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“PreCore” (Armature Studio) [Xbox 360, PS3 – Cancelled]

In April 2008, after completing Metroid Prime 3: Corruption for Nintendo, game director Mark Pacini, art director Todd Keller, and principal technology engineer Jack Matthews left Retro Studios to start Armature Studio.

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Their early years were not easy: they pitched many games (such as a first-person Mega Man reboot titled “Maverick Hunter” and a military FPS for the Wii) to publishers (such as EA, Warner Bros and Capcom), but never release any project until 2012, when they worked on the “Metal Gear Solid HD Collection” port for PSVita.

As wrote by Superannuation on Kotaku:

“Shorty after the studio’s formation, Armature struck a deal with Electronic Arts through the publisher’s Blueprint division, headed up by industry veteran Lou Castle. Under its arrangement with EA, Armature’s small team was to serve as an incubator of intellectual property for the gaming giant‚ & developing various concepts and prototypes that would then be handed off to another team, with Armature’s staff keeping a close eye on the projects. The Armature deal was one part of Blueprint’s overall mission to figure out ways to counter the rising cost of game development. […] Unfortunately, two months after Armature’s public debut, EA shuttered the Blueprint division, which likely caused the relationship between the two to go south.”

Between 2010 and 2011 Armature were working on an interesting action adventure game, featuring a young protagonist and a robot, somehow similar to Studio Ghibli’s anime “Laputa: Castle in the Sky“. From the few images and footage available it seems players would have been able to explore a sci-fi, post-apocalypse world, with the help of that strange mech. The robot could destroy walls in a cavern and it seems to have an independent AI with its own emotions, as seen in the scene where it covers the protagonist from the rain.

Unfortunately the project was not completed at the time, probably with no publisher interested in funding the full game. Armature switched their time and resources to work on “Metal Gear Solid HD Collection” and “Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate”.

In 2014 the team started working with Keiji Inafune on a new project for Microsoft, titled “ReCore”. This new game show a few similarities with their old prototype, such as the post-apocalypse world and the use of robot companions. That’s why we’d like to indicate this old prototype as “PreCore”, even if we don’t know it’s original title at the moment.

We can speculate Armature were somehow able to reuse some concepts and models from their prototype to develop ReCore. We hope one day to learn more about this and all their other cancelled projects from the late ‘00s.  

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Contra Online [PS2, Xbox, PC – Cancelled]

After the cancellation of Castlevania: Resurrection and the death of the Dreamcast, the same team at Konami of America pitched a few other projects for different consoles. One of these unrealized games was a new 3D Contra with online multiplayer, planned to be developed for PS2, Xbox and PC.

They wanted to have classic single player and local coop story mode for old-school fans of the series, but at the same time testing online multiplayer for the first time.

Some details about this lost Contra game were found by fans, and preserved below to remember the existence of this cancelled concept.

“Contra’s HQ have intercepted SOS from the biggest Russian nuclear submarine that is sinking to the bottom of Barents Sea. While Contra’s HQ continues monitoring the unsuccessful rescue attempts, suddenly the submarine crews stop responding to the Russian Northern Fleet hails. Meanwhile, Contra’s spy satellite registers the beginning of nuclear missiles launch form the sub, and transmission to Russian Navy operations that Red Falcon is demanding to stop the rescue attempt otherwise there are will be a missile strike retaliation. After analyzing the spy satellite data, Contra intelligence realizes that Red Falcon is preparing its third attempt to conquer Earth by using Russian submarine as its base to assemble and power it’s robotic war machines in the safety of deep sea.

Members of Contra Forces are called in and ordered to stop the Red Falcon, and were successful in defeating evil alien entity and its forces. Or, at least they thought so. The “Red Falcon” had actually been merely wounded. It escapes the submarine blast to a secret retreat located in the mountains of Bosnia. Were alien forces lie dormant aviating for decoy Barents Sea invasion to begin, so they can start a real attack of the Earth forces? The Contra intelligence is learning that Red Falcon is not the brains behind an operation but just a pawn controlled by a mysteries alien only know as “Dark Queen”. Contra marines are called again for the final showdown.”

Story mode would have been divided into 3 worlds (Submarine, Mountain Trail and Underground Base): each one with several levels and Bosses. Past Contra protagonists could have been unlocked during the game, to be used as playable characters.

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The team planned many different modes for online multiplayer. An idea was to have online coop up to 4 players, split in 2 teams that would fight through different missions before meeting again to kill the boss together. Online Versus mode was also planned, set in a virtual-reality world similar to VR missions in Metal Gear Solid. This could have been a third person or first person shooter, depending on the best prototype they could work on.

As this was only an early pitch they were still thinking about the best Konami IP to use for their first online game. If Contra could have been a risky series (because of its hardcore fans), other possibilities were open such as using the Project Overkill IP instead.

In the end disagreements between Konami of Japan and Konami America killed the american team. Many of their latest games were canned, such as Survivor: Day One for Nintendo 64

Crimson Skies 3 [Xbox 360 – Cancelled]

The first Crimson Skies is an arcade flight video game developed by Zipper Interactive and published for PC in 2000 by Microsoft Game Studios. In 2003 Microsoft published a sequel titled “Crimson Skies: High Road to Revenge“, developed by FASA Studio for the original Xbox. Both games still have a cult-following, thanks to their fun gameplay and interesting “dieselpunk” story-settings (an alternate history of the 1930s), with a good single-player campaign, plus online and offline multiplayer

A third chapter in the series was in development by Fasa Studio around 2003 / 2004 and planned to be released for Xbox 360. Probably Microsoft wanted to offer one of their “hardcore” IPs for their new console, but in the end the project was never completed. There are currently no screenshot, videos or images preserved

Crimson Skies 3 would have expanded its gameplay by offering on-foot missions and we can speculate that FASA tried to create a much more ambitious project, making it a full open world flying game. High Road to Revenge already had many levels structured similarly to the open-world missions of GTA, where you could fly around and choose different missions located throughout the game map. We can assume in Crimson Skies 3 we could have explored cities with our character and then freely flying around the world using our planes to resolve missions and fight against enemy aircrafts

Unfortunately the game was soon cancelled and the team was moved to work on Shadowrun, the 2007 multiplayer game released for Xbox 360 and PC. Many other FASA games were canned in the mid ‘00s, such as Cesium, Mechwarrior Prime and Shadowrun: The Awakening. The company was then shut down by Microsoft on September 2007.

We tried many times to get in contact with people who worked at FASA on Crimson Skies 3 but without luck. If you know someone who worked on this lost project, please let us know. 

Project Dropship [Xbox 360, PS3 – Cancelled]

If you are a long-time fan of Square you may have read about this lost game before. Project Dropship was a canceled videogame developed by Square Enix Los Angeles and it would have been their first game. It was going to be a frantic but strategic shooter with a top down view and a strong coop multiplayer component.

It was 2008: Square Enix decided to open a new studio to test new technologies and develop digital-only, small-budget videogames. Their LA team was composed by around 10 or 20 developers and the director was Fumiaki Shiraishi, already know for his work on Crystal Chronicles: my Life as a King and Final Fantasy XI Online. In an interview with Gamasutra Shiraishi talked about their idea for the studio:

“We do like to have one full-size project if possible, and then have the downloadables on the side. We’re still in the process of trying to figure out what the first title will be. Right now we’re still in the very early phase of testing out gameplay stuff and testing out the technology. The scope of the game, and how it’s going to be sold, is going to come a little bit later.”

Even Dave Hoffman, Director of Business Development, declared to Siliconera that they were not ready to announce anything and for 3 years the Square LA studio didn’t release any videogame or announcement

2011 was a difficult year for Square Enix: in March they reported a loss in their last fiscal year, in part due to canceled videogames. Nothing was ever announced for their Los Angeles Studio until it was suddenly closed. Square Enix didn’t announce any reason for the closure, but  thanks to Siliconera, Final Fantasy Universe and some leaked screenshots we know that the studio was working on a project titled “Dropship

Dropship was in development for PS3 and Xbox 360 using Gamebryo, a 3D Engine created by Numerical Design Limited and later licensed by Square Enix in 2009. In the game you had to fight against large groups of enemies to proceed in the area, while using shields and rocks to plan attack or defense strategies. By looking at the video and screenshots leaked online it’s clear that Dropship had a strong focus on its coop mode, with up to 4 players at the same time

The game was set in a sci-fi-western world, featuring snowy, rocky areas and abandoned factories. You could use guns or lasers and choose between different characters, such as an old man dressed as a cowboy with a pirate hat and a girl with pink hair and goggles. Main enemies in the game were some kind of aliens, strange animals and monsters: we can notice a flying white fish and a huge creature similar to a snake

Dropship was probably cancelled in March 2011 even if it was in an advanced state of development. After the closure of the studio Shiraishi worked for other software houses and today he is Director of Game Development at GungHo Online Entertainment America.

Article by Gin

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Hurikàn (EA) [Xbox 360, PS3 – Cancelled]

Hurikàn is a cancelled action adventure in development by Electronic Arts in 2006, planned to be released for Xbox 360 and PS3. The project was never officially announced by EA and we found out about its existence thanks to concept art leaked online in 2010.

As far as we know Hurikàn was in development by an internal team at EA, and it was one of many pitches for new projects conceived in those years. Other unreleased ideas were Gun Head, a Road Rash reboot and a game based on Oliver Twist.

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Hurikàn was set in a weather-beaten island, where a mysterious company was working on top-secret researches. Something went wrong during the experiments (maybe a hurricane hit the island?) and their research center was attacked by robots gone haywire, ocean monsters and… even the weather? Artificially intelligent and remote-controlled machines played a prominent role in the game: some of them could help players and NPCs (for example by saving survivors), while others could be aggressive. We imagine this could have been something like a mix between Jurassic Park and Vanquish.

Unfortunately we don’t know anything else about it and the project was quietly canned in early development. From the few images we preserved in the gallery below, we can just say that Hurikàn could have been quite the cool adventure.

If you know someone who worked on this lost game, please let us know.

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