News on Beta & Cancelled Games

Banjo X (Threeie) [Xbox – Cancelled]

Banjo X was to be the third installment to the Banjo Kazooie franchise, slated to be released for the original Xbox. Initially the game was being developed in 2004 by Rare as a straight remake of the first game, with enhanced graphics and gameplay for the new console.

Supposedly, the characters in Banjo X were to break the 4th wall, so to speak, and gradually become aware that the game was a remake of the original Nintendo 64 version.  The farther along the player got in the game, the more things would shift directions from the original Banjo Kazooie.  It would have been at this point when the characters would become aware that they were in a remake of the original game and attempt to alter the plot in a different way. Rare had already experimented with the remake of Conker’s Bad Fur Day, adding a few different situations in the early parts of the game to surprise players who knew the original version, it seemed only right to expand a similar concept in Banjo X.

The world found out about this lost game in late 2011 / early 2012 when Xbox executable files (dated June 2004) for a title named “Banjo X” were found by PtoP Online on an old Xbox development kit. These files were missing many of the characteristic that would have been needed to run the prototype, but someone managed to break them open and find some clues. Unfortunately, the game doesn’t do much when attempting to access it.

Depending on the file launched, a black command screen will pop up, showing files missing and an error message. It was expected that the game wouldn’t work due to these missing assets, but the fact that it boots shows that something was being worked on at some point. One user was able to extract an early 3D model of Mumbo.

Names for new Banjo abilities and items were also discovered in these executable files. Some of these include: Springy Shoes, Rocket Sneakers, Metal Feathers, Aviator Goggles, Invisibility Chocolates, Big Feathers, Bag of Eggs, and Diamond Beak.

During Banjo X’s development, the idea of having Gruntilda and Banjo attempting to accomplish the same task at the same time was attempted. Gregg Mayles wanted Gruntilda to interfere with Banjo during gameplay and make things much harder for the player.  However, the team at Rare thought the idea would have required a very complex AI in order for it to do what they wanted.  This concept was quickly scrapped after this realization.

Even though the game supposedly didn’t get very far into development, Steve Mayles tweeted out early character models he made for Banjo X. One was Mr. Termite, and the other was Conga.

Designer Ed Bryan also tweeted out a rendition of a reimagined Mumbo and Tiptup, made around 2004 .

Steve Mayles also confirmed in a twitter response that he remembers seeing a 4 player co-op mode during Banjo X’s development. It was during this time that a separate team at Rare began working on a Mario Kart style game with the Banjo Kazooie IP, under the name “Banjo Kazoomie”.  The major concept that made it stand out was the fact that the player was able to build their own vehicle to use.

Banjo Kazoomie didn’t get very far in development but many of its ideas were later reused in Nuts & Bolts. According to designer Gregg Mayles, “Rare thought this would be a “hard sell,”, and that “players would expect a whole new game”.  It was clear that there were not many reasons to continue working on Banjo X for the original Xbox and the team soon moved their plans to the new Xbox 360.

The new Banjo game would have been a completely different game and Rare began brainstorming ideas of how players traveled in platformers. They wanted to make the trip to the overall objection as fun as possible. This is when they decided to combine the Banjo Kazoomie idea with the worlds for Banjo X.  The team only got as far as the first level and as soon as vehicles became incorporated with the game, Mumbo’s Mountain had to be altered to a much larger size in order to have proper usage of the vehicles.

Unfortunately, the interesting idea of a breaking-the-4th-wall remake with multiplayer coop for Banjo Kazooie never saw the light of day. But in the end, Rare was still able to release a third entry in the Banjo series with Nuts & Bolts, even if feedback from the fans was mixed.

Article by Karl Gutierrez & monokoma

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Incursion (Argonaut Games) [PC – Cancelled]

Incursion is a cancelled squad-based action game that was in development by Argonaut Games in late ‘90, possibly planned to be released on PC. While many other lost games by Argonaut were widely known, a few ones such as Kanaan and Incursion remained forgotten for many years. Argonaut is mostly remembered today as the studio behind such classic games as Starglider, Star Fox and Croc, but between the late ‘90s and early ‘00s they fell into obscurity, until their closure in 2004.

Incursion started development after the cancellation of Kanaan, by the same team. As it happened with Kanaan there are not many details about the game, but only a few small, pre-rendered images. Players would have used a squad of robots, to fight against other robots and aliens squads in different missions.

From what we can see from these images it seems Incursion would have been a real-time action / strategy game, in which players would give commands to their robot-allies while playing as one of them in third or first person view. The team attempted a 3D cell-shaded graphic style for their game, that looked quite awesome for its time.

After Incursion was canned, part of the team left Argonaut to form Pompom games. We tried to get in contact with a few developers who worked on Incursion, but with no luck. Only a few images are preserved below, to preserve the existence of this lost Argonaut project.

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Farnation (Sega) [Dreamcast, Xbox – Cancelled]

Farnation (sometime spelled Far Nation) is a cancelled online RPG that was going to be published by Sega, initially for their Dreamcast and later for Xbox. The game was somehow announced in mid 2000, when its title was found in a document released by Sega Enterprises discussing the company’s overall business strategy.

Some more details about the game were published in December 2000 by Gamespot:

“With its upcoming massively multiplayer network RPG, Farnation, Sega plans to take the first step in introducing the concept of persistent online worlds to the console market. Farnation gives a nod to such successful PC games as Ultima Online and – more recently – Everquest by letting players interact with other human players across a large universe.

Farnation contains five different terrains, and in these areas, you will have the ability to cooperate with other human players in building towns – complete with casinos, libraries, restaurants, hospitals, banks, and residences. Of course, you aren’t limited to these towns. You can build stations that house airships, boats, and stagecoaches so that you can travel around the entire Farnation world to advance the game’s story arcs and events. In fact, there are several special events that occur throughout the game for plot advancement and, according to Sega, to make the game easily navigable for beginning players.

However, Farnation’s emphasis is on human interaction. Communicating through the use of the game’s chat function, you can buy, sell, and trade items with others. You can also form parties and head out in search of battles and adventure. In total, the game’s play modes include party battles, simultaneous online battles, weapon and item creator, town development, and story elements.

Aside from its gameplay features, Farnation looks to be one of the most visually impressive massively multiplayer online RPGs on the market. After briefly seeing the game in action, we came away thoroughly impressed with the amount of detail in the characters and environments, particularly in the towns. In one scene, there were at least a dozen generously modeled polygonal characters onscreen at once, and the environments were cluttered with several building structures and residences. Graphically, Farnation is favorably comparable to the currently available online RPGs for the PC platform.”

While the Gamespot Staff was able to take a look at the game, unfortunately Sega never officially released any image or footage to the public. From what we can read in this preview, it sounds the game would have been an original mix between Sim City and a traditional MMORPG.

In February 2001 on Dreamcast Magazine Issue 19 Farnation was named again in a list of future Dreamcast games. On March 2001 Sega discontinued the Dreamcast, restructuring itself as a third-party publisher. Many Sega games in development were then moved to Xbox, GameCube and Playstation 2. In May 2001, Gamespot kinda confirmed that Farnation was then in development for Microsoft’s Xbox.

Still Sega did not shown anything from the game, not even officially announce its release. After a while Farnation vanished forever and the only proof we have of its existence is a prototype seen at the Sega of America office, in a photo they published on Flicker in July 2008.

farnation dreamcast sega of america prototype

Between many other Dreamcast games, released and unreleased, we can see a jewel case labeled “Farnation, PT-ROM 1/12/01”. This could have been an updated version of demo that Gamespot seen in December 2000.

We can only hope someone at Sega of America saved this Farnation prototype, to release it online in the future. If you know someone who worked at Sega in 2000 / 2001 and may have more details about Farnation, please let us know!

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!