Nintendo

Geopolitic Shima ni Okeru Kokka Kobo Ron [NES / Famicom – Cancelled]

Irem developed and published many games for the NES / Famicom, such as Holy Diver, Hammerin’ Harry and Deadly Towers. They also had many projects that were never released, and this “Geopolitic Shima ni Okeru Kokka Kobo Ron” is one of them.

This is a really obscure and forgotten strategy / simulation game planned for the Famicom, and only a couple of images were found in a japanese magazine by Youlute.

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It seems players would have been able to plan their war against enemy armies, to control the whole world. As it happens with old, cancelled 8 bit games, we don’t know much more about this one: at least we can now remember its existence. Maybe one day someone could find a prototype and share it with the world. 

Metro Panic (Nichibutsu RPG) [Cancelled – Game Boy]

Metro Panic is a cancelled RPG that was in development by Nichibutsu (Nihon Bussan) for Game Boy in early ‘90s. From the only screenshot found by Celine in Famitsu (Issue from 92/09/18) we can speculate it was some kind of adventure game set in subway stations?

It may have been somehow related to Nichibutsu’s Tube Panic, a 1984 shooter that seems to have been the first “3D game” (it used tubular vortex levels) developed in Japan. Or maybe they just use a similar / same title because they already own the copyright for it.

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This could have a been a lost masterpiece for the GameBoy, or just another forgotten RPG. We hope someone could find more details still hidden away in some old japanese magazines

Dear Blue (Konami RPG) [N64 – Cancelled]

Dear Blue (親愛なる青 ?) is the name of a new Konami RPG for Nintendo 64 that seems to have been quietly announced in 1998 on the March issue of Nintendo Power Magazine (Volume 106) and later seen in many list of “in development” N64 projects (such as this on by IGN). In Nintendo Power’s “Pak Watch” section we can read:

“Konami told Pak Watch to expect a new NBA title, a hockey title, an RPG tentatively called Dear Blue, a new fighting game and a game that has something to do with graffiti.”

We may assume:

The only RPG developed by Konami for Nintendo 64 was then Hybrid Heaven, published in 1999, but it was a title already know since at least 1997, so Dear Blue must have been a different project.

The game was never mentioned again by magazines or websites, so we can speculate 3 possible reasons: the game was canned, the title and genre was a mistranslation of something else that was released (Goemon’s Great Adventure?), the game was canned for N64 and then released for another console (maybe Lost in Blue for Nintendo DS?).

It’ also interesting to notice that there’s a song titled “Dear Blue” in Konami’s Kukeiha Club Pro-Fusion Salamander OST released in 1996. If you’d like to dream, we could say Dear Blue was a planned Salamander RPG for Nintendo 64. But actually that’s highly improbable and we’ll never know the truth.

If you have more details about this lost N64 RPG, please let us know!

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Shining Legend (Princess & Knight) [DS – Cancelled]

Shining Legend is a cancelled action RPG that was in development by Blueside for Nintendo DS. While the title could reminds you of SEGA’s Shining series, this project was not officially related to it. Blueside is mostly known for their work on the Kingdom Under Fire series and it’s composed by former Phantagram developers. The team initially announced this game as “Princess And Knight” in 2008 before vanishing for a couple of years and then resurrecting under the new title “Shining Legend”.

The game’s funny premise was a nice change in comparison with the usual epic RPGs:

“You’re a handsome, cunning prince studying abroad. You return to your home kingdom and find that not only has your father, the king, disappeared, but he’s left the kingdom in enormous debt. As creditors come knocking at your door, you discover that the neighboring kingdom’s seven princesses have run away after a little misunderstanding with their father and they’re now your traveling companions as you work to pay off the money your country owes. You have 800 days to pay this debt and win the heart of one of the beautiful princesses that accompanies you on your journey.”

Gameplay was also an interesting mix of RPG, hack & slash (with dozens of enemies on screen) and dating sim:

“Players have two main objectives during the course of the game: pay back their father’s debt and win the heart of a princess. Most of the player’s time will be spent fighting monsters and developing relationships with the different girls. “

“The prince, named Luchs […] will travel around the continent and complete up to 400 different quests to earn money. During these travels, he can actually be joined in battle by a princess, which gives Luchs access to different special abilities or team attacks. These attacks vary depending on the girl Luchs is courting. A princess may walk out of battle if the prince isn’t really winning her over. “

“Monsters in Shining Legend are both 2D and 3D affairs, which gives the visuals a very nice look. Most of the characters and lower-level creatures are just 2D sprites, but when Luchs faces off with a boss character, that monster will be a 3D model.”

Multiple story paths and endings were planned depending on how you would resolve the game’s quests, how many days you would need to pay off your debt and by choosing different relationships. More details about the seven princesses were posted online by Sword Machine in 2010:

Erika (19), who is the rightful heir to the Kingdom of Junon, and has trained rigorously for the position. She is also a childhood friends of Luchs. (She is the one in with the blue winged dress.)

Pofosh (18), who outwardly only cares about extravagant parties and traveling in her golden wagon, but inwardly feels very empty. (She is the one in the revealing pink party dress.)

Nana (16), who is obsessed with searching for ruins and relics, then keeping them in her room. Her collection is so large, she apparently lends some of her relics to museums. (She is the one in the short red dress holding the rabbit.)

Elara (16), who dislikes magic, and thinks the world would be a better place through the spreading of alchemy. She sometimes forces people to participate in her strange experiments. (She is the one in the green dress with glasses.)

Thimu (16), who was adopted from the fallen Kingdom of Sosan, and dreams of becoming a great pirate after reading about the legendary “Bloody Rose.” (She is the one with the long pirate jacket.)

Arphen (16), who is a half-elf, and obsessed with the lost elven civilization, hoping to rebuild their kingdom some day. (She is the tanned half-elf with light blue hair.)

Lorna (12), is the youngest of the princesses, and very shy. She enjoys sketching, and has the ability to predict the future through her drawings. (She is the blonde one with the sketchbook.)

While Shining Legend was never released on the Nintendo DS, in the following years Blueside reused their lost concept to create a somehow similar game for iOS, titled “Princess Pajama”. It’s a much more casual game, it only has 1 princess, game mechanics were simplified and character design was heavily revised.

It’s interesting to notice that Blueside was also the team behind a cancelled hentai dating sim titled “Shining Lore”, with was later changed into a MMORPG with the same name for Xbox and PC (which was also canned in the end). We can assume the “Shining” part of the name for the cancelled DS game was taken from their previous unreleased projects.

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Thieves World (Bits Studios) [N64 – Cancelled]

You might remember a game called Rogue Ops that was released on Xbox, Gamecube and Playstation 2 way back in 2003. Well, this game wasn’t always called that way. When the developper Bits Studios started the project during the Nintendo 64 era, this was called Thieves World. We are lucky enough to have a gameplay video of how the game would have looked like, right down here:

As written in the video description:

“Thieves World was a n64 game developed by bits studios in 1999. When the n64 life cycle ended development was moved to the ps2. This is a prototype of the game running on the ps2. It’s basically a mix of the n64 assets with a new main character, added “nextGen” special FX and such… the game will keep transform and later be released under the title Rogue Ops. This video was recently unearthed by a ex bits employee. The n64 rom or early ps2, gamecube or xbox build are still lost to this day.”

As the video suggests when it starts, Thieves World was a working title so it is possible that it would have had a different name had it been released on the Nintendo 64 back then. During the video, we see the female main character infiltrating what seems to be a well guarded bank. There are guards with guns, she shoots darts from afar to put them to sleep and she can also ambush them in close quarters. Thieves World had a more stealth approach to its design than Rogue Ops and this is confirmed by one of the programmers who worked at the company Bits Studios at the time.

Please read below part of a very interesting interview we had with Mr. Frederic Villain about what it was like to work for this company and the projects Bits Studios had at the time like RiQa, Muzzle Velocity (Die Hard Vendetta) and Thieves World. The full interview was published in our Unseen64 bookVideo Games You Will Never Play”.

Unseen64: What happened to RiQa and Thieves World? There is a lot of confusion about these two unreleased N64 games and we’d like to finally find out the truth. We know that they were two different projects but it seems that the released Rogue Ops took some elements from both. Is this true? Why were they cancelled and how much was done on the Nintendo 64?

Fred: “When I joined Bits Studios with other ex-employees/friends from Haiku Studios, the main focus of the studio was RiQa for N64. A very ambitious third person game with a main female character called RiQa. As far as I can remember the team had already been working on the game for a couple years. I was assigned to the project and worked on various gameplay and VFX tasks as well as the support of the infamous 64DD as the content of the game was supposed to be huge. The project had a lot of difficulties on the tech side and the team was fighting between the ambitions and the hardware/software limitations.

At the same time Nathanael Presson which I knew from Haiku, was working on creating a new multiplatform engine for the company. I was working on and off with him to add support for the N64 to the engine. After 6 months at Bits we presented the tech to Foo Katan (the boss of the studio) and he was sold. While the RiQa engine iteration cycle was very slow (level made in Max and long building times to get it on console), we had an Editor/Engine that allowed LDs to create levels in the Editor (using Booleans and Portals inspired from the original Unreal Editor) and allowed them to play directly on the console by a press of a button. This was the beginning of the “Thieves World” project, another third person game with a female lead (at the time Tomb Raider was an inspiration for everybody and female leads were very popular!).

Thieves World, in turn, had a lot of ups and downs. After a few more months the RiQa project was cancelled and the focus of the studio became “Thieves World”. We continued working on the engine and the gameplay of the game for several years. At some point another team in the Studio started developing Muzzle Velocity, which later on became Die Hard: Vendetta, using the same Editor/Engine and we contributed to support this team. We had some problems on the creative side on TW and we spent a lot of time iterating on the design. As the N64 life cycle reached its end the decision was made to move on to next gen and we had to upgrade the engine significantly to push the tech to benefit from next gen consoles hardware.

A lot of people left the team in the years after this reboot and at some point I was the only original member of the team left. The game was almost canned but we signed a deal with Kemco and the game was ultimately rebooted to become “Rogue Ops”. The original TW project was supposed to be a stealth, no weapon game, which created a lot of issues on gameplay side. Kemco decided to introduce more shooting and we finally got a game. TW was not inspired by other titles at the time like MGS or Splinter Cell, it was actually imagined before or at the same time as those games. But the development cycle was so long that at release time those games had long been released.”

Unseen64: Jas Austin (another former Bits Studios developer) told us that Thieves World almost became a Rare game: is true that they wanted to move development from Bits  Studios to Rare? We wonder if Thieves World could have became a Perfect Dark spin- off. After Rare and Nintendo published the original Perfect Dark on the Nintendo 64,  they also wanted to release a quick sequel called “Velvet Dark” that would have been a third person action / stealth game.. maybe the two projects are related.

Fred: “Yes as far as I can remember Jason is right! While the TW game had design difficulties, Bits Studios was audited by Rare. A presentation of the game and the tech was done to Rare after several months of audit and while the tech was recognized on N64, Rare did not decide to acquire the game or the studio. They were already working on Perfect Dark at the time and some concepts in both games are similar, but this is as far as it goes regarding the history between those two games.”

As mentioned in the written interview, the reason why Thieves World didn’t happen is because the N64 had reached the end of its lifecycle and a decision was made by Bits Studios to move this project to the next generation. This meant rebuilding the game and transfer as much as possible to their new project. Thieves World was in production for a few years after RiQa was cancelled, so we can assume it got quite far in development. They did, however, experience creative hardships and spent a lot of time on the design side of the project.

During that transition, sadly most people left Bits Studios. Mr. Villain was the only member of the project who stayed until the end and saw this Thieves World come alive as Rogue Ops when finally released on the new generation of consoles in 2003.

“But I am still proud to that day, it got finally released as Rogue Ops, even if it was not a massive commercial success”

The company Bits Studios has worked on quite a good list of games before it went under in 2008. As mentioned on Wikipedia, unfortunately the parent company ‘Playwize’ sold off all assets and technologies Bits Studio had due to overall poor sales.

Article by Alex (Brub)

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On a last note, see below a Rogue Ops retro video commercial for comparison purposes. One wonders how different Thieves World would have been compared to Rogue Ops, but at least something came out of this cancellation.