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Seaman Dreamcast and its prototypes, a fish named SEGA at E3

Back when Tamagotchis and Pokemon were all the rage in playgrounds everywhere, at the dawn of the second millennium... Well we Dreamcast gamers had Seaman - or at least some of us did, as it was never released in Europe. However, it was rated 16/20 by the Japanese specialist press, and sold almost 400,000 copies, not counting the Dreamcast limited editions that accompanied it.

This title is a curiosity that has not been translated into the languages of Euro zone countries, as it uses the microphone, making international adaptation a complex task. To play it, you have only two choices: the Japanese or the American version version. It took 9 months after its Japanese release for the game to arrive in the USA. Unfortunately, the US version doesn't feature any interaction with the VMU (on the Japanese version, your beast will look at you and interrogate you from your memory card).

It's time to talk fish on April 1st [A traditional April Fools Day in France is to pin a paper fish on someone’s back]. Just the thing, since an E3 prototype of the Seaman Dreamcast had been set aside especially for the occasion, while we wait for others!

PAL packaging for microphone, Unreleased (other PAL accessory prototypes here)

Dreamcast Microphone Prototype Unreleased

But where did the developers from the Vivarium studio get the idea for such a game?

Seaman a lunar game

Indeed, Seaman stands out for its absolute graphical simplicity... an aquarium! After a thrilling start in which you have to adjust the temperature and oxygen levels of the aquatic tank, then lay your egg and wait, you'll finally be able to start playing with the birth of multiple offspring, eyeballs that will join the edge of the aquarium wall.

Promotional items, miam miam


The fun begins at last, with a thrilling, epic adventure. The main inhabitant of this aquatic environment, your venerable Nautilus fish, is going to eat these young cherubs (a reference to Jules Verne or the cancelled SEGA CD-32X game!), who will then devour the fish from the inside!  This is where the game really takes off, not through the cinematic reference to the horror of the thing, but through the evolution of the species.

Your venerable beasties will become fish with a human head (which is none other than the face of programmer Yoot Saito). Well, there's that antenna protruding from the fishes’ head, or rather a sort of straw, as our merry men will eat each other vampirically, sucking each other's blood with their appendages... In the end, there'll be two of them left! (no more movie references).

Fishman (download here) is a technical demo of the Dreamcast, a little Seaman-like, don't you think?

Dreamcast Tech Demo Fishman (SET 2).jpg

This barbarism is good! Your friendly tenantslet you enjoy this gladiatorial spectacle for free. If there's one thing to remember, it's that eating your fellow creatures makes you smarter. YES! Until then, we had to make do with a dialect of simple words and incomprehensible chatter. After this digestive phase, however, the pronunciation of your fellow creatures' sentences will change dramatically. In short, the dialogue begins!

Our beloved monsters will continue to grow and clamor for food - a cage of crickets, for example. Yes, food is the key to evolution! You'll be able to choose their names and many other things. Even better, your cherubs will give you advice, tell you anecdotes - in short, real interaction. You'll even be insulted if you neglect your role as a parent.

Spend hours watching fish evolve in an aquarium, watching them grow, feeding them, fighting among themselves... That's the aim of the game, and it's surprisingly addictive!

Time for evolution!

As the aquarium grows, it becomes a problem, especially when amphibian legs appear. You soon find yourself obliged to invest in a terrarium for your two companions.

A stupid investment when, after a reproductive act worthy of encrypted TV channels after midnight, the evil one dies and the female, delighted to give birth, gives up the ghost after delivering the newborn. In short, a family with a heart!

The eggs are about to hatch. Surprisingly, the offspring will be born with the head and body of a tadpole. They'll retain their adult voice and intelligence, providing plenty of opportunity for further long discussions and insults. We now have super-intelligent beings who will quickly eat each other up! I love the evolution of species and animal documentaries!

To open it or not?

Packaging Seaman Dreamcast brand new

There are two left, you get the idea! As they grow, they become frogmen who need to be watered from time to time not with money (as with us humans) but with water to keep them moist.

You can then release them into the wild and create quite a mess for the occasion. They'll thank you and give you some good advice before they leave.

It's not so difficult to play these days, even if you lack a love of languages. Modern tools such as "Google translation" allow players to enjoy the game, which is deliberately slow enough to require application and care. By the end of the game, you'll have learned so much that you'll be the ideal spouse, perfectly trained for parenthood - or so it seems to me!

My little fish will grow up

Sega Seaman prototype.jpg

Now you're ready to become a Mum or Dad, and enjoy the joys of family life. Remember, they're just fish - a child is much more complicated!

Dreamcast Collector :  Seaman Christmas

It would be unthinkable to talk about Seaman without briefly mentioning one of the two Dreamcast Limited consoles featuring SEGA's famous fish. The "Dreamcast Seaman Xmas Edition" is one of the most beautiful of all the White Queen's collector's consoles. The Japanese firm, faced with the unexpected success of its game (a console seller), had also marketed a stunning version of Seaman Dreamcast just before the 1999 holiday season, to mark the occasion.

Christmas Seaman: Omoi o Tsutaeru Mou Hitotsu no Houhou (a special Christmas version of Seaman) is a title released on Dreamcast, sold only between December 16 and 24, 1999, and exclusively in Japan. Like its predecessor Seaman: Kindan no Pet, it was developed and distributed by the Vivarium studio.

Two versions of the game will be released:

  • The "Message Disc" edition, featuring a red cover and GD-Rom, retails for around 2,800 yen ($19).

seaman message
  • The "Present Disc" edition, with its yellowed cover, is a white GD-Rom, priced at around 980 yen ($7).

seaman present

As with the standard version of the game, a collector's console in the game's colors will appear. It was limited to 850 copies for sale (and a few others in serial number 000/850). Europeans and Americans never had the chance to buy it in their respective countries, as it was only available in Japan.

Dreamcast Xmas Seaman Limited
Sega Dreamcast Seaman console
Seaman Certifcation

The console is dressed in a magnificent red, reminiscent of the color of Santa's coat. The "Power" button is green, while the "Open" push-button is yellow. The white game logo, featuring the Seaman character in a Christmas hat, is proudly displayed on the lid of the GD-Rom player.

dreamcast seaman christmas edition
Seaman Xmas Dreamcast limited
Dreamcat Limited Seaman

The gamepad has the same appearance as the console, painted red. The Analog Stick is green, while the Dpad is blue. The console's packaging includes a certificate of authenticity, instructions, a GD-Rom Dream Password and the original Seaman game with microphone.

Pad Dreamcast limited seaman
VMU Dreamcst collector seaman
Dreamcast Seaman Xmas edition
Seaman Xmas Dreamcast manual

Isn't she beautiful? So, let's get back to the matter at hand (fish, that is) and talk about why you're here....

The Seaman E3 Dreamcast prototype (May 5, 1999)

Based on an analysis of the prototype's content, this build was created on May 12, 1999 at 14:18:18. This multi-location Seaman Dreamcast prototype was burned about 2 months before the final Japanese version, on July 15, 1999. While its content doesn't present any striking particularities - it's a Demo - the main interest of the beta is historical. It was used to present the game to journalists from all over the world during E3 in Los Angeles, which took place between May 13 and 15, 1999, when SEGA also announced the release date of the Dreamcast in the US with the famous marketing slogan "9/9/99"!

Don't touch my fish

Seaman E3 Dreamcast prototype.jpg

Several examples of *warning messages in .DA format, accompanied by an explanatory document in Japanese (README.TXT), appear in the "Single Density (the part that can be read like a normal CD)" area of the prototype. As a rule, this area of the GD-Rom contains only a single warning message (often named WARNING.DA), the game's copyrights and any Bonus material (Wallpapers, Artworks etc.) that can be viewed from a PC. Other interesting facts include "the discovery of Toy Racer's server in the "Single Density" area of one of its prototypes" and "the discovery of debugging symbols in the "Single Density" of an Alpha version of Space Channel 5 Dreamast".

Echantillons de message d'avertissement dont celui normalement utilisé (WARNING.DA)


You can download the Japanese document explaining the warning messages below

README (Nov 06, 1998 Dreamcast Document)

*Please note that when someone tries to insert a GD-Rom into a standard CD player (hi-fi system, PC, etc.), it may not recognize the Dreamcast disc. A warning message can and should be placed by the developers in the "Single Density" area of the GD-Rom to inform users that this is a Dreamcast disc and can only be played on SEGA's console.

With pink, a touch of Barbie


This prototype only works with a controller plugged into the Dreamcast's D port. Who knows why?

The black window displaying the pink text "Hygio has Not this Action........" which appears after the title screen, is probably neither a debugging screen nor an unfinished Start screen, contrary to what was hypothesized at the start of the prototype analysis. It's probably a warning screen that appears when the game encounters internal problems. Fortunately, it may still work.

The font used to display the numbers for increasing or decreasing the aquarium's "Heater" and "Air" parameters is temporary.

The inventory is empty; no items can be selected from this menu.

Few tests have been carried out with the microphone. So far, it has only been possible to draw the fish towards you and say "now you're talking". The memory card (VMU) displays the indicator that the fish is waiting for a contribution. There may be more features specific to the build using the dedicated accessory!

The prototype is designed as a Demo revealing the fish, once in its aquarium, at an advanced stage of evolution, i.e. Seaman has already undergone several transformations without the need to progress in the game to achieve this. As a result, interactivity with this version of Seaman E3 is almost non-existent. It's primarily a contemplative build. It focuses mainly on communication between player and fish. Changing the air concentration and temperature in the aquarium doesn't seem to affect anything - nothing happens.

Think about water temperature


Just because a prototype is built as a demo version doesn't mean that the full game can't be present on the disc. For example, for Geist Force Alpha Dreamcast (download here), the full game is present on the GD-R (red disc in prototype format) but only about 40% assembled by playing it (if anyone has its source code, we could finish it!). This is also the case for Seaman E3, at least a large part of the game seems to be available without being able to access it normally. By forcing certain menus or parameters to load, or by modifying the values of certain addresses (Pointers), it is possible to reach menus and parameters that are not normally available. Unfortunately, the game experience is no better when the Demo is reworked in depth. Various problems can occur...

Hypothesis: As the prototype's gameplay is very limited, Seaman must have been presented "behind closed doors" at E3 1999. The aim of the Demo was undoubtedly to emphasize being able to "talk (that's a big word)" with Seaman and see him swimming in an aquarium, perhaps via a member of staff explaining the game to the lucky journalists present. Had the demo booth been set in the main exhibition hall, there would have been too much noise to try him out properly. To support this theory, there is no mention on the Internet of anyone having played Seaman at E3, as is often the case with other prototypes at the Los Angeles show.

How to modify the prototype in depth

To force the prototype to load menus or modify it, launch the game on DEmul, then open the Cheat Engine program. Select the "Select a process to open" icon next to the folder icon at top left, then choose the DEmul Dreamcast spiral symbol. Then click on "Add Address Manually" at bottom right. In the window that opens, paste the corresponding code "XXXXXX" in the "Address" box, then click OK to confirm. You'll return to Cheat Engine's main screen, with the number you previously entered at the bottom. Double-click under "Value" to select the code value.

"Adress" 0x2C3442D4:

"Value" 00 : Title screen (present in Demo)

"Value" 01 : Teleport to aquarium (present in Demo), but customizable

"Value" 02 : Access the epilogue, a placeholder (not present in the Demo). On the space reserved for the epilogue, you can only press start, and this will take you back to the title screen.

"Value" 03 : Return to the Dreamcast's main menu, without game, to the console's bios

"Value" 04 : Game crash

"Adress" 0x2C3442AC once in the aquarium:


A nice drawing by woofmute (the Pointers)

"Value" 00 : default setting

"Value" 01 : There are more plants in the aquarium, but it is empty

"Value" 02 : There are more plants in the aquarium, it is also empty, has a lower water level and drier lighting.

By changing the value of address 0x2c344364 to 00, the game will offer to save a game (a feature not normally available). Clicking on the option on the left creates a save file. If you refuse to save, the prototype will return, strangely enough, to the Dreamcast's main menu when no disc is inserted. The prototype creates two icon-less "Saves", which are not displayed correctly unless the console's main language is set to Japanese. Returning to the Save menu after saving, the screen goes black, and the player finds himself back at the controls of his fish in the aquarium. On the other hand, restarting the game after saving, resetting it and then going to the Save menu will prompt the prototype to create new save data, even though it already exists.

The end of a human adventure


Important: the prototype could not be properly dumped using the BBA method due to errors. It was sent to Ehw and Sazpaimon of the Hidden Palace site to test another, more efficient dumping technique currently under development. With this new methodology, the disc was preserved 100% correctly.

I'd also like to thank woofmute for her expertise and invaluable help in documenting this Seaman Dreamcast prototype.

Seaman E3 (May 05, 1999 Dreamcast Prototype) bis.jpg

You can download this build of Seaman E3 Dreamcast below

Seaman E3 (May 05, 1999 Dreamcast prototype) GDI + CUE

If you like aquariums, we were able to work on the Bolo Museum's project to preserve the SEGA Fish Life (a funny SEGA console based on a Dreamcast). We were able to hack one of its games to run on a traditional Dreamcast. You'll find our work and the modified ISO for download on the page: Hack of the Sega Fish Life to be played on an emulator and Dreamcast console.

Sega Fish Life Dreamcast

Remerciements :

More than 200 prototypes, documents and presskits have been dumped or scanned, and are available for free download in the "Releases prototypes and documents" section.

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