DREAM A LITTLE DREAM
It’s tough work being a hard-nosed cutting edge emulation correspondent. No sooner does Emu Zone confidently state that emulation is usually two generations behind current hardware, than the emu community thumbs its nose at it by producing a limited but working Gamecube emulator. Then as if that wasn’t enough, all of a sudden and out of nowhere, there’s Chankast.
Chankast is a Sega Dreamcast emulator, something which a lot of emu fans have wanted for a long time, but which until now there wasn’t even a hint or a screenshot of. Chankast, however, has come hurtling off the blocks with high compatibility (via “ripped” ISO files), full sound and extremely playable speed. At the time of writing it’s only two releases old, but already runs dozens of games more or less perfectly, and unlike the Gamecube emulator Dolphin, is equally capable of handling both 2D games and polygon-heavy 3D efforts.
The Dreamcast was probably the last true, old-school games console, by which Emu Zone means that it didn’t want to be a PC or a “set-top box”, had no interest in streaming broadband movies, or indeed in anything very much except playing games. (This is ironic, because it was made with a lot of off-the-shelf PC parts, ran a version of Windows and came with an internet browser. However, nobody wanted to surf the web on a 640x480 TV screen, and all of the DC’s extra features were more or less ignored from the moment of launch.) What this meant in practice was an unparalleled catalogue of fantastic shallow arcade games of the sort which, alert viewers will have noticed, Emu Zone loves.
Almost every game you’ve seen in an arcade in the last seven years or so had a flawless Dreamcast conversion made (understandably, since a lot of the coin-ops were running on the same “Naomi” hardware anyway), turning the DC into the ultimate home arcade. (A situation which Sega idiotically failed to capitalise on, concentrating instead on the machine’s online capabilities and suggesting that you could enjoy online gaming against “six billion players”, until it was pointed out that (a) a 56K modem really wasn’t up to modern online console gaming, (b) the stupid region coding meant that you could only actually play against people from three streets away, and (c) there weren’t any online-playable games released for the best part of a year after the DC was launched.)
But your hard-working expert reporter’s getting off the point. The point is, you can now enjoy the Dreamcast’s home-arcade experience on your PC, from the real-world racing thrills of Metropolis Street Racer to the incomparable synaesthetic weirdness of the brilliant abstract wire-frame shoot-‘em-up Rez. (Neither of which games appeared in arcades, but shut up.) Enjoy it for the remaining month or so before the emulation community brings out a fully-working Xbox 2 emulator a year-and-a-half before the real machine, purely in order to spite Emu Zone.