Some reviews of dreamcast stuff.
Hais VGA Box. This little grey device allows you
to connect your Dreamcast to your stereo and a VGA Monitor.
I got mine for $15, and it works like a charm.
There is a slight bit of weirdness with the monitor. It
seems best to start up the DC first, and then plug the VGA
cable in; the other way around seems to confuse the monitor.
The manual actually recommends doing this, although the
translation made it difficult to figure out. This is only a
minor issue and detracts only minimally from the experience
(you just have to remember what order will make the box happy.)
So how does it look? Marvelous. The colors are brighter
and more saturated, and the lines and edges are much
sharper. Dreamcast games look great on VGA. Overall, a great
experience for single and perhaps
double-player. For multiplayer games nothing will beat a
large digital TV set (you can use the Hais box's S-video
output on most of them.)
There are minor polygon jaggies issues---but they are
much less noticeable on a VGA monitor than on the coarse TV
screen, so this is actually an improvement. Textures don't
seem to be affected. The only other problem I'm aware of is
the lack of a monitor pass-thru, which means you have to
either switch the cable manually or buy an A/B box. But for
the cheap price I'm not going to complain---last I saw, the
pass-thru model was much more expensive.
Note: This is the second VGA box I've bought. The
first one was the cooler-looking Naki brand, but the
connection was way too tight and I never got it to display
any games correctly. It was tested on several monitors, none
with any results. I don't know if it's a general problem
with the brand or just the particular unit I bought, but I
have read about others having the same problem with the
Naki. At the local Electronics Boutique both were $15.
"Jet Grind Radio"
An original, addicting, but ultimately frustrating game.
In a nutshell, you control a
ragtag gang of Neo-Tokyo roller-skate graffiti punks who
compete with other gangs for territory. The bulk of the game
involves running around areas of the city and painting over
rival gangs' markings with your own. Your magnetic skates
will attach and slide along almost any railing, cable, air
duct, or beam in the game, and there are half-pipes, wall
jumps, ramps, rooftops, and various flipping and spinning
moves to explore. You get extra points for neat tricks, and
especially cool moves will merit an instant replay from a
The concept is unique and the play mechanics are a blast.
Successfully completing a
difficult sequence of moves is a real thrill, and the game is
so full of
things to slide along, jump from, and bounce on that you'll
probably play it until 2 AM like I did the night I picked it
The main stages are broken up by periodic "showdowns", in
which a rival skater will challenge you to reproduce his or
her daring moves. Some of these are trivial, and the earlier
challenges are designed to teach you how to use the
controls. But some of the others are very difficult (and in
more than one spot, frustrating.) After completing a
showdown, the new character will join your gang, and their
strengths will be usable for future missions.
The art direction, character design, music, and
choreography are excellent. The diverse GG's (your team)
have great character designs, each with his own signature
dance style and "catchphrases", whereas the other gangs wear
uniforms and participate in goofy group-dance-video
cutscenes. The music selections run from scratched-up rap
with old-movie vocal samples, to j-punk with bizarre lyrics, to
groovy synthesizer-disco. (The game is blessedly free of
"Playstation Thrash Metal," and jungle makes only a
momentary appearance.) The tunes are great---if you have
big speakers hooked up to your VGA-box, turn it up!
Shortly after you begin spraying up a level, the police
will arrive, and then eventually a SWAT team or helicopters.
You must complete the level while avoiding their bullets,
gas grenades, and guided rockets.
This leads to what is essentially the game's glaring
flaw: the extreme frustration level caused by the police.
All you can do is run away from them. The crazy sheriff
moves as fast as you do despite his not having skates, and
his aim is very good. The only way to escape him is to jump
on a railing or get on top of a building where he can't
go---it's almost impossible to simply outrun him on open
ground. Furthermore the "homing projectiles" on most levels
(rockets, grenades, swat soldiers) come continously while
you are outdoors, meaning that if you do not paint the
larger murals early on, you won't be able to finish the
level because you'll get killed if you try to paint while
the helicopters are around. (The construction site is the
worst example of this. Do the large murals first.)
In one of the later levels, you come to a circular arena
where sliding along a horizontal beam is the only way to
escape to the train tracks. If there are any paratroopers or
tanks in the area (which happens about ninety seconds from
the start) you will be unable to escape, since they will
simply knock you off the beam every time you try to slide
along it to the exit.
It could be said that this provides a surprising strategy
element, since the player is forced to choose very carefully
the order in which targets are painted. But you need to
attempt each level several times before it's clear how to
survive, i.e. it's "strategy by savegame."
Combine this with the already difficult-to-reach spray
targets, the strict time limit, sensitive analog controls,
and the camera problems
common in third-person games, and you are in for at least a
few hair-pulling sessions. If you're in a narrow spot the camera
will often do a disorienting 180-degree flip, and the
this made me run straight back into the police chief,
I wanted to fling my Dreamcast out the window.
Overall: get it. This is a unique and memorable
game whose solid gameplay, beautiful graphics, inventive
characters, funky music, and groovy dance moves more than
compensate for its brevity and difficulty.