It appears that there was an alternative Megadrive emulator being worked on as a joint venture between Sega Japan and Sega Europe, and - like most stories about vapourware - this has never been substantiated with hard facts. Mentions of PAL versions of Sega Smash Pack with a better and more varied library, twinned with superior emulation can be found in Dreamcast magazines of the era but nothing concrete has ever been seen. Until now, that is.
Facebook group and I recognised the Megadrive emulator as the same one I had played when I visited an ex-Sega employee some time ago to record footage of the unreleased Take the Bullet and Colin McRae Rally 2.0. I did record some video of the emulator back then, but my MacBook went into meltdown about a week later and the footage was lost.
Whether the emulator was destined to be turned into something along the lines of a commercial 'Megadrive Collection' like the ones found on more contemporary systems is hard to tell, but one thing is for sure - the presentation and front end is far, far more professional than anything you've probably seen in any home-brew emulators. Anyway, I'm getting ahead of myself. Comby and I confirmed that this thing is the real deal, and since then he has done far more digging and even spoken to some of the people who worked on it to confirm authenticity.
"I wanted to release this to preserve the build. I release all of the games I find in order to preserve them. If some amateur developer can take this software and create an even better Megadrive emulator for the Dreamcast, then that's great."
- Dreamcast collector Comby Laurent
It's probably worth noting that the Megadrive Emulator was ripped from the original GD-Rom using the 'ISO ripper' function found in Dreamshell, and as such works perfectly with an SD reader. That's how I was able to record this footage and if you need assistance with burning to a disc it's probably worth joining our Facebook group and asking the fine, knowledgeable folk there. You can also find some further info on this emulator by checking out the Assembler games thread on it. You can download the Megadrive emulator GD files via this link. The files have now also been archived over at Hidden Palace too, but you'll need an SD reader of know how to create CDIs from GD rips in order to burn a disc. Scroll down to the bottom for more information on creating a self-bootable disc.
A couple of things have been discovered by members of the Facebook group. First - if you're using this on an NTSC Dreamcast, the option to switch between 50hz and 60hz simply does not appear. It's not too surprising when you think about it, but that shows that the software is detecting the region of the Dreamcast and disabling the option. Pretty interesting stuff. Second, a member called Eric (who coincidentally is also the author of the Smash Pack cool story mentioned in the intro) has done some sterling work delving into the inner workings of the files in the emulator, and also unlocking the ability to add your own games:
After playing around a little bit with some region locked ROMs...
In the ROMS.LST file.
#U sets the emulated Genesis console to USA.
#J sets the emulated Genesis console to Japanese.
The Sonic 3 ROM (region-locked to USA), for example, will not load without the #U flag. With #J or with no region tag, it loads up a region lockout screen.
In the same way, Donald Duck Maui Mallard (region-locked to Europe), will not load with #U or #J flag, it loads up a region lockout screen.
The Smash Pack emulated a USA console and could not be changed, so this is the first new feature in this version of the emulator.
I tried some other flags, like #E for Europe, and #A, #B, #C, etc. as well as #1, #2, and #3 and they all loaded as European, so apparently if it's not #U or #J there is no effect.
I tried multiple-character flags (like #U1, #UM1, #US2, etc.) and got a filename loading error.
The ! flag disables the game from showing in the menu. Removing the flag re-enables those missing games, but the only one I tried (BLOODLIN.BIN) crashed at startup so that's probably why it was disabled.
On my U.S. Dreamcast, I do not get an option for 50/60Hz, and the "TV Setting" option is missing from the options menu as well.
The other thing is, the emulator running on my Dreamcast is WAY worse than in the video on Dreamcast Junkyard. The tempo of the "Seeeegaaaaa" at the beginning of games is slow and low-pitched, and all the music sound is absolutely terrible--worse than the already bad Smash Pack. Not sure why this is happening, perhaps because I'm on a US DC? VGA mode? dunno.
Unfortunately it does not look like the options available to Sega Smash Pack (below) are available in this build. Or, at least, I can't figure out a way to activate them.
MDE_US.BIN ALTBEAST.SGA MODE2 SKIP0 SOUND0
MODE0 = standard, fastest video mode settings
MODE1 = slower, supports some extra features
MODE2 = slowest, includes window layers (used by some games)
MODE4 = same as MODE0 with background skewing
SKIP0 = no sprite skipping until maximum reached
SKIP1 = moderate sprite skipping, used to prevent major slowdown
SKIP2 = maximum sprites skipped
SOUND0 = standard sound emulation
SOUND1 = sound tempo increased
As well as all of this, Eric has helpfully created a couple of additional downloadable files. Go here to grab a self-booting CDI of the Megadrive Emulator: CDI Download
He has also written a quick batch script alongside the emulator files that allows you put your own ROM files into the folder and edit the ROMS.LST manually. You can doubleclick the batch file to make your own CDI: Batch Script Download
Great work Eric!