News on Beta & Cancelled Games

Dragon’s Heaven [SNES, Sega Saturn – Cancelled]

Dragon’s Heaven (ドラゴンズヘブン) is a cancelled JRPG that was in development by Digitalware in the late ’90s, planned to be published for the Super Famicom and later on the Sega Saturn by Data East (?). We found out about this unreleased RPG thanks to Video Games Densetsu, which found some images on old japanese gaming magazines, such as Sega Saturn Magazine (November 1996).

As you can see from artwork and screenshots, the game was heavily inspired by Dragon Quest, Breath of Fire and Akira Toriyama style. Turn-based combat were shown in a top-down isometric view, featuring at least 5 playable characters at the same time.

As noticed by Matthew Callis on Twitter, it seems the project was originally conceived as a SNES project, as seen in another japanese magazine he found. From what we were able to gather online the game was based on a roleplay novel (where readers could choose how to proceed with the story?) serialized in Maru-Katsu Super Nintendo gaming magazine, possibly as a parody of classic 16 bit JRPG.  Later the series was also used to create a tabletop RPG book series published by Kadokawa Shoten.

We can speculate Digitalware tried to use the popular roleplay novel conceived in Maru-Katsu magazine to create a new roleplay video game, first on the Super Famicom and later on the Sega Saturn. For some reasons, the project was canned on both occasions, and then forgotten by everyone.

If you could read the description in these japanese scans, please let us know if there are more details about this lost project! 

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Cartel (Cat Daddy) [PC – Cancelled]

Cartel is a cancelled FPS game that was in development in 2002 / 2003 by Cat Daddy Games (mostly known for their Carnival Games series), planned to be released on PC and possibly on Playstation 2 and Xbox. As you can assume from its title, you would have played as a DEA special agent against the drug cartel. The team wanted to offer a simple gameplay mixing first / third person shooter with light strategy mechanics.

In an old interview published on HomeLAN we can read more about their hopes for the project:

“HomeLAN – What can you tell us about the storyline for the game?

Harley Howe – We wanted to do a thriller. It has a big twist just about the time you think you’ve figured out what is going on and you’re about finished, you’re not.

HomeLAN – What sort of settings and locations will be seen in the game?

Harley Howe – Our team over the last few years has built content for several AAA titles that were released under other company’s logos. We really know our stuff here and one of the big separating factors of our game will be the unique environments. What we see in most of the existing games out there now is a lot of the same old thing rehashed over and over. You got your warehouse level, your barracks level, your factory…etc. We wanted to bring a new look and feel to the environments in Cartel. Our game will offer plenty of new and exciting environmental eye candy for the player. We promise you will almost smell the stench on some of them.

HomeLAN – What kinds of weapons will be featured in Cartel?

Harley Howe – Ok, the guy doing the weapons is always yapping about ‘my bothers a seal, my brothers a seal” so we most definitely have some nice weaponry. We feel that weapons are one of the single most important components of a 1st person shooter. One big point here to make is the style of the Cartel story lends itself well to new weaponry. As we are doing with the levels we also wanted to take advantage of some of the newer technologies out there and give the player some neat effects to the weapons that they have never seen before. My 12 year old son will run around and play a game just to pick up all the different guns to see the way that each of them shoot, err wait that’s me, anyway good weapons will be in abundance.

HomeLAN – What can you tell us about the game’ s multiplayer features?

Harley Howe – I can tell you that if it did not have multiplayer I personally wouldn’t play it myself. Today you have to have good multiplayer or the game has a very limited appeal. Attention to the layout of the multiplayer levels will be done in great detail. A good level can make or break it. We also have had multiplayer built in to our engine from day one so it’s not something that will be approached as an afterthought.”

In early 2003 they released a tech demo for Cartel, but the same year the team was acquired by 2K Games and the game vanished. Only in 2005 Cat Daddy officially announced the project was suspended. We can assume when 2K bought the team, their parent company decided to switch their resources on less ambitious games.

Thanks to Dan for the contribution!

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G.I. Joe: Operation Ultra [PS2, Xbox, GameCube – Cancelled]

G.I. Joe: Operation Ultra is a cancelled action game that was planned by Radical Entertainment (mostly known for their The Simpsons: Road Rage, The Simpsons: Hit & Run, Crash of the Titans, Prototype series) and Hasbro around 2002, to be developed for Playstation 2, Xbox and GameCube. As you probably assume it was meant to be a tie-in for the popular G.I. Joe franchise, conceived when Hasbro published a new G.I. Joe vs. Cobra toy line around the same time. While the game was never officially announced, in 2018 a former developer shared a few details and some photos from their design document:

“One day I’ll be able to discuss how in 2002, Hasbro and Radical Entertainment secretly concocted a mission-based G.I. Joe video game. Dubbed G.I. Joe: Operation Ultra, the game broke down into sixteen separate missions of 4 acts each. Developed for 6th generation consoles (XBox, PS2, and GameCube), Hasbro went quite far in the design process – to the extent where they assigned mapping for the consoles’ controllers.”

As far as we know, Radical Entertainment did not fully start development on the game and the project was canned before any prototype was made.

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Matchman [DS, Wii, PS3 – Cancelled]

Matchman is a cancelled run ‘n gun that was in development by TF-H Co in 2008, planned to be published by Lexicon Entertainment for the Nintendo DS, Wii and Playstation 3. The game had original graphics for its time, with hand-drawn, black and white scribbles: journalists were quite amazed by how a simple-looking game like this was meant to be released on modern consoles (indies were still not as common as today).

As we can read from the official press-release on gamesindustry.biz:

“Video games publisher Lexicon Entertainment and talented Chinese games developer TF-H Co Ltd have announced a 2 year agreement which will see the two companies bring a number of new IP to Nintendo DS, Nintendo Wii and Playstation 3 for a worldwide audience.

Matchman is a side scrolling shooter involving extraordinary graphics, manipulation and creative features. The graphic style is consisted by black and white line drawing, and the script is based on a combination of some classical fairytales such as Grimm’s and Andersons fairytales. In the script, there are many humorous factors. The black and white style will bring you the feel of an old school comic, which will attract audiences from different age groups.

One of the special features is the unconventional means to knock through some of scenario. In this case, you’re not going to kill bosses directly. For instance, conventionally you kill monsters by using weapons; but to kill an evil bird named Baba Yaga, you need to throw apples and feed it until its stomach bursts! Another feature is about manipulation. Within the game is a mode called Commuter, specially designed for people on public transport commuting to the office. These people can use a single hand to operate the console and the other to enjoy a soothing cuppa!”

Something went wrong in 2008 and Lexicon Entertainment dropped the project, before closing down their company. In 2009 a new publisher re-announced Matchman, as wrote by Gamasutra:

“Startup publisher Mamba Games today announced both its own existence as well as its first four game projects across PC and console platforms. The company, co-founded by former THQ executive Robert Nielson in November 2008, laid out its release schedule for the first two quarter of 2009, signing various worldwide and territory-specific distribution deals.

Mamba’s fourth announced title, Matchman (pictured) by Chinese developer TF-H Co Ltd, will debut for the Nintendo DS globally in the second quarter of 2009. Nintendo Wii and PlayStation 3 versions of the scrolling shooter will be released later in the year.”

In the end, Matchman just vanished and it was never published in any way as far as we were able to gather. We don’t know if TF-H Co ever completed the game nor what happened to the team after the cancellation of their project.

In the following years things did not go well for Mamba Games, failing with an international scandal about missing payments for some of their developers

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Warrior’s Lair (Ruin) [PS3, PSVita – Cancelled]

Warrior’s Lair (working title ‘’Ruin’’)  was an action role-playing game set in a medieval fantasy universe. Developed by Idol Minds (now known as Deck Nine), Ruin was supposed to feature gameplay similar to Diablo and Torchlight, which were pretty big in the early 2010s. 

The game was to be released on the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita and sold as a single package, as then-confirmed by Shuhei Yoshida, the president of Sony Worldwide Studios, in a statement for Eurogamer

‘’Both games will be packaged together. You can play the game at home on PS3, save your data on our PSN server on the cloud, and you can continue playing the game on PS Vita by downloading the save from the PSN. And you can do vice versa. It’s a continuous experience, playing the same game on PS Vita and PS3.’’

The game was presented in June 2011 at E3. The seamless gameplay and cross-connectivity were arguably the biggest selling points of the game. Its isometric view and dungeon-crawling elements were reminiscent of games such as Diablo, confirming their main inspiration for the project. Ruin was also supposed to contain simulation of destructible environments and ragdoll physics. 

During the same E3 conference, Sony Entertainment demonstrated the ability to transfer active games between the two systems using cloud storage. Warrior’s Lair/Ruin was supposed to feature social media integration, allowing players to post their progress on Facebook and Twitter. Players could show up in each other’s games and either collaborate or compete. 

After 2 years of sitting in limbo, the game was officially canceled in July 2013, as stated by a Sony representative to IGN:

‘’Sony Computer Entertainment can confirm that Warrior’s Lair for PS Vita is no longer in development’’; We apologize to those who pre-ordered the title and ask that they contact their retailer directly to cancel their pre-sale.’’

We don’t exactly know why the game was canceled. All that we know is that Sony Entertainment San Diego was supposed to add the finishing touches back in 2012, and when the game didn’t show up at E3 2012, the future of the game was put into question. 

As we can read at PushSquare:

“Apparently, when the title was canned, Idol Minds had been working on the project for a full year. The game was supposedly just three months away from release, with Sony having already invested “millions of dollars” into it. But the plug was pulled nevertheless, even if the reasons behind its cancellation weren’t even clear to those that worked on it.

“First, I assume it had to do with the weakness of the Vita,” Floyd explained. “Sony internal studios, to me, looked like they never had much faith in it. As far as we were concerned, the game was primarily a PS3 game; we weren’t going to bank on the Vita.” Regardless, the title apparently looked and played great on the troubled handheld, with the cross-save feature working like a charm.”

Unfortunately, the chances of Warrior’s Lair eventually seeing the light of day are slim. After Reddit user u/nduval emailed the developers asking about the future of the title, they said:

It’s great to hear from you. Ruin was a passion project for the entire team and we were heartbroken when Sony ran out of funding to finish it.

Things are different over there now, with the success of the PS4, so building fan interest in the game and communicating that to Sony would be the only way forward.

We would love to return to that game and finish it.

Article by Marco Giuliani

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