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Bujingai 2 [PS2 – Cancelled]

Bujingai 2 [PS2 – Cancelled]

Taito and Red Entertainment once made one of the best action hack-and-slash games of all time on the PS2. An homage to Hong Kong cinema, with an amalgamation of some incredible ideas tossed in. The game was released exclusively on PS2 for North America, Japan, Europe, South Korea, and Taiwan. While the game had all the ingredients that make a hack and slash fun, it sadly flopped on the commercial side.

Even if the game didn’t meet Taito’s expectations, the developers wanted to make a sequel and push the story forward, but that didn’t happen. This can be explored in an old blog post from Gamasutra where Hiroshi Aoki said the following:

” Well, the company wanted to go in certain directions… (laughs) I did want to make more, but anyway, it didn’t really happen.”

But wait, there’s more. According to an interview from the Untold History of Japanese Game Developers by John Sczepaniak, it was revealed that an actual prototype of a Bujingai sequel existed. However, the game never got past that phase of development. Here’s a short read:

“There are a lot of things I can’t tell you. For various reasons. <nervous laughter> Bujingai 2 was in development and looked really good, but never got released. <nervous laughter> So that game existed”

 

Brave: Shaman’s Challenge [Cancelled — Nintendo DS]

Brave: The Search for Spirit Dancer is a lesser-known 3D platformer on the PS2. Much like its brethren from the genre, Brave received minimal attention, which led to the game slipping under the radar for many players. Seeing as how the game didn’t fare well critically, the game ended up selling poorly. Such poor performance was the last straw for Vis Entertainment’s business operation.

It wasn’t until a few years later that SouthPeak Games purchased the rights of Brave from Evolved Games, and attempted to do something with the IP. On August 20, 2007, SouthPeak Games unveiled four of its games at the GC Developers Conference in Leipzig, Germany. That game turned out to be, Brave: Shaman’s Challenge, a spin-off of Brave: The Search for Spirit Dancer that played similarly to Tetris.

The game was supposedly planned to be released in 2009 alongside Brave: A Warrior’s Tale, but it was quietly cancelled without any official announcement. Whether a ROM of this game exist online or not remains unknown.

Pre-E3 2008: South Peak’s E3 Line-up
 

Prime [SNES – Cancelled]

Prime is a cancelled beat ’em up game that was developed by Malibu Interactive for the Super Nintendo around 1993-1994. The game was based on the comic of the same name.

Very few information exist about this game as, to this day, no video games magazines featured it on Archive.org, and no reason were given about why it was cancelled. We can speculate that it was the purchase of Malibu Comics by Marvel, of which Malibu Interactive was a subsidiary, that happened in 1994 that caused to shutdown the game company, and thus, cancelling the title in the process.

A first prototype of the game leaked in 2009 containing 5 playable levels and we can read more details about its gameplay here:

As far as gameplay goes, Prime is a pretty standard side-scrolling Beat-‘Em-Up in the mold of Final Fight, which shouldn’t come as a surprise if you were playing video games in 1994.

Malibu Interactive did a pretty good job on that front. Maximum Carnage seems to be the bar they set out to beat, and while you don’t get to whip people around with Spider-Man’s webs, they do give Prime a few neat attacks to keep things interesting — or as interesting as one of video games’ most repetitive genres gets, anyway.

One button makes Prime punch, often with a combo that’s a dead ringer for Cody’s in Final Fight, but powered by ridiculously huge arms instead of ultra-tight acid wash jeans. And while you don’t get to actually fly during any of the fighting levels, you do get a double jump that’s useful in exactly one area. Another button gives you an alternate kick attack that begins with the most awkward wind-up ever and ending with a stiff-leg kick square in the junk, complete with an impact burst exploding out of the bad guy’s crotch.

In addition to the standard chuck-an-enemy-across-the-screen, Prime also gives you the ability to throw them towards the background or foreground. It’s a trick lifted from the later-era TMNT games, but they pull it off pretty well here by adding something that the comics of the era specialized in: explosions.

Explosions are a recurring theme in the game, and you get to most of them by throwing enemies at everything possible just to see what happens. The car in the foreground, the fire hydrant in the background and the windows on the building can all be broken when you toss an enemy at them, usually resulting in an explosion even when it’s a fire hydrant. It’s also pretty nice that the backgrounds have areas (like the windows and the occasional boarded-up door) that are destructible, although owing to the game’s unfinished status, the destruction will occasionally result in a glowing purple square of nothingness.

So at this point, we’ve got guys in tank tops, crotch-kicks and exploding cars, and for the Streets of Rage aficionado, that’s all pretty standard stuff. Prime is also equipped with two special abilities that allow him to deal with these horrors. For one, as seen above, he walks just like WWE chairman Vince McMahon. And for the second, his super attack, which allows him to blow up like a balloon until he explodes.

An almost finished version leaked later on the internet.

The game was eventually released on the Sega CD under the name Ultraverse Prime in 1995.

Article by Daniel Nicaise

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Lobo [SNES/Genesis, MegaDrive – Cancelled]

Lobo is a cancelled fighting game published by Ocean Software and developed by Ocean of America, Inc. for the Genesis/MegaDrive version, and High Performance Games for the Super NES. It was settled up in the DC Comics’ LOBO universe and planned to be released in 1996.

The game used pre-rendered sprites for characters and background created with Silicon Graphics, similar to games such as Killer Instinct and Donkey Kong Country, and was mentionned in numerous previews from video game magazines, most of them were less than enthusiastic regarding the quality of the title. For instance, in issue #083 of Gamepro from June 1996, journalist Scary Larry wrote for the Genesis/MegaDrive version this:

As if we needed a reason to bury the Genesis, along comes Lobo, one of the most god-awful fighting games since Time Killers. Unless you’re a fan who has to own every single piece of Lobo merchandise available, steer clear of this game. You choose from six poorly illustrated warriors that fight with jerky, unpredictable special moves. Since Lobo is based on some of the best comic-book art of all time, this is a major disappointment. The sound isn’t bad, but it gets lost in the dismal gameplay. The battles resounds with smacks and groans aplenty but no trademark Lobo wisecracks. This badly executed game doesn’t deserve a place on the shelf with other comic-book games. Rent it, play it, return it. This one’s a LoBlow.

To this day, it was never made clear why Lobo was cancelled. Some could speculate that for a very late release for the now-dying 16-bits era, and with poor review like this one, Ocean deemed it wasn’t worth to release it, and decided to pull the plug. But it also seems that the project went through development hell: as we can read on SNESCentral, John Lomax, former artist at Ocean Software, indicated that the game initially began development in the main office of Ocean, based in Manchester, and not in the american office that was established in San José, California:

I worked on it for about a month before moving projects. It was originally going to be a Street Fighter-style beat ’em up, and I did work on background art for it, but the powers that be decided it would be better to give it to Ocean America to work on, so I don’t know if it ever came out, (…)

Another story, this time from Alexander Ehrath, who was High Performance Games’ sole programmer for the SNES version, explained in January 2022 that the game was initially coded by Park Place Productions before Ocean America took over the project internally as all the money given to Park Place was spent without finishing the game. This anecdote can be found here.

In 2009,  a prototype of the Genesis/MegaDrive version was found by the SegaSaturno community and they released it with the help of Hidden Palace. The SNES one was found in 2014 with the source code available since 2016.

Games based on DC Comics‘ franchises seems to have a lot of trouble back in the 90’s. Alongside this title, another SNES game based on Green Lantern was in development at Ocean Software and was cancelled after numerous setbacks by DC higher-ups. We can also mentionned that around 2003, another Lobo game, this time made by Kemco USA for the Playstation 2, Xbox and GameCube systems was planned before being canceled with, to this day, still no information about how far the game went in development.

Article updated by Daniel Nicaise

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Fireteam Rogue [SNES/MegaDrive, Genesis – Cancelled]

Fireteam Rogue is a canceled sci-fi action-adventure game published and developed by Accolade Inc. from 1993 to 1995 for the Super NES and the Genesis/Megadrive. The project was very ambitious for its time, as Accolade planned to launch alongside the game a comic book serie, with also discussion for action figure toys and a TV show.

Next information that will follow are from SNESCentral which was one of the first website to share many details as possible about this title. With a budget of 2,000,000 US $, this project was plagued by mismanagement that ultimately led to its cancellation:

Fireteam Rogue’s cancellation is probably due to having too much ambition. The people marketing the game claimed it would have 100 hours of gameplay, and that the characters would be larger than in most other action games. Personality conflicts and poor management due to this goal seem to have taken their toll, as stated by Russell Borogove (Bornschlegel):

“The project had a lot of problems in development. We spent a lot more time developing ridiculous data compression schemes to fit all the levels into the game, when we should have cut a couple of enemies and a handful of levels in order to get it done. There were also some personality conflicts that culminated with the producer of the project quitting when we were at beta. Shortly after that, the head of product development at Accolade asked us if we thought we should continue the project or not. It was unclear to me how much more work it was going to take to finish it and if the game was going to be good enough to compete in the market by the time we actually got it out, and I advised that we should shut it down. I don’t remember what the others said.”

The late Betty Cunningham on her website claims the game was complete. And it may well have been close to being finished. By the sounds of things, as development dragged on, it was increasingly clear it would not have been released. As artist Scott Ruggels recalls:

“Both of the game projects (Fireteam Rogue and the unreleased Genesis game, Cybernauts: The Next Breed) were helmed by John Skeel. I don’t know what happened to him after Accolade, but after the 2 million dollar budget for the game was spent, with about 750,000 spent on promotional materials, including a 6 foot tall roll of plastic with a life sized image of the main character computer generated within, and the prototype, that was, in all honesty, not very much fun to play, the game was cancelled, along with a lot of others soon after the new management took over, (…)”

The media give differing times for the ultimate cancellation. Gamepro, in its April 1995 issue states it was cancelled, coinciding with Warner Music Group buying a share in the company. Nintendo Power kept it in its upcoming releases section until the August 1995 issue. Ultimately, a long development cycle can never be good for a game.

Two different prototypes exist and their source codes are both available on the web. The first prototype is apparently in early alpha and might be dated from 1994. It was leaked somewhere around 2006-2007 and is pretty incomplete and glitchy. A much later prototype was acquired in 2010 by Evan G., founder and owner of SNESCentral and is dated from 1995, although it is not clear from which month:

This later prototype of Fireteam Rogue was acquired by me in June 2010. The seller worked at a company called IMN Control. They were looking into publishing games to package with their controllers, and I guess by April 1995 (the letter that came with the prototype was dated April 6, 1995), Accolade was hoping to get another company to publish the game. The seller said that he did not feel the game would be complete in a reasonable amount of time to bother investing.

In addition to the prototype, there were some marketing materials and a three page FAQ. The FAQ explains the different levels, characters and goal of the game. There is a date of December 12, 1994 on the header of the FAQ. The package included a poster/information sheet that probably was used at the 1995 Winter CES. The poster has an expected March 1995 release date. The prototype itself came on four chips, with a date of “1/16” on it, which I assume means January 16, 1995. I guess that despite the fact that the prototype was sent in April 1995, either development had ceased, or they did not feel like burning a newer copy.

This prototype appeared to be more complete and less glitchy with the addition of Mode 7 levels and a password feature.

On his own article, Evan G. concluded:

Fireteam Rogue is definitely a game that had promise. It had an intriguing plot, excellent character artwork and a promising gameplay system. The Shadowblade level in particular shows the scope of what the levels may have entailed. The shooter levels play quite well and compare favourably with many similarly styled shooters for the SNES.

That being said, the two alpha ROM images available show a game that is not close to completion. Though I was told development may have extended all the way to 1996, the evidence seems to indicate that it was leading towards demise in early 1995. In particular, the statement in Gamepro in April 1995 and the fact that they were trying to find another company to publish the game show that its fate was decided by then. If the later alpha that I have is what was shown at the 1995 Winter CES (which I assume, considering the date on the prototype, and the included CES-style advertisement sheet), it would have had an underwhelming response. For instance, despite the impressive size and animation frames of the character sprites, the animation was not smooth, and led to unresponsive controls. The level designs are poor, and lack the key items to proceed through the stages. The graphics themselves don’t look bad, though they have a limited palette. The promised linking of the levels into a single story was not finished in the game.

The lesson of Fireteam Rogue is that focusing on hype and story before the creation of solid level design and gameplay can sink a game. The back-story of Fireteam Rogue rivals most contemporary RPGs, and the initial gameplay ideas could have rivalled Super Metroid. Instead, a development cycle mired by poor management and delays made this just another footnote in the history of the 16-bit era.

In October 1996, Accolade Inc. released a DOS game called Eradicator in which three different characters are playable. Those characters shares many similarities with the 4 main characters of Fireteam Rogue.

Thanks to Evan G. from SNESCentral!

Article updated by Daniel Nicaise

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