Bangai-O question about its European release: yes, it has been out for some time. Old letter = old answer. Sorry about any confusion that may have caused.
Jason Parker wrote in to insult us for calling Daytona USA "Daytona USA 2001." I take responsibility for that error, which was corrected soon afterward. See, I own the import which is called Daytona USA 2001. Since I'm familiar with the import one the most, I kept writing the title as such. Hopefully a minor technicality, and one that's well behind us.
Finally, regarding Kevin Mohanan's letter concerning beat-em ups, yes, there are a couple of really good ones: Dynamite Cop and Zombie Revenge. Unfortunately, even our own site wasn't too kind in the reviews of those games. I personally disagree with them -- those two games are really well done and tons of fun. Dynamite Cop is a great arcade beat-em up which has three short paths through a ship and an amazingly varied cast of targets and moves. It's a great quick time killer, and the separate paths have unique enemies and locations to keep it from feeling repetitive. Each section takes about 20 minutes to clear, so I guess the entire game is about an hour. Zombie Revenge is far, far, far more challenging (borderline impossible) and adds a steady stream of weapons and ammo to the mix. While Dynamite Cop is completely over-the-top and silly, Zombie Revenge is dark and more serious with its theme even if it sports the same B-movie cheesiness as House of the Dead. Considering both can be picked up for about $10 from most stores nowadays, I'd really recommend getting both.
Anyhoo, enough letters! Onto today's letters!
From: Arthur Pober
Subject: Rating the Raters Editorial
April 6, 2001
VIA FEDERAL EXPRESS & EMAIL
ATTN: Planet Dreamcast
18002 Skypark Circle
Irvine, CA 92614-6429
Re: "Rating the Raters" Article
To Whom It May Concern:
On March 6, 2001, an editorial by Benjamin Galway entitled "Rating the Raters" was posted on your website, which reflects some misunderstandings about ESRB's rating system. The editorial expresses several concerns that will be addressed in this reply. ESRB's goal in responding to the editorial is to provide your website users with an accurate picture of the rating process. More information about the process can be obtained on our website located at www.esrb.org.
As you may know, the rating system is designed to give parents and consumers (including experienced gamers) information about the content of entertainment software products so they can make informed purchase and rental decisions. Mr. Galway's contention that it is "ESRB's job to slap labels on every @#%&ing piece of software released to notify potential consumers what lay in store," does not accurately capture the goals and objectives of the ESRB.
One misconception in the editorial is the characterization of the raters themselves. ESRB raters do not come from a homogeneous group. Men and women of varying ages, backgrounds, races, professions, religions, and economic positions comprise our diverse ratings panels. In short, raters can hardly be characterized as a "panel of housewives" (although ESRB certainly welcomes qualified parents to apply for positions as raters). All raters are trained individuals and all recognize the enormous responsibility of their task. Each individual rater is trained extensively in the methodology of the system and must develop a comprehensive understanding of the criteria that is used to evaluate each of the titles. Training is conducted by an ESRB senior staff member with at least five (5) years of rating experience and consists of viewing well over one hundred (100) videogames and other interactive software products ranging from Early Childhood ("EC") through Adult Only ("AO") titles along with the full range of all content descriptors. Raters are also trained in a series of additional closely monitored orientations. These orientation sessions provide raters with background instruction and include training on the differences between active and passive footage as well as the various game categories (i.e., simulations, genre, platforms, etc.).
Mr. Galway's analysis of certain rating assignments indicates a possible misunderstanding of the process. Briefly put, this is how the system works: Submissions for rating are sent to the ESRB either on videotape or as a piece of software. This content is then transferred to video and shown to different raters. The raters assign the ratings according to the outer boundaries of content of the submitted product. The most extreme, graphic content is to be presented in the initially submitted product. Submitters are informed that inaccurate representations may result in the imposition of penalties, including but not limited to, the revocation of a rating, mandatory issuance of a new rating, the imposition of fines, and/or the commencement of litigation.
An entire game does not have to be reviewed for a rating to be assigned. Once the required threshold level of a content descriptor category is present, the game qualifies for the appropriate content descriptor. It is a dispassionate, clinical, purposefully cut and dry system. It is hardly the "hit or miss" system characterized in the editorial. Three raters evaluate the contentónot the storylineóof a game. Games are not evaluated thematically; the underlying message of a game, even a so-called "mindless" game is not germane to the assignment of a content descriptor. The fact, for example, that Mr. Galway may believe that Mortal Kombat "does nothing to stimulate the mind" is irrelevant to the assignment of content descriptors. The rating system is a highly objective process (i.e., bomb exploding = violence). Finally, prior to the retail distribution of a finished product, companies must forward a copy of the final product to ESRB. At that time, an ESRB gamer tests the final product against the original submission to ensure that it is consistent with the submission materials.
Mr. Galway also labels the ESRB ratings as "stupid." He is dissatisfied that a game would receive a Mature rating assignment even though, "there's hardly anything [emphasis mine] in the game which would warrant a PG rating if it were a movie." This is not the point. "Hardly anything" is enough for such an assignment to be legitimate. The public, (including many parents and consumers who are less experienced than gamers may be), rely heavily on the content descriptors and ratings which the ESRB assigns. The ESRB takes this responsibility seriously and we hope this response helps to clarify some issues of concern to all of us.
Arthur I. Pober
Fair enough, although the ratings still come across as a "hit or miss" system or too full of inconsistency to make them seem legitimate. For example, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater is rated "Teen (13+)" for having "Mild Animated Violence" and "Mild Language," yet MTV Sports: Skateboarding Featuring Andy Macdonald carries the lesser rating, "Everyone," despite having the same content descriptors. While, yes, I am dissatisfied that a "mature" label must be used to refer to games such as Mortal Kombat, I can accept that as a simple issue of semantics. I can also understand the logic of having to "go overboard" on the rating scale to satisfy parents, an idea brought to me by some of our readers. Still, that doesn't make the system any less flawed, and I think both the reviewing method (people should play/watch through an entire game before passing judgment) and inconsistencies referred to above need work.
My neice recently visited me, my girlfreind went to McDonalds and bought her a
happy meal. We got a Poo-Chi toy with the meal. On the back of the bag the toy
came in it said "copywrite 2000 Sega Toys". I've even seen the sega name on the
t.v. comercials since then. My question is in what capacity is sega, if any,
responsible for the existence if Poo-Chi toys? I know it's not exactly a
dreamcast specific question but i'd really like to know. Thanks.
Sega Toys made the Poo-Chi toys, licensing the electronic dogs to Tiger Electronics for distribution outside of Japan. Sega developed Poo-Chi as a low cost alternative to Sony's super expensive Aibo, the first "new" robotic dog.
From: Ryan Pollack
Subject: Are games still being made forDreamcast?
I mean, besides those that are already in development; I know sega has
officially discontinued support for the system, but are developers still
starting work on games, etc? I want to buy a system but I"m concerned about
Thanks for your help-
While developers are still getting games out for Dreamcast, I seriously doubt any new projects will be taken on. That's not to say it's impossible to see new games appearing in the line-up from third-party developers, but chances of that happening are fairly slim as more and more companies delay or even cancel their existing Dreamcast projects.
If you can only buy one system to last you several years in the future, the Dreamcast is not it. However, at a $99 price point and with dozens upon dozens of great games, many now being clearanced at $20 or less, how can you not pass up the Dreamcast? The PlayStation 2 still has yet to amass the quality game catalog the Dreamcast already offers and will continue to offer throughout the year, and while Sega games will appear on other systems, you can enjoy those games now instead of hoping and waiting for an eventual port.
Let's see... For $400 you can pick up a PS2, SSX, and a memory card. For that same amount of money, you could get a Dreamcast and, um, let's say about 20-30 games. Not to knock the PlayStation 2, but I still think at this point the Dreamcast is the better deal, even though it's viable days as a new platform have been numbered.
Subject: Black & White?
What has happened to DC's version of Black & White? Please don't say it canned!
FROM SCOTTY P.
It canned! Actually, the game has switched publishers, with Sega now releasing the game with a projected fourth quarter release. While the delay certainly is annoying, the fact that Sega picked it up is a really great sign that we will get Black & White, even if it's quite a bit later than expected.
I recently read on Planet Half-Life that Sierra is actually going to release
the formerly DC exclusive mission "Blue Shift" for the PC in addition to
cosmetically revamping the game so that it looks as good or better than the
DC version. I guess this is a good thing, but it steals some of the fire
from HLDC. What do you think? Are there actually any advantages to
purchasing Half-Life for DC now if there's a PC upgrade on the way (which
would be free)?
Yes, it is a fire robber. Advantages over choosing the DC version? I don't think there is a font size large enough to accurately show just how useless the Dreamcast version is now. If you don't have a computer capable of running Half-Life, then, yes, by all means pick up the Dreamcast version. It actually does improve the graphics all throughout the game, unlike the PC mission pack which (I believe) will just upgrade the graphics for the Blue Shift mission. Blue Shift is a relatively short mission, so if you'd enjoy playing through Half-Life again with that level of graphic quality, then get the Dreamcast version. If you want to play on-line and aren't turned on much by the visual upgrade, then stick with the older, PC version.
Subject: a few questions
Not sure if this is in the right place but im getting a dreamcast and i just wonderd what the internet like on it? what sites r there...and is barrysworld on it for clans on games like ut and q3? and is there like yahoo so we can chat on it or make our own web pages
The Dreamcast Internet is a world full of porn, porn, and more porn. PlanetDreamcast co-exists quite well. The Dreamcast accesses the same Internet as every other PC, so barring any kind of advanced plug-ins or scripting languages, you can browse the same junk on your Dreamcast as well. While there are a few different ways to chat over a Dreamcast and develop web pages, a PC is of course going to be much more better best at doing that. The VMU makes a sad hard drive, and the inability to have several windows open at once hurts for those already accustomed to PCs. While you can load BarrysWorld with your Dreamcast and still register and all that, I don't believe the site really caters to Dreamcast clans. Dreamcast clans do exist however, and any search engine can turn up quite a few. The most popular ladder rankings is the Dricas World's Dreamcast Ladder, which does a nice job of trying to organize on-line Dreamcast gaming though really isn't predominant enough to be official or any indication of how many players there are.
From: Scott Shingle
Subject: DC UT-are there DC specific levels?
Just reading the review of DC UT, and was wondering if there are any levels on the DC version not available on the PC version. (Lookin' for any excuse to get it for the DC in addition to my PC version. :) ) -Thanks-Scott
Yes, there are 20 new Dreamcast maps, so, yes, you have to get it now. :^)
From: Sean Steuer
i think your site is really cool and its a bummer that dreamcasts are no longer gonna be made.
err...anyways i was wondering once sega stops production of the system, will your website stop as well?
also i think phantasy star online looks very very cool and i am trying to save up money to get it (although it's not working too well) but now i hear about PSO version 2....if i buy this, will it be like phantasy star online but have more options and stuff in the game? or is PSO version 2 just an expansion?
keep up the good work guys!
The future plans for PlanetDreamcast isn't really established as of yet, although we'll continue providing Dreamcast coverage until, well, there's nothing really to cover. The site won't just disappear, though.
As far as PSO ver. 2, yeah, get that instead. It's not just an expansion. Well, it technically is, but it also includes the full original version on it as well, plus removes some really annoying bugs in the first game. You'd be better off waiting for it to come out and getting ver. 2 instead.
From: Melvin Gautreau
Subject: Grandia 2
The game is nothing less than amazing I believe it is so good there should be a sequel. It's the best RPG I have played in a year or so. I would like if you added a little bit more about it.
Your site fan
Grandia 2 review...
Morgan Gautreau... "I really think Grandia 2 is amazing! It's the best RPG I've played in a year or so!"
Nah. I'm sure there will be a sequel to the sequel, but, well, there's little point in talking about it with nothing known.
Subject: Great site!
I have to say I'm glad to see a positive site about the dreamcast, and I'm impressed by the amount of users that support the site. But I have a question for ya, now that the dreamcast has been ker-putsed by Sega to make games for their competitors, does it have a future? should I spend more money on it if they are going to stop with production? If you ask me, I think they could have done a lot more with the system if they waited so it would have made more in system sales and have enough goodies to compete with the PS2/Game cube/X-Box.
Yeah, Sega shouldn't have pulled the plug on the system, but Saturn debt was too much to keep it going it seems. Of course, the Dreamcast should have done better. Look at just how many PlayStation 2's have been sold without nearly as many games, let along as many good ones, as on Dreamcast. Mention the name Sega to most people, and they'll likely start spewing about how the company "drops" its system, never mind that the vast majority of these sheep never owned a Sega CD, 32X, etc. They're the kind of people you want to kill, those idiots who are so clueless of what they speak about that make you wonder how some good games still manage to come out anyway, but I digress even though I'm probably a bit past the gressing limit.
There's no point to rant. What's done is done. While the Dreamcast obviously won't have the lifespan it could have had, it will at least stick around for another year. There's still tons of great games out and some down the pipeline, so continue to support Sega and those third-parties which remain by buying software. After all, the fact that the system won't "live" past three-years-old shouldn't make a difference on whether or not a game is worth playing or not. Sega is making games for other systems, but most haven't been announced. Sure, you can play Crazy Taxi on PS2, but you'll be able to play that plus Crazy Taxi 2, Skies of Arcadia, Virtua Tennis, and dozens more now, with even more coming soon.
From: Christopher Shelton
Subject: Hardware Problems
I have already E-Mailed Sega Tech support and got a half assed, no, wait, 1/4 assed answer to my question and I am wondering if you or any other Gamers have been having the same problem. With certain games, it will just quit qorking, especcially the new and revolutionary (Or not) games. Oh, PSO works like a charm thank god. But, I recently spent 6 hours driving around Louisville in search of Skies of Arcadia, I put it into the dreamcast and begin playing. When I get to the first boss, Antonio I think is what hes called, Black screen. I literally stare at it for 4 minutes, after 2 minutes my small Cairn terrierl, Mimi, joins in. This has pissed me off to nearly the breaking point. I want to know if there is any way to fix this problem without sending the console in for $70 repairs and I want to be sure that i am not the only one with this problem, if you have had this problem yourself, what have you done to fix it? (If you did). Or if any other gamers have had this problem, what have they done to fix it.
Is it just Skies of Arcadia giving you trouble? If some games work but others don't, then there's something wrong with your Dreamcast. Wait. Let me state the obvious again. Your Dreamcast isn't functioning correctly. It no es worko right. Still, having some games work and others not is a bit bizarre. A friend of mine can't play Re-Volt, Dynamite Cop, or Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2 on his Dreamcast. Weird, huh? You probably were hoping for help, weren't you?
Well, I really can't think of anything to help. I mean, sure, I could tell you to run the disc(s) through a Game Doctor and see if that fixes the problem, or to get one of those cold air spray can things and blow across the Dreamcast lens, and those might work, but I doubt it given your situation. I'd suggest you return the Dreamcast and get a replacement. If you live near a store with an open and easily abuse-able return policy (Sears, maybe Wal-Mart, etc.), you could bring it in and try to swap it out for a new Dreamcast. Of course, you could also rob the local convent of all the nuns' Dreamcasts as well, but that's something for you to decide.
From: Anthynee Purdy
this isn't an error or unpdated info. it's a question:
Does StarTrek New Worlds actully exist on the Dreamcast?
i ask because this is the only site i've seen it.
not even interplay has it listed or 14 east.
am i missing something or is it gone?
i hope i don't sound stupid or anything.
well my reply address is:
Star Trek New Worlds was announced
for the Dreamcast some time ago but
that was it. It does not exist
and is not currently being
developed for the system.
It is gone.
From: Tristan Ostrowski
Subject: Daytona USA Review.
Just wanted to let you know that your Daytona USA review was a drastic divergence from the typical high-quality trustworthy nature of your reviews. The reviewer obviously has little experience with racing games and/or did not want to spend the time necessary to full enjoy the game. Either way, it's a great disservice to the reader and an uncharacteristically clueless review.
Vash T. Stampede responds: Well, obviously there's always room for differences of opinion. I'm a big
fan of racing games, and a huge fan of Daytona USA in particular. I've
played every iteration of the game (including the PC port of the Saturn
game), and I don't think I drew my criticisms of the Dreamcast verion out of
thin air. Without knowing more specifically what you disagreed with in the
review, it's hard to know how to respond, but I certainly would classify
myself as a racing fan and I certainly spent many hours with the game.
Moreover, I LIKED the game a lot, and I think that's reflected in my review.
However, the game has certain flaws, some of which are glaring, and that
needs to be pointed out as well. The fact that the game is billed as an
online racer and yet has so many problems online is an issue. Does it spoil
the whole game? No, it doesn't. Does it detract from the experience? In
my opinion, yes. Similarly, the controls, while not awful, are very
sensitive on the standard Dreamcast pad. They aren't up to the high
standards I've come to expect from Daytona, or from racers in general on
Dreamcast. That's worth knowing if you are someone considering spending
$40+ on a game. People who love Daytona didn't need to hear it from me that
they should buy the newest version, and other, less devout, racing fans
deserve to know where the game shines and where it stumbles.
Mr. Domino: Word to whomever gave you birth. Actually, I myself am a huge Daytona fan as well, and while I can't help but be disappointed with the score, I have to acknowledge the game isn't perfect. A reviewer can't let fandom or bias get in the way, which is what Vash did, himself being a huge fan of the series. One thing we strive to do is match games with those best qualified to cover them, and Vash is more than capable of covering the game. He did a great assessment, whether or not you agree with the score itself.
That's it for this Mailbag. Have a burning question? First extinguish the damn thing (get it!?), and then send it to this handy address.