Sony

OneChanbara Reboot (Darkworks) [Cancelled Pitch – PS3, Xbox 360]

Darkworks was an independent French studio not widely known by the average gamer, but they released a couple of fan favorite games as Alone in the Dark: The New Nightmare (Playstation, Dreamcast and PC) and Cold Fear (PS2, PC and Xbox). The company was founded in 1998 and unfortunately was closed down in 2012, because of economic issues and difficulties in founding new publishers for their titles. In about 15 years of activity, Darkworks were able to successfully complete and release only 2 games, while all their other projects were either cancelled or moved to different developers. There are already a good number of interesting lost Darkworks games in the Unseen64 archive, but many more still remain unseen and even if we tried multiple times to get in contact with people that worked at the studio, it seems almost impossible to know more about what happened to them or to their cancelled games.

Between all those unfinished projects once in development at Darkworks, there was what it looks like a reboot of the OneChanbara series originally created by Tamsoft, the games in which to play as a girl in bikini and cowboy hat, slashing down enemies with double katanas. In the images archived below, you can see that they created a concept art for a western version of Aya (the “clothes” are identical to the original character), one of the main protagonist of OneChanbara. We can speculate that Darkworks tried to pitch to D3 Publisher a new OneChanbara game for PS3 and Xbox 360, during the same time in which D3 also tested a western version of their popular Earth Defense Force series by letting Vicious Cycle Software to develop EDF: Insect Armageddon. Unfortunately for Darkworks, this project was not greenlighted and we’ll never know how good a French OneChanbara could have been. Only a few concept arts remain, to preserve the existence of this lost pitch.

Thanks to Dorwaks for the contribution!

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P.I.G. (Team 17) [Playstation, PC – Cancelled]

P.I.G. (Team 17) [Playstation, PC – Cancelled]

P.I.G. is an interesting 3D platform adventure game that was in development by Team 17 for Playstation and PC, with a planned release in spring 1999. The project was started around 1996, following Mario 64 and the 3D platform craze of the late ‘90, but even with some great premises PIG was cancelled after more than 2 years of development. The only proof of existence of this game seems to be its announcement in an old Team 17 special in Total Control magazine issue 1 (November 1998), where the studio shown many of the projects they were working on, along with Phoenix, Stunt Gran Prix, Project WM and Worms Armageddon.

P.I.G.’s gameplay would have followed similar style of popular games in the same genre as Banjo Kazooie, with the main character being a pig named George, working as a private investigator (this explain the title’s acronym: Private Investigator George) hired to solve the mysterious disappearance of a bunch of piglets, kidnapped by the evil Dr. Gotem in the strange and puzzle filled Fun Dazzle Magic Land theme park.

8 main themed areas (as Mars, the Arctic, Fairy Tales, a Volcano, etc.) were planned and each theme was subdivided into 3 or 4 sub-levels, filled with areas to explore, traps and puzzles, giving a total of around 40 different environments to play in. Lots of different minigames were also available to players, as arcade machines featuring PIG-style versions of some classic games and surreal sections where George was swallowed by a giant pumpkin lantern or shrunk to minute size. George would have used different outfits for each area climate, for example by wearing a sweater and wool hat in the snow level, and more than 60 NPCs (between enemies to fight and friends to help) would have moved around the world.

While this kind of gameplay could not be the most interesting one by today’s standard, back in the day when 3D platform-adventures were some of the most loved games, PIG could really have been a hit. After its reveal in Total Control Magazine, the project seems to have been vanished forever and there are no more info available on its features or why it was cancelled. In an interview by MCV with Team 17 Co-Founder & CEO Debbie Bestwick, she remember how in late ‘90 the huge success of Worms made them to lose sight of how to develop other great games, and they lost a lot of money on a series of unreleased projects:

“For around ten of the past 25 years, all of them ironically post-Worms launching, we came so close to losing the business numerous times due to game slippage, less than smart business decisions and publisher traumas. Worms changed everything about the company in 1995. Prior to that we were doing some very cool stuff – similar to what we are doing right now actually – with amazing games talent from around the world and I often wonder what else we would have done had Worms not landed. We should have stayed true to what we had been doing, but overnight nothing mattered but Worms. We really thought we were superstars and everything we touched would turn to gold, but the reality was that a lot of money was wasted on games that were never released. These included Rollcage, Allegiance, Witchwood, P.I.G, and so many more I won’t mention. I’d say, looking back now, that the Worms IP was as much a Godsend as a poison chalice.”

Thanks to Ross Sillifant for the contribution! If you know someone that worked on this game and could help to preserve more screens or videos, please let us know!

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Necroscope [PS2, Xbox – Cancelled]

Necroscope is a cancelled psychological survival horror that was in development in 2002 / 2003 by Mobius Entertainment for Xbox and Playstation 2. The studio was mostly know for a series of ports and tie-in for GBA and Nescroscope would have been one of their first projects for home consoles. The game would have let players to investigate the world using extra-sensory perception and supernatural powers, as possessing other characters and monsters. It seems that gameplay would have been a mix between a detective adventure (L.A. Noire), horror sections against monsters (Silent Hill), while using special abilities to interact with the environment and resolve puzzles (Second Sight, Psi-Ops). As wrote by Edge Magazine (issue 117) in Necroscope we would have played as a “unique blend of a Jedi Knight and James Bond“.

The story and characters of the game were based on Brian Lumley’s series of sci-fi horror novels, a setting that would have offered a complex plot to unveil and an original way to interact with spirits:

“The term necroscope, as defined in the series, describes someone who can communicate with the dead (coined Deadspeak later in the series). Unlike necromancers, who here extract the knowledge they seek by brutal eviscerations of corpses, a necroscope can communicate with them as equals: peacefully and without any physical interference.”

In 2004 Mobius Entertainment was acquired by Rockstar Games (for which they already developed the GBA conversion of Max Payne in 2003) becoming Rockstar Leeds. After the buyout, home consoles games that were in development by Mobius (Necroscope and Titanium Angels) were canned and the studio focused their resources on creating portable games for PSP.  As we can read in an interview by Ross Sillifant with Dan Hunter (former Lead Artist and Game Designer at Mobius):

Ross: Talking of canned games, Necroscope,previewed in Edge for PS2 and Xbox, described as a cocktail of jedi mind tricks and sophisticated espionage, this was to be Mobius Entertainment’s 1st crack at a survival horror title. From the 4 screens shown, the game engine looked superb, very much inspired by Silent Hill, but it didn’t appear gameplay was as far along as the visuals at this point (Dec’2002). Game was set for a Q4 2003 release, so again, any insights as to what became of it, would be fantastic.

Dan: Necroscope suffered similar issues to Titanium Angels. You’re correct, the game was to be a survival horror game, set in late 70’s, early 80’s, London. Think Silent Hill mixed with the TV show ‘The Professionals’. I loved the concept and setting. I spent a huge amount of time “researching”, watching boxsets of The Professionals, The Sweeny, and films like ‘Who Dares Wins’ (‘The Final Option’ in the U.S). I’d say that actually the gameplay was further along than Titanium Angels ever was. Unfortunately the same pattern emerged, the play style changed over time. Where at one point there was to be little to no gun play or violence, with the vibe firmly set on exploration and playing detective, it slowing changing into shooting and snapping necks from behind cover. For me that was a real shame, I think it had the potential to be something different. There weren’t many people doing a spin on the horror genre, especially something set in the 70’s-80’s (this was pre Vice City). I still think about what it could have been, and I’m a little bummed to think it never happened. The other issue was that it was being developed without a publisher, so therefore wasn’t bringing in any money. Other games were, so naturally that was the focus. ‘Sound of Thunder’ was one, but the main one was ‘Max Payne’. Mobius was tasked with doing the Gameboy Advance version. As people may know, after that Rockstar bought Mobius Entertainment and renamed it Rockstar Leeds. I had left during the development of Necroscope and before the Rockstar buy out, so I can’t give the precise reason for its cancellation, but it’s clear to me that a small horror game set in 70’s London based on a series of books isn’t part of Rockstar’s bigger plans.

Thanks to Ross Sillifant for the contribution! Article translated in Russian thanks to Sergey Tyutin!

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Warfare Afghanistan (Conflict Reboot) [Cancelled – Xbox 360, PS3]

Warfare Afghanistan is a cancelled third person team based tactical shooter that was in development by Pivotal Games in 2007 / 2008 for Xbox 360 and PS3. The project was meant to be a reboot of the Conflict series of which the last chapter was Conflict: Denied Ops, published in 2008 by Eidos Interactive. Conflict: Desert Storm 1 & 2 were loved by many fans for their fun coop multiplayer, in which each mission has to be played with a bit of strategy, using the special skills of each character to be able to survive and to complete the most complex objectives.

Unfortunately the last games in the series lost the charm of the originals and Denied Ops was mostly a linear, single player experience: it was clear for the team that they had to reboot their saga, to earn again the love of their fans. Planned to have a full coop campaign up to 4 players offline (split-screen) and online, Warfare Afghanistan would have returned to Conflict’s roots, to create a compelling gameplay, with strategy and collaboration between players at its core.

The game’s story and setting were also meant to be something deeper than the usual shooter. The team wanted to create something like Spec Ops: The Line in terms of realism and players’ experience, by hiring a military consultant and slowing down the pace of the game, following a plot that handled the Afghanistan conflict, with all its moral dilemmas.

Unfortunately Warfare Afghanistan was still in early development when Pivotal Games’ parent company Sales Curve Interactive / Eidos (now Square Enix Europe) decide to disband the studio in August 2008, probably because of internal restructure and low sales of their last game. Only a pitch prototype was done before the cancellation, with basic cover, animations and melee mechanics: by looking at the footage available we can only imagine what could have been and it’s sad to know that the team did not have a chance to win back again the heart of their fans.

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Saints Row: Undercover [PSP – Cancelled]

Saints Row: Undercover (also known as Saints Row: The Fall in its early phase) is a cancelled chapter in the popular over-the-top open world series by Volition, planned to be released for Sony’s PSP. This game was meant to be the first entry of Saints Row for portable consoles and while a 3DS version was also announced many years ago (titled Saints Row: Drive-By), neither of them were ever released.

Development on Undercover was originally started by Mass Media Games (that already worked with Volition on the PS3 version of Saints Row 2) and then transferred to Savage Entertainment (the same team that ported Star Wars: Battlefront II and Medal of Honor: Vanguard to the PSP). Initially Volition wanted to simply port Saints Row 2 to the PSP, but after a while the project became a new, original sequel, with its own story and characters.

Saints Row: The Fall  was to be set between Saints Row 1 and 2, but thanks to the success of SR2 they later decided to create a sequel to the second game, to expand its story and making it more interesting for the fans. In Saints Row PSP the city would have been split as a result of a civil war within the Saints. The Third Street Saints, who the player would have joined, possessed only a little area in the middle. We would have took the role of an undercover cop, charged with investigating the civil war within the Saints, and at the end of the game we could have decided to join them and betray the police.

The plan for Undercover was to create something similar to the GTA games for the PSP, keeping the core gameplay of the series, with crazy gameplay, a fun world to explore, character customization and coop multiplayer. The game would have had 20 main story missions to complete, along with the usual SR side activities to earn respect points.

Savage Entertainment developed a short playable prototype, but unfortunately after multiple reviews Volition decided that Undercover just wasn’t meeting the standards of what they thought a Saints Row game should be. The game was cancelled and the PSP dev kit on which the project was created was hidden away in one of Volition’s storage rooms.

Only many years later Saints Row: Undercover was found again thanks to Josh Stinson (Associate Video Editor at Volition), that stumbled upon that PSP dev kit while looking around their office. After talking about it with colleagues and with the support of Alexander Mejia (Video Producer at Volition) and Mike Watson (Community Manager at Volition), they were able to convince their bosses that such a lost games should have been shared with the fans, as an interesting curiosity and a piece of gaming history to preserve. During Volition’s stream on Twitch on the 22January 2016 they officially shown Saints Row: Undercover to the world and this Thursday (Jan 28) they will do a dedicated stream around 4pm CST.

Please join their stream on Twitch the 28th of January to see more from this lost game and to ask every questions you have directly to Volition! This is really important as if this stream will be successful Volition will release even more info on other cancelled games!

Below you can download Saints Row: Undercover walk through, design doc and fully playable prototype, also shared by the lovely people at Volition. Huge props to them!

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