Video game preservationists have obtained a 33-year-old, extremely rare Sega Master System educational game about traffic safety - and even released an English language version.
The game is called Game de Check! Koutsuu Anzen, which was developed by Sega for release in 1987 on a commission from The Tokyo Marine and Fire Insurance company. It is thought only 300 copies were made, and it wasn't sold - instead it was available for rent only, making it one of the rarest Master System cartridges in existence. You can see gameplay in the video below:
SMS Power, the Sega 8-bit preservation group, clubbed together to buy a cartridge for around £3800 from a Japanese auction in December 2019. Here's what the team received, courtesy of a Japan to France delivery with help from the NPO Game Preservation Society:
And here's how the game looks:
The team then set to work translating the Japanese for an English language release. "Because of the significance and rarity of this game, we decided that we'd try creating a translation patch for non-Japanese reading audiences so they could enjoy it," SMS Power said. The team reverse engineered the game code, extracted the script and created custom tooling to reinject code along with translated text, new fonts and translated graphics. Here's how the English language version looks:
SMS Power has dumped the Game de Check! Koutsuu Anzen ROM, ensuring its preservation, but what happened to the other copies of the game? "It's not clear today what happened to those 200 or 300 cartridges," SMS Power said. "Were they actively rented by many schools and associations? We have no evidence of Sega fans saying that they were exposed to this game in 1988. The game seemingly wasn't promoted to gamers, and the Master System was not particularly popular in Japan either. Likely many of those cartridges were unused, lost or destroyed."