The Dream That Will Never Die: Dreamcast Independent Gaming in 2016

I still remember the day I found out that SEGA were going to discontinue the Dreamcast. It was early 2001 and the PlayStation magazine I was reading (we used to actually read magazines back then) covered the demise of the Dreamcast before swiftly moving on to the successes of the PS2. Thanks to those successes and the massive preference for PlayStation over the SEGA Saturn the generation previous, Sony had almost single-handedly driven SEGA out of the console business leaving them to concentrate on software only from that day forth. With the Dreamcast topping out at a meagre 9 million and change in sales and the PS2 hitting the dizzy heights of over 150 million units sold, the Dreamcast was destined to be little more than a footnote in the pages of gaming history.

If you’d said to me on that day in 2001 that we’d still be seeing new games released for the Dreamcast on a fairly regular basis in 2016 I’d have simply smiled and nodded while I backed away slowly. And yet here we are fifteen years later and the SEGA Dreamcast has a surprisingly vibrant community of indie developers still releasing games despite the fact that SEGA has had little to do with the console (other than repairs) since the early ’00s. So if you’ve still got one of those crafty white boxes tucked away in the attic somewhere, or even if you’re just looking at getting into retro gaming for the first time, there’s probably something on the horizon that’s worth taking a look at.

Although we’re only a month into 2016, the Dreamcast has already seen one console exclusive game release in Leona’s Tricky Adventures. Inspired by the Amiga puzzle game Gem X, Leona’s tasks the player with increasingly, erm, tricky colour based puzzles similar to that handheld Lights Out game of the mid-nineties that you might remember. Leona’s Tricky Adventures is available for purchase as you’re reading this on Steam, but the Dreamcast version comes with a full jewel case including artwork. Which is obviously so much better.

Looking to the future, the long in development Elysian Shadows is slated to hit the streets at some point in 2016. After coming to the public consciousness via a series of YouTube development videos in 2007, and then a successful Kickstarter campaign in 2014, Elysian Shadows is a role playing game featuring customisable characters, a dynamic day/night cycle, and an eye-catching 2D/3D hybrid art style. Set in a fantasy world akin to the one seen in classic JRPG Final Fantasy VI, Elysian Shadows tells a story of conflict between religious zealots handed magical powers from The Creator and atheists forced to rely on futuristic technology. While there’s no solid release date yet and development of the game has hit a couple of snags recently, developer GyroVorbis maintains that the title will see release in 2016, and who are we to argue?

Scheduled to come in June of this year, Alice Dreams Tournament is a 2D Bomber Man-like from French developers Alice Team. Players must traverse the 2D mazes using their bombs to clear paths and destroy the other players in the stage, while also looking for power ups to increase the number of bombs they can drop or the damage their bombs do upon detonation. The game features a robust multiplayer mode including seven different game types ranging from the standard death matches to more elaborate modes involving math puzzles.

Hypertension: Harmony of Darkness is a horror first person shooter that started life as an extension of the Blood franchise but morphed into it’s own story as development moved further along. After some disputes with Atari due to assets from Blood being used in the production of Hypertension, as well as a brief cancellation of the project because of that, development of Harmony of Darkness has progressed with the game expected to see a release at some point in 2016.

Hucast Games are looking to release Redux 2, the sequel to their remake of the scrolling shoot-em-up DUX at some point in 2016. Pre-orders for the game are already live and there’s a fancy collector’s edition which includes a soundtack CD and a DVD of extras if you’re inclined to pay up for that sort of thing. The vanilla game features seven brand new stages and a two player co-operative mode for the gamers that like to do their arcade shooting with a buddy in tow. If you’re a fan of R-Type or other ship shooters of that ilk then Redux 2 might be a game worth keeping an eye on.

If you’re looking for something a little more out of the ordinary, away from the 2D shooters and puzzle games, then the Dreamcas t indie scene can cater to your needs with a title like SLaVE from Isotope and Jay Townsend. SLaVE attempts to mesh the gaudy aesthetics of ’80s arcade games with the addictive first person gunplay of titles like Doom and Wolfenstein. If the combination of eye-popping colours and punishing first person shooting rubs you the right way, then SLaVE could very well be a game for you. If you’re interested in it you might want to move quickly though; the game is planned to be ultra-limited edition with no more than 484 copies of game destined for release.

SEGA gave up on the Dreamcast in the face of ultra-stiff competition from the Sony PlayStation 2 after a mere two years on the market, but there’s a community of dedicated indie developers who just refuse to move on. It has a cult following that are still producing new content fifteen years after the console’s commercial demise. Since the discontinuation of the console in 2001 there have been over thirty independent titles released for it, including Sturmwind, Rush Rush Rally Racing, Wind and Water, and Gunlord. So perhaps next time you’re in the attic and you spot your old Dreamcast tucked between a Furby and a Spirograph, consider digging it out, dusting it off, and seeing what the old girl can do in 2016.