Saturn

Ringman (Zono Inc) [Saturn, Dreamcast – Cancelled]

Ringman is a cancelled third person platform-shooter that was in development by Zono Inc in late 1996, initially planned for Sega Saturn and then for Sega Dreamcast. It would have been one of the first games ever published by Sega of America for their lost version of the Dreamcast. The team behind this project was part of the same one that worked along with Ed Annunziata on Mr. Bones for the Sega Saturn, with names such as William Novak, Simon Hallam and Dave Castelnuovo: thanks to the good relationship between Sega and Zono, they were able to pitch this project for the planned 128 bit console.

While the Dreamcast hardware was still not available in late 1996, Zono interfaced directly with Sega of America producers and the development team that was designing a 3Dfx version of the console, codenamed “Blackbelt”. Sega of America wanted to create something amazing and showed off the planned graphical power of the new 3Dfx chips. The game concept was inspired by the (at the time) newly released Quake by ID Software and Dave remembered how John Carmack was talking about implementing NURBS (“Non-uniform rational Basis spline” a model used in computer graphics for generating and representing curves) in his next rendering engine:  Sega producers wanted Zono to take a look at using NURBS to create this Blackbelt game. The surfaces in each world of Ringman would be curved and even the main character would have had a body composed of different rings, like a colorful spring that would permit it to move around quickly and shoot down enemies.

The team did quite a bit of concepting for the game and got as far as having a very simple prototype world with the protagonist moving around, but unfortunately the project was canned in mid-1997 when Sega of Japan found out about Sega of America’s plan to create another console and shut down the project. As we can read in an article by Douglass C. Perry on Gamasutra:

“In 1996, 3Dfx began building wide acclaim for its powerful graphics chips, one of which ran in arcade machines, including Atari’s San Francisco Rush and Wayne Gretzky’s 3D Hockey. In 1997, 3Dfx went public, announcing its IPO. In the process it revealed the details of its contract with Sega, required by U.S. law. The announcement, however, had undesired effects. It publicly revealed Sega’s blueprint for a new, unannounced console, and angered executives at Sega Japan. Numerous reports indicate Yamamoto’s Blackbelt chipset using the 3Dfx chips was the more powerful of the two. Sega executives, however, still fuming at 3Dfx, severed their contract with the chip maker. (Soon thereafter, 3Dfx sued Sega and both companies settled out of court.) In the end, Sega of Japan selected Sato’s design, codenamed it “Katana,” and announced it publicly on September 7, 1997.”

If this internal issue between the “two Segas” was not enough, Sega of America was also split into the ill-fated SegaSoft and in early 1997, a few of their projects were canned. In late 1996, the CEO and CFO of SegaSoft asked the new company director, Peter Brown, to install a new financial system by April 1997. As told by Brown during an interview with InfoWorld magazine: “as a young company, we needed built-in maturity of process and scalability”: we can assume that games for a not-yet-confirmed new console were not a safe bet for the company stability.

After the cancellation of Ringman, along with their N64 legendary project “Freak Boy”, Zono had to wait until 2000 to release another game: Metal Fatigue, a PC RTS published by Psygnosis. In 1997, SegaSoft stil released a couple of Saturn games, Scud: The Disposable Assassin and Three Dirty Dwarves.

This article was originally published in 2016 in our book “Video Games You Will Never Play” 

Lunatik (Pure Entertainment) [Playstation, Saturn – Cancelled]

Lunatik is a cancelled shoot ‘em up that was in development around 1997 by Pure Entertainment, planned to be published by Eidos for Playstation, Sega Saturn and PC. The team wanted to develop something similar to a 3D Defender, while showcasing their gorgeous (at the time) 3D engine, featuring dozens of enemies on screens, high number of polygons and detailed textures.

Unfortunately gameplay was not as fun as they hoped for: the project needed more time to be improved, but Eidos did not want to invest any more money into it. In the end Pure Entertainment reworked Lunatik as some kind of ATI Graphic Cards tech demo, and this version was released in limited quantities in ATI bundles. We can assume this ATI Edition was much different from what the team had originally conceived for Lunatik. As we can read on Sega-Saturn.net:

“But ultimately the project failed because the original concept (3D Defender) was next to impossible to do really well. We tried many different gameplay mechanisms to make it work, and none were working. Ultimately we ran out of time to make it work and Eidos cancelled the project. The game did get a limited release for the PC. It was bundled with graphics cards as a graphics showcase, but the game itself was poor.”

We were also be able to gather some early PR text shared when Eidos were promoting the game to gaming magazines and websites:

“Little known London-based Pure Entertainment is the developer behind the project. They are striving to update the genre with a true 3D engine, giving the player full freedom of movement within Lunatik’s 3D world. LUNATIK is a 3D Shoot ‘Em Up, drawing on the addictive gameplay aspects of classics such as Defender and Zaxxon for inspiration, and merging them with a uniquely dramatic look and feel, the combination of which has never been seen before.

Drawn with strong Manga cartoon influences, the 3D real-time graphics have paved the way for an unusual ‘above and behind’ perspective, which will be backed by some in-house techno tunes.

Lunatik will sport eighteen levels, a barrage of Armageddon-like weaponry (including a heat seeker), power ups galore, shields, cloaking devices to collect and bosses that appear at designated times throughout the game.

One interesting touch is the boss timer. Each of the 18 levels features a construction area, where the enemies are busy building a boss monster. If you fail to complete the mission before the timer ticks down, the boss monster is built, and immediately comes looking for you. Gameplay is very much a case of fire or be fired upon, and if you do succeed then the nastier and smarter the AI of the bad guys gets.

The game itself has 8 large levels, each one being a man made ‘moon’ orbiting the decaying relic that was once Earth. All out war is occurring between 7 of the Corporation Dominated Moons and one other, Nu Earth 3, an indomitable civilization holding out against everything the Corporate armies can throw at them. Your mission? Quite simply, wipe the floor with the enemy.”

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Footage from the released ATI Tech Demo (Thanks to Liqmatrix!):

 

Spanish Blood (Scavenger) [Playstation, Sega Saturn – Cancelled]

Spanish Blood is a cancelled pirate-themed adventure game that was in development by Scavenger, planned to be released for Playstation and Sega Saturn. As noticed by Celine, the game was officially announced or at least talked about at E3 1996, when a few gaming magazines published a list of in-development games by Scavenger. 

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Some screenshots were published online by The King of Grabs, found in an old E3 Press Kit. By looking at these we can see Spanish Blood was going to be another impressive (for its time) 3D game by the team, which was composed of talented developers from the Amiga demoscene. While there are no details about Spanish Blood’s gameplay, we can speculate it would have been a seafaring adventure, with players exploring the sea on their boat, fighting against pirates and finding hidden treasures.

Unfortunately Scavenger probably had too many projects in development at the same time and with missing payments from their major publisher (GT Interactive), in the end the company had to close down. Most of their games were cancelled, such as Mudkicker, Angel, Spearhead, Aqua, Terminus, Heavy Machinery, X-Men, Into the Shadow and Tarantula.

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Dragon’s Heaven [SNES, Sega Saturn – Cancelled]

Dragon’s Heaven (ドラゴンズヘブン) is a cancelled JRPG that was in development by Digitalware in the late ’90s, planned to be published for the Super Famicom and later on the Sega Saturn by Data East (?). We found out about this unreleased RPG thanks to Video Games Densetsu, which found some images on old japanese gaming magazines, such as Sega Saturn Magazine (November 1996).

As you can see from artwork and screenshots, the game was heavily inspired by Dragon Quest, Breath of Fire and Akira Toriyama style. Turn-based combat were shown in a top-down isometric view, featuring at least 5 playable characters at the same time.

As noticed by Matthew Callis on Twitter, it seems the project was originally conceived as a SNES project, as seen in another japanese magazine he found. From what we were able to gather online the game was based on a roleplay novel (where readers could choose how to proceed with the story?) serialized in Maru-Katsu Super Nintendo gaming magazine, possibly as a parody of classic 16 bit JRPG.  Later the series was also used to create a tabletop RPG book series published by Kadokawa Shoten.

We can speculate Digitalware tried to use the popular roleplay novel conceived in Maru-Katsu magazine to create a new roleplay video game, first on the Super Famicom and later on the Sega Saturn. For some reasons, the project was canned on both occasions, and then forgotten by everyone.

If you could read the description in these japanese scans, please let us know if there are more details about this lost project! 

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Shinbatsu (Gainax) [Sega Saturn – Cancelled]

Shinbatsu (神罰, Divine Punishment) is a cancelled strategy / simulation game that was in development for the Sega Saturn around 1995. The project was being produced by popular animation studio Gainax, just a few months before the first original run of their cult-series: Evangelion.

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Character design for Shinbatsu was done by Kenji Tsuruta, mostly known for his Spirit of Wonder manga. Unfortunately we don’t have much more details about this lost game, but VGDensetsu found a page with a few screenshots and a short preview in Sega Saturn Magazine (March 1, 1995).

If you can read Japanese and could write a short summary of what they wrote about this game, please leave a comment below!

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