This Thanksgiving, we show thanks for the many things that we have. We as gamers are also particularly thankful for the many games that have been released or are on their way, considering that there are so many that don’t make it off the drawing board. On the flip-side, we should also be thankful for all the crappy video games that have been left on the cutting room floor that gamers and critics never had to endure. Without any further ado, lets take a look at 10 of these cancellations, some of which are especially heartbreaking.
Lobo (Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis)
What it was: A 2D fighter featuring Lobo and a handful of other characters (among them being an evil version of Santa Claus), Lobo featured 2D prerendered graphics and motion captured animations.
What Happened: While a specific reason was never given for its cancellation, early preview versions were sent to various gaming media (including Nintendo Power) which gave the game mixed reviews at best. Given that this was 1996, a 16-bit fighting game, especially one as mediocre as Lobo wouldn’t have made much of an impact anyway. Of course a playable ROM did leak to the internet a few years later. A 2003 Lobo game for Playstation 2 and Xbox from Kemco was also canceled as well (unsurprisingly, given the developer’s horrible Batman: Dark Tomorrow game). Thus, the main man wouldn’t appear in digital form until almost 2 decades later as downloadable character for Injustice: The Gods Among Us.
My Thoughts: This cancellation wasn’t a huge loss. A game shaping up to be as crappy as this would do the main main a disservice, and even if it was good, it would have been ignored due to the fact that players were well into the 32 bit era by then.
The Dark Knight (Playstation 3, Xbox 360)
What it was: A Tie in to 2008’s blockbuster film, The Dark Knight. Developed by Pandemic (Mercenaries, The Saboteur, Destroy All Humans), Batman would travel across an open-world Gotham.
What Happened: This game had never officially been announced, and it was unclear why exactly it had been canceled. For the longest period of time, the only reason anyone knew about it was because actor Gary Oldman mentioned it in a Gametrailers interview. Interestingly however, the game’s developer Pandemic didn’t even intend to develop it as a tie in to the movie at first. Six months into the development, the studio was told that it had to be a movie tie-in, and all of the development up to that point went out the window. With EA’s rights to the property expiring in 2008, there was additional pressure upon the developer to release a product in a very short period of time. Pandemic decided to use the engine with the aforementioned Saboteur which really wasn’t designed with an open world engine in mind, and this led to a lot of problems along with the game itself flopping commercially and resources being spread between two different projects. After its release, Pandemic was dissolved by EA. Over all, this debacle was said to cost EA $100 million.
My Thoughts: While part of this was EA’s fault for forcing the developers to tie this into the movie, Pandemic shares some of the blame as well for diverting resources to the Saboteur instead of just simply making the game they were tasked with making (we’ll see how this faux pas affected another developer’s big project later on in this list). Either way, it’s sad to see Pandemic’s Batman game get shut down the way it did, and it’s even more tragic to see the studio close up. At least the cancellation of The Dark Knight (along with a planned Gotham by Gaslight game) paved the way for Rocksteady to revitalize the Caped Crusader’s digital adventures with the awesome Arkham Asylum and Arkham City.
6 Days in Fallujah (Xbox 360, PS3, Windows)
What it was: A historical military fps, 6 days in Fallujah follows a group of marines throughout 6 days of conflict in Fallujah during the second Gulf War. Developed by Atomic games, the game would feature destructible environments, military tactics and weaponry, and a storyline which nails home the psychological toll of war. The developers interviewed over 70 individuals, including U.S marines, Iraqi civilians and insurgents, and war historians to ensure the game’s accuracy.
What Happened: Pundits on both the left and the right denounced the game, mainly for depicting a war that was still going on at the time. Many opponents of the game argued that it either glorified the war or made light of it by putting it into video game form, despite never having played it. Due to the game’s controversial nature, Konami backed out as publisher. While Atomic assured us that the game was still being released, in 2009 much of its staff was laid off. At one point, Sony had even considered publishing the title, but apparently passed on it. While the developers still assured us the game wasn’t canceled, as of 2013, the game still hasn’t been released so that’s what I’m going with for now.
My Thoughts: I’m torn on this game. On one hand, the Gulf War 2 was a very unpopular conflict and to put it into video game while it was still going on may hit too close to home for many, particularly for those who lost loved ones in the war. On the second hand, I feel that games have the potential to be art and literature, and for games to realize that potential, you have to be able to tackle controversial subject matter. SDIF would have been a great item by which to hammer home the psychological toll of war as it would have eschewed politics in favor of what actually happens on the ground. At the very least, gamers should have been allowed the opportunity to decide for themselves if the game’s subject matter is appropriate or not.
Dead Phoenix (Gamecube)
What it was: One of the Gamecube ‘Capcom 5’ (Capcom games that were supposed to have been console exclusive and were intended to breathe new life into the console), Dead Phoenix put players in the role of a winged man named Phoenix. Early trailers showed the game to be a 3D aeial shooter similar to Panzer Dragoon. Perhaps an update to the classic arcade game Legendary Wings?
What Happened: There were some development issues, and Capcom simply didn’t think it was up to Nintendo’s standards of excellence. There were rumors at one time that the company was considering making this a remake of Nintendo’s Kid Icarus.
My Thoughts: Too bad, as Nintendo’s system definently needs exclusives, and this looked like the closest thing to a new Panzer Dragoon as we would get. Then again, if the gameplay sucked, it wouldn’t have been a huge loss anyway, and the graphics in that trailer did look pretty generic.
Final Fight: Seven Sons (Playstation 2)
What it was: A new entry in the Final Fight series. Making use of a 2.5D view and cel-shaded graphics, FFSS would have players beating enemies to a pulp old school style.
What Happened: Apparently word came down from corporate that while the game was fun to play, it wasn’t visually suited for its core audience. Apparently Capcom Studio 8 (the developers) misenterpreted this as “scrap the whole fucking thing and make a GTA ripoff instead”. And that my friends, is how we got Final Fight: Streetwise.
My Thoughts: So the developers scrapped what could have been an excellent modern-day revival of the classic beat-em-up in favor of a thugsploitation game (especially considering how well that worked for Capcom the last time they tried that)? GODDAMNIT CAPCOM!
Maverick Hunter (Xbox 360, PS3)
What it Was: A first person Mega Man shooter that would be a dark and gritty reboot of Mega Man X, itself dark and gritty spinoff of Mega Man. Developed by Atmature Studio (founded by several ex-Metroid Prime developers) along side Mega Man creator Keji Inafune, Maverick Hunter would take all the original concepts of the classic series and merge them with all new ideas.
What Happened: It was scrapped for unknown reasons, similar to Mega Man Legends 3 and Mega Man Universe.
My Thoughts: While this no doubt could cause some serious backlash, this was a new and intriguing look for the series. It’s a shame Capcom is doing so little with the character. Mega Man’s 25th anniversary came and went last year without so much as a peep (and the fan-made Mega Man X Street Fighter). Isn’t it about time we see the blue bomber again? For now, fans wanting a first person Mega Man would do well to check out Mega Man 8-bit deathmatch.
X-Women: Sinister Virus (Sega Genesis) and X-Men: Mind Games (32X)
What they were: X-men games for Sega Systems. The former would put players in the role of Rogue, Storm, Jean Grey, or any of the other X-women. The latter would have the X-men, including Bishop according to a playable beta, travel inside their minds to face their darkest fears. The 32X title would feature 3D sprites that weren’t possible on the Genesis.
What Happened: No reason was given for the cancellations, but considering that it was 1996, and the 32X wasn’t exactly flying off store shelves, it’s not too hard to imagine why these games were shelved, especially if you read any of my past articles on the subject.
My Thoughts: Shame too, as the Genesis X-men games were awesome and the 32X game seemed like the shot in the arm the add-on needed.
The Lost (Xbox, PS2)
What it was: Developed by Irrational Games (Bioshock, System Shock 2, Freedom Force), The Lost told the tale of Tara Wright, a distraught single mother who makes a deal with the devil to enter hell to rescue her daughter, who died in a car accident. The game would feature several playable characters, each with their own abilities.
What Happened: The game’s development was rocky from the start. Character models were described as unstable, and the developer chose to switch graphics engines later on in development. Also, publisher Crave switched the game to a budget priced model. After being stuck in development hell for years, the game was shelved…in America at least. Indian developer FXLabs acquired development rights to the game and released it under the name Agni: Queen of Darkness for Windows in India.. It kept the same basic plot along with much of the gameplay while changing the art style. The developers also released this promotional video featuring Bollywood actress Malaika Arora:
My Thoughts: Thankfully this didn’t discourage Irrational from doing more console games, as they went on to create Bioshock a few years later.
Star Wars: 1313 (Windows, Playstation 4, Xbox One)
What it Was: A more mature and gritty take on the Star Wars universe. Casting players as Boba Fett, players would explore the seedy underworld of Coruscant.
What Happened: Disney acquired Lucas film last year, and earlier this year, the company shut down Lucasarts, canceling every product the company had in development, including 1313. Disney signed a deal with EA allowing them to develop Star Wars related software for core gaming markets, so it’s possible that this could be resurrected under the EA banner.
My Thoughts: I hope so. 1313 looks like it could be an interesting take on the Star Wars mythos, and I’m sure fans are anticipating something new and different for the franchise with episode 7 on the way.
Shadow of the Eternals (PC, Wii U)
What it Was: A spiritual successor to the Gamecube classic Eternal Darkness. Episodic in nature and crowdfunded, Shadow of the Eternals was being developed by Precursor games, a studio formed by former Silicon Knights employees, including the founder of the company, Dennis Dyack. The game would be developed on the Crytek engine and tell a story spanning several centuries.
What Happened: The project was put on indefinite hold after two failed Kickstarter campaigns. The first was canceled, and the second fell short of its goal. Dyack insists that the game is on hold and not permanently scrapped, but I’ll believe it when I see it. By the way, you might be wondering why such a prolific developer is seeking kickstarter funding for his game. That’s likely because no major publisher will never work with Dyack again following the X-men Destiny debacle, the flop of Too Human, and the lawsuit against Epic games. While I won’t go through the messy details, here is the Cliff’s Notes version: Activision commissioned SK to produce an X-men RPG. SK allegedly diverts money, staff, and resources towards a demo of Eternal Darkness 2 which could then be siphoned off to developers. X-men Destiny flops, and as a result of the Epic Games lawsuit/countersuit, the developer is ordered to destroy all products featuring Unreal Engine 3 code. This led to the cancellation of 3 other projects that SK had in development: The Sandman, The Box/Ritualyst, and Siren in the Maelstrom along with the two sequels to Too Human (it was originally planned as a trilogy). If you’re interested, you can real all about it here.
My Thoughts: Silicon Knights would have been better off developing X-men Destiny and putting full effort behind it like they were supposed to. If it succeeded, Activision would have no doubt backed an Eternal Darkness sequel. Instead it flopped, and it further sullied the company’s reputation. Lets be honest though, after XMD and Too Human, would an Eternal Darkness sequel be any good? How would we know Crytek wouldn’t be burnt the same way Epic was?
Well, that’s all for now. Hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving, a safe Black Friday, and I hope to see you here this weekend for our annual Green Everyday event.