Unseen Features

Interview with Yukiharu Sambe, R&D manager of the unreleased Taito WOWOW

A long time ago, Unseen64 was just a shell of itself. It was hosted on the notoriously bad Xoom.it hosting service, and looked pretty much like a 90’s website horribly made with Microsoft Frontpage. However, as old as Unseen64 looked back then (it was 2004!), it wasn’t the first site dedicated to unreleased games maintained by Italians. That particular accolade belongs to The Strange (and Rare) Videogame Pics Page, created by Fabrizio Pedrazzini, an Italian games journalist, known for his work at magazines such as the glorious ‘Super Console’. TS(&R)VPP, as the name says, wasn’t solely about beta games. There were pictures of pirated software, obscure and limited edition consoles, demos, and more. Hidden among those pages was the Taito/JSB/ASCII WOWOW console.

Consoles Plus 010 - Juin 1992 - Page 010

Page 10, Console+ Issue 10 (June 1992) (click to enlarge)

For years, the only available information on the Taito WOWOW was limited to this report from the 1992 Tokyo Toys Show, via French videogame magazine, ‘Console+‘:

Another alliance between publishers and manufacturers has been established in Japan. It’s about JSB (that controls the satellite channel Wowow), ASCII and Taito.

A prototype has been developed. It’s small and equipped with a CD-Rom player. The basic idea is innovative: it’s about distributing games via satellite, like the streaming of TV programs, and to charge only the time really spent to play.

The other interesting thing about the console is that the games that will be released to the public will be the same of the arcade versions, with the video and audio quality of the originals.

The first games available will be Darius, Bubble Bobble and Parasol Stars…

A released date has not been disclosed yet.

Taito's booth at the Tokyo Toy Show 1992

Taito’s booth at Tokyo Toy Show 1992 (picture courtesy of Hardcore Gaming 101 blog)

The interview with Yukiharu Sambe

We have been able to get in touch with the Research & Development manager of TAITO Corporation Mr. Yukiharu Sambe, Professional engineer at the time the Wowow was created, and he was kind enough to share some new informationpreviously unknown, about this unreleased console. Enjoy! 

Unseen Interview: Brian McNeely (Lobotomy Software)

lobotomy software interview

Do you know Lobotomy Software? If you played Exhumed / PowerSlave on Saturn or Playstation, you probably remember that it was a real masterpiece, a Metroid-alike adventure in first person view, before Metroid Prime even existed.  Lobotomy were founded in 1993 and they released some other games like the successful Sega Saturn ports of Duke Nukem 3D and Quake, that shown to the world what the 32Bit Sega Console was able to do with 3D graphic when great developers were able to work on great games.

They were also planning 2 new original games, Aquaria (Nintendo 64 + Playstation) and Exhumed 2 (Playstation), but unfortunately these were cancelled before being completed and gamers will never be able to enjoy them. In 1998 Lobotomy’s talented developers were acquired by Crave Entertainment and the team was renamed to Lobotomy Studios, to work on a Caesar’s Palace game for the Nintendo 64, but after a year of development the game was postponed and eventually cancelled. As we can read on Wikipedia, at that point Lobotomy Studios was closed and employees were let go or given the option to be relocated to another position at Crave Entertainment.

Thanks to our friend Ross Sillifant we are able to publish this interview with Brian McNeeely, one of the main Lobotomy Software developers that worked on all their games, to ask him about his memories on their released projects and their cancelled titles. And if you still don’t know why it’s such a shame that we lost Exhumed 2 and Aquaria, please take your time and watch the video below (created by Tatsu  from Lobotomy Software Blog), to understand why Lobotomy Software was one of the most talented development team in the mid ’90, affected by an unlucky fate.

Interview with Brian McNeely by Ross Sillifant

Before we get started, i’m going to try and ‘avoid’ as many technical-based questions as possible, or least phrase them in a more general manner, as i think these type of questions would be better suited to coders like Ezra Dreisbach, with your goodself i’m looking more for the insights into the company itself, hopefully being able to get a few rumours from the press cleared up etc etc.

Q1) Starting with the standard, cliched opener, Brian, please introduce yourself to our readers, in terms of your background, if you could be so kind.

Brian: Thanks for this opportunity Ross.  My name is Brian McNeely (my name was actually Brian Anderson up to around 1996 when I changed my last name to McNeely, which is my birth name).  I’ve been working in the gaming industry since January 1989, when I was hired at Nintendo of America as a Game Play Counselor.  It’s hard to believe that was over 26 years ago!  I look back at those days as a golden era both in the gaming world and in my career, and I feel very lucky that I was at Nintendo’s epicenter during that period.  The NES, SNES, and Gameboy hardware and software were all the rage, and I had the privilege of playing those games full-time and helping gamers all over the world with game tips and “counseling.”  It really was a ton of fun.  I love what I do now and what I’ve done since then, but that was one of the best times of my life for sure. 

Random interviews and info on lost games!

Ross Sillifant sent us a lot of contributions, info and interviews about cancelled videogames and their development, from different software houses and for various consoles / PC. To be able to publish all those info we’ll need more time, but to start here’s a first collection of random facts that should be saved in the Unseen64 archive!

Mike Singleton (RIP) was working on Midwinter III, for PS2 and Dolphin (GameCube) working title was Skyfall Year Zero: Total Midwinter.  See Arcade Mag Timewarp March 1990 and this tweet by Chris Wild.

Activision CANNED PS1 Hyperblade (A futuristic rollerblading sport game) after almost 12 months in development, Activision unwilling to disclose reasons why it was canned though.

Interview with Andrew Hewson:

Q) Is it true you had a PC Engine version of Paradroid ’90 all finished and it was to be Hewson’s 1st crack at the emerging console market? If so, what became of it? Was it never released because PCEngine didn’t get a UK release?

Andrew:Umm, that’s news to me.

 

The Wonderful 101 [Beta / Concept – Wii U]

The Wonderful 101 is an action game for the Wii U, developed by Platinum Games in partnership with Nintendo and was directed by famed Japanese designer, Hideki Kamiya, of Okami and Devil May Cry notoriety. It was released in 2013 and has since developed a small cult following among Wii U owners.

The game follows the adventures of The Wonderful 100, a team of superheroes, as they fight to defend Earth from an alien menace known as the ‘GEATHJERK Federation‘. Despite being released almost a full year into the Wii U’s lifespan, the project had, in fact, been in the works for a few years prior. As revealed by the staff who worked on it over the course of its development, its direction underwent some considerable shifts along the way.

Video Game All Stars, Unite Up!

As disclosed by Hideki Kamiya at Gamescom 2013, The Wonderful 101 began life as an entirely different entity. Kamiya’s involvement with the project started a few years earlier, when the President and CEO of Platinum Games, Tatsuya Minami, tasked him with creating an action game with a cast of some of gaming’s biggest icons. It was set to feature Nintendo characters primarily, as well as guest stars from third party companies.

The project in this form dates all the way back to 2010, when it was planned to be developed not on Wii U, but on the Wii.

At that time it wasn’t necessarily based on any specific platform. But when we took it to Nintendo, the discussions went from there, and we decided to put it on Wii.” – Hideki Kamiya, on the first iteration of The Wonderful 101 project.

Although it has been never stated which characters from companies outside of Nintendo were planned, Kamiya did elaborate on the main cast of this original vision at 2013’s Penny Arcade Expo. During an interview with Siliconera, he mentioned that Link and Mario were among those featured. This suggests that the two might have been the basis for the ‘Unite Hand’ and ‘Unite Sword’ moves, based upon the traits of either character.

Initially, the idea was proposed by Mr. Minami, to create a game featuring Nintendo characters or other popular characters together in one game. With the idea of putting characters like Mario and Link into the same game, you end up with a situation where fans of Mario are forced to play as Link.

Moreover, during Platinum’s panel at the event, Kamiya described one piece of concept art for the project, involving other Mario characters. He gave the example of a portion where Peach, Luigi and Yoshi attempt to grab hold of one another to form a bridge, with Mario hopping across the top of them, allowing him to traverse a large bottomless pit. One artist, Kibbles, has put together a sketch for us to illustrate what this roughly might have looked like.

Wonderful 101 mario bridge concept

It appears that this idea might well have been the straw that broke the camel’s back. The director went on to to say that the people at Nintendo viewing this concept in particular was the point at which they decided the project could not be realised

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