Nintendo 64 & 64DD

Timber 64 (Rare) [Nintendo 64 – Cancelled]

Timber 64 is a cancelled 3D platform game that was rumored to be in development by Rare for the Nintendo 64, but it’s existence was kinda unclear even by reading interviews with former rare developers (and some fans consider it an urban legend). When asked about Timber 64 some of them don’t remember such a game ever being in development at the time, but others even describe a Timber 64 prototype demo they created. This contradiction between ex-RareWare employees may have been caused by how the studio was organized during the N64 era. Different Rare teams worked secretly in their own office, without knowing what the other teams were doing at the same time.

As we can read on Nintendo Life:

“Rare was famously secretive,” Steve Mayles recalls, “and that included other games being made in the company. Many people on the team wouldn’t have seen much (if anything) of DK64 and Conker.”

“Rare’s practice of separating teams across its infamous ‘barns’ naturally created some competition. “I’m not really sure we thought about that at the time,” remembers lead environment artist Steven Hurst. “In those days each team worked in relative isolation and competed against each other to develop the ‘best’ games – a healthy rivalry if you like. I do remember actually that we changed BK to be more of a ‘proper’ 3D game (similar to Mario 64) after seeing the work that the Conker team were doing.”

As you probably know Timber the Tiger was later seen in another Rare game: it’s one of the playabler racers in Diddy Kong Racing. Originally Timber was meant to be the main protagonist of the game, when it was not using the Donkey Kong IP.

As we can read from an interview by NotEnoughShaders with Steve Ellis, Martin Wakeley and Lee Musgrave:

NES: There was a rumor that Timber 64 was a game Rare was developing during the N64 days. Basically, the rumor was that Timber from Diddy Kong Racing would get his own game just like Banjo and Conker did. Pipsy and Bumper would co-star in Timber 64. Can you or Lee provide any details on this rumor? It’s interesting because Diddy Kong Racing takes place on Timber Island so it seemed that Rare really liked the Timber character.

Martin Wakeley: I couldn’t say for definite but I have no recollection of that ever being in development. Where the rumour may have started is that an early version of DKR (I think it was called RC Pro Am at the time) had Timber as the lead character. I’m sure I’ve got a badly fitting Nylon polo shirt with the game logo on it somewhere.

Lee Musgrave: There was never a Timber 64 game. Yes, there was Pro-Am64 that had Timber as the main character, but that became Diddy Kong Racing and that was the end of that.”

In february 2021 Kev Bayliss wrote on VGC:

“After finishing work on Diddy Kong Racing in 1998, I started work on a project that was to become a 3D adventure game based in a fantasy style world, similar to that of Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time but in a prehistoric environment.

The main character was originally going to be – believe it or not – Timber, the cute tiger from Diddy Kong Racing. That’s because he was intended to be the star of the previous year’s racing game, when it was originally known as R.C. Pro-Am 64.”

“In Dinosaur Planet, Timber was going to be a ‘time-travelling tiger’ with a rucksack, little fingerless gloves, a baseball cap and a small dinosaur for a sidekick.

Actually, I even tried out Timber in a project prior to DKR, where he walked around on all fours like a real tiger cub. It was an early 3D platforming test and I wanted him to use his claws to scale walls. But this project was abandoned and so he was moved into DKR and that’s as far as his career went!

Now, if only somebody could dig up that really old demo with Timber in his rucksack…”

In the end not only Timber 64 was once a real concept in development at Rare, but it was kinda real for 2 different projects: there was a first Timber 64 3D platformer (then cancelled to create RC Pro Am 64 / DKR) and later a different Timber 64 3D action adventure (which later became Dinosaur Planet / Starfox Adventure).

These two Timber games for Nintendo 64 could have been mentioned to someone in the gaming press, and the rumors started circulating. As written by Bayliss, now we just have to wait for someone to find footage or even a playable version of those Timber 64 demos. 

Aquaria (Lobotomy Software) [Nintendo 64, Playstation – Cancelled]

Aquaria is a cancelled action adventure that was in development by Lobotomy Software for Nintendo 64 and Playstation. It was described as having a feeling similar to SEGA’s Nights Into Dreams, but underwater and with full 3D levels to explore in every direction. If you played Exhumed / PowerSlave on Saturn or Playstation, you probably remember it was quite good for its time: a Metroidvania adventure in first person view, before Metroid Prime even existed. Aquaria could have been another cult-hit by the same team, but unfortunately we never got the chance to see more from the project. It was just mentioned in old gaming magazines, such as in GameFan Magazine Issue 5:

“Currently Lobotomy is working on both games, with the company’s 20-or-so staff split roughly down the middle on each project. They have a number of games on the back burner, including PowerSlave 2 (a 3rd person Tomb Raider style adventure starring a young King Ramses), Aquaria (like Nights underwater, but with full 3D control) and a PC strategy game called Gothic. They are currently in the process of applying to become and N64 developer (Aquaria will be their first N64 title) and never miss the opportunity to snatch a quick game of Death Tank during lunch breaks.”

Computer & Video Games Issue 192:

“Lobotomy’s first N64 game, Aquaria already looks fantastic. The graphics run at 60fps and are apparently some  of the best seen. Enix are converting the game to PlayStation.”

C&VG probably confused Aquaria with Aqua Prophecy or another cancelled Enix game for Playstation. Thanks to our friend Ross Sillifant in 2015 we published an interview with Brian McNeely (former Lobotomy Software developer), who shared some memories about their work on Aquaria:

“We had a playable demo of Aquaria up and running on PlayStation. It was a free roaming third person underwater adventure game where you controlled an alien merman character.  The Nights comparison ties into how fluid the controls were.  You could do various dolphin-like acrobatics to maneuver through the environment.   In addition to the playable demo I had the majority of the design pretty much completed but when the company began to close its doors we had to stop development.  At one point we were contacted by Sega to possibly make the next Ecco the Dolphin game and we sent them our Aquaria prototype, but that never panned out.  If you’ve ever played Ecco the Dolphin Defender of the Future you can get a pretty good idea for how the core character controls and camera system for Aquaria were designed.”

In 1998 Lobotomy’s talented developers were acquired by Crave Entertainment and the team was renamed to Lobotomy Studios, to work on a Caesar’s Palace game for the Nintendo 64, but after a year of development the game was postponed and eventually cancelled. As we can read on Wikipedia, at that point Lobotomy Studios was closed and employees were let go or given the option to be relocated to another position at Crave Entertainment.

We hope one day someone could find screenshots, footage or even the playable Aquaria prototype: it would be great to preserve more documents of this lost video game.

Thanks to Celine and Ross Sillifant for the contributions!

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Spy Hunter Returns / Millennium [N64 – Cancelled]

Spy Hunter Returns (AKA Spy Hunter Millennium) is a cancelled 3D racing game / adventure that was planned by Midway for Nintendo 64. It’s not clear which team was working on this project, as a new Spy Hunter for Nintendo 64 was listed by different magazines / websites with different names and developers, sometimes confusing it with the “next-gen” (PS2, GameCube) Spy Hunter developed by Paradigm. In Electronic Gaming Monthly (Issue 102, January 1998) the N64 game was titled “Spy Hunter Returns”, in development by Midway:

“With games like GoldenEye 007, Mission: Impossible and the jaw-dropping Metal Gear Solid making headlines recently, it’s no surprise that espionage games are suddenly en vogue. Spy Hunter Returns is one driving game Midway is said to be bringing to the N64 somewhere around 1998 or 1999. As one could expect of a N64 racer, SPR will be in 3D, but the game will also feature adventure elements, fast action and, of course, gadgets galore. […] On a related note, Midway is looking to support the 64DD in a big way, and Spy Hunter Returns is thought to be one of their key games to utilize Nintendo’s add-on.”

In Magazine 64 (Issue 13, 1999) and N64 Il Magazine (Issue 01, January 1999) the project was titled “Spy Hunter Millennium”, in development by Digital Eclipse, the same developers of Midway’s Greatest Arcade Hits 1 for Nintendo 64 (which included the original Spy Hunter):

“Digital Eclipse is finalizing Spy Hunter Millennium for N64. […] Details on this remake are not clear, but the game will have a polygonal 3D engine. Many different vehicles will be playable, such as cars, boats and planes. Millenium should be released in late 1999.”

While it’s unclear what really happened with this project, we assume Midway was really working on a new Spy Hunter for Nintendo 64, but we may never know nor see more about this lost game

Thanks to Celine for the contribution!

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Sports Immortal [N64 – Cancelled]

Sports Immortal is a cancelled over the top sport / action game that was pitched by Iguana Entertainment / Acclaim as a possible new Nintendo 64 project. A few pages from the design doc were shared on Twitter by its designer Jools Watsham

“Unearthed an old design doc I created 20 years ago! It was an extreme futuristic sports series for the Nintendo 64, called Sports Immortal. Good times!”

“It was never playable, sadly.”

Immortal Hockey came first (for coin-op). I then later incorporated it and expanded on the idea for N64 with Sports Immortal series.”

As we can read on the design doc:

“The aim of the game, score the most points. To do this most effectively, score as many goals as humanly, or non humanly, possible. Points rewarded for goal scoring are far higher than combat points. 1 Goal 10 points, 1 Hit 1 point.

Many scoring techniques and combos are possible to perform within the Immortal world. player can shoot straight for the goal by pressing A button once. Hold A button to build up power shot which can also be sot straight at goal with tremendous power.

Power shots are where the major “hooks” of Immortal Hockey will come into play. Each goal has a power zone surrounding it (like the 3 point zone in basketball). When a player performs a power shot in the power zone by using stick & button combos they will perform crazy, exaggerated twists and rainbow spirals, slamming the puck home in tremendous style & power. Stomp your opponent into the ground. Serious pay-off value like those found in NBA Jam – you’ll just wanna do it again, and again..”

In the end Iguana / Acclaim managers did not greenlight the game and the company worked on other titles such as Iggy’s Reckin’ Balls, Forsaken 64 and Turok 2: Seeds of Evil.

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Redemption (Cranberry Source) [N64 – Cancelled]

Redemption is a cancelled action adventure in development by Cranberry Source, that may have been published by Philips Media Interactive for Nintendo 64. While it remains an obscure and forgotten project, from what we have gathered it could have been quite the original and revolutionary game for its time, merging many different genres and viewpoints together: FPS, third person isometric puzzle-platformer and open world exploration on vehicles.

Redemption was designed by Jon Ritman, founder of Cranberry Source and mostly known for his work on cult-classic 1980s computer games such as Head over Heels, plus Monster Max for Rare on the original Game Boy. Unfortunately the team never shown any screenshots from their unreleased N64 adventure, but few details are scattered around the web and in old magazines. On the Playstation Museum website we can read:

“Cranberry Source had a multi-product deal (three, in fact) with Philips Media Interactive. QAD was to be the first game released, Super Match Soccer (or Match Day 3 as it was known then) the second, and the third game had a provisional title of “Redemption”. QAD and SMS were developed at the London office, and Redemption was to be developed by staff at the Cranberry North office. Ultimately, Redemption never really got much further than the drawing board, but the initial designs focused around the kind of puzzle elements found in Jon Ritman’s previous games such as Head over Heels and Monster Max.”

In PC Zone magazine (Issue 41, August 1996) they published an interview with Cranberry Source, along with few details about Redemption:

PZ: What about Redemption?

JR: That’s our epic.. John then goes on to explain the basic concept behind Redemption. In summary, it’ll be a very large action-cum-puzzle-cum-exploration game, using several different viewpoints. Parts of it are Doom-like, parts of it hark back to the classic isometric platform/puzzle games of yore (such as Head Over Heels, another of John’s past glories), and parts of it take place outdoors. In vehicles. It’s quite ambitious, in other words.

JC: To rationalise how we’ve got all this different stuff in one game, we’ve come up with quite a weird scenario which involves a mad, serial killer surgeon who’s grafting bits onto you. All this stuff takes place in your own head, and each level is a different operation. It’s, er, a bit odd really.

JR: It is a bit odd, isn’t it?”

An interview with Ritman conducted by Blood in Autumn 1996 for Emulate! Magazine (issue 6) also mention Redemption:

What are Cranberry Source working on at the minute? Which machines are you concentrating on?

Three games each on PC, Playstation & Saturn –

Q.A.D. – A fly over a stunning landscape rescuing hostages game (2player)

The Net – A multiplayer soccer game

Redemption – An epic game, this would take me too long to describe!

[…] For HoH fans I suggest a look at Redemption (it won’t be released until the end of next year).”

It’s not clear if the game was originally conceived as a PC or Nintendo 64 project, but in N64 Magazine (Issue 12, February 1998) they mentioned Cranberry Source were developing it for Nintendo’s console:

“Our wrinklier readers will undoubtedly remember Head Over Heels, a 3D puzzly platform adventure that was one of the Spectrum’s best games back in the 1980s. Well bless our souls if it’s not about to rise again. Jon Ritman, the chap behind the Speccy original, set up a development company called Cranberry Source who, after a bit of PC-based action, have decided to turn their hands to the N64. And their first Nintendo game will be a 3D puzzly platformer adventure that incorporates the best elements of – yes – Head over Heels. Superb!”

A couple of months later, in April 1998 Jon Ritman and other developers of Cranberry Source were hired by Argonaut Games, possibly because the studio were really impressed by their work with Redemption for the N64. As we can read on IGN:

“The co-founder of Cranberry Source, Jon Ritman, and several other members have left the company to join the British independent developer Argonaut, best known for the original Star Fox and the Super FX chip.

According to IGN’s morning news service, GameAddict, Ritman and his team will be working on an action adventure due to release late next year. Prior to the switch, Ritman was working on an N64 semi-sequel to the classic Head Over Heels. It is not yet known how Cranberry Source will cope with the loss and what will happen to its projects in progress.

Argonaut’s Jez San commented on Ritman’s move: “Many of us at Argonaut have been long standing fans of Ritman’s work, especially of Batman, Match Day, and Head-Over-Heels. I feel he will develop some of his finest work at Argonaut and could help some of our existing games further refine their gameplay.” Although Argonaut has only announced one title so far (Buck Bumble), industry insiders have told IGN64.com that Argonaut is heavily investing in N64 development with numerous titles on the way.

It’s not clear if Argonaut also acquired the rights to develop Redemption, but in the end the project was never completed.

We hope one day to preserve more details or even images for this fascinating and unrealized project.

Thanks to Celine for the contribution!