The Case of the Missing Director?

Equinox is a fantastic SNES adventure game, and one of my top favorites. But maybe not everyone else thinks the same way. Take a look at the name of Equinox's director in the end credits:

As you may know, "Alan Smithee" is the name used in movies when the director wants his/her name removed from the film, in order to be disassociated with it. So, this begs the question: Was Equinox's director ashamed of this game? Or is this guy's name really "Alan Smithee" and this is just a coincidence? Or is this a joke? Game developers are rather notorious for putting jokes and/or using strange nicknames in end credits.

Naming Inconsistency

Melkior?   Morbius?

For some reason, the opening story of Equinox refers to the villain that Shadax fought in Solstice as "Melkior". However, his name was actually "Morbius". I don't know whether this is a mistake or if it was an intentional name change. It'd be funny if this name-changing decision is the reason the director had his name removed from the project. (Solstice screenshot is glitchy due to poor emulation.)

Odd Opening Demo


Equinox is the only game I know of that has an ad for itself in the opening sequence. You must let it run through the opening demo several times before it gets to this. The first demo (which shows Galadonia) has no dialogue. The second one (showing Tori) explains the game's story. The third (showing Deeso) gives some gameplay hints. The fourth (showing Atlena) is this rundown of the game's features and specs. (Screenshot is glitchy due to poor emulation.)

So Who Was the Mother?

So Glendaal from Equinox is the son of Shadax from Solstice. Uh, isn't it a little strange that an olde English-style wizard has an Arabian Nights-style elf kid for a son? Not impossible, I suppose, but there certainly isn't any family resemblance. I guess Glendaal takes after his mother more.

Warp Glitch

There is a major glitch in Equinox that sometimes causes the warp from Galadonia to Afralona to fail and strand Glendaal out in the middle of the ocean. If the glitch occurs when warping from Galadonia to Afralona, this is where you'll end up:


Just off the coast of Galadonia near Tori, unable to make it back to shore.

If the glitch occurs when warping from Afralona to Galadonia, this is where Glendaal ends up:


Way off the coast of Afralona, completely surrounded by ocean water.

After much experimentation with this glitch, I've concluded that it happens whenever you get into an overworld battle with a werebat or troll before warping. Perhaps something about the way the game manages memory (see "Memory Management" section below) gets offset by the battle scenes and the appropriate map fails to load, thus stranding you in the exact coordinates on the current map where you would be on the correct map.

So when warping to or from Afralona, be sure to save your game first and don't get into any overworld fights. Also, be aware that once you board the Ghost Ship, there's no going back to any of the first six dungeons at all, so I would suggest copying your save file after Afralona is complete in case you ever want to visit these dungeons again without having to replay from the beginning.

It is surprising this glitch was never caught during development and it wasn't even fixed on the Japanese version.

Missing Room

The Ghost Ship is missing Room #07-02. No one had ever been able to find it for years, and the rumor was that it existed but had to be sealed off because of a problem with it (possibly a glitch).

The truth is that the room was never completed, although so far there is no explanation as to why it wasn't completed. It does exist in the ROM, but it's a huge empty room with no entrances, no exits, and unfinished walls. It can only be accessed by hacking into it, not through normal gameplay.


Memory Management


When you're on the overworld and get into a battle, or try to cross a bridge that's still occupied by a boss ghost, press Select to bring up the subscreen. Take a look at the location. You'll notice that these outdoor areas actually exist in unused memory locations for the Galadonia dungeon. (Galadonia's rooms only went up to 01-0F.) In the left screenshot example, the Atlena battlefield is Room 01-1B. In the right screenshot, the Tori battlefield is revealed to be Room 01-19.


The Galadonia battlefield is Room 01-18. The Deeso battlefield is Room 01-1A.


The bridge with Pincha's ghost on it is Room 01-13. The bridge with Dollop's ghost is Room 01-14.

Graphic Glitches

Equinox has a number of strange graphic glitches that pop up from time to time. These glitches often cause blocks to not overlap correctly, or Glendaal to not overlap the blocks correctly.


Room 04-19 in the Atlena Dungeon is one place to see this glitch. If you walk back and forth behind the blocks shown in the screenshots, part of the block that obscures the spike in the middle of the room will peel away.


Room 04-2D of Atlena has a graphic glitch with rather amusing results. When Glendaal is on the white pedestal in the southern part of the room, pressing him up against the wall will cause part of the red block behind him to overlap his face. The effect is that it looks like Glendaal now has a huge smile on his face.

These graphic glitches were actually mentioned in the manual where it states that they won't affect gameplay.


Character Changes During Game Development

These early development screenshots of Equinox were taken from Chris Covell's Secret Page.

You can clearly see that the game originally had a completely different hero. He is thinner, has different clothes, and an apple-like head with either a spike on top or a mohawk. These screenshots also depict some other changes between the early development version and the final version. The sprites for the ghost enemies are slightly different (there are no white ghosts in the first dungeon and their sheets are a little rounder and wider in the final). The floor layouts (obviously all for Galadonia) are also at least slightly different from anything in the final version. There is also something strange at the top of the screen - the name "SHAPIRO" is written there with what appears to be Japanese lettering on both sides of it. That's very odd considering that Equinox was made by Software Creations, a UK developer, not a Japanese company (although some of the staff do have Japanese names). I was almost tempted to think the magazine itself, which is a Japanese publication, put that text over the screenshot, but it is written in the game's font...

It might just be coincidence, but I think the early hero looks a lot like Monster Max from the Titus game of the same name, which had a very similar gameplay style and graphics to Equinox and Solstice:

Unless they shared staff (ie, someone from Software Creations went to go work for Titus at a later date), this is probably coincidence as two different companies made these games.

Before he would become the Glendaal that we all know and love, the hero would go through at least one more change during early development of Equinox.

I apologize for the image quality but that's what it looked like in the original magazine. This early development Equinox screenshot is from a 1992 issue of Nintendo Power. The hero is now closer to the final Glendaal in terms of height, stature, build, and shape of the head, but his clothes are different and he appears to have a mop-top of blue hair instead of a turban with long chartreuse hair.

Notice also that the life and magic bars at the bottom are different than the final version and they're inside translucent blocks. Instead of saying "Life" and "Magic", it says, "Might" and "Magic". Were the developers fans of Might & Magic? There is also a bar at the top of the screen that shows what room the player is in at the moment as well as something displaying a file or memory size - I don't really know what that is.


Shadax also appears to have gone through some minor design tweaking during the development process of Solstice. The picture of Shadax's face in the opening demo from the manual (left) is a little different from the profile picture in the finished game (right). His nose is much wider in the manual shot, his upper row of teeth are visible, and his eyes and eyebrows are different. You can also see the collar of his shirt in the final version whereas that area is completely obscured by his beard and hair in the manual shot. Also notice the change from stars to a moon in the background.

Mysterious Rooms With No Known Purpose

There are some rooms in Equinox that serve no apparent purpose other than as "connectors" between other rooms. It just seems odd that they were included at all, though...such as...

Room 02-14 of Tori

This is one of Tori's long connector hallways, but this one has absolutely nothing of significance in it...well, nothing so long as you don't count dozens of those cup-shaped blocks stacked on top of each other in piles that go all the way up to the ceiling. You can't move any of them and they are too high to jump on. I have no idea why the developers did this. Maybe they just had a weird sense of humor. It's even possible to complete this dungeon without ever visiting this room.

Room 02-09 of Tori

This one's not quite as purposeless as 02-14. There are dangers like spikes and falling gates. But still...there's nothing to find in this room and it can also be completely avoided.

Room 03-00 of Deeso

Deeso Room 03-00 does have an abstract purpose (as the alternate entrance into Room 03-03 that allows you to get the Token and access to the White Door), but my question is...WHAT is with the "Conveyor Belt to Nowhere" in the middle of the room? If you stand on any part of those green blocks, you'll get zipped around the room, but for no apparent reason.

Room 03-1A of Deeso

Again, this one's not entirely pointless. You can get an apple in this room by killing the two Blue Ghosts, but it still seems a little odd to me. It's a rather huge room for only housing two enemies. And what is with that single Olmec head statue at the top of that huge arch? There's no way to get up to it. Why put it there?

Room 03-2B of Deeso

Once again, you can kill the enemy in this room for an apple, but what the hell? There are dozens of Olmec heads in here! Olmec head storage room? Its as mysterious as the piles of cups in Tori.

Room 05-1C of Quagmire

The Quagmire dungeon has a lot of rooms that serve no real purpose except to connect to other rooms. This is mainly because of the way all the keys are stored in these small rooms off the larger rooms, so I won't bother discussing every one of them, just the most mysterious of them. Room 05-1C is definitely a strange case. It's a small connector room with nothing in it. What's even weirder is that it's situated between two rooms that also don't have much of significance in them, so it doesn't seem all that necessary. And why is there a single log platform in the back corner? There's no real need for it to be there.

Room 05-08 of Quagmire

And now for the single most mysterious room in the entire game (not counting 07-02). Room 05-08 of Quagmire has nothing of significance other than a green door that blocks you off from part of the dungeon until you get a green key for it. However, there's something very bizarre about it: The back wall has a pattern of spiked plants arranged in an arch. It looks like they form a doorway and could be a clue for a hidden door there. But there isn't. You can press against the wall in that area all you want and you won't find anything. Even weirder is that when you stand on one of the log platforms in the room, it will start to move. It goes towards the wall and if you stay on it long enough, it will slide neatly into the arch. I guess this is just meant to be a trap to impale you on the spikes if you're not careful, but it still seems rather suspicious. Why such a weird trap in a room of little significance?

Room 05-03 of Quagmire

Yet another room that has some platforms and spikes in it, but nothing important. It connects three rooms, two of which are Token rooms, but it's otherwise pointless. And why even bother putting platforms in a room that doesn't need them.

While I'm on the subject of Quagmire, just what is this place supposed to be (have been)? Whatever it was, it obviously sunk into the swamp and got overgrown with plants and wildlife, but what was it in the first place? A palace? Castle? Greenhouse? Bungalow apartments? And what are those weird circular things lining the walls? I thought they were windows at first, but you can see that some of them have fallen off the walls onto the floors (like in the above screenshot).

Room 06-15 of Afralona

Afralona has a few rooms that don't have anything of significance in them, but the only one that strikes me as being somewhat odd is 06-15. It's a corner connector room and there are a bunch of platform blocks arranged in such a way that you can only walk a path from door-to-door. There is no way to leap out from under these blocks to explore the rest of the room. Nothing appears to be hidden around them either.

Differences Between American/European & Japanese Versions

Some changes were made between the American/European versions of Equinox and the Japanese version. Nothing of great significance as far as I could tell from playing the game, but I'll point out a few differences that I noticed:


The American and European versions begin with the Sony Imagesoft logo as the first screen upon turning on the game. The Japanese version has the Epic/Sony Records logo instead.



Before it gets to the intro animation of the world scaling into view via SNES Mode 7, the Japanese version has an opening crawl of text accompanied by the overworld music. I don't know what any of it says because I can't read Japanese, but I'm guessing this is the game's story for logical reasons, one of which I'll get to in a moment...


The title screen has been changed! The game is called Solstice II and the font for the text is different (it looks almost the same, except it's not "bolded"). Strangely enough, the "Licensed by Nintendo" line has been removed, too...


If you let the demo run, you'll notice that all the text that explains the game's mechanics, backstory, and technical specs has been removed. This is why I think the opening crawl must contain the game's story. Why have it in both places, right? Also, notice that although the font was changed on the title screen, the "PRESS START" line is written in the normal American/European version font.


All in-game text messages have been changed from English to Japanese in the Japanese version.


Some rooms in Tori's dungeon have been made easier for the Japanese release! The above left screenshot is one of Tori's rooms in the American version. The right screenshot shows the Japanese version of the same room. The Red and White Knights have been replaced with much-easier Green Knights!


The fast-moving Red Ghosts on the upper ledge of the American version in Tori Room #02 have been replaced with the far easier, slow-moving Green Ghosts in the Japanese version. The strange thing is that Red Ghosts still exist in other rooms of this dungeon where they are much harder to kill.


This large central Tori room contains a single White Knight in the American version that you have to kill to get a Token. The White Knight takes the most hits of all the Knight variations. In the Japanese version, he is replaced with a Green Knight, the one that takes the least amount of hits to kill.

It almost seems like these changes were made to reduce tedium more than to make the game easier since these are all either easy enemies anyway, or they're situated in such a spot that you can attack without being in danger of getting hit yourself.




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