Most Famicom fans by now know about Konami's Ai Senshi Nicol, an overhead-view action game set in a sci-fi universe. Well, the game was of course previewed in Japanese magazines in the first half of 1987, along with reviews, maps and strategy guides.
These early previews show a beta version of Nicol -- not altogether looking too different from the released version, but rearranged nonetheless. The title screen and status screen (see right) contain the most obvious differences, with the beta having no(?) continue/progress-saving option, and the items not having been named yet.
Structurally, the biggest difference in Ai Senshi Nicol is the level ordering, with the mountain stage (release stage 2) or sea/ruins (stage 3) coming first, depending on which magazine reported on the game. The stages that follow are either the release's stage 1 or stage 4, and so on. So, a bit of level rejigging was done at Konami to get the difficulty or thematic balance right.
There may be other level layout differences, so if you see any in the pics below, let me know!
I get annoyed when people criticize DDP/SMB2 as being a bastard child, "not part of the Mario series." It ignores the fact that Miyamoto and his best men were the creators of this game.
Nintendo themselves emphasized the Mario-DDP link in their promotional materials, showing Mario giving a right-on to Imajin, and depicting the heroes and heroines of both games on their telephone cards.
Doki Doki Panic is more Mario than Mario RPG, anyway... :-/