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Additional sketches, photos and assets for the Dreamcast game Propeller Arena from the AM2 development studio

Not all the material at my disposal could be used for the layout of the article: "Seven new Propeller Arena Dreamcast prototypes on the horizon".

First presented at E3 2001, Propeller Arena was an aerial combat game by AM2. Yū Suzuki and his team had favored an arcade game rather than a simulation for their next production.

PA promotion in a French magazine

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PA was to follow in the footsteps of Crazy Taxi, but with a more limited budget. It featured everything that had made Hitmaker's game such a success: aggressive music, stereotypical characters, polished gameplay and lots of fun with the controller.

The story took place in the future, in 2045, during a championship (the ABC) that challenged eight pilots of varying personalities and identities to prove who was the best dogfighter. At the controls of old World War II planes, modified and upgraded, only one was left standing!

Propeller Arena was finished and ready for release when the World Trade Center attacks traumatized the United States. SEGA decided to cancel the game so that it would not be associated with the tragedy of September 11, 2001. The reason was that one of PA's levels took place in an urban area surrounded by buildings, and airplane crashes into skyscraper facades were a frequent occurrence. It was preferable to abandon the project against the risk of huge controversy for having been perceived as impassive to the drama that had just happened.

With the release of Propeller Arena on Dreamcast, SEGA would have retired from the console builder market with the tributes. Even though it was never officially released, Propeller Arena is a game that every fan of the White Queen must own, or at least try out.

Characters and maps

The Artwork and photos used in this article are mostly never seen before. The Propeller Arena development team updated their conceptual materials in the same way as a prototype, assigning a version number to each asset.

A version number for some Artworks appears in the bottom right-hand corner of the drawing. For example, the presentation sketch of the "Eagle Jam" squadron leader found on the Internet is marked "4/16 ver S.T". The one on this page is marked "4/11 ver S.T".

The differences are minor. The young actress and pilot of the "Shameless Cats" team of aviators adopts another sexy posture between the 2 variations of the Artwork featuring her.

Differences for "Shameless Cats" between the Internet Artwork (left) and the one in this article (right)

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Debug option (OBJECT TEST)

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As can be seen from the presentation drawing by Tim Golden of "Muscle Brothers" on this assets disc, the bodybuilder had a different appearance from that which would eventually be chosen for the final version of Propeller Arena. The April 2001 prototype allows us to play him in his virile form, rather than his usual effeminate one.

The screenshots of the battle arenas were certainly taken with the Debug Menu option "OBJECT TEST". It looks just like it. The June 2001 build enables the use of this tool and much more. It's worth noting that the SDKs of a Dreamcast Development Kit (Katana) included a program that allowed developers to take in-game photos.

The assets of a video game were primarily intended for the press, to promote it and generate public interest.  With the discovery of these new Propeller Arena assets, we can see that they were evolving as the game's development progressed.

The story, personality and representation of the characters in play or drawings

Team: Eagle Jam (Pilot: Gary Hamilton) : Gary is a very patriotic American and a top-flight USAF pilot. He is the leader of "Eagle Jam" - a group of airplane enthusiasts who love to restore and fly P-51D's. Although he is an expert pilot, his lack of real combat experience causes him to question his skills as an actual "fighter." When he learned that the Aviation Battle Championship (ABC) was going to use live bullets, he decided to participate in the tournament in an effort to finally erase his doubts about how he'd perform in a real, do-or-die dogfight.

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Team: Shameless Cats (Pilot: Emily Williams) : Emily is a talented young actress that was once nominated for the National Film Actress of the Year award. She is the granddaughter of John Williams, a world-famous adventurer and pilot who taught her to fly when she was just a little girl. A tomboy in her teenage years, Emily left home at age 18 following a disagreement with her parents. Thanks to her grandfather's support, she found work as a waitress and a dancer before making her professional acting debut at the age of 21. Following her grandfather's passing earlier in the week, Emily was motivated to participate in ABC to honor his spirit and his beloved airplane.

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Tim GoldenTeam: Muscle Brothers (Pilot: Tim Golden) : The leader of "The Muscle Brothers," Tim is always a contender for the top spot in the All-American Bodybuilding Championships. Yet even with all his strength, Tim is a tender, caring father of three young boys. Ironically, he hates flying, and uses a car to drive from venue to venue. Tim was formerly a cadet in the Air Force, yet he dropped out of the academy and refuses to explain why. Many believe that he may have been traumatized by his experience there. He was originally invited to be a spectator at the ABC, but was tricked into participating in the tournament. It seems the unscrupulous owner of his gym hopes to recover some of his gambling losses by entering Tim in the competition. Tim's sons are excited and proud that their daddy's participating in the ABC, so Tim is now forced to strap in and fly a plane. Again.

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Team: Pizza Fat (Pilot: Michael "Pizza Fat" Cantrelle) : Michael is the first son of Roger Cantrelle, founder of Pizza Fat (Pizza King in the prototype of April 2001), one of the largest pizza restaurant franchises in the U.S. A lazy mama's boy, Michael has been known to bounce from one job to another, and seems to care only about his collection of historic military items. Hoping to light a fire under his son, Roger told Michael, "If you like the military so much, why don't you participate in the ABC? Tell you what. If you win, I'll buy you a tank." Naturally, Michael is very excited about the prospect of owning his very own tank, so he's decided to enter ABC flying one of his father's P-38's.

Tim Golden and Michael Cantrelle take to the air in the LOCKHEED P38J LIGHTNING, a unique flying machine that originated in the US. The first flight of the original model, the XP-38, took place on January 29, 1939. But problems during landing led to several more test flights and the creation of the YP-38, the model that was officially accepted for production on September 7, 1940. The full production model, the P-38E, became the standard for the P-38 series before the J model improved the engine coolant system in 1943.

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Team: Pengo Jets (Pilot: Rally Miller) : Everyone recognizes Rally from his days as an actor in numerous popular TV drama programs. A handsome man, it's no surprise that the vast majority of Rally's fans are female. However, he is a narcissist, and misunderstands women, so he's constantly the subject of much gossip. Rally is an airplane maniac, and flies his private jet all around the country. When he learned of the ABC, and realized that the winner's name would be in headlines everywhere, Rally decided he absolutely had to enter the competition. He persuaded a producer friend of his to create a TV special entitled "Rally Miller in the ABC," and managed to convince the network to buy him a fighter for the ABC. Ever the self-centered type, he now believes that he can attract even more women with his fighter than he could with his private jet!

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Team: 8-bit Beat (Pilot: Silver Boy): Information on "Silver Boy" is extremely hard to come by. All that is known is that he is the leader of the German techno unit "MetalBoy," and that he is an ultra high-level pilot. As for his background, no one can be certain. As one competitor put it, "All I know is that he's a weirdo who wears a silver body suit. What else do you need to know?"

Rally Miller and Silver Boy enjoy the speed of the MESSERSCHMITT Bf109E. As the primary fighter of the German Luftwaffe, the Bf109E entered production in May of 1940. As the war progressed, most divisions transitioned to the newer F model, but some veteran pilots continued to fly the Bf109E until the summer of 1942.

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Team: Hex Candy (Pilot: Lucy Walman) : Lucy is the lead singer for the up-and-coming all-girl English band named Hex Candy. Although she had no flying experience, her manager entered her in the ABC as a promotional stunt for the band. Even after a two-week flight training course in Florida, Lucy still has doubts about being a championship pilot. Her always-positive attitude has her focused on victory, and she'll use her anger toward her manager for placing her in the competition as a motivating factor, but she'll need to overcome lingering doubts about her abilities if she hopes to claim the title.

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Team: Golden Knife (Pilot: Peter Goldsmith) : Peter is the leader of the famous "Greedy Goldsmith Group." A deceptively agile flyer, he fought in the Gulf War as a Navy pilot and earned the unflattering nickname "Hyena of the Desert." The nickname came from his tendency to only target and shoot down enemy fighters that had been previously hit. In this way, his number of enemy fighters that he "destroyed" would increase, causing his performance to look better than it was. Predictably, his war colleagues turned a cold shoulder to him for stealing their glory. After the war, Peter established a successful private company that managed technology stocks, but he decided to enter the ABC to regain some luster on his tarnished aerial career (and to claim some of the enormous prize money). Plus, he has a hankering to return to the days of hunting prey, just as he did during the war.

Lucy Walman and Peter Goldsmith arrive for battle in the SUPERMARINE SPITFIRE Mk Vb. The Mk I, introduced in 1936, held its own against the Luftwaffe's Bf109E, but the German introduction of the Bf109F shifted air superiority in their favor. Plans were set in motion to place a more powerful engine in the Mk I, and a prototype first took to the air in January of 1941. This became the basis for the Mk V, with its greater speed and climbing power.

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The two aviators of the "Shadow" squadron (bonus plane to be unlocked by finishing the game three times with the same plane on at least Normal difficulty) and the "Sol & Ray" squadron (bonus plane to be unlocked by finishing the game twice with the same plane on at least Normal difficulty) are mysterious pilots. No one had seen them before their participation in the ABC. All competitors agree that they should be wary of them. Their style inspire suspicion.

Sol & Ray Propeller Arena
Propeller_Arena_Shadow_Artwork

The distinctive style of SEGA's arcade games is immediately apparent, with each character caricatured in a genre all his own. Which of these eccentric aviators is closest to your heart?

The fighting arenas

Airport (Stage 1) : The first stage of the Championship Mode takes place above a futuristic airport near the ocean. Amid the chaos of combat, observant pilots will witness shuttle launches as well as consumer flight arrivals and departures.

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Red Canyon (Stage 2) : Set against a gorgeous sunset, this vast desert canyon plays host to intense power struggles and serves as Championship Mode's second stage.

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Tower City (Stage 3) : Tear through the city streets and beneath low-lying bridges as you avoid enemy fire and towering skyscrapers. This massive stage is an obstacle-ridden urban crash course.

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Sky High (Stage 4) : Set high above the clouds, "Sky Hi" offers amazing freedom as well as some unexpected hazards. A powerful jet stream just below the cloud layer can quickly tear apart even the most durable flying machine.

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Ice World (Stage 5) : Get ready for some heated combat in an arctic setting, but don't let the whales in the water distract you--your stray fire can send whole glacier tips sliding into the sea!

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Old Castle (Stage 6) : Surrounded by beautiful countryside and a gigantic moat, this massive structure consists of narrow gateways, tall archways, and claustrophobic courtyards that challenge even the most acrobatic pilots.

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Volcano (Stage 7) : Set against a nighttime sky, this stage features an enormous erupting volcano and fast-flowing rivers of lava. If your opponents don't take you out, the volcano's fireballs probably will.

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Phantom Island (Stage 8) : Another skirmish in the night... Phantom Island plays host to a severe electrical storm. With cloud-to-cloud lightning and enemies under cover of darkness, you might want to fly low near the water or take cover in the island's cavernous interior.

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Completing the game two or three times with the same aircraft, at least on Normal difficulty, will unlock two additional levels. ABC participants can then compete in the "Far East Ruins" and "Giga Plant" arenas. The asset disc does not include any screenshots of these two maps.

If you'd like to learn more about Propeller Arena (making-of) and download 7 different prototypes of the game, this article is dedicated to it: "Seven new Propeller Arena Dreamcast prototypes on the horizon".

Other articles devoted specifically to unseen game assets

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Conceptual material for the Jekyll and Hyde game can be found at this address: "Additional illustrations, plans and assets for the Jekyll & Hyde Dreamcast/PC game from the creators of In Utero"

Sources :

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