Dinosaur Planet (found build of cancelled Nintendo 64 3D action-adventure game; 1999-2000)
Original artwork and logo of the game.
Date found: 20 Feb 2021
Found by: Forest of Illusion
Dinosaur Planet was planned to be Rare Software's last game for the Nintendo 64. It was presented at the E3 2000 trade show. Afterwards, it was infamously retooled into Star Fox Adventures, released for the GameCube in 2002.
Dinosaur Planet was an action-adventure game set in a world inhabited by dinosaurs and other reptilian creatures. Unlike Star Fox Adventures, which featured voice acting in a fictional dinosaur language in addition to English, the dialogue was entirely in English.
Gameplay focused on two separate characters: Sabre and Krystal. Both were fully playable and had sidekicks as well as specialized attacks. The player would switch between them by standing on "SwapStones".
Dinosaur Planet entered development after the 1997 release of Diddy Kong Racing. The main character was originally Timber, the tiger from said game, but character designer Kevin Bayliss soon decided to replace him with a new character, Sabre, as well as the addition of Krystal. Rare planned an epic adventure full of cinematic sequences, voiced dialogue, and cutting-edge graphics powered by the 4-megabyte RAM Expansion Pak, all contained within a 512-megabit (64-megabyte) cartridge, the largest N64 cartridge size available. About a year into development, Rare put together a demo which was shown off at E3 2000, garnering positive reception.
When the developers travelled to Los Angeles to present the game at E3 2000, they were told they had a meeting scheduled with Nintendo to discuss the demo; Nintendo of Japan were very impressed with the game and wanted to arrange a "marriage" between the Star Fox and Dinosaur Planet IPs. Rare agreed, and so Nintendo designer Shigeru Miyamoto and artist Takaya Imamura worked with them to help with design and drafting a new storyline to accommodate the Star Fox material, causing heavy changes in content.
The game soon transitioned to the GameCube, where it was planned as a launch title, but it was delayed due to issues stemming from the discs' increased loading times over cartridges, as well as faults with the AI of Tricky, the dinosaur companion.
Sabre was changed to Fox McCloud, Krystal was heavily demoted (and infamously changed into a "damsel in distress" role), entire scenes were removed, and the final boss fight was also cut, but the information within the game's files reveal some of what was planned.
The final game, released in 2002, was well-received by critics but received mixed reviews from fans of the Star Fox franchise; the game received praise for its detailed visuals and its Legend of Zelda-inspired gameplay, but there were common criticisms including the lack of the franchise's famed shoot'em up gameplay and its weak voice acting.
From what is known of the Nintendo 64 version, it had high-quality graphics for the time and decent sound effects (it's possible many heard are placeholders).
On February 20th, 2021, Forest of Illusion announced that a build of Dinosaur Planet was released to the public. The leak was possible thanks to the purchase of a CD-ROM with the game in it, from a Swedish video game collector. The build is dated December 1st, 2000, meaning that it's a late version of the game, shortly after its revamp into Star Fox Adventures.
- Download of Dinosaur Adventure on the Internet Archive. Retrieved 20 Feb '21
- The Cutting Room Floor's page on files left over from Dinosaur Planet in Star Fox Adventures. Retrieved 05 Dec '18
- Rare Thief compilation of Dinosaur Planet material. Retrieved 22 Feb '21
- The Unseen64 article, features piles of images and video. Retrieved 23 Mar '15
- IGN's impressions on the E3 2000 demo. Retrieved 23 Feb '21
- Kevin Bayliss recounts Dinosaur Planet's development. Retrieved 23 Feb '21
- Nintendo Life's article on the making of Star Fox Adventures, with a brief mention of Dinosaur Planet. Retrieved 05 Dec '18
- Metacritic's page on Star Fox Adventures. Retrieved 05 Dec '18
- Forest of Illusion's tweet about Dinosaur Planet's dump. Retrieved 20 Feb '21
- Rare’s cancelled N64 game Dinosaur Planet has leaked online - Video Games Chronicle Retrieved 23 Feb '21