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Monday, June 15, 2015

Why You Shouldn't Back Shenmue III's Kickstarter

Cross posted from my other blog.

Put the pitchforks and torches down, you unruly assholes.

love Shenmue. I've played the first one several times. I think it's one of the finest games ever made. It's elegant in its simplicity and beautiful in the way it gives you an illusion of a living world. I didn't enjoy Shenmue II to the same extent, but I still want to know where things go from here.

Why? Why would I say "don't back Shenmue III" then?

Well, why should you? Sony apparently wants this game on their platform. They know that Shenmue fans are ravenous. They know that people will want to get in on this game just from all of the hype and desire over the years. They know people want it so much that they put aside time for it in their press conference and brought Yu Suzuki on stage.

There's a big fucking problem here. Sony stands to make money off of Shenmue III's existence, especially if it's only on PS4 and PC. They'll get a cut of every copy sold on the PSN store, and they know that a lot of people who were undecided will likely be swayed to a PS4. Sony will probably make more than $2 million in this exchange of money. So... why couldn't they just toss Yu Suzuki $2 million?

Well, why would they?

This is an experiment, and it's a dirty one. It's also already working, Shenmue III is almost at 1 million dollars as of 8:30 PM PST. Sony just pimped a game that it won't have any financial investment in on their grandest stage and they're going to get money off of it. Of course there were other games that they didn't have any financial involvement in... but every game there had some kind of funding for it. This? This is just free money and good PR for Sony.

Since you're blinded by the hype, let's look at some business basics. In the business world when you invest in something, you expect a return on investment. So if I give someone $1 million to sell a new product, I'd like to get money back on that. That's why I'm investing. I'm not just giving $1 million away for fun. As a Kickstarter backer, you get nothing back other than whatever tier you went into.

Sony just created a tidal wave of hype. Shenmue III will be forever associated with PS4, and they did it with nothing other than 2 minutes of time. Watching that dollar amount tick up on Kickstarter is proof that game companies can continue to do whatever they please.

Their deadliest weapon is hype and their easiest target is you, eager eyed gamer. Your wallets couldn't come out fast enough. No thought was put into the implications of this Kickstarter. Gamers have no impulse control, we're conditioned on the instant gratification that so many games provide us.

"I can 'donate' some money here and get Shenmue III? COUNT ME IN!"

Don't fund Shenmue III. Hold on to some bit of dignity and self respect as a gamer. Sony has clearly been in the loop on Shenmue III, but apparently $2 million was too much. This is a transparent ploy to see if Kickstarter can generate enough funds to build a large and impressive game. This is a test to see if Sony can successfully associate a game with the PS4 as an exclusive and not pay a dime. Instead, you pay for it.

Don't let this future exist.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Shenmue Undub Released!

That's right, that Shenmue Undub that SMiTH had been working on has finally been released. We at ReviveDC helped out with the finishing touches so it could go toe to toe with our best work. As always, you can find it at the ISO Zone and Dreamcast-Talk (you must be a registered member at DC-Talk).  Make sure you direct your thanks to SMiTH, because he did all of the dirty hard work, and he deserves the praise. Most of all, enjoy!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Happy Birthday, Dreamcast! Go download the English translation of Fire Pro Wrestling D now!

14 years ago, the console came out that ignited a fandom in all of us that still burns today. In the interest of keeping that love alive, ReviveDC Project has been working to bring you some of the highest quality rips available. If you've followed us, you know that we marked our 50th and 100th releases with some special compilation releases.

 Now, we're marking our 150th with an english translation of Fire Pro Wrestling D! Head on over here, download it, and make the 14th birthday the Dreamcast's best one yet! 

Alternately, if you are a member at Dreamcast-Talk, you can also head to their downloads subforum to get a download link for!

Have fun everybody!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Fire Pro Wrestling D English Translation Update

That's right, finally ironed out the last few kinks today.

We're not quite at release 150, though. This is also fine because I'm not sure if irvgotti452 has finished the artwork yet. We can excuse him for that though, because the man works some hellish hours and put a whole lot of time into translating the game in the first place.

He's not the only one to thank though, as we had to call in the heavy artillery to get the game's audio working. Thanks on that one go to YZB. YZB isn't terribly well known among English-speaking Dreamcast fans, but the man is a certifiable beast when it comes to Dreamcast hacking.

I did a little work myself of course, cutting the game's CDDA so it would fit onto an 80 minute disc, troubleshooting some web browser issues, and building the final image. We used a GDI of course, so there won't be any unpack/inject of MP3s, just nice pure CDDA (and a few more minutes of music than Echelon had).

There'll be more details on the process in the NFO when the game is released. In the meantime, leading up to 150, you can look forward to Quake III Arena and Vigilante 8 2nd Offense. Depending on how things go, I'd say that you'll likely see the game released in about 3 weeks.

Expendable Review

Original Release:
Japan: June 24, 1999
North America: 9.9.99
Europe: ???

Game Details:
1-2 Player
VMU enabled
Standard Controller
VGA Box (480p)

Expendable is a top down, run and gun shoot ‘em up game, (Think Contra: Legacy of War… Now immediately forget the existence of that horrible entry in the Contra series) developed by British studio Rage Software. Originally released for the Playstation platform, it eventually made its way on the Dreamcast as part of the stellar launch line-up for the system here in the states courtesy of Infogrames. Rage Software as a developer was becoming known for their distinct arcade-like style gameplay that their productions would undertake and Expendable sure seems to convey such philosophies… resulting in a friendly learning curve in understanding the game mechanics and control scheme. This bodes well in encouraging others to join in on some Co-Op 2 player action where the games true potential is realized.        

Set in a future timeline where the galaxy is conquered by some douchebag of an alien race (seriously now! looks like Probing poor saps was only the beginning of their nefarious plans). Scientists have created the “Millennium Soldier” project, which resulted in the cloning 2 Super-Soldiers as means to combat the alien threat. The game CGI intro explains everything. Well… maybe not everything in such detail, but the cutscene is rather humorous.      

I may be mistaken, but I believe Expendable’s visuals are a result of an in-house engine that was utilized on all of Rage’s products at the time. As you would expect, considering the game was originally designed for the PS1, the game does little to make a dent to the Dreamcast hardware. With that said though, the game isn’t anywhere close to being a visually ugly game on the Dreamcast Library (trust me, there are plenty other games on the Dreamcast that deserve that award!). The game is easily one of the darkest looking games on the system, but plenty of the games visual effects and lighting look really good. Another interesting note is even as an early Dreamcast production, the game fully supports the Hi-res VGA mode, and looks damn good through the signal no less.  

The Audio to Expendable is surprisingly goodtimes. SFX are crisp and clear. Weaponry effects sound engaging, explosions sound great, and alien casualties sound rich and grotesque as you fill their carcasses with bullet holes until they fall apart to bloody pieces. The games soundtrack is also well crafted, providing a real moody and atmospheric sense to the gritty, dark world of the game. It’s worth noting that this particular RDC release of the game, does as much as possible (at least more than any other offering out there) to preserve the quality of the games audio to properly fit the game in into 80min Compact Disc. Major props go to RDC for keeping such quality in their releases as we’ve come to expect from their work.      

It seems it’s pretty easy to overlook this game. There isn’t anything particularly special or innovative to it. It’s all straightforward, standard fare with the games respective genre… and that isn’t such a bad thing considering the slim pickings there are for it on the system (Cannon Spike is the only alternative that pops in to mind at the moment). Expendable may not be prettiest one at the party, but damn, is it fun to play.


Dead Or Alive 2 Review (PAL ver,)

Original Release:
Japan: September 28, 2000
North America: Feburary 29, 2000
Europe: July 19, 2000

Game Details:
1-4 Players
VMU enabled
Standard Controller, Arcade Stick
VGA Box (480p)

Dead or Alive 2 is a flagship fighter from publisher Tecmo. The brainchild of Japanese game designer Tomonobu Itagaki and his former development studio, Team Ninja. As the games title suggests, it is the sequel to the original DOA which interestingly enough was also created using SEGA hardware (Sega Model 2 for the arcade and released on the Sega Saturn). DOA 2 is more or less a faster, more edgy alternative to SEGA’s rather traditionally tame Virtua Fighter Series. As a result of its Virtua Fighter(esque) roots, gameplay is heavily centered in the traditional paper/rock/scissor branch fighting system of Attacks/Throws/Holds. The game further carves an identity for itself in the gameplay dept by way of its staple Danger Zone mechanic (given the respective battlegrounds that call for it) its stagger system (also known as Critical Hit), and a varying array of multi level/confined (via by walls or obstacles) battlegrounds that can drastically affect the flow of a match. DOA 2 also trenches new waters by providing an alternative Tag battle format, providing combat that’s heavily reliant on team synergy, tag throws, tag combos, extended juggle combo possibilities and the aforementioned Danger Zone system playing a more pivotal role in this mode. Standard Arcade default controls are elegantly mapped as Guard, Punch and Kick (much like VF series). Moving your character in 3D space requires holding the Guard button and moving the Dpad/Arcade Stick in whatever direction you want your character to traverse. This may seem like a more tedious method than say, Soul Calibur’s innovative and seamless 8-way run system of free movement, but DOA 2’s hand to hand fighting engine and more frontally driven method of attacking doesn’t rely so much on sidestepping and 3D movement the way a weapon based fighter such as Soul Calibur does.          

!!!Exciter!!! That’s all you need to know and perhaps all you’ll ever understand. Moving on…

Another masterpiece of state the art visuals thanks no less to SEGA’s wondrous NAOMI hardware and Team Ninja’s ability to put said hardware to good use. DOA 2 was one VERY beautiful game for its time and still holds decently well even today especially on the Dreamcast. Character models rival those (and even in some respects slightly surpass) of the sublime Soul Calibur on the Dreamcast. Where the game truly surpassed all competition during its time are the Battlegrounds which have been meticulously crafted with as much detail as the Fighters themselves. These Backgrounds sport heavy detail and actually play a role in the gameplay thanks to their ambitious scope in size and non linear architecture like sloping foundations and different forms of terrain (Water, Snow, Ice) which effects how characters stagger from Critical State leading to some unpredictable situations. For anyone looking to play this game on their trusty Dreamcast, I HIGHY recommend playing with a VGA accessory for some Hi-res goodness.  

Audio is perhaps the only category where the game feels like a letdown. Character dialogue during battles is loud and sometimes even obnoxious. Some of the game’s tunes feel forgettable at best or maybe it’s just me. If only Team Ninja had provided the game with an option to play with the more pleasant arcade NAOMI soundtrack. YO! RDC, make it happen… please?   

DOA 2 was a pretty important title for the Dreamcast, almost in the same sense that the Original DOA was for SEGA’s previous system, the Saturn. The original DOA was further solid proof that the Saturn was indeed capable of high quality 3D graphics as well as being able to handle another conversion of a more powerful Model 2 production under the right talent to make it happen. DOA 2 on the Dreamcast further solidified the little white box’s claim as a true powerhouse in respects to Arcade to Home conversions with a very pure translation of the game that not even PS2 was capable of replicating. It was also a pretty significant release within its own series. Many of the innovations introduced in this game continue to linger in just about every sequel in the series. It was the last game in the franchise to be produced for the arcade market which in turn was the last in the series to be built using arcade SEGA hardware. Although in an interesting turn of (current) events, the most current installment of the series (DOA 5 Ultimate) is once again stepping into Arcade scene after a long absence with help from SEGA, their Ring Edge 2 Hardware and ALL Net P-ras MULTI digital platform. Hmm… rather interesting wouldn’t you agree? In any event, DOA 2 has been released on multiple competitive systems of the time and on multiple occasions no less… And yet Dead or Alive 2 feels truly alive and perfect on the system it was originally intended for.
I would last like to take this opportunity to cast my vote for Ayane’s “Tig O Bitties” as the best rack out of the cast in Dead or Alive 2.


Saturday, June 1, 2013

Thoughts About Shenmue III

I'll just say before I start this... this is my opinion, and my opinion alone. I didn't consult with anyone else in ReviveDC before I wrote this to get their thoughts, and if any of them think they have an interesting rebuttal, then they can feel free to write one up and post it too.

Video games were really very different in 1999 when Shenmue first came out in Japan. Think of other games that came out during that time. None of them were quite on the level of Shenmue. I've been playing the Nintendo 64 Castlevania (in addition to every other Castlevania game known to man), and it's not that bad (seriously). The controls are rough. The camera is confused. If you look back though, that's how most games were for this time period. I think a lot of people have created a video game utopia from the time of the NES until some time in the 2000s. Admittedly, it's an easy trap to fall into. There were new IPs and a lot of creative games that came out, which is something that the game industry has been lacking lately. But there was also shit. There always has been shit, but the first generation 3D games were a very special kind of shit.

Let me get to my point though. Sega games at this time had a very unique feel compared to other games, and they arguably always have. It's a strange feeling to describe. They are fun games, but they all are so simple, they almost feel like the game could just stop having any appeal at any second. It almost feels as though the game is on the brink of falling apart. I suppose that's what happens when your company is rooted in arcade games. It's the adrenaline rush you get from plunking in a quarter and fighting for your life, only there are no quarters, so the gameplay falls bare before you.

In a way, this feeling translates to Shenmue as well. It was a game ahead of its time in graphics and depth, but it still had that simple feel to it. It was approachable to anyone, though if you enjoyed having an in game job and all the minutiae of a virtual life was a bit of a different thing. The controls and gameplay were basic. The depth was in the world around you. The people you talked to had one thing to say, and so did you.

Games today are different. Look at Mass Effect. The people you talk to have many things to say, and you have many things to say to get that information out of them. The world is alive and busy, though its detail may not be as precise as Shenmue's. The action is almost dished out in the same amount as the story (depending on how you play), and the budget is huge.

That's the kicker, here. The budget. There was that rumor about Yu Suzuki using Kickstarter to secure Shenmue III funding, but how far would that really go? The Pebble watch is currently the highest funded project, raking in about $10.2 million. The highly superfluous (and apparently shoddy quality) Ouya made $8.5 million. The highest funded game made $4.1 million. That is a drop in the pot compared to Shenmue's cost, which Suzuki said was $47 million. Even if one was optimistic and guessed that the majority of Shenmue II is included in that and split it 50/50, that leaves each game at $23.5 million.

So, this makes Kickstarter funding seem pretty unrealistic, unless every single gamer with the slightest interest pitched in a fair amount. What if the world was perfect and a major publisher kicked Suzuki the money to go ahead and make Shenmue III?

It's a strange thing to imagine. Would it just be Shenmue I and II in play style with HD graphics? I doubt any publisher would let that fly. It would pale in comparison to major action adventure games, and could bellyflop harder than the first two games did. While us devoted fans would probably love it, that wouldn't justify the major spending to a publisher. In order for the game to be made, it would probably have to be up to modern action/adventure standards.

Since I mentioned Mass Effect earlier, and (to me) the level of detail and story is similar to what Shenmue did in 1999, what if it was like that? What if it did have a dialog system? It would break the character of Ryo to an extent. We've had dozens of hours with him acting as a prewritten character with defined personality traits. What would happen to the fighting system? It was cool at the time, but it's very simplistic now.

To me, I'd almost prefer that Shenmue III didn't exist in game form. Of course there would be low budget ways to make a sequel to it that could be Kickstarted. Maybe making a version of the game for 3DS or another handheld system. That would probably fall in a budget that Kickstarter could muster, but the immersion wouldn't be the same. One of those game cards probably couldn't handle the size of the game, full voice acting would be out. It would be a rather jarring shift from the first two games.

Tell us the rest of the story somehow, but don't make it a game. Write a manga. Retell the story of the first two games, and continue into the third. It is a compelling story with interesting characters, and their thoughts and actions could be fleshed out further in a written form. Better yet, novelize the third part. Translating a novel from English to Japanese wouldn't take nearly the money that a game would.

I guess my point is that games as a medium have changed dramatically in the past 14 years. You don't get a whole game anymore. You get a 10 hour experience, if you're lucky, that gets padded out by DLC, pre-order bonuses and bullshit. What we remember of Shenmue isn't the gameplay. It's the characters and the places, all of which were created with a keen eye.

If The Wire is considered a novel for TV, then Shenmue is a novel for video games. While this comparison is lost on some of you and The Wire fans are shouting blasphemy, then let me explain. TV is a medium with which we don't interact. The characters motivations have to be shown to us, and their environment has to be fleshed out enough that we understand it. A game has to go beyond to create such an atmosphere. The small details have to be accounted for, and they have been in Shenmue. The detail is incredible, and the characters appear to have their own lives. We know they are on a programmed path but we believe it, just as the best actors own a role.

This has been lost in recent video games, and I don't think Shenmue III is the game that can satisfactorily bring it back.