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Aero the Acrobat 3: A3RO [Playstation – Cancelled Pitch]

Aero the Acrobat 3 (also known as A3RO or Aero 3D) is the cancelled third chapter in the action platformer series composed by Aero the Acrobat, Aero the Acro-Bat 2 and Zero the Kamikaze Squirrel. Aero 3D was conceived at Universal Interactive Studios in the mid ‘90s, while they were also working with Naughty Dog to create the first Crash Bandicoot for Playstation.

David Siller was the original creator of the Aero the Acrobat series and he later bought back his Aero IP and sold it to Universal Interactive Studios, when he was hired to produce two new 3D platformers: Crash Bandicoot and Aero the Acrobat 3D. In the mid nineties 3D platformers where one of the most successful genres and Universal Studios wanted to to take advantage of the profitable Playstation market to make some money.

As wrote by David in his (now deleted) Facebook page “Crash Bandicoot Untold Story” (archived by Crash Mania):

“Tension was heighten at Universal as they bought from me an IP that I had created at SUNSOFT called “Aero the Acrobat”. I had just bought it from Sunsoft as I departed there for the Universal lot!  Rubin and Gavin again went on the extreme offensive believing that Universal’s new acquisition would become more important than Crash or Willy. I began also designing the new AERO 3D polygonal video game to be added to the line-up.”

In 2016 David shared a few pages from the Aero the Acrobat 3 design doc in his Twitter account (now deleted):

david siller aero the acrobat 3

From these documents it seems the game would have had multiple playable protagonists and 3D flying levels.

From what we know the game was still in early conceptual phase when it was canned. We can speculate that the success of Crash Bandicoot and the internal issues between David, Universal Interactive Studios and Naughty Dog put and end to the project. As we can read from the same archive at Crash Mania:

“Back in Rubin’s office, he was angry at me about “this letter” and then threaten my life! He said I was going to be sorry! I did NOT report this to management or anyone one else at that time. I was a mature adult who could take this and I wasn’t afraid of Rubin as I came from a tough neighborhood and had loads of associates myself. Rubin’s father was a lawyer and I suppose told him to always act tough or people will shit on you. Those tactics do NOT work, but that was the final straw. Mark Cerny then used this severed relationship to get involved as Sony had just arrived. He said quote “They don’t like you!”….”

“When I was hired to join Universal Interactive Studios, it was owned by Matsushita Electric, the largest Electronics manufacturer in the World located in Japan. It was run by the longest in place Management team in all of Hollywood, Lew Wasserman and Sid Sheinberg! It was utopia as far as I was concerned. Everything was so damn cool, everything the Studio did was classy and first rate. Soon as Crash Bandicoot was approaching completion, Matsushita sold their majority interest to the Canadian distillery Seagrams! Everything then became chaotic and all the top tier managers were fired. Sony then came into the picture and that caused even more chaos. This of course played into Rubin and Gavin’s agenda and the s*** hit the fan!”

It’s currently unknown what happened to David after he deleted all his online profiles and if he’s still working on video games.

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Maximo: the Dark Knight [PS2 – Cancelled Pitch]

Maximo: the Dark Knight is a cancelled “Adults Only” (AO) game pitch that was considered by Capcom USA to develop as a spiritual sequel to the Ghosts ‘n Goblins series. After Capcom of Japan shown their Ghosts ‘n Goblins N64 prototype to the press in 1996 (a game that was never released), a year later Capcom USA conceived their own pitch for Maximo on the Nintendo 64. As revealed by William (Bill) Anderson (Senior Game Designer for Maximo) in an interview published in our book “Video Games You Will Never Play”:

“Bill: When I came to Capcom to develop Maximo the N64 was still the hot market, but Capcom USA only had one development team at the time and they were all working on Final Fight Revenge, which I was told would wrap up soon. Well soon doesn’t mean the same thing in Japan I guess for FFR had a producer over here from Japan and he wasn’t in any great hurry to finish the game. So it took a really long time to finally get a start date for the production and by then the N64 wasn’t king anymore and I was asked to change all of my designs to Playstation.”

Final Fight Revenge was available in the arcades in mid 1999, but Capcom USA already started their new Playstation 2 pitch for Maximo: the Dark Knight in late 1998, to be able to start development before Sony’s second console would be released in March 2000. Their idea was to create an action game for adult gamers, with violent gameplay, realistic visuals and a mature storyline. To conceive a dark medieval fantasy setting suitable for their new game, David Siller (Creative Concept and Studio Director for Maximo) got in contact with Joe Pearson, writer and producer for such series as Roswell Conspiracies and Kong: The Animated Series. As written by Joe to Ross Sillifant:

“It all took place in 1998. This was a paid gig from Capcom who approached me through a contact via David Siller whom I had worked with on the first Crash game. At the time, Capcom was seriously considering doing a hard R-rated for violence and sex dark Maximo medieval fantasy game and they wanted me to write up a concept Bible and opening game cinematic/introduction.

This was a dream come true as I was a big fan of Michael Moorcock’s brilliant Elric book series and a real opportunity to delve into my own dark side and cut loose with some edgy over-the-top world building and scenarios. The result you can read for yourself. I think it’s pretty, horrifically successful in a dark fantasy way.

It wasn’t easy as I was in full production as the Show Runner on the 40 episode animated Roswell Conspiracies series, but it was such a rare opportunity to cut loose, I made the time over a long weekend to write it up. Well, Capcom paid me for it, and then shifted over to the G-rated mode for the game itself so I never got to write out the script scenarios for the sexed up “Princess reward levels”.  Oh well, that’s entertainment.”

In this opening scene written by Joe for the undeveloped Maximo: the Dark Knight pitch we can read:

“FADE IN on a tortured landscape of jutting rocks and twisted trees. Flames burn from crevices torn in the barren earth. Smoke and fumes fill the screen. Distant, giant shapes can be dimly seen dwarfing the stunted trees. As the narrator speaks we slowly PUSH IN. The shapes emerge from the smoke—a deformed, one eyed cyclops with huge, misshapen hands and a second, tusked face embedded in its chest, a dead white giant worm, with the multiple legs and clawed tail of an earwig and the face of a baby, a jet black female Centaur with red burning eyes and hair, a sickly green, multi-limbed octopus with the face of a beatific, painted geisha (each tentacle ends in a lamprey toothed mouth), and a hairy, spider-like creature with the head of a ravening wolf, etc. (go wild, use your imagination)

We move past the monsters to reveal Lilith on her titanic obsidian throne. She is supremely beautiful and terrifying. A giant, red skinned demoness, with black bat shaped wings and huge bull like horns (I’m picturing a beautiful female version of the Tim Curry character from “Legend”. Her lower legs and feet are goat-like. She caresses the head of a massive catlike creature with the spiked tail and armor of a stegosaurus. Piles of thousands of human skulls form pyramids on either side of her throne.”

The original draft script for Maximo: The Dark Knight’s prologue is preserved in here.

In the end Capcom USA sent their pitch for this adult-only Maximo to Capcom of Japan, that unfortunately rejected their idea. As told us by William:

“No, no prototype of a realistic Maximo was ever produced. Once we submitted the full game design document to Capcom Japan, along with the concept art we produced they pushed back and said that they wanted all of the realistic looking games to come out of Capcom Japan, so that’s when we had to change the look and feel of the game. It was our intent to make a gritty and dark game from the start, so we were a bit ticked off when our producer rep from Japan showed up with a first playable demo of Devil May Cry, for it had the look and feel of what we had originally proposed. Oh well, nonetheless we ended up with a game more successful than even Capcom Japan had expected, so much so that they asked us to convert the game to Japanese first, so they could do a big launch of the game in Japan, before here in the US.

Their second concept for a Ghosts ‘n Goblins’ spiritual sequel was Maximo: Ghosts to Glory, later released for Playstation 2 in December 2001. Maximo became a cult-classic for the console, but unfortunately the second episode “Maximo vs. Army of Zinsold poorly and the third Maximo game had to be cancelled.

Thanks to Ross Sillifant for the contribution! 

Beneath (Presto Studios) [Playstation, PC – Cancelled]

Beneath is a cancelled action adventure that was in development by Presto Studios in mid / late ‘90s, to be published by Activision for the original Playstation and PC. The game was quite hyped at the time: it was presented as a “Tomb Raider” killer, with such lines as “Deeper than any Tomb” and “More dangerous than any woman“. As we can read on The Journeyman Project website:

“Follow the exploits of Jack Wells as he searches for his missing father, a renowned archaeologist, down a mysterious network of tunnels deep into the earth. The game features a cutting-edge 3D engine with support for hardware acceleration and levels full of amazing uncharted civilizations to explore, climb and swing your way through.”

Presto Studios wanted to add more than Tomb Raider in their inspirations, and such names as H.G. Wells or Jules Verne were dropped in old press releases, such as in this one by CNN:

“Is the world ready for a revisionist H.G. Wells or Jules Verne adventure game? Presto Studios and Activision think so. In Beneath, Presto (of Journeyman Project fame) is convinced that Tomb Raider opened a door for third-person adventures, but the earlier game relied upon its good looks and lacked easy input control and depth of storytelling.

So Presto set off to build a game around Jack, a turn-of-the-century (19th/20th) adventurer out to track down his missing father whose expedition to the pole has gone terribly wrong. In the best Wells/Verne tradition, Jack discovers an underground world with an entirely unique social and eco-system. Three societies inhabit the underground – a Troglodyte world, a Morlock world, and an Insectoid world. Strangely, all three are biologically and socially connected, the questions to be uncovered are how are they connected and what are they up do?

Whether beefcake Jack will draw women to beneath the same way Tomb Raider’s Lara captivated men is unknown, but Presto definitely has a grand vision for an adventure game in Beneath. Unfortunately, despite obvious enthusiasm behind their product, the first couple of times Beneath was brought in for demonstration to PC Games, there wasn’t a whole lot in evidence to get excited about. These early alphas were all software rendered, there weren’t any adversaries or creatures and nothing to explore but dingy mineshafts. What’s more, the producers seem somewhat disdainful of the need for 3D acceleration in third-person games.

This week Activision trotted Beneath through the office again and we’re happy to report there’s a lot more there to talk about. First, Glide support was finally added a couple of weeks ago. Direct3D will come later, as well high-resolution versions of Jack, but the difference 3D acceleration brings to the game is enormous. Activision won’t release updated screens, so we were forced to run the accompanying E3 SVGA screens, but we’re happy to report that Presto’s texture work is often stunning in 3D.

[…] Now for the targets. Presto still hasn’t put many adversaries into the game, but at least we got to play with some early giant spiders and earwigs. They’re still pretty stupid, and we’d still like to see how the Morlocks and Insectoids are coming along, but this is still progress.”

Thanks to some previews published in gaming magazines at the time we know that Beneath would have been set in 12 different levels spread over 3 lost civilizations. The more players would descent deeper beneath the earth’s surface, the more technologically advanced the lost civilization would became.

In the end Presto Studios were not able to keep up with creating their ambitious 3D adventure, being more used to developing pre-rendered point and click adventures, such as their The Journeyman Project series and Myst III: Exile. A full 3D action adventure game was not an easy task to create and competition was high, with many Tomb Raider clones releasing on Playstation.

Beneath was cancelled and in 2002 the studio was closed down, after the release of their Xbox title Whacked.

Thanks to Mark and Ross Sillifant for the contribution!

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Beowulf: Viking Warrior [Cancelled – PC, PS3, Xbox 360]

Beowulf: Viking Warrior is a cancelled video game based on the Old English epic poem, in development in 2006 for PC (and possibly Playstation 3 and Xbox 360) by German team 4HEAD Studios (now known as Cranberry Production) before the 2007 animated movie directed by Robert Zemeckis and before Ubisoft’s own Beowulf 2007 tie-in game.

As we can read in its original press-release:

“BEOWULF is a third person action adventure with role-playing elements. Explore the northlands, fight enemies both natural and supernatural, and prove your worth among the heroes of old.

BEOWULF is based on a nordic saga that dates back to the 6th century AD. The game captures the adventure spirit of the early Viking Age, creating a unique visual interpretation of the world of norse legends with state-of-the-art 3D graphics.

BEOWULF is very combat-driven, and features a unique and innovative melee fighting system. It is the first game to bring an authentic simulation of medieval sword-fencing to the computer game medium. The advanced physics simulation system provides a high level of realism and dynamic gameplay.

Features that make the game stand out:

* combat system that faithfully emulates medieval sword-fencing

* vivid characters and beautiful 3D environments

* cutting-edge 3D technology with striking visual effects

* integrated realtime physics for action-packed gameplay

* well-known name and scenario (especially among the Tolkien fan community).”

Images shared by 4HEAD Studios show a few concept art and early renders depicting the most iconic characters and places of the original Beowulf legend, such as the protagonist itself, the monster Grendl, his mother, the Dragon, the Mead Hall. However, no actual gameplay is seen so we can assume the team was still in early development.

Gamespot used to have two teaser trailers of the game, but they are currently unavailable. Beowulf’s tie-in game released by Ubisoft in 2007 was a very different product, since it relied on the latest movie version of the Beowulf character, instead the original poem. Gameplay also deviated from 4HEAD’s concept with RPG elements, and Ubisoft’s game was more an hack ‘n slash similar to God of War.

As we can read on IGN, after Ubisoft announced their game based on the movie, 4HEAD was not able to find a publisher interested in their own version, so it had to be cancelled:

“So today 4Head (now part of DTP Entertainment) announced that its Beowulf project is no more. The company sold its trademarks, web domains and other assets related to the game to Paramount.

“With the announcement of Ubisoft’s offical game based on the movie and the conceivable competitive situation, we were seeing publishers unwilling to support our game,” said the game’s Executive Producer, Gustaf Stechmann. “We thus lacked the resources needed to drive the project’s development forward. Luckily, we had the older rights to the use of the name. The buy-out deal with Paramount was therefore the logical exit strategy.”

Thanks to AkitoKuno for the contribution!

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Brooklyn Stories [Cancelled – Xbox 360, PS3, PC]

Brooklyn Stories is a cancelled adventure game that was in development in 2008 / 2009 by French team Lexis Numérique, planned to be released on Playstation 3, Xbox 360 and PC. The project was quite ambitious and original for its time, mixing interactive storytelling, several playable characters, multiple narrative paths and some kind of “time travel” mechanic in which you could go forth and back in time to modify the fate of its protagonists.

Brooklyn Stories would have been played somehow like a mix between The Sims, Disgaea Infinite, Shadow of Memories and games by Quantic Dream (Omikron, Heavy Rain, Detroit: Become Human) and Telltale (The Walking Dead, Batman: The Telltale Series). Players would have been able to play as many different characters living in Brooklyn in the same townhouse building, following an intricate storyline spanning from the 1930s to the ‘00s.

Each character had their own life and problems to resolve. You would have been able to observe them living in their apartment and listen to their thoughts or dialogues with other characters, to help them or interfere with their actions by choosing how they would react or which item to use in different situations. Each choice would then change the course of the following events and each event would affect other characters and their related events, until reaching one of the many different endings. You could always go back in time to make different choices and see different reactions to each different action.

The game was divided into chapters set in several years, but always following the lives of the inhabitants of the same townhouse building. Each chapter had many endings which would then affect what would happen in the following ones. It was quite the intricate and epic storyline, touching the daily lives of normal people but also political, social and criminal intrigues. You could interact with the characters living in Brooklyn Stories to trigger funny and comical skits but also to save their life from violent murders.

Unfortunately after 2 years of development Brooklyn Stories was canned by its publisher, leaving Lexis Numérique with an incomplete project and without funds to continue working on it. In the following years the team developed less ambitious games such as Tales of Elastic Boy (2010, WiiWare) and  Amy (2011, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC), but with low sales and without publishers backing up other major projects they had to close down in 2014.

Only a few images and a short trailer are preserved below to remember the existence of this promising, lost game.

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