Incursion started development after the cancellation of Kanaan, by the same team. As it happened with Kanaan there are not many details about the game, but only a few small, pre-rendered images. Players would have used a squad of robots, to fight against other robots and aliens squads in different missions.
From what we can see from these images it seems Incursion would have been a real-time action / strategy game, in which players would give commands to their robot-allies while playing as one of them in third or first person view. The team attempted a 3D cell-shaded graphic style for their game, that looked quite awesome for its time.
After Incursion was canned, part of the team left Argonaut to form Pompom games. We tried to get in contact with a few developers who worked on Incursion, but with no luck. Only a few images are preserved below, to preserve the existence of this lost Argonaut project.
Kanaan is a cancelled first / third person open world shooter that was in development by Argonaut Games in late ‘90, planned to be published in 1998 / 1999 by Ubisoft on PC. While many other lost games from Argonaut were widely known, this one seems to have been forgotten for many years, until in January 2016 Werta Oldgamesru noticed this title and posted about it in our Unseen64 FB Forum. The project was quite an interesting twist on the classic shooter genre, because of its open world environments and anthropomorphic animal enemies. As noticed by Ross Sillifant, a two-pages preview of the game was featured in Edge magazine September 1998 issue, where we can read a lot of details about its gameplay:
“Think dark tunnels, think robot enemies, think bleak future worlds. The stereotype defined by ID’s seminal Doom has been adhered to with a near-religious reverence by developers worldwide. So perhaps, it’s salient that Argonaut, a traditional console game company once strongly linked to Nintendo, should be chipping away at the genre’s mould. Argonaut first person foray is currently dubbed Kanaan, although the search for a name to replace the development tag of “Chaos” has been a protracted wrangle. While the game’s futuristic setting is nothing new, its dog-themed alien enemies are refreshingly different. Guiding lone human Gabriel Cain, the player must stop the invaders from capturing his home planet of Camrose. Cain is one of two surviving members of Camrose’s crack Chaos Squad, the other being the group’s traitorous captain deSoto. As the game progress, new plot elements are introduced, including Cain joining the underground resistance. New weapons, locations and environments will gradually be uncovered as Cain struggles to defeat the alien foe. His eventual target is the alien leader Commander Kray, who must be brought down for Cain’s final victory.
Through the careful use of tessellation techniques, Kanaan has been gifted with vast environments. […] However, the game also contains a large number of structures which can be entered, the action blending smoothly from interior to exterior. Using Kanaan’s powerful 3D engine fully, certain buildings will feature balconies, giving the player the ability to look across an area and attack enemies from a distance.
In order to move swiftly around these incredibly open areas, the player can capture and utilize a variety of vehicles. These includes jeeps, cars, trucks, speedboats, helicopters and bombers, each with their own armoury available at Cain’s disposal. […]
While Kanaan’s standard viewpoint is first person, Argonaut has strong opinions regarding character depiction, and to that end an additional third person camera is selectable. […]
Cain also has access to a sniper weapon (as seen in Goldeneye) so he can pick-off foes from a great distance by zooming in through the weapon’s sights. Traditional first person puzzle elements also emerge, along with console systems which reveal conundrums that block progress.”
A few more memories about Kanaan’s development can be found in websites of people that worked on it. Simon Grellrecalls:
“Kanaan was the first game I worked on at Argonaut. I did most of the character and vehicle designs but unfortunately it was canned shortly before it was due to be released”
In an interview with Julian Alden-Salter posted in the GameOn Forum, we can read:
“I spent 5 years at Argonaut working on Hot Ice (unpublished), Alien Odyssey (unpublished), Croc, FX Fighter Turbo and Kanaan but was made redundant when the project I was producing (Kanaan) was canned.”
As the game was almost complete when cancelled and even Edge was able to try a playable demo, we hope that in the future someone could find a video or even a prototype of Kanaan that could be saved.
Thanks to Werta Oldgamesru, Maik Thiele and Ross Sillifant for the contributions! Screenshots saved from AVOC by Fabio Cristi
Most in the gaming enthusiast community know of Star Fox; a fan favourite among the Nintendo faithful and other gamers alike. What many do not know is what lead to the circumstances of its creation, and how it all started with an independent British games developer called Argonaut Games. Argonaut was founded in 1982 by a sixteen year old Jez San. This young developer had gained a keen interest in computing at an early age and had taught himself the Assembly language by the age of thirteen. He started developing his first game, Skyline Attack for the Commodore 64 in 1984 and he also became a Wizard (Admin) for Essex MUD, which is reported to be the world’s first MMO.
In 1986, the company finally started to become profitable and gained the ability to hire other staff in 1986, following the release of Starglider; a title recognised as one of the earliest break-out 3D games.
Argonaut Games managed to successfully design 3D models for the NES and the Gameboy, becoming the first developers to do so. This feat attracted the attention of Nintendo, who then signed a deal with Argonaut Games to acquire their services. What they had done to pique the interest of Nintendo, Jez said “They had the Nintendo logo drop down from the top of the screen, and when it hit the middle the boot loader would check to see if it was in the right place.” Nintendo had engineered their games in such a way that they would only boot if “Nintendo” dropped down to the correct place on the screen. Argonaut had modified this so that they could drop down any word, but with a resistor and a capacitor installed. This meant that Argonaut could make the game think that it had read the text and successfully boot, essentially circumventing Nintendo’s copyright protection.
It is at this point that NesGlider comes in. Jez and Argonaut games had a working prototype of the game running on the NES console. NesGlider was merely a placeholder name and it came about due to the fact the game was similar to their StarGlider game and was being developed for the NES console. Argonaut Games also developed a prototype of the game for the new Nintendo hardware the SNES.
The game did really look quite rough as can be seen in the gameplay demo that can be seen online (and leaked thanks to Hidden Palace, here’s a backup copy), it seemed very slow and the graphics were shaky. This was because the SNES console was not primarily built with 3D games in mind. NesGlider on the SNES looked like it was not as good as the previous StarGlider game which used quick movements and looked a lot smoother. This is why Jez told Nintendo “This is as good as it’s going to get unless they let us design some hardware to make the SNES better at 3D.”
Nintendo whole-heartedly agreed with Jez and invested one million pounds for the new hardware to be developed. It was called the Super FX chip which was comically codenamed “MARIO” (Mathematical, Argonaut, Rotation & Input/Output) the chip would render 3D polygons that would assist the SNES in rendering 2D effects. The chip would actually be placed on the games cartridge and this allowed the SNES to finally utilize 3D graphics that may look archaic by today’s standards but were groundbreaking for a console at this time.
Argonaut then gave the prototype NesGlider to Nintendo to allow them to work on it, this was a completely collaborative effort as developers from both companies worked on the game. Shigeru Miyamoto from Nintendo was made the producer for the game and he picked his own developers, artists and other people from Nintendo so that NesGlider could become a more “Nintendo” type game.
This is where the prototype did a complete “Barrel Roll”, Miyamoto wanted to give NesGlider a more arcadey feel and wanted there to be more action. This is where the collaboration came in and Argonaut games gave Nintendo the idea that the player would be in a spaceship and fly to other planets instead of the way that the prototype played, which in gameplay seemed to be on Earth fighting tanks and walkers. Miyamoto also did not want the game to be considered boring and so decided that all the main characters would be animals and the reason that he chose a fox was that it was a prominent feature at a nearby shrine.
NesGlider is not a cancelled game but is purely a super early prototype for the highly regarded StarFox. If it was not for Argonaut Games and Jez San this hugely popular franchise would have not come into existence. This kind of collaboration between Nintendo and Argonaut was the main reason for the success this title deserved and with a bit of give and take between developers and publishers amazing games can be created.
Argonaut did also go on to start development on StarFox 2 for the SNES, this was ultimately cancelled though due to the imminent release of the N64. Unfortunately in October 2004 Argonaut had to lay off 100 employees and was put up for sale, this was reported to be because of a lack of deals with publishers which had led to cash flow problems. Then in 2005 the company was put into liquidation and finally dissolved in 2006.
Croc was born as a prototype for a new 3D Mario game with Yoshi as the protagonist:
“The end came when we pitched to do a 3D platform game, the likes of which had never been done before. We mocked up a prototype using Yoshi. It was essentially the world’s first 3D platform game and was obviously a big risk – Nintendo had never let an outside company use their characters before, and weren’t about to, either. This is the moment the deal fell apart. We later made that game into Croc: Legend of the Gobbos for the PlayStation, Saturn and PC, which became our biggest ever game in terms of sales and also in royalties, since we owned the IP.”
Update: as wrote by a former Argonaut Games developer “Hi All… just to let you know this article is false. Croc 3 was never in development at Argonaut (beyond a 2 page proposal I put together) and there was no Spyro demo.“
In 2001 during development of Croc 3: Stone Of The Gobbos, Argonaut Games developed a tech demo for an unnamed Spyro The Dragon game. The game was not intended to be released, however it was playable and had a homeworld. The game prototype was done to expand on the engine both Croc 3 and Malice used. It was a tech demo developed for Playstation 2. Nothing else is known.
Thanks to a former Argonaut Games employee for the information.