Action Adventure

Shantae 32 bit [Playstation 1, PC – Cancelled]

After being one of the most forgotten hidden gems for Game Boy Color in 2002, in the last few years Shantae became a cult-series, with 4 main games developed by WayForward Technologies for PC, Wii U, DS, Playstation 4, 3DS, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch. While Shantae games are quite popular today, most fans still don’t know that the first, original Shantae project for Playstation 1 and PC was never released.

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Thanks to mpx and Youloute we know that this cancelled 32 bit version of Shantae was in development around 1997 and it was even shown on the official WayForward Technologies website in the late ‘90s:

“It is a time of magic and majesty, where strange beasts roam the land and beautiful creatures wield powerful magic. In this world lives a young girl named Shantae… a troubled genie, born without magic, yet the only individual capable of saving the realm from disaster. Following a century of imprisonment underground, three powerful Jins have broken the seal that restrained them, and now seek to drain the world of the magic it needs to survive. As the magic is stolen, the peaceful creatures that once harbored it are left weak and helpless. Shantae, unaffected by the magic drain, is the only hope for peace. But can she possibly battle the Jins and their legion of monsters relying only on the magic she reclaims along the way? It’s up to you to guide Shantae through perilous traps and dangers beyond your wildest imaginings!”

 

“Shantae is designed for the PC or comparable game system (such as the Sony Playstation). The gameplay is full 3-D, with traditionally (2D) animated characters that move in and out of the rendered backgrounds. With this advantage, players can travel down streets, enter tunnels or battle monsters several times the size of the normal viewing area! Perhaps the best feature of this 3-D system is the totally hands-free camera movement. The view automatically zooms in or out, up or down depending on the proximity of Shantae to other important elements. In addition, the paths Shantae can take often split into different layers of depth, allowing the player to walk on near or far surfaces in order to get around obstructions, crevices, or buildings. Also, enemies can attack from any direction in three-dimensional space in order to hunt Shantae down. It’s the long awaited blend of 2-D’s fluid animation and 3-D’s next generation gameplay rolled into one!”

During an interview with Siliconera, Shantae series director Matt Bozon said:

“We had a polygonal Shantae that could be run around in three distinct gameplay ‘gyms’. […] One was a spline-scroller (like Namco’s Klonoa), one was a free-range 3D like Mario 64, and the last was an isometric 3D platformer. We’ve done a lot of exploration in this area… Shantae was a sprite/3D hybrid for PlayStation and PC, and was free-roaming on the PlayStation 2.”

Shantae’s character design was a bit different in this lost game, compared to her current design:

In 2013 during a live streaming the WayForward team played the cancelled Shantae 2: Risky Revolution for GBA, so we can only hope that one day they could also find a playable version of this cancelled Playstation / PC version to show it to the world. Only a few, small screenshots are currently saved in the gallery below.

Citizen Siege: Wage Wars (Oddworld) [Cancelled – Xbox 360, PS3, PC]

Citizen Siege: Wage Wars is a cancelled action adventure that was in early planning by Oddworld Inhabitants in 2004, to be released for Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and PC. After the project was canned in late 2005, it resurrected a year later as an online arena combat game, to be the first of a series of new games related to their multimedia IP “Citizen Siege” (with a CG movie being their focus at the time). In the end neither the game nor the movie were ever completed.

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The Citizen Siege IP was already conceived before the release of Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath, as told by Lorne Lanning (co-founder of Oddworld Inhabitants) to CVG in December 2004:

“But with the atmosphere of the world today we were inspired to birth another universe. This one’s Earth in the future – and not too far in the future. It’s a very intense gaming experience, and it’s about martial law and the diminishment of civil liberties. It hits far closer to home than Oddworld does. I expect that if we’re blessed enough to see it through that there’ll be quite a few senators and congressmen who’ll be really pissed off. And I hope they are, because we’re really pissed off at their behaviour.

As the climate changes and the technology allows us to create something more realistic, we want to match that with something that’s contextually relevant and culturally relevant to where our society is today. We’re not afraid to show the darkside of what’s going on.

It would be built at Oddworld Inhabitants, but it wouldn’t be called Oddworld any more – it’s another brand. Our working title for the universe is Citizen Siege, and then we’d have multiple characters birthed within that universe – a place where a state becomes privatised and America becomes Americo.”

Some more details about this early concept of the game were revealed by EDGE magazine in 2013:

“Citizen Siege was based in a near future where the policies of recent White House administrations continued onward unabated; ultimately landing us in a dark totalitarian landscape where people have been reduced to pure commodity. In this world, your healthy tissue is used as collateral against financial debt, and if you sink low enough, you can be ‘re-possessed’ piece by piece.

The hero had been re-possessed, and was now encased in a cheap life support system as he traverses the economic divides of a dystopian city in a mad search to reclaim his body, and bring down the system that stole it. The powers your character employed were of an unworldly nature brought about by an alternative and illegal energy source. This device fuses to his mechanical body after you attempts to smuggle across an economic border. These powers were intended to play out much as we see the central character in InFamous Second Son demonstrates – we called our version ‘Z-powers’.

We designed it and visualized it with a few hundred production paintings, but never entered a full on pre-production phase. The project was verbally green-lit, but we ultimately chose not to pursue any relationship with the publisher. From that point, we instead chose to shop it as a CG animated feature instead of working with a game publisher.”

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After the release of Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath in 2005 Oddworld Inhabitants fell into financial problems because the game sold less than expected (possible due to EA not promoting it enough) and they decided to retire from traditional games development. As told by Lorne to Spong at the time:

“We closed the studio because of what the realities of the marketplace are. There is currently only one financing model in the games industry, and that is that the publisher pays for the entire game; it handles the manufacturing, the marketing, the distribution, the advertising, practically everything, much the way it used to be in Hollywood pre-United Artists. […] And so, as a developer, you have limited options in terms of how many parties are actually willing to finance your games, what types of games they are willing to finance, and what are the terms you face as a third-party developer to get that financing. That’s not a very exciting climate“

At that time Oddworld Inhabitants were already working on a few other games, such as “Oddworld: The Brutal Ballad of Fangus Klot”, all of which got canned. A year later, during his speech at GameCity 2006 in Nottingham, Lorne officially announced that they were working again on Citizen Siege as a multimedia project, with the animated movie to be produced by Vanguard Films, the studio founded by John H. Williams (Shrek) and Neil Braun:

“In CITIZEN SIEGE, Lanning and McKenna are creating a new universe where current global conditions are extrapolated into a frightening near future where democracy has all but disintegrated under the rule of global corporatism. Well‐known for their heartfelt characters and socially relevant storylines, Oddworld intends to raise the intensity level as their latest hero, an ex‐patriot, finds himself ensnared in a nightmarish credit racket that leaves him ‘repossessed.’

Williams added, ‘Abe’s Oddysee was a genre busting original game and was the first one I fell in love with. CITIZEN SIEGE promises to be an action thriller that, like other great science fiction stories, also has incredible poignancy to the universal issues of our time. Lorne and Sherry are highly revered as founding masters of CG animation and we think CITIZEN SIEGE is perfectly suited to be a breakout action adventure.

CITIZEN SIEGE will mark Lanning’s first directing foray into feature animation. His announcement comes after a year of silence from Oddworld, when it last announced the company would be redirecting energies away from internal video game development and would henceforth be focused on a broader palette of digital storytelling that would include animated feature films.”

By using the CG movie to secure funds away from traditional gaming publishers, Lorne hoped to develop their new IP into a multimedia success, with Citizen Siege: Wage Wars being the first video game tie-in. A second, untitled game was also announced but without any details.

In 2007 finally Lorne confirmed to CG Society they started working on the Wage Wars game, revealing that it would have been an online multiplayer game. By looking at some of the released concept art made for Citizen Siege, we can see that Wage Wars was meant to be a combat arena in which players would fight against each other. As we can read at the Oddworld Library:

“For Players, the War is Real! Perhaps they really believe they are in the midst of a genuine war, and not in a spectator arena being watched by millions as a form of mass entertainment. Let’s hope they never break free from the Wage Wars arena and spread the battle onto the streets. Hopefully the same removal from reality will not affect gamers who play Wage Wars online.”

In 2008 it was announced that Oddworld cut their collaboration with Vanguard and the CG movie would have been finished with another studio:

“Oddworld Inhabitants’ ambitious movie and videogame project Citizen Siege is still in development, despite the studio no longer working with original partner Vanguard. The project was announced back on 2006, with Oddworld’s Sherry McKenna telling GamesIndustry.biz that the company still intends to develop games as part of its ‘Oddworld 2.0’ business plan. “Citizen Siege is a project near and dear to our hearts so while we are no longer developing it with Vanguard due to the famous ‘creative differences‘, it is still in development,” confirmed McKenna, co-founder of Oddworld. “We still care about creating games although perhaps not in the way we did in the past. We are just in the process of finalizing our new Oddworld 2.0 plan.”

At the time it seems Wage Wars was also still in development, as Maxis co-founder Jeff Braun announced his involvement with a new Oddworld Inhabitant game during a talk given to students of Wilfrid Laurier University:

“According to Wilfrid Laurier student newspaper The Cord, Braun told the audience the game would feature a “revolutionary new 3-D animation system” that would feature “cinematic quality on a ‘1 to 1 scale’ to that of computer-generated motion pictures,” and would utilize the same assets as a CG film version.”

Unfortunately in the end the whole Citizen Siege project was cancelled following the financial crisis of 2008 / 2009. As told by Lorne to Wired in 2014:

“We got a movie deal for Citizen Siege, which EA greenlit as a game but we decided to take to a movie. What happened was the 2008 financial crisis put the writing on the wall for our CGI animated movie with a $50-60m budget. It just wasn’t going to work. Everything got dinged and it went back on the shelf — it was no-one’s specific fault.”

9th Power [PS2, PC – Cancelled]

9th Power is a cancelled action adventure developed by Eworks and planned for Playstation 2 and PC. It was going to be the first known project for a major console fully developed in Portugal and at the time it was shown in some of the biggest gaming events of the country.

Thanks to an interview with Marco Vale who worked as an intern (2D and 3D artist) for Eworks during the development of 9th Power, we were able to obtain some more details about this interesting game:

“In 9th Power players would control a character belonging to the resistance, a group of humans who had rebelled against the Atlantids (inhabitants of Atlantis) who oppressed them. As the Atlantids had superior intelligence and superhuman skills, such as the ability to mind-control, it was an easy task for them to take control of the earth.

Only few Atlantids were still alive after their society vanished, but they would do whatever is possible to bring back to life the rest of them. By using advanced technology they were able to revive some more Atlantids using their remains: as an example one of them was rebuilt from his brain and mandible, now depending on his robotic body to survive. The only hope for humanity was a single Atlantid who had also rebelled against the actions his own people, joining the rebels and risking his life to help them.”

The 9th Power prototype was developed using the Alchemy and Havok Physics engines and it was meant to be an action-adventure RPG with a sci-fi theme. The team planned to implement new mechanics that would set it apart from other action games of its time, such as the use of a skill tree and destructible environments.

Eworks was formed in 2000 specializing in software development, but David Rodrigues (company’s founder) always had the dream of making games, so in 2002 he participated to the Game Developer Conference with a friend, to “see how the industry worked, how things were done”.

Eworks found out that they could develop a prototype and present it to companies, but this process was not as easy as it seemed.  They took an early 9th Power prototype to E3 and Game Developers Europe where it was very well received, as they managed to show detailed models and high poly-count for its time.

They managed to gather the attention of Take-Two Interactive, that even sent them a dev-kit console to speed-up development. Unfortunately with the economic recession in early ‘00s there was a reduction of investment in original IPs and a turn to safer investments with already popular franchises.

Eworks’ investment in their first game was already expensive for the company (200.000 euros, with 50.000 coming from the European Commision) and even though they pitched it to various publishers, in the end they were unable to secure a deal.

Unable to find other ways of financing themselves, they cancelled 9th Power and were left in need of a financial restructuring, making them to focus on outsourcing work. During an interview with the Portuguese magazine “Mega Score” in September 2005 the team said they planned to fully return to video games development after the end of a few outsourcing projects. Unfortunately that never actually happened.

Slowly the team fell apart and with the closure of the company, their members ended up creating or joining other companies, such as Ignite, RTS and Vortix (which Marco Vale helped to create). In the concept art and screenshots you can see all the areas and characters created for the first playable demo shown to publishers, kindly provided to us by Marco Vale.

Article by Jump/Error, original version in Portuguese on the Videogame PT Blog!

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The Island of Dr. Moreau [Playstation, PC – Cancelled]

The Island of Dr. Moreau is a cancelled adventure game that was in development by Haiku Studios, to be published by Psygnosis for the original Playstation and PC in 1997. The game seems to have been based off an 1896 science fiction novel by H. G. Wells and maybe even related to the 1996 movie starring Marlon Brando and Val Kilmer.

“The text of the novel is the narration of Edward Prendick, a shipwrecked man rescued by a passing boat who is left on the island home of Doctor Moreau, who creates human-like hybrid beings from animals via vivisection. The novel deals with a number of philosophical themes, including pain and cruelty, moral responsibility, human identity, and human interference with nature.”

During their short existence Haiku Studios released only two games, The Koshan Conspiracy in 1994 and Down in the Dumps (probably their most popular title) in 1996. The Island of Dr. Moreau would have been their third project and by looking at the screenshots published in a few magazines at the time (such as Spanish Micromanía Issue 29) it looked like a promising game for fans of sci-fi adventures.

During those years Psygnosis was publishing many games for the original Playstation, as in 1993 they become part of Sony Computer Entertainment Worldwide Studios, but a few of them such as The Island of Dr. Moreau were planned for PC too. The game used real time 3D characters over pre-rendered backgrounds, similar to Resident Evil or Parasite Eve, also using Full Motion Videos and footage with real actors, filling up 3 CDs.

It seems the game would have been divided into three parts, probably one per CD-ROM: the whole Dr. Moreau’s mansion, exploration of the island (estimated area of 13 hectares) and finally an epilogue in an ancient Mayan temple. Gameplay would have been a mix between a classic point and click adventure (Myst) and a real time action game (Resident Evil, Tomb Raider). Haiku Studios were able to develop a complex timetable system to move 60 NPCs around the island, each one with their own activities following the game’s internal clock.

Unfortunately something went wrong near the end of development, Psygnosis abandoned the project and soon Haiku Studios closed down. The team was also working on two other cancelled games, Elric and Demon Driver.

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Momodora IV: Reverie Under the Moonlight [Beta]

Marking the fourth installment in the Momodora series, Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight began development as Momodora IV. Some footage of a playthrough of the alpha / beta Momodora IV has a placeholder music that sounds like someone tapping on a xylophone in parts and in other parts reminds one of Legends of Mana. The game’s beautifully nostalgic graphics appear to contain much of the elements of the game with the exception that the 2-D backgrounds seem to be enhanced in later versions.

While a large number of elements would remain the same between early and later playthroughs of Momodora, there were some noticeable developments made. A shader was added to the final product to shift the overall color palette to better fit levels. The game HUD was improved with the it being switched to the other side of the screen and fonts that were more suitable for the tone of the game. Grass in early playthrough also had not been developed yet to respond to a player’s movement. The characters and animations in the game would remain mostly the same but the boss in Karst City hadn’t been fleshed out. You can see that the sprite is a static image and probable one single sprite rather than a series of sprites layered over one another. Gamepad controls hadn’t been implemented in the Momodora IV beta.

Momodora IV was developed by Bombservice and published by Playsim, the change in title to “Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight“ was likely because the series was still unknown to most of the world and a more interesting subtitle could have attracted more people. In addition to the Momodora games, Bombservice has also developed Bunny Swordmaster Story.

Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight was released on March 2016 for PC. A year later on March 2017, the game was released for the Playstation 4 and XBox One.

Article by Blake Lynch

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