Kunio-kun is a famous series developed by Technos Japan and it was their mascot in Japan. Despite the first game was a beat’em up, soon Technos used the characters for games in other kind of genres, even puzzle games. The most well known Kunio-kun spin off were those concerning sport games ( dodge ball, beach volley, football, basket, hockey, baseball ), always presented through Kunio-kun crazy and not-so-serious atmosphere the series is known for.
Yoshihisa Kishimoto, one of the main men behind Kunio-kun, revealed on his site how a go-kart racing game starring Kunio for Super famicom was in a preliminary phase in early ’90. The idea probably sprung after witnessing Super Mario Kart huge success on the platform. Unfortunately it seems the game never went into production and soon after ( 1996 to be exact ) the japanese developer declared bankruptcy.
Shin’en Multimedia is a development team that was known on Game Boy Advance for the amazing proprietary sound engine and the beautiful 2D graphics of its games (Iridion II, Maya The Bee Sweet Gold etc.). However it is little known that as early as 2001 they were testing polygonal graphics on the little Nintendo handheld with a top down futuristic racing game that resembles F-Zero.
Manfred Linzner, Shin’en co-founder, shared with us the following insights on their 3D engine and the GBA development in general:
We had at this time  a pretty fast 3d engine for flat and textured polygons on GBA running. We used it in some menu parts in Iridion2 and for intros of our games. It featured 16 colors, 60fps, 1×1 resolution. The major performance trick for all of our games and this 3d engine was to use the GBAs 16kb ram-scratchpad area to locate as much data and code there because it was much faster then the rest of the ram. I remember that almost everything in Iridion2 was running in only this 16kb to get the speed we needed. The rest of the RAM was used to store the background images.
Although the project was never completed because Shin’en had too much retail work to do at that time, a decade later the company released on Wiiware the jaw-dropping F.A.S.T. Racing League, a futuristic racing game with a Wipeout aesthetic but with a very personal twist on the gameplay department based on changing phase.
Manfred was so kind to dig out a 11 year old prototype to preserve its existence to the public. You can watch the video below, just keep in mind that being a “work in progress” build it has some glitches (most notably the sound). Also remember that the game target was the tiny GBA screen (240 x 160), so the graphics result stretched out on youtube.
Racer Prototype Credits:
Graphics: Florian Freisleder
Code+Audio: Manfred Linzner
This image from Iridion II show the icons composed by textured 3d polygons:
Update: the Magazine says Ultra 64 but those captures are from Super Off Road: The Baja for Super Nintendo from Software Creations
Williams Entertainment was one of the first third-party to show support for Nintendo 64 even before the console had that final name and specifications. In fact they showed at E3 ’95 two tech demo, one was No Fear Racing while the other was an off road racing game tentatively called Off Road. It’s very likely that this early demo was the base for the N64 racer Off Road Challenge.
Cool Boarders: Sold Out is a cancelled game that was in development in 2002 for the PlayStation 2, by Idol Minds. The Cool Boarders series is a snow boarding racing simulator, that was initially developed by UEP Systems for the original PlayStation in 1996. In terms of gameplay, Cool Boarders: Sold Out was probably going to be similar to the previous Cool Boarders games, but it’s a different game than the japanese-only Cool Boarders: Code Alien. Some 3D models from the game, created by Jason Stempel, are saved below, to preserve the existence of this lost project.
Tech. Notes on the Character Models:
“Concept Artist Jason Burch provided front and side orthogonal concept sketches and it was my responsibility to match the exact likeness of the illustration style and character silhouette.”
“Each character was constructed for use during gameplay and IGCS so each had an articulated face with work, eyes, brow, mouth, jaw and hair joints and also articulated finger control.”
“Modeling and texturing of each character ranged from 3-4 days”
Crash Tag Team Racing is a racing game developed by Radical Entertainment and published in 2005 by Sierra Entertainment for the PlayStation 2, Nintendo GameCube, Xbox and PSP. A beta E3 demo of Crash Tag Team Racing was shared online by ePiX in april 2012 and Stranno posted an interesting comparison between the final version and the beta.