In early builds of the Xbox’s ToeJam & Earl III: Mission to Earth, the eponymous extra-terrestrials beat up a hooded member of the Ku Klux Klan as the final boss fight of the game. Previously we only had the developer’s word from an obscure interview, but now we can finally see it for ourselves thanks to the surfacing of some new pre-release prototypes.
ToeJam & Earl creator Greg Johnson revealed this surprising end boss during a 2003 interview with the now-defunct Xbox Nation magazine, indicating that the KKK boss made it into review copies before Sega put the kibosh on the whole thing. The endgame antagonist, known officially as the Anti-Funk, was changed to a more generic floating skull model for the game’s official release.
Here’s how Johnson explained the situation during that interview:
We created a game that was very heartfelt for me, being half-black and half-white, and one of my missions is to bring cultural diversity to our industry, to young people, through games.
And there’s no question at all that it’s a risk. It’s just an opportunity for people to become self-righteous and jump up and down, and it’s one of those hot buttons. And ToeJam and Earl and Latisha, there’s no question that they’re black—urban black, yo, what’s up. That’s what they’re all about.
And Sega was willing to go for it and they said, “Okay, we get that, it’s a good message. We know it’s risky and people might see it as an opportunity, but we’re going to stand behind it.” So I love that.
But that one, the Anti-Funk, sort of went just a little too far over the line for them. When I was doing it, it was actually an accident. We had done a bunch of designs for the Anti-Funk, and the artist had done this unintentionally. I looked at it and said, “Wow, that’s funny. That looks like a Ku Klux Klan hat.” And then I thought about it for a second and I said, “Well hey, what better villain for these black characters who are spreading the funk than the love and this kind of oblique reference?” Because it wasn’t [obvious]—it was open to interpretation.
Thanks to this week’s massive “Project Deluge” dump of unreleased Xbox and Dreamcast prototypes, we now have a picture of how the boss fight played out before ToeJam & Earl III: Mission to Earth reached the gaming public.
Sebmal, a Twitch streamer and games writer who’s been obsessed with this piece of trivia for almost a decade, spent yesterday evening exploring two pre-release builds of the alien duo’s third outing to capture footage of the KKK boss in all his racist glory. But while this video is great, he’s also not convinced it’s telling the full story.
“It’s pretty unfinished, basically no production values, placeholder ass tutorial-y text in between phases, and ‘YIPPEE-SKIPPEE!’” Sebmal explained in their Twitter thread, that last bit referring to the boss’ out-of-place final words after being defeated by the player. “I’m personally satisfied with just seeing it in that state. There’s two more builds left […] both marked review. If I had to bet, [one] has the boss with full production values.”
Seeing as ToeJam & Earl III isn’t the duo’s greatest outing and the newly released review builds don’t have cheat codes, however, Sebmal’s left that documenting work for someone else.
In addition to ToeJam and Earl’s bout with a KKK jerk, the prototype dump also turned up a Luigi model in an early build of Sega GT. Much like with last year’s huge, Nintendo-focused “Gigaleak,” folks are sure to make a bunch of cool discoveries in the Project Deluge material as time goes on, so stay tuned.