Over the years, we have become accustomed to seeing a plethora of newly-announced video games at E3 each year, each accompanied by some hyperbole or perhaps a teaser trailer.This helps build anticipation and gauge fan interest long before the title actually hits retail shelves and we can get our hands on it. But as you look forward to the big releases due in 2013, spare a thought for those games that never saw the light of day.
A huge number of titles every year will be announced, but just won’t end up reaching completion. Some will stall soon after, through a lack of funding or the inability to secure a publisher. Others however will enter full production, only to be cancelled at a later point; sometimes for a near-unknown reason. Then there are even the unfortunate few who reach Gold status, are weeks away from release, and they still get canned.
These are the sort of decisions that haunt gamers for life. The interesting concepts, exciting storylines and intriguing trailers that fans get a glimpse of make them want the game desperately, so imagine the disappointment that comes when that title never gets finished. There have, of course, been thousands of such cases – and many, many high profile ones that stand out in the memory – but listed below are just five of the cancellations that we remember with the most heartache and sadness.
STAR FOX 2:
When the first Star Fox game was released in 1993, it caused a huge stir in gaming circles as it ushered in the Super FX chip era of gaming on the Super Nintendo console. The game allowed players to take part in largely-scripted and linear spaceship-based Dogfights, controlling the hero Fox McCloud and his team against the evil Andross. It was a massive success, and as such, a sequel was touted and entered development. Many screenshots were shown in Nintendo magazines and at press events, and the game was well on target to meet its anticipated 1995 release slot. It would have allowed gamers far more freedom, offering an X-Wing style free-flying space battle experience.
Then, with the Japanese version of the game all but ready to be put on cartridge and shipped to stores, Shigeru Miyamoto and Nintendo higher-ups decided that the life cycle of the Super Nintendo was coming to an end, and wanted to push their Star Fox sequel onto the still in-development Nintendo 64 console and make use of its superior capabilities. Of course, their new console was eventually delayed and the life of the Super Nintendo stretched out a little, so it was a real shame that Star Fox 2 was cancelled so close to release. It was so close, that a ROM has actually been leaked online, and gamers can now play the full title – albeit in Japanese or with a fan subtitled version – but at least it is now playable. Due to the fact that Nintendo have always denied the possibility of it surfacing on a Wii Virtual Console-style download service, the ROM is the best we will get.
Sonic the Hedgehog is, of course, the flagship character for SEGA, and has been for several decades. A new SEGA console would therefore have been expected to launch with a new Sonic title. The Mega Drive had several Sonic titles, the Mega CD got Sonic CD, so what about the 32X? Enter Sonic Xtreme. The game was actually first imagined as a Mega Drive title, but that would have been a 2D game much in the same vein as the regular Sonic series. It later developed into a 2.5D isometric design a’la Sonic 3D Blast, and then it was settled upon that the game would feature a fully 3D world.
This would only have been capable on the 32X, so development began in earnest, but it was soon clear that the 32X was going to be far from a success story, and the project was pushed forward onto the development schedule for the upcoming SEGA Saturn, as were many of the more promising 32X titles. The game would have been the first Sonic title with real 3D environments to explore, and would have been the only true platform-style Sonic game to feature on the Saturn. However, a combination of game engine problems, the inability to meet short deadlines and the fact that one of the lead designers left the company whilst the other caught pneumonia, meant that the game couldn’t make its Christmas 1996 release date and was cancelled for good. SEGA fans would have to wait until 1999 and the Dreamcast for the next true Sonic game; Sonic Adventure.
STAR TREK: SECRET OF VULCAN FURY:
Aside from a few hugely impressive screenshots and the teaser trailer below, not a huge amount was ever revealed to the public about this game. Developed by Interplay – the company who had long held the Star Trek license – for a 1998 release date, the game would have been an action-adventure where players could take control of fully rendered 3D versions of the original Star Trek crew; all fully voiced by original cast members.
The graphics were amazing for the time, and even stand up quite well by the standards of today, and the game looked like it would be a benchmark title for visual design departments to follow. The game would have combined exploration and adventuring with space battles, and best of all, allowed gamers to explore Vulcan for the very first time. It would have been a landmark title in the series. Unfortunately Interplay suffered from a terrible shortage of funding in 1997 and had to cancel many projects, with this being one of their most expensive it unfortunately had to go. Add to that the quickly-aging cast of the series who might not long be around to voice the game, and the title was never picked up for release by any other developer. This still looks like it could have become THE Star Trek video game.
WARCRAFT ADVENTURES: LORD OF THE CLANS:
If a super-heavyweight franchise like Star Trek could suffer on the executioner’s block, then what hopes were there for anyone else? Especially those making a point and click adventure game in the days when Doom and Quake had changed the gaming landscape for good, pushing graphic adventures to the periphery. Yet Blizzard were working on a traditional 2D adventure game that was meant to be released in 1997. It would be a black comedy set in Azeroth – the homeworld of all the Warcraft stories – where players controlled the soon-to-become warchief of the Horde; Thrall.
Delays due to scripting errors, re-writes and re-recording of dialogue meant that by the time that the game was close to being ready for release, adventure games had already begun their shift into three dimensions, with the announcement of Grim Fandango from LucasArts Games for example (then the masters of the genre). Sales had also started to decline for the genre, so it was days before E3 1998 when Blizzard announced the cancellation of the title. They felt it looked dated in comparison to this new breed of 3D adventure and the team didn’t feel it was of the quality that they would have liked. Of course, Blizzard have gone on to much bigger projects since – ahem… World of Warcraft – but the cancelled adventure still garners attention even today.
This last entry isn’t so much of a cancellation as a never was. The Shenmue series was imagined by gaming god Yu Suzuki (of Virtua Fighter and Outrun fame) as spanning across many chapters. He condensed several of these chapters into the fighting/adventure games Shenmue and Shenmue II, but he never managed to reach the end of his epic tale of Ryo Hazuki, a young man who leaves Japan for China in search of the man who killed his father and the secrets behind it all. He wanted to release one more game where all of the plot threads could come together for a grand climax. However due to huge production costs, lower than anticipated sales and the demise of SEGA as a console manufacturer, the third game has never been made.
A non-canon MMO entitled Shenmue Online was in development for many years – and was also unfortunately cancelled – but other than that, there has been no real news about the series ever since Shenmue II was released in 2001, aside from an Xbox release for the second game as it never made it onto Dreamcast consoles in North America. Rumours persist that SEGA will put together an HD collection of the first two games on Xbox LIVE or PSN for instance, and perhaps if that were successful then Shenmue III would be produced; but this is all still rumours. For now, all we can do is wonder how the story may have developed and hope that one day Ryo will avenge his father.
There are of course many more titles that we couldn’t include in this small list, so please do leave a comment or contact us on our Facebook and Twitter pages to let us know just what are your biggest disappointments or the games you wish that someone would come along and finish off?
The GodisaGeek Retro Corner is part of “Feature Friday” and will return on the first Friday of next month. You can see previous entries into the GodisaGeek Retro Corner by clicking here.