Platform: Arcade, Taito WOWOW
What has always been fascinating is how Parasol Stars never seemingly saw a proper release in arcades, and was only released on consoles and home computer platforms (the story of the C64 edition is of course already well known).
According to contributor Daniel, the developers of the PC Engine version were contacted (source: https://unmamed.mameworld.info/non_taito.html#ParasolStars) and asked if the game was converted from an arcade machine that was never released. They confirmed that it was developed from scratch specifically for the console.
However, it was revealed that the game was location tested as an arcade cabinet in one or more sites in Japan. It was essentially a PC-Engine inside an arcade cabinet.
Reports at unmamed.mameworld suggest that around the time of the US launch of the PC-Engine/Turbografx system, there was a local arcade that had Victory Run and Galaga ’90 in a cabinet advertising the Turbografx-16 system – suggesting this could have been the plan for Parasol Stars’ release.
One contributor at the above unmamed link even suggested that they saw the game in action at Morecombe, Lancashire in a seaside resort. A strange place for a location test? Well, Mean Machines gave a brief report about the game in November 1990 too and suggest that it had just appeared in British arcades, showing a screenshot thought to be from the arcade version. Instead of “Bubby” being shown as the name, there was “1UP” and the level was not found in the final game at all.
Unless there just happened to be a very limited release into arcades before the plug was pulled, it seems that plans never went ahead with the “PC Engine in a cabinet” release for the game. Maybe this was due to poor testing? Ultimately, the game would be released just months later directly as a console release on the PC-Engine.
Interestingly, in 2016 a forum member Muerto posted at forums.arcademuseum that they had brought a PC Engine with Parasol Stars on it, but not with a HU card copy of the game, but a PCB + ROMS with it on.
When asked if it registered credits from the coin inputs when connected to a JAMMA harness, Muerto confirmed that it did indeed. So, is this a development version, or something of the abandoned arcade build, and could there be any major differences to the final release?
UPDATE: 13/02/22 – Thanks to contributor SMF in the comments, it has been suggested that it is likely just a bootleg.
Additionally, Daniel revealed that there were also two other images shown in the Japanese press (see scans – apologies for the small scale) which do not fully match any of the levels of the released PC-Engine game (nor the other conversions).
These are likely just scenes that were dropped from the PC Engine release, but overall there is a prototype of Parasol Stars out there to find with content not in the final game. The twist that it will likely be what was originally the arcade release as well.
One final strange twist was that Taito’s cancelled WOWOW console was also due a conversion of Parasol Stars before the hardware itself was cancelled. The Taito WOWOW had promised to bring arcade quality titles to the home using Taito’s own arcade hardware technology.
Only Darius was reported to have been converted over, but had Parasol Stars been converted – then this would have been ironically closer to a Taito arcade version of the game than the original PC Engine edition itself.
You can read more about the WOWOW console and a great interview with Yukiharu Sambe over at our friends at Unseen64: https://www.unseen64.net/2015/08/10/interview-taito-wowow-console/
If you know anything more about the arcade development, especially more (or better quality!) screenshots or anything in relation to it – then please do get in touch.
With thanks to contributor Daniel for the information and suggestion to cover and SMF for the confirmation about the PCB board.