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The Terror of Tech Town [NES Power Glove – Cancelled]

The Terror of Tech Town (also known as Tektown) is a cancelled NES game that was in development since late ‘80s by Mattel for their classic Power Glove motion controller. Players would move their “robotic hand” through corridors in a series of hi-tech buildings, interacting with objects and resolving puzzles to open doors and finally escape from the town.

Originally listed alongside with other Power Glove titles (Super Glove Ball, Glove Pilot) in an article published in “Compute!’s Guide to Nintendo Games” in 1989, Tech Town was later marked as to be released in Spring 1991 during the Official Power Glove Game Players Gametape VHS Volume 1.

One presumed screenshot of Tech Town seems to have been published in a Power Glove Press Kit showing an updated version of a 1985 Commodore 64 tech demo titled “Time Crystal”, created by Jim Sach. After Jim worked for a while on Time Crystal for Amiga, it seems he managed to sign a deal with Mattel to create a Power Glove version but we are still not sure if the project is the same as Tech Town, as concept gameplay footage of “Time Crystal Powerglovelooks really different from confirmed Tech Town gameplay footage from the Game Players Gametape (as seen  in the video below).

The Power Glove Press Kit describes Tech Town with “As you travel through the “corpor-hoods”, the Glove can open doors, search through corridors, and even travel through time and space” so is still possible that the “outdoor environment with dinosaurs” could have been a different section of the same game in a different time. We could see more from the game in the soon-to-be-released The Power of Glove documentary, as another presumed screenshot from Tech Town was published in their Kickstarter campaign page.

In the end only two games created specifically for the Power Glove were ever released by Mattel: Super Glove Ball and Bad Street Brawler. The other 3 games announced (Glove Pilot, Manipulator Glove Adventure and Tech Town) vanished forever after the company and the market lost faith in the accessory.

Thanks to Maik for the contribution!

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OneChanbara Reboot (Darkworks) [Cancelled Pitch – PS3, Xbox 360]

Darkworks was an independent French studio not widely known by the average gamer, but they released a couple of fan favorite games as Alone in the Dark: The New Nightmare (Playstation, Dreamcast and PC) and Cold Fear (PS2, PC and Xbox). The company was founded in 1998 and unfortunately was closed down in 2012, because of economic issues and difficulties in founding new publishers for their titles. In about 15 years of activity, Darkworks were able to successfully complete and release only 2 games, while all their other projects were either cancelled or moved to different developers. There are already a good number of interesting lost Darkworks games in the Unseen64 archive, but many more still remain unseen and even if we tried multiple times to get in contact with people that worked at the studio, it seems almost impossible to know more about what happened to them or to their cancelled games.

Between all those unfinished projects once in development at Darkworks, there was what it looks like a reboot of the OneChanbara series originally created by Tamsoft, the games in which to play as a girl in bikini and cowboy hat, slashing down enemies with double katanas. In the images archived below, you can see that they created a concept art for a western version of Aya (the “clothes” are identical to the original character), one of the main protagonist of OneChanbara. We can speculate that Darkworks tried to pitch to D3 Publisher a new OneChanbara game for PS3 and Xbox 360, during the same time in which D3 also tested a western version of their popular Earth Defense Force series by letting Vicious Cycle Software to develop EDF: Insect Armageddon. Unfortunately for Darkworks, this project was not greenlighted and we’ll never know how good a French OneChanbara could have been. Only a few concept arts remain, to preserve the existence of this lost pitch.

Thanks to Dorwaks for the contribution!

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Switchblade 2 [NES – Cancelled]

Switchblade 2 is side-scrolling action title originally developed by Core Design and published by Gremlin Interactive for Amiga in 1991. A Famicom / NES port of the game, created by Kemco, was slated for release in november 1992. The player controlled a soldier, nicknamed “Switchblade”,  who had to save planet F-S5 from an alien invasion. As in similar action titles, he was able to double jump, use blades, guns, and collect power-ups for the latter. More weapons and upgrades could also be bought in the store.

It’s unknown why Kemco never released their version of Switchblade 2 or if it had any major difference compared to the original Amiga version, graphics aside.

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TR2N: Liberation [Cancelled Pitch – PS3, Xbox 360, PC]

Tron: Evolution by Propaganda Games was the official tie-in game for the Tron: Legacy movie, but before Disney published this one for Xbox 360, PS3 and PC in 2008 they asked to different studios to pitch a game for their TRON sequel. The film was still internally known with the WIP-title of TR2N and one of these prototypes was made by Day 1 Studios, a team mostly known for the MechAssault series. In the short pitch demos created by D1S in just a few weeks it was possible to play similar scenes to the ones seen in the first official Tron: Legacy trailer from Sandiego Comic Con 2008: a multiplayer racing track and a single player Identity Disc combat sequence (which had 2 playable versions, one of which was built around a rhythm mechanic). Unfortunately Disney wanted to have a fully complete game in less than a year, to be sure to release it as soon as the movie was out. In the end they greenlight the pitch by Propaganda Games and the TR2N prototype by Day 1 Studios was not developed further.

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Zenith (Climber) [N64 – Cancelled]

Zenith (also known as Climber in its early days) is a cancelled action / racing game hybrid planned for Nintendo 64 that was in development by DMA Design, the studio that created such popular games as Lemmings and the first Grand Theft Auto, other than cult titles as Space Station Silicon Valley and Body Harvest. Before working on the new 64 bit console, DMA already had a successful collaboration with Nintendo on the SNES with Uniracers, an original racing game in which players use unicycles to compete in high-speed tracks while doings tricks to gain more acceleration. In 1995 DMA pitched a new ambitious sandbox project to Nintendo for the yet-to-be-released Ultra 64: Body Harvest. Nintendo were quite interested in such an interesting concept, so they worked together with DMA for 2 years, before to split up because of delays and different views on how the game should have been played.

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While Body Harvest was heavily publicized by Nintendo as one of the first games for their new console, another mysterious project was also in development at DMA for the Ultra 64, with a work-in-progress title of “Climber”. Climber was never shown to the public in any form but it quietly popped up in some early N64 release list, also to be published by Nintendo like Body Harvest. Without any more info about the project, some magazines even speculated that the game would have been a N64 version of Ice Climber, sometimes referring to it as “Ice Climber 64”.

Only many years later we found out that Climber was not related to Nintendo’s Ice Climber and DMA even changed the name of the project to Zenith after a while. The Zenith team was composed by a few young members of DMA Design: Andrew Eades, Andrew West, Richard Ralfe, Frank Arnot, Gary Thompson, Doug Smith, Paul Reeves, David “Oz” Osborne and John Gurney.

As it happened with Uniracers, Zenith was going to have an original twist to the racing genre, in which players were able to choose among a good number of characters to combat and run to the top of various towers with different themes (for example medieval and wild-west levels), avoiding obstacles and fighting against other competitors. There was a wide variety of available characters in the early prototype of Zenith, such as humans, strange creatures and aliens. Characters were able to walk, run, jump, climb, hang and swing through the different hazards of the levels and had different combat moves, a few simple punch and kick moves plus a unique special attack.

We had a really innovative split screen effect that showed the leading player on top but as the follower caught up the split would start to rotate until it was vertical as they were side by side. The effect of an overtake was really awesome as the split would turn upside down as the bottom player became the top player. It’s hard to describe in words. I left DMA to go to work for Virgin Interactive but I think you can see the ideas of Climber in the agency towers of Crackdown. – Andrew Eades, Climber Lead Programmer

In this old photo of Richard Ralfe (Level Designer on Zenith) taken at the DMA offices during the development of Zenith, we can see on the wall what could be a group image of some of the characters from the game.

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From the few info available we can speculate that Zenith would have been a more complex and “mature” version of Iggy’s Reckin’ Balls (a rather obscure racing / action game with tower-based levels developed by Iguana Entertainment and released for N64 in 1998), mixed with a little of Super Smash Bros.

Zenith was basically a vertical obstacle course racing game – first to the top wins. [below] is the original concept image for the Zenith project. Drawn by David “Oz” Osborne – Head of Art at DMA… this is currently on the wall of his office. – Frank Arnot

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Unfortunately because of the many problems and delays with the development of Body Harvest, DMA Design decided to cancel development on Zenith and to move that team to help finishing their most important project for Nintendo. As we can read in an old article published on Edge Magazine issue 121:

On its return home, DMA noticed a distinct pattern emerging – more bad news. Body Harvest was being developed alongside another game called Zenith – an original mix of platform and racing action. Zenith was to be canned and several people were given the unpleasantly singular option of joining the Body Harvest project. It was a difficult situation and White found himself “trying to motivate people who didn’t want to be motivated.” When tensions reached breaking point, about ten people decided to leave en masse. White describes the episode as “a lot of fun,” in the same way that crashing your car is a lot of fun. It is easy to imagine that Body Harvest may never have reached completion without White’s intrinsic skills of diplomacy.

We tried to get in contact with people from the original Zenith team and they were able to share a few more memories about this lost game with us, but unfortunately they were not able to find any screenshots left from the project. It seems than on the walls of one of the ancient buildings in the Java level on Body Harvest there is a texture that show characters from Zenith, hidden away as an easter egg from their cancelled title. If you are able to find this texture in Body Harvest, please let us know by email or in the comments below!

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