On the forum The Ocean Experience, which was a forum founded by former Ocean Software’s developers, former artist Brian Flanagan wrote that the game was “99% done” but was cancelled because “the film bombed“.
The Super Nintendo whole source code leaked onto the internet years ago. The gameplay is similar to other Beat ’em up games such as Final Fight or Double Dragon. The player has two bars; one for the life and the other allowing the player to perform special attacks (invisibility, speed running, a dome shield that knocks out everyone who hits it). The regular beat ’em up levels also include a section for gun play, where the player is able to shoot enemies and a driving stage.
Despite being cancelled at the last minute, the SNES version got mixed reviews by many video games magazines back then. The Genesis version has still yet to be found.
The game was set in the future while Steven Seagal partnered with Trish Morgan in order to lead an ultimate assault on an evil corporation named Nanotech, which was responsible for the death of Steven’s former partner Jack Fremen:
Steven Seagal is a legendary runner, but commanders dislike his loose style and contempt for rules. His partner, Jack Fremen, was killer on their last mission. There is no evidence to support it, but many wonder if he might still be alive had Seagal followed orders.
Trish Morgan, another veteran runner, has been assigned as his new partner. She’s tough as any but has the attitude that commanders look for.
Now, the rebels will attempt the ultimate mission: an assault on Nanotech’s main campus.
High command nervous about Seagal – They know he’s out to avenge Fremen’s death. But he’s the best chance they have.
He’s the only choice…
The second main character, Trish Morgan, was also meant to be playable and would have different features than Steven Seagal. According to some source, she teamed up with Seagal in order to rescue her son, who was kidnapped by Nanotech.
“There have been a lot of games based on movies, but not any that we know of based on a Hollywood celebrity.We have the rights to his name and his image, but we used a look-alike because the resolution of even digitized images on cartridges is not such that you can tell the difference.”
“Seagal still consulted extensively on the project and he received a [combination] of royalties and guarantees as his compensation.”
Daily Variety offered more of a look into the game’s motion-capture process.
“TecMagik shot much of the game at a Santa Monica studio using technology developed for compact disc platforms and a Hollywood-style production team that included a director/producer, actors, dancers, a choreographer and a costume designer. In four days of shooting, the company filmed more than 10,000 frames of Seagal’s aikido action.
Seagal’s involvement supposedly included “input into plot progression” and approval of the final product.
The Final Option’s release was slated for spring 1994. The game would appear on both the Super Nintendo and SEGA Genesis systems.
The following information comes from Nintendoplayer, who, over the years, managed to own a prototype of the game and explained how it works and plays:
The Final Option in its alpha form is essentially a bloodless beat-em-up brawler. The goal is simply to reach the exit and advance to the next level.
Decked out in his trademark leather jacket and blue jeans, Steven Seagal infiltrates the evil Nanotech’s laboratories and reactors in six dangerous missions, three stages per mission.
He can unleash Aikido chops and crotch kicks to anyone dumb enough to get in the way, or play really dirty by tossing an infinite supply of throwing knives or by pulling out a handgun when the action gets to be too much to handle. Seagal can also perform a combo move to throw thugs.
Health and more knives and ammunition can be picked up off the ground.
Seagal’s trademark fighting technique of standing in one place and waiting for punks to run into his fists has translated well into the gameplay. Lab technicians and crooked cops will dutifully form organized lines to receive their deserved beatings.
Enemy attacks range from kicks and punches that do minor amounts of damage (and can be blocked) to bullets that can take Seagal down with one hit. The player is given unlimited lives in the prototype, so difficulty is not an issue. (In fact, the only way that Seagal can lose is if he deliberately stays too long in one of the gas-filled rooms that have timers; that will result in a TIME UP.)
What is an issue, however, is Seagal’s inability to jump, as the big lug can only “crouch hop” short distances. Every stage has platforming or obstacles that need to be leapt over, but the best that Seagal can hope for in most cases is to let out a high-pitched yelp as he plummets down ditches, burns alive in fire pits, or disintegrates while drowning in pools of glowing-green acid.
Fortunately, to compensate, the player can navigate a cursor around to place Seagal back on safe ground after falling. During some especially dicey moving platform sections, the player will have to repeatedly resort to doomful diving in order to move forward. Seagal was never known for overly exerting himself in action sequences, and again, this game strives for realism.
Still on Nintendoplayer, an interview of former designer Steve Wik can be found. Many things that happened during the development was shared, and by the sound of it, looks like it was less than easy for the developers:
The game’s credits list you as an artist. What exactly were your duties?
Actually, I had more to do with the game design than the art. On the art end, I was the one who put together the animations from frames captured from laserdiscs of the actor footage. On the design end, I had key input into the whole concept of the game that would have involved optionally using stealth and distraction to sneak past enemies rather than just the standard walk-to-the-right-punching-endless-waves-of-guys kind of game.
Jeff Tarr, director of marketing for TecMagik, admitted to The Hollywood Reporter in 1993 that a Steven Seagal look-alike was used in the game instead of the actual actor because gamers would not be able to tell the difference. Tarr still insisted that the star “consulted extensively” on the project, having “input into plot progression” and final approval. How involved really was Seagal in the making of this game? Did you ever get to meet him or talk with him?
As far as I know, Seagal had no interest or involvement in this game. The real reason Seagal did not appear in the game was that TecMagik was too cheap to pay him! I never heard about him having any sort of approval on anything. As far as I was ever told, he sold his name and likeness, and that was the end of it. We certainly never had to pitch our design to him and never saw any feedback from him about it.
I understand that much of the game was shot at a Santa Monica studio. A director/producer, actors, dancers, a choreographer, and a costume designer were hired, and 10,000 frames of Seagal’s look-alike were filmed. Were you present during any of this? If so, could you describe the scene and what that whole process was like? It would also be interesting to know more about the actor who played Steven Seagal.
The actor who played Seagal was just some guy we found at the audition. He was tall enough and knew something about Aikido. But I’d need to see the prototype you’re looking at, because at first we were using footage of our art director Randy Briley, who used to compete in martial arts competitions and knew Aikido. I don’t know for sure when or if the final Seagal footage got implemented.
I helped design the character moves and actions, but I wasn’t at the shoot. The choreographer would have been Randy Briley. There were actually two shoots, and the explanation is kinda meandering and lengthy, but amusing:
When the project began, we were presented with a really terrible design that TecMagik had paid some other company to write up. It was based on a driving game engine that TecMagik happened to have access to. Yes, it began as a driving game! After some brutal jokes about how would you even know it’s Seagal–have his ponytail flapping out of the side window–we made short work of destroying that original design and convincing TecMagik to let us start our own from scratch.
The first producer TecMagik gave us was a woman who we were told got her job because she’d “graduated from Harvard School of Business” and “was formerly a bank manager.” Pretty much the first thing she made clear to us was that she’d never played a video game in her life. We foolishly thought that would work to our advantage and lead her to trust our knowledge and design instincts, but that wasn’t to be the case. In the end, she looked at our design with all the stealth mechanics and said, “Why are you doing all this? Why don’t you just make it like Streets of Rage 2? That game sold a million units, clearly it’s what the kids want!”
But we fought that battle and got to keep our “unnecessarily gameplay-filled” vision of the game. Relations with that producer got so heated that TecMagik switched her to a different project and gave us a new guy they’d just hired.
This new producer apparently got hired because he and some friends had developed some sort of strip poker game for PC. Anyway, this guy turned out to be even worse than the previous producer, and at one point he started criticizing the character designs in the footage, which we had already been using for months. He felt the characters needed to be more wild and freakish. Which is certainly true if you’re hand-drawing them, and we didn’t necessarily disagree with the idea of improving them, but doing the digitized Mortal Kombat thing is a different story, as he was soon to discover.
While the owner of TecMagik was out of town, this producer authorized, on his own, a new shoot for the enemy characters and supposedly paid his strip poker buddies and girlfriend a few grand in TecMagik money to do it.
First, the thing was clearly shot in someone’s garage. There was no green screen! The camera angle, distance to the character and lighting often changed per shot so nothing could possibly have been matched up. He had characters doing dive rolls and falls and jumps where they’d actually go partially out of frame! In some shots, lights and other items actually blocked the view of the characters. (…) It was a nightmare. Hilarious, though.
The prototype does not have Trish Morgan in it, but I assume that she was supposed to be controlled by the second player. Do you remember anything about this character, what she looked like, her special abilities, etc.?
Trish would have been very similar to Seagal in terms of abilities, weaker in hand-to-hand, but with more powerful weapons to compensate. We never got around to fleshing her out, I think the plan was to get beyond the prototype stage before putting effort into her. We were focused on getting Seagal himself playable.
The prototype is an early build, so all of the computer monitors say the same thing, many dead-ends block the way, and none of the levels can be completed. Could you go into some detail on how the final game would have played? For example, would Seagal have battled a boss at the end of each stage?
The idea was that there would be multiple paths for replayablilty. The level layouts would offer spots where the player could move into the background and sneak around in shadows as an option to combat. Blackthorne would eventually do something similar, though in our version you could still move right or left while hiding. We had ideas for situations like being able to kick one of those typical office chairs and make it roll past an enemy, which would distract him so you could get by or attack him from behind.
The boss events would have been more like Contra, with static emplacements launching projectile and beam attacks while enemies also came out to attack you and an occasional “super” version of an enemy type as a midboss. I don’t think we’d designed a final boss yet.
My prototype runs on the Super Nintendo, but apparently there were also plans to release Steven Seagal on the SEGA Genesis. Is that true? If so, was the game ever up and running on the Genesis?
Well, this calls for another lengthy and meandering answer… While we were developing the SNES version, another company was hired to develop the Genesis version semi-independently. The deal was we’d share the character footage with them, but beyond that, I think they were pretty free to diverge from our design at will.
Unlike RSP, which was in Arizona, the Genesis dev company was located literally across the street from TecMagik in San Francisco. As we discovered later, this provided them with lots of opportunity to play weird politics against us. The closest thing there ever was to a Genesis version up and running was the utterly bogus “prototype” they put together to show, I think, at CES. Basically, what they did was take the raw Seagal walking animation frames and put him on a black background. He was much larger than our working prototype version and had the benefit of all of the Genesis’ RAM and color palettes being applied to him. So, basically, he looked great, but anyone with the slightest clue knew there was no possible way he could look like that in a real game. The sample environments they showed were done the same way. They looked terrific, but that was because they were using all of the system’s resources to display a single screen image with no characters or anything else going on. It was totally fraudulent!
But this unscrupulous developer used it as a wedge to show how much “better” their team was. I think the guy was trying to get them to pull the project from us and give it to them. I have no idea how he would’ve eventually explained why the game ended up looking so much crappier than their “prototype.” We were never into playing that kind of bogus self-promotional game, we were totally focused on putting together functional gameplay.
The game was originally slated for a spring 1994 release until it was delayed to early 1995. Then it kind of disappeared. When was the game officially cancelled, and can you provide any insight into why development was finally shut down? Did you hear about or personally experience any problems related to the game’s development?
My understanding was that TecMagik simply ran out of money, but there may be a more interesting story about what was going on there. Publishers went out of business all the time, so we just kept rolling with our other projects.
Greg Goldsholl, who played Steven Seagal for the game told to Nintendoplayer that it shouldn’t have been made from the beginning:
(…) I told Steven Seagal I played him in the game. He said he hadn’t approved the game and they weren’t supposed to do it. (…)
Over the years, the source code of the prototype leaked on the internet.
Still according to Nintendoplayer, another game starring Seagal was planned by TecMagik, this time for the Playstation and the Nintendo 64 named Deadly Honor, although to this day, not much is known about this title, except a tidbit of information that we can read on the video game graveyard of Playstation Museum:
Slap an action star’s name on a video game and people are bound to pay attention, at least at first. But the problem is that this game went through an SNES incarnation before it wandered into PlayStation and N64 development, and then it never came out for any of the systems. Deadly Honor was TecMagik’s upgrade from the SNES game, Steven Seagal is The Final Option, the company was working on. If Deadly Honor was to be somewhat along the lines of The Final Option, it would have placed you as Steven Seagal in a game loosely based on the star’s action films, such as Under Siege, Hard to Kill, Marked for Death, and so on. The game was to be an action game where you ran around doing a lot of damage. What’s notable about the game is that it was reportedly being created from digitized film footage and was to use AnimaTek’s Caviar technology – a surface pixel real-time rendering engine, to create realistic figure and object animations.
The game was in development for the SNES and supposedly had a couple of complete levels, however TecMagik announced Deadly Honor for the N64 and PlayStation, and you can guess where the SNES game went. Ironically, the N64 and PlayStation games never saw the light of day either.
Thanks to Nintendoplayer, Steve Wik and Greg Goldsholl!
The game used pre-rendered sprites for characters and background created with Silicon Graphics, similar to games such as Killer Instinct and Donkey Kong Country, and was mentionned in numerous previews from video game magazines, most of them were less than enthusiastic regarding the quality of the title. For instance, in issue #083 of Gamepro from June 1996, journalist Scary Larry wrote for the Genesis/MegaDrive version this:
As if we needed a reason to bury the Genesis, along comes Lobo, one of the most god-awful fighting games since Time Killers. Unless you’re a fan who has to own every single piece of Lobo merchandise available, steer clear of this game. You choose from six poorly illustrated warriors that fight with jerky, unpredictable special moves. Since Lobo is based on some of the best comic-book art of all time, this is a major disappointment. The sound isn’t bad, but it gets lost in the dismal gameplay. The battles resounds with smacks and groans aplenty but no trademark Lobo wisecracks. This badly executed game doesn’t deserve a place on the shelf with other comic-book games. Rent it, play it, return it. This one’s a LoBlow.
To this day, it was never made clear why Lobo was cancelled. Some could speculate that for a very late release for the now-dying 16-bits era, and with poor review like this one, Ocean deemed it wasn’t worth to release it, and decided to pull the plug. But it also seems that the project went through development hell: as we can read on SNESCentral, John Lomax, former artist at Ocean Software, indicated that the game initially began development in the main office of Ocean, based in Manchester, and not in the american office that was established in San José, California:
I worked on it for about a month before moving projects. It was originally going to be a Street Fighter-style beat ’em up, and I did work on background art for it, but the powers that be decided it would be better to give it to Ocean America to work on, so I don’t know if it ever came out, (…)
Another story, this time from Alexander Ehrath, who was High Performance Games’ sole programmer for the SNES version, explained in January 2022 that the game was initially coded by Park Place Productions before Ocean America took over the project internally as all the money given to Park Place was spent without finishing the game. This anecdote can be found here.
In 2009, a prototype of the Genesis/MegaDrive version was found by the SegaSaturno community and they released it with the help of Hidden Palace. The SNES one was found in 2014 with the source code available since 2016.
Games based on DC Comics‘ franchises seems to have a lot of trouble back in the 90’s. Alongside this title, another SNES game based on Green Lantern was in development at Ocean Software and was cancelled after numerous setbacks by DC higher-ups. We can also mentionned that around 2003, another Lobo game, this time made by Kemco USA for the Playstation 2, Xbox and GameCube systems was planned before being canceled with, to this day, still no information about how far the game went in development.
Cybernauts: The Next Breed, formerly know as DNAction: The New Breed and Juggernauts: The New Breed, is a cancelled futuristic fighting game that was in development exclusively for theGenesis / Mega Drive that would have been published and developed by Accolade, Inc. around 1993-1994. Accolade made its name in the late 80’s and early 90s with franchise’s such as Test Drive, HardBall!, and Bubsy but started losing steam around the mid 90’s which caused the company to want to shift focus and reinvent itself. It is possible that this change of direction in the mid 90’s was the cause for some games to be cancelled in development such as Cybernauts. Accolade was also purchased by Infogrames in 1999 so any hope of the game being revisited seems to have ended there.
Although the game was never released, some info about the project and various character renders were found in old gaming magazines as Games World #1 and GamePro #56, plus some in-game screens from an early prototype found in Player One #43. Cybernauts/DNAction used pre-rendered sprites for characters and backgrounds, created with Silicon Graphics in the same way as Killer Instinct.
The game was to be placed in a future setting with scientists being able to genetically enhance humans to create their own superheroes. Some, however decide to use their powers for evil thus pitting a rivalry between those who received super powers. There were at least four planned playable characters: Pitbull and Hotshot who were members of Matrix Alpha, the superheroes trying to help society. Then the two members of the evil organization Overlord: Ground Zero and Tracer. Four additional characters were shown, Shockwave and Banzai, from Overlord, then Recoil and IronClad, from Matrix Alpha.
In May 2019, Eli Galindo, founder and CEO of Piko Interactive managed to retrieve an alpha prototype of the title. As it wasn’t complete enough to make a full game, the idea was first to launch a comic book centered around the background and characters from the game with a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter headed by a company named Virtual Comics in the summer of 2021. There was also the opportunity for the backers to play the unfinished prototype if the campaign was successful. As it turns out, it didn’t manage to reach its goal with 951$ gained on a total of 3,500$ required. Following this, Virtual Comics wrote:
Thank you to all of our backers!
We really appreciate you put time to review and pledge to our campaign!
We will go in another direction than kickstarter and release the comic book on our upcoming website and outlets like comixology.
We are in talks with publishers for physical version. In regards of the OST and the roms. We may re-use an OST in the future if we decide to fund a new game ourselves, and the roms we will try to partner with someone to make a video and a release!
The Virtual Comics Team.
Since then, it seems that no further attempts regarding Cybernauts have been made, with the Virtual Comics website appearing to be down, by the way.
Thanks to Celine and Rod_Wod for the contributions!
Fireteam Rogue is a canceled sci-fi action-adventure game published and developed by Accolade Inc.from 1993 to 1995 for the Super NES and the Genesis/Megadrive. The project was very ambitious for its time, as Accolade planned to launch alongside the game a comic book serie, with also discussion for action figure toys and a TV show.
Next information that will follow are from SNESCentral which was one of the first website to share many details as possible about this title. With a budget of 2,000,000 US $, this project was plagued by mismanagement that ultimately led to its cancellation:
Fireteam Rogue’s cancellation is probably due to having too much ambition. The people marketing the game claimed it would have 100 hours of gameplay, and that the characters would be larger than in most other action games. Personality conflicts and poor management due to this goal seem to have taken their toll, as stated by Russell Borogove (Bornschlegel):
“The project had a lot of problems in development. We spent a lot more time developing ridiculous data compression schemes to fit all the levels into the game, when we should have cut a couple of enemies and a handful of levels in order to get it done. There were also some personality conflicts that culminated with the producer of the project quitting when we were at beta. Shortly after that, the head of product development at Accolade asked us if we thought we should continue the project or not. It was unclear to me how much more work it was going to take to finish it and if the game was going to be good enough to compete in the market by the time we actually got it out, and I advised that we should shut it down. I don’t remember what the others said.”
The late Betty Cunningham on her website claims the game was complete. And it may well have been close to being finished. By the sounds of things, as development dragged on, it was increasingly clear it would not have been released. As artist Scott Ruggels recalls:
“Both of the game projects (Fireteam Rogue and the unreleased Genesis game, Cybernauts: The Next Breed) were helmed by John Skeel. I don’t know what happened to him after Accolade, but after the 2 million dollar budget for the game was spent, with about 750,000 spent on promotional materials, including a 6 foot tall roll of plastic with a life sized image of the main character computer generated within, and the prototype, that was, in all honesty, not very much fun to play, the game was cancelled, along with a lot of others soon after the new management took over, (…)”
The media give differing times for the ultimate cancellation. Gamepro, in its April 1995 issue states it was cancelled, coinciding with Warner Music Group buying a share in the company. Nintendo Power kept it in its upcoming releases section until the August 1995issue. Ultimately, a long development cycle can never be good for a game.
Two different prototypes exist and their source codes are both available on the web. The first prototype is apparently in early alpha and might be dated from 1994. It was leaked somewhere around 2006-2007 and is pretty incomplete and glitchy. A much later prototype was acquired in 2010 by Evan G., founder and owner of SNESCentral and is dated from 1995, although it is not clear from which month:
This later prototype of Fireteam Rogue was acquired by me in June 2010. The seller worked at a company called IMN Control. They were looking into publishing games to package with their controllers, and I guess by April 1995 (the letter that came with the prototype was dated April 6, 1995), Accolade was hoping to get another company to publish the game. The seller said that he did not feel the game would be complete in a reasonable amount of time to bother investing.
In addition to the prototype, there were some marketing materials and a three page FAQ. The FAQ explains the different levels, characters and goal of the game. There is a date of December 12, 1994 on the header of the FAQ. The package included a poster/information sheet that probably was used at the 1995 Winter CES. The poster has an expected March 1995 release date. The prototype itself came on four chips, with a date of “1/16” on it, which I assume means January 16, 1995. I guess that despite the fact that the prototype was sent in April 1995, either development had ceased, or they did not feel like burning a newer copy.
This prototype appeared to be more complete and less glitchy with the addition of Mode 7 levels and a password feature.
On his own article, Evan G. concluded:
Fireteam Rogue is definitely a game that had promise. It had an intriguing plot, excellent character artwork and a promising gameplay system. The Shadowblade level in particular shows the scope of what the levels may have entailed. The shooter levels play quite well and compare favourably with many similarly styled shooters for the SNES.
That being said, the two alpha ROM images available show a game that is not close to completion. Though I was told development may have extended all the way to 1996, the evidence seems to indicate that it was leading towards demise in early 1995. In particular, the statement in Gamepro in April 1995 and the fact that they were trying to find another company to publish the game show that its fate was decided by then. If the later alpha that I have is what was shown at the 1995 Winter CES (which I assume, considering the date on the prototype, and the included CES-style advertisement sheet), it would have had an underwhelming response. For instance, despite the impressive size and animation frames of the character sprites, the animation was not smooth, and led to unresponsive controls. The level designs are poor, and lack the key items to proceed through the stages. The graphics themselves don’t look bad, though they have a limited palette. The promised linking of the levels into a single story was not finished in the game.
The lesson of Fireteam Rogue is that focusing on hype and story before the creation of solid level design and gameplay can sink a game. The back-story of Fireteam Rogue rivals most contemporary RPGs, and the initial gameplay ideas could have rivalled Super Metroid. Instead, a development cycle mired by poor management and delays made this just another footnote in the history of the 16-bit era.
In October 1996, Accolade Inc. released a DOS game called Eradicator in which three different characters are playable. Those characters shares many similarities with the 4 main characters of Fireteam Rogue.
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