Future Zone is a cancelled action/adventure platformer game, developed for the Super Nintendo and the Genesis/MegaDrive, from 1993 until 1995, by Visual Concepts and published by Electro Brain.
The game was set in a distant future where players took the role of Jason Baker Kane, a soldier sent in an alien world named future zone, which serves as a prison. The player allied himself with a rebel group, trying to escape this fortress.
The game was briefly mentionned, for the first time, in March 1993 by the issue#46 of Nintendo Power after apparently being shown at the Winter CES. In the same period, GameProissue #45 said that the game showcased:
It was then planned for the end of the year, also on the Genesis/MegaDrive. Then in August 1993, with the issue#51 from Nintendo Power again, the title has apparently been shown again, this time for the Summer CES. By the time, the project was re-scheduled for a release in mid-1994.
It wasn’t until May 1994 that Future Zone came back in the press. Still with Nintendo Power, issue#60, we learned that, apparently, the project changed in its direction, alongside the developer, without additional details. The Genesis/MegaDrive version was, from this point on, never mentionned again. More was shared in December 1994, with the issue#71 from Video Games Magazine, where we learned that the title was developed by Visual Concepts and was going to feature side-scrolling platform action, first-person 3d mazes and Mode 7 flying levels.
In February 1995, it was the issue#39 of french magazine Joypad which said that Future Zone was scheduled for June 1995, according to them, it was of the same caliber as Super Metroid. The Mexican version of Club Nintendo wrote a short preview, the same month, on the game, showing a screenshot of a Mode 7 level. Here is what we can read:
In a prison in the future, a soldier who should not be there has to escape in order to save a planet, this is the plot of the game Future Zone by Electro Brain; This title has 16 megabytes of memory and is basically developed in two types of game modes: Contra-style action and in a ship that flies over a surface with rotation and scale. This game is still very preliminary, we just hope that they are not going to leave it in mobility as we saw.
Unfortunately, it was the last time that Future Zone was covered in magazines. The game vanished with no trace, and to this day, it is still unclear why it was ultimately cancelled, although, by reading about it on various magazine issues, it looks like the development didn’t always go as planned, with numerous changes. To this day, no ROM leaked onto the internet, but a short trailer is available to remember its existence.
If you know someone who worked on Future Zone and could help us preserve more screenshots, footage or details, please let us know!
Very few information exist about this game as, to this day, no video games magazines featured it on Archive.org, and no reason were given about why it was cancelled. We can speculate that it was the purchase of Malibu Comics by Marvel, of which Malibu Interactive was a subsidiary, that happened in 1994 that caused to shutdown the game company, and thus, cancelling the title in the process.
A first prototype of the game leaked in 2009 containing 5 playable levels and we can read more details about its gameplay here:
As far as gameplay goes, Prime is a pretty standard side-scrolling Beat-‘Em-Up in the mold of Final Fight, which shouldn’t come as a surprise if you were playing video games in 1994.
Malibu Interactive did a pretty good job on that front. Maximum Carnage seems to be the bar they set out to beat, and while you don’t get to whip people around with Spider-Man’s webs, they do give Prime a few neat attacks to keep things interesting — or as interesting as one of video games’ most repetitive genres gets, anyway.
One button makes Prime punch, often with a combo that’s a dead ringer for Cody’s in Final Fight, but powered by ridiculously huge arms instead of ultra-tight acid wash jeans. And while you don’t get to actually fly during any of the fighting levels, you do get a double jump that’s useful in exactly one area. Another button gives you an alternate kick attack that begins with the most awkward wind-up ever and ending with a stiff-leg kick square in the junk, complete with an impact burst exploding out of the bad guy’s crotch.
In addition to the standard chuck-an-enemy-across-the-screen, Prime also gives you the ability to throw them towards the background or foreground. It’s a trick lifted from the later-era TMNT games, but they pull it off pretty well here by adding something that the comics of the era specialized in: explosions.
Explosions are a recurring theme in the game, and you get to most of them by throwing enemies at everything possible just to see what happens. The car in the foreground, the fire hydrant in the background and the windows on the building can all be broken when you toss an enemy at them, usually resulting in an explosion even when it’s a fire hydrant. It’s also pretty nice that the backgrounds have areas (like the windows and the occasional boarded-up door) that are destructible, although owing to the game’s unfinished status, the destruction will occasionally result in a glowing purple square of nothingness.
So at this point, we’ve got guys in tank tops, crotch-kicks and exploding cars, and for the Streets of Rage aficionado, that’s all pretty standard stuff. Prime is also equipped with two special abilities that allow him to deal with these horrors. For one, as seen above, he walks just like WWE chairman Vince McMahon. And for the second, his super attack, which allows him to blow up like a balloon until he explodes.
An almost finished version leaked later on the internet.
The game was eventually released on the Sega CD under the name Ultraverse Prime in 1995.
ShadowHawk is a cancelled action/platformer game developed by Studio E exclusively for the Super Nintendo around 1994. It was based on the comic-book of the same name.
The game was cancelled due to a lack of publishers interested in the project and the source code leaked on the internet in 2016. SNESCentral wrote:
The game is split into two modes. It featured one or two platforming stages, followed by a Mortal Kombat-style boss fight. After beating each level, you get a cut scene with the story, and usually a hint at who the next boss is. You can throw a boomerang, but I found that most enemies with shooting attacks will hit you before you even get a chance to throw it. A neat aspect is the grappling hook, which can allow you to quickly swing through a level.
The boss fights are an almost exact Mortal Kombat clone. The controls are set up the same (high and low punches and kicks on the face, block with the shoulder buttons). I wasn’t able to consistently do special moves, but they appear to be standard fighting game motions. After beating the boss, they stand there dizzy, which may mean you can pull off a fatality style move. Without a move guide, there is no way I can figure out if that is true.
ShadowHawk wasn’t the only cancelled game made by Studio E. Years after, the company also had two cancelled Playstation titles with the action game Pariah and the mysterious Zulu. Their only released game was VMX Racing in 1997, still on the Playstation.
On the forum The Ocean Experience, which was a forum founded by former Ocean Software’s developers, former artist Brian Flanagan wrote that the game was “99% done” but was cancelled because “the film bombed“.
The Super Nintendo whole source code leaked onto the internet years ago. The gameplay is similar to other Beat ’em up games such as Final Fight or Double Dragon. The player has two bars; one for the life and the other allowing the player to perform special attacks (invisibility, speed running, a dome shield that knocks out everyone who hits it). The regular beat ’em up levels also include a section for gun play, where the player is able to shoot enemies and a driving stage.
Despite being cancelled at the last minute, the SNES version got mixed reviews by many video games magazines back then. The Genesis version has still yet to be found.
The game was set in the future while Steven Seagal partnered with Trish Morgan in order to lead an ultimate assault on an evil corporation named Nanotech, which was responsible for the death of Steven’s former partner Jack Fremen:
Steven Seagal is a legendary runner, but commanders dislike his loose style and contempt for rules. His partner, Jack Fremen, was killer on their last mission. There is no evidence to support it, but many wonder if he might still be alive had Seagal followed orders.
Trish Morgan, another veteran runner, has been assigned as his new partner. She’s tough as any but has the attitude that commanders look for.
Now, the rebels will attempt the ultimate mission: an assault on Nanotech’s main campus.
High command nervous about Seagal – They know he’s out to avenge Fremen’s death. But he’s the best chance they have.
He’s the only choice…
The second main character, Trish Morgan, was also meant to be playable and would have different features than Steven Seagal. According to some source, she teamed up with Seagal in order to rescue her son, who was kidnapped by Nanotech.
“There have been a lot of games based on movies, but not any that we know of based on a Hollywood celebrity.We have the rights to his name and his image, but we used a look-alike because the resolution of even digitized images on cartridges is not such that you can tell the difference.”
“Seagal still consulted extensively on the project and he received a [combination] of royalties and guarantees as his compensation.”
Daily Variety offered more of a look into the game’s motion-capture process.
“TecMagik shot much of the game at a Santa Monica studio using technology developed for compact disc platforms and a Hollywood-style production team that included a director/producer, actors, dancers, a choreographer and a costume designer. In four days of shooting, the company filmed more than 10,000 frames of Seagal’s aikido action.
Seagal’s involvement supposedly included “input into plot progression” and approval of the final product.
The Final Option’s release was slated for spring 1994. The game would appear on both the Super Nintendo and SEGA Genesis systems.
The following information comes from Nintendoplayer, who, over the years, managed to own a prototype of the game and explained how it works and plays:
The Final Option in its alpha form is essentially a bloodless beat-em-up brawler. The goal is simply to reach the exit and advance to the next level.
Decked out in his trademark leather jacket and blue jeans, Steven Seagal infiltrates the evil Nanotech’s laboratories and reactors in six dangerous missions, three stages per mission.
He can unleash Aikido chops and crotch kicks to anyone dumb enough to get in the way, or play really dirty by tossing an infinite supply of throwing knives or by pulling out a handgun when the action gets to be too much to handle. Seagal can also perform a combo move to throw thugs.
Health and more knives and ammunition can be picked up off the ground.
Seagal’s trademark fighting technique of standing in one place and waiting for punks to run into his fists has translated well into the gameplay. Lab technicians and crooked cops will dutifully form organized lines to receive their deserved beatings.
Enemy attacks range from kicks and punches that do minor amounts of damage (and can be blocked) to bullets that can take Seagal down with one hit. The player is given unlimited lives in the prototype, so difficulty is not an issue. (In fact, the only way that Seagal can lose is if he deliberately stays too long in one of the gas-filled rooms that have timers; that will result in a TIME UP.)
What is an issue, however, is Seagal’s inability to jump, as the big lug can only “crouch hop” short distances. Every stage has platforming or obstacles that need to be leapt over, but the best that Seagal can hope for in most cases is to let out a high-pitched yelp as he plummets down ditches, burns alive in fire pits, or disintegrates while drowning in pools of glowing-green acid.
Fortunately, to compensate, the player can navigate a cursor around to place Seagal back on safe ground after falling. During some especially dicey moving platform sections, the player will have to repeatedly resort to doomful diving in order to move forward. Seagal was never known for overly exerting himself in action sequences, and again, this game strives for realism.
Still on Nintendoplayer, an interview of former designer Steve Wik can be found. Many things that happened during the development was shared, and by the sound of it, looks like it was less than easy for the developers:
The game’s credits list you as an artist. What exactly were your duties?
Actually, I had more to do with the game design than the art. On the art end, I was the one who put together the animations from frames captured from laserdiscs of the actor footage. On the design end, I had key input into the whole concept of the game that would have involved optionally using stealth and distraction to sneak past enemies rather than just the standard walk-to-the-right-punching-endless-waves-of-guys kind of game.
Jeff Tarr, director of marketing for TecMagik, admitted to The Hollywood Reporter in 1993 that a Steven Seagal look-alike was used in the game instead of the actual actor because gamers would not be able to tell the difference. Tarr still insisted that the star “consulted extensively” on the project, having “input into plot progression” and final approval. How involved really was Seagal in the making of this game? Did you ever get to meet him or talk with him?
As far as I know, Seagal had no interest or involvement in this game. The real reason Seagal did not appear in the game was that TecMagik was too cheap to pay him! I never heard about him having any sort of approval on anything. As far as I was ever told, he sold his name and likeness, and that was the end of it. We certainly never had to pitch our design to him and never saw any feedback from him about it.
I understand that much of the game was shot at a Santa Monica studio. A director/producer, actors, dancers, a choreographer, and a costume designer were hired, and 10,000 frames of Seagal’s look-alike were filmed. Were you present during any of this? If so, could you describe the scene and what that whole process was like? It would also be interesting to know more about the actor who played Steven Seagal.
The actor who played Seagal was just some guy we found at the audition. He was tall enough and knew something about Aikido. But I’d need to see the prototype you’re looking at, because at first we were using footage of our art director Randy Briley, who used to compete in martial arts competitions and knew Aikido. I don’t know for sure when or if the final Seagal footage got implemented.
I helped design the character moves and actions, but I wasn’t at the shoot. The choreographer would have been Randy Briley. There were actually two shoots, and the explanation is kinda meandering and lengthy, but amusing:
When the project began, we were presented with a really terrible design that TecMagik had paid some other company to write up. It was based on a driving game engine that TecMagik happened to have access to. Yes, it began as a driving game! After some brutal jokes about how would you even know it’s Seagal–have his ponytail flapping out of the side window–we made short work of destroying that original design and convincing TecMagik to let us start our own from scratch.
The first producer TecMagik gave us was a woman who we were told got her job because she’d “graduated from Harvard School of Business” and “was formerly a bank manager.” Pretty much the first thing she made clear to us was that she’d never played a video game in her life. We foolishly thought that would work to our advantage and lead her to trust our knowledge and design instincts, but that wasn’t to be the case. In the end, she looked at our design with all the stealth mechanics and said, “Why are you doing all this? Why don’t you just make it like Streets of Rage 2? That game sold a million units, clearly it’s what the kids want!”
But we fought that battle and got to keep our “unnecessarily gameplay-filled” vision of the game. Relations with that producer got so heated that TecMagik switched her to a different project and gave us a new guy they’d just hired.
This new producer apparently got hired because he and some friends had developed some sort of strip poker game for PC. Anyway, this guy turned out to be even worse than the previous producer, and at one point he started criticizing the character designs in the footage, which we had already been using for months. He felt the characters needed to be more wild and freakish. Which is certainly true if you’re hand-drawing them, and we didn’t necessarily disagree with the idea of improving them, but doing the digitized Mortal Kombat thing is a different story, as he was soon to discover.
While the owner of TecMagik was out of town, this producer authorized, on his own, a new shoot for the enemy characters and supposedly paid his strip poker buddies and girlfriend a few grand in TecMagik money to do it.
First, the thing was clearly shot in someone’s garage. There was no green screen! The camera angle, distance to the character and lighting often changed per shot so nothing could possibly have been matched up. He had characters doing dive rolls and falls and jumps where they’d actually go partially out of frame! In some shots, lights and other items actually blocked the view of the characters. (…) It was a nightmare. Hilarious, though.
The prototype does not have Trish Morgan in it, but I assume that she was supposed to be controlled by the second player. Do you remember anything about this character, what she looked like, her special abilities, etc.?
Trish would have been very similar to Seagal in terms of abilities, weaker in hand-to-hand, but with more powerful weapons to compensate. We never got around to fleshing her out, I think the plan was to get beyond the prototype stage before putting effort into her. We were focused on getting Seagal himself playable.
The prototype is an early build, so all of the computer monitors say the same thing, many dead-ends block the way, and none of the levels can be completed. Could you go into some detail on how the final game would have played? For example, would Seagal have battled a boss at the end of each stage?
The idea was that there would be multiple paths for replayablilty. The level layouts would offer spots where the player could move into the background and sneak around in shadows as an option to combat. Blackthorne would eventually do something similar, though in our version you could still move right or left while hiding. We had ideas for situations like being able to kick one of those typical office chairs and make it roll past an enemy, which would distract him so you could get by or attack him from behind.
The boss events would have been more like Contra, with static emplacements launching projectile and beam attacks while enemies also came out to attack you and an occasional “super” version of an enemy type as a midboss. I don’t think we’d designed a final boss yet.
My prototype runs on the Super Nintendo, but apparently there were also plans to release Steven Seagal on the SEGA Genesis. Is that true? If so, was the game ever up and running on the Genesis?
Well, this calls for another lengthy and meandering answer… While we were developing the SNES version, another company was hired to develop the Genesis version semi-independently. The deal was we’d share the character footage with them, but beyond that, I think they were pretty free to diverge from our design at will.
Unlike RSP, which was in Arizona, the Genesis dev company was located literally across the street from TecMagik in San Francisco. As we discovered later, this provided them with lots of opportunity to play weird politics against us. The closest thing there ever was to a Genesis version up and running was the utterly bogus “prototype” they put together to show, I think, at CES. Basically, what they did was take the raw Seagal walking animation frames and put him on a black background. He was much larger than our working prototype version and had the benefit of all of the Genesis’ RAM and color palettes being applied to him. So, basically, he looked great, but anyone with the slightest clue knew there was no possible way he could look like that in a real game. The sample environments they showed were done the same way. They looked terrific, but that was because they were using all of the system’s resources to display a single screen image with no characters or anything else going on. It was totally fraudulent!
But this unscrupulous developer used it as a wedge to show how much “better” their team was. I think the guy was trying to get them to pull the project from us and give it to them. I have no idea how he would’ve eventually explained why the game ended up looking so much crappier than their “prototype.” We were never into playing that kind of bogus self-promotional game, we were totally focused on putting together functional gameplay.
The game was originally slated for a spring 1994 release until it was delayed to early 1995. Then it kind of disappeared. When was the game officially cancelled, and can you provide any insight into why development was finally shut down? Did you hear about or personally experience any problems related to the game’s development?
My understanding was that TecMagik simply ran out of money, but there may be a more interesting story about what was going on there. Publishers went out of business all the time, so we just kept rolling with our other projects.
Greg Goldsholl, who played Steven Seagal for the game told to Nintendoplayer that it shouldn’t have been made from the beginning:
(…) I told Steven Seagal I played him in the game. He said he hadn’t approved the game and they weren’t supposed to do it. (…)
Over the years, the source code of the prototype leaked on the internet.
Still according to Nintendoplayer, another game starring Seagal was planned by TecMagik, this time for the Playstation and the Nintendo 64 named Deadly Honor, although to this day, not much is known about this title, except a tidbit of information that we can read on the video game graveyard of Playstation Museum:
Slap an action star’s name on a video game and people are bound to pay attention, at least at first. But the problem is that this game went through an SNES incarnation before it wandered into PlayStation and N64 development, and then it never came out for any of the systems. Deadly Honor was TecMagik’s upgrade from the SNES game, Steven Seagal is The Final Option, the company was working on. If Deadly Honor was to be somewhat along the lines of The Final Option, it would have placed you as Steven Seagal in a game loosely based on the star’s action films, such as Under Siege, Hard to Kill, Marked for Death, and so on. The game was to be an action game where you ran around doing a lot of damage. What’s notable about the game is that it was reportedly being created from digitized film footage and was to use AnimaTek’s Caviar technology – a surface pixel real-time rendering engine, to create realistic figure and object animations.
The game was in development for the SNES and supposedly had a couple of complete levels, however TecMagik announced Deadly Honor for the N64 and PlayStation, and you can guess where the SNES game went. Ironically, the N64 and PlayStation games never saw the light of day either.
Thanks to Nintendoplayer, Steve Wik and Greg Goldsholl!
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