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Special thanks to Brandon Murphy (RIP) for making this possible by obtaining the prototype. Also thanks to EWG for their article about CALRAB.

Here it is, the most hyped, most talked about, most feared, most wanted, most... well you get the idea. Being one of the games pretty much everyone had given up ever finding, out of no where a cartridge turns up in Florida secondhand store along with a few other protos.

Without knowning exactly what he's buying, a guy called Brandon Murphy asks the the lady bringing them in, they were owned by her son who couldn't care less about them now, had he only known. Anyway being a fan of Capcom games, Brandon goes for one of the carts saying "Raisins" on a small label and "Please return to Capcom blah blah", another of the protos was Mega Man 2, one can only wonder why he didn't got for that one too, oh well.

Not really knowing what he had found, he began searching for California Raisins info on the net, which most likely didn't give that many results. Thanks to Brandon, I've had the chance to check out the game, and I'm sure you'll be able to do the very same shortly (hint: you might want to check on August 1st).

This is sofar the only existing California Raisins prototype in existance, many calls have been made and emails sent to Capcom and former Capcom employees, asking about the game, but no one seemed too crazy to help out, you'll know why later on.

Unlike most of Capcom games which were developed in house, California Raisins was programmed by Radiance Software, based in California no less, but I'm sure that wasn't the reason they were chosen to develop California Raisins. The name probably doesn't ring a bell to many, but they were responsible for the fantastic game published by HiTech Expressions called Rollerblade Racer, okay the game wasn't THAT great. They were also responsible for THQ's release called Great Waldo Search, so they sure had a few quality NES titles in the book.

But Radiance had worked closely with Capcom for years, porting a lot of their arcade games to the TurboGrafix16 (PcEngine), which most likely was why they were given the task of making California Raisins.

Before the game hit the stores, yeah I know it never did but read on anyway, Capcom included a poster with Bionic Commando, I believe, as an advertisement for their upcomming Disney games, Duck Tales, Rescue Rangers and Adventures in Disneyland which later was renamed to Adventures in the Magic Kingdom. It also featured small descriptions of their current games, 1943, Strider, Legendary Wings, Mickey Mousecapade, The California Raisins, Mega Man 2 and Bionic Commando, yes I know California Raisins wasn't released, you don't need to remind me, but Capcom seemed to be pretty far into the production since they decided to mention it as released.

The funny thing about the prototype found is that it says licensed by CALRAB 1990, but the license seems to have been made a few years earlier, 1988, one can only wonder if there were earlier attempts to make a California Raisins game? When Capcom released Gold Medal Challenge, they also included a small brochure with their NES game libary, California Raisins had dissapeared mysteriously. This brochure also mentioned Gold Medal Challenge as "Barcelona '92" so it was clearly made before the game was finalized.

As if that wasn't bad enough, Game Player's Encyclopedia of Nintendo Games released a complete walkthrough for the game in their 3rd edition encyclopedia.

The California Raisins seemed to be a hot cake in the US back in 1986, thanks to a series of TV commercials featuring dancing raisins. Even plastic figures, children's books and such were made to meet the raisin demand, try doing a search on ebay. But on September 7th 1990 hell broke loose for CALRAB (California Raisin Advisory Board), a business association of California raisin growers.

CALRAB had a 17% rise in sales thanks to all this, but thanks to LA Weekly writer David Steinman. His investigations had shown hundreds of toxics found in US food, including raisins, goverment inspectors found that "raisins had 110 industrial chemical and pesticide residues in sixteen samples."

Without going deeply into this boring mess, this most likely also could've been the reason why Capcom decided not to release the Raisins game, but again, it's just wild guessing.

Before this article gets way off track, let's take a look at the game itself.

When powering up the ame you're presented with a nice intro with the CALRAB board explaining what has happened, while "I heard it through the grapevine" is being played in nice NES style, actually the music isn't bad at all.

The story goes something like this:

The California Raisins band is in trouble, they, and their music, has been kidnapped by the Wild Bunch, a tonedeaf music group, and are being held captured at Sky High Records. All you need to do is find 4 golden notes to open the entrance to Sky Records penthouse and rescue the raisins band.

That doesn't sound too hard does it? The game is only 4 large stages, called "Factory", "Grapevine", "Maize Maze" and "Juicery", and if the game isn't hard enough already there a "difficult" option for the experienced gamer. The stages can be completed in any order and once a stage is complete a large golden note will be shown on the stage select screen.

On every stage you have to find as many notes as possible, they're all over the place. If you happen to stumble upon a sun symbol, it will restore your health.

The game would pretty fun if it wasn't so poorly made, the prototype found seems to be a near complete version of the game, if not the final. But if the whole raisin toxics things wasn't the reason Capcom decided to to release it, I sure understand why they wouldn't want their name associated with a crappy game like this. What I don't understand though was why they choose a company with such a poor NES development background to make the game.

But none the less, a very cool piece of NES history has been saved...