Hammer Away is an unreleased arcade shoot ’em up game for the System-18, which was being developed by Santos in partnership with SEGA in around 1990-1991. It was intended to be launched in ’91, but ultimately never made its way to arcades for unknown reasons.
The title screen of Hammer Away.
The title was a military-themed vertical scrolling shoot ’em up in which the player controls a helicopter, facing off against all manner of hostile army forces, like stationary turrets, tanks, battleships and other choppers. There were two modes of attack available: rapid-fire machine guns for ground targets and missiles for air ones, in addition to a powerful bomb attack which instantly wipes the screen of all enemies.
A month later, the ROM was extracted and made readily available online. There is a total of five different levels in the build found, including environments such as a railroad and an oceanic section. There is a checkpoint system in place and in the event that you lose a life, you are sent back to one of these; as opposed to resetting the game. Once the five stages are over, the game restarts itself from the opening stage.
Spellsinger is a cancelled arcade brawler which was in development in 1992 at Art & Magic, a belgian software house. As we can see from the video below, the game was clearly inspired by beat’em up titles such as Golden Axe. Sadly, according to one of the programmers that worked on the coin-op, Franck Sauer, the project was shelved because after three years of delay it became technically obsolete:
Unfortunately, as the game was progessing slowly because of a series of unanticipated difficulties, we had to pause the development several times to work on alternative, commercial-friendly games to keep cash flowing into the company. Ultimately, the project was canned because all of our resources were canibalized by those smaller ‘side’ projects. In the end the game had so much delay that it was rendered obsolete after about three years in the making.
From what we know the game’s source code is also lost forever:
Spellsinger is the only project we’ve worked on for which (to this day) almost every source asset has been lost. There are a couple of backup tapes and floppies here and there, but for now I have not been able to restore the majority of the data. The full prototype Roms and Board seem to have disapeared when the remains of Art & Magic moved along with Deltatec to a new building around 1996.
Clockwork Aquario (Tokeijikake no Aquario in Japanese) is an arcade game developed by Escape / WestOne Bit Entertainment, the same guys behind the Wonderboy series, that was cancelled in 1994 after about two years of development.
In 2011 Johnny Undaunted, a lostlevels forum user, translated an interview with the game’s music composer…
Sakamoto: It was going to be similar to Wonder Boy 3: Monster Lair. It was going to be a forced side-scrolling game, but with a bit of a cooperative multiplayer mode. It was originally going to be a 2-players game, but then we decided to add a third player as well. The three characters consisted of a boy (named Hack Rondo), a girl (Elle Moon), and a robot (Gash). The method of attack was by stomping on enemies and then grabbing them to throw them out. Oh, I think you could even catch enemies thrown by other players as well or something like that. You could even head butt thrown enemies thrown at you.
…and some notes wrote by a japanese gamer who played Aquario in 1993 in a location testing
Aquario was a Super Mario Bros.-type side-scrolling action game. The controls originally consisted of three action buttons (“throw”, “jump” and “invincibility”).
Enemies are attacked first by jumping over them, rendering them unconscious. When the player moves towards an unconscious enemy, he automatically picks it up. At this point the player can throw the enemy by pressing the throw button. Enemies that are thrown flies off in a single horizontal line and are defeated by flying off-screen or being bashed to a wall. Thrown enemies can be used to knock other enemies unconscious as well. Moreover, by holding the joystick upwards, enemies can be thrown to the top of the screen as well.
Pressing the invincibility button makes the player invincible to enemies for a brief period. In the upper portion of the screen, there’s an invincibility gauge underneath the score display and when it reaches zero, the player’s invincibility will wear off. The gauge can be replenished by picking up items.
The key to the exit of each stage is kept by a sub-boss. By defeating the sub-boss, the player can obtain the key and use it to enter the boss’ lair. Each boss can be defeated by jumping over him repeatedly or by throwing his henchmen to him. The boss of the first stage in this version was a crab.
The game featured a 2-hit points per life system similar to Ghosts ‘n Goblins and Midnight Wanderers, in which getting hit once would make the player’s clothes look tattered, and then getting hit a second time would make him lose a life. The player’s clothes can be restored by picking up a health power-up.
* Impressions of the June 14 version.
This version was really difficult. I couldn’t defeat the crab boss after several plays. It was a pretty difficult experience for novice players, since enemies move quickly and a lot of fake-outs are used by them. The invincibility button was difficult to use as well. Because it was difficulty to predict what kind of dangers would face in these kinds of action games, getting through them was simply a matter of “pressing the button on time”. There were also unfair trap placement as well, such as the snapping trap in Stage 1. The game was still unfinished at the time, as there were bugs such as glitched text display during the playing instructions at the start of the game. However, the colorful graphics really caught my attention.
*August 15, 1993
Another location test for Aquario was held, this time in the comic book shop near the Spo-Lan in Shinjuku Nishiguchi. The content of the game were greatly altered since the last location test, to the point that the game was almost completed.
Impressions of the August 15 revision.
The number of action buttons was reduced to only two (punch and jump). This time, invincibility is only provided by a power-up item for a limited period (similar to the Starman in Super Mario Bros.). The invincibility gauge was replaced with a 1UP gauge that gives player an extra life when filled and it seems enemies are now defeated by knocking them unconscious with a punch, moving onto the unconscious enemy, and then throwing them. It was also possible to defeat enemies by simply punching an unconscious enemy further until he disappears . Since players were irritated that they were unable to defeat enemies quickly in the June 14 version, the resulting changes in this version made the game easier to play in longer periods. Perhaps because of this, the game was still deemed unsafe to release to the market yet.
*August 29, 1993
Once again location testing was held in the Spo-Land store in Shinjuku Nishiguchi. I was wondering at this point why it wasn’t already released yet (how unfortunate).
Changes made in the August 29 revision.
The differences are very minor this time. However, there seems to be a 2-Players competitive mode this time (there wasn’t one in the August 15 version). I have no idea how it worked because I never saw it in action. From what I remember, a few graphical details were changed, but I didn’t have much difficulty. Even though I wanted the game to come out already, I had a bad premonition at the time.
It was the last day I ever saw the game. I heard stories that another location test was conducted in the Spring of ’94, but I’m not sure what changes were done at that point. Because of this, I now associated location tests with the process of a game company coming up with the decision of having to cancel a game. I thought to myself I shouldn’t get too involved with location tests. However, I must consider myself fortunate to have the chance to had played this game due to my fascination with the company’s Monster World series.
“Aquario of the Clockwork” was the last arcade game developed by my company. I had been working and suffering for a long time to complete it, but the location test results were poor. It was an eccentric action game with three player simultaneous play. The graphics were quite excellent, but it was not released, unfortunately. The program is located in the archives of my company, so I do not have any screenshots.
The soundtrack of Aquario is available to buy here. For more informations check this hardcore gaming 101 blog post. Thanks to Youloute for the contribution!
Star Blade: Operation Blue Planet is a cancelled arcade on-rails shooter that was being developed by Namco. It was supposed to be a sequel of the first Star Blade, originally released in 1991. A proto of the coin-op was playable at Amusement Machine Show in 2001, but the game got quietly canceled, probably because the cabinet was too expensive.
The cabinet was known as “Over Reality Booster System” (ORBS). Its main feature was a special lens that projected a 180 degree image in order to create a very immersive experience for the player.