The 8 Ball 1.15.13: Top 8 Cancelled Games
Welcome to another edition of The 8 Ball. This week’s subject is that of cancelled/unfinished/beta type games. There are legions of game that get crushed out during development; subject matter, game quality, finances, developer problems, and more are all possible reasons for a game to get quietly (or not so quietly) cancelled before the game is due out. I’m going to explore some of the most well-known of these games. It’s not necessarily a “best of” list, because a few of these games would have been really terrible if they did make it to fruition. This list is more about detailing some of the more well-known games though, so let’s begin:
8. Thrill Kill (Playstation 1)
Thrill Kill’s premise was that of a 4 player fighting game, mixed with some of the ol’e “ultraviolence” thrown in. You would be in an enclosed space with the other combatants and would build up your own super meter so that you could dispatch your enemies with ease. Due to EA cancelling it weeks before it was due for release, the game leaked, and you can play it with relative ease if you dig around the internet. It’s pretty terrible though, the fighting is laggy & boring, the control scheme barely works, and it has Tom & Jerry levels of violence. Paradox Studios (the developers) inexplicably reused the same fighting engine for the equally miserable “Wu-Tang: Shaolin Style”, which is pretty much a clone of Thrill Kill only without the Wu-Tang Clan (which might make it better, or worse depending on your preference). EA was correct in cancelling this game, but it’s still an interesting historical curiosity to seek out.
7. NBA Elite 11/NBA Live 13 (Xbox 360/Playstation 3)
I’m putting both of these games down for the simple reason that they are hysterical examples of EA’s hubris, although I’m not sure which is actually the funnier of the two. NBA Elite 11 was due out in 2010, but was cancelled just days before, due to the poor reaction the demo received from people. The “Jesus Pose” video for NBA Elite 11 pretty much sums up the quality of Elite 11. Going back to the drawing board, EA then announced that NBA Live 13 was going to be released in 2012, but history repeated itself with the game being cancelled months before it was due out. At least on the second go around, EA didn’t make the mistake of putting a barely-working demo on the 360/PS3 marketplace for people to ridicule. At least we can all look forward to EA announcing NBA (Insert some title here) 15 sometime in 2014, and then have them cancel it before it’s actually due out.
6. Star Wars Battlefront 3 (Xbox 360/Playstation 3)
The first two Battlefront games have a rabid (and slightly weird) fanbase that often looks on those games with rosy colored glasses. They were bland third-person team based games with mission objectives. They were competent for what they were, but were nothing special (especially if you stripped the Star Wars license away). Battlefront 3 actually looked promising though, especially with the (supposedly) more varied space combat, and going up in a ship from an (active) land battle up into the planet’s atmosphere, and even space to fight more enemies there. There isn’t a lot known about this game, but the aspect did leak out and sounded very interesting. It’s more of the same Battlefield-style gameplay, but just the idea of doing that sounds exciting. Sadly, Battlefront 3 never came to pass, with LucasArts firing Free Radical Design, and then giving the game to Rebellion, who is known for making Rogue Warrior. And we all know what a gem that game was. With the studio shift, not even Obi-Wan Kenobi could rescue the game, and all hope was lost.
5. Pirates of the Caribbean: Armada of the Damned (Xbox 360/Playstation 3)
This game is a bit of a shame, just due to the talent involved and the scope of the project. The idea behind the game was melding Mass Effect’s character choices/dialog systems, with the POTC world. You would play a cursed pirate (are there any other kind?) as you explored the world, battled other pirates/supernatural things, and tried to undo the curse. Your actions/dialog choices would dictate how you look, like in Mass Effect. The combat was in real time, but pirate themed, using swords and pistols, instead of a laser rifle. It would’ve been a perfect companion game to Risen 2: Dark Waters, but alas, Disney cancelled it. Special shout-out to John Vignocchi for his hard work on the game, sorry it didn’t come to fruition.
4. (Final Fantasy) Fortress (Xbox 360/Playstation 3)
Finally, a non-stupid looking neo-futuristic/steam-punk, characters with impossible hair Final Fantasy game. So OF COURSE Square had to cancel it. They can’t have their streak of churning out bland FF game after bland FF game be broken. Fortress was an action/adventure game where you explored the world doing the various RPG things but it was all real time. The video footage actually looks a lot like Kingdoms of Amalur, except you could use mounts (Chocobos) to get around the environments quicker. It’s a shame that the game (and by association GRIN) was torn asunder by Square’s inept leadership. The highlight of this sad story though is when Bo Andersson (co-founder of GRIN) e-mailed a picture of Square’s own Final Fantasy XII game, due to Square wanting more updates on the assets and such. Square’s response to their own Final Fantasy XII screenshot was, “That doesn’t look like a game in Final Fantasy’s style”….about Final Fantasy XII. Square said this ABOUT THEIR OWN GAME. This has to be one of the biggest “what the fuck?” moments on this list, when seeing why companies cancelled the game in question.
3. Castlevania Resurrection (Dreamcast)
Like some other games on this list, there has been a scant amount of info related to this game. You played as Sonia Belmont ridding the world of Dracula, just like most every other Castlevania game. While it wasn’t the first 3D Castlevania, that lowly honor going to the two Castlevania’s on N64, it was the first 3D Castlevania to actually look good. Some weird costume choices aside, the game looked like it had a very deliberate feel, with some interesting enemy art thrown in. It might not have blown everyone away, but it conceptually looked neat, and that’s what I appreciate.
2. Resident Evil 1.5 (Playstation 1)
This is the Holy Grail for the mostly unknown cancelled game. There isn’t a lot of video from this game, outside of a few trailers. The basic premise was the same as in Resident Evil 2, Leon Kennedy and Elza Walker (not Claire Redfield) were in a police station as Raccoon City is under siege. The game had a *very* different look though, with the police station bathed in a blue light/color scheme, and the overall layout looking more like an actual police station and not a weird mishmash like in actual RE2. There were other survivors to help you in the game also due to the fact that Leon and Elza never met in their storylines. Environmental changes, many more zombies on screen, and wearable gear were just some of the changes that didn’t make the cut in the official Resident Evil 2. To my knowledge, there hasn’t been any actual leaked version, which is a shame, because I and many other fans are interested in trying it out.
1. Sonic X-Treme (Saturn)
If Resident Evil 1.5 is the Holy Grail for not having a demo of a cancelled game, Sonic X-Treme is the counterpart, where you could see (and play) *exactly* what Sega was going for, and it makes it all the more tragic that the game never came out. Sonic X-Treme was a 3D Sonic game using the Nights engine. Now, before you shudder in bad memories of playing Nights, Sonic X-Treme took the engine and made an actual game out of it. The levels were designed as to actually make sense, which is something 3D Sonic games have failed to do in any of their incarnations. Pretty much all 3D Sonic games have had an issue where the levels feel like they are suspended in midair. Even levels that are essentially on the ground, they have areas that will kill you if you go off the beaten path or try to explore at all. Think of the “Emerald Coast” level in Sonic Adventure 1, ANY time you went into deep water, Sonic would drown. A lot of Sonic levels are predicated upon the idea of keeping you on a set path, and limiting anyway you can explore. X-Treme had elements of that but you actually could explore. The big reason is because the camera was able to keep up with Sonic. The fisheye camera had a precise movement that could keep pace with Sonic’s actions. Along with some great music, varied graphics, and people who actually gave a damn about Sonic, Sonic X-Treme likely would’ve been a huge hit on the Saturn had it actually come out. Sadly, squabbles between Sega Technical Institute (America Sega) and Sonic Team (Japanese Sega), engine changes, and insane deadlines killed Sonic X-Treme. Instead, Sonic 3D Blast came out, and we all know what a smash hit game that was, right? Ultimately, Sega’s shortsightedness with this game can be seen as a contributing factor that lead to the demise of the Sega Saturn, and with the Sonic brand as a whole. Sure, Sonic Generations was passable (in spots), but there still hasn’t really been a good 3D Sonic game. With the cancellation of Sonic X-Treme, it looks like there never will be. There is a tech demo floating around for the Saturn, which you can play with a Saturn emulator (try SSF). I encourage you to try it, just to see a glimpse of how good the game could have been, and how Sega ruined it all.
As usual, here are a few games that didn’t quite make the cut, for one reason or another. Usually, just because they weren’t that interesting, or else there is even less information about them, than the ones in the actual list. Anyway here is what I came up with; Resident Evil 4 (Haunted Version), Van Buren (Fallout 3), Starcraft: Ghost, B.C., Gotham by Gaslight, Highlander, Resident Evil (Game Boy Color), Castlevania: SOTN (Game.com), Mega Man Legends 3, Spider-Man (using the Prototype game Engine), The Avengers (THQ First Person Game), Mortal Kombat: Fire & Ice, Star Fox 2, and finally Mega Man Universe.
Yeesh, a *lot* of you seemed to have liked Final Fantasy X from last week’s column. Well, sorry to spoil your day but it is a terrible game that is remembered for its graphics (and music). The fundamentals of the game, the story, the side stuff, the characters that are mostly junk aren’t remembered quite so fondly. Tidus is one of the worst characters put not only in a Final Fantasy game, but in all games, period. Here’s my own FFX story: I had the game for about a year and played it but stopped when I got inside Sin. There’s a save point there, and that’s when I kind of lost interest. One night I decided to finally beat the game, so I booted it up, and played the remaining two or three hours till I got to the ending. I then realized I saw it 2 months ago but it was so bad that I had physically repressed it. That says a lot about the quality of that game.
A few other points to address: Using sales figures to determine “best” games is, at best subjective, and at worst completely idiotic. According to that rationale, the best game for the 360 is Kinect Adventures since it has the most number of copies sold. So judging a game based on how many copies it has sold is a completely meaningless metric. I might have included Final Fantasy 12 on the list, but I never got too into it. I only picked it up two years ago and wasn’t a huge fan of the aesthetics of the game. I did like Devil Summoner (The Soulless Army) also, but it’s a great game, as such. The battle system drags on in spots, and the plot twists aren’t handled well.