Game Boy Advance (GBA)

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!

Images:

Videos:

 

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!

Images:

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!

Images (Amiga version):

Project Exile (Studio Archcraft) – [GBA – cancelled]

Black Sigil: Blade of the Exiled is a role-playing game produced by a Canadian company Studio Archcraft and published by Graffiti Entertainment in 2009 on the Nintendo DS platform. After their first ideas for a game in 2001, actual game development started way back in 2003 on another platform: the Game Boy Advance.

The project became known as “Project Exile” and it was meant to be a Super Nintendo style RPG in the likes of Chrono Trigger. In June 2006 Studio Archcraft however took the decision to port the complete game over to the Nintendo DS instead of releasing it on the Game Boy Advance. In an interview (see screenshots below + another interview in here) developer Archcraft described the change of console as mostly a business decision. The Game Boy Advance was nearing the end of it’s life cycle and the Nintendo DS would provide them more freedom design-wise and more flexibility in memory/ screen space.

Although the Nintendo DS was capable of playing Game Boy Advance titles the company took the decision to completely port the title and abandon the Game Boy Advance version. Development must have been quite far judging the quite good looking screenshots of the game as well as a promotional/ gameplay video dated 2006 I found. I also retrieved a progress report stating a 70% completion dating back to June 2004.

Also found below are some screenshots dating June 2006 from Archcraft’s old website: all Game Boy Advance material but also the announcement of porting the game to the Nintendo DS.  So June 2006 end of a promising game: Black Sigil: Blade of the Exiled aka Project Exile for the Game Boy Advance.

Images:

promotional/ gameplay Video by Archcraft – 2006:

progress report & interview 2006:

 

 

 

 

 

website screenshots archive.org:

High Heat Major League Baseball 2004 [GBA, Gamecube – Cancelled]

High Heat Major League Baseball was a series of baseball games published by the 3DO company. The game made its debut in 1999 and featuring the official licensed team and player names from all 30 MLB teams each year a new game was up for release. High Heat Baseball was acclaimed to be one of the best baseball games around; the game always had its focus more on genuine and realistic gameplay than on the quality of its graphics.

The 2004 edition however promised improved graphics and a new graphics engine, a new animation system and renewed motion captured player movements. The Gameboy Advance version was under development by Mobius Entertainment (later renamed Rockstar Leeds) and this edition would be the third version of the series on the handheld. For the Gamecube the game would make its first appearance and development was done by 3DO itself. 3DO announced the new installment of the game in December 2002 as they released the first images of the game and a release date was set for spring 2003, around the same date as the release of the Playstation 2, the Xbox and PC versions.

Both versions were finished and ready for release as things went wrong for 3DO in May 2003, the company faced big financial problems for quite a while now, mainly due to bad title sales, and the company now even had to file for bankruptcy and made the announcement that the team and it’s games were for sale and were finally acquired by Rockstar Games.

The Playstation 2, Xbox and PC versions just had had their release dates in March and would shortly after have been followed by the Gameboy Advance and Gamecube versions but with 3DO in serious trouble both titles were shelved for the time being and thus finally resulting into a non release for both platforms. At the 3DO bankruptcy auction in August of that year Microsoft bought all rights for the High Heat series from 3DO for an undisclosed sum. Microsoft however hasn’t developed a new title in the series so far and for now it’s even more questionable if they ever will with a baseball franchise of their own on the Xbox.

Below some screenshots of both titles; I could retrieve no promotional or gameplay footage of the cancelled versions.

-Lesur-

Screenshots and Box cover Gameboy Advance – 12-2002:

box-cover

Screenshots and Box cover Gamecube – 12-2002

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