If you are a long-time fan of Square you may have read about this lost game before. Project Dropship was a canceled videogame developed by Square Enix Los Angeles and it would have been their first game. It was going to be a frantic but strategic shooter with a top down view and a strong coop multiplayer component.
It was 2008: Square Enix decided to open a new studio to test new technologies and develop digital-only, small-budget videogames. Their LA team was composed by around 10 or 20 developers and the director was Fumiaki Shiraishi, already know for his work on Crystal Chronicles: my Life as a King and Final Fantasy XI Online. In an interview with Gamasutra Shiraishi talked about their idea for the studio:
“We do like to have one full-size project if possible, and then have the downloadables on the side. We’re still in the process of trying to figure out what the first title will be. Right now we’re still in the very early phase of testing out gameplay stuff and testing out the technology. The scope of the game, and how it’s going to be sold, is going to come a little bit later.”
Even Dave Hoffman, Director of Business Development, declared to Siliconera that they were not ready to announce anything and for 3 years the Square LA studio didn’t release any videogame or announcement
2011 was a difficult year for Square Enix: in March they reported a loss in their last fiscal year, in part due to canceled videogames. Nothing was ever announced for their Los Angeles Studio until it was suddenly closed. Square Enix didn’t announce any reason for the closure, but thanks to Siliconera, Final Fantasy Universe and some leaked screenshots we know that the studio was working on a project titled “Dropship”
Dropship was in development for PS3 and Xbox 360 using Gamebryo, a 3D Engine created by Numerical Design Limited and later licensed by Square Enix in 2009. In the game you had to fight against large groups of enemies to proceed in the area, while using shields and rocks to plan attack or defense strategies. By looking at the video and screenshots leaked online it’s clear that Dropship had a strong focus on its coop mode, with up to 4 players at the same time
The game was set in a sci-fi-western world, featuring snowy, rocky areas and abandoned factories. You could use guns or lasers and choose between different characters, such as an old man dressed as a cowboy with a pirate hat and a girl with pink hair and goggles. Main enemies in the game were some kind of aliens, strange animals and monsters: we can notice a flying white fish and a huge creature similar to a snake
Dropship was probably cancelled in March 2011 even if it was in an advanced state of development. After the closure of the studio Shiraishi worked for other software houses and today he is Director of Game Development at GungHo Online Entertainment America.
2019 is coming soon and as every year we’d like to review what we did the last year and make some plans for the new one.
As most of you known we work on Unseen64 in our own free time, after a long day of our day-jobs. We take away this extra time from our sleep, friends andfamily just to search info on lost games, write articles, read Unseen64 related emails, reply to messages on social networks, resolve technical issues on the site, save media and contact developers.
Here are some of the lost games we archived on Unseen64 in 2018:
You only see a few articles published on the site every month, but to keep it alive we invest dozens of hours of work every week. 95% of the needed work is done by monokoma and in the last few years it became harder and harder to find more people who can help the site steadily. Most contributors just write one or two articles, before vanishing forever.
While we still love remembering obscure, forgotten lost games, in 2018 it became clear to us that our work for Unseen64 is getting harder and harder, while most people are not interested in a website of this kind. It’s hard to keep the interest high, especially to support our work on Patreon:
We still have hundreds of lost games for console and PC to write about, but most of them are obscure projects by small studios. There are no more popular projects like “Resident Evil 1.5” or “Sonic Xtreme” to uncover or it’s almost impossible to gather information about them.
Even for those obscure and little cancelled games, it became harder to receive more details and write good articles. Some years ago we could contact 5 developers who worked on a lost game and we would get at least 2 or 3 answers. Now we contact 10 or 20 developers and 99% of the time we never get any answer. Internet has became a fearsome place, where news could deform and spread uncontrollably on social networks. Developers seem scared to talk about their old jobs, because they don’t want to get in trouble.
Without being able to get in contact with developers, we cannot even save more screenshots or footage from many lost games we are researching. With no exclusive images or videos, we cannot even keep up with Patreon higher tier bonuses. This means people who donate to get bonuses are not happy (and we understand their disappointment).
Without details and without good footage, we cannot create interesting video articles. The fact that monokoma is Italian and cannot record voice-over himself in english makes it even harder. In 2018 we got in contact with 4 different people who accepted to record voice-over for our videos, but in the end they never did. It’s clear it’s not possible to keep making interesting video articles when we can’t get information or even record the audio.
From what we see, most people are not interested in supporting an old website in the age of Youtubers. With no interesting video content, people don’t support Unseen64 on Patreon and we are not shared on major websites anymore. Many years ago those same websites would write news for many of the lost games we wrote in our site in 2018. Today if you don’t make a good video about it, you are not picked up by those websites.
Is everything failing? Not yet.
Thanks to people like you who still read articles on our website and support us on Patreon we did not lose faith in our project yet.
We are still trying to keep Unseen64 alive by doing as much as we can, instead than closing it down.
We keep remembering those obscure lost games on Unseen64, even if most people don’t care about them.
We keep trying to get in contact with developers, and write as much as we can about a game when we don’t get any answer from who worked on it.
If support on Patreon decreases we will search other methods to raise funds (as publishing short books using the same content we publish on the site).
We will try to lower expenses for the site (for example by choosing a less powerful server), so that we could still keep it online even with less donations.
Patreon is essential for the survival of a niche project like Unseen64, a website 99% managed by a single italian guy in this age of Youtube and gaming videos in english.
By focusing on short text-articles about obscure lost games, do we have any chance of keeping up with the time and cost needed to keep Unseen64 online?
We are not sure.
So we have some questions for you:
What do you think about the current state of Unseen64?
Do you have any suggestions which could help us with our researches?
Are you interested in small, obscure lost games forgotten by everyone else?
If you currently support us on Patreon for higher tiers, would you still donate if we cannot secure exclusive screenshots or videos every month?
Should we just remove Patreon tiers and let people to donate only as much as they want, without any major bonus?
Is there something you’d like to see on Unseen64 in 2019?
In the meantime, we are really grateful for your kind words and your help: without our Patrons, Unseen64 would already be dead. You prompt us to keep up doing this, even during the hardest times.
Big gaming networks such as IGN or Kotaku have the resources to own powerful servers and to pay a team to work full-time on their websites, keeping them online and publishing daily updates.
We don’t have their resources, but we have you: a community of gamers interested in preserving the unseen history of video games.
We’d like to thank all of you (in alphabetical order) who are currently helping U64 on Patreon:
Alex Schaeffer, Alex Wawro, Alexandy1, allan paxton, Alpha 3, Anatoly, Anders “Captain N” Iversen, Andy S, Ben Salvidrim, Benjamin Swan, Brandon, Bransfield, Brice Onken, Cameron Banga, Christopher Cornwell, chubigans, Cody and David Studios, Coldi, Conrad A Fursa, Daniel, DidYouKnowGaming, Emiliano Rosales, Emily Bowman, Fabrizio Pedrazzini, Faisal AlKubaisi, Gabe Canada, Goffredo, Guilherme Killingsworth, Hannes, Henry Branch, Itay Brenner, Jake Baldino, James Jackson, James P Branam-Lefkove, James Steel, Jessi Williams, Joe Brookes, Joe Tangco, joef0x, Jonathan Pena, Josh Mann, Julian Lord, Kaleb Ratcliff, Lachlan Pini, Levente Tóth, Liam Robertson, Lou, Marcos Tadeu, Mark J. Lang, MARTAZIA A BROWN, Martin GP (KAISER77), Marty Thao, Matthew Gyure, Matthew Zarzyczny, Mauro Labate, Mcsahon, Nick Robinson, Niels Thomassen, Olivier Cahagne, Patrick Enriquez, Paul, Paul Stedman, Pedro, Peter Lewis, PtoPOnline, Rich Uncle Skeleton, Riptide, Robert Dyson, Rylan Taylor, Sebastian Haley, Shalyn Miyake, Shane Gill, swagDaddyMcPimp, Taylor H, That Black Guy, The Outpost Show, The Video Game History Foundation, TheFlameCrow, TheUnbeholden, Thibaut Renaux, Thomas Muste Jr, Thomas.nunn7, Tony, tydaze, Vitor Takayanagi de Oliveira and everyone else! (did we forget someone?)
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!
Shining Legend is a cancelled action RPG that was in development by Blueside for Nintendo DS. While the title could reminds you of SEGA’s Shining series, this project was not officially related to it. Blueside is mostly known for their work on the Kingdom Under Fire series and it’s composed by former Phantagram developers. The team initially announced this game as “Princess And Knight” in 2008 before vanishing for a couple of years and then resurrecting under the new title “Shining Legend”.
The game’s funny premise was a nice change in comparison with the usual epic RPGs:
“You’re a handsome, cunning prince studying abroad. You return to your home kingdom and find that not only has your father, the king, disappeared, but he’s left the kingdom in enormous debt. As creditors come knocking at your door, you discover that the neighboring kingdom’s seven princesses have run away after a little misunderstanding with their father and they’re now your traveling companions as you work to pay off the money your country owes. You have 800 days to pay this debt and win the heart of one of the beautiful princesses that accompanies you on your journey.”
Gameplay was also an interesting mix of RPG, hack & slash (with dozens of enemies on screen) and dating sim:
“Players have two main objectives during the course of the game: pay back their father’s debt and win the heart of a princess. Most of the player’s time will be spent fighting monsters and developing relationships with the different girls. “
“The prince, named Luchs […] will travel around the continent and complete up to 400 different quests to earn money. During these travels, he can actually be joined in battle by a princess, which gives Luchs access to different special abilities or team attacks. These attacks vary depending on the girl Luchs is courting. A princess may walk out of battle if the prince isn’t really winning her over. “
“Monsters in Shining Legend are both 2D and 3D affairs, which gives the visuals a very nice look. Most of the characters and lower-level creatures are just 2D sprites, but when Luchs faces off with a boss character, that monster will be a 3D model.”
Multiple story paths and endings were planned depending on how you would resolve the game’s quests, how many days you would need to pay off your debt and by choosing different relationships. More details about the seven princesses were posted online by Sword Machine in 2010:
Erika (19), who is the rightful heir to the Kingdom of Junon, and has trained rigorously for the position. She is also a childhood friends of Luchs. (She is the one in with the blue winged dress.)
Pofosh (18), who outwardly only cares about extravagant parties and traveling in her golden wagon, but inwardly feels very empty. (She is the one in the revealing pink party dress.)
Nana (16), who is obsessed with searching for ruins and relics, then keeping them in her room. Her collection is so large, she apparently lends some of her relics to museums. (She is the one in the short red dress holding the rabbit.)
Elara (16), who dislikes magic, and thinks the world would be a better place through the spreading of alchemy. She sometimes forces people to participate in her strange experiments. (She is the one in the green dress with glasses.)
Thimu (16), who was adopted from the fallen Kingdom of Sosan, and dreams of becoming a great pirate after reading about the legendary “Bloody Rose.” (She is the one with the long pirate jacket.)
Arphen (16), who is a half-elf, and obsessed with the lost elven civilization, hoping to rebuild their kingdom some day. (She is the tanned half-elf with light blue hair.)
Lorna (12), is the youngest of the princesses, and very shy. She enjoys sketching, and has the ability to predict the future through her drawings. (She is the blonde one with the sketchbook.)
While Shining Legend was never released on the Nintendo DS, in the following years Blueside reused their lost concept to create a somehow similar game for iOS, titled “Princess Pajama”. It’s a much more casual game, it only has 1 princess, game mechanics were simplified and character design was heavily revised.
It’s interesting to notice that Blueside was also the team behind a cancelled hentai dating sim titled “Shining Lore”, with was later changed into a MMORPG with the same name for Xbox and PC (which was also canned in the end). We can assume the “Shining” part of the name for the cancelled DS game was taken from their previous unreleased projects.
Hurikàn is a cancelled action adventure in development by Electronic Arts in 2006, planned to be released for Xbox 360 and PS3. The project was never officially announced by EA and we found out about its existence thanks to concept art leaked online in 2010.
As far as we know Hurikàn was in development by an internal team at EA, and it was one of many pitches for new projects conceived in those years. Other unreleased ideas were Gun Head, a Road Rash reboot and a game based on Oliver Twist.
Hurikàn was set in a weather-beaten island, where a mysterious company was working on top-secret researches. Something went wrong during the experiments (maybe a hurricane hit the island?) and their research center was attacked by robots gone haywire, ocean monsters and… even the weather? Artificially intelligent and remote-controlled machines played a prominent role in the game: some of them could help players and NPCs (for example by saving survivors), while others could be aggressive. We imagine this could have been something like a mix between Jurassic Park and Vanquish.
Unfortunately we don’t know anything else about it and the project was quietly canned in early development. From the few images we preserved in the gallery below, we can just say that Hurikàn could have been quite the cool adventure.
If you know someone who worked on this lost game, please let us know.