Akira (partially found builds of cancelled anime/manga tie-in game; 1994)
The title screen of the Sega Genesis version.
Status: Found (Sega Genesis version), Lost (other versions)
Date found: 25 Dec 2019 (Sega Genesis version)
Found by: Hidden Palace (Sega Genesis version)
Akira is a cancelled video game based on the anime film and manga series of the same name. The game, published by THQ, was intended for release sometime in 1994 and was planned for multiple consoles, including the Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis, Sega CD, Game Boy and Game Gear.
Video and screenshots of the game have circulated on the Internet, though ROMs or physical copies from most versions of the game have yet to surface. A ROM file of the Sega Genesis version was eventually found in December 2019.
Developer Jim Gregory, in an interview with the video game website Hardcore Gaming 101, shared details regarding his experiences working on the Super Nintendo version of Akira.
According to Gregory, the original developer Black Pearl had transferred the rights to the game during development to THQ. THQ made demands of the project that was not possible to perform due to the technical limitations of the consoles. The lead programmer of the game left the project, which further compromised the development process. These factors played a large role in the game's cancellation.
Gregory stated in the interview with Hardcore Gaming 101 that a physical copy of Akira for the Super Nintendo was never produced. The only playable builds were sent via modem to THQ. Despite this, THQ does not have a copy of the master's in its archive. THQ mastering lab tech Ryan Arnold hypothesized that the master copy is currently in possession of Akira's license holder.
Tom Meigs of Black Pearl confirmed that the company was also working on a Game Gear version of Akira. The progress of the game was destroyed when the programmer left the project. Approximately 30% of the game was completed.
A 1994 VHS release of the movie included a mail-in rebate offer for $5 with the purchase of both the movie and the video game.
Despite THQ's version of the game being cancelled, another attempt at making a video game based on Akira was released for the Commodore Amiga and the Amiga CD32 in 1994. Developed in the U.K. by I.C.E. Software and released only in Europe, it was critically panned and regarded by many as one of the worst games ever released for both platforms.
In December 2013, gameplay footage was discovered in a video of the 1994 Consumer Electronics Show uploaded by YouTube user pookninja3. The footage was taken from the Sega Genesis version of the game.
On April 27th, 2016, the game's intro and more gameplay footage were discovered in another video of the 1994 Consumer Electronics Show uploaded by PS Nation.
On August 26th, 2016, four prototypes of the Game Boy version, along with the also-unreleased Sega Genesis game Mallrats was found by Patrick Scott Patterson, aka OriginalPSP, and posted on Twitter the following day. He says that he never obtained unreleased prototypes before and prefers to have them dumped. On September 13th, 2016, it is confirmed that he will do a live Let's Play of both games at the Portland Retro Gaming Expo on October 22nd, 2016, from 4:30 to 5:15 PM.
On December 12th, 2016, Patrick Scott Patterson uploaded the the gameplay footage of the fourth prototype build of the Game Boy Version. The ROM included the 1st stage with intros and the final stage with the fetus monster form of Tetsuo. The 8-bit rendition of the film's soundtrack was not implemented yet in the build. Instead, a piece of jolly, mismatching music taken from the Game Boy port of Jack Nicklaus Golf was used as a placeholder.
On December 25th, 2019, Hidden Palace revealed that a cartridge of the Sega Genesis version of Akira was found, courtesy of user Matsuda and an anonymous donor. Drx dumped the ROM online, which was played during a Twitch stream on that same day. In the same blog post, they also shared sprites of an early build of the yet undiscovered Super Nintendo version, provided by former members of Handmade Software, the studio that worked on that version until its cancellation.
Approximately 65% of the game's data can be accessed within the game itself. The remaining 35% consists of unused assets.
Gameplay, Console Differences, and Other Information
Video game journalist Phil Theobald shared his experiences playing the Sega Genesis version at the 1994 Consumer Electronics Show. According to Theobald, each level of the game played differently. A motorcycle racing level, a first-person shooter level, an isometric perspective level, a beat-em-up level, and a side-scrolling platformer level were all included in the game. Screenshots and the video of the game confirm much of his account.
According to Jim Gregory's testimony, the Super Nintendo release was intended to be a traditional platform game throughout. This version would borrow elements from the manga in addition to the film. A 16-bit rendition of the film's score was produced but could not be used due to licensing issues.
The Game Gear edition was a side-scrolling action game with bike segments between levels.
- Hardcore Gaming 101 article. Retrieved 29 Aug '16
- Hardcore Gaming 101's article about Akira for the Commodore Amiga. Retrieved 04 Jan '20
- Twitter post about the prototypes of the Game Boy version. Retrieved 29 Aug '16
- NintendoAge.com forum thread about the discovery of the four prototypes of the Game Boy version. Retrieved 29 Aug '16
- Twitter post for the confirmation of the live Let's Play at the Portland Retro Gaming Expo. Retrieved 27 Sept '16
- Portland Retro Gaming Expo 2016 schedule. Retrieved 27 Sept '16
- Hidden Palace's blog post about the discovery of Akira for the Sega Genesis., Retrieved 26 Dec '19
- Hidden Palace's Twitch stream of Akira for the Sega Genesis. Retrieved 26 Dec '19