Nintendo

Dragon’s Heaven [SNES, Sega Saturn – Cancelled]

Dragon’s Heaven (ドラゴンズヘブン) is a cancelled JRPG that was in development by Digitalware in the late ’90s, planned to be published for the Super Famicom and later on the Sega Saturn by Data East (?). We found out about this unreleased RPG thanks to Video Games Densetsu, which found some images on old japanese gaming magazines, such as Sega Saturn Magazine (November 1996).

As you can see from artwork and screenshots, the game was heavily inspired by Dragon Quest, Breath of Fire and Akira Toriyama style. Turn-based combat were shown in a top-down isometric view, featuring at least 5 playable characters at the same time.

As noticed by Matthew Callis on Twitter, it seems the project was originally conceived as a SNES project, as seen in another japanese magazine he found. From what we were able to gather online the game was based on a roleplay novel (where readers could choose how to proceed with the story?) serialized in Maru-Katsu Super Nintendo gaming magazine, possibly as a parody of classic 16 bit JRPG.  Later the series was also used to create a tabletop RPG book series published by Kadokawa Shoten.

We can speculate Digitalware tried to use the popular roleplay novel conceived in Maru-Katsu magazine to create a new roleplay video game, first on the Super Famicom and later on the Sega Saturn. For some reasons, the project was canned on both occasions, and then forgotten by everyone.

If you could read the description in these japanese scans, please let us know if there are more details about this lost project! 

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G.I. Joe: Operation Ultra [PS2, Xbox, GameCube – Cancelled]

G.I. Joe: Operation Ultra is a cancelled action game that was planned by Radical Entertainment (mostly known for their The Simpsons: Road Rage, The Simpsons: Hit & Run, Crash of the Titans, Prototype series) and Hasbro around 2002, to be developed for Playstation 2, Xbox and GameCube. As you probably assume it was meant to be a tie-in for the popular G.I. Joe franchise, conceived when Hasbro published a new G.I. Joe vs. Cobra toy line around the same time. While the game was never officially announced, in 2018 a former developer shared a few details and some photos from their design document:

“One day I’ll be able to discuss how in 2002, Hasbro and Radical Entertainment secretly concocted a mission-based G.I. Joe video game. Dubbed G.I. Joe: Operation Ultra, the game broke down into sixteen separate missions of 4 acts each. Developed for 6th generation consoles (XBox, PS2, and GameCube), Hasbro went quite far in the design process – to the extent where they assigned mapping for the consoles’ controllers.”

As far as we know, Radical Entertainment did not fully start development on the game and the project was canned before any prototype was made.

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Matchman [DS, Wii, PS3 – Cancelled]

Matchman is a cancelled run ‘n gun that was in development by TF-H Co in 2008, planned to be published by Lexicon Entertainment for the Nintendo DS, Wii and Playstation 3. The game had original graphics for its time, with hand-drawn, black and white scribbles: journalists were quite amazed by how a simple-looking game like this was meant to be released on modern consoles (indies were still not as common as today).

As we can read from the official press-release on gamesindustry.biz:

“Video games publisher Lexicon Entertainment and talented Chinese games developer TF-H Co Ltd have announced a 2 year agreement which will see the two companies bring a number of new IP to Nintendo DS, Nintendo Wii and Playstation 3 for a worldwide audience.

Matchman is a side scrolling shooter involving extraordinary graphics, manipulation and creative features. The graphic style is consisted by black and white line drawing, and the script is based on a combination of some classical fairytales such as Grimm’s and Andersons fairytales. In the script, there are many humorous factors. The black and white style will bring you the feel of an old school comic, which will attract audiences from different age groups.

One of the special features is the unconventional means to knock through some of scenario. In this case, you’re not going to kill bosses directly. For instance, conventionally you kill monsters by using weapons; but to kill an evil bird named Baba Yaga, you need to throw apples and feed it until its stomach bursts! Another feature is about manipulation. Within the game is a mode called Commuter, specially designed for people on public transport commuting to the office. These people can use a single hand to operate the console and the other to enjoy a soothing cuppa!”

Something went wrong in 2008 and Lexicon Entertainment dropped the project, before closing down their company. In 2009 a new publisher re-announced Matchman, as wrote by Gamasutra:

“Startup publisher Mamba Games today announced both its own existence as well as its first four game projects across PC and console platforms. The company, co-founded by former THQ executive Robert Nielson in November 2008, laid out its release schedule for the first two quarter of 2009, signing various worldwide and territory-specific distribution deals.

Mamba’s fourth announced title, Matchman (pictured) by Chinese developer TF-H Co Ltd, will debut for the Nintendo DS globally in the second quarter of 2009. Nintendo Wii and PlayStation 3 versions of the scrolling shooter will be released later in the year.”

In the end, Matchman just vanished and it was never published in any way as far as we were able to gather. We don’t know if TF-H Co ever completed the game nor what happened to the team after the cancellation of their project.

In the following years things did not go well for Mamba Games, failing with an international scandal about missing payments for some of their developers

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Mario Motors (Yoot Saito) [Nintendo DS – Cancelled]

Mario Motors is a cancelled racing / car engine simulation game that was in development by Yoot Saito (Seaman, Odama, SimTower) and Nintendo for their DS. While the game was never officially announced, Saito talked about it during his conference at Reboot Develop 2018. As we can read at Destructoid:

“”During one meeting, Iwata-san asked me a question: ‘Saito-san, what have you been interested in lately?’ I immediately understood what he was getting at, so I answered ‘sculpting chunk.’ Miyamoto-san said ‘huh?!'” (To help explain to the audience what he was referring to, Saito talked a bit about how things like watches, camera frames, and MacBooks are made. Sculpting objects out of metal chunks spoke to him and it was an idea he “really wanted” to make into a game.). […] This kind of sculpting is really appealing to a middle-aged guy like me […] I explained this crazy idea to them and they really listened to me very carefully in complete silence, and finally said ‘that sounds interesting, let’s give it a try. […] The concept eventually morphed into Mario Motors, “a game where you created engines.”

Saito summed it up as “shaving and sculpting out of a chunk of metal to make a cylinder [which then] decides the ability of your engines.” For part of the game he wanted to teach players how acceleration works in an interesting way and thought about having them blow into the DS microphone. “I scrapped this idea because this would cause children to get out of breath,” he explained.

As for why Mario Motors never moved ahead, Saito said “I can’t tell you why, but please guess.”

A few Mario Motors images were shared by Saito and we can see a “2008” date and a Nintendo DS Lite in there, but we don’t know when its original idea was conceived. A similar interactive concept was playable at E3 2004 when Nintendo had a “Carving tech demo” to showcase DS’ touch screen. As we can read in an old Kikizo E3 report:

“The Carving demo removed any doubts I had about DS’ touch screen sensitivity. The demo started by making your selection of a log, a steel cylinder, a watermelon, or a Mario wood sculpture. Whichever item you select is sent to the top of the screen and laid horizontally, then spun. At this point your touch pen becomes a razor sharp carving knife. Touching the object on the very edge only makes a skin deep incision, while moving in deeper cuts away an increasing amount of meat. Most impressive was the surgical precision of the carving on the DS touch screen.”

From the few Mario Motors images available, it looks like Mario would have been instructed on how engines work by an older version of him (?), with white mustache and air.

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Sports Immortal [N64 – Cancelled]

Sports Immortal is a cancelled over the top sport / action game that was pitched by Iguana Entertainment / Acclaim as a possible new Nintendo 64 project. A few pages from the design doc were shared on Twitter by its designer Jools Watsham

“Unearthed an old design doc I created 20 years ago! It was an extreme futuristic sports series for the Nintendo 64, called Sports Immortal. Good times!”

“It was never playable, sadly.”

Immortal Hockey came first (for coin-op). I then later incorporated it and expanded on the idea for N64 with Sports Immortal series.”

As we can read on the design doc:

“The aim of the game, score the most points. To do this most effectively, score as many goals as humanly, or non humanly, possible. Points rewarded for goal scoring are far higher than combat points. 1 Goal 10 points, 1 Hit 1 point.

Many scoring techniques and combos are possible to perform within the Immortal world. player can shoot straight for the goal by pressing A button once. Hold A button to build up power shot which can also be sot straight at goal with tremendous power.

Power shots are where the major “hooks” of Immortal Hockey will come into play. Each goal has a power zone surrounding it (like the 3 point zone in basketball). When a player performs a power shot in the power zone by using stick & button combos they will perform crazy, exaggerated twists and rainbow spirals, slamming the puck home in tremendous style & power. Stomp your opponent into the ground. Serious pay-off value like those found in NBA Jam – you’ll just wanna do it again, and again..”

In the end Iguana / Acclaim managers did not greenlight the game and the company worked on other titles such as Iggy’s Reckin’ Balls, Forsaken 64 and Turok 2: Seeds of Evil.

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