Nintendo

Hybrid Heaven [N64 – Beta / Tech Demo]

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Konami was one of the first software houses to announce full support for the Nintendo 64, after the happy and profitable experience with the SNES. In addition to Castlevania 64, one of the first games announced for the console was Hybrid Heaven, a strange cross-game between Turn-based RPG, action, adventure and fighting, that promised an open ended gameplay.

In the early images and videos released, the project had an incredible graphic for its time, much more definited than the one in the final version.  When Hybrid Heaven was finally released after many delays, players found themselves in front of a very different game, graphically poor and with a linear gameplay.

Probably the early media released were just Concept Renders and when Konami started to create the game on the real N64 hardware, they found out that it was impossible to reach such level of details. We dont know exactly how many parts were removed (some places and characters seen in the concept renders were not in the final game), but we can speculate that the developers had to heavily cut the project, because their original concept was too ambitious for its time.

italian_flag.jpg [spoiler /Clicca qui per la versione in Italiano/ /Nascondi la versione in Italiano/]La Konami fu una delle primissime Software House ad annunciare il pieno supporto alla nuova macchina a 64 Bit di casa Nintendo, dopo le felici e redditizie esperienze con lo SNES. Oltre al precedente Castlevania 64, uno dei primi giochi annunciati fu questo Hybrid Heaven, strano incrocio fra RPG a turni, azione, esplorazione e picchiaduro. Dalle primissime immagini il titolo faceva graficamente paura e sembrava avere tutte le potenzialità per divenire l’ennesima Killer Application per l’N64. Eppure, quando il gioco finalmente venne completato dopo anni di ritardi, i giocatori si trovarono davanti un prodotto molto diverso, graficamente povero e dalla giocabilità fin troppo lineare. Del progetto originale probabilmente si era salvato ben poco.[/spoiler]

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Jeff Gordon XS Racing [Cancelled]

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Jeff Gordon XS Racing is a racing game released in 1999 for PC and GBC, but originally planned for Nintendo 64 and Playstation too. Jeff Gordon is a champion of NASCAR and he would have been the mentor of the player in the training mode of JGXS. Despite ASC announced a very realistic physics and AI for each car, the final PC version,  probably identical to the cancelled versions, it’s only a mediocre arcade game. Since the Nintendo 64 and the PSX had already  a lot of good racing games, perhaps cancelling the home console versions of Jeff Gordon XS was a wise decision.

italian_flag.jpg [spoiler /Clicca qui per la versione in Italiano/ /Nascondi la versione in Italiano/]Jeff Gordon XS Racing è un oscuro gioco di guida, uscito nel 1999 per PC e GBC, ma originariamente previsto anche per Nintendo 64 e Psx, a cui appartengono gli screenshots che trovate in questa pagina.

Il grande campione delle corse NASCAR, Jeff Gordon appunto, avrebbe fatto da mentore al giocatore per il training e poi da caparbio avversario nelle gare del gioco. Certamente c’era ben poco che facesse sperare in un titolo quantomeno interessante. Nonostante ASC avesse annunciato una fisica particolarmente realistica e una AI diversa per ogni auto in gara , il prodotto finito su PC, identico alle versioni cancellate a parte la grafica, è soltanto un anonimo arcade. All’epoca non poteva neanche contare su una cosmesi all’altezza degli altri esponenti del genere su computer.

Siccome il Nintendo 64 poteva già vantare una serie di imbarazzanti titoli di guida, forse la cancellazione di Jeff Gordon XS è stata la decisione migliore che ASC potesse mai prendere nella sua carriera. [/spoiler]

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Starshot: Space Circus [N64 – Beta]

Starshot (under its original title Space Circus) was first conceived in July of 1994 by Xavier Schon, who worked for Infogrames since 1989 as a graphic artist and game designer. He sent around 10 game concepts to Infogrames management between 1992 and 1995, with Space Circus being the 1 which got off the ground due to it being a unique new concept, a 3D platformer. He sent management 3D concept drawings in July 1994, with management finally approving the idea 10 months later in April 1995. At this time the Nintendo 64 was not formally announced so the game was set for a PlayStation release as well as PC, though the PlayStation version would eventually be cancelled due to hardware concerns.

Once approved Xavier was given another Infogrames employee and they were tasked to make a 3D CGI video to show management what gameplay would look like. Some screenshots of this video exist in the design documents which show a different Starshot design and an unused mechanic of controlling other characters or objects, such as a large cannon which could shoot objects or possibly defend Starshot. In May 1996 Infogrames and Nintendo agreed on a Nintendo 64 version.

Screenshots were first shown in issue 44 of Edge Magazine in April 1997, showing another different Starshot design and an early view of the level Tensuns.

Starshot was scheduled to be finished for PC in June 1997, but after seeing Banjo-Kazooie’s demo at E3 in June 1997, and having been impressed by Mario 64 previously, Schon reluctantly delayed the game to try and rewrite and redefine priorities in the gameplay, though he agrees that the level design and range of actions weren’t good enough to compete.

Their 2nd master version was set to be finished in June 1998, but the team missed this date and finished in September after making N64 a main version. Towards the end of production many programmers and debuggers were moved off the project by Infogrames, but they were still paid for the rest of production which made the games development budget more expensive. At points the N64 version only had 2 programmers. The game suffered as the team had fewer resources than Nintendo and we’re inexperienced with optimizing PC versions for N64 hardware. A late release resulted in poor sales and the development team being split up into different projects.

Due to time constraints, an entire planet was cut from the game, Kripkon, named after Superman’s home planet Krypton and centered around Superhero parodies. In this stage players could grab onto superheros and fly to different parts of the level, and the planet even has a fully composed song unused on the PC version soundtrack.

It was considered for release in Japan at one point, with Schon flying out to Nintendo headquarters, however he believes they weren’t impressed enough with the gameplay to distribute the game.

Xavier kept all his design documents and even a timeliness of the games production. Every area was hand drawn before being modeled in 3D, with many areas looking identical to how they appear in game. Some art depicts areas or characters not in the final game, such as Miss Starling, a humanoid similar looking to Starshot who was a sharpshooter for the Space Circus.

Despite the game’s failure and mixed critical reception, when Infogrames asked producer Xavier Schon for movie concepts in 2002, Schon wrote and drew up a screenplay for Starshot the movie to try and being the character back, but this unfortunately never happened. You can download 3 PDF about the unmade Starshot movie: Space Circus story synopsisDrawing Script, Space Circus English.

This information comes from an interview done with producer, director, and original concept creator Xavier Schon on February 21st, 2018. It was a piece of research for our upcoming N64 book, the N-cyclopedia 64.

Article written by Jalyn.

In the gallery below we can also see various beta screenshots showing differences from the final version:

  • Different HUD
  • More Tourists  NPCs in the “jungle” area
  • Better / more detailed graphic
  • A couple of unknown areas (removed?)

Thanks to Henrique Resende for some of these beta screens!

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Ohcouchi Gengorou Ikka [N64 – Unreleased]

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What is going on in this strange game? I’m not sure. There are not many informations about Ohcouchi Gengorou Ikka, but a prototype was sold in 2005 on a Japanese auction, for about 57,000 yen, which should be around 400 euros. Who bought this proto? Probably some lucky collector who can now be the only one in the world to know what happens in Ohcouchi Gengorou Ikka. We can not understand much from the few screenshots leaked, but with some imagination we can speculate that this was going to be a “family simulator”, in which the player would have had to monitor the mood and the needs of a Japanese family, to make them happy. Or maybe something else.

Links:

Japanese 2007 blog entry about this game

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Pokèmon SNAP! [N64 – Beta]

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Various beta images of Pokèmon Snap show a bar in the bottom right corner where you can select Pokè Flute, Apple, and some bomb thing. Also unseen in the same images are shots of a desert area not used in the final game. There’s also some screens from the forest and swamp, showing some pretty big changes. Ekans, the snake Pokèmon was also in the beta version, but not in the final. Why Ekans was cut is unknown. If you can notice more differences in the beta screens below, please let us know!

Also, you could be interested in the “Jack and the Beanstalk” project , an unreleased Nintendo 64 game that evolved into Pokemon Snap!

[thanks to Michael Cheek for the confirmation for these beta screens!]

[Thanks to Henrique Resende for the contribute!]

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