Where did it all begin?Believe it or not, the first ideas for Dinosaur Planet were that of a racing-adventure crossover. Fresh off of making Diddy Kong Racing, it is suggested that the game could have been started as a sequel of sorts to Rare’s monkey racer. Each level was intended to have a race track, with the end product of the GameCube’s Star Fox Adventures showing evidence of this in its racing portions of the Ice Mountain and CloudRunner Fortress mines. The team settled on a full-blown action adventure for their next project, eventually revealing Dinosaur Planet for Nintendo 64 to the masses at E3 2000, with an estimated release date of early 2001. Designed to utilise the N64 Expansion Pak and be crammed into a 512-megabit cartridge -- something only the likes of Donkey Kong 64 had done -- showed that Rare meant business with this game, planning on pushing the N64 to the max, just as the company had always strived to do in their previous games.
What was it all about?Rare had dabbed their hands into a variety of genres by the time the Nintendo 64 was reaching the final years of its life, but a more role-playing action adventure wasn’t one of them. Dinosaur Planet was an ambitious idea for the UK-based developers, but one that had the potential to do extremely well given the success of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. It was obvious that Rare had drawn a lot of inspiration from Zelda, with everything from control setup to Z-targeting emulating that of the 1998 masterpiece. With cinematic story-driven games lacking on the N64, Rare intended to counter this with Dinosaur Planet by creating over 50 characters and providing full voice acting.
Dinosaur Planet’s original script was based around two anthropomorphic foxes, called Sabre and Krystal, that the player could switch between using two swapstones (giant rock creatures called Rocky and Rubble), set on a planet that the game got its title from. Sabre was the son of the great wizard Randorn and had an older brother that had previously been killed in battle. Following the death of his son, grieving Randorn disappeared, and an adult sword-wielding Sabre vowed to find his father with the help of his sidekick, Tricky the triceratops. Krystal was orphaned at a young age and was adopted by Randorn, presumably during the time he left Sabre. She, too, had a dino companion in Tricky’s brother, as well as a pterodactyl called Kyte which she could ride on and fought enemies with a staff throughout the course of the game. The story was split equally across both characters, with half of the game played as Sabre, and another half as Krystal, each with their own levels. The antagonist was General Scales of the SharpClaw tribe. It is believed the two protagonists would cross paths eventually, as the player continued to flick between them.
Why did it disappear?After the game was shown to the world and Miyamoto got a chance to play it, he went on record as saying in an interview that main character Sabre looked a lot like Nintendo’s Star Fox lead Fox McCloud, and joked that he should ask Rare to turn it into Star Fox game. This quote was widely publicised, with Rare eventually hearing word of it, but the game bearing any resemblance to Fox was completely unintentional. Not long afterwards, a meeting proposed the idea of changing Dinosaur Planet to Star Fox. Despite some reluctance, Star Fox was still a big IP, and so Rare went ahead with it. By this time, the GameCube was edging closer to launch, and it was decided to port development of the game to Nintendo’s fourth home console instead. The title received a new name: Star Fox Adventures: Dinosaur Planet.
Due to the shift of franchise, a lot of the original content from Dinosaur Planet was cut. About 1/3 of the levels were gone, and since Krystal had only a bit part role now, her levels were either transferred to Fox or removed entirely. The game featured many gorgeous and tropical locales, one of which was “Discovery Falls,” but this, too, was cut. After not long, the “Dinosaur Planet” subtitle was dropped, and it became simply Star Fox Adventures. Another twist in the tale cropped up when it became apparent that Microsoft wanted to buy Rare off Nintendo. With the deal looming, Rare had very little time to finish up their project, and once more the team had to chop parts to meet the deadline. The final battle with General Scales is one of the more obvious chunks to be trimmed out. In the end, it was evident that the final product was rushed, and a far cry from the designers’ original conceptions.
It is really sad to see what happened to Dinosaur Planet. It had the potential to be a really high quality title, and going off of Rare’s history, you could have placed a lot of money on it being one of the games of its era. It looked to be pushing the Nintendo 64 to its limits, and it is a shame that, even after moving the project over to the GameCube, they could not realise their original ideals, instead worming the Star Fox characters into it and cutting a lot of content. Interested fans have managed to locate a lot of unused text inside the files of Star Fox Adventures, revealing dialogue from both the original Dinosaur Planet and SFA storylines. It seems that Rare had plenty of ideas for the project, including time travel in order to save Sabre, and a pretty deep and dark plot that can somewhat be unravelled by researching some of the hidden dialogue online.