Sacred Pools
Image: SegaSoft

The Sacred Pools, a cancelled SegaSoft title from the mid-'90s, has been saved and preserved online thanks to the discovery of a haul of alpha builds (thanks, Gaming Alexandria).

The FMV title was announced shortly after the establishment of SegaSoft in 1996, a North American venture which was intended to have much more creative freedom than Sega's other studios, creating 'mature' titles for home computers and even rival systems, such as the Sony PlayStation.

"If you crave mystery, power, and seduction, step into the world of Sacred Pools,” read the original SegaSoft’s press release for the game. "The once secure, safe, and beautiful island of Amazonia is now a land of temptation and danger... Sacred Pools exploits today’s technology creating a new level of gameplay so unreal you have to feel it to believe it."

With a production budget believed to be in the region of $2 to $3 million, Sacred Pools was an 'erotic thriller' intended to be a continuation of the commercial success Sega had enjoyed with other FMV outings, such as Night Trap and Sewer Shark on the Mega / Sega CD. SegaSoft produced the game, while Sega Studios LA was in charge of getting the actual footage. The programming was handled by UK studio The Code Monkeys, which had previously performed the same duty on Mega CD titles Surgical Strike and Tomcat Alley.

Sacred Pools gained a lot of attention for its racy themes and footage of half-naked women cavorting in front of the camera. However, despite some outlets reporting the presence of "hardcore" sex scenes, no fully-naked bodies were ever on display in the game. "There was no nudity, although the costumes did get a bit racy." is what Steadicam operator Ross Judd told Electronic Gaming Monthly in 2000.

Despite its high budget, the project was almost doomed from the beginning; a glitzy premiere at E3 1996 couldn't convince the press that the game was worth getting excited about, and it is reported that Sega's internal testers deemed early builds to be dull and lacking enjoyment. With the arrival of fast and fluid 3D gaming on both the Saturn and PlayStation, FMV titles were seen as old news. Less than a year after its debut at E3, Sega had quietly removed Sacred Pools from its release schedule.

Once assumed lost in time, Sacred Pools has now been preserved thanks to the efforts of Joe Cain, a former game tester at Sega of America, who got in touch with Gaming Alexandria to inform them that an old colleague had several CD-ROMs of Sacred Pools covering most of the intended versions (only the Mac build is missing).

That colleague was David Gray, an associate producer on the game, who was given them as a parting gift in 1999 during the final days of SegaSoft. The discs contained alpha builds the Saturn, Windows and PlayStation versions, and you can download them from here. They're all playable via emulation.