shoot ’em up

Lunatik (Pure Entertainment) [Playstation, Saturn – Cancelled]

Lunatik is a cancelled shoot ‘em up that was in development around 1997 by Pure Entertainment, planned to be published by Eidos for Playstation, Sega Saturn and PC. The team wanted to develop something similar to a 3D Defender, while showcasing their gorgeous (at the time) 3D engine, featuring dozens of enemies on screens, high number of polygons and detailed textures.

Unfortunately gameplay was not as fun as they hoped for: the project needed more time to be improved, but Eidos did not want to invest any more money into it. In the end Pure Entertainment reworked Lunatik as some kind of ATI Graphic Cards tech demo, and this version was released in limited quantities in ATI bundles. We can assume this ATI Edition was much different from what the team had originally conceived for Lunatik. As we can read on Sega-Saturn.net:

“But ultimately the project failed because the original concept (3D Defender) was next to impossible to do really well. We tried many different gameplay mechanisms to make it work, and none were working. Ultimately we ran out of time to make it work and Eidos cancelled the project. The game did get a limited release for the PC. It was bundled with graphics cards as a graphics showcase, but the game itself was poor.”

We were also be able to gather some early PR text shared when Eidos were promoting the game to gaming magazines and websites:

“Little known London-based Pure Entertainment is the developer behind the project. They are striving to update the genre with a true 3D engine, giving the player full freedom of movement within Lunatik’s 3D world. LUNATIK is a 3D Shoot ‘Em Up, drawing on the addictive gameplay aspects of classics such as Defender and Zaxxon for inspiration, and merging them with a uniquely dramatic look and feel, the combination of which has never been seen before.

Drawn with strong Manga cartoon influences, the 3D real-time graphics have paved the way for an unusual ‘above and behind’ perspective, which will be backed by some in-house techno tunes.

Lunatik will sport eighteen levels, a barrage of Armageddon-like weaponry (including a heat seeker), power ups galore, shields, cloaking devices to collect and bosses that appear at designated times throughout the game.

One interesting touch is the boss timer. Each of the 18 levels features a construction area, where the enemies are busy building a boss monster. If you fail to complete the mission before the timer ticks down, the boss monster is built, and immediately comes looking for you. Gameplay is very much a case of fire or be fired upon, and if you do succeed then the nastier and smarter the AI of the bad guys gets.

The game itself has 8 large levels, each one being a man made ‘moon’ orbiting the decaying relic that was once Earth. All out war is occurring between 7 of the Corporation Dominated Moons and one other, Nu Earth 3, an indomitable civilization holding out against everything the Corporate armies can throw at them. Your mission? Quite simply, wipe the floor with the enemy.”

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Xevious 3D Reboot [PS2 – Cancelled]

Around 2002 Namco wanted to reboot their Xevious series of shoot ‘em up, by creating a new 3D Xevious for Playstation 2. The team hired for this mission was Project Aces, the same people behind Ace Combat 04: Shattered Skies and the following Ace Combat games. You can imagine this would have been the perfect team to develop a new Xevious, thanks to their great 3D engine and experience with Ace Combat.

Unfortunately it seems Namco considered this Xevious remake to be less profitable than a new Ace Combat. After creating an early prototype using Ace Combat 4 engine and a few Xevious 3D models, Project Aces was moved to develop Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War.

A video from the Xevious PS2 prototype was shared by Project Aces on Twitter when they reached 5.000 followers.

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Sea Dog (Mariner’s Run) [NES – Cancelled]

Sea Dog (シードッグ) also known as Mariner’s Run is a cancelled RPG / submarine simulation / Shoot ‘em up game planned to be published for NES / Famicom by Vic Tokai. A couple of screenshots were found in old gaming magazines by japanes fans and shared on Twitter, while some details were published online in a japanese website:

“Although gameplay is not clear on screenshots, it seems Sea Dog was going to be a vertical-scrolling submarine shoot ‘em up with some RPG elements. Between deep-sea exploration and combats you would be able to rise to the sea level and stop at nearby ports. You probably could repair your damaged submarine and buy new weapons.”

We could imagine Sea Dog somehow similar to cult-classic Metal Max, but with real-time underwater shoot ‘em up combat instead than post-apocalypse turn-based combat around desert cities. By looking at the few screenshots available we can assume you would have been able to freely explore the ocean underwater, while fighting enemy submarines and hunting down bosses, then reaching nearby islands to help NPCs and upgrade your submarine. The title of the game was probably inspired by the USS Sea Dog, a Balao-class submarine in the United States Navy.

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Matchman [DS, Wii, PS3 – Cancelled]

Matchman is a cancelled run ‘n gun that was in development by TF-H Co in 2008, planned to be published by Lexicon Entertainment for the Nintendo DS, Wii and Playstation 3. The game had original graphics for its time, with hand-drawn, black and white scribbles: journalists were quite amazed by how a simple-looking game like this was meant to be released on modern consoles (indies were still not as common as today).

As we can read from the official press-release on gamesindustry.biz:

“Video games publisher Lexicon Entertainment and talented Chinese games developer TF-H Co Ltd have announced a 2 year agreement which will see the two companies bring a number of new IP to Nintendo DS, Nintendo Wii and Playstation 3 for a worldwide audience.

Matchman is a side scrolling shooter involving extraordinary graphics, manipulation and creative features. The graphic style is consisted by black and white line drawing, and the script is based on a combination of some classical fairytales such as Grimm’s and Andersons fairytales. In the script, there are many humorous factors. The black and white style will bring you the feel of an old school comic, which will attract audiences from different age groups.

One of the special features is the unconventional means to knock through some of scenario. In this case, you’re not going to kill bosses directly. For instance, conventionally you kill monsters by using weapons; but to kill an evil bird named Baba Yaga, you need to throw apples and feed it until its stomach bursts! Another feature is about manipulation. Within the game is a mode called Commuter, specially designed for people on public transport commuting to the office. These people can use a single hand to operate the console and the other to enjoy a soothing cuppa!”

Something went wrong in 2008 and Lexicon Entertainment dropped the project, before closing down their company. In 2009 a new publisher re-announced Matchman, as wrote by Gamasutra:

“Startup publisher Mamba Games today announced both its own existence as well as its first four game projects across PC and console platforms. The company, co-founded by former THQ executive Robert Nielson in November 2008, laid out its release schedule for the first two quarter of 2009, signing various worldwide and territory-specific distribution deals.

Mamba’s fourth announced title, Matchman (pictured) by Chinese developer TF-H Co Ltd, will debut for the Nintendo DS globally in the second quarter of 2009. Nintendo Wii and PlayStation 3 versions of the scrolling shooter will be released later in the year.”

In the end, Matchman just vanished and it was never published in any way as far as we were able to gather. We don’t know if TF-H Co ever completed the game nor what happened to the team after the cancellation of their project.

In the following years things did not go well for Mamba Games, failing with an international scandal about missing payments for some of their developers

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Battle Mania 3 NY: Gankutsujou [Dreamcast – Cancelled]

Battle Mania 3 NY: Gankutsujou is a cancelled Dreamcast shoot ’em up that was in development by Takayan and a few more developers who already working on the original series. The first Battle Mania or Trouble Shooter as known in USA was developed and published by Vic Tokai for the Mega Drive / Genesis in 1991, with a sequel titled Battle Mania Daiginjou published in 1993 only in Japan.

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The game settings are a parody of classic anime tropes, with flying sci-fi girls shooting down aliens and monsters. Levels are often inspired by japanese culture and they change from side-scrolling to a vertical scrolling. This third chapter in the Battle Mania series was originally conceived as an arcade game, as we can read in a translated interview with Takayan:

Please tell us a bit about what happened after Daiginjo. You brought a design document for the legendary unreleased Dreamcast game Battle Mania N.Y. Gankutsujou but on the cover, there are Saturn and Playstation logos, does that mean you proposed this project during the 32-bit generation?

Takayan: Nope, they wouldn’t let me make it. I’m a big SEGA fan and just as I was thinking I’ll quit if they don’t let me make games for the Megadrive or Saturn, they put me in charge of the SFC division. That’s why I had to step away from Daiginjo right at the end of development. When I made this I’d already left VIC and the next company I’d worked at, and the company I was at was starting to look a little unstable. It’s a pitch for an arcade game but I had hardly any time to spend on it. (Laughs)

It’s amazing for the fans to be able to see Mania in 3d, could you tell us a bit about that?

Takayan: The pictures were drawn by fellow VIC survivors. One of them made the Softimage assets to go with the gameplay explanations. I made the 3d models of Mania and the picture of the heroines on the cover and the main artist on Odessaelya made the screens that go with the stage explanations. Add to that the artist who drew the giant robot and the queen and I think it was 4 people in all, I’m not sure whether that’s a lot or very few.

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Battle Mania NY: Gankutsujou’s pitch document was originally published in a book titled “ Nazo no Game Makyou 4” and later uploaded online thanks to HG101. By looking at its pages we can notice how the game was later pitched as a Dreamcast title, probably thanks to Takayan’s love for Sega hardware. Kid Fenris analyzed this document sharing some more details about what it could have been:

“The story itself, as far as I can grasp, sends our jetpack-sporting heroines from Japan to New York, spurred on by a distress call, a woman named Airin, and something called “N.Y. Haunted Square.” That’s possibly a Ghostbusters reference.”

“Battle Mania N.Y. Gankutsujou was to be a shooter like its two predecessors, though it would’ve presented three perspectives: a side view, an overhead view, and a 3D perspective reminiscent of Space Harrier and Panzer Dragoon. “

“The stage descriptions for Battle Mania N.Y. Gankutsujou are the best parts of the pitch, as each of them gets an illustration. A side-scrolling opening stage sees Madison and Crystal facing flying fish-men and a bicycle-riding robot on a city street. It’s perfectly in step with the humor in previous Trouble Shooter games, an unapologetic mélange of modern Japan and a world of weird mutants and technology, explaining nothing and never suffering for it.”

Unfortunately the available mockups are quite tiny, but you can still notice how it could have been quite awesome. In the end it seems Takayan and his team never found a publisher interested in this third Battle Mania and the project was quietly cancelled.

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