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Cryptid Hunter [PS3 – Cancelled]

Cryptid Hunter: The Legend of Kipling Mckay is a cancelled action adventure monster hunting game that was in development for Playstation 3 by Saffire Corporation in the mid ‘00s. Saffire was a small games studio founded in the early 90s, that developed such games as Bio F.R.E.A.K.S. and Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six for Nintendo 64, Barbarian and Van Helsing for Playstation 2. Around 2006 they quietly announced their new game titled “Cryptid Hunter”, planned to be their first project for the 7th generation of consoles.

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The game’s protagonist was Kipling Mckay, an “Indiana Jones meets Rocketeer and 1930’s Explorers” type of character. Cryptid Hunter was set in a Victorian Age of Steampunk, a fantasy and funny sci-fi story similar to classic “Saturday matinee” serial heroes from the 1930s through the 1950s and old-school American comics. The project was conceived by Mick Todd, at the time working as a 3D Artist for Saffire. As we can read on his website:

“Legends have told us there are creatures in our world that defy imagination, that unsteady the sturdiest of soldiers, that frighten the greatest of adventurers, shake the beliefs of religious leaders and cause scientists to question their very knowledge. To find these creatures has been the goal of a lucky few, the extremely wealthy, the privileged and those that run the world and want to keep it that way. To capture these monsters, they employ swashbucklers, guns for hire, heroic adventurers who conquer anything or anyone, especially for money. To exploit these legendary beasts they con the greatest of scientists, for trophies, for weapons, and to profit from war.

Hearkening back to the Victorian Age of Steampunk Adventure comes KIPLING MCKAY (“Kip”), a mysterious safari hunter who is recruited by a secret society of Cryptozoologists to hunt and capture these mythical creatures also known as CRYPTIDS.”

While Saffire never shown any gameplay from the project by looking at the available concept art we can speculate it could have been played somehow like a mission-based action adventure, with some huge monsters to hunt down. This new IP was meant to be used by Saffire for multiple markets including feature films, television, comic books and toys. The project featured artwork by such talented artists as Frank Frazetta, Mike Mignola, Simon Bisley, Alex Horley and Weta Workshop.

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Unfortunately Cryptic Hunter could have been too ambitious for the small team at Saffire. We don’t know how much of the game was done before its cancellation, but by looking at their latest released games (Peter Pan: The Motion Picture Event, Van Helsing. Around the World in 80 Days, Thunderbirds) before the closure of the studio we can assume they had some difficulties in finding a publisher interested in their new project.

There are some rumors about Saffire trying to pitch a slightly modified version of Cryptic Hunter to Konami as a new Castlevania game (maybe when Konami was searching for a western studio for the new 3D Castlevania), but without any luck. In the end Saffire went out of business in 2007.

Thanks to Sean-Paul for the contribution!

 

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

Videos:

 

“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