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Firemen, The (ザ・ファイヤーメン)

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This is a prototype of The Firemen. Two known copies exist, and has been assumed to be an unreleased US version due to it being an NTSC prototype, plus its English text. Is there any truth to this? Read on.

By: Evan G
Last updated: July 28, 2013

I've been sitting on this prototype for over a year now, and finally I'm getting around to looking at it. The Firemen was released in Japan and Europe by Human Entertainment, and is sort of a cross between an overhead shooter like Ikari Warriors and an action game like The Legend of Zelda. It is fun, but it is far too short and easy (I got to near the end of the last level in my second playthrough). Anyways, the prototype is pretty much identical to the final version of the game, though there are many noticeable errors in the script compared to the final European version. The script appears to be compressed within the binary, so I could not dump it for a full comparison. Here are a few examples of the differences from the first two levels.

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Prototype options screenPAL version options screen, with additional language option
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PrototypePAL version - note the added contraction, and the correct "scene" being used.
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Prototype - in the prototype, the names of characters are spelled out in all-capsPAL version
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PrototypePAL version - replaced the word "in" with "through"
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PrototypePAL version - there are plenty of dialogues that have corrected punctuation
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PrototypePAL version
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PrototypePAL version
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PrototypePAL version - I have no idea why they would change this dialogue.
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PrototypePAL version
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PrototypePAL version - uses an appropriate idiom
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Prototype - "feed" instead of "fed"PAL version
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PrototypePAL version
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PrototypePAL version
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Prototype - Weller is one arrogant SOB in the prototype version.PAL version

As you can see, the script in the prototype is pretty rough, and likely was not checked over by a native English speaker. The gameplay and level design does not have any immediate visual differences from the PAL version of the game, except that the font is slightly thinner.

When Matthew Callis released this ROM image, he called this the USA version, on the basis that the game is in an NTSC format, and it has the English translation. In addition, it has the "Licensed by Nintendo" splash screen, which is required for US releases (though the PAL release also has this). However, Human Entertainment did not have a US publishing arm, and there is no indication that a third party was going to release this game in the US. Nintendo Power made no mention of The Firemen. EGM featured it in its August and September 1994 issues, though they only showed the Japanese version and gave no indication of any plans of a US release. The internal header, though not diagnostic, assigns the region as "Japan" (see below).

---------------------Internal ROM Info----------------------
File: the_firemen.sfc
Name: THE FIREMEN JAPAN Company: Human Entertainment
Header: None Bank: LoROM
Interleaved: None SRAM: 0 Kb
Type: Normal ROM: 8 Mb
Country: Japan Video: NTSC
ROM Speed: 120ns (FastROM) Revision: 1.0
Checksum: Bad 0xFE8C != 0x0000 Game Code: AFMJ

Ultimately, the truth behind whether or not this is a true unreleased US SNES game would only be resolved if we knew the origin of the prototypes. DuoFan gave no indication of where he got his prototypes, so it is a bit of a dead end. I got mine in a lot of Super Famicom prototypes, which included several other Japan-only Human Entertainment games. This leads me to believe that they originated from Japan. In my opinion, this is merely an early localization of the intended PAL release. Still, if I had the choice of which version to play, I'd go with the NTSC prototype with a raw script than the less fluid PAL version.

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The DuoFan prototype, which was purchased by Matthew Callis for dumping
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My copy of the prototype, which had an identical binary to the previously dumped version. Originally purchased from Simon_Belmont on Assembler Games. Note that it didn't have any stickers on the EPROM window, so I added my own. My prototype uses an older PCB type than the DuoFan prototype.

Bibliography

  • Original release on Eludevisibility.org (archive) (link)
  • Thread on Digital Press on DuoFan's initial find of the prototype (link)
  • Thread on DP stating that DuoFan was selling the prototype on Ebay, but the auction was pulled (link)

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