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The Trials and Tribulations of SEGA Dreamcast VMU Save Preservation

This month the Dreamcast Junkyard posted an article detailing the Lost Content of Soul Calibur for the Dreamcast. Two officially released Visual Memory Unit (VMU) mini-games were thought lost as they were only hosted on a now defunct official Namco run Soul Calibur site. While the end result was that the VMS data was already preserved thanks to the MAME project in their software lists it now appears a new version of one of the Soul Calibur games may now be available and there may be a completely different official mini-game missing EVE-ZERO based Beam Force.

During the Dreamcast Junkyard investigation it is noted that thankfully the Internet Archive (we should all donate) had captured and archived the site which included a small amount of information and media plus a (initially believed broken) link to the VMI file. This triggered me to do some research into the issue, this is detailed below,

The reasons for the VMI file being important is explained below.

A complete VMU save contains two files:

  • VMI – Basic information (Game name, VMS data size, VMS CRC etc.)
  • VMS – Save Data

sega_vmu_beam_force_vmTo use bonus content made for the VMU the Dreamcast required a site visited by the user from the Dreamcast Web Browser host the applicable VMI file; the Dreamcast upon reading the VMI file would then redirect and download the VMS file containing the actual game/save data; this is then installed onto the VMU.

Looking back, we now find with the requirement from SEGA to build a Dreamcast compatible site and the Internet Archive scraping regime of the era is; when crawling the page(s) where the VMU save was originally hosted we have only the VMI file archived. This makes sense but is unfortunate and may prove potentially lethal to Beam Force but thankfully was not so for the Soul Calibur content due to the diligence of the emulation community.

sega_vmu_soul_calibur_vmOne thing of interest is that the Soul Calibur site must have held links to the VMS (inadvertently??) at one point in time because the Internet Archive has these in their scraping records although the links themselves do not work.

If we review the software lists for MAME we note that we have not preserved the VMI hashes we only store the VMS save/game data, I don’t know if this is inherit in the software list format (doubtful), a decision made due to perhaps unavailability of legitimate or any VMI files in most cases or some other reason.

So with all that we can find my investigation log stored on the new Soul Calibur VMU Mini-Game site including downloads where applicable.

sega_vmu_beam_force_page sega_vmu_soul_calibur_site

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