Famicom: Oct.-Dec. 1989

"Super Realism Action - Kage: Yami no Shigotonin KAGE" (full title)
Beta Versions

The soon-to-be-classic game Kage by Natsume, released as Shadow of the Ninja on the NES, went through a few changes before its release. Famitsu showed a well-polished, but still early version in December '89, in which our ninjas attacked with kicks and claw slashes, quite different from the more ordinary ninja weapons of the final.

The title and intro graphics are also a bit different, as are power-up canister and life bar graphics. The change is probably for the better, but not absolutely necessary.

The Beta version shows a title whose text is the same shape, but coloured and shaded very differently. This version has a flat, glossy gold sheen to it.

While the Final title has a much more carved-out bronze look.

The intros have different graphics, interestingly, for Garuda. The Beta version has a menacing, evil, lit-from-below look, with Garuda reaching out over the city.
The Final version has a more "cheerful" guy with a clawed, cupped hand. You can see that the hovering battleship is different too.
Here, we can see that attacks in the Beta are kick-based...
while in the Final, they're sword-based.
Other differences include a simple striped energy bar...
and different power-up container (below left).
Here is a short clip of the game on YouTube, taken from a Famimaga video in my collection:


Famimaga reported on Kage in April, 1990. The game had progressed and now looked much closer to the final version, barring the old intro graphics and thin, Mega-Man-like units for the health bar. The characters now attacked with their katana and kusarigama, not their feet like the earlier version.

Quite interestingly, the gear graphics in Stage 2 were different-looking, more futuristic and mechanical (left) than what we got in the end (right). The cannon enemy also got recoloured.