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Rare Sonic the Hedgehog arcade game preserved via PC emulation

An extremely rare entry in Sega’s long-running Sonic the Hedgehog franchise has been preserved via PC emulation software, and will soon be available for play outside of an arcade setting for the first time.

Released alongside Sonic’s Sega Genesis debut in 1991, Waku Waku Sonic Patrol Car cast Sega’s blue hedgehog mascot in the unlikely role of a traffic cop. The arcade game featured a kid-sized cockpit and steering wheel, allowing young gamers to take on the role of an authoritarian Sonic on the lookout for traffic violations.

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Waku Waku Sonic Patrol Car features simplistic, time-limited gameplay akin to a kiddie ride. After cruising the virtual city streets as Sonic, players encounter series villain Dr. Robotnik in a nearby vehicle. The game ends once Sonic successfully brings Dr. Robotnik to justice.

Despite its unusual premise and simple gameplay, Waku Waku Sonic Patrol Car has been sought after for years by collectors and game preservationists. While emulating the game’s code is a simple matter thanks to its well-documented hardware, finding an intact copy of the game itself proved nearly impossible for several years, due to its rarity.

Game preservationists from the online collective The Dumping Union recently pooled their money to purchase a Waku Waku Sonic Patrol Car machine and copied its contents to a format readable by modern PCs. The game will be playable in the next version of the popular arcade emulator MAME.

Kotaku reports that collector Will Medved fronted the majority of the project’s cost. While the game itself cost only $350, importing the massive cabinet from Japan pushed its total price to over $5,000. Medved documents his attempt at restoring the game in the above pitch video for a since-canceled Indiegogo project.

Few Sonic-related games have yet to be preserved. Sonic Retro notes that one as-of-yet unemulated oddity is SegaSonic Popcorn Shop, a Japanese vending machine that uses arcade hardware to dispense fresh popcorn. Like Waku Waku Sonic Patrol Car, SegaSonic Popcorn Shop could also be preserved in playable form if an original arcade board surfaces.