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Continuing my series of hard-to-answer video game question...

One of my favorite fantasy video games when I was young was The Immortal. Wikipedia describes it as "an isometric action-adventure dark fantasy video game." It includes a combination of action, RPG, and puzzle elements, along with a compelling noir fantasy atmosphere and backstory. It gained some renown for its unforgiving nature (including the immense number of ways the main character can die) and still enjoys something of a cult following

Even the NES version, which has somewhat lower quality graphics, was stunning for a console game at the time. I remember the first time a friend and I put in a rented copy and saw the wizard walking across the opening screen; we were amazed by the image quality.

However, other versions of the game have an addition level not present in the NES The Immortal. This is the spider level (level six in the versions in which it appears).

Online sources seem to be unanimous that the spider level was removed from the NES version—with some claiming that the wizard protagonist's unpleasant death animation as he was overwhelmed with countless baby arachnids was the reason. Certainly, the NES version is the least gory version of the game, since it (like the IIGS version, which actually lacked a special battle screen entirely) lacks the magical finishing moves that the wizard uses in battle against most enemies. However, the NES game still has plenty of blood and unpleasantness.

I have long suspected that the usual story is not accurate, and that the spider level may have actually been added onto the game late in the development cycle (after the NES version was being prepared), rather than being part of the game all along before being cut from the NES edition.

The biggest reasons for my suspicions is that the spider level is completely self contained. Throughout The Immortal, there are many items and clues that need to be carried over from one level to the next. However, there is nothing like that for the spider level. Every item found on that level is used on that level, and vice versa. There are also no plot developments on the spider level. That means there are no developments in the main character's alliance with the goblins; nor is there any new information about the deadly ruins of Erinoch themselves. (Every level but the last features a pile of hay where the wizard can sleep—and dream about the dark history of the ruined city. However, the sleeping on the spider level is unique in that it does not provide any new information about the setting or plot.) Finally, the magic spell that is needed on that level (levitation) functions and steers exactly the same way as the flying carpet on level four—just with different graphics.

I also have other reasons to be suspicious of the supposed timeline of additions, subtractions, and modifications to the game. At least one thing simply does not seem to add up about the claim that the Apple IIGS version (one of the versions I played as a kid) was the original. As noted above, there are things about the IIGS version that are simpler than most others; specifically (as noted above), there is no battle screen, and battles are conducted on the main screen.

On the other hand, the IIGS version has the hidden coffee pot item, which is needed for a fourth-wall-breaking bonus encounter with the game developers on level five. Yet the developers are not present. The corridor where they should be exists, but there is no one there. This suggests to me that the NES version may actually have been developed first (the NES and Apple IIGS games were released nearly simultaneously, in November 1990), and the developers' Easter egg was actually incompletely removed.

So is there a clear statement from the designer, Will Harvey, (or somebody else involved in producing the game) of what the real timeline of the development of different versions of the game? In particular, was the spider level really removed from the NES game, or was it instead added to the Apple IIGS version (that Harvey himself supposedly finished) after the game was turned over to Electronic Arts (who probably created the NES port)?

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