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Paprium MD US title.png

Paprium MD JP title.png

System(s): Sega Mega Drive
Publisher: WaterMelon
Genre: Action

Number of players: 1-2
Release Date RRP Code
Sega Mega Drive
$89.00$89.00 PYLEU

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PAPRIUM is an aftermarket Sega Mega Drive side-scrolling beat-'em-up game developed and published by WaterMelon. It was announced with pre-orders taken in 2017, for an expected release date of 16 September 2017.[2] Various development delays and financial problems meant the release date was missed, with the game still unreleased as of mid 2020.

A "launch party" was held in Paris on 27 October 2018,[3] which received criticism for showing a very early prototype rather than a finished product.[4]

On December 16th 2020[1], Watermelon Games informed customers that the game was officially finished and ready for shipment. This limited edition of the game shipped with a vol.1 manga, postcards and special gatefold packaging. A second run print was announced at the same time, with a raised price of $169 for the limited edition and $129 for the classic clamshell edition.


Year 8A2, somewhere at equidistant point between Shanghai, Tokyo and Pyongyang, a Megapolis rose from ashes of the shortest but most devastating nuclear war in history, its name is PAPRIUM. BRUTAL, MASSIVE. You will fight your way through the city with Tug, Alex and Dice. Redefine the word justice, deal with the BLU drug temptation, and more importantly: STAY ALIVE!


During development, PAPRIUM was known under the early working name of Project Y.


Pier Solar and the Great Architects was developed as a homebrew fan game from 2004 to 2010. So, Watermelon didn't make any meaningful benefits on this game on purpose. But its release has been such a big success, this gave Tulio Gonçalves and Gwénaël «Fonzie» Godde, the 2 founders of Watermelon, the desire to make Watermelon a fully fledged independent game studio.

In 2012, they put up 2 different polls to ask people what kind of games they should develop next. Those poll results defined 2 of the 3 projects launched in parallel that year:

  • Pier Solar HD, released in 2014 on Sega Dreamcast, PC and most consoles active at the time, after a successful Kickstarter in 2012.
  • Project Y, a beat-em-up with RPG elements on Mega Drive, having a post-apocalyptic cyberpunk theme,
  • Project N, an action/adventure game on Super Nintendo based on the ancient Greek myth of Orpheus.

The later 2 projects have been crowd-funded through the Magical Game Factory, the official crowd-funding and online shopping website of Watermelon, with a targeted release date during Summer 2013 for Project Y[5]. As Pier Solar on Mega Drive already pushed the boundaries by providing CD quality soundtrack with the Sega Mega-CD, they wanted to improve upon this with Projects Y and N by adding a co-processor in the cartridge to further sound quality and help on realtime data decompression[6]. This proved to be quite a headache as events involving the Datenmeister chipset showed. Character design was initially entrusted to a Chinese studio but the results were substandard with some animations directly copied from well known classic games. So, to rework them from scratch, Luis Martin got hired and he also became key to other graphical aspects of the game[7]. After postponing the release date several times, Watermelon went silent starting September 2014 on both projects. Tulio left the company in July 2015[8].

Watermelon resurfaced with some news on Project Y in March 2017[9]. The definitive title has been revealed to be PAPRIUM, a game weighting 80 Mb and using the Datenmeister chipset (codename DT128M16VA1LT, providing 24 channels of digital PCM audio in addition to the 6 FM and 4 PGM analogue channels of a Mega Drive[10]). New pre-orders could be done to get the game for an estimated release in September, along preorders for a PAPRIUM dedicated arcade stick called the Grand Stick III. But in September 2017, Watermelon declared that they had to push the release to early 2018 as PayPal HK froze all the funds from this last pre-order campaign possibly because some internal anti-laundering money rules got triggered by its unexpected huge success, preventing them from launching cartridge production at full speed[9]. In March 2018, the release has been postponed again because of some manufacturing issues with the Datenmeister chipset. On 27 October 2018, Watermelon organised a big party in Paris to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Mega Drive and to show the final version of PAPRIUM for an imminent release[9]. However, Godde demonstrated a prototype version of the game with a lot of graphical bugs, no enemies and no sound. This event gave rise to a big backlash from people that ordered the game, leading Watermelon to go completely silent after a last update in May 2019 with a video showing a factory line assembling some copies of the Grand Stick III[11].

Godde later confirmed that the game could have been released in 2015 but it reached its final state in 2017. He also explained that, while preparing the party in Paris, he was still doing a lot of round trips between France and China, and the debugging PCB he wanted to use for the demonstration broke down at the last moment. Without any time to find a replacement PCB, he coded some temporary fixes on the fly to be able to show at least something during the party[6]. The additional delay from 2018 onwards allowed Watermelon to make further optimisations and to hire Stéphane Dallongeville in March 2020 to rework the sound driver to make the sound fully compatible with the Genesis 3 and the Nomad using a degraded solution by activating the option called "YM DAC"[10].

With a surprise announcement early December 2020, the game started to be delivered from 16 December 2020 onwards along a third pre-order campaign for a delivery in April 2021. Some users quickly reported that the game is incompatible with some Model 1 Mega Drives. The only workaround is to plug a Sega 32X in so that the game can boot although the 32X add-on is useless to the game, besides for activating some minor easter eggs in game. It is also incompatible with the Teradrive[12].


Most critics praised PAPRIUM to be technically quite impressive with graphics nearly on-par with Neo Geo games and a very qualitative sound rendering. The number of enemies displayed simultaneously on screen surpasses any previous games released on the Mega Drive. Indeed, the hardware limits should allow for 80 sprites at the same time but PAPRIUM can display up to 94 sprites simultaneously without flickering and up to 144 sprites with flickering[6]. It was also considered quite innovative for a beat-em-up as it provides long game sessions thanks to its 24 levels, numerous branching paths and unlockable playable characters. The game can even use the CPU of the Mega-CD to activate an AI-controlled 2nd player to assist the main player by activating the option "CPU Mate".

PAPRIUM has been released in 3 different editions:

  • Classic edition, containing a manga and a classic black cartridge in a clamshell box, along a poster, some stickers and a manual in the classic horizontal format,
  • Limited edition, in 3 different versions (US, EU and JP), containing the same things as the classic edition but the purple cartridge is sealed within a blister pack similar to medicine pills, the clamshell box is replaced by an embossed cardboard box with a postcard and some flyers of fictional products, and the manual is in a bigger format,
  • Investor's edition, the most luxurious package for the early backers in 2012, containing a pink cartridge instead of purple, and more items like a leather thong, a lapel pin, an artbook and an additional handwritten postcard from Godde.

Most people were quite impressed by the packaging while some voices complained about the cardboard used for game cases of limited editions instead of plastic clamshell boxes.

Despite all those technical and packaging qualities, the gameplay itself can be considered a bit lacking mostly because of the enemy AI. Game progression is quite similar to beat-em-up games from the 80s with the difficulty being regulated by the number of enemies on screen. There aren't any refinements from later classics like enemies using different individual strategies to get to players or enemies coordinating their moves to trap players into an ambush. Moreover, the game incompatibilities with some Model 1 Mega Drives and some popular unofficial hardware like Analogue's Mega Sg are quite problematic. Some companies producing those unofficial hardware provided a solution to fix the situation on their side while Watermelon promised to communicate a way to fix the incompatibility with Model 1 Mega Drives at a later date. Finally, at the first boot of the game, a mini-game gets launched, similar to those available on early 8-bit consoles like the Atari 2600. Players get to see the real game only after the second boot, a joke not necessarily enjoyed by everybody.

Post-release events

Possibly following some users complaints, the funds collected during the third pre-order campaign have been frozen by PayPal USA. Thus, Watermelon couldn't honour the April 2021 deadline once again, explaining that they couldn't go forward this time as they already contracted some loans to compensate for the still missing funds frozen by PayPal HK since 2017[6]. To find additional funds, they tried to sell all their intellectual properties[13][14] to no avail as no interested parties manifested.

Watermelon decided to launch a successful Kickstarter starting on 21 October 2021 to port PAPRIUM on PC and PlayStation 4 by asking for a minimum total pledge of $299,999. To attract more people, some rewards were activated before the minimum pledge as the Sega Game Gear version (Mini Paprium) became available at $199,999. The stretch goals allowed backers to pre-order ports for the Dreamcast ($350,000) and the Nintendo Switch ($400,000), but also to pre-order the Grand Stick IV ($500,000). This Kickstarter finally ended with an impressive total pledge of $895,569 by 3,271 backers on 20 December 2021[15].

Production credits

  • DTACKED & PROGRAMMED BY: Gwénaël «Fonzie» Godde
  • ART DIRECTION: Gwénaël Godde, Luis Martins
  • CHARACTER DESIGN: Luis Martins
  • ADDITIONAL PIXEL-ART: Piotr Radecki, Andrew Bado, Tim Jonsson, Shane Stevens
  • 68000 ASSEMBLY: Olivier "OB1" Brosseron, Jorge Nuno Candeias
  • AUDIO SOFTWARE: Tiido Priimägi, Rutubo
  • SPRITE PIXEL-ART: Dang Kian Sang, Tim Jonsson, Luis Martins, Rutubo
  • BACKGROUND PIXEL-ART: Gwénaël Godde, Tim Jonsson
  • VOICE ACTING: Fred Gast, John "Choup" Ernie, Thierry Buisson, TataPiche, Clara Rojas
  • ADDITIONAL BGM: Lucas Rousselot, Theo Secheppet
  • MEGAWIRE4.0 TEAM: Rutubo
  • BGM: David "Groovemaster303" Burton, Trevin "Jredd" Hughes
  • SFX: Lionel "Shaolin soul" Godinho
  • Z80 PROGRAMMING: Stéphane Dallongeville
  • ENGINEERING: Rutubo, Jorge Nuno Candeias
  • TRANSLATION TEAM: Ben Boyd & Daniel Newman (EN), Kazue (JP), Albéric Bonneau & Victor «Shadax» Martin (FR), Marco «Gordman» Kelm & Sebastian «Beliskner» Goerke (DE), Adrián Cantador Lozano & Víctor González Fraile (ES), André Luiz Dias da Silva & Salvador Marques Jr. (PT).
  • Q.A. TEAM: Thank you to all our testers. The Q.A. team credits are in the game.
  • SPECIAL THANKS: Armen Mardirossian, Bastien Robilliard, Ben «The God» Boyd, Camille Rougelot, Cecile, Christian Chambenoit, Daniel, David Bryant, DG, Jean «JB» Baptiste, Julien «Mr Hu» Moreau, Kaneda, Ken, Lise, Lucas Rousselot, Manels Favre, Marc, Max Huang, Mikael Parinello, Peter, Philippe, The Pizza Girl, Quentin «GGP» Tableau, Qing, René Marchini, Salvador Marques Jr, The SexySaxMan, Stephane Dallongeville, Steve Snake, Telemachus Stavropoulos, Théo Secheppet, Tulio Adriano, Victor Martin, Yenold, Yuzo Koshiro, Zable, SEGA, Maman & Papa, Benoit «Zebre «Le Vitax» Rouge» Vitoux & IAM.

  • PRODUCED & DTACKED BY: Gwénaël "Fonzie" Godde
  • ART DIRECTION: Gwénaël Godde, Luis Martins
  • CHARACTER DESIGN: Luis Martins
  • BGM: David "G-303" Burton, Trevin "Jredd" Hughes
  • SFX: Lionel "S-Soul" Godinho
  • BACKGROUND PIXEL-ART: Tim Jonsson, Gwénaël Godde
  • SPRITE PIXEL-ART: Dang Kian Sang, Tim Jonsson, Luis Martins, Rutubo
  • Z80 PROGRAMMING: Stéphane Dallongeville
  • 68000 ASSEMBLY: Olivier "OB1" Brosseron, Jorge Nuno Candeias
  • VOICE ACTING: Fred Gast, John "Choup" Ernie, Thierry Buisson, TataPiche, Clara Rojas
  • ADDITIONAL PIXEL-ART: Piotr Radecki, Andrew Bado, Tim Jonsson, Shane Stevens
  • ADDITIONAL SFX: Manels Favre
  • ADDITIONAL BGM: Lucas Rousselot, Theo Secheppet
  • AUDIO SOFTWARE: Tiido Priimägi, Rutubo
  • ENGINEERING: Rutubo, Jorge Nuno Candeias
  • TRANSLATION TEAM: Ben Boyd, Daniel Newman, Kazue, Albéric Bonneau, Victor "Shadax" Martin, Marco "Gordman" Kelm, Sebastian Goerke, Adrián Cantador Lozano, Víctor González Fraile, André Luiz Dias da Silva, Salvador Marques Jr., Zebastian "Zebbe" Brax.
  • Q.A. TEAM: Af' Thief, Birthmark, Mr. Chen, Donovan, Glassesman, James, Luis, Margo, Rob Slater.
  • SPECIAL THANKS: Aurel, Armen Mardirossian, Bastien Robilliard, Ben "The God" Boyd, Camille Rougelot, Cecile, Christian Chambenoit, Daniel, David Bryant, DG, J "Gemu Otaku" B, Julien "Mr-Hu" Moreau, Kaneda, Ken, Lise, Lucas Rousselot, Manels Favre, Marc, Max Huang, Mikael Parinello, Peter, Philippe, The Pizza Girl, Quentin "GGP" Tableau, Qing, René Marchini, Salvador Marques Jr, The SexySaxMan, Stephane Dallongeville, Steve Snake, Telemachus Stavropoulos, Théo Secheppet, Tulio Adriano, Victor Martin, Yenold, Yuzo Koshiro, Zebastian "Zebbe" Brax, Zable, SEGA, Maman & Papa, Ben "Zebre Rouge" Le Vitax, Vitoux & IAM.
    © 2018-2020
    <3 SEGA
In-game credits (full ending)

Promotional material

Physical scans

Mega Drive, Japan (Limited Edition)
Paprium JP Cover.jpg
Paprium JP Cart.jpg
Mega Drive, US (Limited Edition)
Paprium US Cover.jpg
Paprium US Cart.jpg
Mega Drive, EU (Limited Edition)

Mega Drive, World
PAPRIUM MD World Box..jpg

Technical information

The size of the game is at 10MB / 80 Mb. Uncompressed, the game could easily expand into a 128 or even 256 Mb ROM chipset[6]. According to what declared Stéphane Dalongeville in 2021, the game's graphics and program are actually contained within a 64 Mb ROM chipset, the music samples are held within another 16 Mb ROM chipset. An additional 16 Mb RAM chipset works as a decompression buffer to hold graphics uncompressed by the DSP during runtime[10]. Dalongeville corrected this declaration in 2024 to confirm that the program, the compressed graphics and samples are all contained within the main 64 Mb ROM chipset, then an additional 16 Mb RAM chipset only accessible by the DSP is used to mix the samples to stream the soundtrack to the Mega Drive[16]. Gwénaël Godde didn't confirm all those technical details but he declared that the Mega Drive only works with a bank of 2 MB at any point in time[6], which thus could match this buffer of 16 Mb.

The DSP, named the Datenmeister (DT128M16VA1LT) by Watermelon, is a co-processor put into the cartridge to help the Mega Drive to manage various tasks. It was originally conceived as an ASIC i.e. a completely integrated custom chipset designed to be as cheap as possible but, following some manufacturing issues, it has finally been implemented using a FPGA chipset[6]. The different components are[17]:

  • an Altera FPGA (10M02SCU169C8G),
  • a STMicroelectronics microcontroller (STM32F446ZEJ6),
  • a Spansion microcontroller (GL064N90FFIS2),
  • an ISSI semiconductor RAM (IS42S16100H),
  • two logic gates from ON Semiconductor (74LCX245 and 74LCX257).

The 2 main tasks of the Datenmeister are:

  • to generate the 24 PCM voices of the soundtracks and stream them to the Mega Drive through the 2 dedicated cartridge pins (left and right audio channels),
  • to decompress the graphics so that the Motorola 68000 (main CPU) and the VDP (video co-processor) can directly work with uncompressed graphics.

The game has an option called "YM DAC", which enables the compatibility mode so that the sound can work properly on the Genesis 3 and the Sega Nomad, which are missing the connectors to receive the PCM voices streamed from the 2 audio cartridge pins. In this mode, the PCM voices are retrieved by the Zilog Z80 (sound CPU) and sent to the Yamaha YM2612 (sound co-processor) in DAC mode for sound mixing. As the sound buffer continuously changes its size by 1 or 2 bytes, the Z80 must continously adapt and change its reading speed adding a vibrato effect to the sound rendering, which can be unpleasant to the ear[10].

The cartridge also features a jack plug, which doesn't serve any purposes. It has been advertised alongside the MegaWire, which hasn't been released yet, to upload high scores online and download some DLC in the future.

External links