Since we released our version of the Sonic Rush E3 build, pulled off of a rescued dev cartridge – read the full story here – a number of you have been on tenterhooks awaiting for a new update in regards to the rest of the discs and what prototype builds they may contain.
We do have an update for you on that today, although as I’ve previously warned it’s a bit of a mixed bag in terms of the results.
Essentially, since the last build LMC and it’s friends have been in discussion with various people about the builds and been who have been both very generous with their advice and great sounding boards for ideas. A particular thanks to Hiccup for a whole boatload of reasons, as well as those places that are still taking an interest in things.
It took a little whilst for things to align with real life business and with all the craziness going on with strikes, etc over here in the UK (and indeed Europe) I didn’t want all the discs ‘out’ at the same time for safety sake.
So for now in this update we’re concentrating on the PS2 and Xbox discs. This was for a few reasons: the GC NR Reader stuff is trickier for a start. You need very specific hardware and we want to make sure we’ve got the right partner for working on it. Besides, when it comes to the early Shadow The Hedgehog builds, which are the one we’re all most excited about, it made sense to focus on that theoretically easier Xbox disc.
Let’s go over the results, my thanks to Taylor, BlueCha0s and others for their notes which make the bulk of the summaries below:
Sonic Gems Collection – PS2 RC2
While the build date was listed down on the disc (right) as 19/7/05, this may not actually be accurate according to the data supplied by dumping program MPF.
Incidentally, yes, we’ve edited the disc image here and for the majority of the pictures to remove any individual’s names.
This was the one we held the least hope for, in terms of discoveries. For the simple fact that RC2 in this context refers to ‘release candidate’, i.e. a proposed final product that may end up being the one released to retail. And… yes, it was as we thought. Whilst there was no issues with the disc or the build, at the end of the day it was just Sonic Gems Collection for PlayStation 2. With nothing in the way of obvious changes.
With it just being the game you can buy, under the circumstances we won’t be releasing this one. If you are a Sonic fan and do get a chance to pick up Gems Collection – particularly the superior Gamecube version – do so. Even with subsequent re-releases, it’s a worthwhile addition to your collection and with some interesting elements given Sonic CD‘s subsequent history.
SEGA Classics Collection – PS2 PAL Alpha
The team aren’t sure of the build date of the final PAL and NTSC versions, but according to the disc information this one seems quite a few months off of the final release.
The game’s ID reads as “SCUS-00.000”, suggesting the title had not yet been assigned an ID by Sony at the time of compilation. Aside from that, no in-game differences were noticeable. Given that this is a compilation of pre-existing SEGA AGES 2500 titles from Japan just with a fancy menu it uses to launch into them, this is perhaps not surprising. But we had expected there to be some degree of visual differences between this and the finished product. Particularly with the menu design – such as it containing some ‘in-house friendly’ toggle options for trying it out, etc. As it is, it looks like this version of Classics Collection was, in terms of presentation and function, tied up pretty quickly.
You can check out the build for yourself here.
Shadow the Hedgehog – Xbox Beta 4
Okay? Now the bad news… They don’t work.
At least not yet.
Let us explain…
Presented within are 2 different dumps of Shadow the Hedgehog Beta 4. Despite what was initially thought by others, this disc actually is encrypted and therefore cannot be read in a standard DVD drive. However, the research team did manage to get the disc to read on a retail Xbox 360, suggesting that despite being a Beta, this build is retail signed.
The game wouldn’t boot due to not being on the 360’s backwards compatible whitelist, however.
Despite these signs of luck, this disc gave everyone more than a bit of trouble, to the point where, after days of solid graft, no successfully working build compiled and with the options to hand whittled down to zero.
Although there are some really light surface scratches, somewhat to be expected considering its age and history, as previously reported the disc looks to be in good condition and doesn’t show any signs of damage or disc-rot. Even so, every dumping technique tried spewed out different errors to the last, hence the two dumps presented here.
The working theory is that it’s unfortunately a bad burn at a fast speed, quickly spun up to test something and not used much beyond that. Speaking from my personal experience this would not surprise me in the slightest, getting builds burnt was a process no one wanted to do and was a surprisingly laborious process simply due to the amount of bad burns produced.
Still it is possibly it’s rough trip before rescue and the years since hasn’t helped its case despite the lack of any visible signs of degradation on the disc itself.
The Two Dumps
The first dump was completed using “DVD2Xbox” on a modded original Xbox as no other tool would complete the rip, instead the process erroring out when facing a slight inconvenience. DVD2Xbox pushed through this and the final result was 3194 files copied successfully, with 229 failing.
No signs of life from this dump, unfortunately.
Dump 2 was made using an RGH modified Xbox 360, manually pulling the files from the disc over FTP. The team reports that this one seemed way more promising, with every file having claimed to copy. But despite that… the files it couldn’t complete instead were sent over FTP as empty 0 byte files.
You’d think this would give an indication as to what files were definitely damaged, but DVD2Xbox managed to dump certain files that the FTP method couldn’t and vise-versa.
Slightly better, but still not working.
1) File manager on a modded OG Xbox, which gave up upon hitting a damaged file and pulling the files over FTP from an OG Xbox: The disc would only spin once every minute or so, and only two files would get written to, leaving all the data inside them. After an hour, only about 30mb copied to the destination PC and considering the headache it’d cause to even attempt to fix the files afterwards this was abandoned.
2) Further experimentation with the 360: Files would still do the same thing of “successfully copying” but still remaining 0b in size no matter if dumped on the HDD or a USB. Fail.
3) DiscImageCreator: We simply don’t have a reason for this one. After getting a few people on the case, we could never actually get the dump to start, it’d just always say it’d been provided with an invalid argument and error out.
This isn’t a fully dead end, so if anyone has any further ideas, they could give this another shot and invite folks to get in touch.
What WAS successful:
I’m just going to post the notes I was given here in their entirety…
I managed to drop the “default.xbe” file from the prototype into the final game files. The game actually boots doing this! However, not without issues.
The game will make it to the title, at which point if you try to load a retail save it’ll tell you the file is corrupted. This either probably says that the save file format changed, or maybe a different game ID (hence why the retail 360 refused to boot it but still detected it as a game just fine)?
Going to the options screen, the jukebox shows 3 songs from the true final boss. If you enter this jukebox and press anything, hardlock.
1 player will actually load. The cutscenes from the final game play with no problem, but the game crashes shortly into the Westopolis loading screen. Maybe a change in data structures?
We do think a couple of options exist to help fix this build.
1) Splicing as many files from the DVD2Xbox dump into the 360 dump as possible in the case of those missing or those bigger in the D2X dump. Whilst the team tried as much as they could, there’s a knowledge gap to get everything working based on this, but doesn’t mean it’s not possible.
2) If anyone in the community has access to the appropriate drives and firmware to rip this using PC based methods, this would massively help.
3) It is possible the files are being held hostage by those minor scratches, and if we could gain access to any good resurfacing tools, maybe we’ll luck out. That said, to quote the person concerned: “Having spent a lot of time with this disc, I personally doubt it but I’d love to be proven wrong.”
So this is where we are now. Not exactly where we want to be, but we’ve ticked off two discs and are left with questions about the other.
The builds are up for anyone to have a look at and fiddle with. There may be some stuff in there that you can get from that alone, and let’s hope we can get something working out of this version of Shadow at least. We’d would love to see this working considering there’s a debug file on the disc not present on the final EU Xbox build. (We can’t verify if it’s in the US one or not.) Feel free to have a poke around with the files and if you have any ideas peeps from the team are open for a chat about it. Though give it a couple of weeks for them to finish off New Year’s activities.
Regardless, here’s the fruits of their labour for now.