RPG

Towers II: Plight of the Stargazer [Game Boy Color – Cancelled]

Towers: Lord Baniff’s Deceit was a first-person RPG / dungeon crawler developed by JV Games (AKA JV Enterprises) and originally published on PC in 1993, with a Game Boy Color port  published by Vatical Entertainment in 2000. A sequel titled “Towers II: Plight of the Stargazer” was later released in 1995: JV planned to also port this one to the GBC, but unfortunately the project was cancelled.

Robert was able to get in contact with Vince Valenti of JV Games, who shared some details and screenshot from their cancelled game:

“We estimated it would take 3-4 months to convert.  It took about 6. We took the Towers I game code we wrote for the GBC and improved on it to lay out the Towers II game.  Came out nice, we thought. Too bad it never made it out to market.

Towers 2 – Plight of the Stargazer, picks up a couple of months after their initial landing.  The crew is discovering that there is something very strange in the land of Lamini. There is no outside trade or information, and the locals seem only interested in the current affairs of Lamini.

During this time repairs have been made to the ship, which is almost complete, and the crew is more then anxious to leave the island.  This is when the new sheriff requests our audience. Lord Daggan, one of Lamini’s highest council members appears to have gone mad. The council’s elite guards and mages were sent in to stop Daggan, but none have been heard from since.  

According to the sheriff, you are Lamini’s best chance.  It seems that the only people that have been able to enter the Towers and escape have been individual or small groups of thieves.  Several thieves were questioned, and their confessions were amazing. They spoke of large eyes with wings, men made out of metal, and living fire.  It is now up to you, with a companion if you choose, to enter Daggan’s towers, and unravel the mystery.

In this game, the mysteries of the island of Lamini start to unravel as well as the deceit of the council.  

New & Improved Features:

  • Approximately 6 minutes of vocal conversations.
  • Larger view screen.
  • changing dungeon graphics, by level.
  • Teleporters.
  • Visual graphic spell selection.
  • Improved AI, the intro of friendly characters.
  • Improved story line integration.
  • Spell effects
  • More puzzles
  • American-style, full featured RPG
  • 2 player linkable option (co-operative mode)
  • 15 levels to explore”

Thanks to Robert for the contribution! A playable prototype was found and shared online by Gaming Alexandria in January 2020.

 

1171 (Parallax Arts Studios) [PC – Cancelled]

1171 is a cancelled action adventure with fantasy medieval settings in development by Parallax Arts Studios for PC around 2000 – 2003. For today’s standard these screenshots don’t look so good, but for it’s time it could have been a great looking project if only released. As far as we can still find online Parallax was based in the USA but their development team was located in Russia. 

There’s not much more available on the game and by searching online you can just find a few Russian websites with these old images. It is indeed an obscure and forgotten project. After 1171 was canned somehow Parallax Arts were able to work on 3 other published games: Utopia City (2005), Liquidator 2: Welcome to Hell (2005) and Exodus from the Earth (2007)

If you can find more details on this lost game, please let us know!

Thanks to Dan for the contribution!

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Kunio-Kun RPG [NES, Famicom – Cancelled]

Kunio-kun is a cult-classic series of action adventure games originally conceived by Technos Japan in arcades and for the Nintendo Famicom console. In its main titles you take the role of Kunio, a japanese high-school delinquent (bancho) with a good heart, punching and kicking other gangs to free the streets of your city. 

While in the west the series is mostly known for Renegade and River City Ransom on the NES, in Japan many more Kunio games were developed and published. In 1988 Super Dodge Ball (a sport-based Kunio-Kun spin off) was released on the Famicom. A strategy guide was published by Technos in Japan and as noticed by Arc Hound on Twitter, at the end of the volume there was an announcement for a cancelled, forgotten Kunio-Kun RPG.

kunio-kun-rpg-river-city-nes-famicom-cancelled

Luckily japanese user 3Ways posted a photo of this page on Twitter. In the same thread we can read that Masaki Wachi wrote the scenario for this lost Kunio RPG: he’s mostly known in the west for his work on such classic games as Shining Force, Time Stalkers and PoPoLoCrois Monogatari.

By looking at the only enemy concept art published in the Super Dodge Ball strategy guide and by thinking of what kind of RPGs were mostly published on the Famicom in those years, we can speculate Kunio-Kun RPG would have been a turn-based RPG very similar to Dragon Quest, but with its usual modern high-school, bancho settings.

Thanks to thingumajig13 who translated the short Kunio-Kun RPG description:

“Nekketsu series – Part 4

RPG Kunio Kun (tentative title)

Wow, an RPG where Kunio-kun plays a big role is in the works! Set in Tokyo, this game features Kunio-kun and his friends battling it out against an army of delinquents. This standard RPG is chock-full of unique characters, puzzle solving, and Nekketsu drama! Kunio-kun and his friends set out on a great adventure filled with laughs and tears! It takes place in Shinjuku and Shibuya, so it’s pretty realistic! Currently, the script is being written with plans to release the game in the summer of next year. We hope you look forward to it!

v Planned enemy character. He looks pretty strong!

^ These kinds of enemy characters are appearing one after the other!”

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Citadel of the Black Sun [PC – Cancelled]

Citadel of the Black Sun is a cancelled RPG that was in development in 1988 / 1989 for DOS PC by Golden Goblins, a team under Rainbow Arts, a less known developer and publisher founded in 1984 in Gütersloh, Germany. At the time Golden Goblins already worked on Grand Monster Slam, some kind of fantasy themed pong game released for Amiga, Commodore 64, Atari ST and PC.

They were asked to create a new role playing game for US based SSI (Strategic Simulations Inc), a company popular at the time for their wargames and titles based on the Dungeons & Dragons franchise. Rainbow Arts was the major publisher of SSI games in Germany and the two companies grew a great relationship that led them to work together on this new fantasy project: Citadel of the Black Sun.

In late ‘80 computer RPGs were still in their early days, with some of the most popular ones being The Faery Tale Adventure (1987), Ultima V (1988), Drakkhen (1989) and Curse of the Azure Bonds (1989): the techs used to create such games left a lot to the player’s imagination, using overhead 2D sprites or some kind of clunky first person visuals. With most PCs at the time not having dedicated video cards to create more advanced graphic, it was not possible for developers to offer a vast, 3D open world to explore like today with titles such as SKYRIM, Fallout 4 or The Witcher 3.

The worlds of late ‘80 and early ‘90 Computer RPGs were made of 16 color palettes and visual tricks to give some kind of illusion of being in an immersive environment. These are the foundations from which Golden Goblins started to create their own role playing game. The team was composed of just a few developers and designers: Jurgen Dolassek (dungeon implementation), Andreas Gortz (dungeon implementation, game design, graphics), Frank Lenzer (dungeon implementation), Hartwig Nieder-Gassel (concept, game design, graphics), Heiko Schroder (programming) and Teut Widemann (concept and producer).

Previously, most SSI RPGs used turn-based group combat so Golden Goblins followed the same kind of mechanics with manual or auto-combat, EXP and a LV-UP system, but moving forward with graphics, characters customization, world interaction and controls. They implemented a “Barbie Doll System” that was shown in-game on the characters’ portraits. This displayed the different armor and weapons equipped (at that time most games just had static sprites).

The game was drawn in a full-screen isometric scrolling graphic to give the illusion of depth and multi-dimensional movements. The extensive world map could be freely explored as in modern open world RPGs and you could go anywhere you please with no barriers or story-driven limits to find new cities and hidden places to enter in. The engine changed to a different screen only when entering in towns, dungeons and combat. While these images could look simple for today’s standards, it would have been one of the best looking DOS games at the time.

Many were the interesting and innovative features planned by Teut Widemann for Citadel of the Black Sun, such as a true “Line of Sight” and window / door functions on buildings. You were able to enter all houses and to look inside if you had line of sight, by opening a door or peeking through a window. It was also possible to jump out of a window from the second floor of a building if you wanted to. Players could check wardrobes and chests to find new armor and weapons, talk to NPCs, trade items and interact with animals.

The epic storyline would follow the traditional fantasy setting, with warriors, elves, dwarves, wizards, orcs, dragons, castles and dark dungeons. On the right side of the screen there was a menu bar with all the available actions and the game was fully playable with a mouse which is something exceptional when most games at the time were keyboard control only.

When Golden Goblins and Rainbow Arts showed Citadel of the Black Sun to SSI they were blown away and immediately wanted to put it under the AD&D license, planning to use its new isometric engine for all their future RPGs. For a small, obscure German team it would have been a life-changing experience and the history of computer RPGs could have been much different, if only Citadel of the Black Sun would have not been cancelled. What happened?

Widemann shared some of his memories in a post on his blog:

“First one employee of our daughter companies we acquired called Time Warp moved into our offices as we closed down their offices. That guy wanted my job, always working to criticize mine. He said openly he wanted my job, he can do it better, and he hated RPG’s. He didn’t believe in them.

Second I fell in love with the girlfriend of my best friend Bernard. Remember? He was one of the three of us managing Rainbow Arts. She and I came together and she split from Bernard, not good when you think the three of us had to work together on a daily basis.

Story short: I left the company due to private reasons (due to my girlfriend, later my wife, we married in 1992, but she died of cancer in 2010) and that one guy took over all my projects. Within three months he split the development team, made sure SSI hated mine and the team’s guts and the project was cancelled. Remember, he hated RPG’s! The game was 70% finished.”

This was the end of an ambitious RPG by a now forgotten German team. It seems Todd Porter, their first producer at SSI during early development (before Nicholas Beliaeff took over), was such a fan of Golden Goblins’ game that when he left SSI for Origin he put many ideas and concepts from Citadel of the Black Sun into their game Knights of Legends. The remaining people at Golden Goblins then worked on “MUDS – Mean Ugly Dirty Sport” (1990, Amiga and DOS), but Rainbow Arts was later bought by Funsoft and then by THQ in 1999.

Thanks to Teut Widemann for his contribution! This article was originally published in our book “Video Games You Will Never Play“.

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Ochanoma Densetsu [SNES – Cancelled]

Ochanoma Densetsu (お茶の間伝説) is a cancelled RPG / board game hybrid that was in development for the Super Famicom (SNES) and would have been published by Information Global Service. There are basically no details about what the game was going to be like, but an advertisement announcing the game was published in an old IGS catalog.

Ochanoma-Densetsu-SNES-Super-Famicom-Cancelled

By looking at the two, tiny screenshots featured in this scan it seems it could have been a multiplayer board-RPG, somehow similar to the Dokapon series. Japanese translation says it supported multiplayer mode up to 4 players at the same time, using a SNES multitap.

Maybe one day we could find more images or information still hidden away in other forgotten japanese magazines. Fingers crossed!

Thanks to Celine for the contribution!