action adventure

Aegis: The Awakening (Sennari Interactive) [GBA – cancelled]

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Aegis: The Awakening was a fantasy action adventure for the GameBoy Advance and was announced early in 2002 by its developer Sennari Interactive, the same company that was responsible for GBA ports of games like Powerpuff Girls and Driver 2. Aegis: The Awakening was mentioned on Sennari’s website under GBA titles and was marked as “concept developed”; only a brief description for the game was given:

“The city of Aldara is besieged by an unknown enemy with powerful allies who hope to gain the secrets of magic that certain residents of the city hold. The player must take the role of guardian of the city, one who has unfathomable powers that have lain dormant over the centuries. Seek out the individuals that the enemy wants in order to gain powers and abilities that these people can awaken within you. Seek them out to defend the city and learn your heritage, to learn that you are a member of the legendary protectors of the earth, the Aegis.”

The concept development status of the game stayed unchanged until the end of 2003; I could retrieve no valid reasons why Aegis was cancelled besides their change of focus towards the cell phone market. There is little to none information on the game to be found besides the old Sennari announcement made in 2002 and an article on Gamespot in which the game is mentioned (see part of the article below). Date of cancellation? My guess is late 2003.

Sennari 2002 line-up – Gamespot – February 2002:

IGN 2002 - Sinnari Lineup

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The Guardian [XBOX – Cancelled]

The Guardian is a cancelled adventure game that was in development in 2002 / 2003 by The Whole Experience (WXP Games) to be published by Capital Entertainment Group for the original Xbox. The game’s protagonist would die in a car accident during the introduction and then players would use his ghost to interact with NPCs to resolve different tasks. The Guardian featured an interesting gameplay mechanics involving NPCs hidden thoughts, that could have been read by the ghost, absorbed and used to manipulate the thoughts and reactions of other NPCs. Evil ghosts would also appear during the adventure, suggesting some kind of demonic presence to be eradicated from the game’s world as the final objective.

WXP created a great playable prototype to showcase their game’s main features, in collaboration with Seamus Blackley and Kevin Bachus, but unfortunately the project was canned in late 2003 when Capital Entertainment Group had to close down for lack of funds.

After The Guardian’s cancellation WPX worked for Activision on Greg Hastings Tournament Paintball for Xbox, in 2007 they released “Scene It? Lights, Camera, Action” on the Xbox 360 and worked on other projects for Majesco Entertainment, Disney, NVIDIA and Sierra Online, but in the end the studio closed down in 2010.

Thanks to EDW for the contribution!

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Wuppo [PC – Beta]

Wuppo is a 2D platforming action-adventure game with RPG elements. You play as a little Wum who is just clumsy and who has no special skills or powers. The protagonist gets kicked out of the Wumhouse, where most Wums live together, so the adventure starts with looking for a new home. While searching for that new home, the Wum gets into a lot of exciting adventures for which wit and charm are used and many puzzles will have to be solved.

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The developers Lars Korendijk and Thomas de Waard have been friends since highschool and they have worked together on short movies, animations, stories and games since then. After high school both guys went to college and Lars graduated as an animator and Thomas as a composer. Wuppo started as a fun project to work on outside of school/college, but after both guys graduated, they started to work on the project fulltime, using Knuist & Perzik as the name of their indie team.

You can definitely see that these developers have been gamers for a while and they had many sources of inspiration for Wuppo. The first inspiration would be ‘An Untitled Story’, which made Lars start on his own platformer in the first place. The Rayman series was a shared inspiration for both developers, as they look back on Rayman 2 & 3 with much nostalgia. Other games that helped shape Wuppo to the game it is now were:

  • The Mass Effect-series – influence on the interaction with NPC’s, who all have their own stories
  • Undertale – a more personal touch in the relations with NPC’s
  • Paper Mario – the humor in dialogue and questions were inspired by this title
  • Banjo Tooie – inspired to make a world that feels unique and ‘real’ and to make locations that have a real function in the world.

Differences to the final game
The game has changed a lot during the 7 years it was in development! The entire world has been deleted to start over from scratch once, and the story has been rewritten multiple times. Wuppo’s development could be roughly divided into three phases.

Version 1 was called “Wubblyking”, made in Gamemaker 6.1 ~ 8. The story was about the Wums, then called Wubblies” whose king disappeared. Every Wubbly wanted to be the new king. The developers called this version very ‘random’ – there was no real connection between the different locations and characters.

Version 2 was also made in Gamemaker 6.1 ~ 8. This version already contained parts that stayed in the final game like an early version of the “Wumhouse” and “Wumgarden”. The story was again very different – the protagonist was a world-famous plumber whose wrench got stolen. Still there were no other races than the Wums and the lore/history of the world wasn’t in the game either.

Footage of this version:

Version 3 was made in Gamemaker Studio and is the version people can play right now on Steam.

Thomas and Lars were very perfectionist about the game and especially the last area changed a lot. It has been changed completely from the beta and that had a big influence on the story as well! The ‘Fnakkers’ were originally going to build a big machine in an underground factory to kill off the Wums, but Knuist & Perzik decided that the ‘fnakkers’ shouldn’t portray Evil itself. They were much more interested in challenging the player to feel empathy for its archenemy. The end result is a game with no clear line between good and evil. Every person and end-boss has its own story and motives, which might be wrong or bring others in danger, but they never do so on purpose/for fun.

Tough choices
The toughest moment for Knuist & Perzik was to decide to delay Wuppo to make it better. The last area of the final game was one of the things that slowed down the development. It took a couple of months before they felt like the concept was refined. This was also the time they started to look for a publisher – which they found in SOEDESCO, also a Dutch company. They finally released the game on September 29th 2016, to great joy of their fanbase.

In the future Knuist & Perzik would like to make new games if possible, but for now they will keep supporting Wuppo and create additional content for it.

Thanks a lot to Lars Korendijk, Thomas de Waard and Esther Kuijper for their help in preserving these memories from the beta development of Wuppo!

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Captain Blood [Cancelled – PC, Xbox 360]

Captain Blood is a cancelled pirate-themed action adventure based on a series of novels by Rafael Sabatini, that was in development for PC and Xbox 360 since 2003 by Russian studio Akella (the team behind titles like “Pirates of the Caribbean” and “Age of Pirates”). The game was never officially canned, as of May 2016 you can still find its website online and in the last 13 years it had multiple reboots: Captain Blood easily became a legendary vaporware and was labeled by some fans as “The Russian Duke Nukem Forever”.

When still in early development, Captain Blood’s leads Dmitry Demyanovski and Andrei Ivanchenko decided to open their own team “.dat” and left Akella: the remaining team restarted the game with Renat Nezametdimov and Yuri Rogach taking the new lead. At E3 2004 Captain Blood was officially announced by 1C Company, the Russian publisher of other games made by Akella, showing a gameplay trailer with open sea naval combat and realistic sword fighting system.

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This second version did not last much longer and in 2005 Captain Blood suffered more heavy changes, becoming like a pirate version of God of War, with fast-paced over-the-top fights, finishing moves, quick time events, lots of blood and gore. Akella was split in two different teams, named respectively SeaDogs and SeaWolves, with the first working on Age of Pirates, and the latter to develop this new version of Captain Blood.

In 2007 for some unknown reasons SeaWolves were sold to 1C, along with Captain Blood. New people took lead of the project and it was updated to a more powerful 3D engine. At this time the game looked great, like a mix between Fable 2 and God of War, but because of the new acquisition by 1C many of the original developers left the team.

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Even with some internal issues, SeaWolves and 1C continued working on it and in 2010 Captain Blood seems to have been completed, ready to be published. Unfortunately another complication fell against the game: Playlogic (the company that would publish it in Europe and USA) sued 1C for some disagreements over the license and this blocked the release of Captain Blood. We don’t know what happened, but maybe Playlogic tried to get some money to save themselves from their economic troubles, a move that did not help them at all, as in August 2010 they were declared bankrupt.

In 2013 someone found a playable review copy of Captain Blood for the Xbox 360 at a flea market and bought it for about $4: it does not seem to have been leaked online yet, but we hope that one day someone could be nice enough to upload it for everyone to enjoy and preserve.

Thanks to Ross Sillifant for the contribution and to Stanislav Costiuc for his great article on this lost game!

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Strelka Stories [PS3 – Cancelled]

Strelka Stories is a cancelled action adventure game planned for Playstation 3 that was in development by CyberConnect2 (Tokyo Studio and Fukuoka office), as a new chapter in their “Little Tail Bronx” series of anthropomorphic animal characters and fantasy floating world, composed of three main chapters: Tail Concerto (1998, Playstation), Solatorobo: Red the Hunter (2010, Nintendo DS) and Little Tail Story (2014, Android and iOS). The series is not widely known to the main public and sales were not great, but thanks to its fun gameplay, light hearted animal characters and interesting world-lore (mixing Jules Verne-steampunk style technology, mechs, magic, Laputa style floating islands and airships) it grown a cult following of fans in the last 18 years.

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Strelka Stories was originally announced in July 2010 when CyberConnect2 were celebrating their 15th anniversary and opened a teaser site for this new PS3 game, showing artworks featuring their usual anthropomorphic animal characters, a 19th-century fantasy town (feeling like something out of a Studio Ghibli movie, especially if you think about Sherlock Hound) and a space-conquering theme.

Over those artworks there are a series of sentences in Japanese, that can be roughly translated as ““I will surely go to space, surely”, “To the children who depart someday”, “The world’s first man-made crystal power plant, it was built against the press-cutting international public opinion”, “This country was always engulfed in restless shadows” and “The road was collapsing, they gathered Strelka, a rocket engineer…”. By reading these, we can speculate that Strelka Stories could have told the story of how the world of Little Tail Bronx became a series of floating islands and the efforts of its inhabitants to escape from the collapsing of their planet.

The title “Strelka Stories” is also inspired by the name of one of the Soviet dogs used for sub-orbital and orbital space flight tests in the ‘60:

“Belka (Белка, literally, “Squirrel” or, alternately, “Whitey”) and Strelka (Стрелка, “Little Arrow”) spent a day in space aboard Korabl-Sputnik 2 (Sputnik 5) on 19 August 1960 before safely returning to Earth. […] Strelka went on to have six puppies with a male dog named Pushok who participated in many ground-based space experiments, but never made it into space.”

In November 2010 Impress Watch published an interview with CyberConnect2’s president and CEO Hiroshi Matsuyama where he shared a few more details on Strelka Stories:

“Solatorobo was set in an imaginary scientific world, which targets the current generation of boys and girls. The content for this one [Strelka] will target ‘Adults who were once youths’. I believe those who like Gurren Lagann and Evangelion will enjoy it. We actually didn’t get approval of the project from a client or publisher. It’s a title that we started because we wanted to make it.”

In December 2012 during a fan event for the 2nd anniversary of Solatorobo, Matsuyama said that they were still working on a new game in the Little Tail Bronx series, but he could have been talking about Little Tail Story and not Strelka Stories.

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The lack of a publisher for Strelka Stories is probably the reason why the game was never completed, with CyberConnect2 busy to work on other projects for which they were hired. In fact the studio released many games for Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 (such as Asura’s Wrath, .hack//Versus and the Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm series), but unfortunately it seems that Strelka Stories never found support and had to be quietly cancelled. CC2 also planned a Tail Concerto sequel in late ‘90 / early ‘00, but it had to wait 12 years to be finally released (as the spiritual sequel Solatorobo), so we can assume that one day we could still see the ideas conceived for Strelka Stories in a new chapter of the “Little Tail Bronx” series.

CyberConnect2 are a big company today, they are currently working on the Final Fantasy VII Remake for Square-Enix and opened a new studio in Montreal (Canada). In April 2016 Famitsu magazine published another interview with Hiroshi Matsuyama, in which he teased a new game codenamed “Project Venom” or “CyberConnect Creative (CCC)” (it’s not clear if the two titles are for the same game or for two different projects) a self-published digital shooter planned to be released the next year for PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC. The artworks revealed in the magazine show a fantasy setting with characters similar to the ones seen in “Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind” and no space rockets, so we can assume that this will not be directly connected to the Strelka Stories concept.

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