DANCE DANCE KARNOV!,
Kengo Asai, the producer of the game comes forward with detailed information! The game's name was to be DarkSeed.
Link to screenshot of auction:
I bought this board back in March last year. It was the first time I have come across a Dev board for sale that actually had the flash cards included. Looking at the auction I knew I could at least dump the 2 eproms that were on the board and I was immediately worried about the 2 Adtek SRAM cards. If this board was from the 90s, there was a high likelyhood that the batteries were dead (but more on that later). The Panasonic cards are Linear Flash and I was pretty confident that the data would be in tact if I could figure out how to dump them.
Delivered to me the board probably cost me around $750. When I got the board in I immedately dumped the 2 eproms and looked at the data.... I was dissapointed to see that the NGH Number and title of the game was Voltage Fighter Gowkaizer. The Panasonic cards were numbered and so was the FIX card. So I put in the cards into their corresponding spots and tried booting. Nada. I put the board down and decided to mess with it another day.
Earlier while I was waiting for the board to be delivered, I bought a few similar sized SRAM and different branded Flash cards to learn a bit about them. Bought various software and hardware that I hoped would dump it. Did some test dumps/reads from these cards and I was pretty confident I could dump them. I already had experience with SRAM cards, so I wasnt worried about that.
I finally get around to dumping the Flash cards and varified that the dumps match the data on the cards. I was able to 100% confirm that they were C roms. Both 16mb cards contained about 6mb of actual data each. Weird thing was, they didnt look anything like Voltage Fighter. So, I just assumed it was an earlier proto of it. Again, not really caring a whole lot since it was VFG...
Now on to the SRAM cards.... DEAD DEAD DEAD. Data was junk on both cards and the software read them as having dead batteries. They both had battery replacement dates of Feb 1997, and Feb 2000. One was labeled "Fix" and the other had no labeling. The unlabeled one was 2MB, so I can only assume it was the V rom. Heasantly I took out one of the batteries... Green and not registering any voltage. Same with the other.
Fast forward a few more weeks. Again, not in much of a hurry to get VFG working, I send the 2 Prog roms to Haze to take a look at. I didnt hear back (because I didnt email it to his active email address) so I had also sent them to my friend mikew from the forums. He helped me join the two so I could try working on it in MAME.
So at this point I've had this thing for over a month. I studied up on how to make conversions, what certain roms looked like etc. I never have cared to do that before, but if I wanted to get this board booting I needed to. If VFG was dead, I could always turn this into my own Neo flash cart. I ended up loading a new Fix file to one of my spare SRAM cards, and it finally booted. Showed a test menu I had never come across before.
Once that came up, I was pretty excited and realized that this may actually be something more than I had previously thought. I still wasnt able to see what the game was. I started looking at the C rom files again and thought I'd try putting them in different slots. The card labeled "No. 3" really looked like it contained the C1 data. So I put "No. 3" in slot 1, and "No. 4" in slot 2.
Game booted. I think I sat there staring at the screen in complete shock as to what I was seeing. Woke my wife up, she said "cool" and went back to sleep. It was pretty late when I got it working. I spent the next few hours playing it and I didnt sleep at all that night. Or the next night.
The dissapoionting thing is the Fix and Voice SRAM cards were dead. The Fix layer contains the font, power bars, etc. But it's also quite possible it contained the game's name.... Voice card contined all the sound effects and voices. If the game had an M1 rom, it wasnt included with the auction. It's possible they hadn't gotten to the music portion yet, but until a team member steps up, we'll probably never know.
I had several ideas of how and when to release this. Some things were going on in the background to see if I could possibly get another proto and release both to the world, but that was a waste of time. So I decided to annouce and release it during Midwest Gaming Classic. I wanted it to be a total surprise and present it to a few NG.com friends in person.
I have given the unaltered roms to HAZE. Since the Fix rom was dead, I created my own blank one with just fonts so I could navagate the menu. I dont know how this will work in Mame without a FIX file, but I'm sure they will do something. I also made a very crude Fix file with a timer and power meter.
There are 12 characters, though several are still very rougly drawn or unshaded. Some dont have hitboxes and some are missing frames of animation. The ones who are complete and very nice. It looks like it would have been a very interesting fighting game. Each character looks to have 3 classes:
And depending on what class you pick your character's speed, stance, special moves, and special bar change. Even the character's win screen sprite changes depending on the class. Two characters have animal companions who can be used in attacks. The bosses are not selectable, but I managed to get their win poses a few times and (kind of) pulled out their sprites while I was messing with the C roms. I'm sure someone will be able to get good rips of them, that's just beyond my knowledge.
The artists spent a lot of time on character and level design. I am sure someone from the team is still out there and can claim credit for their fantastic work. It is so sad to think these artists (and programmers) worked so hard on this for it to be lost.
The characters have default classes assigned at the select screen. You can only change their class in the debug menu during game play.
All character pics were taken with a HDMI capture card through a Framemeister. I did all these before I got it working in mame.
Judo - Lawful - Knife
Very fast character. Shanks people with his knife.
Musashi - Chaotic
Unplayable character. Uses default "Rod" dummy character when selected. Only one win screen sprite picking the class has no change.
Albert - Neutral
I think he looks like a blind wizard. All his win screens show his eyes closed.
Maxmilian - Lawful
I have a feeling he is probably a main character. Looking at the sprite files shows he has a special move that uses his horse.
Gallo - Chaotic- No Sprite - Armor on sholders and arms
Unplayable character. Uses default "Rod" dummy character when selected. Only one win screen sprite, picking the class has no change.
Rio - Neutral
Another fast character.
Wallenstein - No Sprite - Miniboss?
Rod - Chaotic - Default 1p character
Sadd & Hawk - Neutral
Uses hawk as an attack. Not sure why he and Tear and in the same character select block. They do not play together like Chal & Kyal.
Tear & Wolf - Neutral
Fantastic wolf animations. Changing between Chaotic, Neutral and Lawful changes the wolf's aggression animation. Very cool.
Headcounter - Chaotic
No hitblocks or anything on Headcounter. This roughly drawn character would have been bad ass to see complete. Has lots of fantistic looking moves and win screen sprites.
Chal & Kyal - Neutral
Goofy sibling (?) team. Moves are pretty rough and glitchy. There is also an option in the debug menu that allows you to change the lead character, but doesnt really work.
The backgrounds are amazing and each stage has 4 different times during the day (with the exception of the boss stages). Morning, early afternoon, late afternoon and night. They obviously spent A LOT of time on the backgrounds.
So that's the story. Now we just need to find out who made it and the name. I really hope you guys like it. No idea when it will be available in Mame, thats a Haze question. But it will be available to everyone soon enough.
MadMan's Cafe has a great summary and translations of tweets made by ex FACE artists.