Nintendo

MRC – Multi Racing Championship [N64 – Beta]

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MRC was one of the first racing games to be published for the Nintendo 64. It was developed by Genki and released in 1997: the quality of MRC left a lot to be desired, but with the shortage of games on the Nintendo consoles, it was able to interest the lovers of the genre. From some screenshots released before Genki finished the game, we can notice a much cleaner and defined graphics  than the ones in the final game.  Probably these were just target renders that were not actually running in real time on the N64. The HUD of the game was still not finalized: the rank and the total time were initially on the right, while the Lap Time was on the left of the screen.

italian_flag.jpg [spoiler /Clicca qui per la versione in Italiano/ /Nascondi la versione in Italiano/]MRC fu uno dei primissimi giochi di corse ad arrivare sul Nintendo 64. Uscito nel 1997, la qualità del titolo di casa Genki lasciava parecchio a desiderare, ma vista la scarsità di racing games sulla console Nintendo, riuscì comunque ad interessare gli appassionati di macchine.

Le immagini beta rilasciate prima dell’uscita, mostravano una grafica molto più pulita e definita di quanto si può osservare nella versione completa; probabilmente Genki diffuse dei semplici concept screens di MRC, che non giravano realmente in tempo reale sull’hardware N64. Anche l’HUB del gioco non era quello definitivo, le info su schermo erano invertite: la posizione in classifica ed il tempo totale della gara erano inizialmente a destra, mentre il Lap Time era segnalato a sinistra (come potete notare dal confronto con lo screen finale sulla destra).[/spoiler]

Beta Version:

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Final Version:

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See also this French excerpt from an old Nintendo-related newspaper. It’s notably touting the presence of real-world cars (Renault, Ford and Alfa Romeo) even if some screenshots on the same page shows the “Imagineer” car from the final product.

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Shadowgate Rising [N64 – Cancelled]

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Shadowgate Rising was an adventure game game developed by Infinite Ventures for the Nintendo 64 but was never released. Originally intended to be a sequel to the 1999 title Shadowgate 64: Trials of the Four Towers and the latest entry to the franchise which began in 1987 with the original Shadowgate for the Mac. The project was abandoned because the Nintendo 64 was soon to be replaced by the GameCube. [Info from Wikipedia]

Screens & more info: Nintendo Fanatical – Original Article Written by Dave R. T. Allwein | December 9, 2003 (Archive.org Backup)

Nintendo’s official website had a bit of information on Rising’s storyline. “Shadowgate Rising-which is still only a tentative title-takes place centuries after Shadowgate 64. The belief of magic has faded, but now the unspeakable evil of Kal Torlin has slowly begun to reawaken. The fate of the land lies in the hands of a young woman who gradually discovers strange powers within herself and the ability to control magical artifacts within the alls of Shadowgate.”

Gjon Camaj, president of Image Space, had once stated that Shadowgate Rising made it into development. According to Image Space’s website, “In a short amount of time, ISI was able to create a development environment that allowed the artists to create assets on their PCs and then emulate them on the same machine, as it would appear on a Nintendo 64 game console. This ability saved time and the need to “burn” cartridges every time work needed to be reviewed.” This made it easier to test Shadowgate Rising. On the downside, the chances of this game surfacing are rather slim. A few months after the Nintendo 64 version had been officially canned, Image Space considered finishing up Rising and pushing a PC release. This never happed and the game was left totally unreleased.

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Quest 64 (Holy Magic Century Eltale) [N64 – Beta]

Quest 64 (aka Holy Magic Century in PAL regions and Eltale Monsters in Japan) is an RPG developed by the Japanese company Imagineer. It was originally published in 1998, while the Japanese version was released in 1999 and features an extended ending cutscene.

Quest 64 was announced under the title “Crystal Stories” in June 1997. Screenshots of this early beta build feature a capeless, knight-like version of the final protagonist Brian. In August 1997, the game reached the second stage of development and was renamed “Holy Magic Century Eltale” (or simply “Eltale” in Japan). This version was meant to be released on a 96Mbit cartridge (the final game had 128Mbit of data) in December 1997.

The graphics of this second build resembled the released game, but its story was different: As in the final game, it revolved around Spirit Handlers, which are magicians with the ability to control the elements. Unlike Quest 64, however, there were five elements and not four. Half a century before the events of the game, there was an evil Spirits Handler named Larva. He was a priest who served the pope of the Highland, but his spirit-handling skills became too strong and he was excommunicated. Larva then traveled through the world as the Black Spirits Handler and found accounts of the Evils, three kinds of sinister powers which were accidentally created during the first spirit handling experiments. They fed off the Seven Deadly Sins committed by humans, made them do more evil deeds and could even create monsters. Larva eventually freed the Evils and a fierce war ensued. It lasted until the Zeek crystal appeared and equipped three heroes with holy swords, giving the forces of good a deciding advantage. Although peace was restored, Larva managed to escape.

The second build featured three playable protagonists, each with their individual strengths and weaknesses:

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Magician (named by the player)
Description: A descendant of an ancient dynasty of sorcerers
Age: 12
Height: 1,50m
Weight: 42kg
Skills/weapons: Magic, staff

Nina
Description: A princess, also a descendant of the Spirit Handlers
Age: 13
Height: 1,55m
Weight: 38kg
Skills/weapons: Defensive and healing magic, bow and arrows

Cozi
Description: A strong and ruthless pirate
Age: 15
Height: 1,70m
Weight: 70kg
Skills/weapons: Fists, sword

The unnamed magician was a descendant of one of the heroes who originally fought against Larva. Together with Nina and Cozi, he was to search for the three holy swords and stop the reemergence of evil. The final build omits most of these plot points and the magician Brian is the only protagonist. Nina probably turned into Princess Flora of Dondoran and Cozi might have become the pirate Kiliac on the Isle of Skye.

As the screenshots show, the early builds had a traditional level-up system as seen in other RPGs. The menu screen had additional options for the cursor, spells, sound effects and a help option. None of the images from the early builds indicate the “elementals” collected, which is otherwise shown in the bottom left corner in the final version. In one of the screens in the gallery below we can even see a removed bubble attack: its graphics were used for King Beigis’ “Large Cutter” look-alike, though no official attack name is known.

This information was taken from previews found in english N64 Magazine (issue 4, 1997), german Nintendo Fun Vision (issue August/September 1997) and german N64 Magazin (issue September 1997). Thanks to Hydrozor and Mario for the contributions!

First beta  build:

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Early second beta build:

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Late second build:

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Other images (first and second builds): 

Superman 64 [N64 – Beta / Proto / Tech Demo]

It would be nice to say that this game developed by Titus was completed with a better graphic than the one we can see in the screenshots below: unfortunately this has not happened. The bare polygonal models of the scenario in those early images are almost identical to the final version. To be honest, the final version is so much worse than those early screens. In 1999, Superman 64 was released with a pandemic and ugly fog that the player had to see all around the levels. That “fog effect” is a common feature in many N64 games, but it’s really too much in this game and the developers thought to justify it somehow. In the plot of the game, the fog is presented as a weapon created by Superman’s enemies, a lethal gas that surrounded the city. Brilliant!

Certainly at the time of these images, the fog was not yet included in the game and the graphics had a cleaner look that Superman 64 can only dream of. In one of the screens, the light effect was probably created with Photoshop! Breathtaking. Probably these images were taken from a target render, created to show what the game could have looked like.. if it could have been released on the Dreamcast. For sure, the Nintendo 64 was never able to show such a definite graphic.

Yet, if these images can look bad, the final version is even worse. It’s like if Superman 64 was put on sale in a Beta version, without worrying too much about the poor result. We must therefore thanks Titus, for giving us the opportunity to play a beta game in our N64!

It seems that the reason Superman 64 was so bad was because the license owners crippled their creativity and keeping them from releasing the game they wanted to. As we can read at Proto Jon’s Blog:

Superman 64 was the first 3D action/adventure game that Titus worked on, as your prior 3D releases were racing and chess games. Do you feel that this hindered development?

Eric: The main issue was working with the licensor. They caused us so much trouble. Also our design originally was too ambitious compared to what an N64 was able to deliver…

Jon: Did Superman 64 turn out to be near what your team had envisioned at the start, or was the finished product sidetracked by hardware or other limitations?

Eric: Of course not. It is not even 10% of what we intended to do, but the licensor killed us!

Jon: What content was cut from the game? If you cut a lot from the game, then what were the big things that you wish you could have kept in the game?

Eric: I am not allowed to detail what we had to remove, but it was a lot.

Also, at Rareware Central we can read some interesting info from a beta versione of Superman 64, that… seems to have been better than the released one!

What it really seems like is that Titus were forced to completely remake the game one month before release. There are no rings, none of the stupid metropolis missions exist in the early version. And since the metropolis missions seemed very quickly made, it would make sense that they had to add them in the final stages of development.

A common problem with Superman 64 is how common glitches can be. In this version, glitches do still exist but it’s actually less glitchy than the retail. Also, remember when flying and you’d always get stuck? That rarely happens in this version.

One thing that actually shocked me was how they could remove the mission objectives screen. In the early version, at the start of a mission, text on the screen will let you know what your objectives are, once you’ve completed an objective, the objective screen get’s shown again with a check next to your completed objective. Along with that, you can pause the game at any time to view all your objectives, something Superman 64 really needed.

Kevin Ames also wrote a detailed article on the leaked beta:

Now this is where things get a little interesting. In 2011 An early and unfinished prototype version of Superman 64 came out of the woodwork. This prototype version was owned by someone working at RareWareCentral.com. The guy at RareWareCentral uploaded a 14 minute gameplay video and did the first article on beta Superman. For the first time ever we got to really see how the game should’ve been, before the licensor had gotten to it. Let me tell you it looked awesome. Some began to wonder, when would this get dumped? The guy at RareWareCentral had no intention of releasing the game.

Thanks to Celine, Andrew, Zero7, Kevin Ames and Rareware Central for the contributions!

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Top Gear Rally [N64 – Beta / Target Render / Proto]

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During the early days of the Nintendo Ultra 64, many racing games were announced for the console, including this Top Gear Rally, sequel of Top Gear for the Super Nintendo. The early images released showed a stunning graphics for its time, with wonderful light effects, high definition and good polygonal models: obviously, all these screens were taken from a target render, as the Nintendo 64 was never able to do such kind of graphic detail. The real Top Gear Rally is actually very different what they wanted us to believe, with more rough graphic, blurred out scenario and without all the lighting effects that made the tech demo so impressive. Some of the cars that we can see in the early screens seem almost cut and pasted in there with Photoshop.

We can also notice a different HUD and a smaller map. Probably these screenshots were created with the sole purpose of giving an idea of the look of the project, but without taking into account the actual technical features of the N64, not powerful enough to run a 3D engine too much complex for its time.

Also, ezri85 noticed some beta differences in the second video below:

The differences between it and the final version are subtle, but they are there. Not to mention the unused musical score that plays over it. From what I can see, the differences between this beta, and the release game are: some unfinalised vehicle textures, physics appear to be different/incomplete, track map is visible and some minor HUD differences.

italian_flag.jpg [spoiler /Clicca qui per la versione in Italiano/ /Nascondi la versione in Italiano/]Durante i primi mesi di vita del Nintendo 64 furono molti i giochi di corse annunciati per la console, fra cui questo Top Gear Rally, seguito dell’omonimo Top Gear per Super Nintendo. Le immagini precedenti all’uscita mostravano una grafica davvero straordinaria per l’epoca, con effetti luce e modelli poligonali che lasciavano a bocca aperta, promettendo qualità estetiche davvero realistiche.

Come ben sanno tutti i giocatori che hanno potuto provare la versione finale, l’aspetto di Top Gear Rally è in realtà molto diverso da come volevano farci credere queste foto del suo prototipo. Il gioco completo presenta una grafica decisamente più approssimativa, sfuocata e poco definita, senza tutti quegli effetti luce che rendevano impressionanti le foto beta. Osservando meglio il prototipo, è facile capire come questa versione di Top Gear Rally non girasse in tempo reale sul Nintendo 64, ma fosse solamente un concept in computer grafica, tanto che molte delle auto sembrano addirittura ritagliate ed incollate con Photoshop sui disegni poligonali delle piste.

Confrontandolo con le immagini della versione finale (a destra), possiamo notare anche la differente disposizione degli HUB con le informazioni della gara ed una mappa più piccola. Probabilmente questi screenshots erano stati creati con il solo scopo di dare un idea del proggetto futuro, ma senza tenere conto delle reali caratteristiche tecniche del Nintendo 64, non abbastanza potente per far girare un motore 3D di questa portata.[/spoiler]

Target Render:

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Final Version:

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