Dinosaur Planet: The Evolution of a Game

The following is an extensive look at the changes made to the Rare title which began as Dinosaur Planet on N64 and became Star Fox Adventures on the GameCube. The article is broken down into 8 separate pages of material, which can be accessed in proper order by clicking the link at the bottom of the page, or through the speedier list below. It should also be noted that the original article was found on MundoRare, so I by no means take credit for the entire write-up. Instead, I have only translated and enhanced their work. To view their version, in Spanish, click here.

The Transformation of Dinosaur Planet

In reading this article I hope that you will begin to appreciate more the tremendous changes that SFA has undergone, from being Rare’s last N64 game to Rare’s first and last GameCube game.

The first rumors of Dinosaur Planet came from the Rarenet website in February 2000. The webmasters there had discovered that Rare had acquired the copyright to the name “Dino Planet.” A few days later, In the “scribes” section of Rare’s website, a drawing of Tricky appeared, who some might remember was a boss in the game Diddy Kong Racing, which Rare released in 1997. Finally, in May of that same year, just before E3, Rare unveiled the title, and it went on to become one of the most spectacular games of the show for the N64. It was in its last year of development at this time, and would be available on a 512 MB cartridge, the largest type available for the N64.

However, Nintendo’s Shigeru Miyamoto had a private discussion with the folks over at Rareware, and commented on how much their character Sabre looked like Fox McCloud of the Star Fox series. Not long after, it was decided to mix the projects, and thus Dinosaur Planet disappeared back into development again. For a while there was no news, image, or data released on the game until a French website let slip a rumour on the Miyamoto-Rare meeting and the developer’s decision to make a new hybrid between its original game and one involving the Star Fox license.

Now, just a few months before E3 2001, Star Fox Adventures: Dinosaur Planet surfaced again (the first part of the name was given by Nintendo, the rest was meant to draw recognition to the original title). By this time, though, videos, screen shots, and mp3s of Dinosaur Planet had been available on the web and in magazines for some time, so the tremendous shift that had been made became very noticeable. It was no longer just a change in the protagonist, but one involving better graphics and new gameplay. The title was now headed for the Nintendo GameCube.

In December 2001, when the game was set to debut with the new console, Rare decided to change the name again. This time it was simply StarFox Adventures. In accordance with the name change, the logo changed as well. Finally, in January of 2002, the fourth and final logo appeared. The change was simply a move from green hues to yellow, which was more traditional for the company anyways.

From Sabre to Fox McCloud

In the first version of the game, Dinosaur Planet, Sabre and Krystal were the two lead protagonists of the game, sharing the adventure in a rather 50/50 relationship. The system was very similar to Jet Force Gemini in this respect, as both moved along different routes towards the same objective. Of course, Miyamoto felt the game had a very good plot, but he was adamant about using the Star Fox characters instead, and giving them a sort of on-the-side adventure (hence the title).

The game reappeared after a year of absolute silence, and was shown in video form at E3 2001. It was the first video of a game shown on the GameCube, and news of it and the changes made to Dinosaur Planet spread rapidly over the internet. The installment of the Star Fox characters astonished skeptics who never though Rare would change its own characters out for Nintendo mascots, even though it moved to a new console.

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Images of the same cut scene, featuring Sabre and then Fox McCloud

Here you can easily see the changes made to the game with the shift to the new console. The scene in both is a dialogue sequence between the hero and Tricky the triceratops. In the image on the left, Sabre’s expression is rather blank and makes him appear to be deep in thought, and his eyes are not focused on Tricky. The same blank, inattentive looked can be said of Tricky, too. But in the new version, Fox wears a frown while Tricky (who has undergone a significant amount of changes) watches him fixedly. The clothes of the hero are quite different too. No longer are they the kind worn by an expert in martial arts, but instead are that of a space-traveling roughneck. Fox also moves with significant realness, whereas Sabre was restricted to jagged, awkward motion as a result of the N64′s hardware limitations. As Chris Stamper (of Rare) put it: “This is the first 3D platform that really gives [us] the capacity to [show] what we want to [show].” Finally technological barriers are no longer a hindrance to the game design process.

The Evolution of Tricky

Tricky, the little dinosaur that follows Fox throughout the majority of the game, was inspired by the dinosaur of the same name that acted as a boss in Rare’s earlier title, Diddy Kong Racing. For those of you looking to see this character yourself, you can find him in Dino Domain (duh). Apparently, the developer took him as a basis for the character of Dino Planet, but they never bothered to change the name. In fact, shortly before the first version of the game was shown playable for the Nintendo 64, Rare had him at the top of one of its letter sections in the “scribes” page.

Although Tricky has evolved from his initial debut in Dinosaur Planet (as was discussed on the previous page), it’s more interesting to see his change from Diddy Kong Racing to Star Fox Adventures.

At first, the character did not change much when the first sketches of him were made for the new game. The two horns on the top of his head were removed (making him a protoceratops or very young triceratops), and his bone structure around his eyes was modified to give him a self-assured, confident, and also youthful flair. After all, the original Tricky was a boss, so he had to look a little imposing. The character just wouldn’t fit without the changes.

With the move to the GameCube, Tricky met spectacular improvements. Horns were added along his crest (seven in total) and each of his feet were given a rather detailed bracelet. His skin was also vastly improved, giving off more of a skin-like texture, and it now had color hues that went from magenta to tan, stemming from the top of the skull crest and along the back. In general he recovered the more robust aspect of his DKR self, while at the same time continuing to be a unique creature, even though they were at one point the same animal.

Krystal Turns Amazonian

Krystal was, as mentioned before, the co-protagonist in the original Dinosaur Planet.  Both she and Sabre crossed the levels separately and faced different creatures, challenges and puzzles.  In the GameCube version, though, Krystal lost a lot of her time to Fox.  To be fair to its own character, Rare decided to use her for the introduction level to the game, instead of Fox, giving the player a bit of a surprise when Fox McCloud isn’t the first person they control on the screen.  The game begins with her looking ahead, riding a pterodactyl named Kyte and talking about a distress call that she picked up.  She ends up in a fight with General Scales, and after that the adventure truly begins.

In spite of this opening sequence, Krystal is replaced by Fox McCloud in most of her scenes in the game.  If one were to look at old screenshots of the game, it’s easy to see that it had a lot of places where Krystal was supposed to be the character played by the gamer. After the change, though, the first image in which Krystal could be seen was one that would be very familiar with followers of the game.  Specifically, it was her once again riding on the back of Kyte.

Looking at Dinosaur Planet again, Krystal looked like she was a young, small child.  Once Star Fox was brought in, though, she became a tall, leggy Amazon vulpine.  The graphical prowess of the GameCube also allowed her to shed her dress and put on a sort of golden bikini, very much like Leia’s Return of the Jedi garb.  The golden armlets remained, however, but they were complimented by a new tiara, headband, and necklace jewelry.  Her boots were also removed and replaced with golden shin ornaments and white sandals with gold decals.  Krystal’s face also underwent a large change, from a more cat-like appearance to one that is mostly vulpine.  Her eyes also became quite more vibrant and prominent than they had been in Dinosaur Planet.  But most significantly, she was given hair, almost like a horse’s mane in a way, in addition to her blue fur.  Last but not least, there are the twin tattoos on her legs and the tail rings.  With these enhancements, Krystal went from indigenous tribeswoman to full-fledged vixen.

As players of the game know, Krystal becomes imprisoned after releasing the first Krazoa Spirit and is trapped inside a sort of prism, leaving the rest of mission, and her rescue, up to Fox.

In the image from StarFox Adventures, it is easy to see as Krystal flies on Kyte with her staff, there’s a tremendous amount of colours being used here than there had been before. [At this point, MundoRare goes on to describe the sequence, but I'll describe the differences.]  Furthermore, Kyte’s texture is far more detailed, and he now has a collar and what looks like a saddle.  Also present in the newer version is Krystal’s staff, which she’ll be losing in a matter of seconds.

In this comparison shot, Krystal is no longer hidden behind Kyte, she is in front of him.  Sky textures are also much more enhanced, and there’s even a bolt of lightning in the background, not to mention discernable rain drops.  All other changes from the previous two comparisons are evident as well.

General Scales

Resident villain and general bad guy for the game, in all iterations, is General Scales.  If one were to look at the N64 blockbuster Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, they would likely draw a comparison between Scales and Gannondorf.  For one thing, the entrance of both villains is quite similar: Scales bursts through a door and accosts Krystal, almost killing her, and Gannon rides out of a castle and assaults the unexpecting Link.  Both sequences took place during a severe rainstorm, too.

Scales’ changes in design are much more visual than anything else.  His texture is much more reptilian than it was in Dinosaur Planet, and his tunic went from a simple blue to what looks to be some sort of leather.  The shoulder pieces also have been enhanced with scary looking spikes, and more detail has been put into his two-hooked hand.  But the skin is really the most important feature, as it also us to realize where the name “Scales” comes from.

In Dinosaur Planet, Scales looked very ghastly and ethereal due to his vivid yellow eyes, but his expressions were very limited.  Now, in addition to an enhanced blood-chilling stare (which is rather toned down, though), the reptile side of the humanoid dinosaur is far better shown; i.e. look at all those pointy teeth.  His hand also more mobile and flexible, and not so much a Freddy Krueger/Edward Scissorhands type of deal.  His helmet remains largely unaltered, though.

A Rocky Giant

The Warp Stone is the greenish, giant torso that on more than one occasion Fox will have to speak to to progress through the game.  It possesses the ability to transport Fox to several places, the most important being Krazoa Palace.

In the only scene from the N64 version in which he appeared, the Warp Stone was meant to talk with Krystal, not Sabre/Fox.  And because a large stone man cannot be appearing in more than one place in the game, his position was centered in ThornTail Hollow.

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Here you can see a bit of the changes that were made to the Warp Stone as he made the jump to GameCube.  The eyes, which had looked very human, were now the same colour stone as the rest of him, and the teeth and tongue underwent the same change.  The teeth were also modified to appear far less comical than they had been previously.  The Warp Stone’s nose also changed a bit from narrow and pointed to large and round.

But that wasn’t the end for the Warp Stone.  As the pictures below demonstrate, his colour palette wasn’t quite right yet.  So for the final version of the game he became much more gray than green, to show his stone-quality more.  He also became a little bit smaller, too, as you see by measuring the distance between his face and Fox’s head, and the vegetation around him was given more detail as well.

The Protector of the Mines

One of the most well-known enemies in StarFox Adventures, due to several appearance in videos and images from all three versions of the game, is Boss Galdon.  And thanks to all that material, this comparison was able to be made.

Without a doubt, the greatest amount of changes made to Galdon are in its face.  In addition to being much more aggressive and dangerous in appearance, Galdon no longer looks like it is wearing a mask (as it did in Dinosaur Planet).  With just a little enhancing of the textures and the model, Galdon’s teeth and head tentacles are more striking and the figure far more imposing.  The face is more pointed now as well, evoking more or a hostile personality than the hexagonal (and pink) “mask” it had before.  Rare also didn’t need to hide its body in a sort of blue fog anymore as polygon counts no longer were and issue (note the details like the stone pillars in the new shot).  The difference is really very easy to make out.  Galdon really benefited from the new hardware.

The battle with this protector of the mines really didn’t change much from the original version.  In fact, the only real change is the addition of fire columns that appear sporadically during the fight, which was done most likely for a visual enhancement.  But still, Galdon’s new skin is the main draw here, and it’s one of the better reasons that this game was pushed over to the GameCube, in my opinion.

At a certain moment in the fight, Galdon eats Fox and the battle moves to his stomach, which is a shameless rip-off of the Lord Jabu Jabu fight from Ocarina of Time.  To get out, Fox must attack the monster’s uvula-like thing and free the Spell Stone.  Graphically, the changes here are not as significant as they are elsewhere in the game, and the only real difference if that once again you are Fox, not Krystal in the GameCube versions.  Looking at the screenshots above is also interesting if you ever wanted to see what the menus looked like in Star Fox Adventures: Dinosaur Planet.

Landscape Changes

The environments of Dinosaur Planet have improved a vast amount since the Nintendo 64 game was shown off at E3 2000.  At that time, textures suffered and the geometry of the environments was quite bland.  Take for example this next shot.  The river in ThornTail Hollow is separated by a rocky wall, not a grassy slope, the barrier walls are rocky without any sort of green vegetation, and the trees on the plateau are much more scarce.  Grass also received a lot of changes with the final version.  If you look at the ground in first person or with a Hi-Def Display Device, it’s not a only a nice texture, it actually sways back and forth.  This is in addition to the large-leaf grass found around the trees which sways too.

In the next shot of the snow-covered landscapes, more changes can be seen as well, although there are fewer.  The trees are again more prevalent and skinnier than the larger, cartoony models from Dinosaur Planet.  Fox also leaves footprints in the snow now, and the snow banks no longer appear to have been taken from the Siberia level of Goldeneye 007.

Due to the change in the protagonists that occured when the game switched consoles, Fox has replaced Krystal in almost every part of the game.  The following shots of the woods are a good example of this, as the two are in the area between Cape Claw and the LightFoot Village.

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As usual, the graphical enhancements are immediately evident.  The trees are now filled with dying leaves (some leaves even falling to the ground beautifully), and no longer appear in an umbrella-style cluster.  The trunks also look less like Aspens and more like solid hardwoods might, as Aspens are normally found in mountains anyways.  And while there’s a lot more close to the screen now than in the N64 version, it’s still rather open.  The lantern in the corner is another subtle touch, and the dried leaves that make up the ground, blended with a grass texture, is quite stunning.

That’s the end of the feature for me.  MundoRare had another page with music files from the N64 game on it, and for that we recommend visiting the Audio/Video section of Arwing Landing, where you can download tracks from both versions of the game.  I hope you enjoyed this guided tour showing just how much has happened to this game since it was first unveiled.  Congratulations on making it to the end.

Also, I’d like to say gracias a MundoRare.com para sus fotos y su esayo original.

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