing but fun storyline

The story is told at the beginning by Professor K. He's the DJ of a pirated radio station in Tokyo-To. He tells you about the life in Tokyo-To for a ”rudie”. Rudie is kind of a nickname for the young people spraying and skating on the streets.

Tokyo-To is divided into three areas: Benten-cho, Kogane-cho and Shibuya-cho.
In each of the areas there's one rival gang. The Noise Tanks in Benten, Poison Jam in Kogane and the Love Shockers in Shibuya. They're all trying to attack and take over the GG's home turf.

You start out with forming a gang in Shibuya-cho, which forms a rivalry between your gang and the Love Shockers. You start playing as Beat, the leader and founder of the GG's. You then meet other rudies that joins the gang. First Gum and then Tab.
As you progress in the game, more rudies will join your gang.

But I don't really understand what the radio station has to do with it. But for its time,
this whole idea was very new. Graffiti, vandalism and funky music.

-Decent controls

If I compare the controls with Sonic Adventure, the controls are pretty good.
Not great, but good. The analog stick works well but sometimes it can be a little hard to steer the character. There is no option that allows you to use the D-pad, which I think isn't a that big of a loss. Imagine playing skating games with a D-pad.
So, as a conclusion for the controls: it's decent.

-Revolutionary graphics!

The cel-shading technique was very new for it's time and had only been used for a handful of games before. But this time it took adantage of the power the Dreamcast had for its time and made it look wonderful. Today, it still looks awesome because of the technique used. I think that's what made cel shaded animation much more popular like it is today.

-Awesome but repetitive music

The soundtrack features licensed songs from different genres like Hip-hop, funk, rock, jazz and even metal which was only included in the NTSC version.
This sounds like a wide variety, but it's too repetitive. Same song over and over again.


Jet Set Radio was it's own new genre. Skating and vandalism. With revolutionary graphics which are still good today and great action it is a true Dreamcast classic!
Still, the controls could've been better and the enemies could've been easier to handle.
Lets not go down the worst-enemy-ever road and focus on how awesome the music is and how fantastic the graphics are! So if you can handle the controls and the enemies it's a helluva' game!


I know a lot of people really love this game so remember, we all have different opinions.

Jet Set Radio was also re-released for Japan as De La Jet Set Radio. It included the two exclusive levels from the North American and European releases and made other tweaks to the game.