What became of the Tokyo Game Show '97 Autumn build?
Burning Rangers was announced at TGS '97 Autumn. A number of magazines covered the event, so we have screenshots of the version that was demonstrated. We also have video of people playing the game on the show floor.
This build has a few interesting features:
The HUD shows a compass and shield meter.
The title screen screen is slightly different. The character select screen uses drawings of Shou and Tillis rather than 3D models.
It seems like this build was sent out to various magazines; a number of them around the world ran articles with different screenshots. Did any staff members happen to hold on to a disc? I'd love to get hold of one; this is my white whale.
Are there high quality versions of the animated sequences?
BR's intro and cut scenes are nicely-produced sequences from a real anime studio. Wouldn't it be nice if we could watch them without the constraints of the Saturn hardware?
Until 2023, the best we had was a 30 second cut of the intro in 640x480. This was on a disc given out to Dreamcast developers — see it here.
Dedicated fan ndiddy used the Dremacast disc's cut and the maimai video to produce an almost-frame-perfect recreation of the Saturn intro — see it on YouTube.
As for the rest of the animated cutscenes, nobody has seen them since 1998. Do they still exist?
What happens if you find all the crystals in Mission 2?
The story here is that Yasuhiko Nagamichi, one of the members of Sonic Team who appears in the game, sends this message when you rescue him:
Wanna know a little secret? There are crystals hidden all over Mission 2. Collect them and...
I feel like I know where they all are, but nothing interesting has ever happened when I've collected them.
The Japanese version of his message translates to something like:
Let me tell you something good! Mission 2 has crystals in all sorts of places! If you collect them all, maybe something good will happen?
The boring answer is: "You'll get an S rank." But is that it? I've searched through the voice files, and there's nothing that seems to be related.
Who are the missing rangers?
Chris is #1, Big is #3, Lead is #5, Shou is #6, Tillis is #7, and Iria becomes #8. What about #2 and #4?
This question was raised in the earliest magazine coverage of the game: The Japanese version of Sega Saturn Magazine asked it in their first special feature on BR (in the 1997-09-19 issue). They write something like:
Is there a secret behind the team's missing numbers? The Burning Rangers have 5 members. The 2nd and 4th numbers are notably missing, however! Do the missing numbers belong to rivals? Is this mystery part of the story? We hope to find out.
In an interview with the UK version of Sega Saturn magazine, Sonic Team said:
It's still a hidden part of BR. For the present, we don't have any plans to reveal the meaning behind this, not even in Japan. To the extent that it might be linked to Burning Rangers 2, it's still a long way off.
My friend Jared a.k.a. Green Gibbon! remembers a "Sonic Team Fan Thanksgiving" event that was streamed online. During one of the intermissions, he recalls a sign joking about the missing Burning Ranger numbers. The event definitely happened, but does anybody know about this aspect of it?
Who is SUL?
We Are Burning Rangers (Japanese, English) and Burning Ship To Take Off both feature rap verses. The game credits "SUL" for "Rap," but as far as I can tell, this artist isn't credited under this name anywhere else.
While we're on the subject, there's a demo version of We Are Burning Rangers on this "RADIO DC Rare Track & Skit Best Choice Disc." It doesn't have the SUL rap, but instead contains a sample of this track. Nicolaas Hamman, the Sega Sound historian, points out that the same track is sampled in several other songs, including The Ark from Shadow the Hedgehog.
Can Burning Rescue be preserved?
In 2008, Sega put out Burning Rescue, for i-mode series mobile phones. The game is a minesweeper clone that features graphics from the Saturn game.
A video of the game was uploaded to YouTube in 2020, so at least we know what it looked and sounded like. But aside from a few screenshots on archived pages and some contemporaneous Twitter messages about the game, this is all we have of it.
Preservation of i-mode games is known to be very difficult, and it's not clear whether any copies of Burning Rescue are on phones capable of dumping it. It's a difficult subject to research in English.
What was round 13?
There are four missions in Burning Rangers, and each of them is divided into a number of "rounds."
Mission 1 is made up of rounds 0 through 2. Mission 2 is rounds 5 through 9. Mission 3 is rounds 10 through 12. Mission 4 is rounds 15 through 19.
The missing ones are: round 3, which became the Tutorial stage; round 4, which became the Versus mode arena; round 13, which is unknown; and round 14, which became the epilogue to Mission 2.
Was there ever anything intended for round 13? It is a little unclear how Shou and Tillis get from the boss area in Mission 3 to the first part of Mission 4 - was there supposed to be a transition? Sonic CD obsessives have "R2" as their Holy Grail; Burning Rangers fans should similarly seek "R13."
Update: There might not be a mystery here after all. The game's code seems to set aside five rounds per mission. But only Mission 2 actually uses all five. So if there was ever going to be a 13, it would have probably been a sub-section of Mission 3.
Who did the English voice acting?
The Japanese version of the game has its voice actors listed in the credits sequence. But there aren't any voice actors listed in the English versions of the game, and they don't appear in the manual. What gives? Who did the voices?
IMDB has a list, and it seems plausible. It's got Michael McGaharn listed for Lead Phoenix, which matches with fan speculation in the 1990s – when Sonic Adventure came out, people remarked on how similar Knuckles sounded.
Interestingly, we have a snippet of an internal Sega email from 1998 instructing the developers to only credit the studio in the English version of the game. So it wasn't an oversight! My guess is that the actors went uncredited because the job paid less than a union-specified minimum, but I've got no evidence to back that up.