N64 Month | Nintendo's Missing in Action - Part 2: Dinosaur Planet (Star Fox Adventures)

By Az Elias 25.03.2012 12

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Many moons ago, Nintendo and Rare fans were eagerly anticipating what looked to be a very promising Nintendo 64 game -- Dinosaur Planet. An action adventure game with a fox as the main character, fans better know the final product as Star Fox Adventures on the GameCube. It was never intended to come out the way it did, with many original ideas scrapped. Following on from Part 1 of the MiA feature's look at RiQa, Cubed3 takes a look at what Dinosaur Planet could have been, and how it ended up as a surprise entry in the Star Fox series.


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.


 

Whilst fans will notice plenty that did make its way into SFA, such as music and locations, the warpstone, the dinosaur sidekicks and the galleon battle at the start to name just a few, it is a terrible shame that, despite Dinosaur Planet seemingly being quite far along in development, we may never get the chance to see Rare’s originally proposed concepts for this game fully realised. But, even though the game went through a tough time in development, the end result of Star Fox Adventures was still a good one. Rare’s graphical talent was still so apparent, with “fur-shading” being used to incredible effect, and actually still looks better than a lot of Wii games of today. It was a good adventure game, with trademark humour, and some great Arwing levels that Star Fox fans enjoyed. Playable N64 demos of Dinosaur Planet may be sitting snugly somewhere in the world, so we may yet get to see more of the game some day, but for now we can only continue to wonder what could have been and feed off of fans’ efforts of uncovering more secret files.
Box art for Dinosaur Planet (Cancelled)
Also known as

Star Fox Adventures

Developer

Rare

Publisher

Nintendo

Genre

Adventure

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  n/a

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date None   North America release date None   Japan release date None   Australian release date None   

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Comments

It's bizarre how so much of this can be seen in almost identical ways to its finished StarFox counterpart.

It's a real shame that things happened the way they did though, I'd have loved to see what the original could have turned out like.

Twitter | C3 Writer/Moderator | Backloggery

I actually didn't know any of that. A really well done article. Will we be seeing more, Azuardo?

Angus said:
I actually didn't know any of that. A really well done article. Will we be seeing more, Azuardo?

Thanks! Glad you like. I can certainly look into doing more.

The more I read into the original ideas for Dinosaur Planet, the more I became sadder at the fact it never happened. Knowing the quality of the old Rare back then, this game could have been one of the greatest of its time, I'm sure. Some of the dialogue conversations and text data fans have uncovered mention things like time travel and a Krazoan war. Clearly adding Star Fox characters meant a lot of stuff had to be cut and changed. It's a real sad story made even sadder that we'll likely never see the original ideas come to fruition.

Good article. Smilie

I knew all of this & was dissapointed at the time that it didn't get released on N64. It would have been a classic N64 game I'm sure.

The finished product turned out to be one of the best games on Gamecube, even with all that was cut & changed. The graphics (as you say) would rival any Wii game & the adventure was fairly engrossing. I'd definitaley recomend it to anyone looking for old Gamecube games to play on their Wii.

Angus said:
I actually didn't know any of that. A really well done article. Will we be seeing more, Azuardo?

This is actually the second in this reboot of C3's MiA articles (used to be focused on games never released on Nintendo systems - Football Manager, .hack, etc).

Part 1 of the new series is here, based on another cancelled N64 game, RiQa, which was meant to be Nintendo's answer to Tomb Raider. Part 3 will look at Mother 3 on N64, which eventually became a Japanese-only GBA title. There may be a Part 4 based on Rev Limit as well, but it's all dependent on time at the moment...

Adam Riley [ Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited ]
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I vaguely remember that Shenmue one, but I just read the RiQa too and I have to say, they're very enjoyable piece. They're certainly a lot better than the opinion pieces that plague N4G. Anyway, I saw Mother 3 for the GBA this morning but didn't know whether to buy it, so I'm looking forward to Part 3.

Good stuff Az Smilie

I only new vague bits but not the whole story as such. Shame about some of those changes in a bid to switch to Star Fox. Would love them to release the original version on XBLA (though this might be a touchy subject) or even a remake/spruced up version for 3DS.

The problem I had with it was that Star Fox always felt so bolted on, and though Adventures was a good game it was hard to look past its inclusion. If they went down the original route I think it would have fared a lot better, especially as Rare's N64 send-off.

( Edited 26.03.2012 14:46 by jb )

Cubed3 Admin/Founder & Designer

At the time of getting SFA, I didn't know the full story, either. I knew it started out as Dino Planet, but like you, jb, didn't know the extent of how much was cut. It was painfully obvious when looking at the minute playable part of Krystal and the General Scales battle that never was, that the game was supposed to be more than that, though.

I don't know how many of the team that worked on Dino Planet are still at Rare now, so I'm not sure if the project could be brought back and end up as intended, but I would give everything to see it happen.

I thoroughly enjoyed SFA to pieces when I got it, though. It was simply a mix of Zelda and Star Fox to me, so win-win. It was one of those that I could replay and fly through again and again, and I was mad for the Musclefoot Strength Test, which I remember making a topic for here. I may revive that again soon. It's also amazing just how high end the graphics were, considering it was a first wave GameCube game, and still looks better than so much on the Wii today. Rare were extremely talented people. But it has to be said, I would have preferred to see what Dino Planet was supposed to have been, and would have been even better to see it on the GameCube with those graphics.

This was indeed a very informative and well written article. Good job, Az! Smilie

All I really knew before reading this was that Starfox Adventures was made from another game, much like Kirby's Epic Yarn was. Really surprising just how similar some Dinosaur Planet footage looks to SFA. I agree on the graphics part too; for an early Gamecube game it looks amazing.

I had a great time playing it back in the day, although it was exactly the Musclefoot strength test that gave me major trouble as a kid, though it wasn't a big deal anymore when I replayed it a few years ago. Thank god I had a turbo Gamecube controller back then, or I would have gone insane trying to beat that. Smilie

Thanks! Good feedback. May have to do another one.

Since we're on the SFA topic, I'll bump my old Musclefoot thread up (for the second time), and see if anyone is interested in competing again.

Great read! More stuff like this please. Smilie

I realise it's the last day, but you should have done one on Conker's Twelve Tales (which became Conker's BAD FUR DAY).


 

 

^ Probably the best footage I've seen.

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