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The Unreleased SEGA Genesis Super Star Wars Prototype You Never Knew About!

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 Well, over the last month I’ve reviewed, rated and completely ripped open the entirety of the Super Star Wars trilogy. Super Star Wars, Super Empire Strikes Back and Super Return of the Jedi have all been covered. Plus, I’ve also reviewed the two handheld ports of the latter title.

But, for the finale of this special month, we’re going back to the beginning to take a look at a game that was not to be – The SEGA Genesis Super Star Wars Prototype. Even in the early 90’s Star Wars was a very popular license to make games about, and following the success of Super Star Wars on the Super Nintendo, of course, it would make sense to bring it to other systems, and there were a couple of attempts that for one reason or another, never came to light.

https://youtu.be/kKita2cged0

For example, the entire game was ported and even completed for MS-DOS in 1995 by Brain Bug, a Danish developer. It’s available out there on the internet and is playable the whole way through. I don’t really cover PC games, so it’s out of the scope of my usual interest, but it’s out there and very easy to find. It’s quite interesting too, with the graphics and audio completely redone. Despite being completed, LucasArts for some reason decided to pull the plug.

But, we’re not talking about that version – A couple of years earlier, a console port was planned for the SEGA Mega Drive. The development would be done not by Sculptured Software, or even another third party – Instead, SEGA instructed their own SEGA Technical Institute to do the port. They were certainly capable developers – Headed up at the time by Sony’s Lead hardware designer, Mark Cerny; this studio would work on everything from Dick Tracy and Kid Chameleon, to Sonic The Hedgehog 2 and 3.

About The SEGA Genesis Super Star Wars Prototype

The game had been in development from around 1992 to 1993, which  times it just after the original SNES version’s release in the Summer of 1992. Some magazines gave this proposed Mega Drive port the briefest of mentions around this time, as well as a couple of development screenshots. Some magazines even suggested the game was coming to the Mega CD – But all information on the SEGA ports disappeared soon afterwards.

It was only until the website Hidden Palace released a playable prototype ROM on January 1st, 2020, that we really knew how far development had come. They suggest that development ceased sometime in 1993, while the prototype they released is dated January 25th, 1993. Additionally, this prototype has a similar ROM header as SEGA Technical Institutes’ Greendog: The Beached Surfer Dude (A ROM header is the first 16 bytes of info in a ROM, that holds data about how big the ROM is, what system it’s meant for, etc). I’m not an expert, but I don’t think that shared ROM header implies much, but it’s just a point of interest.

Truth be told, this prototype is incredibly bare-bones, with just a text menu allowing the player to choose a level or view cutscenes – All accompanied by a very farty rendition of the Star Wars theme. However, the cutscenes don’t work and when you try and select them, you’re taken straight back to the menu. In addition, not all the levels are here, and the ones that are here are in various states of completion. Some are literally just some text. Finally, some of the levels are separated out into their separate smaller stages as opposed to being smaller stages as part of a level.

The Players option lets you pick between Luke as option 1, and Han as option 2, but magazine screenshots suggest that Chewbacca was also playable in this port at some point. Luke’s got both his lightsaber and a blaster, but unlike the SNES version, each attack is assigned its own button. The A button swipes with the lightsaber while holding B pulls out the blaster, but you need to hold a direction to shoot in with the Dpad Meanwhile, the C button jumps and you can do the saber spin jump by holding the Dpad diagonally up while jumping. The slide move is still achieved by holding diagonally down and pressing C.

As for Han, he just has a blaster and can do his weird roll move by pressing diagonally down with the Dpad, and C – Just as in the original game, there’s nothing special about playing as Han.

As soon as you pick up a pad and start playing, you notice that this  definitely feels more like a Mega Drive game – The controls are a lot more sensitive than the SNES version, and there’s definitely more of a looseness here. It’s almost too sensitive, really.

As this is a prototype when you pause the game, you can press A to go back to the main menu, B brings up some numbers in the top left which seem to mess around with things, while C lets you scroll through the level. There’s no HUD yet, but your character’s name is in the top left, and the score is always THX01138 – A nod to George Lucas’ directorial debut,  THX 1138.

How about a whistlestop tour of what is here and playable. The Dune Sea is more or less intact from the original game, including the two different sized scorpions and flying enemies. It’s arguably the most complete level in this prototype. The music is an all-new composition, and it doesn’t sound great.

Next up is the Sarlacc Pit Monster. Or rather, a screen with a sandpit where nothing happens and the boss doesn’t appear. At least you have the Cantina theme playing, and it isn’t that bad on the ears either.

A test of the Landspeeder level is next, and it’s basically Landspeeder sprite you can control over a shifting horizon with nothing on it. The music is definitely original, and I thought it was something leftover from Greendog for a minute – That doesn’t seem to be the case though, but it is rather funky.

The Jawa Sandcrawler exterior is next, and the platforming physics are really messed up here. Because the Sandcrawler is constantly moving, your jump physics are just all over the place and it’s not fun. Visually, the shortcomings of the Mega Drive are definitely apparent when compared to the SNES version.

Inside the Sandcrawler is split into four sections, and they’re more or less intact. Jawas and Gonk droids are here as they should be – Powerups are not implemented yet, so they’re missing.

Part two takes you over these spiked areas that start you right back at the beginning when touched. Once you’ve made your way over those, the weird laser gates are also intact and are just as annoying as they were previously. The droid turrets are also here, and I managed to jump over one and get stuck inside the environment, so there’s definitely a lot more work to be done here.

The third part of the Sandcrawler interior takes you through this giant enemy, plus a few deadly spike pits and chasms leading up to the boss, where the level just ends. This is because the final part pits you up against the Jawenko boss, who is just a large sprite that you can’t seem to hurt, but is able to spit fire at you.

Another Landspeeder section is next, and it’s the exact same as the first one. Nothing much else to say about this part of the SEGA Genesis Super Star Wars Prototype.

The Canyon is up next and split into two parts. Part one is about 3 seconds of scrolling with two enemies before it takes you back to the menu. Part two is a platforming area, and you’re hindered by both the sensitive controls and the inability to see where your jumps land. This is absolutely a level that shows how much polish the controls need. This level ends with a dead end.

The Land of the Banthas is very incomplete. The Banthas are here but aren’t quite as impressive, nor is their weedy explosive deaths. The same goes for the Sandpeople, who seem to do some sort of weird jig and fall of the screen when killed. Walk to the end of the level and you’re back at the menu.

The Land of the Sandpeople appears to be mostly intact and full of both Sandpeople, annoying flying creatures and leaps of faith. Meanwhile, the Womprat boss of this level is separated into its own level and is actually defeatable. Not sure if you’ve noticed, but when you fire your blaster, you don’t always see the blaster bolts firing, which is a bit confusing and weird.

Mos   Eisley is the next destination and is split into two parts that are pretty much complete. The Stormtroopers are here and they still fall from the sky in places, as do the occasional barrel. There’s no Chewbacca to be seen at the end of the second part, however.

Onto the Cantina, and as most of the levels in this prototype use the Cantina theme, it’s not quite so special here. However, this area does feature all of the enemies, but they don’t look quite as good without all of the colours.

Once again, the boss of this stage is on its own level, but it’s just another animated sprite that can’t be killed. Oh well.

The Escape from Mos Eisley is split into a whopping four areas, and it’s still as overly long as before. Part one is mostly complete but is missing most of the enemies apart from these window snipers.

Part two dumps you into this environmental area which you get stuck in and can’t get out.

Part three takes you down into the horrible area with the metal claws and droids, but thankfully the tiny mines haven’t been programmed in yet.

As you’ve probably guessed, part four is the boss of this level, another animated sprite that cannot be killed. For some reason, I ended up disappearing completely here.

The Death Star hanger is another complete level, although it’s missing the Swooping TIE Fighters, but thankfully not the silly little droids around the place.

The Death Star hanger is another complete level, although it’s missing the Swooping TIE Fighters, but thankfully not the silly little droids around the place.

Again, the boss is separated out into its own level. It can be destroyed, but it glitches out a bit when you do so as none of these bosses have their death animations and explosions sorted out.

The next level, the Princess Leia rescue is just some placeholder text, and while the Detention Boss of this level is split out into its own level again, it’s literally just the environment and the boss itself isn’t even here.

However, the Tractor Beam Core level is here and playable. It’s here I notice that the Saber spin jump definitely jumps you way higher than in the SNES version. The level itself is still full of elevators and a long drop, and for some reason, this half droid appears every now and then – The Stormtroopers’ seeker missiles have been programmed in and do seem to come after you.

The Tractor Beam itself is another separated Boss and is the last one of this prototype. It’s just a static sprite that does absolutely nothing.

After that disappointment, comes more – The final two stages of the game, the previously Mode 7 X-Wing stage and the first person Trench Run are both replaced with text placeholders, with one only wondering what could have been.

Prototypes are always a mixed bag, and when they appear it’s always best to manage your expectations. It’s absolutely clear that this game still needed a heap of work – In particular, the controls are especially off. We don’t know why this project was cancelled or who made the decision, but it definitely feels like it would have been a much inferior port if it has been released. The visuals are very drab, and what audio exists so far is not great. I wonder if the quality may have fallen short of SEGA Technical Institute’s standards, or maybe even Lucasarts weren’t happy with their progress.

But, despite all of that, it’s always interesting to see unreleased games, especially if they’re playable. It took nearly thirty years for this prototype to be released – and who knows, there could be a much more complete version of the SEGA Genesis Super Star Wars Prototype out there, somewhere.

And that ends Super Star Wars Month. Throughout all of May, I’ve been making videos about the Super Star Wars Trilogy, and it’s been a whole lot of fun. There will never be a series of movie licenses quite like these, and I’ve really enjoyed playing through the entire series and picking it apart.

If you’ve been following the series and watching every video, thanks for sticking around. If you haven’t been watching, well, you’ve got a whole lot of videos to catch up on!

I’ll see you soon for more gaming greatness – Thanks for watching!

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