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In Memory
Sean Pettibone

 


 

 

      

 

 



 

 

The controversial company known as Bleem has delivered on its promise to bring PS1 titles to the Dreamcast in emulated form under the somewhat clever ďBleemcastĒ moniker. This comes after many years of legal wrangling between it and Sony. Unfortunately, this emulation package may be a case of too little, too late to save the console, or it seems Bleem itself as the company has recently filed for bankruptcy. Some gamers may also be upset that the emulators only allow a single title to be used on the DC, instead of the multiple-game packs originally promised. This falls far short of the original plan to feature dozens of games on each disc. The good news is that the appearance of these 2 packs gives DC owners access to enhanced versions of two of the greatest Playstation games, Namcoís Tekken 3 and Konamiís Metal Gear Solid, at a low price. There was also a good disc released earlier this year that did an excellent job of emulating Gran Turismo 2.

It must be noted that isnít a review of the games themselves, as theyíre well known titles whose ins and outs have been explored extensively elsewhere. Itís more a look at the emulatorsí quality and overall stability. By that measurement, the discs do an excellent job of running the two titles in a manner which is excellent and leads to very few crashes or freeze-ups. Unlike a lot of non-commercial emus, using Bleem is a very simple: all you need to do is insert the Bleem pack into the DC console and change to the PS1 disc when prompted at the start-up menu. After you do this, Tekken or Metal Gear Solid boots up noticeably faster than it does on a normal PlayStation and youíre off to the races. One interesting note is that we tried a third-party PS controller adaptor which allows Playstation controllers to be used on the system and these worked perfectly with both emulator packs when tested. This is really cool, especially with Metal Gear Solid, which seems work best with a Dual Shock. Playing MGS with the standard DC pad was fine but, obviously using the original controller was preferable. It wasnít as much an issue with the other game tested, and the performance with standard Dreamcast arcade joysticks and controllers was more than acceptable with Tekken 3.

The emulators themselves are excellent from a technical standpoint, with textures showing a dramatically cleaner appearance with anti-aliasing allowing for a more detailed visual experience that enhances the overall look and feel of the games. Overall, the polygonal characters appear far more solid than they did on the PS1 with little of the break-up or pop-in that plagued the system. Some of the backgrounds appear a little bit jumpy and objects seem to disappear in them from time to time. This problem was especially apparent during the intense rounds of Tekken 3 and much less annoying in the more cerebral gameplay of MGS. These types of minor problems are to be expected given the limitations of the Playstation console itself, and isnít really an issue with the source code of Bleemcast. All in all, the two emulators do a good job of fixing a lot of the seams and polygon break-ups but they canít fix everything. Whatís most important is that both games play perfectly with tight responsive controls that donít suffer from much lag, and perform in almost perfect unison with their platform counterparts.

most interesting thing we tried to do was a direct comparison of the gamesí emulation on Bleemcast and in the Playstation 2ís enhanced mode. Of course, this isnít entirely fair. The PS2 is designed to work with most PS1 software while Bleemcast has released special discs specifically designed to offer optimum performance on a single title. Still, itís a valid comparison, since Bleemís whole purpose seems to be snubbing Sony. While the PS2 is only advertised as causing minor improvements on PS1 games, the  comparison shows that while there are noticeable improvements in load-times on both systems, the Bleem emulation is much better technically with a crisper, cleaner appearance and load times that are a bit faster overall. Of the two games, the most immediate difference in emulation quality is seen in Tekken 3, while the effect in Metal Gear Solid is more subtle. Tekken looks dramatically sharper when playing on Bleemcast, but only marginally better in PS2 mode. Metal Gear Solid looks fantastic on both, but again the most dramatic difference when you zoom in during sniper mode. Both games look fantastic throughout and play just as well as they always have. Tekken 3 is an excellent fighting game and its deep extras such as the Tekken Ball mode still make for an enjoyable and deep martial arts battle game. Metal Gear Solid, meanwhile is an unquestioned masterpiece and its appearance in this emulated form has been improved almost to the level of the PC edition. Both games looked much better than they did on their original system and play identically with no crashes or major glitches in many hours.

Another thing thatís promised on the package, but unable to be tested is that the packs promise PAL Dreamcast owners the ability to play games without black borders and also allows owners of PAL DCís to play NTSC and Japanese titles. It must also be noted that the packs are compatible with both PAL and NTSC versions of these games. Unfortunately, these Bleemcast titles are only compatible with early DC models which support MIL-CD discs and wonít work on some of the later models. This is especially important now, since the newest Dreamcast consoles are the ones most likely to be found on clearance racks. The other problem with these packs is that you need to format an entire VMU especially for Bleemcast in order to save your progress which seems excessive and is highly inconvenient, making these an expensive accessory. Still, the emulators work as advertised to enhance the original games, are quite stable and, best of all, appear to work and play perfectly. While the timing seems a bit odd, the MGS pack seems to have been timed to coincide with the release of Metal Gear Solid 2 on the PS2, you have to remember that these companies have been at each othersí throats for years now. Unfortunately, as stated before, releasing these packs is a moral victory. The Dreamcast is on clearance racks and Bleem itself also appears to be defunct. Still, the ardent Dreamcast fan and game collectors should probably pick these 2 Bleemcast packs up, along with the Gran Turismo Pack if you can find that. These are cool novelty items that are definitely going to be collectorsí items in the near future, sadly enough. At ten bucks a pop, you really canít go wrong.