Retro Studios

Legend of Zelda: Sheik (Retro Studios) [Wii – Cancelled Concept]

In May 2020 Shinesparkers published a series of links to the online portfolio of Sammy Hall, former Retro Studios contract artist who worked on concept art for a cancelled Zelda game based on the Sheika tribe. This unreleased, darker view on the Zelda timeline would possibly explore what happened to the last male Sheik after Ocarina of Time’s “Bad Ending” in which Link does not succeed.

These drawings were noted as being used for pre-production of Retro Studios’ Sheik Zelda project between 2005 and 2008 (the same artist also worked on Metroid Prime 3: Corruption and Donkey Kong Country Returns), so we can assume it could have been planned to be released on Nintendo Wii or WiiU. As we can read on their original page:

“Old storage hard-drive diving! (2005 – 2008) More stuff from a long lost cancelled Zelda (Sheik) action/jrpg that never went beyond pre-production. Really want to return to these some day to finish a few. Zelda games have wacky weird stuff, and this game was setting out to be ten times weirder.”

“Fun pre-pre-pre-production origin story of the Master Sword. Within the bad ending of “Ocarina of Time” exploring the last male Sheik’s (after a genocidal ethnic-cleansing) journey transforming into the Master Sword. All while the Dark Gerudo are giving their 100 year birth to Gannon.”

After these images were found by fans and gaming journalists, the artist just deleted his whole ArtStation account. IGN was able to get in contact with him, asking about this Zelda project and another canned Nintendo DS Boo game:

“Speaking to IGN, ex-Retro Studios concept artist Sammy Hall explained that both games were in pre-production when cancelled, and “I doubt many at Nintendo proper saw much of any of this stuff. I was mostly put into a room like Milton from Office Space and tasked to brainstorm between other projects.”

According to Hall, the ideas for both games came from ex-Retro leads Mark Pacini, Todd Keller and Kynan Pearson, but were “cancelled the week they went to create their other studios.”

Around 2008 – 2009 many video game websites published rumors about a Retro Studios Zelda game featuring Sheik, so it seems those rumors were true but the project was already cancelled at the time.

Unfortunately today some of these fascinating Zelda artworks seem to have been lost, as other websites did not save them all. We’d like to preserve them in the gallery below, to remember the existence of this lost video game. If you saved concept art from Retro Studios’ Zelda that are missing from this page, please let us know in the comments below or by email!

Thanks to AvenPlainstrider for the contribution!

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Metroid Prime 1.5 [GameCube – Cancelled Pitch]

Metroid 1.5 was an undeveloped new game in the Metroid Prime series, internally pitched at Retro Studios between the development of Metroid Prime and Metroid Prime 2: Echoes. This lost project was found in 2011 thanks to online research by Mama Robotnik on the NeoGAF forum, who unveiled the Metroid 1.5 design document written by former Metroid Prime designer:

“This adventure would take place immediately after Samus takes off from the surface of Talon IV. Upon exiting the planets surface, Samus decides to take a long rest in her Cryo chamber as her ship autopilots home. However, something goes wrong and Samus’’s ship computer hones in on a distress signal. The distress signal is coming from a huge alien vessel (huge, like the size of several Star Destroyers) that is drifting out in space. As Samus’s ship approaches the alien craft, a tractor beam activates and the Ship is pulled into one of the gigantic docking bays. As the ships doors close, the gigantic vessel folds and enters a parallel dimension, thus begins Samus’’ new adventure…

Upon awakening, the ship appears to be abandoned, there is no power except for auxiliary lights and telemetry from computers. It is up to Samus to unravel this mystery. The mystery being that the ship’s AI has gone mad and the ship is actually a war vessel that is on a collision course with a peaceful planet. It’s goal? The entire enslavement of the race of beings on said planet as well as natural resource stripping as its (the planets) destruction. So in essence, the ship AI has split into several different personalities, and is playing a deadly game with Samus. The Alien inhabitants of the ship are also in a state of suspended animation because as the ship travels through the parallel dimension, the alien inhabitants are being created and refined for warfare until the ship arrives at its destination and assaults the planet…. However, the robotic and automated entities are not, these will be the primary enemies that Samus must deal with. In addition, Samus must also deal with the ships cunning AI, who will all the while be taunting her and trying to trick her at every opportunity.”

“The Main reason Samus and possibly other Bounty Hunters are being pulled into this ship is to assimilate their best and most deadly abilities into the personality construct of not only the ships AI, but also into the actual Alien Inhabitants in order to further their quest for perfection. As the ship reaches its target, it will unfold into this dimension and begin its attack. This has what the ship and Alien race who created it has have been doing for past thousand or so years, going from planet to planet, assimilating the most violent parts of a culture and asserting it into its own being.

The main goal for Samus is to disable the engines of the ship, destroy the AI, and eradicate all life forms on the ship. The catch is that even though Samus is all powerful from her previous item acquisition on Talon IV, she will be limited to use them in certain areas of the ship due to the containment matrix that the Rogue AI has set up all over the ship. This will force the player to handle situations differently than expected, and once the containment matrix is disabled, Samus will be free to use all of her abilities. Due to being in a parallel dimension, there are areas within the ship where floors may become ceiling due to gravity being reversed, Time may run backwards, (illustrated by creatures and machines moving in reverse, water moving up into a faucet) and other sorts of environmental weirdness, that Samus as well as other Bounty hunters will have to learn to adjust to in order to survive.”

“Mad AI, the central computer of the ship has gone crazy, it sees inviting Samus onto the ship as a game for its amusement. Will taunt and try to trip Samus up at every move. The Mad AI has four distinct personalities…: The Child, The Killer, the Martyr, and the Fool… each one is deadly and utilizes different tactics and techniques.”

This cancelled project was meant to have a short development time, to release it shortly after the first Metroid Prime while the main team would take their time to develop the true sequel:

“So this is pretty much what I think we could crank out in a year, A Smaller Adventure with expanded mechanics and a few new ones thrown in. The beauty of spaceship design is that a lot of corridors and hub rooms can be reused over and over again, with minor variation; it also lends itself well to our room/door/hall layout. Plus, we can make the world denser by exploiting the super structure of the ship using morphball mechanics. Even though the idea of an AI gone mad has been used before in games as well as films, I feel that we could put a unique twist on it. And by allowing Samus to use only certain abilities in certain parts of the game, we can get a fair amount of replay value by offering the player different solutions to a single problem. This I feel would satisfy gamers who completed Prime and are hungry for something more with a few new mechanics and ideas thrown in.

With the addition of the co-op multiplayer components I have noted in the previous paragraphs, I feel that we would still have a game that feels like Metroid, albeit the feeling of Isolation would no longer be there, at the expense of the multi-player experience. However, I think the by unlocking the additional multi-player modes, after the actual game is completed, it won’t detract from the experience. Unlike TimeSplitters 1 and 2, we can keep the player focused on the main portion or adventure of the game which is what Metroid is all about.”

Concept art was also found in the design doc and on the websites of other former Retro Studios developers. You can find a deep-dive into the document’s details on Wikitroid.

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Donkey Kong Country Returns [Wii – Beta / Unused Stuff]

Donkey Kong Country Returns is a side-scrolling 2.5D platform game developed by Retro Studios and released by Nintendo for the Wii console on November 21, 2010, in North America, December 3, 2010, in Europe, and on December 9, 2010, in Japan. It is the series’s first traditional home console installment since Donkey Kong Jungle Beat, and also the first Donkey Kong Country entry not to involve Rare during the development. (Info from Wikipedia)

Development on Donkey Kong Country Returns started in 2008, but it wasn’t until E3 2010 that it was revealed to the public.

On the Gameplay and E3 trailers, we can notify some small things:

  • -Health Icon is a sightly different.
  • -Game general Font is much different.
  • -0:32 = When Donkey Kong bounces on the three enemies consecutively, he does not preform a spin followed by a somersault, like he does in the final version.
  • -0:47 = Diddy and Donkey Kong team Icon is Cyan, on the Final Version, the color is Blue.
  • -1:00 = The bombs on this stage is much more faster them the Final Version.
  • -1:06 = It’s possible to see again the Cyan color, but on the 2-Player Mode.
  • -1:13 = On the final version of this stage, it doesn’t have “automatic” barrels.
  • -1:20 = The stage don’t have storm and darkness.
  • -1:36 = Different scene.
  • An another gameplay video (which was playable after the E3 event), shows other miscellaneous stuff:

  • -Font, Health Icon and other lighten stuff is a little different.
  • -At the end, the background is Yellow, on the Final version, it shows as Green.
  • On an ANOTHER video, it shows a MUCH different title screen, and other stuff (which was already shown on the other videos)

  • -Different Title Screen (the Buttons, the Logo, the Font and specially the Background)
  • An Show at the Television did show DKCR gameplay (at before releases)… It shows again the other stuff, but we can also see other stuff:

  • -The Instructions appears from no where, at the Final Version, the Tutorial Pig appears in the background and explains the controls
  • The video below shows some animations of Donkey Kong Country Returns:

    Progressing into the Beta related stuff, when you progress in the game, you unlock some concept arts… They are separated into enemies, characters, levels and others…
    Some interesting stuff of those concept arts, are the Levels… Much levels have been changed in the development, such as Golden Temple… Some characters did changed too, such as Rambi, which was to be much more Realistic…

    It was also found on the Game Disc, that DKCR was to have 4-Player modes, still is unknown about it, but probably other Kongs could be in, similar to New Super Mario Bros. mechanism.
    Maybe was scrapped because of Copyrights of RARE:

    Click to zoom-in, it will open in another tab

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    Those images shows the stuff from previous videos, like the different icons, fonts and etc.

     

    Metroid Prime 3: Corruption [Wii – Beta]

    Retro Studios intended to give Metroid Prime 3: Corruption larger environments than Metroid Prime 2: Echoes, and enable the game to run at 60 frames per second. The developers were also interested in using the WiiConnect24 feature to provide additional content for the game that would be accessible from the Internet. A small Metroid Prime 3 Tech Demo was shown at E3 2005, created with the MP2 3D Engine. Nintendo then demonstrated how Metroid Prime 3 would take advantage of the controller’s special abilities with a version of Echoes modified for the Wii and shown at the Tokyo Game Show in 2005. The title Corruption and some of the first gameplay footage were revealed at Nintendo’s Media Release at the E3 2006 trade show.

    From early screenshots we can notice that the Ridley fight in the beta did not have Meta-Ridley as in the final, different HUD, graphic details and thanks to some concept arts we can see various early character designs that were created before the final ones.

    Also, thanks to a model viewer created by Interdpth and Revel8n, it is possible to find various unused models hidden in the game’s data. You can download the Metroid Prime model viewer (mpxviewer) in here. If you are able to find more unused models, please do let us know.

    In January 2012, thanks to fundraising organized by user over on Assembler Games, a 2006 demo, which documented a beta version of the second planet of Metroid Prime 3, was dumped and released to the community. The proto was developed to run on Gamecube hardware with 128 mb of ram, so it’s playable only on a custom version of the Wii emulator Dolphin. Using the debug menu it is possible to active/deactivate the various power-up and to try the third-person  camera.  The map is still incomplete, so only a few areas are accessible. Apart from minor differences, the general layout of the location is remarkably similar to the final version. Cutscenes are unfinished, and of course  the interface is still based on the gamecube controller.

    Thanks to Dark_ViVi for the contribution!

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