Super Mario 64 Beta Version
Unlike many other N64 games (such as Zelda Ocarina of Time and Goldeneye) the development of Super Mario 64 is mostly shrouded in mystery, so screenshots and information about early versions of the game a scarce and since Super Mario 64 is one of my favorite games of all time, I have often wondered how the game could have been very different if some of the elements from early beta versions of the game had not been removed. Well, I was interested in finding out more about the beta version of SM64 so I searched the internet for a while but came up pretty much empty handed, so I decided to make my own site all about the beta version of SM64. First up, here's an analysis of the few screenshots I could find of the beta version;
These two shots are obviously from an early version of Bob-om Battlefield, the main differences seem to be a weird spike on top of the mountain. Also I can't quite place the first picture in the level, it seems to be the area to the right of the Chain Chomp in the final version, but a large amount of scenery seems to be missing. Also the HUD (Heads Up Display) is slightly different to the one in the final game, the counters are in the correct positions but the images of the coin, star and Mario Head are different. Despite the differences though, these shots seem to be from a near-finished version of the game.
These two shots look almost the same as the finished version, the only differences are the HUD and the path to the left of the chomp is missing.
Is it just me, or does the Mario model look a bit off to you in this shot? Also there is no coin counter on screen. Other than that, very similar to the finished version.
Another shot from an almost complete version, the only difference I can see is the HUD. I didn't notice this before, but received an email from 'Chris' pointing out that the Boo seems to have a key inside it instead of a star. Perhaps in the beta version you had to beat Boo to get into the basement of the castle instead of Bowser.
These three shots of Bowser seem to be from a far-from-complete version of the game, in the first one, the textures on Bowser are very different to the ones in the final version, also the HUD is very different, all the icons are in different positions and the font is different.
These two shots of the castle show it's evolution, the first one is from an almost complete version of the game, the only differences are some trees are missing and the HUD. The second screenshot, however seems to be from a much older version of the game, the castle looks very different, there is no picture of Peach, the windows are different, (look closely) and there's no red slanted roof at the front of the castle, also, though it's hard to tell from this shot the flag on top of the pointed section of roof looks different.
These two shots of Whomp's Fortress show some major changes, in the first shot, the Thwomps look slightly off, and in the second one, there's no background...
These two shots show more of a nearly complete version, however, I don't remember there being a metal pool in Hazy Maze Cave, and I don't remember Pokey being this happy...
Here you can see several differences in Shifting Sand Land. The pyramid looks quite different, and fence has been replaced by a wall.
These shots show what I assume to be the entrance to Dire Dire Docks, however the corridor it's in looks entirely different.
Comments on this pic courtesy of TrJ_22487: "I know you think that's
Dire Dire Docks, but don't those look like snow covered mountains to you? I
think at one point Cool Cool Mountain and Snowman's Land had different
paintings, and I think this was Cool Cool Mountains painting"
This looks almost exactly the same as the released version except for the absence of the snowmen on the bridge.
Finally, the strangest SM64 Beta screenshot I have come across, this seems to be the castle lobby, but as you can see it is entirely different, the textures on the walls are different, many of the doors are missing (assuming that the door Mario is stood by is the door leading to the first floor, the first Bowser door and the door leading to Princess' Secret Slide are missing) Also there are no stairs leading to this door and it has no keyhole, I believe that there is no keyhole so that every level could be accessed easily in this early version, this can be seen in shots of Mario fighting Bowser with only 1 or 2 stars. The very observant of you will also notice that the door in the bottom right of the shot, in the final game is a darker brown, wooden design.
Well, I managed to track down another batch of SM64 Beta shots and here they are.
These two shots came from a batch of shots from an almost complete version of the game, they were all almost exactly the same as the released version (apart from the HUD) so I've only shown two as an example, the only difference from the whole batch was the shot on the left, if you notice there is actually a timer on the penguin race, there isn't one in the released version. Although notice that the font of 'TIME' and the number font is the same as the final version, showing that this version was very close to the released one.
These two shots, however are far more interesting, the one on the left shows the old version of the power meter, which I wrote about remembering in the short account at the bottom of the page, and the one on the right shows the Beta version of the startup screen, as you can see the only difference is that it says 'PRESS START' in a different font. An interesting side note is that in my PAL version of the game, it only says 'START'.
UPDATE 26.6.04: Moving Images
A great find this, I managed to get hold of a small video of a beta version of Mario 64 captured from an N64 promotional video made before it came out, it appears that some of the images on this page have come from this video. There are too many differences to count, so download it for yourself to see (look out for another different power meter, and Bowser's roar)
Video found at Game Zero
UPDATE 6.12.04: Shoshinkai
A few days ago, 'Zidapi' got in touch with me to say that he'd dug out his old copies of Electronic Gaming Monthly and Hyper and found some with tons of images of the Super Mario 64 beta, and has very kindly scanned them in and emailed them over, so now you can all see them. First I'll post Zidapi's comments about the pics, the I'll put the pics up along with a running commentary.
"After taking this renewed interest in all things beta mario 64, i'm really confused about all the builds out there and how they fit into it's creative timeline. The scans i have are from apprarently the first official "ultra Mario 64" unveiling in December '95 at nintendo's Shoshinkai trade show (later became spaceworld) at which the press was given "38 (image?) slides and the six minute demo tape" which i assume are are where the images i'll scan are from. But the captured images all have super mario 64 in japanese in the bottom right hand corner and have the "pow" power meter as do the "slides", so unless they had a different build playable on the show floor, i have absolutly no idea where or when the gamezero video on your site is from :(
After looking at both my scans and the pics you have up on your page from gamezero, I've come to the conclusion that there was definetly two builds on show at Shoshinkai in November 1995, One on the promo video and 'slides' the press were given and a different one in playable form on the show floor. So which is the more complete build? Well that would be the one on the show floor, I say this because the Bowser textures in it are closer to the final ones. The easiest way to see the difference between the 2 in a subtle difference in HUDs. In Nintendo's video demo if you have 1-9 stars/lives/coins it is shown as (lives)02 in the HUD, where as in both the video from gamezero as well as the images that are obviously stills from a video (probably from cut parts of the same footage) the HUD shows the same stars/lives/coins as (lives)1, without the zero."
First couple of shots just show lethal lava land, nothing much to report, other than the fact that the crumbling stairs seem to just be a crumbling bridge and look at the old school power star! Looks to me like they were originally sprites like the coins, as opposed to full polygon models. Also TrJ_22487 points out that the polka-dot pattern appears under the star.
Two shots from water levels, Dire Dire Docks on the left, no changes I can see (apart from the power meter etc.) but look at the one on the right, where is it? And also, look at the fish to the bottom left of Mario, I don't think it's in the game. Also this shot shows clearly that the old POW meter also showed Mario's health as a number, I don't know why I never noticed this before.
Look at the weird floor textures in Whomp's Fortress.
Uh... Carpet outdoors?
More shots for Whomp's Fortress. This series shows that the ramp leading up the mountain does exist, so my recollection was not entirely accurate. Maybe the article was referring to the small ramp leading onto the much bigger ramp, which does seem to be absent.
More psychedelic texturing in Whomp's Fortress. Pink stones and green walls... what the heck?
This shot nicely shows the outside of the castle, notice how it tapers inwards towards the bottom.
Wow, I love this shot, it shows Cool, Cool Mountain but everything about it seems different. Notice the strange fence in the foreground, the odd penguin model and the weird pyramid structure in the background.
This shot is a bit of a mystery, it looks like Mario is flying without a winged cap. Maybe he's been shot out of a cannon, or maybe the wings blend into the background too well. The level seems to be Tall, Tall Mountain, which doesn't even contain a winged cap in the final game.
Comments on this pic courtesy of TrJ_22487: "I'm almost positive that
this is Whomps Fortress, and not Tall Tall Mountain like you seem to think. In
fact, I know that's Whomps Fortress, almost nothing has changed. He's being shot
out of a cannon in that picture, that's where you'd be if you missed the wall
you have to break to get the star in the final version. That red blob on the
platform is really the sign, you can see the slope leading down to the water,
and the wooden bridge is in the lower left, either the coins have been
collected, weren't there, or the pop up hasn't kicked in."
These two shots show the second beta power meter.
Another mysterious set of shots, can anyone put a finger on where this place is? Zidapi thought it might be Tall, Tall Mountain, and for some reason it reminds me of the Invisible Hat course. However it may just be a room created solely for demonstration purposes and didn't make it into the final game.
Many thanks for all the new shots from Zidapi, nice job! The only shot I really want to see now is the black clock that took the place of Peach's picture on the front of the castle. Laters.
TrJ_22487 turned up another picture
"I found a new Mario 64 beta screenshot from believe it or not CNN.com. It's pretty small but it shows that the power meter was always shown at one point because I can't see how Mario could have gotten hurt here. The date on the article was 12-05-95 "
Mattis sent me some interesting points late last year, and only now am I getting round to posting them. (sorry) Anyway, from his email:
"I was looking over your beta shots and I spotted some things you missed.
I also found a bunch more pics and vids. You can find them here:
most of them you already have, but there are many you do not.
About the pics already on your site:
In the first one:
I’m pretty sure Mario’s standing more or less where the koopa is in the final version. The island and the cannon are in different places, and the ground might be changed some. Look at the mountain in your picture, and go to where you can see the same peice of mountain in the game. In your pic, you can see a tiny bit of the cannon to the right of the koopa. Your right, not the koopa’s right. Also, the goomba’s face is flattened a little.
In the boo pic:
the boo’s face is also different.
In one of the bowser pics:
bowser’s eyes are bugging out. compare to this one: http://www.angelfire.com/pro/glitches/betapics/bowser3.jpg
and mario is in the kick position. This suggests that originally, you had to punch or kick bowser to damage him, or maybe to freeze him for a minute so you could run around and grab his tail.
In the metal mario pic:
there is a pool in HMC, the one that leads to the metal cap stage. But the closest cap is by the elevator that takes you to nessie’s lake. You would have to run really fast to get there before it wore off, and you have to ride nessie to get to that pool, so you would have to get to the island with the switch, long jump onto nessie, and ride her to the door. This would take a huge amount of speed and luck. I think it’s much more likely that the cap block, the entrance to the metal cap course, or both, were in different places. Or, there could have originally been a pool to get you back from the cap course to the level. There are many possibilities here.
In the weird one of a painting:
that is cool cool mountain, I’m almost positive, because the picture is of the background in the final version of CCM.
In the video, mario’s cap seems to be a different color. apart from that, it shows a lot of things. The way to thwomp’s fortress had you going through the courtyard, and it had a different painting. And you said (in the statement for a picture that was taken from that video) that the power meter was always there, because you couldn’t get hurt there. However, it’s at 7. and it couldn’t be full at 7, because it goes away when they enter the course. I think (now this is really reaching) that in a demo, the person playing was displaying the new health system. They jumped and got hurt from the fall to show how you can get hurt from a fall (so they had 6 health now), got a coin to show how you could regain health (7 health), went to thwomp’s fortress, and their health was at 8, with no power meter. Even if this isn’t the case, you get the idea.
In the mystery pic:
this is Dire Dire Docks. That fish is Cheep Cheep Jr. he’s yellow in that pic and orange in the final. The shark is called Sushi, and hasn’t changed from that pic to the final.
One of the WF pics:
the carpet is there in the final.
in the CCM pic:
the background is very different. I think that the original painting became the background, and the original background got deleted, and a new picture was installed."
Thanks go to Mattis for his insight.
A note about Luigi
I have heard many rumors flying around the internet that the Beta version of Mario 64 contained Luigi in some way, however I do not believe that he was ever in the game, if he had been I'm sure that the countless people who have hacked the code apart with GameSharks and Hex editors would have found some evidence of his presence, however they have found none. Even though something is taken out of a game, it is often left in the code but the piece of code used to unlock it is removed, evidence of this can be seen in the many beta levels in Zelda: Wind Waker and beta characters in Goldeneye that have been found with cheat devices. Also to the people who say all evidence of Luigi would have been removed because Mario 64 completely filled the N64 cartridge I say this: Mario 64 only takes up 64 Megabits on the cartridge whereas Ocarina of Time takes up 256 Megabits, obviously they weren't running out of space. I'm not arguing with the fact that Luigi was planned to be in the game, (he may well have been) however I believe that he never actually made it in there (maybe because of time constraints or a change of plans) so any screenshots you see of Luigi are not from a beta version but are fakes.
A Vague Recollection...
I'd also like to tell you about a little section I saw in a magazine in 1995. The writers had got hold of a version of SM64 that they said was about 50% complete, they printed a large number of photos and descriptions, unfortunately I haven't been able to track down this magazine and I haven't seen any of these screenshots on the internet which is unfortunate because the article was very detailed. From what I remember, they observed that on the front of the castle, where Peach's picture should be, there was a black clock, also they stated that there was no stairs leading up to the door in the lobby, this prompts me to believe that the last screenshot above is from the same build that they were playing. I also remember that they said there was no ramp allowing you to skip past the stairs that the Thwomps occupy on Whomp's Fortress, meaning that you had to make it past the moving floors and walls every time you played. I also remember that the shape and style of the power meter was drastically different, instead of being shaped like Mario's head, it was a shield shape and it said 'POW' as opposed to 'POWER'. Other than that I don't remember much detail, so if you have any information about the Beta version of SM64, have any screenshots that I don't have here, or you see a copy of it being sold on eBay (here's hoping) please drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org