The announcement of Star Fox 2 for the Super Nintendo Classic edition marks an important step in video game preservation. Initially planned for release the near end of the Super Nintendo’s life, Star Fox 2 was quietly shelved in 1995, likely due to the impending release of the Nintendo 64. While many of its ideas would be incorporated into later entries, the game itself would not see the light of day for over a decade.
Around 2004, early prototypes of the game were leaked online. Fan translators quickly patched the game into a playable state for all to enjoy. What was surprising was just how ambitus Star Fox 2 was, ditching the linear progression of the first game for a more exploratory roguelike experience. For many, the leak of the Star Fox 2 prototype felt like closure to one of the most sought after canceled games. However, a 2015 Nintendo Life interview with a programmer who worked on the game, Dylan Cuthbert, revealed that there existed a fully mastered Star Fox 2 ROM, once again, sparking interest in the title.
The official release of Star Fox 2 may come as a surprise, but it’s not without precedent. 26 years after its initial cancellation, Nintendo would release the original Mother in North America, now known as Earthbound Beginnings. Though not as significant as Star Fox 2, Earthbound Beginnings showed a willingness by Nintendo to reach back into their vaults and release previously canceled games.
Significant steps have been taken in preserving these once lost games. Frank Cifaldi is one of the most notable preservationists, doing tremendous work over the last 14 years. He has released countless prototypes on his site Lost Levels and established the Video Game History Foundation, dedicated to creating a digital library of our gaming history. But for every Bio Force Ape or California Raisins found in the wild, there are a still a plethora of unreleased games waiting to be discovered. That is where game developers come in.
Back in October 2016, Rayman creator Michel Ancel found, what was thought to be lost, an early prototype of Rayman for the Super Nintendo. Jump to last week. Game developer Omar Cornut, who recently released an outstanding remake of Wonder Boy III with his studio Lizardcube, was able to contact Ancel and dump the Rayman prototype. Cornut promptly uploaded the ROM for everyone to grab. Without the original developer’s involvement, we would have never seen the release of this prototype. Yet, there are still many high-profile prototypes just waiting to be released by developers.
I myself, have a white whale of gaming prototypes. In 2015, Rare begun uploading a series of videos on YouTube revealing the history of many of their games. They gave fans a wealth of new information surrounding the development of Banjo Kazooie, Perfect Dark, and of course, Conker’s Bad Fur Day. In the Conker video, it was stated that they still, in fact, had a working prototype of the game that would eventually become Bad Fur Day, Twelve Tales: Conker 64.
During the development of Twelve Tales, Rare was criticized for working on yet another cutesy mascot platformer. When Banjo-Kazooie was released, Rare decided to change course on Conker, transforming him into the foul-mouthed, drunk squirrel we all grew to love. It was a fascinating transition, yet, I can’t help but feel such a drastic change meant content was left on the cutting room floor. From the footage that has been released, Twelve Tales looked to have been pretty far in development when the decision was made to overhaul the game.
The changes were so drastic, it’s hard thinking of them as the same game. Bad Fur Day streamlined many of the collect-a-thon elements found in platforming games at the time, placing a greater emphasis on cutscenes and humor. An official release of Twelve Tales would give fans great insight into how much a game can change over the course of its development. I would gladly pay for an official release if just to experience a small slice of gaming history.
Imagine if games ship with earlier builds as bonus content. Who wouldn’t love to see the original version of Resident Evil 4, which would eventually transform into Devil May Cry? Or Team Fortress 2 without its iconic cartoon-like visuals? Games are more than just their final release. There are magnificent stories yet to be told. What prototypes accomplish, is allowing us to witness these stories first hand. From games like Conker that was forced to change with the times, or Star Fox 2, which was abruptly canceled due to bad timing.
The medium of video games is still in its infancy. It is more important than ever to preserve their history before it is lost to time. Games are more than just mere entertainment. They are an influencing part of our culture which should be held with the same reverence as all the other arts. If you would like to learn more about game preservation, please visit and consider donating to The Video Game History Foundation. Another great website to visit is Unseen64, which chronicles the history beta and canceled games. And so I end with one final question: Are they any unreleased video games you would love to see get an eventual release? If so, why that particular game?