9 Cancelled Games (We Almost Got),
There are a lot of game ideas that never get finished. Sometimes, the idea never even leaves the planning stage, sometimes the idea gets changed dramatically (Twelve Tales: Conker 64 getting changed into Conker’s Bad Fur Day, for example) while other times the game starts work, starts getting some press, gets promotional material made and then, right as the marketing team is ready to plan the release, it gets cancelled. We’re here to talk about the last type. Those games that were so close to being in our hands but never got there. The only rule for this list (which isn’t ranked due to the actual quality being impossible to judge for most of these games), was that some work had to be done beyond the concept stage and it couldn’t just be a cancelled port. Now, let’s raise a toast to nine games that came close to getting released but never made it.
1. Mega Man Legends 3
The most recent cancelled game on the list is also the one that probably raises the most bile, as its cancellation is where fan backlash to this once-proud game company intensified further. Of course, this isn’t surprising, since Mega Man Legends 2 ended on a bit of a cliffhanger, with Roll and company needing to get Mega Man back to Terra after he was stranded on Elysium in the game’s climax and Capcom, in one of their bigger PR disasters, claimed that there was “lack of interest” despite Mega Man Legends fans being very excited about the project. What makes it worse was that there were actually going to be two releases, a downloadable prequel game (in the same vein as Dead Rising 2: Case Zero) called Mega Man Legends 3: Prototype, which would introduce a new character named Barret and have ten missions to play through to help players get used to the new gameplay that would be on the 3DS. The prototype was practically done and work was well on its way for Mega Man Legends 3 but on July 18th, 2011, Capcom pulled the plug and decided to continue their hiatus of Mega man appearing in their games.
Would it have been good?
We’ll never know. The only person to play either of the games was Chris Hoffman of Nintendo Power (which is another nostalgia bomb that will soon be leaving us), and although screenshots of the game looked good, but unfortunately we’ll never know how well it played. Admittedly, since Keiji Inafune left the project when he left Capcom, it’s possible that it might not have captured the same magic that made the Legends series such a cult classic with its fans. In any case, it’s a sad fact that we may never get to see the game’s colorful cast of characters again despite petitions to Capcom. Still, at least Capcom seems to have finally ended Mega Man’s forced hiatus by giving him a 25th anniversary game… that’s a three-button RPG with bad graphics that can only be played on iOS devices and has an auto-play button. That’s what we wanted, right?
2. Ultima Online 2
Ultima Online was one of the first MMOs I remember my friends playing. It had a lot of classic moments (like when someone killed Lord British in the Beta) and was extremely popular. While it still exists today (15 years strong, by golly), it seems surprising that there was never an attempt to update the game or create a sequel. Well, there actually was and it was Ultima Online: Origins. The game was going to be set in an alternate timeline where Sosaria (the original name of Britannia) was hit with a cataclysm that merged the past, present, and future together. You would be able to to raverse this new land as one of three races, Humans, from Britannia, Meer, magical beings from Sosaria’s ancient history, and the Juka, who would come from the steampunk inspired Logos, that would be ruled by Blackthorn. As you journeyed this land, you would try to find out what was behind the cataclysm and engage in quests. The game was also a marked improvement over Ultima Online since it encouraged groups of up to 30 players and prevented players from mastering all skills (in Ultima Online, it was possible to tank as a mage).
Unfortunately, EA realized late in the development of the game that people who played the old Ultima Online might want to switch over to this new game, thus making Ultima Online less profitable. So instead of taking a risk on this new game, EA shut the project down in 2001 and made the team give support to Ultima Online.
Would it have been fun?
Hard to tell. For the time it looked good graphically and it was an interesting setting. However, it would have been going up against Everquest at the time, so its longevity was questionable. Still, it’s a shame that EA wasn’t at least willing to take a risk on this game.
3. Super Mario’s Wacky Worlds
The Philips CD-i will always be one of the most infamous consoles ever released, and rightfully so. While it did actually have a few good games (mostly ports of PC games like Lost Eden) they were few and far between and the games they made with beloved Nintendo characters were at best laughably bad and, at worst, complete train wrecks. As if the console didn’t do enough damage already, Nintendo’s partnership with Philips spurned Sony executives enough that they created the PlayStation, which would be Nintendo’s main competitor over the next console cycle and even to this day. Still, there must have been some reason that Nintendo wanted to partner with Philips, as opposed to Sony, in the first place and Super Mario’s Wacky Worlds was one of those reasons.
See, when Philips was pitching to Nintendo about how they would be the perfect company to create a CD add-on for the SNES, they showed off the Super Mario World engine running on the CD-i. This impressed the Nintendo representatives enough that they allowed Philips to have the rights to their licenses (paving the way for a majority of YouTube poops) in hopes that Philips would help develop a great Mario game that made use of the advantages CD games brought. Unfortunately, Philips never developed the planned game, Super Mario’s Wacky Worlds, beyond the alpha you see above. What details we know were that it was supposed to be the official sequel to Super Mario World, though it would be more like a fun version of Mario’s Time machine, with Mario running through different eras of time and encountering Koopas that would be decked out in period appropriate attire.
Would it have been good?
Hard to tell. There have been claims that this is the game that could have saved the CD-i but the alpha footage is clearly too early on to tell. For example, enemies, even Koopas, just disappear when defeated instead of bouncing off the screen or leaving behind their shells. Also, it’s not always clear what Mario is supposed to jump on and Mario doesn’t go down sloped surfaces smoothly. One thing that is apparent though is that the art style of the level (which resembles the same style found in the first two Zelda CD-I games) clashes pretty heavily with the sprites. Considering how well Nintendo games released on the CD-i were received and the fact that Nintendo made Yoshi’s Island the sequel to Super Mario World, maybe it’s for the best that this game stayed on the cutting room floor.
4. Thrill Kill
The first time I heard of Thrill Kill was in an old issue of Tips & Tricks that made the 3D fighter by Paradox Interactive its main feature and even revealed the move lists for all the characters. That’s how close the game was to being released. Thrill Kill was an extremely violent fighter where a group of of people who had been sent to hell were forced to fight for a chance to be reborn into the world. The game was unique for not only being extremely violent (Virgin Interactive, the publisher, was going to risk an AO rating for a while before they tried to tone down certain aspects to get an M rating) but also for being a 3D fighter with up to four characters duking it out at a time, and its interesting combat, which had no health bars but rather a bar that would fill up as a player did damage. Once filled, a player could perform a finisher (if there were two or more remaining combatants) or a “Thrill Kill” when only one opponent remained. Each combatant had multiple finishers and Thrill Kills and all of them were delightfully violent. Now the game’s engine did survive, making its way into Wu-tang Shaolin Style which was actually a fairly solid licensed game, but Thrill Kill itself never got its official release.
So why did it get cancelled? Well, Virgin Interactive was bought up by EA, who decided that the game wasn’t something they wanted to release due to its content. Yes, the company that released Ultima 8: Pagan and would later release Dante’s Inferno said Thrill Kill was too exploitative. Then, in a move that would make Activision proud, EA refused to pay Paradox Interactive their last payment and even refused to sell the publishing rights to another company, just to make absolutely sure the game would never see a release.
Would it have been fun?
Yes, yes, and more yes. Thrill Kill was one of those games that pulled off 90s over-the-top violence right while still having good controls and some really fun gameplay. The game had a disturbing but fun sense of humor (Judas being conjoined twins of Ken and Ryu was especially fun) and the way it forced players to be aggressive made sure that fights were active and fast-paced. Add in some nice horror references and some fun character designs and you have what could have been a classic. It’s a real shame that EA decided to play morality police since now the only way to play this is to hunt down a copy of the nearly completed game (and hopefully that copy will be the uncensored uncut version, as opposed to the myriad of betas that were also released by the game’s developers) and run it on a PSX emulator or a modded PlayStation.
5. Star Fox 2
When it comes to games that got cut at the last second, Star Fox 2 is on top of the list right next to Thrill Kill. The sequel to one of the best games on the SNES as well as the best use of the Super FX chip, was all but finished before it was cancelled due to Nintendo not wanting to release a new Star Fox game without using the most state-of-the-art technology, which in this case was the Nintendo 64. While this did lead to the classic Star Fox 64 being created, it is still a shame that it never got a chance to shine on the system it was designed for.
Would it have been good?
Honestly, yes. The game not only looked really good for the time with its modified Super FX chip, but it offered two new characters to select from (a Poodle and a Lynx), the ability to change the Arwing into a walking mech, maps which would inspire Starfox 64’s All-range mode, the first appearance of the Star Wolf team, and a pretty interesting gameplay design. In a similar design move that Starfox Command would use years later, the fast-paced action from the first game was combined with a real-time-strategy element, where you would take control of two Arwings and move them around a map of the Lylat system where you would have to liberate the other planets by running your ship into Andross’s forces to start a level where you would have to take down a fleet of ships, a fleet of missiles, star base, or even the dreaded Star Wolf team. However, even when you are in these levels, enemies are still moving on the map (though slowly) and you may even have to evacuate a level to get back to Corneria to help defend it. This keeps the action really tense and adds a lot of variety. Too bad it was never released. It’s also a shame that I can’t tell you about the almost completed ROM image that was released online and then patched by fans so it could be enjoyed in its completeness in English or Japanese.