Friday, April 1, 2011

Location of unreleased Akira prototypes

I know where they might be! Well, technically it’s more that I know who might have them, even if I don’t quite know where these people are – but that’s where you, the readership, comes in. By making this information public, perhaps someone will succeed at tracking down those involved and report on it for the world to see. Read on for details!

I had been trying to get hold of the December 1993 issue of Game Zone magazine (issue 14) for what seems like forever. The reason being that its cover story was a feature on the Akira games for the SNES and GameBoy, both of which went unreleased. I was eager to see what this feature said, and if it had any screens.

Eventually I tried contacting everyone listed in the staff page of the issue directly prior to that issue (which I had). I got hold of quite a few, though none still had any issues. Until I tracked down Rupert Sliwa, who you may remember from HG101’s Catrap article (pictured here). He kindly went to a great deal of trouble scanning the feature, which wasn’t easy considering the type of binding they used on the spine. But at last I had it, and if you click on the images below, you’ll see it reveals just enough concrete details to prove extremely valuable.

The key information is that the man in charge was LARRY SIEGEL. He was head of Black Pearl Software (which most people know was involved with the Akira licence thanks to this interview), which was absorbed into THQ. What I’ve never seen mentioned before is info on the SNES and GB versions specifically.

The SNES version was handed over to Handmade Software in Swindon, UK. It was formerly known as Mr Micro, and was headed by Jim Gregory, who also worked on Kasumi Ninja and other Atari games.

The GameBoy version of Akira was handed to Ice Software in Slough, UK, on which I could find no further information. Are they connected to International Computer Entertainment (ICE) which worked on the Amiga Akira game? I have no idea, but all the staff on that specific project said they’d had no involvement with any other version other than the Amiga release. On the other hand, a few spotty records online say that was ICE was based on Slough. It's all very difficult to find solid info on.

The unreleased Akira games, based on reports of those who played them (see below in green), sound awesome. And unlike a lot of other unreleased console games, which are hidden in Japan and near impossible to find, if any prototypes exist for these they’ll be in England or America. They’re so close I can almost touch them. Larry Siegel even has a LinkedIn profile, stating he resides in New York. If anyone can shed light on all the planned versions (SNES, Genesis, Sega CD, Game Gear, Game Boy), it’ll be Larry. All we need to do is find Larry.

My hope had been to track these guys down, get concrete info, interviews, photos, maybe screens, maybe working prototypes, and then have all this information dumped onto the internet via Hardcore Gaming 101, because how awesome would that have been? Site traffic would be up, infamy would be assured, and we’d all coast along on a delirious wave of cocaine, strippers and fan adulation. But tracking Larry and Jim down proved pretty tricky. I trawled Mobygames, LinkedIn and Directory Inquiries, sent no fewer than 20 emails, and made over a dozen phone calls. Hell, I even got people I knew to use their Facebook accounts to contact other Facebook users who may have had a connection, and the same for Twitter. I thought I’d come close several times, managing to get hold of many of Larry and Jim’s former colleagues, but in all cases they’d lost contact with the gentleman in question. I even tried asking on our blog, with no luck.

So, here are the Game Zone scans, plus scans from Unseen 64 (if you write for Unseen 64 feel free to re-use my GZ scans), and the rest I leave up to you – the wider world. If you know Larry or Jim, I advocate kidnapping and truth-inducing drugs.

The world is keen for this information!

And if you’re unconvinced on the quality of the games, read this post by Whimsical Phil on NeoGAF. They sound like the greatest games ever (not) released.

Whimsical Phil

And I was actually able to play THQ's Genesis Akira game back at a CES show ages ago (this, of course, pre-dated E3). Somewhere at my parent's house, I still have a sales flyer for the game with info and screens on it. I'll have to try to dig it up next time I'm there and get that puppy scanned.

If I remember correctly, it was announced for Genesis, SNES, Sega CD, Game Boy, and Game Gear, although I believe that the Genesis version was the only one on display on the show floor. The main gimmick of the game was that each stage played differently. Lemme see how many I can recall...

- A motorcycle racing stage that was a lot like Super Hang-On. As you would imagine, you were Kaneda racing against the Clowns.

- A FPS stage where you were Tetsuo wandering though the lab where he was being experimented on. Instead of a gun at the bottom of the screen, you just saw Tetsuo's hand, and when you fired at guards, he shot out a blast of psychic energy. This stage was about as impressive looking as a FPS could look on the Genesis.

- A side scrolling stage where you were Kaneda and Kei piloting that hover vehicle through the sewers. These stages weren't strictly side scrolling, though, as they were quite large and maze-like. You could fly quite a ways up and down as well as left and right. You used the gun on the vehicle to shoot down the guards' crafts.

- An isometric stage (think Viewpoint) where you were Tetsuo walking across the bridge (the one he would eventually destroy). Pressing the attack button caused him to swing his arm out in front of him, sending a wave of psychic energy out in front on him. The main enemy that I recall in this stage were rows of soldiers armed with the laser cannons from the movie. I remember being really impressed with the look of the Tetsuo sprite on this stage (complete with his tattered red cape).

- The last stage that I remember was a 2D beat-em-up (or was it a one-on-one fight?). Either way, you were a surprisingly large mutated Tetsuo attacking, well, whoever it was attacking you (Kaneda? Soldiers? I don't remember).

Seeing as how I was a big fan of the movie at the time, I talked to one of the head PR people at length about the game. She even gave me an animation cel from the movie (of the giant teddy bear and rabbit that attacked Tetsuo), which they were probably giving out to the press. Even though I was just a scrub working at Babbage's at the time (yes, I was one of those retail kids who snuck into the show), she gave me her business card and I kept in contact with her for a while getting updates on the game. Until, of course, she gave me the sad news one day that they had cancelled it.

Man, I really gotta find that sales sheet now.

Many thanks to Rod_Wod on Assembergames forum for taking many of the magazine scans originally.


  1. Also, just realised, according this Digipress topic, a French journalist on the magazine "Console Plus" at one point had an EEPROM of one of the prototypes:

    Most interesting! Considering I live in France, if anyone has any contact details, I might be willing to take the train to Paris or wherever, to report on this (maybe - the train is damned expensive for just a goose hunt).

  2. Shame the NES game sucked.

  3. Did you ask on the Digit Press or the Lost Levels forums? That'd be the first places if I would be searching for Prototypes or people connected to them.

  4. You could try asking this on the Assembler Game forums, or I could ask for you if you like (if you haven't already) - They've got pretty wide spread contacts in the beta market.

  5. Now that I've put this info out there (specifically the GZ scans) I feel less involved in the situation and with less need to finish researching things.

    But by all means, feel free to mention these names to anyone up for a good hunt.

    At the very least I'm sure Jim and Larry can be contacted somehow. As long as this info ends up recorded somewhere I'm happy.

  6. Don't worry, I'm sure the new movie will see a renaissance of all these games and more.



  7. Hello,
    I've seen your comments on Unseen 64.
    I have a few more informations about this game. It has been showed at the Las Vegas CES of June 1994 in a very early version, but its various phases of gameplay were already available. Though, the game has been very criticized by many magazines due to its many bugs (That makes sense, since the game development wasn't very advanced).

    The game has been showed was at the London ECTS of september(?) 1994 too.
    By the way, hearing THQ say that the game has been canned due to its lack of quality.... well, since the other THQ games were awfully bad, I'm not sure it's the true reason.

    One more point: I'm french and I know where to find some of the Consoles + journalists, so if you have the name of the guy, let me know.

  8. One more thing: I've found the website of one of the developpers (I don't remember where): Tom Meig:

  9. Thanks for the post and information!

    Unfortunately I have no idea who the Console+ journalists would have been, since I'm only going on what I read on the Digipress forums.

    Thanks again for the link to Tom Meig, I'll drop him an email and ask what he remembers.

  10. I actually kinda think the NES game as pretty cool.