Atomiswave Dev Kit 'SystemX' Discovered, Contains Fragments Of Unreleased Game 'Chicago 1929'

Ah, the Atomiswave. A beloved arcade system developed by Sammy that has its roots firmly planted in the fertile foothills of the NAOMI system heartlands, the Atomiswave is viewed by many as something of an extension of the Dreamcast family - indeed, our own 'Expanding the Dreamcast Collection' series goes into great depth looking at the Atomiswave, its hardware, some of its finest games and the link to the Dreamcast family.
The Atomiswave arcade system
With this connection in mind, a recent discovery may excite those interested in both the Dreamcast and the Atomiswave - an innocuous white box that looks for all intents and purposes like a standard Dreamcast dev unit; but one with the label 'SystemX' stuck over the familiar Dreamcast logo.
The Atomiswave dev kit, SystemX
After further investigation of the SystemX, owner Brian Hargrove has deduced that this is pretty clearly a Dreamcast development unit converted into an Atomiswave development kit...and even more intriguing is that it appears to contain fragments of a game that never saw a final release - Chicago 1929. Here, Brian explains how he came to own the SystemX and what he's discovered about the technical side of things:

"The dev kit was purchased from eBay earlier this year. It wasn't listed as development or prototype, but it was obvious what it was.  It was listed as not tested with no screen activity. The power supply was faulty, but even after changing it you are met with a black screen.  It seems to only work if you manually boot it from inside the Dreamcast Tools utility of the Katana SDK.
"The original Katana's GD-Rom drive is replaced with a flash card. It plugs into the same port that the GD-Rom was installed. The Katana's BIOS Eprom has been replaced with a small PCB holding the Atomiswave BIOS along with SRAM and battery backup. From that PCB are 8 wires additional wires that are soldered directly to the Katana motherboard.
"There is also a large sub board that seems to carry all the JAMMA signals to one of the 64 pin connectors on the front. I have not looked to see if the communication cartridge pinouts are there, but I would assume so. There also is (what they label as) a JVS board that sits where the modem was on the original Katana. From what I understand a JVS add on was planned for Atomiswave, but was never been released. I have not tested the JVS functionality.
"I am only able to boot the flashed game Ranger Mission. Since no Atomiswave SDK has been released, I'm not able to flash any other game or load any GD Workshop projects like you would with a standard Katana.  The Dreamcast pad's start button is recognized, and the game does seem to want to use the official Sega Light Gun. I am having issues with the calibration settings saving though. Hopefully I'll be able to boot other games at some point to see if controllers are fully supported.
"Since the flash board is securely screwed inside the system, I can only assume they had an external flash device for programming some of the prototype carts that have been sold online. Getting to the flash board is a total pain and I doubt they dismantled the system every time they wanted to flash a game for testing on an actual AW system."
- Brian Hargrove

As stated above, one of the most interesting things to come out of this discovery is the files relating to the unreleased Chicago 1929 (here referred to by its alternative name The Roaring Twenties). Details about this game are scarce, but it appears to be a racing game set during the prohibition, where period vehicles are driven haphazardly through the streets of Chicago. There is video of the game (here), but reasons for its cancellation are hard to come by. That the SystemX appears to contain never-before-seen image files and textures (one of which features a man's face which is eerily similar to John Travolta) is likely to interest fans of both the Atomiswave and unreleased games in general.
Alongside the Chicago 1929/The Roaring Twenties files, there are also files relating to a game which did see a commercial release - arcade light gun title Sport Shooting USA. That fact that the SystemX recognises the Dreamcast gun goes some way to confirming that this development kit was probably utilised in the creation of this game. Finally, there are some frankly bizarre images of a random guy's head and some underwear. Not sure that I want to know what was going on at Sammy HQ in order for these images to find their way onto a development kit!
So in summary we have an awesome discovery that contains some hitherto unseen images of games such as The Roaring Twenties (aka as Chicago 1929) and a bunch of bizarre images, along with early files from Sammy's released arcade light gun game Sports Shooting USA.
We look forward to seeing what else Brian can mine from this intriguing piece of historic hardware, and we'll be keeping an eye on what he discovers. You can also keep an eye on the finds by following Brain on Twitter here, and you can find his fine Neo-Geo website here.

Here's some video of the Dreamcast light gun working on the Atomiswave dev kit:

Thanks again to Brian for sharing these images and video with us, if you wish to reproduce them please give credit where possible. So what do you think? Let us know in the comments or join the discussion in our Facebook group or on Twitter.

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Max said...

Not sure if interesting enough, but the Japanese text, under the "bizarre" Images reads:

Waiting for Data! データ待ち
Is it my fault? 僕のせい?

Moneyshot said...

That 1st head looks like John Travolta :)

Blondejon said...

Ive learnt two things reading this article, firstly, that the Dreamcast and its expanded family are the very definition of the gift that keeps on giving. Secondly, that my knowledge of Arcade hardware and terminology is woefully lacking, for a moment I knew who my mother felt when I was explaining the ins and outs of the network I set up in my parents house! Brilliant and inspiring as always Tom.

hoogafanter said...

The glorious undead console strikes again...

Tonal Bliss said...

Very interesting find! I actually never heard of Chicago 1929. That looks like a pretty fun game.

Playing Mantis said...

I actually like The Roaring '20s better as a title. It's a well known term and has double meaning because of the roaring car engines from racing. Not sure how "roaring" cars were back then though lol

RJAY63 said...

I actually played Chicago 1929 at Southsea Island Leisure Arcade (Clarence Pier, Southsea, UK) circa 2005. They briefly became a test site for Sega Amusements with an Outrun 2 SP set-up and quite a few Atomiswave titles. Only played it once but I wasn't very impressed so I'm not surprised it got canned.