GameCube

Metroid Prime 1.5 [GameCube – Cancelled Pitch]

Metroid 1.5 was an undeveloped new game in the Metroid Prime series, internally pitched at Retro Studios between the development of Metroid Prime and Metroid Prime 2: Echoes. This lost project was found in 2011 thanks to online research by Mama Robotnik on the NeoGAF forum, who unveiled the Metroid 1.5 design document written by former Metroid Prime designer:

“This adventure would take place immediately after Samus takes off from the surface of Talon IV. Upon exiting the planets surface, Samus decides to take a long rest in her Cryo chamber as her ship autopilots home. However, something goes wrong and Samus’’s ship computer hones in on a distress signal. The distress signal is coming from a huge alien vessel (huge, like the size of several Star Destroyers) that is drifting out in space. As Samus’s ship approaches the alien craft, a tractor beam activates and the Ship is pulled into one of the gigantic docking bays. As the ships doors close, the gigantic vessel folds and enters a parallel dimension, thus begins Samus’’ new adventure…

Upon awakening, the ship appears to be abandoned, there is no power except for auxiliary lights and telemetry from computers. It is up to Samus to unravel this mystery. The mystery being that the ship’s AI has gone mad and the ship is actually a war vessel that is on a collision course with a peaceful planet. It’s goal? The entire enslavement of the race of beings on said planet as well as natural resource stripping as its (the planets) destruction. So in essence, the ship AI has split into several different personalities, and is playing a deadly game with Samus. The Alien inhabitants of the ship are also in a state of suspended animation because as the ship travels through the parallel dimension, the alien inhabitants are being created and refined for warfare until the ship arrives at its destination and assaults the planet…. However, the robotic and automated entities are not, these will be the primary enemies that Samus must deal with. In addition, Samus must also deal with the ships cunning AI, who will all the while be taunting her and trying to trick her at every opportunity.”

“The Main reason Samus and possibly other Bounty Hunters are being pulled into this ship is to assimilate their best and most deadly abilities into the personality construct of not only the ships AI, but also into the actual Alien Inhabitants in order to further their quest for perfection. As the ship reaches its target, it will unfold into this dimension and begin its attack. This has what the ship and Alien race who created it has have been doing for past thousand or so years, going from planet to planet, assimilating the most violent parts of a culture and asserting it into its own being.

The main goal for Samus is to disable the engines of the ship, destroy the AI, and eradicate all life forms on the ship. The catch is that even though Samus is all powerful from her previous item acquisition on Talon IV, she will be limited to use them in certain areas of the ship due to the containment matrix that the Rogue AI has set up all over the ship. This will force the player to handle situations differently than expected, and once the containment matrix is disabled, Samus will be free to use all of her abilities. Due to being in a parallel dimension, there are areas within the ship where floors may become ceiling due to gravity being reversed, Time may run backwards, (illustrated by creatures and machines moving in reverse, water moving up into a faucet) and other sorts of environmental weirdness, that Samus as well as other Bounty hunters will have to learn to adjust to in order to survive.”

“Mad AI, the central computer of the ship has gone crazy, it sees inviting Samus onto the ship as a game for its amusement. Will taunt and try to trip Samus up at every move. The Mad AI has four distinct personalities…: The Child, The Killer, the Martyr, and the Fool… each one is deadly and utilizes different tactics and techniques.”

This cancelled project was meant to have a short development time, to release it shortly after the first Metroid Prime while the main team would take their time to develop the true sequel:

“So this is pretty much what I think we could crank out in a year, A Smaller Adventure with expanded mechanics and a few new ones thrown in. The beauty of spaceship design is that a lot of corridors and hub rooms can be reused over and over again, with minor variation; it also lends itself well to our room/door/hall layout. Plus, we can make the world denser by exploiting the super structure of the ship using morphball mechanics. Even though the idea of an AI gone mad has been used before in games as well as films, I feel that we could put a unique twist on it. And by allowing Samus to use only certain abilities in certain parts of the game, we can get a fair amount of replay value by offering the player different solutions to a single problem. This I feel would satisfy gamers who completed Prime and are hungry for something more with a few new mechanics and ideas thrown in.

With the addition of the co-op multiplayer components I have noted in the previous paragraphs, I feel that we would still have a game that feels like Metroid, albeit the feeling of Isolation would no longer be there, at the expense of the multi-player experience. However, I think the by unlocking the additional multi-player modes, after the actual game is completed, it won’t detract from the experience. Unlike TimeSplitters 1 and 2, we can keep the player focused on the main portion or adventure of the game which is what Metroid is all about.”

Concept art was also found in the design doc and on the websites of other former Retro Studios developers. You can find a deep-dive into the document’s details on Wikitroid.

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Ion Runner [Cancelled – GameCube, PS2, Xbox, PC]

Ion Runner is a cancelled racing / on-rail shooter game that was in development around 20022003 by Attention to Detail, the team mostly known for such titles as Rollcage, Lego Racers 2 and Drome Racers. The project was planned to be released for GameCube, Playstation 2, Xbox and PC, but unfortunately the team did not find a publisher interested in supporting it.

Some details about this lost game was shared online by former developers, who started working on Ion Runner after the cancellation of Lego Racer 4:

“A more ambitious project, Lego Racers 4, was canned after substantial development effort. This was technically interesting as the design called for streaming of the entire game world from DVD, allowing much larger and more intricate play area than earlier Lego games, or most console titles at the time. The team involved went on to work on Ion Runner […]

Two complete levels of Ion Runner were programmed and demonstrated to many publishers, but there was no time to sign a deal before venture capitalists 3I pulled the plug on the company in August 2003.

Since then the demos have been seen by many in the industry who were surprised that the project was never finished – but the price, calculated to refloat the group as well as to cover the development costs, meant any deal on this new IP was hard to arrange.”

It seems the game initially started as a classic 3D racing – on rail shooter, in which players would drive their overbike through different levels while shooting down enemies. After a while the team toyed with a more open adventure-alike gameplay, possibly with HUB world to explore, NPCs to talk to and other action-adventure mechanics. As far as we know, not much was done on this version before the cancellation.

In the end with no more funds to keep the studio alive, Attention to Detail had to close down for liquidation:

“UK developer ATD (Attention to Detail) went into liquidation last Thursday, it has been revealed. While most of the country’s attention was directed at the ECTS trade show approximately 50 staff was laid off after a failure to sign the developer’s Ion Runner title.”

If you know someone who worked on the game and may have saved footage or more screenshots, please let us know!

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Stuntpigs [GameCube – Cancelled]

Stuntpigs is a cancelled arcade racing / adventure game that was in development by M4 Ltd (mostly known for Resident Evil Gaiden on GB) for Nintendo GameCube. Players would drive around the city to perform crazy stunts, collect bonuses and find the best way to show-off their stunt-driver skills. While the game was never officially announced, in 2014 some collectors found related documents in a M4 cd / dvd:

“Did you know stunts performed in Hollywood blockbuster movies are actually done by pigs? Of course you’ve never seen any Stuntpigs, but just occasionally if you look really closely you might just see a trotter or a curly tail pop into shot. Join the Stuntpigs and carve a stylish, precision timed path of mayhem and destruction through the most expensive movie sets ever built, establishing your crew as the top hogs of Hollywood. Your movie’s success is determined entirely through the extravagance of its stunts, the more stylish and closer your stunts are to near death experience the better the box office results.”

We can also read some details on Stuntpigs in an old article on the Hardcore Gaming 101 blog and in a page on NowGamer:

“Sadly no original M4 titles made it to the shelves. Bounty Hunter, Space Cadets and Stuntpigs were all games we really wanted to bring to market. The later two are still held by us in Stuntpigs Ltd a dormant company. Who knows maybe one day they will rise.”

“Bounty Hunter was in production when I joined M4 and it really was stunning. As for Stuntpigs – the best game never made. I think it was just ahead of its time… Space Cadets though, that was actually completed and it was a really good game. It was different though and it really worked best multi-player. It’s typical – generally publishers don’t like to risk money on original stuff, especially when there’s cartridges to pay for.”

“Kieron agrees: “Stuntpigs had frantic gameplay, some dark humour and loads of destruction. Way ahead of its time and beyond the scope of publishers  to realise. Shame!” Although the team disbanded it’s clear they had a lot of talent – Gaiden is testament to this – and it’s a shame M4 was never given a fair shot.”

As you can see from the available footage, the game somehow looked like a mix between Crazy Taxi and Simpsons’ Road Rage, with cartoony graphics and fun, arcadey gameplay. It could have been a nice addition to the GameCube library. We hope one day a former M4 developer could find a playable prototype from their lost game and share it online.

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Earthbound (Mother) [GameCube – Cancelled]

In 2003 Baten Kaitos director Yasuyuki Honne proposed to Nintendo a new Mother / Earthbound RPG for GameCube, but in the end the game was cancelled. This project was pitched in summer 2003, just a few months before the release of Baten Kaitos: Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean, possibly to become their following collaboration between Nintendo, Monolith Soft, tri-Crescendo and Namco.

While Earthbound for GameCube was never officially announced, in July 2019 Honne shown a couple images from their pitch-document on Twitter:

As you can see the game was imagined in a quirky felt-made diorama graphic style, that would have been somewhat similar to classic Earthbound promotional clay models. As translated by Nintendo Everything:

“I’m looking forward to the forthcoming book about Iwata-san. I met both Iwata-san and Itoi-san at the same time – it was back in 2003 when there were talks between Namco and Nintendo about a GameCube version of Mother. I was happy to come up with a visual concept, and when I went to Aoyama Iwata-san was also present. Itoi-san didn’t seem very interested; he felt it was a little strange, and yet we continued talks. Itoi-san said, ‘I wonder if Iwata-kun has any ideas?’ He seemed flabbergasted, he had an aura of something akin to ‘Aw jeez.’ In the end nothing came of it, but Itoi-san enjoyed the felt-like recreations of 1980’s America that I had come up with. Here are some images that I didn’t think I’d show off more than once. Ah, memories of the summer of 2003.”

Unfortunately it seems after the cancellation of Mother 3 for Nintendo 64, they were quite cautious about working on a new 3D chapter. 3 years later, Nintendo published Mother 3 on GBA and Yasuyuki Honne’s Baten Kaitos prequel (Baten Kaitos Origins) on GameCube.

By knowing what Monolith Soft were able to achieve with their RPG series, we can only imagine how much we lost with the cancellation of this “Earthbound GameCube” project. The Baten Kaitos team also had a third Baten Kaitos in development that was later canned, but they successfully released other beloved games such as Soma Bringer, Disaster: Day of Crisis and the Xenoblade Chronicles series.

You can take a look at the Sedna city in Baten Kaitos Origins (a strange world made of clay) to imagine how Earthbound Gamecube could have been like. 

L42 (Blue Planet) [GameCube, PS2, Xbox – Cancelled]

L42 is a cancelled cyberpunk mission-based driving game that was in development around 1999 – 2000 by Blue Planet Software (the same company that today act as the exclusive agent for The Tetris Company) for “next gen consoles”: GameCube, Playstation 2 and Xbox. We can speculate it would somehow play as a sci-fi version of Driver, set a cyberpunk “open world”.

From the few images preserved in the gallery below it looks like L42 was still in its early concept phase, as these looks more like target renders than real-time prototype screens. While the game was officially shown in their old website, we cannot find any other detail or announcement about it online: it seems it was soon cancelled and forgotten by everyone. 

As L42 would feature art design by popular American designer and concept artist Syd Mead (Blade Runner, Tron, Short Circuit), it’s strange Blue Planet did not promote their concept in any way, but we can assume they were still pitching it to different publishers before it was finally canned. In the end, the company is more profitable just focusing on their Tetris license.

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