News on Beta & Cancelled Games

Pilotwings 2 (Super FX Prototype) [SNES – Cancelled]

The original Pilotwings is an arcade flying simulator developed by Nintendo and published in December 1990 as one of their first games for the Super Nintendo, soon becoming a cult 16 bit classic. Players can use different flying vehicles to complete various missions within a time limit, trying to get high-scores for such tasks as flying through rings and landing on specific parts of the levels.

Pilotwings sold about 1.4 million copies worldwide and Pilotwings 2 for SNES was already in early development before Nintendo decided to cancel it and instead working on a fully 3D sequel on their Nintendo 64.

A few magazines in mid ‘90s mentioned Pilotwings 2 in their news / rumors sections, but Nintendo never officially announced Pilotwings 2 SNES, so it could have been one of those fake speculations with no real evidences. Luckily a few years ago John Szczepaniak (author of The Untold History of Japanese Game Developers books) asked to Dylan Cuthbert (who worked with Argonaut Software and Nintendo on such games as Star Fox and Star Fox 2) about Pilotwings 2 and Dylan confirmed that it was really in development for the Super Nintendo, using the Super FX chip 2. Dylan also mentioned Pilotwings 2 / Super FX 2 prototype in a Reddit AMA:

“I think it was just light experimentation, such as the FX chip based Pilot’s Wings experiment too, just to see what could be done and was quickly re-worked on the prototype N64 hardware. They were already experimenting with motion capture for better animation in 1995 or thereabouts.”

It seems that only an early prototype was created, but we really hope to see something more from it in the future.

Thanks to Celine for the contribution!

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Project Cairo (Craveyard) [Nintendo 64DD – Cancelled]

If you had a Nintendo 64 back in the 90’s, you probably remember all the hype around its 64DD, the disk-based peripheral that promised some cool features for it’s time, including network capabilities, internal clock, additional storage and content expansion for N64 games. Unfortunately due to numerous delays and its commercial failure in Japan this add-on was never released outside of Japan, being discontinued after just 10 software published.

We could say the failure of the 64DD had direct consequences over the N64 game library. We all know about Nintendo’s complicated past with third party support, media storage and licensing issues. These were always key points for Nintendo and with the N64 it wasn’t any different. Their 64DD could have offered a cheaper support for third parties with more space for their games.

Even before its launch in Japan many European and North American developers were already working on 64DD games: after all this add-on was announced in 1995, prior to the N64’s launch. As you can imagine most of these 64DD games were either scrapped or ported to N64 carts.

One of these interesting but lost 64DD games is Project Cairo, a cancelled RPG planned by team Craveyard (Crave Entertainment). According to an IGN article dated 1997, Craveyard were “in negotiations to use a major comic book license for both characters and background story”, promising a new “fresh look for the genre with interesting, Americanized characters”.

We don’t know which comic book they planned to use (above are some examples of random fantasy comics from the mid ’90s, to have an idea of their style), but as told by Mark Burke (former Vice President, Product Acquisitions at Crave):

“If it was another anime RPG I don’t think we’d be making it. […] We think the art in the game is as good as if not better than that in Final Fantasy VII.”

It’s important to note that Craveyard shared their origins with Square USA. Legendary Ted Woolsey (responsible for many popular RPG localizations during the 16-bit era) moved out from Square with a group of employees when the company was moving offices back in 1996, founding a small team named Big Rain.

The name Big Rain wouldn’t last long as Crave Entertainment soon bought the company, changing its name to Craveyard and made them working on such games as Shadow Madness, a Japanese-inspired Role-playing game eventually released on Sony Playstation in 1999.

Shadow Madness

In the meantime Craveyard were also conceiving new ideas for Project Cairo, their ambitious RPG intended to take advantage of 64DD’s original features, scheduled to also be released in 1999. For Project Cairo’s scenario Craveyard were talking with a well known British fantasy writer (which remains anonymous) for a high-profile collaboration.

As told us by Ted Woosley Project Cairo never got past this early planning and “scenario” phase. It was soon clear that Playstation was the better console to develop for: it was cheaper and with a larger user-base already interested in RPGs. N64 was not selling enough to pursue full development of an exclusive RPG, especially for its postponed 64DD add-on. The team focused all of their resources and efforts into Shadow Madness: it’s currently unknown if their Playstation RPG took some ideas or mechanics initially conceived for Project Cairo.

Unfortunately Shadow Madness did not perform as expected: it was received with average reviews and poor sales. In the end Crave opted to pull Craveyard out of business and closed the studio. After Craveyard’s closure, Ted Woolsey joined RealNetworks (a provider of Internet streaming media) where he managed their online gaming client. In 2007 Woolsey moved to Microsoft Studios to work as Senior Director for the Xbox Live Arcade and in 20015 he became General Manager of Undead Labs helping releasing fan-favorite State of Decay.

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Pojo the Chicken (Midway) [Playstation 2 – Cancelled]

Pojo the Chicken is a cancelled 3D platformer / action game which was in development in 2000 by Atari / Midway Games West for Playstation 2. Pojo was originally born as an easter egg / secret character to be unlocked in such games as MACE: The Dark Age and Gauntlet and she was mostly an internal joke / team mascot for Midway. At some point in late ‘90s the studio jumped the shark and decided to make Pojo the main protagonist of her own game.

As described for Mace: the Dark Age:

“Pojo: The Fighting Chicken, transformed by Countess Taria into something more than human, a force powerful enough to rend the very cosmos in her powerful beak. Pojo wages a never-ending battle for truth, justice, and the feathered way.”

Unfortunately only a few screenshots from an early level remain from this lost game to remember its existence. By looking at its colorful graphic, we can assume Pojo the Chicken would have been a fantasy action platformer, with humorous settings and funny jokes. For example the island you can see in these screens was home for Kung Pao, which we speculate was some kind of kung-fu chicken master which could have teached special moves to Pojo. Kung Pao chicken is also the name of a delicious chinese dish.

We don’t know enough about Pojo the Chicken to say if it could have been a fun game to play, but for sure it seems the team had fun at conceiving something as crazy and amusing as a whole game based around a powerful fighting chicken.

The same team also worked on the cancelled Joust 3D for PS2 and Xbox, before developing Dr. Muto which was finally published in 2002 for PS2, Xbox and Gamecube. In 2009 Midway Games filed for bankruptcy, most of its internal games studios where closed and all of its assets were purchased by other companies such as Warner Bros. Probably we’ll never know what really happened to the mighty chicken Pojo.

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Project X (Activision) [Xbox 360, PS3 – Cancelled]

Project X is a cancelled third person action game for Playstation 3 and Xbox 360, which was in development around 2005 / 2007 by Z-Axis studio (later known as Underground Development) for Activision. The game was never officially announced by the company and it’s just one of many more unreleased games (such as Call of Duty: Devil’s Brigade) the team was working on, before Activision decided to close them down in 2010.

Only a few screenshots and a short video remain to remember the existence of this lost game. By looking at these, we can assume the game would have been somehow similar to other action games with super-powers like Prototype and Infamous. The main protagonist was able to morph itself into different forms of elemental energy, for example a body of ice or fire. By switching elements it would have been able to easily kill different kinds of enemies of the opposite element.

It seems only an early prototype was developed before Activision cancelled the project, maybe to switch the team to work on the PS3 version of Enemy Territory: Quake Wars.

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She Queen Death Machine (Psygnosis) [PC – Cancelled]

She Queen Death Machine is a cancelled side-scrolling action game which was in development by Psygnosis in 1995, to be released for PC MS-DOS. No more details remain from this lost game and it was mostly unknown to the public until Grzegorz found a few images hidden in old gaming magazines: Generation 4 (issue 76), Top Secret (issue 37), and Secret Service (May 1995).

In these magazines She Queen Death Machine was described as an exciting action platformer with lots of shooting, punching and explosions. Because of the game’s title and by looking at the characters sprites, it seems the main protagonist was meant to be a female soldier. Other features listed in these short previews were multi-directional screen scrolling, parallax effects, many different weapons to use and bosses at end of levels. One of these levels was described as a military camp with hangars and towers with enemy guards lurking everywhere.

After a few previews in gaming magazines, She Queen Death Machine vanished forever. After Sony acquired Psygnosis in 1993 and released their Playstation in 1995, their resources were switched from PC to the more profitable Playstation market. She Queen Death Machine may be one of the games cancelled because of this.

Thanks to Grzegorz for the contribution!

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