An "adult" SEGA game has been found

An “adult” SEGA game has been found

There are plenty of games that were thought to be dead after being canceled by their publishers. Sometimes there are still a few images that have been unearthed by turning the pages of a magazine and in other circumstances the whole game is found. And that’s just what happened with Sacred Pools, an “adult” FMV game from SEGA that miraculously appeared.

Image Credit: SEGA

Sometimes you need a little luck

The 90s were a fun time for video games, as well as having seen the transition between pixel games and 3D worlds, it was also a time when everyone wanted to create “the future of this industry”. This resulted in the first experiments in virtual reality, but also in somewhat hybrid games such as what are commonly called FMV games.

The genre is not entirely new and dates back to the mid-1980s in arcades, but it was with the appearance of the CD that it really became democratized. FMV, for “Full Motion Video,” is a process that allows short video sequences to be linked together to create a narrative, sometimes based on the player’s choices. The best known example is Dragon’s Lair, however there are several cult games such as Night Trap and Phantasmagoria. Most of these games are known for their low quality and lackluster gameplay.

It was in this context in 1995, fueled by the poor launch of the Saturn, that SEGA decided to create a division called SegaSoft. Initially, the role of this studio is to develop games for the Saturn. Except that Isao Okawa, the founder of CSK Holding and who at that time owns a large part of SEGA’s shares, thinks that the future of the blue hedgehog firm lies in the consumer computer market. Therefore, it is decided that SegaSoft will also develop games on other platforms, including for Playstation, which at the time is a strong competitor to Saturn.

From there, Joe Miller, who runs SegaSoft’s research and development section, was given a free hand to launch the project that would become Sacred Pools. An FMV game that is close to his heart and that he will defend until the end, despite the problems he will encounter. It must be said that SEGA is very confident and gives a budget of 3 million dollars for the development of the game, which is huge for the time.

Sacred Pools is presented as a game set on the remote island of Amazonia, an area that was once a safe haven, but has become a dangerous corner dominated by envy and desire. This immerses us in an adventure where the player must find sacred crystals and face strange enemies. Promotion around the game has often revolved around the more “grown-up” aspect of its universe, presenting it as an “erotic thriller”, but there is actually no nudity in Sacred Pools. At best, the actresses’ costumes reveal a little more skin than usual for this type of production, but in retrospect, this is a lot to smile about. We have seen worse things since then.

The game was finally unveiled during E3 in May 1996, with a somewhat special event during which a non-playable demo of Sacred Pools was repeated. The actors spoke a fake language and an alternative rock band played all night. It was even possible to have an autograph from the actresses who are present at the game.

On the other hand, it does show that the press was not sensitive to the game, which is not surprising when we know that the FMV games so far have been quite disappointing, while several of them were expected. The press portrays Sacred Pools as an outdated game too late, while the genre has been in decline for quite some time. This is mainly what caused the game’s release to be constantly postponed, eventually disappearing from SEGA’s communication altogether.

Image Credit: David Gray/Gaming Alexandria

Sacred Pools was originally scheduled for release on Saturn, Playstation, PC and Mac. Except that after its cancellation no more images or videos were released. Therefore, it was not considered lost for long, except that in 2022 rumors began to spread that a prototype of the game could be in circulation. This is how the Alexandria Gaming site was able to get their hands on an Alpha version of Sacred Pools, for almost every platform the game was planned on (the Mac version is missing). These releases come from CDs owned for over 20 years by David Gray, an associate producer who reportedly received them as a gift in 1999 when he left SegaSoft.

Did we miss a big game? No, not really. While Sacred Pools is now playable on an emulator, it becomes apparent that it would have likely joined the great division of uninspiring FMV games. It’s not particularly worse than any other FMV game, but it’s not above it either. It’s a curiosity of its time and it’s easy to understand SEGA’s decision to limit damage and abandon the project. The most interesting thing about Sacred Pools is still its history, to have a better understanding of the development and creation problems of the time.

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