A Double-Edged Sword

In the book Masters of DOOM, author David Kushner paints John Romero, the co-founder of id Software, who shaped the first-person shooter genre with the likes of Wolfenstein 3D, DOOM, and QUAKE, with broad strokes as a press-loving playboy–a rock star, with the mane to match, who basks in the limelight and promises more than he programs. The other John at the company, John Carmack, is the ying to Romero’s yang–an asocial, steely perfectionist who desires little more than pizza and Diet Coke and to be left alone to toil at his latest high-tech game engine.

As a literary device, Kushner weaves into the narrative an elaborate and lengthy Dungeons & Dragons campaign that the id team plays on the side, with Carmack presiding as the Dungeon Master. After Romero brashly captures the Demonicron, a darkly dangerous item that possesses the power to either assist them in conquering or obliterating this grand fantasy world of theirs, Carmack conducts a test to see how far Romero’s recklessness would take him. A demon is introduced to the game who makes Romero an offer: Trade the Demonicron for the ultimate weapon–the Daikatana. Despite pleas from the other players, Romero can’t help but make the deal with the devil, which results in all horrors of hell being unleashed, everyone dying, and Carmack declaring that the game is over–for good.

According to Romero, the real game at id was over when he left on his own accord after QUAKE was finished.

“Well, I left id Software because I wanted to have more creative freedom over my games and to do more games than just one every year,” he said to PC Games CD-ROM & Mag in 1997 (link).

The Dungeon Master looked at Romero’s departure differently.

“John’s a good designer, and he’s got artistic talent. But the fact is that after he got rich and famous, the push to work just wasn’t there anymore,” Carmack told TIME magazine. “He was handed his resignation.”

In that same article, Romero described id as “just too limiting… Too small. Small thinking” (link).

Daikatana, or John Romero’s Daikatana as the box cover reads, would be anything but small.

“This was a visionary approach to the genre, and if first-person shooter games were to evolve, then Daikatana would be the next logical step,” Christian Divine, the game’s script writer, wrote in Salon. “When John told me that story and dialogue would be integral to Daikatana, he stressed his desire to push the boundaries, to make the world emotionally immersive. He wanted the epic quality of the Final Fantasy games, that unique brand of anime science fantasy romanticism” (link).

Inspired by Romero’s favorite game, Chrono Trigger, the time-traveling tale would span millennia through a futuristic Japan, Ancient Greece, Medieval Norway, and a dystopic San Francisco, and star Hiro Miyamoto (“who looks suspiciously like Romero,” Newsweek commented) as a homage to Nintendo software designer Shigeru Miyamoto, who had created another of his most beloved titles in Super Mario Bros. 3 (“the biggest, best 8-bit Mario ever made” [link]).

At the newly formed ION Storm (the “ION” being the last three letters of the words Vision, Creation, and Communication), in the swanky glass-ceiling penthouse duplex of the JPMorgan Chase Tower, overlooking downtown Dallas, the motto was “Design is Law” (link). If that were true, then Daikatana‘s 400-page design document, which combined traditional first-person shooting play mechanics with role-playing elements, was the legislation.

Running on the QUAKE engine, the first-person shooter would have the player accompanied by two interactive AI-controlled companions, the feisty and attractive Mikiko Ebihara and a blaxploitation buddy named Superfly Johnson, to add an emotional component to the solitary “blow shit up” philosophy that defined Romero’s former DOOM days. Joining the globetrotting epic would be 35 different weapons, 64 monsters, and infinitely more hype than the media could feed on.

(Image source: YouTube.com/PC Games CD-ROM & Mag)

But previewing the game at 1997’s E3, a show brimming with big shooters using big, new technology–Unreal, QUAKE II, and Half-Life to just name a few–made Romero’s Daikatana, which literally translates to “Big Sword,” look more like a butter knife by comparison. He sheathed his magnum opus to switch over to the QUAKE II engine in late 1997, when the game was originally set to be released, a move that would require another year’s worth of work. CEO Mike Wilson resigned shortly thereafter to found the publishing company Gathering of Developers (a.k.a. “GOD Games”) in a converted Dallas church, which would lure most of the disenchanted Daikatana development team away in a mass exodus in November 1998.

In early 1999, internal company documents and private e-mails leaked to the Dallas Observer formed an image of the Eidos-backed developer as a skyscraper-perched studio caught in storm clouds, “a toxic mix of prima donnas and personality cults” that spent hundreds of thousands on PR and nearly a million a month in other expenses.

“In the meantime, ION has become a little like one of John Romero’s own nightmare worlds,” the newspaper wrote. “For Romero, Porter, and the remaining owners, the goal is to take advantage of the hype and the hot market to milk as much cash as they can from the company. For Eidos, the goal is to force ION to get its titles out the door and try to recoup some of the $26 million it has sunk into the company. And for many of the workers, the goal is to find the exit and go play somewhere else” (link).

After the story ran, the reporter of the piece was served with a subpoena by ION Storm’s lawyers (link). The corporate wrangling began.

“When I came in as president of Eidos U.S.,” Rob Dyer told GameSpot, “I just told the guys at ION, ‘Shut your mouths and work on the game. I don’t want to see your names in the press’” (link).

Eidos sent its vice president of product development to oversee the game’s completion. He spoke bluntly to Entertainment Weekly: “I’ll be honest. If it weren’t for the design talent here, we’d have shot ION Storm like a redheaded stepchild” (link).

By that time, the enthusiast press and once fawning fans had turned on the continually stalled game–and on Romero, personally, attacking his lifestyle and even his love life.

“It’s a typical media paradigm: put somebody on a pedestal and then kick it away,” Divine said about the media attacks (link).

After more broken deadlines, disappointing demos, and the departure of two of ION Storm’s co-founders who left after Eidos acquired a controlling stake in the business, a May 2000 press release announced that the game was finally shipping after a lengthy amount of bug-testing (link).

“I’m very proud of Daikatana,” Romero said in a statement that sounded contractual, “it delivers all the fast-paced action and thrills that I had hoped for and I consider it the best game I’ve worked on.”

Critics felt otherwise, giving Daikatana mostly middling reviews. A common trend was to liken the game to the big-budgeted Kevin Costner flop Waterworld, or contrast its technical outdatedness with Carmack’s recent QUAKE III Arena, a prettier game that cuts out a single-player story for faster thrills and kills (and, of course, to show off id Tech 3, its cutting-edge engine).

The stripped-down Nintendo 64 port fared worse, with Romero himself calling it “abysmal,” and Nintendo Power writing that “The Super NES DOOM is better than this.”

Unbeknownst to many is that a third, entirely different take on Daikatana appeared that same year to a far kinder reception.

(Image source: JohnRomero.com)

After being announced in May 1999, IGN Pocket reported the first details about Daikatana Adventure on the Game Boy Color in the fall (link). Vatical Entertainment, which had a distribution alliance with KEMCO–its vice president of development previously served as general manager of KEMCO’s American branch–was initially going to publish it Stateside (link, link). The New York-based company’s name is derived from “Vates,” a Latin word used to describe a class of soothsaying Celtic priests who performed human sacrifices to try to predict future outcomes.

You can tell where this is headed.

Its developer, KEMCO, set a ship date of December 17, which would coincide with a decadent 300-guest “missed release” PC game party that ION Storm would throw in Dallas, but IGN added that the scaled-down conversion may be pushed to early 2000 (link). This prompted the gaming site to jest that Daikatana Adventure could just beat the game it’s based on to the market (link).

“The joke spread like a virus,” IGN revealed later, “and caused ION Storm to put out a press release that insisted that the PC version was still on track and that the game was going to be released first before any other port” (link).

(Image source: KEMCO-Games.com)

When E3 arrived the following year, Daikatana Adventure made the runner-up spot for Best Handheld Adventure in IGN’s “Best of E3 2000” Awards, with The Legend of Zelda Oracle series winning the category (link). “The game looked and played great–just very Japanese,” the site commented. “And that suits the game extremely well” (link).

Romero was also pleased with the title.

“The Game Boy Color version of Daikatana was designed to be like Zelda on the NES and it succeeded brilliantly,” he wrote on his personal website (link).

The game was now due out in July (link).

That deadline came and passed as KEMCO scrambled to salvage its Nintendo 64 console adaptation for the U.S. market by first sending the game to Blockbuster stores as a rental-only exclusive in the summer before making it available on retail shelves that November for the bargain bin price of $19.99 (as opposed to the 6,980 yen that it charged in Japan back in April) (link, link, link).

Meanwhile, Daikatana Adventure was shown to Japanese audiences at Nintendo Space World in August and was slated for a Halloween release with a 4,200 yen price tag (link).

(Image source: RetroMags.com)

Nintendo Power continued to list Daikatana Adventure in the magazine’s “Game Watch Forecast” on a monthly basis for the remainder of the year, updating it from “fall 2000” to the ambiguous non-date of “future.”

“Unfortunately, KEMCO (developer of both GBC and N64 Daikatanas) didn’t release the game in the USA because of the completely devastating treatment given to the name Daikatana by the press at large,” Romero explained on his site (link).

The American Game Boy Color version got so far as to receive an “E for Everyone” rating by the Entertainment Rating Software Board. (Image source: ESRB.org)

Instead, the handheld Daikatana came out only on a cartridge in Europe that year and via the digital Nintendo Power service in Japan on May 1st, 2001 (link, link).

As a Zelda-lite, the game tosses aside the sidekick corralling, the save gems, the “expert-level” difficulty, and the rest of the design annoyances that critics said marred the overreaching PC original for a focused, simple-but-solid flip-screen adventure. Arguably the game’s weakest link is the closest thing that it retains from the source material, Daikatana‘s plot, the overwrought nature of which weighs down the small-screen action with many intrusive dialogue prompts that seem at times never-ending.

To quote GameSpot’s review, “So there you have it: KEMCO transforms a reviled PC game into a highly playable Game Boy Color game” (link).


John Romero’s About to Make You His Beta Tester

A prototype of the Daikatana portable game was put up by Romero as a one-day eBay auction on June 26, 2015, ending at 4:05 AM EST on a Saturday. As a night owl, I happened upon the listing an hour before it was set to close. On social media, Romero called the build unique and undumped, which for an amateur video game preservationist are dangerous words indeed.

One of two Game Boy Color development cartridges that Romero kept in his personal collection, this particular copy, identified as “version 2,” is dated April 19, 2000–a mere two days before Daikatana on the PC officially went gold (link, link).

(Image source: eBay.com)

I placed a much higher bid than I normally would because, unlike most pre-release games that don’t hold their value after being dumped, I was banking on Romero’s star power still having some luster so that this one would couple as a “celebrity-owned collectible” and hopefully attract a greater buying audience when the time comes to recoup some of the cost. In effect, I was pulling an Eidos, albeit on a far more minuscule scale.

And Romero does still seem willing to act the part of a celebrity, as he autographed not only the back of the flash development cartridge, but also an invoice and a gold metallic business card that looks like it’s been to Mars and back.

After winning, I asked if he could shed some light on how the Game Boy Color edition came about and his involvement with its development. He hasn’t returned my message. Last I heard he was travelling through Dublin. I hope you had a Guinness on me, John. I helped pay for it.

(Image source: Twitter.com)

He did give his Twitter blessing that the winner could share the prototype’s ROM image, but before you go downloading the dump, let’s take a look at the differences, which are plenty enough that I had to break them up into two sections.


Textual Differences


This prototype is an English teacher’s worst nightmare: awkward phrasing, unintentionally hilarious dialogue, misspellings, missing articles, improper punctuation, spacing issues–you name it, it’s got it. There are too many for my commentary, but I have itemized the offenders down below. The script was penned by none other than Romero himself (link). I would say that many of the mistakes have a distinct “Engrish” ring to them, except that the man was born in Colorado Springs.

(Image source: YouTube.com)

The blame might be better directed at KEMCO, a Japanese company, as its E3 2000 promotional video shows a later build with some of the same mistakes, like “You got a Armor,” “I have an very important story,” and the clueless spokesman who’s dressed like he’s selling vacation timeshares referring to “the power of Daikatana” without the all-important article (link).

Also, lest anyone forget that KEMCO left its mark on the less-than-literary prose in the Nintendo 64’s Daikatana.

English magazine Total Game Boy Color, which gave Daikatana a score of 92% in its October 2000 issue, dedicated a whole sidebar to skewer the poor translation job. The reviewer had actually received a build with similar errors as the one Romero sold me, including this amusing double entendre: “You come to yourself, Mikiko?” (Image source: Archive.org)

In fact, Planet Daikatana claimed that Romero “went through and changed all their dialogue so that it was a little more in-line with the actual English language.”

Due to the long and arduous development time of the PC game, the Game Boy Color version shown at E3 in 2000 still reflected Daikatana‘s earlier story, according to the fansite, such as having the name of the antagonist be “Dr. Jared Benedict” instead of Kage Mishima (link).

Some design changes that KEMCO ultimately kept for the retail release include making the default melee weapon be a rod-like object, which was a prototype item in the original game that eventually turned into the Disruptor Glove, and adding PC-scrapped enemies like a Pipe Bomb SEAL, SEAL Divers, a Squid, and a Minotaur (link, link, link, link, link).


General Differences

The European retail game opens with Mount Fuji looming in the background as sword slashes form the Daikatana logo. The prototype does not have an animated sequence like this, and instead heads straight to the title screen after the legal copy is shown.

The colors used on the title screen are darker and duller in the prototype, and there is no Language option to choose between English, French, or Italian.

Since only English is present in the prototype, it is possible that this build may be a closer representation of what the unreleased U.S. version might have looked like. (The Nintendo Power release also has only one language available, but it’s Japanese.) It is interesting to note that the destination code in the ROM is marked for the Japanese market. However, internal headers are not always accurate in prototypes.

After entering the code to activate the debug menu from the title screen (Left, Right, B, Up, Down, B, Left, Right, Up, Down, Select, B, B), the prototype shows slightly different Japanese text in the last option.

When “Makishima” is chosen, an option will be given to turn “Attribute On” or “Attribute Off.”

“The Makishima Test” warps to Hiro’s Studio, not the Plague Village, and Hiro’s HP is 100 instead of 400.

Only the Disruptor weapon will be available in the player’s inventory.

No option exists to view the ending.

“The Yoshida Test” takes the player to Windrax’s Tower, not Nharre’s Tower, and Hiro’s AP is 0 instead of 999.

Choosing “A Flashback” does not crash the prototype as it does the European retail game.

The kanji that appears after “Saeki” is chosen is not the same.

The Saeki menu also shows different kanji.

“The Takahashi Test” allows the player to jump to Garroth’s Castle, not Mishima’s Tower.

“EP25 “in the Takahashi menu warps to the Parthenon, not the Plague Village.

“Enemy” in the Takahashi menu transports the player to the Back of Hiro’s Studio, not Mishima’s Tower.

“OAM” in the Takahashi menu goes to the Concentration Camp, not Mishima Office.

“Write BG” in the Takahashi menu moves the player to the Sewage Disposal Plant, not Mishima’s Tower.

When the last option is chosen in the prototype’s debug menu, a “7” will appear in a dialogue prompt, while in the European retail game, this triggers a room viewer.

During gameplay, the prototype shows dimmer and more muted colors around the border where the dialogue appears and on the status bar at the bottom of the screen.

The only thing not washed out is Hiro’s outfit, which is a lighter blue.

At the beginning of Toshiro Ebihara’s flashback, the two characters standing on the side wear armor.

When the flashback ends for a moment, Hiro will have his arm raised, as if he is about to sprint away from the conversation.

When Usagi is about to fling the Daikatana into Mount Fuiji, his sprite stands slightly further to the right.

In the Back of Hiro’s Studio, after two Outlaws attack the player, one will suddenly disappear.

Attacks from enemies can knock the player back to another area.

In the next area where a Robocrox swims, the opening is above the seventh, not sixth, block.

When the player jumps in, Hiro’s movement will not be impeded by the water.

The first area of the Drain has a Yellow Capsule.

The Sewage Disposal Plant uses different colors for the switches and the walls.

No jingle is played after the puzzle is solved.

The next area has an Ion Blaster Cartridge in the middle of the hallway, and the machine is a teal blue, again, like the walls.

The first area of the Concentration Camp is missing a Yellow Capsule.

The area to the east has an Outlaw by the center wall and a Deathsphere outside the inner room.

In the area to the south, one Mishima Guard stands by the prisoner’s door.

An additional shadow is cast by the lower-right wall in the room with the four floor switches.

The Security Card is orange, not red.

Superfly’s clothes are a dark gray, not lime-colored, and his body is positioned lower on the contraption.

After using the Security Card to free him, the doors will make a sound when they open.

Something very peculiar happens should the player fall into the lava here: Hiro’s character sprite will morph into a boulder, a crate, or a table.

An additional shadow is cast here in the Assemble Center.

Pressing the switch will cause a lower sound effect to be played.

Falling off the lift will sweep the player back to the previous area.

An Inmater stands in the center of the next room, while a Deathsphere hangs by the right wall.

Pressing the A button will make the character hop forward in the prototype, not jump in place.

When the crane picks up Superfly, his sprite will float in mid-air as he is being carried.

The next area has an Energy Water in place of an Inmater.

A Yellow Capsule in the first room of the Level 4 Research Complex is in the upper right corner.

An Inmater stands on the left in the next room.

The Body Temp Regulator sprite in the prototype looks nothing like the one in the European retail game.

A Deathsphere hangs in a different place here.

The hidden room does not have a pulsating purple sprite, a telling clue, on the machine at the bottom.

The pulsating green effect is a darker color.

The same is true for the pulsating blue effect.

Mikiko’s clothes and hair are a deeper pink.

When Hiro enters the teleporter, a small explosion will occur.

The tables are arranged differently in the second area of the Vault.

There is no falling animation when Hiro leaps from a height.

The platform that holds the Daikatana is shorter in length, and the floor graphics are less ornate.

Stepping on the left switch to activate the bridge will cause the screen—and Hiro’s sprite–to pan over to where the Daikatana is being kept.

When the left switch is pressed, the enemies in the previous room will spawn in different places.

The same occurs when the right switch is pressed.

Again, Hiro does not have a falling animation when the orange sections of the floor disappear; the screen will simply fade to white.

The enemies stand in different spots in the room leading to the Daikatana.

When Hiro, Superfly, and Mikiko travel through time, the status bar at the bottom will stay on the screen.

A Skeleton sunbathes by the left sandy rock in the third area of Lemnos Isle.

A Skeleton in the fourth area rests his bones on the right side of the gap.

If a Skeleton is shoved into the gap, Hiro’s falling animation, not the enemy’s, will be shown.

A Red Capsule can be picked up in the area where Charon’s Horn is found without needing to use the Hammer.

The prototype is missing a Yellow Capsule and an Energy Water in the area to the north of where the boulders first begin to fall.

Entering the area with the Minotaur will not cause the exit to be blocked off.

When he pounds the ground with his Hammer, little stars will not twirl around Hiro’s head.

The boss is immune to melee attacks, and he is missing the animation for when he winds up the Hammer, making timing his blows trickier.

Finally, the music does not change during the fight.

If the player exits the area without picking up the Hammer, and then re-enters, the weapon will be gone.

The previously missing Yellow Capsule suddenly materializes after defeating the Minotaur.

Smashing a boulder with the Hammer results in a buzzing noise. There is no animation for hitting a rock, so Hiro stands still as it breaks into pieces.

There is no Gold Armor in this area.

A Skeleton stands closer to the stairs in the area to the south.

There is a Yellow Capsule by the entrance of the boat.

However, there is no Red Capsule in the drawer inside.

That is because it is out in plain sight in the next room.

When Hiro opens the safe with the Drachma, his sprite will disappear as a Skeleton begins to speak.

In the previous room, a Skeleton floats in the water.

Back upstairs, a Spider hangs further away from the wall.

Once more, a Spider has crawled to a new place, this time on the other side of the pillars.

Charon’s ferry glows an eerie purple.

A Yellow Capsule and Gold Armor appear in the area to the north of where Charon drops the player off.

The prototype uses a different sprite for the sand pit.

In the first area of the Catacombs, the wall graphic to the left of the stairs is slightly altered.

The green stalagmites can be smashed without the use of the Hammer.

To the west of the first area, there is a fourth torch burning at the foot of the stairs. Hiro can stand on its flame.

To the east of the first area, a third torch can be seen by the green stalagmite.

Another additional torch burns in the area to the west of where Mikiko was trapped.

Hiro’s pushing animation will continue even as the boulders fall down over the waterfall.

Past the door, the apparition of Usagi does not materialize all the way at first, instead sticking around on the screen as the dialogue starts.

In the next room, the Daedalus Discus can be seen before defeating the two Centurions.

More dialogue is spoken here that does not appear in the European retail game until later on.

The Daedalus Discus has unlimited ammo.

In the room to the north, two Centurions stand guard by staring at the lower wall.

The door is closed in the room with the eagle floor tile. Pushing the eagle block over the tile will unlock it.

There are two additional blocks, showing an elephant, in the room with the serpent floor tile, and the door, again, is shut.

Elephant blocks also appear in the room with the lion floor tile. The lion block must rest on the tile before the door will open.

After the puzzle is solved, the player will find a Blue Capsule near the stairway leading to the Entrance of Acropolis.

Two Centurions in the second area stand against a rock.

There is a rock missing from the next area.

The Trident sprite can actually be seen winding back when Hiro goes to to hurl one.

Going to the area to the north will trigger a conversation between Hiro and Mikiko as they discuss seeing something move. None of this text appears in the European retail game, and the two statues face each other.

This is likely a reference to the Caryatid enemies in the PC game, which are Greek sculptures that come to life.

Even more unused dialogue is spoken in the next area. When Mikiko offers to go ahead, Hiro will reply almost condescendingly, “You know about ancient Greece much more than I. Please do so!”

When the player switches to Mikiko, an explosion will occur in the upper right corner of this area.

Through the door to the next area, a Harpy flies in front of the steps.

The Greek Tablets are called “Slates,” and they are red in color.

There is an Energy Water to the left of the door with the tablet-size indentations.

A Dragon past the bend flies closer to the steps.

The player can walk over the shallow water here.

A Harpy hovers in the center of this area, while a Centurion stands by another flight of stairs.

In the next area, a Harpy flies in front of a wall, not over the steps.

Head west and then north to see that a Centurion and a Red Capsule are missing.

In the next area, a Centurion stands to the right of the rocky surface.

To the east of the area with the tablet-indented door, a Harpy flies nearer the steps.

In the area to the north, a Centurion wades in the shallow water, and a Harpy hovers by the bottom stairs.

In the next area, a Harpy flies a little lower.

Up the stairs to the north, a Centurion stands facing the bottom wall.

Two additional Rats scurry around the Underground here.

A Rat crawls around the bottom lower-right corner of the room between the switches.

A Daedalus Discus is missing from the room with the spikes.

Past the hallway with the spikes, the first Rat scurries towards the center of the room.

In the room to the north of the hallway spikes, the first Rat is tucked between the obstructions.

There is a Deadalus Discus missing from the alcove below one of the Greek Tablets.

A Dragon here flies near the center of the area.

The bubbly, violet-colored water is shallow and can be walked over in the Parthenon, though the player’s HP will be depleted in the process.

In the next area, there are less tiles for the player to safely traverse.

The same applies for the area after that.

There is a blue body of water at the base of the statue of Athena.

The tiles are rearranged again in the next area.

And in the next.

The tile arrangement is the same in the area after that, but the black outline is missing from the top two tiles.

A Red Capsule and an Energy Water are missing from the area where Superfly has turned to stone.

The tiles are the same in the area where the player fights Medusa, but the floor outlines are different.

The music continues as Medusa slithers forward to begin the battle.

After the dialogue prompt, the boss music does not play, and the exit is not blocked.

Medusa does not throw any snakes as one of her attacks.

After Medusa is defeated, the water in the Parthenon turns a lighter blue and can be walked over without the player drowning.

While traveling through time, the status bar remains on the screen, which causes the weapon icon to appear in the top-left corner.

There are two Plague Rats in the graveyard of the Plague Village, one of which lunges straight away after the cutscene ends.

The Bolter in the next area is to the right of the steps.

The crates are both facing the left church window as a clue to the player.

There is a Red Capsule in the first area of the church.

During Father Musilde’s flashback, a house can be seen on the right.

The bodies of two of the plague victims collapse in different directions.

In the area south of the church, the house is further to the left and a tree trunk sticks out of the ground.

There is no Red Capsule in the garden.

As in the flashback, there are no logs on the right, only the remaining section of the house.

In the area to the south of the well, a Rotworm slithers behind the house.

The Silver Claw’s sprite is not colored green.

In the area to the west of the well, a Rotworm slithers on the right side of the boarded-up house.

To the north, a Plague Rat scurries across from the door of the house.

A Rune Stone is in the hot spring.

Approaching Father Musilde with the Book of Old Songs will cause the screen to go black and the following error to appear: “GETBUFF NULL ERROR 170 15 4 20 164.” The music will still play, but the game cannot be continued. (Fortunately, the prototype’s debug menu can be used to skip past this part.)

The door to Garroth’s Castle does not open until after the cutscene ends.

Following the cutscene with the wizards approaching King Garroth, the player is immediately taken into the next area where Windrax, or “Windlux” as he was once called (or “Wyndrax” on the Save File screen), introduces himself.

The PC original uses the name Wyndrax.

The Entrance to Garroth’s Castle mini-boss begins standing slightly closer to the door.

The man in the next area is not lying in bed because there isn’t one. A Green Capsule is on the other side of the room, and the door leading to the stairs is missing.

Outside in the next area, a Rotworm and a Buboid eavesdrop on the conversation.

When Superfly questions Hiro’s decision to leave Mikiko behind to rest, the two will not face each other.

A Capsule in the hidden room is cream-colored, not red.

One Lycanthir in the first area of the Grave of the Royal Family stands just below the stairway.

In the room to the north, a Lycanthir stands right in front of where the player enters.

To the west and up the stairs, a Green Capsule can be picked up, and two Lycanthirs stand at different places.

To the north, the aforementioned Green Capsule is missing, and the Pieces of the Holy Sword, or “Peaces of Holy Sord” as it is spelled in the prototype, do not have to be dug out of the dirt.

To the north of where the player receives the Key to Windrax’s Tower, a Fletcher stands in between the dragon statues.

In the cogwheel room of Windrax’s Tower, a Fletcher stands to the left of the center tile.

The dragon heads in the next area do not flash green or spit electricity until the player crosses their path.

Taking the tile warp to the right section of the room will result in the player facing downward.

Taking out the basket with the Plague Rats will not reveal a Red Capsule.

Just as before, the boss music does not play and the exit is not blocked during the fight with Windrax.

If the player stands in the opening by the exit, a confused Windrax will keep warping around the room or blindly attack the opposite wall.

The player can slide into the wall at either side of the exit and walk around the entire perimeter of the room. Get too close to the outline of the wall, though, and Hiro’s sprite will start convulsing like a jackhammer.

After defeating Windrax, the Key for the Tower of Nharre will appear on the right, and the Healing Leaf, or “Wonder Leaves” as it is called in the prototype, will shine green.

To the east of the first area of Garroth’s Castle, a Plague Rat scurries by the stairway, and a Fletcher stands in between the two upper torches.

In the second area of the Castle Underground, a Buboid stands facing the lower left wall.

To the east, a Buboid stands on the far right, and a Doom Bat hangs below the upper left wall.

In the next area, a Buboid stands at the foot of the stairs, and a Doom Bat hangs to the left.

If the player stands on either side of the lower platform when the second Large Doom Bat strikes, Hiro’s sprite will recoil to the previous area, where he will continuously dive into the lava until all of his HP is depleted.

This same glitch occurs if the player leaves the area that way without being hit.

After the second Large Doom Bat is exterminated, the rock path forms perpendicular to the upper platform, making the jump to fetch the Pieces of the Holy Sword much less trickier.

Falling into the pit where the giant boulders roll into will result in the player respawning directly in their game-ending path, and not in the safe alcove on the right.

In the first room of Nharre’s Tower, a Plague Rat scurries facing the bottom wall, while a Fletcher stands to the left of the center tile.

In the next room with the cogwheels, a Fletcher again stands to the left of the center tile.

Just as before, the dragon heads do not breathe fire unless the player passes in front of them.

The exit is not blocked during the fight in Hiro’s Studio. The player can instead go through the walls from this opening and travel around the room’s perimeter. Standing over the scroll will confuse the dojo students and make them pace back and forth.

If they collide while walking downward, one will mysteriously disappear.

The exit again is not blocked when the player faces off with Nharre, and the walls can be walked through by way of the opening, which will throw off the wizard and make him teleport again and again without attacking.

The boss music does not play.

Nharre’s Wand is gray, not red.

No sound effect plays when the pot containing Superfly breaks open.

The player can once again step into the walls from the exit during the boss battle with Nharre in his dragon form.

No warning is given when Nharre’s about to swoop across the screen, which makes dodging him more difficult when he enters from the side (he also sporadically does not lean his body forward like an arrow during this time, instead he’s standing upright as he glides sideways).

His general attack pattern is different, too. Rather than throwing a series of fire bursts from the upper part of the area, he only breathes out one occasionally.

Standing at this upper area will confuse him, causing him to not be able to know where to attack.

During the opening cutscene in Alcatraz, Hiro rudely looks away from Superfly and Mikiko when speaking to them. This first area has Green Armor out in plain sight, instead of being tucked away in a cabinet.

The Disruptor icon on the status bar does not start out being red.

The Glock comes loaded with 30 bullets, not 50.

In the area to the west, the Military Policeman wears a brown uniform, not a suit of armor, and fires a gun instead of wielding a melee weapon.

A Glock Cartridge can be retrieved from one of the cells.

When the player goes to talk with the prisoner in the next area, Mikiko will squeeze into the tiny cell with the others.

During the prisoner’s flashback, a Military Policeman remains stationary as the others run in and out of the scene.

A Military Policeman accompanies an Armored SEAL in the next area.

After the doors seal themselves shut, when the two Armored SEALs go to face each and then march toward the player, one will suddenly disappear.

Another gun-wielding Military Policeman stands alert when the emergency alarm goes off.

The yellow crates on the Freight Dock have washed-out colors until the player goes to move one.

Hiro can shove a crate not only through the opening at the top, but also over the dock fence and into the water, although that won’t solve the puzzle or accomplish anything else.

Superfly can place his back up against this dock wall, which will cause his sprite to quickly convulse to the front and back as a buzzing noise is made. A similar bug can be found in the European retail game, except it only occurs when trying to move diagonally from a wall to the edge of a stairway.

There is no visual explosion after Superfly blows up a boulder.

In the next area, if Superfly climbs the steps and heads to the left, he can slip into the wall and then walk around the entire perimeter of the Freight Dock.

Standing on the conveyor belt without jumping off will take the player back to the previous area.

There is an extra Glock cartridge by the ship.

Hiro, not Superfly, is seen climbing into the crate.

Hiro, Superfly, and Mikiko barely peek out of the cargo after being taken aboard the ship.

Hiro stands slightly further to the left while on top of the moving truck’s roof.

In the first area of the Parking Lot, a truck is parked further to the left, next to two stacks of tires.

In the area to the west, there are three stacks of tires, a truck is parked further to the right, and one Armored SEAL stands on the other side of the crates.

If Hiro walks from the previous area’s truck to the one parked here, he will be able to enter the back of the second truck by pressing Up (the doors will remain closed).

Should the Armored SEALs happen to attack him before he goes inside, he can be knocked onto the truck’s roof and then travel around the perimeter of the wall.

These two trucks are parked so close together that they are practically touching each other.

In the area past the stairs, an Armored SEAL starts out by falling off a wall.

This supply room stocks not only a Green Capsule, but also a Meta-Maser Cartridge that is colored red, not gray.

Entering the area after the force-field puzzle will not cause Hiro to automatically walk inside the shuttle; the player will have to climb the stairs first.

In the area north of the shuttle, one Armored SEAL stands directly to the left of the center tile, while the other stands in front of the elevator’s doors.

The enemies are closer to greet Hiro as he exits the elevator.

An Energy Water can be found in the room with the Access Card dispenser.

The lilac-colored tiled floor in Mishima’s Office has brown stripes as part of its design.

Two Armored SEALs are missing from the area with the stairway.

However, an Armored SEAL accompanies another SEAL in the next room.

A Green Capsule is missing from the first area of the Laboratory.

There is no boss music during the fight with the Brain.

An animation plays not only when the Brain separates into two smaller forms, but also when they reunite to become big again.

In the area to the west of the Laboratory’s elevator, one Inmater stands on the right.

An Inmater stands closer to the door leading to the scientist.

In the area to the west, an Inmater again starts out closer to the door.

It seems that KEMCO may have gotten tripped up by all the characters in the plot, as Mikiko’s ancestor, Tatsuro Ebihara, is dressed not in a white lab coat with glasses, but exactly as her father, Toshiro Ebihara, was before he died. (The first rule of screenwriting is not to have characters with names that look or sound the same.)

After the conversation ends, a blue-haired doppelganger of Mikiko will appear for a brief moment before the player resumes control. The weapon status icon will also change color.

In the area to the west, an Inmater stands facing the lower right wall.

In the area with the directional arrow floor tiles, one Inmater stands further to the left.

The player nearly runs into an Inmater upon entering the next area, while the other one stands to the right of the DNA machine.

The Experiment Data’s sprite looks as if it has been shattered.

In the area to the east of the Heliport’s elevator doors, an Armored SEAL stands to the left of the ladder.

In the area to the north of the elevator doors, a SEAL stands closer to the lower right ladder.

The player’s range attacks can travel up these ladders.

Hiro will not be able to stand on the short platform that has a view of the helicopter. Instead, he will be forced back to the previous area.

If Hiro steps on the red switch from above it, when the camera goes to pan down, part of his sprite will appear over the status bar.

There is no fence on the ledge below the helicopter. This ledge is also narrower, which causes Hiro to continue his climbing animation even when he is not on a ladder.

The helicopter, itself, is parked slightly higher on the helipad.

Hiro delivers his lines while Mikiko is still on the ladder.

Hiro will have his back to Mikiko when she calls out to tell him to stop.

When Kage escapes inside the helicopter, the plane will shift downward on the helipad.

There is no confirmation sound after the hijacked pilot enters the code.

When the helicopter lands squarely on top of the helipad of the Navy Base, its spinning blades will not make any noise.

In the area to the east, there are two additional Inmaters, four less crates, and no Glock Cartridge.

A Pipe Bomb SEAL does not hurl his bombs as far. The pipe bombs are smaller in size, but they have the same blast radius.

In the last area with the motorcycles, a Green Capsule is found below the lower crates.

One of the SEAL Divers in the first water area stands across from the stairs, while the other stands slightly more to the right.

A SEAL Diver stands in the center of the next area.

A Blue Capsule can be picked up in the area after the Squid mini-boss fight.

After falling through the trapdoors, Kage and the General will not already be present; they stroll in after a few moments pass.

Hiro also stands a little further to the left.

The music does not change during this scene.

The General is wearing a brown-grayish outfit without a hat.

When Kage approaches from behind before stabbing the General, his clothes will change to a lighter gray before his body balloons in weight.

After the General cries out in pain, Kage’s sprite briefly separates in half.

When the gang gets thrown into Mishima’s Tower, Mikiko and Superfly will not be lying on the ground, though they are still unconscious.

There are only floorboards on the left, not stairs.

The same music as before plays.

After Kage asks if Hiro is awake, Hiro does not turn to and fro.

Usagi’s spirit does not fully materialize when Hiro calls his name. (In the European retail game, this line is not spoken until after the ghost disappears.)

The door also does not glow to signify that it is being unlocked.

The whole layout of Mishima’s Tower is completely different. There are too many changes to list them all individually. Little emphasis is placed on turning the dragon statues to unlock doors; in fact, the player only has to do it once in the first room. The rest of the way is very straightforward.

The Novabeam comes loaded with 10 ammo, not 30.

The Samurai mini-boss emerges from a small explosion.

The walls do not close in on the player during the fight, but the Samurai can become stuck on top of the blockade.

Returning to the first area with the floating tiles will cause Hiro to continuously fall down, or even make him respawn into the wall.

In the area before Kage, a Novabeam Cartridge is found in the lower part of the room, and the Capsule is blue, not green.

After declaring how strong he is, Kage will disappear without his two pulsating yellow balls of light.

That is because he does not have them to shield him during the fight. Instead, he is vulnerable to attacks after he hurls only one, not two, fireballs.

His fireballs do not home in on the player, which makes this fight a lot easier.

Standing at the bottom of the room will confuse Kage, causing him to warp around the room, since he cannot materialize there.

There is no zapping sound when he disappears.

After Kage changes form and tells Hiro to admit defeat, the Daikatana will inexplicably vanish from his hands until the battle begins.

When Usagi appears, Hiro’s HP meter will not increase.

Kage’s second form does not cast a shadow on the place where he is about to land, which makes dodging him more difficult.

He also take less time to materialize before performing his other attacks.

Kage’s second form randomly appears on top of the lower right dragon statue.

Standing at the bottom of the room when Kage’s second form sends fireballs from the Daikatana will cause those attacks to explode inside the walls.

No zapping sound is made when he disappears.

After defeating Kage’s second form, his sprite will remain on the screen.

Once again, Hiro’s HP meter will not increase.

Hiro stands further to the left of the room afterwards.

Upon entering the next area, Hiro’s sprite will walk over the status bar.

This room has a fancier floor outline.

The lights only go off for a brief second before returning.

Superfly does not slump to the ground.


When Mikiko goes to attack Hiro, her sprite will transform into that of an Outlaw.

The room’s exit is not blocked during the fight, so that the player can again walk through the walls from that opening.

Bringing Mikiko down takes only a few smacks from the Disruptor or just one shot from other weapons like the Glock.

After defeating her, Hiro will have his back to Mikiko until she begins to move into the next area.

Superfly stands further away from the edge when Mikiko falls into the lava.

This makes it so that when he goes to try to grab her, he looks like he is intentionally diving to his death, instead of losing his balance.

During the credits, the text is a cream color, not white, and cherry blossom leaves do not blow in the background.

The final “THE END” text is displayed at the bottom left corner of the screen and stays there indefinitely without ever going to the “Congratulation!!” ranking screen.


A Note About the ROM Image

An Altane Cartridge Programmer was used to dump this Daikatana Game Boy Color prototype. The copier device outputted a 4 megabyte back-up versus the European retail game’s 1 megabyte size. After getting the same large file multiple times, I reached out to the author of the Altane for assistance. He looked over the ROM image and the Altane’s software logs, and assured me that this was not an overdump. The game data was intentionally split up over many memory banks, possibly for organizational purposes, so that each one is mostly empty. Size was not an issue for the higher capacity flash development cartridge that this prototype is found on, but when it was time to release the final game, the data was packed tighter, most likely for financial reasons so that it would fit a smaller ROM chip.

Download Daikatana Prototype