Frank Herbert’s Dune: Ornithopter Assault is a cancelled flying / shooter game made by Soft Brigade that was going to be published on the Gameboy Advance by Cryo Interactive. Development of the game started in 2001, but in summer 2002 the project was shelved, even if it was basically finished (all the missions are completable), before submission to Nintendo due to Cryo’s financial difficulties.
This is the game’s fact-sheet published at the time in the official website, now offline:
Trained by Gurney Alleck, the most efficient and honoured officer of the House of Atreides, you are going to become a specialist in piloting and fighting ornithopters. Involved in all-out war for the spice, you must surpass all of your flying skill to survive the fall of the House of Atreides and help Paul and the Fremen in their fight for Arrakis.
Spectacular 3D Universe on Advanced Game Boy, seen from the cockpit of the ornithopter.
More than 20 different missions with various objectives simple recounting, escort duties, guarding, destroying troops and buildings, capturing vehicles, collecting spice and water, etc.
5 solo and multiple player modes (using 2 cable linked Advanced Game Boy) with various levels of difficulty solo mission, campaign, joint campaign and deathmatch.
The first adaptation of Dune, the most famous of all science fiction universes, on hand held console.
In 1998, Nintendo of America’s internal team, Nintendo Software Technology developed a pitch to lock down exclusive access to the Harry Potter rights. Had it been successful, Nintendo would have secured the rights to produce all adaptations of the book series for the indefinite future in video game form; potentially preventing the eventual movie adaptations from being created altogether.
According to one former artist of the studio, a sudden order from Nintendo’s management halted work on their three titles in development at the time (Ridge Racer 64, Bionic Commando and Crystalis) when news arrived that the license was to be auctioned off. This was a blanket license covering all formats of adaptation, including not only video games, but TV and film as well.
“The license went up for sale and all these major media companies were putting together pitches.”
The studio was then split into two: the primary group focused on devising on a pitch for a third person adventure title, whilst a smaller team worked on a potential game based around quidditch. The latter division reportedly included Marvel comic book artist, Adi Granov, who was responsible for character art.
Nintendo ST aspired to develop the adaptations themselves, with versions planned to be released on Nintendo 64, Gameboy Advance and later Gamecube; as well as any of Nintendo’s future platforms further down the line. These releases would have coincided with the launch of each new book.
“All together it was only a week of insanely furious scribbling things to the digital artists to create animations for mock game demos”
The license holder, JK Rowling, agreed to view Nintendo’s presentation, but this was not without some trepidation among the members of Software Technology. Our source alleges that there was a disagreement at one point over which art style would be most appropriate for the franchise. Towards the start, there was a push for character designs inspired by those of the first book’s cover art by Thomas Taylor. However, it wasn’t long before the studio’s higher-ups took against this idea and forced it in a different direction:
“…it went against all my instincts based on what I had read quotes from JK about keeping it strictly British, and I had to revamp my initial designs and go more manga/Japanese – I had a big fight about that, but my boss insisted”
We have unfortunately been unable to post images of these characters, since Nintendo would not allow its artists to share any of them publicly.
According to our source, the crew developing the quidditch game proposal had wanted to follow a similar route with regards to character design:
“[Name redacted] did get to do a more realistic take – I remember his Hermione being really nicely realized, but I doubt he saved anything from those days.”
Ultimately, Nintendo’s bid was declined by JK Rowling. Our source revealed that the writer turned it down in favor of several other proposals by media giants with greater resources, such as Disney and Universal. Whereas Nintendo was only able to offer forays into the realm of video games, these larger companies had the ability to spread out into TV and film; as well as gaming.
Overstorm is a cancelled action / platform game created by Quantized Bitfor Game Boy Advance. It was shown publicly only once in a 2003 gaming convention. However, in 2014, the developers decided to give away an alpha build of the game, featuring five different levels, in a Indiestand game sale of their last product, Volt:
Beat the average to get the bonus content, which is: 5-levels alpha-stage Overstorm game (our older, never released GBA project) – you can play it in any GBA emulator in a fullscreen mode!
Dinotopia is a fictional series of books about an misterious island inhabited by shipwrecked humans and sentient dinosaurs who have learned to coexist peacefully as a single symbiotic society. [Info from Wikipedia] Various games based on the Dinotopia world have been produced through the years and in 2002 RFX Interactive developed Dinotopia: The Timestone Pirates, a side-scrolling platform / action game for the GBA, published by TDK Mediactive.
Dinotopia for the Gameboy Advance was a commercial success for TDK, so they decided to create a new game based on the same scenario, but this time as a “point and click” adventure (similar to Broken Sword). A prototype was developed by RFX, but in 2003 TDK had to close down and it was acquired by Take-Two Interactive. Without their publisher, RFX Interactive was not able to continue the development of this new Dinotopia point and click adventure.
Only few screens and pixels remain in the gallery below, to preserve its existence.
Shin’en Multimedia is a development team that was known on Game Boy Advance for the amazing proprietary sound engine and the beautiful 2D graphics of its games (Iridion II, Maya The Bee Sweet Gold etc.). However it is little known that as early as 2001 they were testing polygonal graphics on the little Nintendo handheld with a top down futuristic racing game that resembles F-Zero.
Manfred Linzner, Shin’en co-founder, shared with us the following insights on their 3D engine and the GBA development in general:
We had at this time  a pretty fast 3d engine for flat and textured polygons on GBA running. We used it in some menu parts in Iridion2 and for intros of our games. It featured 16 colors, 60fps, 1×1 resolution. The major performance trick for all of our games and this 3d engine was to use the GBAs 16kb ram-scratchpad area to locate as much data and code there because it was much faster then the rest of the ram. I remember that almost everything in Iridion2 was running in only this 16kb to get the speed we needed. The rest of the RAM was used to store the background images.
Although the project was never completed because Shin’en had too much retail work to do at that time, a decade later the company released on Wiiware the jaw-dropping F.A.S.T. Racing League, a futuristic racing game with a Wipeout aesthetic but with a very personal twist on the gameplay department based on changing phase.
Manfred was so kind to dig out a 11 year old prototype to preserve its existence to the public. You can watch the video below, just keep in mind that being a “work in progress” build it has some glitches (most notably the sound). Also remember that the game target was the tiny GBA screen (240 x 160), so the graphics result stretched out on youtube.
Racer Prototype Credits:
Graphics: Florian Freisleder
Code+Audio: Manfred Linzner
This image from Iridion II show the icons composed by textured 3d polygons: