Last week my friend José and I were playing the arcade classic crazy taxi 2 on Jalopnik’s weekly Thursday feed when we made a discovery that, frankly, pushes the boundaries of what is considered relevant content for a website ostensibly about cars. But it made our afternoons, and apparently those of at least of them the viewers. It is Sega Dreamcast and Internet Y2K.
Hey, look at this – everyone’s gone! But you are beautiful always here, and for that you have my sincere gratitude. I knew I loved you.
If you know anything about the Dreamcast – Sega’s last, initially successful but inevitably doomed attempt to salvage its hardware business – you probably know that it was the first gaming console designed with connectivity. Internet ready to use. For this reason, many games come with light online features, usually in the form of leaderboards. crazy taxi 2 was one of those games, and you know it because at the very bottom of the main menu, you’ll find an item labeled “Internet”.
Whatever this feature is, you wouldn’t expect it to work 21 years after the game launched. José, however, is an optimistic guy, and that’s what I like about him. On his recommendation, we checked it out. Sure enough, what we found was a website.
A whole ass, loaded with flash, aggressively old website with images loading in groups of pixels at a time, inside empty boxes with outlines. A website so old that there is a section devoted to “Links”.
move space jam — this was the original landing page for crazy taxi 2, visited in real time via a Dreamcast emulator (in this case, Flycast). At first I thought it was a snapshot of the site cached in the game files, but that theory was quickly disproven when I read the post at the top of the page. “After 15 years offline, Crazy Taxi 2 the online website is back and native in English,” it read. None of us could believe it.
Since then, I’ve dug in and learned a few things. First of all, yes – this website was resurrected by an ungrateful fan by the name of Rory Joscelyne, along with those responsible for Dreampipe.net. Dreampipe describes itself as a “portal for Dreamcast websites, ratings and VMU content” and hosts online integration for a number of Dreamcast titles, such as Sonic Adventure 2 and of course crazy taxi 2. Hats off to them.
Here’s the thing, though – you can’t access Dreampipe or the sites hosted on it through a modern device. You in fact need a Dreamcast, or at least a Dreamcast emulator. I don’t know enough about the series of pipes we all inhabit to guess why; maybe someone smarter could tamper with one of the seventeen strings of digits that govern internet addresses and make it work.
As for the website itself, it will look very familiar if you were browsing the internet at the turn of the century, and it laser targets those sweet nostalgia centers in your brain. There is information about crazy taxi 2 and how to play it with an entire page devoted to authorized musical acts for the soundtrack (look forward to The Offspring’s Plot of one, falling in November on Columbia). The have been rankings and replays, but these apparently couldn’t be restored when the website was, so they remain inactive.
The best page, however, is the one called “Downloads”. Here you can find a 1280 X 960 wallpaper for your gateway running Windows Me which will take about a minute to load line by line. You can also find downloadable content – seriously. crazy taxi 2 had special modes that changed passenger locations and time of day, for those looking for a new challenge. You can always download them to one of your VMUs – essentially the Dreamcast version of a memory card – and enjoy them for free. Free, I guess, except for whatever you paid EarthLink or NetZero to visit the site to get started, not to mention SegaNet for the lucky few who could afford it.
I can’t underestimate how thrilled I am that someone has bothered to not only bring these sites back online, but also make them available on original hardware. It inspired me to see what lurks in the once dormant online homes for other Dreamcast racing games, like Daytona USA 2001, Metropolis Street Racer and Sega GT. Daytona was one of the few that supported online multiplayer, and theoretically still does today thanks to Dreampipe. In fact, my earliest online gaming memory is of inadvertently hiking in Daytona with my awful, awful conduct, at an age far too young to interact with other humans online. Luckily, those were the days before voice chat – just as I expected them to be.