Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Another World, a.k.a. Out of this World - Versions of a Classic



European Title

Another World, a.k.a Out of this World, was developed by Eric Chahi on an Atari ST and Amiga with music by Jean Francois-Freitas of Delphine Software, a French software company.  This game was released as Another World in Europe for the Commodore Amiga and Atari ST by U.S. Gold.  It was released in North America by Interplay for all platforms except the Sega Genesis and CD, which were released by Virgin Interactive.


North American Title
In this article, I intend to compare the various versions of this game.  I will give screenshots of the opening level for each version.  Some versions of the game support more than one graphics mode.  I have not included screenshots for the Macintosh (I have no experience with Macintosh emulators) or the 3D0 (ditto).  All screenshots are presented in their natural, unfiltered and non-aspect ratio corrected resolutions.



I.  Commodore Amiga and Atari ST


Commodore Amiga
Use 320x200 active pixels.  ST has a slightly darker palette than the Amiga.  No more than 16 unique colors are used for any given screen.

Atari ST
The Atari ST version runs somewhat slower than the Amiga at the stock speeds of the respective computers (8MHz ST vs. 7.16MHz Amiga).  Although the Amiga and ST share the same CPU, the 68000, the Amiga has far more advanced graphics and sound hardware than the ST.

Atari ST and Amiga support one-button joysticks.  The jump is activated by pressing up on the joystick, just like Prince of Persia.

Pressing "c" on the keyboard brings up the password screen.  With the Amiga and ST versions, putting in the code for the first level (EDJI) may be the only way to skip the introduction.

The game can be installed to a hard drive on the Amiga.  The ST version comes on double-sided disks (single sided disks were more common).

This game uses a code wheel for copy protection.  There is only one code wheel and it works for all versions of the game.  You may enter the symbols in any order, but you must successfully pass the code wheel protection twice to play the game.  If you fail the protection on the Amiga or ST, the game will hang.

How can you tell if someone is playing the Amiga or ST versions?  There is a little scorpion walking across the first level.

Amiga/ST Password Screen
Atari ST only has sound effects for the introduction and ending.  It seems as though the Atari driver could only handle one digitized sound stream at a time.  Music is heard when Lester looks out over the alien city in the second level.  The lack of music makes the ending seem especially eerie.

All versions of the game use a password save system.  The Amiga and ST use different passwords for the game than the later versions, twelve levels are available.

Amiga Cinemascope Mode

Amiga Vertical Mode
The Amiga has three special graphics modes available, "Cinemascope", "Vertical" and "High Resolution", selectable by pressing F2, F3 and F4, respectively.  Cinemascope uses a 640x200 resolution, stretching the graphics horizontally.  Vertical uses a 320x400 resolution, stretching the graphics vertically.  I believe that the "High Resolution" mode uses a 640x400 resolution.  WinUAE does not seem to display it correctly, so I am not including it here.  The 400-line modes should be interlaced, leading to flickering on real hardware.









II.  MS-DOS & Macintosh


MS-DOS VGA
MS-DOS supports VGA, EGA and Tandy 16-color graphics.  The palette is much more limited in the EGA and Tandy modes, but the resolution is always 320x200 in the DOS version.

MS-DOS EGA/Tandy
Out of this World for DOS supports Sound Blaster, Adlib, Pro Audio Spectrum, PC Speaker and Disney Sound Source, all at either 10 kHz or 5 kHz.  It also supports the Roland LAPC-I and CM-32L (and compatibles with a Roland MPU-401 interface), but not the MT-32 or MT-100.     It only uses the 33 extra sound effects found on the LAPC-I and CM-32L and music is not played.  Another World supports all of the above except the Pro Audio Spectrum and LAPC-I/CM-32L.  It will complain if an Expanded Memory Manager is loaded, as it could have an impact on the game's performance.  However on a 486, this should not be an issue.  The game supports digitized music through the PC Speaker or Adlib, but these are noisy and quiet options compared with the Sound Blaster, PAS or DSS.

DOS supports a two-button joystick, with attack/run on one button and jump on the other button, just like Super Mario Bros.  I strongly recommend using a digital joystick like the Gravis Gamepad for this game.  I could not get the joystick functionality to work correctly on my 486DX2/66 with a non-speed adjustable gamepad like those found on a Sound Blaster or Sound Blaster Pro and the 10KHz Sound Blaster or Disney Sound Source options.  No amount of speed-adjustments elsewhere worked.  When I used my Sound Blaster 16's joystick port, the problem went away without having to play with speed options.

Copy Protection
In DOS, failure to input the correct codewheel code will freeze the game after the third failed attempt, use Alt X to exit the game.   There are legitimate copies of the game for DOS which do not have the copy protection.  If the game came on a CD or cannot be played off the floppy disks which came in the box (using a compression-based installer), then it should not have copy protection.

The scorpion in the first level is absent from the DOS and later versions.

Lester's yell when he swings on the vine in the first level (without the beast chasing him) is heard in the DOS version but not in later versions.

MS-DOS Password Screen
The DOS and later versions use different passwords from the Amiga & ST, and fifteen levels are available.  This was done by Chahi to address complaints that the game was too short in the Amiga and ST versions.

The Macintosh port was a contemporary of the DOS port and uses a 640x400 graphics window.  If your machine is too slow for that, it can also do 320x200, 480x300 or 512x364.  The main benefit to the higher resolutions is that the polygon graphics look less aliased (less jaggy).

There are a couple of really tough spots in the game, most of which were added to the DOS version :

After you escape from the cage, you get to an elevator. You have to go down and into a small room to disable an electrical panel. In the Amiga/ST versions, the room is otherwise empty, in the DOS version, there is a guard there. The guard is very quick and you must shoot the moment you leave the elevator room or he will kill you.

When you are rolling around in the ducts, in the Amiga/ST version, harmless steam spews out at certain points. In the DOS version, the steam will kill you.  You must time your movements to get past the steam when it is not blowing.  This is in addition to choosing the correct path to avoid falling to your death.

The caves are full of difficulties, from the falling rocks, to the tentacles on the ceiling and the pit traps to avoiding drowning after you release the water.  The laser, fully powered up, can kill the ceiling tentacles.

Just after the caves, there is an corridor where you have to fight one guard on each side, and it is difficult to maintain your shields and charge up your gun to kill both guards before one gets you.

When you have to return to the caves, now flooded, an extra screen and pit traps were added to the DOS version in the area where you have to disable an electrical circuit.  A running jump is necessary to get back into the water.

Immediately after the sequence were the guards are destroying multiple gates to get at you, in the Amiga/ST version you go straight to the tank. In the DOS version, two extra levels are added where you have to rescue your alien friend twice.

The tank in the arena requires you to push more buttons in the DOS than the Amiga/ST version to activate the escape pod.  It does not seem like the enemies can destroy the tank, in the Amiga/ST version, but in the DOS version you will have to be pretty quick or the enemies will kill you.

III.  Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis, Apple //gs

The Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo versions of this game are ports of the DOS version.

Sega Genesis
The Genesis version uses the 256x224 (NTSC) resolution, even though the system can support 320x224 resolution graphics.  The gameplay is in a 224x176 pixel window, however.

The SNES version uses the 256x224 (NTSC) resolution, and it does not support a 320x224 resolution.  The gameplay is in a 224x160 pixel window.
Super Nintendo
The Genesis version allows you to input a code on the start menu or when you die.  It uses the YM-2612 FM synthesis chip to recreate the original music by Freitas instead of digitizing it like on the SNES.  The SNES, Genesis and the Apple //gs have an in-game text prologue with a journal entry from Lester.  All contain extra music from Charles Deenen or Tommy Tallarico.  While I understand that the music was trying to enhance the danger and suspense of the game, it is not really in keeping with the otherworldiness of the Freitas music.  Of Freitas' music, only the piece in the introduction remains, the short piece where Lester looks over the alien city and the ending music have been replaced.  Blood has been removed, and the red slobber in the tentacles has been replaced with green.  The nude alien girls have had their butt cracks virtually eliminated.

Apple //gs 16mm "Full Screen" Mode
Due to the compromises in the SNES version, there are loading times before viewing the intro and for each level, up to ten seconds.  This is virtually unheard of in a cartridge game of this era.  Unlike the Genesis version, you can only input a code on the game's start menu.  I have noticed one slight gameplay difference in the SNES version.  When you climb out of the pond, the first two screens to the left have these lethal slug creatures.  In the Amiga, ST, DOS and Genesis versions, 3 slugs will appear or drop on the first screen and 7 on the second.  In the SNES version, two slugs will appear on the ground on the first screen and two or three will appear on the second, but none will fall from the ceiling.

Apple //gs 35mm "Matted" Mode
The Apple //gs version is hard drive installable and ported from the SNES.  It requires an accelerator to get the game running at full resolution, and supports three lower resolution modes for those who are running a stock 2.8MHz CPU or not much faster.

While these versions have a journal entry just after the title screens, the earlier versions had virtually the exact same journal entry in their game manuals.

Apple //gs 70mm Widescreen Mode
Apple //gs Television Mode
The Apple //gs has four graphics modes, selectable when the game is booted.  The ideal mode is the 16mm mode, which uses the ordinary 320x200 pixels.  The next best mode is the 35mm (matted) mode.  This mode is squished vertically and uses 320x152 pixels.  The third available mode is the 70mm widescreen mode.  This stretches the image horizontally for 640x192 pixels.  The final and least detailed mode is the Television mode, which uses a 160x192 mode.  Using the most detailed mode requires an accelerated Apple //gs, at least 8MHz.



V.  Sega CD, 3D0


Sega CD
The Sega CD version is called Heart of the Alien : Out of this World I & II.  This includes Out of this World and Heart of the Alien, and apparently had no Another World European counterpart.  The game loads to a game select screen where you can choose either game.  For Out of this World, the introduction movie immediately begins.

This version has enhanced music and sound effects, the music being done by Freitas this time.  The load times are very reasonable.  Some of the sound effects, like the beast's growl, are not quite as good as the original Amiga/ST versions.  Unlike the Genesis version, the Sega CD version runs in the 320x224 resolution, but the graphics only occupy 304x192 pixels.  The graphics, however, are not shrunk, merely cropped.  This was probably done to limit the issues with overscan on TVs, not due to performance.  The extra music is far more complimentary to the game than the cartridge versions. It plays like the Genesis version, so you will get all the dropping slugs in the first level.

Once the game ends, the sequel, Heart of the Alien, will begin.  I will not say more about that game except it is so frustrating that it can drive one to violence, even with savestates.  Chahi had no involvement in the game, and it lacks his fine sense of difficulty and pacing.  The alien is much more difficult to control, and there are evil timing puzzles and pixel-perfect moves required.  While Out of this World retains the censorship of the SNES and Genesis, Heart of the Alien is far from censored and the game was originally rated MA-13.  Overall, if you have to play a console version, the Sega CD is the one to play.

It is well-known that the 3D0 version eliminates Freitas' music entirely and uses redrawn backgrounds with more detail.  Chahi approved of neither change, feeling the backgrounds gave too much detail and did not work well with the polygon character models.  What may not be so well-known is that the ending has been extended.  The alien returns Lester to the ruins of his village, and once there the alien recalls how his village was attacked and he was captured.  This same sequence is used, more or less, in the Sega CD version, but Heart of the Alien is not included in the 3D0 version.

V.  Windows 3.1 and 15th Anniversary Edition

I do not have access to the Windows 3.1 version, but I read that its very similar to the DOS version.  It may use MIDI music, however.  Nor do I have access to the Symbian and Power PC ports, any of the unofficial, non-commercial ports, or the iPhone, Android & iPad 20th Anniversary editions.  As I find the translation of joystick to touchpad controls to be a waste of time, I do not believe I will be trying them.

The 15th Anniversary Edition was released in 2006 and is compatible with Operating Systems from Windows 98 to Windows 7.  It offers enhanced backgrounds (redrawn to 1280x800), higher resolution polygon graphics and an enhanced sound track, but these options can be turned on and off individually.  It can run in a slow or fast mode.  It supports resolutions from 640x480 to 1920x1200 and maybe beyond.  It also supports joysticks and gamepads with redefinable keys.  It uses the Prince of Persia and Super Mario Bros. styles of control.  In other words, you can press Up or Button 2 on your gamepad to jump.

You do not have to turn any of these options on, so if you leave them off you essentially have virtually the same game as the DOS version, although it almost certainly sounds superior.  The aspect ratio is always 1.6:1, regardless of resolution used (black bars being used to keep the aspect ratio).

The game supports many more save points than the original, and will automatically keep track of all the levels you unlock, making passwords mostly superfluous.  There are three passwords for the first level alone.  I only played the demo version, but I may buy this even if only to use the high-resolution images for my desktop.  This was developed by Chahi, and seemingly represents his ideal vision for the game, both classic and modern.  The music was remastered by Freitas.

Windows 15th Anniversary Edition

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Awesome post. I beat the SNES version two days ago, and then stumbled upon the original packaging for the DOS version in my closet. Still one of my favorites. Thanks for the fun facts!

Dinis said...

I had a gameport card with a speed adjust switch and it stoped working properly when I upgraded to a faster machine. My SB16 gameport hadn't to be adjusted for speed and always worked!

Anonymous said...

Man, was this an irritatingly tough game (albeit with wonderful graphics and music)! I gave up on the original DOS version back in the day, but must admit that while purists might not like the additional save points in the 15th and 20th Anniversary Editions, I found them invaluable in finally helping me beat this game. Heaved a sigh of relief and gave myself a well-deserved pat on the back, even though it only took me a few decades. :)