Imagineer Co., Ltd are a Japanese video game developer & publisher who were established on the 27th of January ’86 in the Shinjuku-Ku district of Tokyo, Japan. According to the company’s archived site their name is a portmanteau of “Image Engineer” which the company described as “a person who transforms imagination into shape”. Imagineer was primarily concerned with the planning, development & sale of consumer software for home computers as well as console systems.
The early focus for the company was the localisation of western computer software titles for the Japanese market this led to Imagineer publishing high profile titles such as Sim City & Lemmings in Japan. This trend continued through to the company’s Dreamcast titles which were all localised versions of European computer software titles. Currently Imagineer is focused on the development & publishing of software for the mobile market which includes smartphones and the Nintendo 3DS system.
Imagineer also diversified their business interests by entering the renewable energy market. They are currently involved in hydro power electricity generation and operate two hydroelectric power stations in Japan as well as developing smaller scale hydro generation supplies.
When it comes to the company’s more traditional consumer software market Imagineer were an early licensee and supporter for the Dreamcast in Japan. The company published four titles for the system with two further planned titles which unfortunately went unreleased and i’ll discuss those games after their published works. All the games that Imagineer released for the system were Japanese localisations of European software titles.
The first title that Imagineer released for the system was インカミング 人類最終決戦 better known as Incoming Humanity’s last Battle or simply Incoming. The game was published on the 19th of December ’98 & it retailed for ¥5,800. The game was a Dreamcast conversion of Rage Software plc’s computer title which had been released earlier in the year. The game was something of a technical showcase using advanced lighting effects taking advantage of the new 3D graphics cards that had just come on the market. Below you’ll find that i’ve linked to Incoming’s archived entry on the Dreamcast catalogue. ©Rage Games Ltd 1998 / ©Sega
Unsurprisingly Incoming was published outside of Japan in both Europe & North America, with the European version of the game being published by Rage Software themselves. The North American publishing rights were held by Interplay Entertainment, Corporation. Linked to below is Imagineer’s archived site for Incoming which provides basic technical details about the game. (c) 1998 Imagineer Co., Ltd.
Incoming is a pure arcade style shooting game which if i’m being honest did get accused of being more style over substance from some quarters upon its release which i can’t really argue against. Personally, i believe that Incoming was designed more as a tech demo to showcase the games graphics engine which was then turned into a title which was designed to wow onlookers with its technical prowess. While that might possibly be the case it doesn’t mean that Incoming isn’t a fun game that is easy to pick up and play. Incoming does however have one major flaw and that is the games repetition while the game does try to alleviate this it doesn’t quite manage too succeed in this endeavour.
The game features quite a few different gameplay styles you initially start out by controlling a gun emplacement defending your base from the invading alien attack ships & bombers. The action moves to engaging enemy ground as well as air units in an attack helicopter, next you’ll find yourself repelling alien ground forces in an advanced tank. The final craft that you control is an advanced jet fighter and while the game does try to avoid repetition by the introduction of different craft the overall mission structure is simply destroy enough enemy units to advance to the next mission.
Incoming certainly isn’t a bad game and in fact i find it quite good in short bursts but i wouldn’t really recommend trying to complete the game in one sitting. But this is in part due to its arcade style gameplay which while it becomes repetitive over long periods is somewhat indicative of the arcade genre. One thing that Incoming was designed for was impressing people through its visual presentation and even now some twenty years later the games graphical effects still hold up. While Incoming can’t compete with modern titles the unrealistic lighting aesthetic the game employs with its explosions makes Incoming standout certainly against its contemporary’s.
The fact that Incoming in any of its regional incarnations is readily available and is generally cheap makes picking up a copy an easy prospect. As long as you temper your expectations about Incoming you’ll find it an enjoyable arcade title.
The second title that Imagineer published for the system was レッドラインレーサー or Red Line Racer which was released on the 29th of April ’99 & retailed for ¥5,800. Red Line Racer is another Dreamcast conversion of the similarly named European computer title which was developed by Criterion Games. Like Imagineer’s previous title it was released outside of Japan in both Europe & North America where it was renamed to Suzuki Alstare Extreme Racing and published in both territories by Ubisoft Entertainment. Below you’ll find the games archived entry on the Dreamcast catalogue. © 1999 Criterion Software Ltd. Published by Imagineer Co., LTD. Under license from Criterion Software Ltd.
The western versions of the game differ significantly from Red Line Racer with the intervening six months Criterion Software continued development on the game. Improvements include the games graphics with a new track order as well as improved background geometry details and a general graphical upgrade across the board. They also changed the music which is neither better or worse it just depends on your preference to which soundtrack you prefer. The games HUD has been completely overhauled and it honestly looks better on Suzuki Alstare Extreme Racing. If you haven’t played the Japanese incarnation of the game you’d probably expect that the western version would be a simple name change to incorporate the Suzuki branding but it’s so much more comprehensive than that.
Below I’ve linked to Imagineer’s official site for the game and while I did try to link to Ubisoft’s archive site for Suzuki Alstare Extreme Racing so you could see for yourself the differences between the two versions unfortunately, all Suzuki Alstare Racing’s website assets have sadly been lost to time. (c) 1999 Criterion Software Ltd. Published by Imagineer Co., Ltd. under license from Criterion Software Ltd. REDLINE RACER is a trademark of Criterion Software Limited and Accolade, Inc. Used under license by Criterion Software Limited. (c) 1999 Imagineer Co., Ltd.
Like Imagineer’s previous titles Red Line Racer didn’t redefine the racing genre but that doesn’t mean it’s not a playable game. One thing the game has is a terrific sense of speed and while the game is currently celebrating its twentieth birthday as i write this article it still holds up both graphically and more importantly in the gameplay department. Red Line Racer is a motorbike arcade racing title which over the intervening years has become even more of a niche genre with most motorbike titles going down the simulation route from the arcade style racers heyday of the mid to late ’90’s. Perhaps the game being from a simpler time lends Red Line Racer being easy to pick up and play and the fact it’s easy to acquire for very little outlay in either of its regional incarnations means sourcing a copy is simple. If you’re looking for a pick up & play motorbike racing title for the Dreamcast this is the one to go for.
The penultimate title that Imagineer published on the Dreamcast was 生体兵器 エクスペンダブル or Expendable which was released on the 24th of June ’99 & retailed for ¥5,800. Expendable was released outside of Japan again in both Europe & North America where it was published by the respective regional branches of Infogrames. The North American version of the game was titled simply Expendable while the European version was renamed Millennium soldier Expendable. I’ve linked to the games official entry on the Dreamcast catalogue below. (c) Rage Games Limited 1999 -all rights reserved (c) 1999 Imagineer Co., Ltd.
Expendable is a 3d Run ‘n’ Gun which while it had been a once popular style of game in the 80’s & ’90’s by the turn of the millennium the genre had fallen out of favour. Even the stalwarts of the genre had been releasing generally poor incarnations with diminishing returns of their once popular franchises. In part this could be somewhat attributed to the move from 2d to 3d which seemed to spell the end for some genres. But honestly it was probably the lack of general quality combined with the demise of the arcades which spelt the end of the genres heyday. Expendable was among the few new genre titles to use a dynamic 3d camera to frame the destruction your clone causes and like Rage Software’s other Dreamcast title Incoming the game used advanced graphical effects for the time in its visual presentation.
To take advantage of those advanced graphical effects that Expendable used during the game it needed the powerful new 3D accelerated computer graphic cards to enable it to run properly. So a conversion to the Dreamcast with the games graphical splendour intact was an enticing prospect.
One thing i do find quite bizarre especially given Expendable’s computer roots is the fact the game at least the Japanese version doesn’t support VGA. Which as the game’s unique selling point was undoubtedly the at the time advanced graphic engine and the ease of enabling VGA compatibility is a strange omission. I did think that perhaps VGA support had been missed when it was localised but the PAL release doesn’t mention VGA compatibility either.
Personally, i think Expendable was somewhat unfairly overlooked on its release as though it was a impressive looking 3d title it was considered to be belonging to an outdated genre at the time. I think now in the present day it seems to have been revaluated somewhat by a modern audience in part due to the resurgence of the run ‘n’ gun genre. Expendable is a solid fun action-packed example of the genre on the Dreamcast and is generally better than reviews of the time gave the game credit for. The only criticism i have is due to the desire of Rage Software to demonstrate the games advanced graphical engine the sheer number of explosions can obscure bullets and sometimes enemies and due to the amount of destruction the frame rate can struggle at times. You’ll find Imagineer’s official site linked to below if you need any more information. (c) 1999 Imagineer Co., Ltd.
While the Run ‘N’ Gun genre is in the midst of something of a resurgence the amount of 3d examples even now are still relatively scarce. Expendable isn’t perfect but is a decent enough title for the system and i’d advise experiencing it for yourself. Again, like all of Imagineer’s titles you can easily and cheaply pick up a copy of the game.
The last title that Imagineer published for the system wasn’t intended to be but due to various circumstances ended up being the company’s final game on the Dreamcast. スーパー ユーロサッカー2000 or Super Euro Soccer 2000 which was released on the 6th of April ’00 & it retailed for ¥5,800. Like all of Imagineer’s previous Dreamcast releases the game saw releases in both Europe & North America. The European version was titled to UFEA Striker and was co-published by Rage Software plc & Infogrames Entertainment, SA. The North American version of the game was renamed to striker pro and published by Infogrames Entertainment, SA. The games listing on the official Dreamcast catalogue is linked to below. ©Rage Games Limited 2000. All rights reserved. © SEGA.
Honestly, I’ve never played any incarnation of Super Euro Soccer so i can’t really give an opinion about it. The game certainly didn’t seem to trouble its contemporary’s in ISS Pro Evo/ Pro Evolution or FIFA but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad game but i’d advise that since i haven’t played the game you’d be best off experiencing it for yourself & making your own mind up about the game. Below is Imagineer’s archived site for Super Euro Soccer. (c)Rage Games Limited 2000. All rights reserved. (c)2000 Imagineer Co., Ltd.
As i’d previously mentioned Imagineer did have another title signed up for release on the Dreamcast in fact the Imagineer catalogue has two gaps T-15004M & T-15005M one of which would’ve been reserved for AquaAqua which was intended to be the Japanese name for Wetrix+. The game had already been released in Europe where it was published by Take Two Interactive & in North America where it was published by Xicat Interactive Inc. Both western versions of the game feature the Imagineer logo at the start of the game and on the games packaging which initially struck me as strange as the Japanese version of the game went unreleased.
I was unsure how Imagineer was involved in having a co-publishing credit on the western versions of Wetrix+. I decided to contact the developers of Wetrix+ Zed Two now known as Zee-3 Digital publishing and they very kindly took time to answer my questions. According to Zed Two Imagineer had signed the game for a Japanese release and this explains the company’s logo on the western versions. The game was intended to be retitled to AquaAqua for the Japanese market and this incarnation on the game does appear on some release lists.
For an unknown reason Imagineer decided to decline both localisation & publishing duties for AquaAqua and the Japanese release was in doubt. Luckily for Zed Two Sega of Japan signed the game and intended to publish it under the Sega banner in Japan. For the Sega published incarnation of the game it was once again re-named this time to Aqua Panic. Below you’ll find an archived report from Famitsu which details the upcoming Aqua Panic. © Zed Two Ltd. and imaginieer Co.,Ltd.1998 Zed Two Ltd.
The game still had an Imagineer credit and various promotional images were circulated in multiple Japanese gaming outlets. Unfortunately, the game would’ve in all likelihood had been released in early ’01 which coincides which Sega’s announcement of the discontinuation of the system. While Sega promised continued support for the system Aqua Panic wasn’t featured on the official release list and the game sadly went unreleased for the Dreamcast in Japan. Zed Two are happy that they signed a publishing contract for Aqua Panic with Sega of Japan even though the game was a casualty of Sega’s reorganisation to a third-party developer and publisher.
I’d like to extend a big thank you to Zed Two now Zee-3 Digital / The Pickford Bros for taking time out of their busy schedule to answer my questions relating to how Imagineer became involved with Wetrix+. I really appreciate their invaluable help and the subsequent details of the change to Aqua Panic really helps in clearing up the matter. Also, this solves the mystery of two unreleased Dreamcast titles that were in fact the same game with two different publishers and two different names. I’d thoroughly recommend Wetrix+ as a puzzle game for the Dreamcast and while the Japanese version sadly doesn’t exist you can still easily find either a European or North American copy of the game.
The last title that in all likelihood would’ve been T-15004M was Midnight GT which once again was originally developed by Rage Software plc for European home computers. The game was announced in various media to be coming to the Dreamcast with Imagineer scheduled to publish the game for the Japanese market in early ’00. Even through the game was showcased at events and received coverage in the press the game disappeared from release lists for the Dreamcast and the computer version wasn’t released till ’02. Why the game suffered a three year delay considering how advanced the Dreamcast conversion seemed is unknown but the games delay is the reason why it subsequently went unreleased. Below is an archived report from IGN Dreamcast dated the 8th of May ’99 which gives details of the upcoming game as well as Imagineer being the games Japanese publisher. ©1999 IGN Imagine Media
And official confirmation of Midnight GT’s intention to be released for the Dreamcast come from Rage Software themselves in a detailed breakdown of the various modes and gameplay features that the game was to entail. The detail sheet also lists that the developer of both the computer version & the Dreamcast conversion was Rage Liverpool. Linked to below is the archived Midnight GT data sheet. ©Rage Games Limited 1999.
T-15001M Incoming Humanity Last Battle
T-15002M RedLine Racer
T-15006M Super Euro Soccer 2000
SAMPLE T-15001M Incoming
SAMPLE T-15001M Incoming
SAMPLE T-15002M RedLine Racer
SAMPLE T-15003M Expendable
SAMPLE T-15006M Super Euro Soccer 2000
(NOT FOR SALE) 非売品 discs & other media
I’m not aware of any individual Not for Sale discs for any of Imagineer’s Dreamcast titles which is actually quite odd as many of the systems early titles have 非売品 discs for them. But since there’s no definitive list of 非売品 discs it’s perfectly possible that something might exist for one or all of Imagineer’s games. If any do ever manage to surface i’ll endeavour to obtain them and add them and update the article.
There’s no content relating to any of Imagineer’s Dreamcast titles on the Dreamcast Express discs. I’ll need to catalogue both the Dream Preview discs & Dreamcast magazine demo disc to ascertain if they might have any content for Imagineer’s games.
I’ve also struggled to find any soundtracks or guide books for any of Imagineer’s Dreamcast games i did expect to find a guide book for either Incoming or Expendable but as of yet i’ve been unable to locate anything relating to them.
As always thank you for taking the time to read this article about Imagineer & their Dreamcast titles. If i’ve missed anything important relating to either Imagineer or any of their Dreamcast games please get in touch either through the site or on Twitter @dreamcastcollector