In early 1994 there was a pre-release Beta version of Bare Knuckle III released to the world's gaming press, which showed the game at an early stage of development with many features that ended up being changed or removed completely from the final release. Sadly, no ROM currently exists to showcase the Beta but we do have a number of screenshots which show what it was like, plus some remnants left over in the final version ROM which can be found by ROM hacking.
In this section we will take a look at what was different about the Beta version.
First up, the character portraits were significantly different (and in my opinion, far superior): [Thanks to BarbieOnWeed for the original scans]
Interestingly, this screenshot shows another set of unused portraits. Axel and Blaze are slightly different to the ones above, while Sammy remains the same. Zan's portrait appears reversed, and you can just make out a bunch of wires coming out the back of his head. Also noteworthy is the portrait of Victy, who is known here as 'Kan':
Another unused Sammy portrait, from what appears to be a later build of the beta:
The title screen, found by hacking the final version ROM, showed a bolt of lightning striking the Bare Knuckle III logo:
(Thanks to Cabo Hicks and Glisp)
During the game's BETA stage, there were also 2 unused music tracks in the soundtrack. Thanks to the efforts of Red Crimson and Glisp during their hacking work on BKIIIDX, these unused tracks have been discovered, and you can download them in Mp3 format by clicking here and here. It's not hard to see why these tracks weren't used in the final version of the game; even by SOR3's standards they are pretty bad. The first track actually comes from the Story of Thor/Beyond Oasis beta (another game Yuzo Koshiro worked on), while the second track is a slight variation on the final Bad Ending theme.
This screenshot shows an early version of the construction site level, where the path is blocked by cement pipes (as opposed to a brick wall in the final release). Notice Donovan's name is misspelt as "Donoban". Also notice the bulldozer graphic is different. There are no "teeth" at the front of it. Also, there is no hydraulic "rod" connecting the front of it to the body of the vehicle.
The same screenshot appeared in the February 1994 issue of the Portuguese "Supergame" magazine, but this time the top of the image wasn't cropped so low. Here, the x4 next to Axel's life gauge is in the SOR2 style font, while Zan's name appears to have extra letters in front of it, possibly spelling "DR. ZAN":
And this is confirmed in this slightly better quality scan courtesy of Rage Quitter 87:
This shot shows Skate doing his "Corkscrew Kick" special from SOR2, adding fuel to the argument that SOR3's engine was a modified SOR2 engine. This move was of course changed (for the worse, in my opinion) in the final release.
Here we see Zan in his superior-looking Beta form. He appears more muscular and anime-like than the final version. Also notice Blaze in her classic 'legs-akimbo' up-skirt pose, which again, looks better than the final version. You can also see that Zan has got Max's life icon there, which pretty much proves the theory that SOR3 was developed from SOR2's engine... Also, the scoring system doesn't seem to be working. Thanks to Rage Quitter 87.
Here, we see Beta Zan's dash animation was somewhat different from the final version.:
Fighting ninjas just before the Yamato boss fight? Plus there is a baseball bat in the bottom right that isn't available in the final game. Cheers to Rage Quitter 87.
Thanks to Glisp, a member of our very own Hacking Team, who found some of Beta Zan's sprites in the final ROM:
Glisp also discovered this unused holding attack for final Zan:
And thanks to gsaurus, we can now see this unused attack in action:
This animation was actually put in the final set of animations, while other unused frames (like the Skate ones below) are just scattered around within the art set. It's strange that the animation is there but it's not being used. It's a unique case on the final ROM (apart from the bike animations).
It is possible to try out this animation ingame with this code: CJLB-ENCL
It replaces Zan's grab combo end (originally with beta frame) with this unused move.
Credit goes to daors for finding these unused Sammy sprites in the ROM, possibly another holding attack:
And some more unused ROM sprites, courtesy of gsaurus:
These unused Blaze sprites
(found in the ROM by henrick fernandes) appear to show an unused defensive throw
move. Even in the American version ROM, Blaze's clothes are red in these three
sprites. Opening a BK III / SoR 3 ROM in Tiles Editor, these three sprites are
located in offsets 00095000, 00095400, 00095A00.
There are several more unused sprites in the game ROM which never made it into the final version [Thanks to gsaurus]:
In this shot we see 'Blase' riding a motorbike in one of the famous motorcycle stages (See Hidden Levels for more info):
More shots from the motorcycle levels (See Round 6 Hidden Areas for more info):
The sunset in Stage 1 was considerably different in the Beta version: deep orange/red in colour, and much larger. More realistic, in a way. Also, notice how Shiva is wearing his blue SOR3 outfit, rather than his green BKIII outfit... Thanks to JoyJoyfulRabbit.
In this screenshot, there are no icons or text over the character life bars whatsoever. Bizarre...
Here, there appears to be a different sprite for Bongo holding Galsia that went unused in the final version.
Since when did Ash re-appear as a sub-boss in the Tunnelway level?
Mifune appears to be imbued with Spiderman's wall-crawling abilities as he clings effortlessly to the ceiling...
Dragon appears in the Tunnelway in this screenshot. Thanks to JoyJoyfulRabbit for spotting these inconsistencies.
This screenshot appears to show Beta Zan's Blitz attack: [JoyJoyfulRabbit]
No names above the lifebars here. Thanks to Eidolon.
And finally, a page from an Argentinean games magazine showing various Beta screenshots with similar discrepancies. Thanks again to Eidolon.
In April 2012, a couple of video clips emerged showing actual footage from the Bare Knuckle III BETA. Among various other things, you'll see BETA Zan in action, and some fantastic character portraits that never made it into the final version:
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