@mitu omg! i did it! thank you so much! you're a life saver! it was the emulator the whole time, thank you so much man... i was trying so hard just to get this one game to work since i got the retro pi and it finally works! i have so many great memories with this game including my family and now i can experience it all again.
@mitu , @lostless & @Clyde - You all are great. I swear I looked at the Sega CD Docs at least a dozen times, and my eyes just completely glossed over the order of the emulators/BIOS instructions. ROMS loading now without any issue.
OMG I am a moron. As is often the case it was user error and such a monumentally stupid one. The one thing I hadn't thought of since I last played Sega CD was I use a different controller. With this one I guess since in most systems it doesn't matter I have been pressing one of the face buttons to start instead of start, whereas it matters that it is actually the start button on Sega CD.
I was having the same problem so I started a segaCD games in verbose mode and noticed that it was looking for the BIOS in the segaCD roms folder instead of the BIOS folder. This was on a new machine I was setting up on Ubuntu 18.04. Not sure what has changed that made it look to ROMS instead of BIOS folder.