Sega Mega Drive game development projects are quite well covered in the video game research history but there are always new surprises waiting. A rare, never released Japanese action JRPG title Gensō Senki Kokō no Ryū: Crying Dragon has recently surfaced in a unique early development version. While the title is not very unique by itself the rescue operation is fascinating look how the digital preservationists work and how hard it can be to trace origins of a game.
Crying Dragon was planned by Sega as a Mega CD title but the game got very little of air time in the gaming press or from Sega. It was covered shortly in Famitsu magazine half a year before the Mega CD was released. It never made a splash, though, and even the actual developer is still unknown. So there is still plenty of secrets and challenges for the researchers and game archivists.
A physical copy of the game recently appeared, though. Pietro “andlabs” Gagliardi acquired a development version of the game and managed to make a digital copy, so now the interested parties can have a look at the game. The game prototype hardware is also extremerely interesting as it is a cartridge PCB of a CD-ROM game. The data is on ROM chips as the Mega CD itself didn’t even exist yet, so mr. Gagliardi had to pull out the data from the chips to build a working image.
Also, the students of video game history can possibly imagine how challenging it is to develop for a system that is not yet released and how the developers created a small number of physical prototypes by storing the CD-ROM game data into number of invidual ROM chips.
More information about the PCB code dump, the reverse engineering process and the game itself: https://andlabs.dev/blog/crying-dragon/.