Game Boy Advance (GBA)

Demon Hunter [GBA – Cancelled]

Demon Hunter is a cancelled action RPG in the vein of Diablo, that was in development for Game Boy Advance by Independent Arts Software in 2002. The team planned 8 huge areas to explore, each one divided into several procedurally generated sub-levels so you had a different layout every time you would play.

As we can read in an old preview by IGN:

“Even though the game is designed with an ending in mind, players can continue to dungeon-hack through the areas after the quests have been complete, fighting increasingly difficult enemies the more advanced the players’ abilities become.

Like in most RPGs, players level-up their character as they battle through the different areas, earning experience points with every death. The game also features a fog-of-war type element used in real-time strategy games, limiting the player’s visibility so that he cannot see hazards that are coming from far ahead or behind certain objects.”

At the time Demon Hunter still did not have a publisher, so we can assume they never found one and the project was quietly cancelled, forgotten by everyone.

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Hanasaki Gassen [GBA – Cancelled]

Hanasaki Gassen (in Japanese, literally translated as “Flower Blooming Competition”) is a cancelled real-time strategy game for GBA that was in development by Blue Planet Software (AKA Bulletproof Software), the same company that created the original Tetris for Game Boy and today act as the exclusive agent for The Tetris Company.

The project was officially announced as one of the first games in development for the GameBoy Advance and it was being funded and published by Nintendo themselves. It would have been one of their major titles to be shown at E3 2001, but that never happened: Hanasaki Gassen vanished and was forgotten forever by most Nintendo fans.

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Unfortunately Nintendo never shown any image nor screenshots from this lost game. We tried to get in contact with former Blue Planet Software developers who worked on the game, but with no luck. The few details remaining to remember the existence of this cancelled project are a few online resumes.

“There were many factors that the AI needed to evaluate, and simulated annealing was used to allow the AI to learn strategies by playing itself overnight, adjusting its internal weights until the best strategy was found. The AI could thus adjust to changing game rules, and even discover new strategies! It was written in C++ with STL for the GBA.”

From this info and its japanese title we can speculate Hanasaki Gassen was going to be a flower-themed strategy game …with different type of flowers and seeds fighting against each other to conquer the garden? Its Artificial Intelligence could have been quite impressive and ambitious for a GBA game, with… enemies learning new strategies overnight while you were asleep? That sounds cool.

We hope one day we could save more details about Hanasaki Gassen and maybe some screenshots too. If you know someone who worked at Blue Planet Software, please let us know!

 

GTA 3 [GBA – Cancelled]

In 2004 Rockstar Games published Grand Theft Auto Advance, a top-down episode of GTA developed for GBA by Digital Eclipse and set in Liberty City, as a prequel to GTA 3. At least another cancelled version of GTA 3 for GBA was in development before the released one.

In 2001 GTA 3 was announced by Destination Software, which acquired the rights from Take 2 / Rockstar to publish their own version of the game for GBA, to be developed by Crawfish Interactive. Thanks to an old article by Brian Provinciano (not online anymore on his website), we can read more details about this lost GTA portable:

“In November 2002, rumors began spreading that GTA3 for GBA had been cancelled. Destination Software denied the claims, responding, “The game has not been canned. We’ll be making an announcement at the end of the week”. Sure enough, shortly after, news leaked that Crawfish had GTA3 for GBA in development. What’s more, was that the report claimed it was already well into development with an expected 2003 release. Insanely, a week after this report, Crawfish shut down, laying off all of its staff and putting the development in limbo.

According to former Crawfish head, Cameron Sheppard, “Crawfish had many titles finishing and a number of publishers not paying on time. These issues joined meant that the company couldn’t continue quite long enough”. That was, until Rockstar handed it over to Digital Eclipse. Over the next year, Destination Software still claimed they were publishing it, both after Crawfish shut down and after production begun at Digital Eclipse. Whether their claims were truthful or not, when they ultimately lost the license is unclear. However, they were not the publisher by the time Digital Eclipse’s version hit store shelves.

It’s possible that Destination Software was involved with publishing while Crawfish was the developer, but it’s also possible that they’d lost the license by the time Crawfish landed the project. A former Crawfish developer confirmed that “There was one before ours that also got canned“. It’s unclear whether Digital Eclipse was involved with both the Crawfish one and this cancelled one, or if that previous title had been the end of the line for Destination Software. Either way, it would seem that there’s still at least one pre-Crawfish GTA3 prototype out there, somewhere.

In July 2003, several former Crawfish developers began to share details on their unreleased GTA3. This wealth of information described elements which showed up in Digital Eclipse’s GTA Advance, and aspects which did not, such as the controls and multiplayer.

Thanks to Brian we also saved information about the planned story:

“Former Crawfish developer, Dave Murphy explained, “My version was set a few months before the events of GTA3.”. Digital Eclipse’s version also took place prior to the events of GTA3. As for the characters, Murphy explained, “[the game] featured a mix of old characters from the PS2/PC version and new ones based on my colleagues.”. He reiterated, “Many of the characters were based on other members of [Crawfish] staff”. It’s clear that these characters didn’t persist in the Digital Eclipse version.

Murphy continued, “The main character wasn’t the same as the PS2 but he looked kind of similar. He is taken on by the mafia at the beginning of the game, like the original, but stays working for them throughout, as he chases a mafia deserter and a case full of money from the Callahan bridge to the Cedar Ridge Observatory.”. Interestingly, the story is different from Digital Eclipse’s.”

A multiplayer mode for GTA 3 GBA was also planned:

“Multiplayer never made it through to the final version. Although it was planned during the Crawfish development, even Crawfish expected it to be cut. Crawfish’s Dave Murphy explained, “Yes multiplayer was planned but we probably wouldn’t have got it in there, with the time the project running over.”. As for Murphy’s design, he revealed the following: “We decided on four different modes:

+ Liberty City Survivor: Standard death match similar to GTA 1&2 on PC.
+ City Circuit: Racing on pre-set routes round the three islands
+ Car Jack Crazy: Players race to collect a list of vehicles and return them to their garage.
+ Special delivery: All players fight over a package which must be taken to their base.”

In December 2016 PtoPOnline published a video showing an early tech demo / prototype of this cancelled Crawfish version of GTA 3 for GBA, with just a few features and most of the game missing.

Thanks to Ilua Firstov for the contribution!

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Shining Star [GBA – Cancelled]

Shining Star is a cancelled strategy game once in development for Game Boy Advance by Eworks Studios, conceived from an original idea by British producer Faraz Ansari, former leader of the now-closed studio Storm Entertainment.

In this military shooter players would  control “Kool Shen”, a silent “one man army” with a dry sense of humor. Eworks Studios started working on Shining Star in 2005, planning to build a “proof of concept” to be presented to investors. Concept art was initially created by Bruno Covachã and Marco Vale, but later Tiago Pimentel became the main character designer for the project. Marco Leal was hired for a month to create sprites, while Vale was responsible for their animations.

A playable prototype was developed by Eworks, a short demo in which you start in a deserted village in a south American jungle, and have to fight against your enemies using a shotgun, a pistol and some grenades. A few areas were available and in each level players would face different challenges in some sort of a maze, using obstacles in their favor to defeat enemy soldiers.

Two support characters would help players in their missions and explain the main goals. One of them was named “Shurk’n”, a war hero colonel with a very aggressive personality who would frequently lose control. The second character was named “Dragon Ash”, a woman commander who would give positive reinforcement and more confidence to players in a way that would be the opposite of the colonel’s.

According to the design document they wanted to develop an original and complex artificial intelligence to control the game’s enemies. An interesting concept of “action-reaction” was fully implemented in Shining Star’s prototype to make enemies to react to players’ movement and strategies. These enemies would following a “playbook”, a kind of database of different reactions (like throwing a grenade, moving, covering and so on) specific to each map that would be activated in a way that would simulate a tactical action against the player.

Artworks for the game were heavily inspired by Metal Slug, while Riviera was quoted as a reference for menus and graphics interface. Advance Wars was also a strong inspiration for the team, mainly for how dialogs and characters would have been shown.

Development of the prototype was filled with communication problems between the producer and the team. If this was not enough, the GBA was already at the end of its life-cycle, the Nintendo DS was already released but they were not able to get a dev-kit for the new console. Eworks Studios were able to complete their playable prototype, and to deliver it to the game’s producer.

Unfortunately they never found a publisher interested in their game and in the end the project was canned. Later Eworks Studios thought to rework Shining Star into a 3D game to be released on digital download, but it never happened.

In the gallery below you can see some concept art by Tiago Pimentel, concepts and pixel art by Marco Vale and also a few screenshots of a very early prototype also provided by Vale. Thanks to their time and help we were able to preserve these details, to remember the existence of this game that will never be.

If you know someone who knows what happened to Faraz Ansari, Storm Entertainment or the whereabouts of the playable Shining Star prototype please let us know!

Article by Jump/Error, original version in Portuguese on the Videogame PT Blog!

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Desolate World [GBA, Amiga – Cancelled]

Desolate World is a cancelled side-scrolling action game that was in development since late ‘90s by a small Czech independent team (Magic Birds?), to be published by Vulcan Software. The game was initially planned to be published on Amiga computers, it was previewed in Polish “Amiga Magazyn” in 1997 (issue 12) and 1998 (issue 10), and also in some old websites:

“The game is a platformer similar to the all-time great, Gods. However, As well as being all about killing nasties, the game will also have a heavy puzzle element. It is also planned for it to contain certain missions that you have to complete.

Having played an early demo of the game I am quite impressed. Although the main character seemed to move a little showly (this may have been changed), the GFX were very nice and main basis of a good game seemed to be there.

The game will require any Amiga with an 68020, 2Mb Chip RAM and 4Mb Fast RAM. A 4x speed CD-ROM will also be required.”

In September 2017 user “Solaris104” from the “English Amiga Board” found a demo from the Amiga version:

“Demo version Desolate World is public in czech magazine Amiga Review 28 on coverdisk. Authors are brothers Cizek. Vladimir Cizek is coder, Pavel Cizek is graphician and Petr Klimunda is musician. The game should be published by Vulcan. All levels done, but never published and lost on Amiga harddisk. I played some levels in 1997. ExiE made rendered intro for this game.”

This demo has just one playable – but very large – level. Gameplay is indeed very similar to Bitmap Brothers’ Gods: you search for switches, keys, sometimes you have to use terminals, operate lifts or small robots that can act like a lift. From time to time you fight mini-bosses and solve puzzles. A full walkthrough of the Amiga demo can be found on YouTube:

After some time the Amiga version of Desolate World was cancelled and the team tried to port it to the Game Boy Advance, at the time the major console where 2D “retro” games could still be sold with success. A video from an early prototype of the GBA version was uploaded on Youtube in May 2013 and we can notice how the graphic was way less impressive than the original Amiga version, but still nice for a portable console.

Unfortunately even the GBA version of Desolate World was never released and no demo from this version is leaked yet. It remains one of the most obscure GBA games we’ll never play.

Thanks to Grzegorz for the contribution!

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