Treasure Hunt is a cancelled action adventure game that was in development by Orbital Media Inc for the GameBoy Advance. As we can read from Richard Knight‘s website moogle.net:
Treasure Hunt was a prototype overhead adventure game for the Game Boy Advance. The concept itself was meant to be a blend of classical click-adventure mechanics with some new features and a Link’s Awakening style presentation. Suffice to say, we wanted the bar-none best looking game on the hardware.
Treasure Hunt was a sister-project to the studio’s main focus, Racing Gears Advance. As such, it didn’t have much programming support, and ended up being more of an artist test bed. Outside of some E3 showings it has rarely ever been seen.
Treasure Hunt was never meant to be the actual name; it was just the one that happened to stick. It was also trademarked, sparking an internal hunt to find a new name. The process was pretty drawn out, and basically in fatigue we settled on “Jukka’s Treasure”.
After years without consistent programming support, a changing design and a changing budget, I moved on to start Pirate Battle. The art style was thrown out and the game design was redone from the ground up to become Juka and the Monophonic Menace. Very little of the game described above was used; apart from a few character similarities they are entirely different in visuals and gameplay.
Pirate Battle was a turn-based strategy RPG developed for the Game Boy Advance. The concept itself was inspired primarily from Square’s epic PlayStation RPG Front Mission 3, but also gave a lot of credit to Fire Emblem, Advance Wars, and Final Fantasy Tactics. The story and art, meanwhile, were inspired primarily both my previous project and the famous manga One Piece. Our goal? Make a game so authentic to the big titles of the genre that you would assume it was Japanese.
Similar to Front Mission, characters would have a set amount of AP to manage. The changing point was that a lot of the environment was meant to be interactive; you could knock over a statue to hurt the guy behind it, drop a barrel in the water to bridge a gap, or even cause a chain reaction effect (this guy hits this guy which hits this guy, and so on…)
Adding to that was the idea of standard character classes (for multiplayer reasons) and house pillaging (for character building). Each of the story characters were also meant to have special abilities – AP sinks that could have mission-changing effects (hookshots, super attacks, etc.)
The team for Pirate Battle was small. In fact, for the lion’s share of it, there was just an artist, a programmer, and myself. Nonetheless, progress on the game was so fast on our agile team that we announced the game – screenshots and all – to IGN just prior to E3 2004. (I think we planned on asking virt to do the soundtrack again, but I don’t recall if those talks ever actually happened.)
The first version of the game was actually for the PC – Sean had put together a simple networking client, I put together some art from other games, and we just battled it out to see what worked and what didn’t with the gameplay – a crucial concern given we were trying to slam mechanics from two different games together but still keep it multiplayer-relevant. (Not to mention that most of our development hardware was typically locked down for use on the other two games in the studio.) I think we were going to attempt to do a single-cart multiplayer mode – something we wanted to do even on Racing Gears – but the odds of that working out were 50/50 (GBA games using single-cart requires copying all data to RAM, which is a big problem since our games would always be pulling info directly off the cartridge.)
Eventually, Scurge: Hive and Juka were put on the fast track and we no longer had enough programmers for all three projects – our core programmers from the early Racing Gears days had since departed for Pandemic Studios. I departed some time after the programmer gap. It’s neither appropriate to explain nor really clear why the game never finished, but I will say that Pirate Battle is perhaps the game I am most proud of. Maybe I can do something for it again some day. A year later, Orbital released some new screenshots with a dramatically different look (more Fire Emblem) and a new platform (DS). While the world map is either similar or based on some design work I had done – the free roaming ship mode was always part of the plan – I’m not in a position to know what the gameplay changes were (or if the game was in fact playable in its new incarnation.)
The studio appears to be gone now, so I’m not even sure who was tasked to the project after me, but it’s a shame it will never see the light of day.
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