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.
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.
“Metro panic (provisional)
A thrilling and suspense chase over Tokyo’s subway! This is also a Game Boy but the title has been discontinued.
The stage is a complicated Tokyo subway. Children who come to play from the countryside get lost on the Tokyo subway. Players act as runners or chasers. Runners find the children and get away to the target station. Chaser will help you chase it. As a rule, it seems to be something like a tag game. Of course, it seems that communication battle was also possible.
You can confirm that the actual route and station name appear in the screen picture. According to the description, it seems that there was also a mode that can actually search the subway map.
Was it a problem that Tokyo local was, I do not know if I did not get a subway permit, It is a pity that it has been discontinued for interesting content as a plan.”
Game Boy Gallery is a collection of Game & Watch mini games (Ball, Vermin, Flagman, Manhole, and Mario’s Cement Factory) released in Europe and Australia in 1995 for the original Game Boy. Aidan noticed that a 1994 UK ad for the Super Game Boy has beta footage of Ball, Vermin, Manhole, and Vermin’s mode select screen. The footage is only a couple of seconds (or, in Ball’s case, a couple of frames), but you can check a few screenshots here, with comparisons to the original G&Ws and the final version of Game Boy Gallery. Manhole’s character also changes his expression!
Banjo Kazooie: Grunty’s Curse is the cancelled Game Boy Color version of the Rare Ltd. project that would later become Banjo Kazooie: Grunty’s Revenge, released on GBA in 2003 by publisher, THQ. Initially established midway through 1999, Grunty’s Curse represents the original vision for the title with an alternate storyline, and levels that never saw the light of day.
Unlike the game released, Grunty’s Revenge, the GBC game does not take place mere months after the events of the first Banjo. Instead, it begins “a few years” after it, according to design documents recovered by a former Rare employee. Whereas Revenge features a tale about time travel, in which the newly resurrected Mecha-Grunty escapes to the past in order to stop the titular duo from ever meeting, the plot of Curse tried another approach.
The title would have opened with Mecha-Grunty confronting Banjo and his friends, placing curses on each of them (with the convenient exception of Banjo himself), as her reign of terror resumes. She starts by morphing Kazooie into a “monster” version of herself; a larger blue bird with allegiances to Grunty. Then, she transforms Bottles into a “funny creature”, as the documents describe it, before manipulating Mumbo‘s mind into making him attack Banjo. While the two fight, she takes off with Kazooie in tow.
The hero, however, is soon able to out-duel Mumbo, releasing him from the spell. A determined Mumbo then chases after the villainous witch, but to no avail. In a planned comedy set piece, the character inexplicably falls victim to all manner of bad luck: a black cat pounces on him, he runs under a ladder, before a mirror falls and smashes over his head. When Banjo catches up to him, he finds that Mumbo has been stricken with amnesia as a result of his injuries. His memory fails him, but he is able to recall that Banjo must collect several magical ingredients in order to relieve Bottles of his condition.
Banjo, however, comes to the realisation that he has forgotten his moves in the time since his last adventure. With Bottles incapacitated, he will need to seek out a new mentor to provide tutorials. Thus, he chases down Grampa Mole, the elderly father of Bottles. As development progressed, Grampa Mole would evolve into ‘Bozzeye‘, the NPC that teaches Banjo in Grunty’s Revenge during his visit to the past.
Banjo Kazooie: Grunty’s Curse featured two worlds that were ultimately dropped from the slate as time went on. These were dubbed ‘MohendraBanjo’, and ‘Fiery Furnace’ respectively.
MohendraBanjo was a stage set in and around the ruins of a jungle temple in the far East:
Fiery Furnace, on the other hand, is described as a ‘dark industrial’ themed level filled with machinery and fire hazards:
While MohendraBanjo appears to have been scrapped fairly early on in the project’s life span, Fiery Furnace would make it considerably further. It even appeared in a leaked early prototype build for the GBA game, albeit in a largely unfinished state. Due to time and storage limitations, the team reduced Fiery Furnace in size and adapted it into a small part of the Freezing Furnace level.
Fiery Furnace protoype video:
We have been able to ascertain that a plethora of enemies were explored during Grunty’s Curse, before being abandoned. In MohendraBanjo world, for example, the developers imagined enemies based around cobras and scorpions, in line with its far Eastern theme. You can see some illustrations of these lost baddies here:
According to the design plans from October 1999, Rare had originally intended to include the ‘Bee Banjo‘ transformation that first appeared in Banjo Kazooie. This would have allowed players to fire stingers in a straight line to attack foes, as well as the ability of flight for an unlimited period to traverse larger platforming gaps.
Early in development, the team was exploring the possibility of ‘useless transformations‘ too. These were power-ups that served no other purpose than comedic effect; a hidden extra in the game to amuse players. Only one of them was slated to be added due to storage restrictions, but a number of them were being looked into:
Unused Transformation Functions
There were considerations for a handful of secondary functions for transformations that were left on the cutting room floor:
Tank Banjo originally was going to allow players to directly control the crosshair for greater precision. Players would tap the ‘B’ button to switch from directional movement to manipulating the aim of the cannon. In the final game, tapping the ‘B’ button does nothing. In addition, the tank originally fired eggs. The Grunty’s Revenge tank, however, fires missiles.
Octopus Banjo originally was set to be able to swim faster by double tapping the D-pad in any direction.
Mouse Banjo was intended to have a ‘shrinking’ function mapped to the ‘B’ button. This would enable Banjo to manually reduce his size for a limited period to fit through smaller gaps in his environment.
Alternative Level Titles
The documents provided also reveal numerous stage names that were eventually changed over the course of development. Among these are ‘Cottage Farm’, which became ‘Cliff Farm’, ‘Soggy Bog Swamp’ was revised to ‘Bad Magic Bayou’, ‘Freezing Furnace’ was originally ‘Freezing Fjord.
Although a playable prototype of the game in its GBC form is not to have ever been made, we have learned that the team of artists assigned to the project at Rare produced a multitude of digital art assets intended for one in 1999. These included sprites of some of the main characters, as well as designs for UI screens, like a pause menu.
Prior to their acquisition by Sony and going on to create the Killzone series, Guerrilla Games was a small development team based in Amsterdam, then known as Lost Boys Games; a subsidiary of Dutch multimedia conglomerate, Lost Boys. One of Lost Boys Games’ internal teams was dubbed ‘Formula‘. This group was dedicated to handheld games, responsible for producing titles such as Rhino Rumble, and Tiny Toon Adventures: Dizzy’s Candy Quest for GameBoy Color. One of their most interesting GBC projects, in development in around 1999-2000, was called Knights.
Knights wasan action brawler with a style of gameplay comparable to a blend of Bomberman and Gauntlet, in which players would have had to fight against 3 other knights in 50 different arenas riddled with traps, enemies, and various NPC’s. This excerpt from an old IGN preview offers us further insight:
Each knight is colored differently, and the great challenge of the game is to strike down the knights in a predetermined order while protecting your own flank. Strike a defender before he becomes an official target, and the imperial judges will punish you with a penalty point.
It’s interesting to note that Knights GBC was based around the gameplay of another cancelled Knights project that was planned by Digital Infinity for PC and Dreamcast, before they merged with Lost Boys in 1999. Later, the original Knights for PC and Dreamcast was changed from a multiplayer brawler to a single player action platformer and ported to Playstation 2, but that version was also canned. In 2003, Lost Boys Games was sold to Media Republic and renamed to Guerrilla Games. Their Knight projects were thus never finished, as they began to work on the first Killzone for PS2, and Shellshock: Nam ’67 for PS2, Xbox, and PC.
Only a few screenshots remain from Knights for GameBoy Color, as the title was soon cancelled for unknown reasons. We tried to get in contact with former Formula Games / Lost Boys developers, in an attempt to unearth more on this unreleased game, but unfortunately, they were not available for comment. If you know someone that worked at Formula Games, let us know!
The original Dino Crisis was a widely popular survival horror (marketed as survival panic) game developed by Capcom and released on the original PlayStation in 1999. It was created by the same team that made the first Resident Evil game and contained many of the same tense elements but focused on more of an action feel.
A portable version of Dino Crisis was being developed for the Gameboy Color by British studio M4 Ltd, who had released Tasmanian Devil: Munching Madness and were due to release Jerry McGrath Supercross 2000. M4 stated that the game would not be complete until Q4 of 2000 but development had started early in the year, this was reported by IGN who spoke to the developers. M4 said that Dino Crisis for the GBC would be a top down adventure rather than how the original was, it would also be developed exclusively for the GBC by-passing any kind of black and white compatibility. Virgin interactive handled development for Capcom in the UK and so they were handling this game, there was no word on where it would be released. M4 Ltd version of Dino Crisis GBC was never released, but they developed top-down Resident Evil Gaiden, published by Capcom in 2001.
It seems that this unreleased version of Dino Crisis was used as a base to develop the released Resident Evil Gaiden. As we can read at NowGamer:
As I recall, we produced a very impressive demo for a GBC version of Dino Crisis. Resident Evil was already in development as an over-ambitious port from the PlayStation version. This was scrapped and Capcom asked us to do a bespoke game with our Dino Crisis engine.
Capcom had requested Virgin for a Dino Crisis demo, Virgin asked us to create it. It used the exploration mode and [similar] battle system as Gaiden would use.
It was playable. The dino sprites in exploration mode were large. I have entire backups of everything from M4, absolutely everything, but I’m in Brazil and the backups are in the UK.
This is not the only version of a GBC Dino Crisis that can be found on the web though, as on two separate Spanish websites Vandal and Dino Crisis Wiki the game was reported to be being developed by a different studio. This other cancelled game was said to be being developed by the now missing Fluid Studios another British developer who released games such as Top Gun: Firestorm (GB) and Army Men: Air Combat (GB and N64). This was also said to be being developed late 1999 early 2000, for the GBC.
There are a few more details for this version of the game though: it would not be a top down adventure but rather using static backgrounds and images accompanied by text sequences. Some presumed screenshots from Fluid Studios’ Dino Crisis seem to have been leaked online too, but we don’t know their source. These sites also report that the game was to be 7 maps with 100 rooms in total. There were to be four characters in the game Regina, Rick, Gail and Dr Kirk all who appeared in the original game on the PlayStation. Also it was said that there was going to be five types of dinosaur two unspecified with the others being the Tyrannosaurus Rex, Velociraptor and Pteranodon.
Update: While this article was being uploaded to the site I have been looking through documents that were released (you can find the design doc online) regarding the game that was in development by Fluid Studios. In this document it is revealed that what Fluid actually wanted to produce was a scaled down version of the original Dino Crisis, they wanted to keep all the original maps, plot-lines, dinosaurs and the look and feel of the original. This is quite a bold statement as the original was on the PlayStation 1 which is a more powerful system. Fluid were worried about the restrictive nature of the GBC especially in regards to the sprite size and how they would recreate the dinosaurs.
The story had a very brief background written about it, there was to be an undercover agent (Regina who had infiltrated the compound and was trying to capture Dr. Kirk and take him back to her government agency. Fluid also intended to have different game modes for this and it was said that they would have bonus missions if you had completed the game. This was said to contain three missions in which the player would have to kill a set amount of dinosaurs in a certain period of time.