As mentioned in the last post, I was very busy last week with running the arcade at the Salt Lake Comic Con. Moving huge games like Star Wars Battle Pod, Dariusburst Another Chronicle or ReRave take a lot of time (and heap on the stress) so I might have missed something out there – if so, I will do what I can to cover it this week.
Interest in video games is higher than ever, and with that interest comes attention to extremely rare or prototype games. Perhaps some of the allure is due to the fact that chances of a cancelled game getting played by anyone outside of the original development team are extremely low. I personally find some interest from efforts that have months or often years of work put into them and yet all anyone might know about the game is a screenshot or low resolution video as evidence of the effort.
Sometimes there are programmers who had the chance to preserve what is left of a failed project but that is not always the case when a title was a corporate project and what was left was thrown away or put up for auction. Sometimes in those instances a fortunate collector was able to get their hands on something that otherwise might have been lost forever. With a prototype appearing at an arcade, that gives the wider public the opportunity to give the game a spin but coming across an arcade that has the interest or opportunity to feature a prototype can be low. In my 7 years of running an arcade business I’ve had the opportunity to put up two prototype games for play (The Act and Pac-Man Battle Royale Tournament Edition; the former recently had a JAMMA issue and so far the prognosis of making the game playable again is slim; this of course is the risk with such rare games) but if you really want to find what I believe is the largest collection of prototype games to play in one place, that would be the world’s largest video arcade in Brookfield, IL, The Galloping Ghost Arcade. Just this year they have put up several prototype games for patrons to enjoy, so let’s take a look at what you can now find there among prototype titles.
In alphabetical order:
Bio Freaks – This one was an odd case of getting cancelled for arcades but it ended up getting a release on the Nintendo 64 console. As a 3D fighting game released in 1998, it didn’t prove itself good enough to stand up against titles like Tekken and has been relatively forgotten by time. This runs on Midway’s Seattle hardware.
Freeze – Galloping Ghost recently added this prototype that was in development for the Atari Jaguar based CoJag hardware which the famous Area 51 ran on. The game itself is a puzzle game that was practically finished, they had a flyer in English and Japanese ready to go. This one was axed thanks to timing of Atari Games being bought by Midway. GGA owner Doc Mack explains it in more detail in this video below:
Hammer Away – Recently discovered in Portugal, the ROMs for this Sega shoot ’em up were recovered and put online. Since the game used System 18 hardware, one could burn the ROMs and install them onto such a board and play the game as it was meant to be played.
International Team Laser – Eventually released as Blasted by Bally Midway, this was a 4 player version prototype version. It was donated to GGA by the game’s artist, Brian Colin.
Video here also includes RC Squared which is mentioned further down the post:
Judge Dredd – Even though this was never released (aside from a MAME dump), in looking around you see users labelling this game as “worst game ever made?” While that is always an arbitrary measurement, it gives you a hint as to why the game was never produced after testing. This would have used the Midway T Unit, which is the same hardware as Mortal Kombat I & II as well as NBA Jam.
Primal Rage II – This is perhaps the most famous prototype game that the Ghost has, the sequel to Atari Games’ semi-popular dinosaur fighting game. When the game was taken to a convention, it was almost lost after a careless patron spilled their beer on to the game and subsequently the board but they were able to save the game and keep it going. I do admit that I was a little perplexed as to why this one got so much media attention while the other protos they have on hand have generated comparitively little interest. Still, what they have is playable enough to see the direction the game was headed in before getting sacked. This originally ran on the CoJag hardware before jumping over to a Sony PSX based hardware board.
RC Squared – This was being developed by Game Refuge (which is still around, led by Brian F. Colin) for EA back in the 90s, getting the axe when EA decided to pull out of arcade developments.
Trog – This game was a case of the title in question getting a release however when the prototype ROMs were discovered, the early versions of this game were different from the released product. Instead of you directly controlling the dinosaur through the maze collecting eggs in something like Pac-Man, you instead would lay bones around to guide your dinosaur to the goal. In that sense, it started out more as a puzzle/strategy game that evolved into the Pac-Man concept. Designed by George Petro (now President of Play Mechanix). Galloping Ghost has both the released and prototype versions of the game. Both run on the Midway Y hardware.
That concludes what they have added to the arcade in recent times – what prototype arcade games would you like to play (on an original cabinet)?