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Take a peek at 'Dinosaur Planet,' the never-released N64 game where dinos (almost) ruled the Earth

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Feb 22, 2021, 3:54 PM EST

Ex-Nintendo developer Rare forged a delightfully cheeky, cartoonish style that’ll forever be instantly recognizable for old-school fans of N64 video game classics like Donkey Kong 64, Banjo-Kazooie, Conker’s Bad Fur Day and many more. Back in the day, the British studio was so prolific that it could even crank out GoldenEye 007 and Diddy Kong Racing — both stone-cold N64 greats — in the same year.

In fact, so much goodness flowed from Rare’s alchemical mix of colorful characters, memorable music, PG-13 wisecracks, and near-psychedelic exotic locations (anyone remember Gruntilda the witch’s life-or-death Banjo-Kazooie game show set?) that not everything the studio developed for the N64 found its way into actual release. That’s the case with Dinosaur Planet, a never-released game for Nintendo’s last cartridge-based console that was nearly finished before Nintendo reportedly handed down the order for Rare to drop the concept and change directions.

Thanks to the archiving efforts of some retro gaming fans, though, new footage of Dinosaur Planet has emerged that shows off nearly an hour of in-game action in what’s obviously a near-finished state. Via VGC, online gaming history group Forest of Illusion got its hands on a version of Dinosaur Planet that even hints at its eventual fate: After the game was nixed, many of its assets were repurposed for Star Fox Adventures, a Rare-developed action-adventure romp for Nintendo’s next-gen GameCube.

Check out Rare's blast from the prehistoric past:

XCageGame on YouTube

Yep, that’s even Fox McCloud scampering through the game map midway through the clip — though he wasn’t originally meant to be part of the story. VGC notes that the new footage apparently comes from a late build of the game; one made after Nintendo had already decreed that Rare should turn its attention to the next Star Fox title. “Sabre” was the name of the original main character, which explains the somewhat confusing references to him by name throughout the clip’s dialogue.

Dinosaur Planet reportedly was intended to be Rare’s final N64 game, bringing new play mechanics like magic and spell casting, along with larger explorable environments and character dialogue that would’ve required a then-unheard-of 512 Mb cartridge — “the largest released for the console” — on top of the N64’s RAM expansion pack. Forest of Illusion tweeted that it bought the game disc from “a private game collector in Sweden,” and cautions that this not-quite-finished version “will need some hacking” to play to the very end.

As the video shows, though, Dinosaur Planet still packed in plenty of Rare’s signature knack for British-accented snark and comedically over-the-top peril. The game introduced fox-like hero and co-protagonist Krystal, who gets caught up on the backstory of her new jurassic digs from a wise old sensei who wouldn't look out of place in TMNT game.

Of course there’s more than a little bittersweet irony when our Splinter-like master sets Krystal up with his dead-serious mission request: “You must save Dinosaur Planet!” Instead, the game went through massive revision to morph into Star Fox Adventures for the GameCube, leaving Conker’s Bad Fur Day as the game that marked Rare’s Nintendo 64 farewell.