Every now and then you hear about an unreleased game from the past finding its way to the Internet, and the sheer number of discoveries in recent months has given everyone hope…unless you’re a fan of Rare’s golden years on the N64. You see, Rare used a special development cartridge of its own invention that would self-erase its own ROMs every time the carts were disconnected. That means the odds of uncovering a lost and desired N64 game from them (like Dinosaur Planet or Twelve Tales) is painfully low.
That’s what we assumed, anyway, until Forest of Illusion (the same guys who found all those Zelda 64 beta maps last month) came out of nowhere yesterday morning with an actual dump of Dinosaur Planet. Where did it come from? The data was burned to a CD-R, not stored on a cartridge, and it was formerly in the possession of a Swedish collector. We may never know the story as to why this exists, but based on the kind of build this is, we have our theories.
It’s Dinosaur Planet all right, and it’s an even later build than anyone has seen before. Dated December 1, 2000, it’s further along than the best footage we had of the game up to now. There’s also one key difference: one of the two main characters, Sabre, has been changed to Fox McCloud from the StarFox series. He’s only referred to as Fox once or twice in the script, and Sabre everywhere else.
As anyone knows, after Dinosaur Planet was shown off at E3 2000, Shigeru Miyamoto approached Rare and suggested that, since their Sabre character and his Fox character looked so similar, why not just use Fox? The heads at Rare agreed to the swap….the development team was less enthusiastic. Though today’s discovery proves they were thinking about changing the original game, Dinosaur Planet for the N64 would never come out and its guts were mutated into Star Fox Adventures on the Gamecube. The latter game is regarded as a disappointment and it’s been a fan assumption for a long time that Dinosaur Planet was the superior version.
Now we can find out for ourselves if that’s true. A word of caution though: even though this is a near-finished version of Dinosaur Planet, it’s not 100% solid. The game contains many bugs and has difficulty running on some emulators. The actual N64 hardware handles it better, if you have a flash cart handy — but be prepared for random lock-ups at the most annoying times. I would say to save often, but that has issues too. We expect some fan out there to do some work on the game (and possibly fully restore Sabre), but for now, this is what we’ve got.