Nintendo 64 & 64DD

Project Cairo (Craveyard) [Nintendo 64DD – Cancelled]

If you had a Nintendo 64 back in the 90’s, you probably remember all the hype around its 64DD, the disk-based peripheral that promised some cool features for it’s time, including network capabilities, internal clock, additional storage and content expansion for N64 games. Unfortunately due to numerous delays and its commercial failure in Japan this add-on was never released outside of Japan, being discontinued after just 10 software published.

We could say the failure of the 64DD had direct consequences over the N64 game library. We all know about Nintendo’s complicated past with third party support, media storage and licensing issues. These were always key points for Nintendo and with the N64 it wasn’t any different. Their 64DD could have offered a cheaper support for third parties with more space for their games.

Even before its launch in Japan many European and North American developers were already working on 64DD games: after all this add-on was announced in 1995, prior to the N64’s launch. As you can imagine most of these 64DD games were either scrapped or ported to N64 carts.

One of these interesting but lost 64DD games is Project Cairo, a cancelled RPG planned by team Craveyard (Crave Entertainment). According to an IGN article dated 1997, Craveyard were “in negotiations to use a major comic book license for both characters and background story”, promising a new “fresh look for the genre with interesting, Americanized characters”.

We don’t know which comic book they planned to use (above are some examples of random fantasy comics from the mid ’90s, to have an idea of their style), but as told by Mark Burke (former Vice President, Product Acquisitions at Crave):

“If it was another anime RPG I don’t think we’d be making it. […] We think the art in the game is as good as if not better than that in Final Fantasy VII.”

It’s important to note that Craveyard shared their origins with Square USA. Legendary Ted Woolsey (responsible for many popular RPG localizations during the 16-bit era) moved out from Square with a group of employees when the company was moving offices back in 1996, founding a small team named Big Rain.

The name Big Rain wouldn’t last long as Crave Entertainment soon bought the company, changing its name to Craveyard and made them working on such games as Shadow Madness, a Japanese-inspired Role-playing game eventually released on Sony Playstation in 1999.

In the meantime Craveyard were also conceiving new ideas for Project Cairo, their ambitious RPG intended to take advantage of 64DD’s original features, scheduled to also be released in 1999. For Project Cairo’s scenario Craveyard were talking with a well known British fantasy writer (which remains anonymous) for a high-profile collaboration.

As told us by Ted Woosley Project Cairo never got past this early planning and “scenario” phase. It was soon clear that Playstation was the better console to develop for: it was cheaper and with a larger user-base already interested in RPGs. N64 was not selling enough to pursue full development of an exclusive RPG, especially for its postponed 64DD add-on. The team focused all of their resources and efforts into Shadow Madness: it’s currently unknown if their Playstation RPG took some ideas or mechanics initially conceived for Project Cairo.

Unfortunately Shadow Madness did not perform as expected: it was received with average reviews and poor sales. In the end Crave opted to pull Craveyard out of business and closed the studio. After Craveyard’s closure, Ted Woolsey joined RealNetworks (a provider of Internet streaming media) where he managed their online gaming client. In 2007 Woolsey moved to Microsoft Studios to work as Senior Director for the Xbox Live Arcade and in 20015 he became General Manager of Undead Labs helping releasing fan-favorite State of Decay.

Images: 

Metal Slader Glory 2 [Nintendo 64DD – Cancelled]

The original Metal Slader Glory is a sci-fi visual novel / graphic adventure developed by HAL Laboratory and published in 1991 for the Nintendo Famicom. The game’s plot is similar to many popular mech-anime series, with a group of young boys and girls fighting against their enemies using cool robots.

As we can read on Wikipedia the game soon became a cult-classic and a sought-after collector’s item in the secondhand market due to its quality and its rarity. This may be the reason why Nintendo and HAL initially decided to create a new Metal Slader Glory for their Nintendo 64 DD Add-on.

metal slader glory 2 Nintendo 64 DD Cancelled

As revealed by Metal Slader Glory scenario director & character-designer Yoshimiru (よしみる) in a doujin booklet he published a few years ago and later in a series of tweets, it seems Metal Slader Glory 64 would have been a sequel / prequel, as the main character was planned to be Kisaragi Yayoi, a girl who (as far as we know) is just a secondary NPC in the original Famicom game (plus he also revealed they planned a new character named Uzuki). The team also wanted to use many of the 64DD features, such as its internal clock and rewritable disks.

Unfortunately after a while Metal Slader Glory 2 was cancelled – maybe because Nintendo kept delaying their 64DD – and instead the team developed a simple remake of the first game for the Super Famicom under the title “Metal Slader Glory: Director’s Cut”, later released in 2000 as the last official game ever published for SNES in Japan.

We can only imagine how many more obscure lost cancelled games for N64 are still hidden out there to be discovered one day.

Thanks to VGDensetsu for the contribution!

Images: 

Grand Theft Auto [Nintendo 64 – Cancelled]

A Nintendo 64 port of the original Grand Theft Auto was planned by DMA Design (along with a Sega Saturn version), but unfortunately the game was never released. A few previews of GTA 64 were published in websites such as IGN, revealing some more details about this port:

“Rockstar isn’t releasing much on the Nintendo 64 version of Grand Theft Auto, except to say that it’s not the sequel or an add-on pack. IGN64 has learned that the game, though essentially a port of the PlayStation original, will feature significant additions in the vein of souped-up graphics and added levels and characteristics. “

While websites never shown any official screenshot for the N64 version, a few alleged images were published by some magazines in Spain and Italy, showing “blurred” textures / 3D graphics for the environments that really looks like something a Nintendo 64 could do. Here is one of these articles, found by Luchi in Spanish N64 Magazine (issue 19, july 1999):

GTA Nintendo 64 cancelled

Unfortunately without any official statement it’s hard to say if these screenshots are really from the cancelled GTA 64, but it’s interesting to notice that in the official  design document for Grand Theft Auto (at the time titled “Race ’n’ Chase”) the game was indeed planned to be released on the “Ultra 64”.

 

Untitled Konami Fighting Game [N64 – Cancelled?]

Our beloved Nintendo 64 did not have many traditional fighting games compared to the Playstation, but there were a few interesting ones such as Fighter’s Destiny and Flying Dragon. Konami developed two exclusive fighters for the N64, Rakuga Kids and “G.A.S.P.!!  Fighters’ NEXTream” (AKA as “GASP” in Europe and “Deadly Arts” in the United States), both published in 1998. This screenshot found by Youloute in Player One magazine issue 71 (January 1997) about an untitled, new Nintendo 64 fighting game by Konami, does not look like anything they ever released. It kinda looks a bit like “Dual Heroes” but that was developed by Hudson and published in December 1997. Yeah, it seems like we got another cancelled N64 game! And it looked quite nice for a 64 bit title.

If you ever find any other image of this lost Konami game, please let us know!

cancelled-fighting-game-konami-nintendo64 

Klepto [N64 – Cancelled]

Klepto is a cancelled action platformer / adventure / stealth game in development by Utopia Technologies / Sandbox Studios between 1998 and 2000, with a planned release on the Nintendo 64. The team was formed in 1993 and was composed of such talented developers and artists as Atman Binstock, Gary Corriveau, Matthew Moss, Rich Geldreich, Steve Bergenholtz and Robert Jaeger. In the early ’80s, Robert designed and programmed the classic platform game Montezuma’s Revenge (Atari). Utopia Technologies then released Montezuma’s Return in 1998, a 3D sequel to the classic predecessor, which was originally planned for N64 but released only on PC.

It seems that Utopia Technologies was one of the few studios that could use their own microcode to develop games for the N64, a privilege given by Nintendo that was shared only with Rare Ltd, Boss Games (World Driver Championship) and Factor 5 (Star Wars: Rogue Squadron, Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine, Battle for Naboo).

klepto-Nintendo-64-Utopia-Technologies-Sandbox-Studios-01

Unfortunately, we never did see what Utopia Technologies could achieve on Nintendo’s console. After the N64 Montezuma’s Return was cancelled and the PC version completed instead, Atman, Gary, and Matthew started working on a brand-new project called “Klepto”. As recalled by Atman:

“Inspired by Umihara Kawase, I set about creating a 3D third person grappling hook game. The idea was that you played a cat burglar-type in a Sci-Fi world. Each mission was designed to be playable in several ways, i.e. you could sneak in and steal the target item and if you were really good, you could sneak out without being detected. However, taking the loot would likely set off alarms and you’d have to fight your way out. Or, if you preferred, you could try fighting your way in and out.

The experience was designed to be as nerve-wracking as possible: the player was allowed as much practice as they wanted in a simulator environment based on incomplete knowledge (one idea was to allow recon missions to fill in pieces of the mission simulator), but only one shot at actually performing the mission for real, with large meta-game rewards/penalties.

The core dynamics were about using a physics-based grappling hook (as opposed to the shoot-zip or stiff fake-swinging types) to move around and manipulate a physics-based environment. The stretchy rope enabled the excellent and deep player-skill rubber-banding movements from Umihara Kawase, with some additions like slip-walls where the grappling hook could freely slide in one direction.

But more than just a fun method of getting around, the grappling hook’s stretchy rope provided an indirect yet high-fidelity way to interact with objects and enemies – the player could reel in/let out rope, or move themselves to change the rope’s tension. You could shoot out and attach to the foot of guard standing on a ledge, then reel-in while moving back to yank him off the edge. Or you could gently drag a crate of something fragile (and likely explosive) to the edge of a shaft way, then gently lower it to the bottom. There were a number of tools that were added on top of the vanilla grappling hook. In order to fight the entropy of all objects ending up at the bottom of a level, you could attach rapid-inflate balloons to an item (or enemy).

The player could also shoot a spring, one end at a time, allowing you to attach any two things in sight, like an enemy to a bomb crate. And the general purpose “pipe tool” ended up being a flamethrower, which was useful for cutting springs, detonating bombs, and torturing bound-up (by springs) enemies into dropping keycards.”

The team developed a playable prototype for Klepto and they displayed it at E3 1999 where several parties expressed interest in publishing the game, including Nintendo. As recalled by Gary:

“There were a decent number of prototype levels that I built showcasing the various mechanics. The environments were simple, but we had some really nice interaction driven animations on the characters thanks to Atman’s hard work. The rope itself was also very cool. He connected a string of rigid cubes with springs and then skinned the whole thing. The player could then control the tension of the rope, by loosening and tightening the springs on demand.

We had some nice mechanics going on. You could shoot your bungee-cord grappling hook and swing around the environments, or hook onto enemies and so forth. You could attach rockets to your hook and smash enemies around the level with it.”

As the N64’s life cycle was coming to an end, no party decided to commit to Klepto and it was left without a publisher. When Utopia Technologies presented the game to Nintendo, they seemed to like it and encouraged them to consider bringing it to GameCube, but that wasn’t possible for their small team budget.

Sometime after Montezuma’s Return was published in 1998, Robert Jaeger left Utopia Technologies and the remaining team members changed their name to “Sandbox Studios”. They then released such games as Dinosaur for Dreamcast and Shrek for the original Xbox. In 2001 the company was acquired by Digital Illusions CE and renamed “Digital Illusions Canada”, but later closed in 2006 when DI was acquired by Electronic Arts.

We managed to contact a few people who worked at Utopia Technologies / Sandbox Studios, but sadly it seems that only some early Klepto concept arts were preserved by the studio. We still hope that one day someone could find some screenshots, videos, or even a playable prototype from the game that could be saved and added to the unseen history of video games. Although it’s unlikely, it’s never impossible.

Thanks to Rich, Gary and Maik for their contributions!

Images: