Back to Sparta is a 2-months prototype for an hack & slash that was developed by Virtuos Games for the Playstation 2. It was created to evaluate their GameBryo 3D Engine and to have something to show to publishers to pitch for full projects. Probably this was never meant to became a full game but just an internal demo.
Maximo 3 is the cancelled third episode in the Maximo series, a game that many fans were waiting for, but unfortunately things went not as planned. The original Maximo: Ghosts to Glory is a 3D action game created as a spiritual sequel to the 2D Ghosts n’ Goblins series, developed by Capcom Production Studio 8 and released for PlayStation 2 in 2001 / 2002. A sequel, Maximo vs. Army of Zin was released in 2003 and the third game was in the works by the same team, but after only a few months of development it was canned due to lower than expected sales from Maximo 2.
Maximo 3 was started soon after Studio 8 finished to work on the second chapter (Maximo 2 ends with the promise of a third game, with Maximo and his allies teaming up to find Queen Sophia), and they created many concept arts that you can see in the gallery below, with new enemies, settings (an Arabian theme, inspired by the success of Prince of Persia: Sands of Time) and features. The “cartoony” feel of the original games was dropped for a more gritty look.
In the original design doc we can read more about Maximo 3’s gameplay mechanics and story:
Across the Southern Sea, in a land of exotic culture a great history, lies the city of Mashhad, the gateway to the ancient east, but lurking in the shadow of a proud people are the forces of blood and corruption. The Cult of Chut, a religious order legion with fanatics, is preparing to transform the city into a single bloody alter whose population will be the sacrifice in their apocalyptic ritual.
But all is not lost: Maximo stands against this tide of destruction. Having followed the trail of his lost love, Maximo arrived in Mashhad with hopes that his journey will soon end. Now he will pit his sword and wist against the church’s faceless leaders and rescue Sophia; the possessed conduit through which Chut makes itself heard.
Maximo 3 stars with Maximo and his band in bad shape. In their quest for Sophia, the heroes have encountered the Cult of Chut, death worshipers who find a “man who walks with Death” an affront to their beliefs. As a result, Baron has beel killed, Tinker maimed and Maximo and Grim have been merged into one, thanks to a curse. Maximo and Tinker have been hunting down cultist sects when they arrive in Mashhad, seeking revenge and a cure to Maximo’s condition.
The new connection between Maximo and Grim would have been used as one of the main features of Maximo 3, needed to progress through the game:
Maximo is covered in tatoos, which are actually the external manifestation of the cultist’s curse that has trapped Grim within him. With the press of a button, Maximo transforms into Grim, allowing him several abilities.
As a result of the curse on Maximo, turning into Grim drains Maximo’s Health. Stay as Grim for too long and Maximo will lose a life. Only by collecting the souls of the evil cultists can Maximo sustain himself in Grim form.
At some point in the game, Maximo will use Grim’s form as a disguise to infiltrate the cult’s tower during Chut Holy Day. Gameplay will have the players switch the two forms.
As a phantom. Grim can slide up walls, flow like a shadow along walls, give a little extra distance to a jump and glide down from long drops. In addition, the player can perform several attacks with his scythe. Grim attacks do not always kill, rather they are used to “prep” an enemy for Maximo’s attacks, such as breaking a cultist’s protection spell or “mortalizing” ghostly foes.
While in Grim form, the player cannot talk to innocents as they are too scared. However, Grim’s attack will free the innocents of the cult’s influence, turning them from enemies to normal innocents that Maximo must rescue from othe enemies.
After this first concept phase, Capcom Studio 8 created an early playable prototype with a test level which would have been the hub world of the game, to test out Maximo’s new abilities, as Wall Jump, Carry / Push / Pull / Throw items, Swim (to maneuver around obstacles, resolve puzzles and find hidden treasures in deep lakes), Talk to NPCs to gain information, advance the story, start mini-quests, rescue innocents from enemies and free them from the influence of the Cult.
Some new items and weapons features were also planned, as the Sword Grapple to grab ledges, the Flintlock Rifle (a new gun-weapon type), Claws to climb up walls, the Crossbolt Gauntlet (to shoot bolts and to use it as a grapple hook to swing or to be pulled towards a secret area) and the Horn (to knocks enemies back and to cause parts of the scenario to shake and break to find new paths). There was also a “lock on” mechanic, very much like the 3D Zelda games.
Maximo 3 was going to be a much more ambitious project than Maximo 1&2 and would have taken the series into a full action-adventure game, more similar to The Legend of Zelda. The new lead designer was heavily inspired by exploration / puzzle aspects of Zelda, so the game was going to be more focused on exploration and to be less linear than the previous titles.
In the Maximo 3 prototype it was possible to explore a small town, to interact with a few NPCs, climb upon its walls and fight with some enemies. There was just one functioning enemy, which was a the basic cultist that you can also see in the concept arts. Looking at this unfinished prototype and reading the design doc, it seems that Maximo 3 could have been the best game in the Maximo series, but unfortunately not much more work was done on it, as it was canned soon after the creation of this early demo.
Capcom Production Studio 8 was full of talented artists and after they finished Maximo 2 they started to work on 3 interesting pitches: Maximo 3, DeVargas and Final Fight: Seven Sons, the unreleased FF that was planned before Final Fight: Streetwise. In the end, only FF: Streetwise was greenlighted from Capcom, but when it was released it failed to achieve mainstream success and it bombed in sales. Capcom decided to not invest in their California team anymore and sadly Production Studio 8 was closed down in 2006. Only few concept arts, a video and a few pages from the design doc remain to preserve the existence of Maximo 3.
Akila (also know as Project X) was an early prototype for a new XBOX 360 third person action game / hack & slash (with 4 players cooperative mode) that was created by New Pencil as a pitch to show to Z-Axis in 2005, to impress them enough to publish and fund the full game. Even if the game could have been fun, it seems that New Pencil did not find any publisher interested in Akila and the project was later cancelled.
Celine linked us to the official Platinum Games Site / Blog, in which they have wrote some interesting posts about the development of their game: originally Jack’s character design was different and they tried various color palettes before choosing the final one.
We worked on our first proposal for two weeks, when a programmer walked by and said, “This is great! It feels fresh! I’ve never seen a game like this!” His words were enough to know that the first proposal, black & white, was what we should go with.
There were times when I thought to myself, “Ahhh… I wish I could use some grey…” I even tried it in a few tests, but it just didn’t look good. […] For instance, even though your human eyes see the two-tone as black and white because of the contrast, we actually put desaturated yellow into the game. We would also up the contrast on the far reaches of the background instead of obscuring them. We used lots of little tricks like this.
Many Bloodbath Challenges were cut from the final game, as the one with an huge slingshot:
One day, the environmental kills team were stressed out trying to think up a new Bloodbath Challenge. Well, actually, we were stressed because the challenge that we wanted to go with had been rejected by Nishikawa-san. It would have been a Bloodbath Challenge where you would have fired at enemies with a giant slingshot. It had great Wii Remote controls, and we were almost done programming it; however, unfortunately it was deemed to be too run-of-the mill, and didn’t get the kind of reaction we were shooting for with the challenges. Thus, we didn’t use it.
Also, a removed / censored kill can be seen in the video below.
Gauntlet: Seven Sorrows was the latest game from the Gauntlet hack & slash / RPG series. It was developed by Midway’s San Diego, at the beginning with the help of John Romero and Josh Sawyer, but they were later removed from the project. The original prototype of this new Gauntlet had some big differences from the final version: even the original story mode was cut. The two characters created by Romero and Sawyer,Lancer and Tragedian , were completely dropped from the game.
Part of the original, M-rated storyline would had seen the Flesh-Eater’s leader, Veledia and their struggle against the Aesatae and Morbus, while Madoc (the Wizard), would had to find out that his captured daughter was tied to a stone, raped and then killed.
The initial Gauntlet proto had a random dungeons generator with various modular tile types and a final arena for the bosses, but in the end they decided to scrap it and use linear levels.
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