Playstation

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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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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Justice for Hire (Midway) [Playstation – Cancelled]

Justice for Hire is a cancelled action adventure / survival horror game that was in development by Big Ape Productions, planned to be published by Midway for the original Playstation. BAP was a small studio based in Novato (CA), that worked on such games as Herc’s Adventures, Gauntlet: Dark Legacy, The Simpsons Wrestling and Celebrity Deathmatch. Sometime in late ’90s – early ’00s they got hired by Midway to develop Justice for Hire, but the project was never officially announced and there are no details about how it would have been played.

Only a few screenshots are saved in the gallery below, to remember the existence of this lost game. Justice for Hire featured pre-rendered backgrounds and was set in a modern-day city, exploring worn-down apartments and basements. We can speculate the game could have been similar to Resident Evil or Fear Effect.

In 2003 Big Ape Productions closed down, after most of their projects did not sell as expected by publishers. We tried many times to get in contact with former BAP developers, but with no luck. If you know someone who worked on Justice for Hire and could help us to preserve more details about the game, please let us know!

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Chi Yong [Playstation – Cancelled]

Chi Yong is a cancelled fighting game in development by Lightspeed Productions for the original Playstation in 1996. This is quite an obscure and forgotten project: we can’t even find any detail about its developers. Chi Yong was officially announced in a few websites and gaming magazines in late 1996. It was meant to be a 4 players fighting game game featuring digitized actors, similar to Mortal Kombat. Some of the actors were even the same.

As we can read in an old press release:

MK Actors to Star in New Fighting Game

Martial arts actors used in the Mortal Kombat series are being digitised again for forthcoming title Chi Yong. HoSang Pak, Daniel Pesina, Katalin Zamier, Phillip Ahn and Liz Malecki all featured in various Mortal Kombat incarnations. They have been picked to show off their martial arts prowess for Lightspeed Productions forthcoming beat-’em up.

Chi Yong (a working title which means ‘spirit of the dragon’) is a four-play multi-tap fighting game for PlayStation. Right now it’s about 20 per cent complete and should be available by the end of this year. A spokesperson for the company commented: “Most of the actors digitized are black belts in martial arts. We feel that using real martial artists with experience gives realism and authenticity to the fighting game.”

The story gets even weirder when you find out that the same actors were already planned to be featured in “Thea Realm Fighters”, a cancelled 1 VS 1 fighting game in development by High Voltage Software for the Atari Jaguar (later leaked online). There’s even a TRF promotional poster given away at E3 1995 in which we can read “ⓒ Lightspeed Productions” written in the bottom-left. We don’t know what kind of relationship High Voltage Software had with Lightspeed Productions. We can’t find any more details about who Lightspeed Productions were or what happened to them.

It seems TRF was almost complete in 1996 when Atari cancelled it alongside other upcoming Jaguar projects. We can speculate that its assets (such as the digitized actors) were kept by Lightspeed Productions to develop Chi Yong for Playstation. While the two games used the same characters, Chi Yong was expanded to become a 4 players fighting game, a nice addition for a Mortal Kombat clone.

If you know someone who worked at Lightspeed Productions, please let us know!

Thanks to eSpy for the contribution!

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BioTech: Liberator [Playstation, PC – Cancelled]

BioTech: Liberator is a cancelled first person action game in development around 1998 by australian studio Beam Software (AKA Infogrames / Atari Melbourne House and Krome Studios Melbourne), planned to be published on Playstation and PC. Previously the same studio developed and released KKND2: Krossfire for PC and Playstation.

BioTech: Liberator was quite original for its time, with players using morphing mechs / vehicles to resolve different missions in a strange gameplay mix between “Soviet Strike”, “Blast Corps” and Lemmings. Some details about the project can be found in an old press-release:

“You’re stuck in a steaming alien jungle with nothing but your own sweat for company. The enemy has a lock on your position and they’re rapidly closing in. Your shields are down to 14%, you’ve got just two guided missiles left in your BioTech Assault Tank, and if you stay put you’re dead meat. So, what are you going to do? Panic and start crying? Or do you get a little creative… ?

In BioTech: Liberator you take control of a single combat vehicle, but one capable of morphing into widely differing forms, providing you’re carrying the relevant Transform Pod to make the change. Each form has its own unique abilities and weapons and since you’re up against an entire planet of warmongering nasties, you’ll be needing them all if you want to get out of there in one piece.

It’s partly about blowing the enemy into gooey, bite-sized chunks, but it’s also about using the different forms of the biotech vehicle to the best effect – transformations are limited. Much as we hate to use other games as a point of reference, think Soviet StrikeTM meets Blast CorpsTM, with just a pinch of LemmingsTM. In short, a killer mix of strategic problem solving, white-knuckled action and hefty explosions!

Key Features are:

  • A wide range of unique and awesome weapons, a deadly enemy and fiendish puzzles to solve
  • Fully deformable true 3D landscape – if you don’t like the way something looks, blow it up!
  • Multiple 2 player modes. Choose from Deathmatch, Conquer and Chase variations
  • Support for force feedback devices

Some more details were found in a Russian website, featuring a few screenshots taken from an unknown magazine:

The game consists of at least 30 missions (20 standard, 5 bonus and a few secret ones), which often require not only shooting, but also finding items, saving hostages, capturing enemy bases, and much more.

BioTech: Liberator was planned to be released in 1999, but the same year the studio was sold to Infogrames. It’s possible that Infogrames decided to cancel the game to switch resources on more safe and profitable projects, as GP 500 and Le Mans 24 Hours.

If you know someone who worked on this lost game, please let us know!

Thanks to Visurox & Edward Kirk for the contribution!

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