PC-Engine: July-Sep. 1988

Unreleased "Bike" game & LCD TV

NEC showed off a real handful of games and peripherals at the 1988 Tokyo Toy Show in June of that year. The biggest announcement was of course the CD-ROM unit that would go on sale in December, but there were other peripherals such as the printer/plotter, joystick, and LCD TV, seen below. (One wonders what the point of a dedicated TV would even be for a home system, but anyway, cash-crazy NEC eventually released such a TV for the Duo in 1991.)

Other announced but unreleased games from the show was the game seen to the right, simply titled "Bike", and the long-promised Wardner no Mori. Bike looks quite good for a Hudson driving game, but I question how well those billboards would have scaled in the final game. Oh, well.

These screenshots of prototypes for Alien Crush and Power Golf show quite a few differences to the final games. The then-titled "Golf" game had quite a simpler, zoomed-in view of the green and tee-off, until Hudson had a rethink and decided to copy Nintendo's Golf game's viewpoint instead.

Dungeon Explorer!

This classic PCE game had its grand unveiling at the Tokyo Toy Show in June 1988, and was slated for release in October-December of that year. In actuality, it was finally released in March of '89, delayed for some reason.

(Hackers might be interested to know that the internal date of the released Dungeon Explorer ROM appears to be "10-30", October 30th, 1988 possibly.)

Anyway, the earliest shown version of DE had several major differences to the final version, most notably a much larger, beefier blond Rambo-like fighter sprite. Later beta versions shrank the players but differences still exist, as can be seen below

Other notes to fill up space: Some magazine screenshots show players "inside" the walls, meaning that they probably had access to the game's famous DEBDE-DEBDA debug code. However, some of the hit point gauges show invalid characters instead of numbers, so this display must have been fixed up during development.

Another thing I wanted to note is the sheer darkness of the game's graphics. I've brightened them up considerably in the final screenshots so that they're not a murky mess.

Speaking of graphics, the artist for the title screen and "landscape" introduction seems to be a different person from the in-game artist, don't you think? The title frame and landscapes are all dithered and grainy, while in-game almost everything has a metallic sheen. The title frame reminded me of the intro graphics in Bio Senshi Dan, another game Atlus worked on. (Oh, and PC Genjin's ditheriness as well...)

The title screen here shows the different planned year of release.
A few differences can be seen here and there, including a differently-coloured spiral tower, and a pyramid (? castle?) instead of a town.

The opening inn is really interesting. It's decorated like a hostess bar / cabaret, instead of the medieval inn of the final. The welcome mat was a nice touch, though...

The earliest version of the game (below) had a simple player selection menu, while this was done at the inn in the proto and final versions. The text spoken by the innkeeper changes slightly between versions.

Interestingly, one of the guards is green in the proto version, and the king sits flush against the wall.

Here is a screenshot from the earliest version. Note the two large, beefy fighters among the team. The status bar shows different graphics for the white and black magic potions, and the borders are different too.

This exact location in the game doesn't seem to exist anymore, either.

An early version of the game again. The enemies could just be yellow versions of the Golems in the same dungeon in the final, but they also look kinda like tentacled aliens, don't they?
I think this boneyard doesn't appear at all in the final game. Dungeon Explorer in its early versions seemed to be closer in structure to Alien Syndrome than Gauntlet, I think.
No major differences, just a lot more pits blocking your way.
One noticeable difference between the final and proto are the slim, smooth walls throughout this dungeon. The final replaces it with pyramidal blocks with knobs on top.
Some areas of the dungeon used to have laser/fire beam generators instead of the usual flame throwers.
These beam generators do show up in the final game in a much later dungeon.
What's with that one flame generator facing to the left? Can it hit anyone there?
Same triangular walls as in the other proto pics.
Shadows, or "gutters"(?) seem to run vertically along the floor in some areas. Could it be in places where a force is pulling you?
Finally, one of the brighter levels, this rose castle formerly had Greek goddess statues instead of the cyclops gargoyles in the final game.