One of the holy grails of the Nintendo 64 has leaked thanks to the preservation group Forest of Illusion. The N64 ROM for Dinosaur Planet, which eventually became Star Fox Adventures on GameCube, was released today to much fanfare. Thanks to assets left in demos of Star Fox Adventures and the final game, we knew that Dinosaur Planet was pretty far along in development when it was canceled. However, according to the group, after some hacking, it should be playable to the end.
What makes the Dinosaur Planet N64 ROM different from Star Fox Adventures?
Today we have released Dinosaur Planet by Rare for Nintendo 64. The development was halted and moved to the GameCube, where it was then released as Star Fox Adventures. Enjoy! (More info in this thread).
— Forest of Illusion (@forestillusion) February 20, 2021
When development began on Dinosaur Planet in 1997, Rare never intended for it to be related to the Star Fox franchise in any way. It was initially meant to be an open-world adventure game (ala Zelda 64) based around two characters, Sabre and Krystal. While Star Fox Adventures focuses almost entirely on Fox, Dinosaur Planet’s would be spread between Sabre and Krystal, and players would be able to swap between them using the SwapStone.
Dinosaur Planet would have been one of the swansongs of the Nintendo 64. With a likely release date of sometime in 2001, it would have been among the last AAA titles released for the consoles. As such, Rare went all out. The game would have come on a 512-megabit (64 MB) cartridge, the largest made for the system, and utilized the Expansion Pak.
However, while reviewing the work done on Dinosaur Planet, Shigeru Miyamoto suggested that Sabre looked a lot like Fox McCloud. Nintendo requested that the game be converted to a Star Fox title and be converted to a launch title for the upcoming GameCube. Many aspects of Dinosaur Planet carried over to Star Fox Adventures, but large portions of the plot had to be rewritten to accommodate Fox as the main character. Sabre was eliminated, with Fox taking his place, and Rare reduced krystal’s role to that of a damsel in distress. Additionally, all of the art assets had to be rebuilt from scratch to utilize the GameCube’s more powerful hardware.
The Dinosaur Planet ROM that Forest of Illusion released is a very late build dated December 1, 2000. Interestingly, this ROM seems to be from a point after it was decided to make it a Star Fox game. Players will find that Fox McCloud has already replaced Sabre’s in-game model. However, the character portrait in the top left still shows Sabre’s face, and he is still referred to as “Sabre” in several parts of the game. Fortunately, it’s highly likely that Sabre’s assets are still in the game files, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a hack restoring the game to its pre-Star Fox state in the near future.
Between the GoldenEye 007 XBLA drop and this leak, Rare fans have been getting a treat lately. Now, if only we could get the original G-rated version of Conker…