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Tai Fu: Wrath of the Tiger [Beta – Playstation]

T’ai Fu: Wrath of the Tiger is a beat’em up PS1 game which was developed by Dreamworks Interactive (who also developed “The Lost World: Jurassic Park” and “Small Soldiers”) and published by Activision in 1999. The story follows the path of a muscular tiger with Kung Fu skills seeking revenge after his clan was wiped out by the Dragon clan, leaving him the only survivor.

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The game is heavily inspired by chinese tales and can be seen as the “ancestor” of the Kung Fu Panda movies, both having been developed by Dreamworks although T’ai Fu was released 9 years prior.

The game was first announced for release in 1998 but was later delayed to early 1999. Despite good reviews overall, the game didn’t sell very well – probably due to missing the Christmas period. Reviews noted good combat, great characters and graphics (for the time) but twitchy platforming and camera issues.


Like all games, it had several changes during development. Some magazines exhibit those differences:

  • The camera was much closer to the player.
  • The health meter was totally changed. It probably was covering too much space on screen.
  • T’ai had cyan color pants at some point. It was changed to give a darker tone to the game.

Noah Hughes, credited as Game Design Lead provided some more insights on the game development:

“My friend Lyle got hired at Dreamworks and brought me down from Crystal where we met. We were to make a new character based IP like Crystal had done with Gex. He and I went through a number of project ideas before landing on that one.

We would make design pitches and work with concept artists to visualize each concept. We had great concept artists and there was probably 3 main ideas before we settled on Tai fu.

When it started, we knew the game would be about a tiger here learning kung fu styles from all the animal clans but we went through a lot of revisions of the style itself. One was about a spider and it was more like Gex style platformer. A ringtail character with a prometheus inspired storyline.

Both felt a little like typical mascot platform characters for my taste and Lyle shared a passion for old kung fu movies, so this really became the one we both fell in love with.

The visual evolution of tai was one of the more interesting aspects of designing the game. Early on he looked a bit more cartoony and a bit more anthropomorphic. So Jeffrey Katzenberg was one of the execs at Dreamworks and he had come from running Disney. He was the one that challenged us to evolve the character. He said it was “too tony the tiger“.

We also wanted to appeal to a slightly older gaming audience. So we started to play with the more badass look with more unique posing and silhouettes. His pants were that light blue for a long time. In the end the artists felt the darker pants looked better. A little less “cartoony” by moving away from primary colors.

We had an amazing storyboard artist named Rion Vernon who did most of the character art. The Kung Fu Panda movie was actually inspired by his art for this game many years later.”

A beta build has been found dated October 28th 1998 while the final is dated March 6th 1999, almost 5 months later. Differences with the final version include:

  • Much longer cutscenes
  • Longer levels (some big chunks were removed in the final release)
  • Missing “Beat X enemies to continue” sections
  • Camera angles were changed
  • Some bosses play totally differently
  • A debug mode to move the character anywhere
  • A bit more difficult
  • Various minor differences in gameplay and sounds/voices

A footage from this beta can be found here:

Some development screenshots and artists were also retrieved from various sources as seen in the gallery below.

Article by Robert

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“PreCore” (Armature Studio) [Xbox 360, PS3 – Cancelled]

In April 2008, after completing Metroid Prime 3: Corruption for Nintendo, game director Mark Pacini, art director Todd Keller, and principal technology engineer Jack Matthews left Retro Studios to start Armature Studio.

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Their early years were not easy: they pitched many games (such as a first-person Mega Man reboot titled “Maverick Hunter” and a military FPS for the Wii) to publishers (such as EA, Warner Bros and Capcom), but never release any project until 2012, when they worked on the “Metal Gear Solid HD Collection” port for PSVita.

As wrote by Superannuation on Kotaku:

“Shorty after the studio’s formation, Armature struck a deal with Electronic Arts through the publisher’s Blueprint division, headed up by industry veteran Lou Castle. Under its arrangement with EA, Armature’s small team was to serve as an incubator of intellectual property for the gaming giant‚ & developing various concepts and prototypes that would then be handed off to another team, with Armature’s staff keeping a close eye on the projects. The Armature deal was one part of Blueprint’s overall mission to figure out ways to counter the rising cost of game development. […] Unfortunately, two months after Armature’s public debut, EA shuttered the Blueprint division, which likely caused the relationship between the two to go south.”

Between 2010 and 2011 Armature were working on an interesting action adventure game, featuring a young protagonist and a robot, somehow similar to Studio Ghibli’s anime “Laputa: Castle in the Sky“. From the few images and footage available it seems players would have been able to explore a sci-fi, post-apocalypse world, with the help of that strange mech. The robot could destroy walls in a cavern and it seems to have an independent AI with its own emotions, as seen in the scene where it covers the protagonist from the rain.

Unfortunately the project was not completed at the time, probably with no publisher interested in funding the full game. Armature switched their time and resources to work on “Metal Gear Solid HD Collection” and “Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate”.

In 2014 the team started working with Keiji Inafune on a new project for Microsoft, titled “ReCore”. This new game show a few similarities with their old prototype, such as the post-apocalypse world and the use of robot companions. That’s why we’d like to indicate this old prototype as “PreCore”, even if we don’t know it’s original title at the moment.

We can speculate Armature were somehow able to reuse some concepts and models from their prototype to develop ReCore. We hope one day to learn more about this and all their other cancelled projects from the late ‘00s.  

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MooN 2: Mansion Omnibus Occupant Nest (LoveDeLic) [PS1 – Cancelled Pitch]

LoveDeLic were one of the most interesting and creative Japanese developers active during the late ‘90s / early ‘00s. They developed cult-classic, peculiar adventures such as Moon: Remix RPG Adventure (PS1), UFO: a Day in the Life (PS1) and Lack of Love (Dreamcast). Unfortunately all of their games were too bizarre and unusual for their time, selling low number of copies and leading to the closure of the team in 2000.

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Moon was their first project and after the game was published by ASCII Entertainment in 1997 for the original Playstation, LoveDeLic pitched a sequel titled MooN 2: Mansion Omnibus Occupant Nest. Concept art and a photo of the early design document were posted on Twitter by former LoveDeLic’s Character Designer Kazuyuki Kurashima in 2017.

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In the end the project was changed from a sequel to MooN to a different, original adventure: it became “UFO: a Day in the Life”. UFO was later published in 1999 by ASCII, an interesting game that somehow mix together point & click adventures, characters and events which follow an internal clock (just like the original Moon, or Zelda: Majora’s mask) and a “photography simulation” somehow similar to Gekibo (PC Engine, 1992) or Pokèmon Snap (N64, 1999).

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If you take a look at the concept art, you can see how it’s similar to the main idea behind UFO: a building divided into different rooms, inhibited by quirky characters. Instead than a cancelled “Moon 2” you could also see this as an early concept for UFO.

Thanks to Video Games Densetsu for the contribution!

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Contra Online [PS2, Xbox, PC – Cancelled]

After the cancellation of Castlevania: Resurrection and the death of the Dreamcast, the same team at Konami of America pitched a few other projects for different consoles. One of these unrealized games was a new 3D Contra with online multiplayer, planned to be developed for PS2, Xbox and PC.

They wanted to have classic single player and local coop story mode for old-school fans of the series, but at the same time testing online multiplayer for the first time.

Some details about this lost Contra game were found by fans, and preserved below to remember the existence of this cancelled concept.

“Contra’s HQ have intercepted SOS from the biggest Russian nuclear submarine that is sinking to the bottom of Barents Sea. While Contra’s HQ continues monitoring the unsuccessful rescue attempts, suddenly the submarine crews stop responding to the Russian Northern Fleet hails. Meanwhile, Contra’s spy satellite registers the beginning of nuclear missiles launch form the sub, and transmission to Russian Navy operations that Red Falcon is demanding to stop the rescue attempt otherwise there are will be a missile strike retaliation. After analyzing the spy satellite data, Contra intelligence realizes that Red Falcon is preparing its third attempt to conquer Earth by using Russian submarine as its base to assemble and power it’s robotic war machines in the safety of deep sea.

Members of Contra Forces are called in and ordered to stop the Red Falcon, and were successful in defeating evil alien entity and its forces. Or, at least they thought so. The “Red Falcon” had actually been merely wounded. It escapes the submarine blast to a secret retreat located in the mountains of Bosnia. Were alien forces lie dormant aviating for decoy Barents Sea invasion to begin, so they can start a real attack of the Earth forces? The Contra intelligence is learning that Red Falcon is not the brains behind an operation but just a pawn controlled by a mysteries alien only know as “Dark Queen”. Contra marines are called again for the final showdown.”

Story mode would have been divided into 3 worlds (Submarine, Mountain Trail and Underground Base): each one with several levels and Bosses. Past Contra protagonists could have been unlocked during the game, to be used as playable characters.

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The team planned many different modes for online multiplayer. An idea was to have online coop up to 4 players, split in 2 teams that would fight through different missions before meeting again to kill the boss together. Online Versus mode was also planned, set in a virtual-reality world similar to VR missions in Metal Gear Solid. This could have been a third person or first person shooter, depending on the best prototype they could work on.

As this was only an early pitch they were still thinking about the best Konami IP to use for their first online game. If Contra could have been a risky series (because of its hardcore fans), other possibilities were open such as using the Project Overkill IP instead.

In the end disagreements between Konami of Japan and Konami America killed the american team. Many of their latest games were canned, such as Survivor: Day One for Nintendo 64

Naughty Dog’s Lost Sci-Fi Game (Savage Starlight?) [PS3 – Cancelled]

Today Naughty Dog is mostly loved for their modern-world adventures, such as the Uncharted and The Last of Us Series, but during the PS2 generation they were mostly known for their Fantasy Sci-Fi series: Jak and Daxter. It’s easy to see how they would have considered another futuristic project when they moved development to the Playstation 3 and while a Jack & Daxter 4 was pitched, they also planned a different, more mature Sci-Fi adventure

This cancelled untitled Sci-Fi game was revealed by them in their “Naughty Dog’s 30th Anniversaryart book (you can buy it on Amazon UK, Amazon USA or Amazon IT) with a few details

“We explored the idea of doing a science fiction game following the Jak and Daxter franchise, complete with androids, robots, and futuristic weapons. The sci-fi game was going to be centered around a city that had been built up around a giant hole in the ground. No one knew exactly what created the hole, but the adventure would have the player exploring the depths.”

In the end Naughty Dog worked on Uncharted instead and it became such a huge success to shape up their following projects and sequels. There are some rumors about a possible resurrection of their Sci-Fi concept, thanks to an interview by Gamecrate with Naughty Dog game director Bruce Straley:

“Yeah, I’m not gonna drop hints to what it is, because who knows, it might actually happen. There’s one image in there that’s still in the back of my mind that I’d like to make a game out of. There’s one image. I’m just letting you know that it’s very possible. There’s still a story, there’s some great game ideas, there’s a lot of really cool stuff in the thing, like I think it’d be really cool to see if Naughty Dog could do this game. I don’t think anybody else could do this game like Naughty Dog could do this game. It’s one image.”

Some people relate this lost Sci-Fi pitch with another Sci-Fi story titled “Savage Starlight”, a fictional comic book series that Naughty Dog put into The Last of Us as collectible items. While the name “Savage Starlight” is mostly used by fans to indicate ND’s future, possible science-fiction game, it seems the plot of the comics is quite different from what is know of their cancelled PS3 project

“Set in the year 2186, the plot of Savage Starlight centers around Dr. Daniela Star’s adventures in space. She discovers a method of traveling faster than light via a jump drive, and soon finds that a group of hostile extraterrestrial known as the Travelers are threatening mankind. “

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