RetroVision – 16-Bit Akira Game Footage Uncovered

Katsuhiro Otomo’s 1988 adaptation of the manga Akira, is seen as not only one of the greatest Japanese animes of all time, but arguably one of the greatest sci-fi stories ever told. Not only was its dystopian cyberpunk tale a poignant commentary on modern society and the technological enhancements within, but it’s also attributed with being one of the key factors leading to mainstream western interest in anime, and Japanese culture all round.

As such, given Japan’s influence on the video game industry back the the 80s and 90s, it should come as no surprise to learn that Akira was also adapted into a video game for the Famicom. This Japanese exclusive Akira game was developed by Taito and originally released back in 1988. However, it turns out that this wasn’t the only Akira game that was developed.

Akira game announcement
A clipping from a magazine which mentions the 16-bit Akira game.

You see, following the massive success of the anime, three 16-bit Akira games were also in development by THQ for the Super Nintendo, Sega Mega Drive / Genesis and the Mega-CD. There was also scaled down versions for the Game Boy and Game Gear planned too. However, the fact that these were in development, really isn’t any great surprise.

In fact, this was all common knowledge back in the early 90s with the game teased in a few magazines, on top of having flyers present within the Akira’s VHS release in the USA. What’s more, the state of the game’s production and its cancellation, was also spoken of back in 2012 by a man named Jim Gregory, president of the team THQ had contracted to develop the game, Hand Made Software.

Akira Game Bike
Footage depicting Shōtarō Kaneda riding through Neo-Tokyo.

This interview can be found via the following link, and offers some fascinating insights into the development of the game. However, one interesting quote shows that it wasn’t a lack of quality that proved to be the 16-bit Akira game’s downfall, but rather a set of unfortunate occurances.

It was not so much cancelled or scrapped as it fell into neglect. Larry transferred rights to THQ and we couldn’t get clear agreement on the game elements with the project manager. They didn’t understand the limitations of the SNES. The project was then victim to a number of disasters including the lead programmer leaving, and other work being more pressing.

However, what has come as a surprise is the emergence of footage of this elusive 16-bit Akira game in action. What’s even more surprising is the fact that this footage isn’t something new like Dragon’s Heaven for the Neo Geo. Nope, it’s actually footage of the game running in English from the 1994 CES show that has flown under the radar for over 20 years.

This brief footage from all the way back in 1994 can all be found in the video below:

Being able to see some running footage of this game though isn’t the biggest implication of this discovery. What’s more interesting about this, is the fact despite the late THQ’s claims that no working builds of the 16-Bit Akira game remain, given the discovery of this footage, the possibility of a ROM existing out there is quite high. An exciting prospect given just how good this footage looks, especially when it comes the the motorcycle ride through Neo-Tokyo

In fact, it wouldn’t actually that much of a surprise if such a ROM was to turn up after all this time, especially thanks to the renewed interest that this footage has given the doomed project. Given that the Akira’s only other video game tie-in never graced western shores, if there is a ROM out there waiting to be uncovered, it certainly would be one hell of a welcome discovery. Stranger things have happened in the world of retro gaming recently after all.

Simon Drake

A lifelong gamer with a fanatical love of all things Nintendo and Japan. So much so that I've written a thesis on one and lived in the other. Currently on a quest to catch every last Pokémon. Follow me on twitter via @DudeXChill or @RingsandCoins.

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