action game

Zenith (Climber) [N64 – Cancelled]

Zenith (also known as Climber in its early days) is a cancelled action / racing game hybrid planned for Nintendo 64 that was in development by DMA Design, the studio that created such popular games as Lemmings and the first Grand Theft Auto, other than cult titles as Space Station Silicon Valley and Body Harvest. Before working on the new 64 bit console, DMA already had a successful collaboration with Nintendo on the SNES with Uniracers, an original racing game in which players use unicycles to compete in high-speed tracks while doings tricks to gain more acceleration. In 1995 DMA pitched a new ambitious sandbox project to Nintendo for the yet-to-be-released Ultra 64: Body Harvest. Nintendo were quite interested in such an interesting concept, so they worked together with DMA for 2 years, before to split up because of delays and different views on how the game should have been played.


While Body Harvest was heavily publicized by Nintendo as one of the first games for their new console, another mysterious project was also in development at DMA for the Ultra 64, with a work-in-progress title of “Climber”. Climber was never shown to the public in any form but it quietly popped up in some early N64 release list, also to be published by Nintendo like Body Harvest. Without any more info about the project, some magazines even speculated that the game would have been a N64 version of Ice Climber, sometimes referring to it as “Ice Climber 64”.

Only many years later we found out that Climber was not related to Nintendo’s Ice Climber and DMA even changed the name of the project to Zenith after a while. The Zenith team was composed by a few young members of DMA Design: Andrew West, Richard Ralfe, Frank Arnot, Gary Thompson, Doug Smith, Paul Reeves and John Gurney.

As it happened with Uniracers, Zenith was going to have an original twist to the racing genre, in which players were able to choose among a good number of characters to combat and run to the top of various towers with different themes (for example medieval and wild-west levels), avoiding obstacles and fighting against other competitors. There was a wide variety of available characters in the early prototype of Zenith, such as humans, strange creatures and aliens. Characters were able to walk, run, jump, climb, hang and swing through the different hazards of the levels and had different combat moves, a few simple punch and kick moves plus a unique special attack.

In this old photo of Richard Ralfe (Level Designer on Zenith) taken at the DMA offices during the development of Zenith, we can see on the wall what could be a group image of some of the characters from the game.


From the few info available we can speculate that Zenith would have been a more complex and “mature” version of Iggy’s Reckin’ Balls (a rather obscure racing / action game with tower-based levels developed by Iguana Entertainment and released for N64 in 1998), mixed with a little of Super Smash Bros.

Unfortunately because of the many problems and delays with the development of Body Harvest, DMA Design decided to cancel development on Zenith and to move that team to help finishing their most important project for Nintendo. As we can read in an old article published on Edge Magazine issue 121:

On its return home, DMA noticed a distinct pattern emerging – more bad news. Body Harvest was being developed alongside another game called Zenith – an original mix of platform and racing action. Zenith was to be canned and several people were given the unpleasantly singular option of joining the Body Harvest project. It was a difficult situation and White found himself “trying to motivate people who didn’t want to be motivated.” When tensions reached breaking point, about ten people decided to leave en masse. White describes the episode as “a lot of fun,” in the same way that crashing your car is a lot of fun. It is easy to imagine that Body Harvest may never have reached completion without White’s intrinsic skills of diplomacy.

We tried to get in contact with people from the original Zenith team and they were able to share a few more memories about this lost game with us, but unfortunately they were not able to find any images left from the project. It seems than on the walls of one of the ancient buildings in the Java level on Body Harvest there is a texture that show characters from Zenith, hidden away as an easter egg from their cancelled title. If you are able to find this texture in Body Harvest, please let us know by email or in the comments below!


AquaNox: The Angels’ Tears [PS2 – Cancelled]

Aquanox is a series of action / shooter / simulation games set in a distant future in which humans mostly live underwater and use futuristic submarines to explore the ocean. It all started in 1996 when Massive Development released Archimedean Dynasty / Schleichfahrt (considered as the first chapter in the saga) then in 2001 the same team published AquaNox and a couple of years later they delivered AquaNox 2: Revelation. All the games were published for PC only and even if there are some basic differences between the 3 titles, they always had a mix of “flight” simulation, shooting and RPG gameplay: players were able to fight their way in 360° underwater combats, shoot down other submarines, conquer enemy bases, talking with NPC characters, explore the sea to find hidden treasures, complete different mission objectives to gain more money and upgrade their vehicles.

A new chapter in the Aquanox series was planned for Playstation 2 but unfortunately it was cancelled when it was almost completed. As always the project was in development by Massive soon after the release of AquaNox 2, when JoWooD (their parent company at the time) wanted to enter the console market and deemed Aquanox as the perfect game to start. Initially Aquanox 2 was ported to PS2 but it did not fit the new hardware and controller, being not that much fun to play. To secure a great console debut, Massive Development took the next 2 years to create a completely new game, as a third chapter in the series, that would have been titled Aquanox: The Angels’ Tears, with new missions, features and storyline.

Aquanox: The Angels’ Tears, the cancelled PS2 sequel

As we can read in the official press-release for the game:

AquaNox: The Angel’s Tears is the story of an action packed treasure hunt, presented as a playable under-water road-movie. The game is a fast-paced 3rd person shooter, where the player steers his vessel through the depth of the oceans 3000 meters under the sea, 650 years into the future, 300 bars of pressure. The sun is a fading legend of former centuries. Nobody has ever seen it. Man now calls this world: ‘Aqua’. Eight humans crammed into a freighter. Eight mercenaries, shrouded in mystery, hunting for a legendary treasure. Eight hunters dreaming of the Angel’s Tears. This dream will change them – and history. The greatest love story of their time!

Angel’s Tears would have featured fast paced underwater shooting along with a mature storyline divided in 32 main missions set in the deep seas of Aqua, an advanced score and experience system, 4 submarine ships with different stats and tactical uses, fully upgradable weapons and other equipment to improve player’s chance to survive to the hardest missions that were planned.

Massive Development wanted to make Angel’s Tears the best Aquanox game ever, but unfortunately in 2005 JoWooD was on the edge of going bankrupt: they had to cut a lot of their cost and decided to close down Massive Development as the new AquaNox was already 99,9% done. At this time the Aquanox: The Angel’s Tears was submission-ready to be accepted by Sony and to be officially published on PS2, but the devs wanted to polish it up more before to release it as their last game, so they introduced a few easy bugs to make it fail the first submission. When AquaNox PS2 failed the Sony submission the situation at Massive Development got even more sour as JoWooD refused to pay all their outstanding wages. Because of this the project wasnt handed over properly at closure of the studio and nobody was able to finish it although it was really 99,9% done. AquaNox: The Angel’s Tears was forgotten for many years, hidden away in some directory, until Nordic Games ended up with the rights to Aquanox and all its assets after the insolvency of JoWooD in 2011.

Nordic Games got in contact with Unseen64 to share some of the documents they found about Angel’s Tears and we are now able to preserve more screens and videos from this lost game. People that were interested in Angel’s Tears will be happy to know that this is not the end of Aquanox as Nordic Games though the series deserved another chance and conceived a new project: Aquanox Deep Descent, a complete reboot of the Aqua saga taking into account the scientific advances made since the first game.

As a love letter to fans of games that will never be, Deep Descent will not only revive the AquaNox experience after the lost Angel’s Tears, adding 4 players coop mode and an even bigger ocean to explore, it will also integrate assets and research from another cancelled THQ underwater action game known as Deep Six, originally planned for PS3.

We are happy to see a team like Nordic Games to understand the importance of preserving lost videogames and huge props to them for the help in saving more documents from the cancelled AquaNox: The Angel’s Tears! We can’t wait to see what they will be able to do with Aquanox Deep Descent, a project that could take the series to a new level and will became a memento to remember two interesting cancelled games. Aquanox Deep Descent was fully funded a few days ago thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign but you still have a week to support the project with your pledges and be able to play this game as soon as it will be released!

Super thanks to Nordic Games for the contribution! Also thanks to Manuel Hansen for additional support



Knights [GameBoy Color – Cancelled]

Prior to their acquisition by Sony and going on to create the Killzone seriesGuerrilla Games was a small development team based in Amsterdam, then known as Lost Boys Games; a subsidiary of Dutch multimedia conglomerate, Lost Boys. One of Lost Boys Games’ internal teams was dubbed ‘Formula‘. This group was dedicated to handheld games, responsible for producing titles such as Rhino Rumble, and Tiny Toon Adventures: Dizzy’s Candy Quest for GameBoy Color. One of their most interesting GBC projects, in development in around 1999-2000, was called Knights.

Knights was an action brawler with a style of gameplay comparable to a blend of Bomberman and Gauntlet, in which players would have had to fight against 3 other knights in 50 different arenas riddled with traps, enemies, and various NPC’s. This excerpt from an old IGN preview offers us further insight:

Each knight is colored differently, and the great challenge of the game is to strike down the knights in a predetermined order while protecting your own flank. Strike a defender before he becomes an official target, and the imperial judges will punish you with a penalty point.

Knights GameBoy Color Formula Lost Boys Games (1)

It’s interesting to note that Knights GBC was based around the gameplay of another cancelled Knights project that was planned by Digital Infinity for PC and Dreamcast, before they merged with Lost Boys in 1999. Later, the original Knights for PC and Dreamcast was changed from a multiplayer brawler to a single player action platformer and ported to Playstation 2, but that version was also canned. In 2003, Lost Boys Games was sold to Media Republic and renamed to Guerrilla Games. Their Knight projects were thus never finished, as they began to work on the first Killzone for PS2, and Shellshock: Nam ’67 for PS2, Xbox, and PC.

Only a few screenshots remain from Knights for GameBoy Color, as the title was soon cancelled for unknown reasons. We tried to get in contact with former Formula Games / Lost Boys developers, in an attempt to unearth more on  this unreleased game, but unfortunately, they were not available for comment. If you know someone that worked at Formula Games, let us know!


Vectorman 3: Ultra [Sega Saturn – Cancelled]

Vectorman Ultra is the cancelled third game in the Vectorman series, started with the first one developed by BlueSky Software and published by Sega for Sega Mega Drive / Genesis in 1995. Vectorman 2 was released in November 1996 and after it went gold it seems that BlueSky started to pitch a new sequel to Sega (Next Generation magazine published a rumor about it in their website that year), planning to develop it for Sega Saturn, the “new” Sega console that was released in May 1995 in USA.

Ellis Goodson, the artist that worked on the original Vectorman and other cult games as Skullmonkeys and Shadowrun, drawn many concepts to be used in the design doc for Vectorman Ultra created by Jason Weesner. It’s interesting to notice that these concept arts were sold sometime ago on eBay and in some of those auctions they described the game as planned for the Nintendo 64, but it’s possible that they got confused because of “Ultra” in the title (N64 was known as Ultra 64 before its final name).

It’s currently unknown if Sega Saturn’s Vectorman would have been in 2D or 3D, but looking at those awesome concept arts it seems that at least this lost game would have had some side-scrolling levels. We hope to be able to see more from this project sometime in the future, it would be interesting to know if any actual prototype was started at all. Some years later Sega tried to revive the Vectorman IP with a new PS2 game developed by Pseudo Interactive, but that was also cancelled.

Thanks to eSPy, Youloute and Ellis for the contributions!


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