End Gen Dreamcast

On January 31st, 2001, Sega announced that they would discontinue the Dreamcast and would focus on 3rd Party support for other home consoles instead. The Dreamcast had a very short life which began in November 1998 in Japan, and September 9th, 1999 in America. In February 2002, NHL 2k2 was the last game released in America.. However, life continues to grow in small reaches thanks its initial purpose and devoted fans.

Parallel Arcade Development

The Sega Saturn was really the first instance of Sega developing their home console along-side arcade Hardware. In 1994, Sega released the Saturn in Japan, alongside their ST-V arcade hardware. Since the hardware was nearly identical, games arcade games developed for ST-V could be ported near exactly. Fans could play exact copies of arcade games on their home console. The other difference was that ST-V arcade units took huge clunky cartridges, while the Saturn took standard CDs.

The Saturn was initially flawed due to its emphasis on 2D graphics, and last minute 3D graphical additions. 2D games looked amazing, but the populous was captivated by the 3D marvels other consoles and arcade hardware provided. Sega lost support, but they learned from their mistakes... sort of.

Sega began development of the Naomi arcade boards, to be far more versatile. The New Arcade Operation Machine Idea was developed with both 2D and 3D in mind. Boards were set up to process in parallel, so you could just add another board and increase processing power. (and) Machines were fitted to read from GD-Roms, Sega's proprietary disc format. GD-Roms were just normal CD-Roms except data was compacted together for optimal storage capacity. A normal 700mb disc, could hold up to 1.2gb of data.

This was extremely flexible for the developers.. The could now produce discs to distribute their games, rather than cartridges.. something the console industry had already been doing at this time.

The Dreamcast is a lone Naomi board, squished into a plastic case, ready for sale to the mass public. In 1998, Sega released both the Naomi boards and the Dreamcast in Japan. (and then) The Dreamcast pretty much died in 2002. Few games released, first party support dropped, and a very healthy alternative: Playstation 2. However, it was their Naomi boards that continue to spur life on thanks to a healthy underground game genre.

Shmups

Shmups is an audible abbreviation for Shoot 'em ups, or Shooters. Such famous shmups include 1941, Defender, Gallaga, Asteroids, Gradius.. Games that involve some sort of airplane or space ship, dodging enemy fire and other obstacles, while shooting up enemies. Shmups were somewhat mainstream when gameplay and graphics were simply, but began to go underground when mainstream games began to offer more.

Anyways.. Shmup companies turned to the Naomi boards for their cheap development and production costs, as well as, ease of porting to a home console. Shmup companies continued to develop Naomi games and subsequently release them on the Dreamcast even after the consoles death. Since 2003, the Dreamcast has had 9 shmup releases: Shikigami no Shiro 2, Psyvariar 2, Border Down, Chaos Field, Trizeal, Radilgy, Under Defeat, Karous and Trigger Heart Exelica.. as well as some hentai releases.

These Dreamcast games would not have been possible if not for the Naomi boards and the devoted fans of the Shmup community. In fact, such after death support began to reach enough demand for Sega to re-release some Dreamcast units in 2006, packaged with Radilgy.

Most of these after-death titles have been ported to other consoles, and thanks to O3 (Sega's unofficial private US publishing company) some have even come to the states. Chaos Field was released in America in Feb 2005 on the Gamecube.. Currently, O3 is bringing over Radilgy on Gamecube posed to release at the end of April. They renamed in Radio Allergy, though

The Dreamcast lives on.. kinda

Man.. my Dreamcast has seen better days.

One day when I tried playing Crazy Taxi, the disc would scrape along the tray cover. I took it upon myself to fix this problem.. so I took off the case, tightened some screws, and reassembled it. Well... the CD had plenty of room to spin around, but the Dreamcast always thought the tray was open. When I reassembled it, the tray no longer hit the little lever in the back :/ Nothing a little tape won't fit.

To play import games on my Dreamcast, i need a boot disc. Something that took about 5 minutes of googling, and another 5 minutes of burning to accomplish. When completely screwed together, my Dreamcast thinks the tray is either closed or open.. It can't detect open/close functionality.. So i help it along.. no biggie. Thus my Dreamcast looks like Dreamcastenstien. It has life..! I have given it life..!

Anyways...

Throughout my travels across the earth, across the country, and across the internet, I've found myself in the position of purchasing the 3 most recent Dreamcast games:

Under Defeat, Karous, and Trigger Heart Exelica, in order of release date.. After the Dreamcast Rerelease in 2006, They began publishing games with DVD style cases rather than CD cases.

So... Are these games actually worth it? well... here's what i think:

Under Defeat (Limited)

Originally released in early 2006, I found this game from National Console Support. I wasn't really sure if i was seeing it correctly, but they actually had copies of the Limited Edition version which came with the soundtrack. I had heard Under Defeat was an amazing game, so i decided to order it. Also, i think someone said the Limited version was super crazy rare, so that was also a deciding factor.

Under Defeat is developed by G.rev, which was founded by several Taito employees who had developed G Darius. G.rev's notable works include Border Down, also on Dreamcast after its death. G.rev is also noted for working with Treasure on their development of Ikaruga and Gradius V, two of the best shooters ever made.

Under Defeat does not disappoint. You pilot a German attack helicopter in a modern version of World War II. The helicopter will rotate right and left when you move allowing you to fire at an angle rather than straight on the whole time. You get 3 bombs to start off with that launch an air strike upon the ground..

The little bit of innovation comes into, what they call, an option. When you hold your fire long enough, a little green bar will fill up in the lower left hand corner. When it flashes OK, you can begin firing again, and you'll release a little pod which will fire upon your opponents. You can grab other power-ups that will change its weapon: Vulcan, Cannon and Rocket (from weakest and frequent to strongest and less frequent).

All kills this little guy acquires will net you double points.. and Therein lies the secret to obtaining massive points: Have the option kill as many high point gainers as possible.. especially laying the final blow on bosses.

The gameplay is very easy to pick up since it is rather basic.. The sounds and graphics add that extra icing on the cake that makes this game great fun. The game plays 2D, but the graphics are in full 3D featuring rich textures and distinguishable colors and models to make enemies noticable and prominent. Bullets are pretty easy to spot too.

Stylistically, smoke and explosions plays a extra role.. Whenever you fire a bullet a little bit of smoke emits from your cannon. The Bullet flies through the air and hit your target with a little bit of smoke residue. When enemies die, there's a little bit of pause as its engulfed in flames and bursts from explosion. The fiery orange sparks from the enemy but is sharply over powered by black smoke. The smoke stays in the air, and eventually fades away from the sky.. Sometimes, if you aren't heavily shooting up an enemy it'll blow up a little and fall to the earth underneath emitting a smoke trailed descent. Another explosion results in the impact, with more smoke.

Under Defeat is an amazing joy to play, albeit just a little bit difficult. I would definitely recommend any casual fan of the shooter genre to check out this game. Much like Border Down, it will most likely stay on the Dreamcast, so if you do find a copy online for around $50, that will probably be the cheapest you'll get it for.

Buy from import retailers who support these companies by buying their products in the first place. With out community support, we wouldn't even have these games at all. In fact, Ncsx still has copies of the LE version in stock: http://www.ncsxshop.com/cgi-bin/shop/T-46704M.html .. if you're a fan and you have the money, i'd say it's worth it. Then you can say, "Yes.. i am responsible for the Dreamcast refusing to die."

More to come...

I'll get my impression of the Karous and Trigger Heart Exelica up in the next couple of days.




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