Every now and then in the arcade game industry, there are games that don't make it out into wide release. Often the prototypes are test-marketed in an arcade or two, and if they bomb, they're simply forgotten about and the rest of the gaming world never gets to see what the games were like (until emulation, that is). Of course, if an arcade prototype bombs on location, then chances are, it wasn't a very good game. But is there a possibility that a good game was cancelled?

Chimera Beast is a prototype shoot-em-up I had never heard of (and I'm sure 99.9% of people hadn't heard of either, before emulation). Let's start from the beginning. This is the introduction/story:

So to sum up - the player gets to assume the role of an "Eater", whose goal is to cause havoc throughout the universe by destroying anything that dare cross its path... often by actually eating the enemies, which causes changes in the DNA and gives the Eater different powers. Not your typical shoot-em-up storyline, huh? It's a refreshing change of the pace from the tired old "you're the last pilot that can save the Earth/universe" cliche.

The game plays in traditional horizontal shooter fashion. Two attack buttons are used, Shoot and Eat. Besides the normal shots, holding down the Shoot button will charge a bar up at the bottom of the screen (R-Type style) and can be used for a "super" attack that damages all enemies on the screen (although the chargeup attack can be changed into something else too). Pressing the Eat button "launches" the mouth out, and if it makes contact with an enemy, can steal their DNA! When an enemy's DNA is stolen, it will mutate the Eater in some way... it may change its normal shots, add longer arms, add a deadlier tail, add a "clone" (option) to provided added firepower, etc. Obviously you want to eat as much as possible to improve your chances of survival, but you can also end up replacing a really good weapon with a worse one, so... watch what you eat!

Fortunately the game provides a lifebar instead of killing you off with one hit. The lifebar starts off at 6 life units and can be raised up to a maximum of 9. No health powerups are provided during the game, so how are you going to build up the bar?.... That's right, by eating! Eat enough enemies and the lifebar will raise a point. This serves a second purpose too - there are three "main forms" of the Eater depending on the amount of life you have.

This sort of leaves you in a bad position if you take too much damage, because then you're a weak little thing that can't kill enemies too quickly... but that gives you more time to eat and bulk back up, right? Interestingly though, the collision detection is set up so that enemy shots that hit your arms or tail will often be nullified... it's only the attacks that make contact with the head or main body. This evens the odds a little since at maximum power, the Eater is a big target.

There are 7 stages to progress through, each one containing a different "theme" of enemies that you must fight. The first level takes place against "Microbes", and then it's off to underwater to destroy Fish and into the sky to fight Birds and other flying creatures. Then Reptiles and Mammals stand in your path before you can take on Mankind itself. Defeat all of them and a Catastrophe takes place - all hell breaks loose in the last level, as lots of strange mutated creatures (variants of Eaters?) make a last-ditch effort to stop the Eaters. Meanwhile, a space shuttle is launched, presumably carrying people wanting to escape the ravaged planet, while an array of missiles are also fired in an attempt to kill the Eaters too. When it seems that the space shuttle might just be escaping the planet after all... it's incinerated by a powerful laser blast! Who was responsible for this...?

A presumably more advanced form of Eater has decided it wants to reign supreme, and will let nothing stand in its way... even if it means destroying other Eaters. The last battle begins, and while the odds aren't on your side, video game logic has shown that the little guy always has a chance to come out on top! A lot depends on this crucial fight, as the outcome will determine which ending you receive!

That's right, there are TWO possible endings to the game. To sneak a peek at them (as well as some final thoughts regarding the game), read on.