Michael Jackson’s work with Sega isn’t only extensive–it continues to surprise us all. His performances in Moonwalker and Space Channel 5 are the stuff of legends, but his role as composer for Sonic the Hedgehog 3’s soundtrack was only confirmed by Sega legend Yuji Naka this June. However, he also acted in a long-lost Sega simulation, a performance that has barely been documented–until now.
Previously unseen footage of Jackson as the lead actor in the largely unknown Advanced System-1 (AS-1) motion simulator game Scramble Training has finally been made public by a pair of Sega enthusiasts, following the chance discovery of a seemingly forgotten tape found at a U.K. flea market.
Until now, Scramble Training’s experience was limited only to shaky, poor-quality camcorder footage from the 90s. However, following the chance discovery of Ben Bizley, with the help of fellow fans and preservationists in the U.K., we can finally see every piece of footage from Sega’s strangest collaboration with the late King of Pop–a pseudo-game that could only be enjoyed at one of many long-gone SegaWorld locations around the globe.
Bizley, a 35-year-old trader of video games and PCs from Gosport, Hampshire, had met up with a local contact to buy a selection of gaming memorabilia, but this particular meeting promised to offer some real rarities. “He had some Sega merchandise he got from a gentleman whose father, a former Sega employee, had recently passed away,” Bizley says. “I bought some promo posters and toys, but after I left, he sent me pictures of a D-2 tape he forgot to mention he’d paid a fair bit for.”
Intrigued, Bizley knew he was onto something special. “It was mainly instinct, really–a bit of a blind buy, as I’d not seen anything like it before. I had to fork out £300 ($364) in order to get the purchase over the line.”
Still none the wiser about the tape’s contents, and without the technology needed to watch it himself, he put pictures of the mystery D-2 on Facebook gaming groups to find out anything he could. “One fellow collector I know pointed out it was the tape from an AS-1 simulator in SegaWorld,” he says.
Gaming writer and musician Nick Greenfield, 38, from West Sussex, quickly identified the tape–he’d written about the Scramble Training ride, and its two fellow AS-1 titles Megalopolis: Tokyo City Battle and Muggo!, as part of a wider retrospective about the ill-fated SegaWorld London in May.
“I was scrolling through the posts in the Galaxy Sega Facebook group when Ben popped up to tell us he’s bought the tape at a car boot sale, but had no idea what it was,” Greenfield says. “Some other people in the comments clocked the AS-1, but I seemed to be the only one who knew what he might have found. I’d seen the footage that existed, but the nature of the ride meant none of the vids were complete.”
Reaching out to Ted Haydon–an 18-year-old contributor to game preservationist collective Gaming Alexandria who has since compiled the ultimate history of Scramble Training–Greenfield’s suspicions were confirmed: the original film wasn’t in the wild in anything other than grainy, late-90s footage.
Greenfield reached out to Bizley immediately to ask if he’d consider getting it digitized. He was up for it, but the task proved more complicated than the pair realized.
“I worked out to be a broadcast tape,” Greenfield continues, “so I began to look for companies that could do a digital transfer. This turned into a much bigger issue than I originally thought–only a couple of organizations could do it, and the friendly peeps at the Oxford Duplication Centre were the only ones that got back to me.”
Bizley mailed it in and, for the princely sum of £126 ($154), the ODC set to work. It was a weeks-long process–one that only made the potential discovery all the more exciting.
“We racked our brains over what it could be,” Greenfield says. “Documentation suggested the AS-1s ran film from LaserDisc. We wondered if Sega had equipped export AS-1s with cheaper storage for ride films, but we also thought it might’ve been a master copy for creating LaserDiscs themselves, or maybe even for promotional materials for TV. Whatever the case, none of these had been seen and all were worth archiving, but we were obviously hoping for the master!”
Weeks went by and, despite a couple of hiccups, the final film came back, and it was exactly what they’d hoped for: every single minute of the Scramble Training experience.
Greenfield says: “As the interactive nature of the ride meant it had never been seen in full online–with all its Star Tours-like options for how it could start and end–the Scramble Training tape had it all, along with full credits for the production, plus sound test and visual test cards. It’s truly an exquisite specimen.”
Finally, you can enjoy 14GB of high-resolution MJ antics in space, uploaded by Haydon for all to see on YouTube:
While it’s easy to look back on Sega’s foray into motion simulation as wonderful, weird, wacky, but ultimately unsuccessful–much like the iconic cult R360 machine–Greenfield and Haydon continue to go out to bat for Sega, which they believe was revolutionary in the theme park field.
“Sega designed the AS-1 with Douglas Trumball, the guy who’d just built the Back to the Future ride for Universal. We talk about how effectively Sony parked their tanks on Sega and Nintendo’s lawns, but Sega did a pretty good job of doing the same to Universal, Disney, and Warner Bros. It’s just a shame that, in the long run, their model simply didn’t pay off.”
While Bizley was completely unaware of Scramble Training until this whole Sega saga began–he’d only been three or four years old when SegaWorld was around–he counts his discovery as his collecting highlight. “It’s all been pretty amazing,” he says. “I’ve had some rare and sought-after gaming items, but nothing like this.
“At the moment the tape’s staying put with me until I can find out any more info about it,” Bizley says. “After that, I think I may sell it–though I think it’s something that belongs in a real auction house, rather than eBay!”
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