Over the decades that we now are able to enjoy video games, there have been countless releases with an even more insurmountable number of fans. For eight generations, there have been good and bad games by the hundreds, to come out each time we needed a virtual fix. And even though some, like Duke Nukem Forever (in production), seemed like they would never see the day, there are also a fair share of great ideas that never made it through. Today, we honor these victims of mismanaged budgets, overly ambitious visionaries, prudent skeptics and other lost causes in the dog-eat-dog game industry. Note that due to the rarity of some material, this editorial will be laced with outside sources. My humble thanks to the online communities such as Youtube, for hunting down these gems and not letting them wither away. Here are the top 5 cancelled (or lost) games throughout the decades:
5: SimsVille (PC)
Maxis has always been on the forefront of creating an enjoyable micromanagement simulation for all to enjoy. Ever since SimCity sparked the creative genius of the megalomaniac in us, they’ve provided tons of other ‘Sim’ franchises for us to play god or ‘mayor’ in. SimsVille was the ambitious brainchild to combine the best of their 2 biggest franchises, The Sims and SimCity, into one intertwined whole. In the smaller village setting, players would be able to create and control most aspects of not only the town, but the residents within; also following them to work and providing them with the necessary means and resources to succeed.
Much less centered on the personal appeal of The Sims and more on the collective good of the perfect small community, the game only received a lukewarm reception at presentation. Even though it combined and streamlined all the best aspects from both games, players were more interested in developments concerning the personal Sims approach. The management aspect of SimCity fused into a changeable community was not welcomed, even if it did show promise. In a case of ‘wrong place & wrong time,’ the game was scrapped and then ripped, stripped and torn apart into pieces; scattered throughout many upcoming Maxis ‘Sim’ titles. Perhaps that had been the plan all along; but it still was the grandest of ideas.
If you think it looks similar to other Sim games, you didn't read the above.
4: Fireteam Rogue (SNES)
Today, almost anything is possible in video games. Boundaries have been pushed back so far, it’s hard to envision what we could not create virtually yet. But Fireteam Rogue was built in an era where cartridges could only do so much and the automated engines of now were in baby booties. The plan was to make a game so massive, so overwhelming; it would have every 1996 12-year-old egg their pants. Boasting a hundred hours of gameplay with 4 unique characters in equal individual settings, this game would feel like an epic release with 3 sequels crammed right next to it. It would not only become a platform game with the biggest unique levels ever, but would also have special moves, shooting stages and who knows what else.
As an unheard precedent, programmers were going to attempt cramming 40Mb of data within the 2Mb storage space of a SNES cartridge, much to discontent of Russel Borogove, who stated: “We spent more time developing ridiculous data compression schemes, when we should have cut enemies and a handful of levels.” Megalomaniac John Skeel went completely bonkers on this title, although I can’t denote the maker of the equally warped The Neverhood (but also Bubsy). But I think this says it all: “After 2 million was spent, with about 750,000 spent on promotional materials, the game was cancelled.” They even custom made the world’s largest hologram…for a freaking SNES game.
3: Devil May Cry Portable (PSP)
This could actually serve as a novena for PSP support as a whole, with the many promising titles it once had that were taken away from eager consumers. With dozens of different, nonsensical arguments, players were stripped from many quality titles. Publishers stated piracy issues, lack of interest and more, while on the other hand boasting gargantuan sales for games such as Monster Hunter. Games like Resident Evil, Painkiller, Cannon Fodder, Oblivion (oh yes), Na0mi and many more games you probably never even heard of were once promised a bright future, before quickly fading to dust.
But the most prominent of all might’ve been Devil May Cry. Perhaps the biggest fault Capcom made was announcing such a huge title and then never releasing anything else. It is almost uncanny the amount of detail that isn’t available for this game, as if it never existed further than its whisper. With Devil May Cry being a top contender in the renewed hacker genre at the birth of the handheld, many would speculate a portable title’s instant success. And given subsequent hit releases for similar God Of War titles, who could doubt the strong idealist views of the fans? Well, Capcom apparently did, as they much, much later never even frankly admitted to start production on the title, stating: “Devil May Cry was once listed in a long string of titles in ‘potential’ development for the PSP.”
2: Starcraft Ghost (PS2/XBOX/Gamecube)
I know you’ve all been waiting to read about this one; we all want Starcraft Ghost to become reality, each and every one of us. As elusive as its name, this game was supposed to be a third-person stealth-action extravaganza, set in the Starcraft universe. Controlling Nova, the cloakable and highly foxy scout; this young military elite could bounce around the universe with nothing but her tight clothing and deadly weapons. It ambitiously incorporated all the best traits from Splinter Cell, Hitman, Halo or even Unreal, to result in an epic adventure never before seen on the sixth generation platforms. Nova could cloak and crouch around enemies, pilot several Starcraft vehicles, slide from rails; climb and then hang from pipes;,only to snipe while hanging upside down. There was nothing this femme fatale couldn’t do and it was all created seamlessly.
The ridiculously hot Nova, as illustrated by comic artist extraordinaire Greg Horn.
Oh, to die with her tight legs wrapped around your head as she broke your neck; many a hardened soul would opt for no less. But even more than her acrobatics, Nova also had access to psionic powers as a ghost agent, which would strengthen her skills even more. And not even that would suffice, as the game would also implement an extensive multiplayer; giving access to even more splendor of the Starcraft franchise. Multiple Terran and even Zerg characters could pit against each other for supremacy, with additional RPG upgrade elements; this game had and did it all. There is just so much this title brought so early on, it’s still amazing to this day. Even if Blizzard decided to do a slapdash job and release it right now, it would be a prime title.
Unfortunately, Blizzard recently explained at the DICE 2011 summit that Starcraft Ghost was canned in favor of World Of Warcraft and Starcraft II, stating: “World of Warcraft exploded, and we had to make some resource decisions. Imagine if the WoW team needed a programmer and an artist, and the [Starcraft Ghost] team [needed them]. Who gets them? It just wasn’t an environment that any project like that could succeed.” That’s right; your everlasting love for WoW killed Nova. I hope you’re happy.
Years ago, Starcraft Ghost already bested current games.
1: Edge Of Twilight (PC/PS3/X360)
Who? Why is this number one and not Starcraft Ghost? Because, my friend; not everything is driven by sense of hype. In the many years of the advertising excess at game events, there are always some titles that slip past the radar. Edge of Twilight was the biggest one of all: A high-quality production that saw little else but hard times. This title had little credit coming its way, while vastly improving the action genre in the most beautiful of ways. The visuals blended the highest beguiling settings taken from wonders such as Fable, BioShock, Resonance of Fate, Silverfall or even Dark Chronicle.
Enjoy the most beautiful trailer ever created.
Without even showing anything else, this simply perfect steampunk universe brought many of its bigger brothers to shame, with impressive cityscapes intertwining complex machinery within and technological decadent structures. These contraptions would have a bustling community roaring in its midst; equally distorted as the decaying instruments that surrounded them. And a deeply melancholic soundtrack would jerk the heart strings to its ultimate point, as a coarse voice lamented its sorrow. As if that wasn’t enough, Edge of Twilight would also teeter amongst the realms of dark and light, as the name would suggest; resulting in alternating splendor in both ends of the spectrum. Lush country chasms turn grim as rain descends and envelops all in a shroud of darkness. The bustling metropolis lurks from the side, inviting players to hurdle around its many cogs and traps with piercing light streams through each crevice. Even the protagonist Lex would alter his being from a steam-clad brutish warrior to a feral beast with extraordinary powers. Far more than just a steampunk vision of glory, Edge of Twilight was; still is, an award winning presentation of how intense an immersive game world can be.
The gameplay matched this wonder in a fast-paced action setting that left most of the RPG elements to roleplaying franchises. Much like Mass Effect 2, or recently Dragon Age 2, was ‘focused’ towards more action, Edge of Twilight brought the pain hard and fast. During daytime, a bulky Lex would cleave his massive gunblade through skulls with his steampunk arm. Enemies would slip past the voids of the two realms and attack, from where Lex would be able to perform devastating combos or precise one-hit kills. Additionally, there was a novel blocking system that would taunt enemies to lower their guard, triggering another instant takedown opportunity.
During nighttime, Lex would transform in some sort of Wolverine, using his feral strength to grapple and leap across terrains and using his animal traits as a combat method. It is here that the alternating scenery comes to fruition best, as Lex can perform much bigger feats of strength, opening up more platforming possibilities in the game. It’s nothing short of what Castlevania: Lords of Shadow should’ve been: an impressive world with the gameplay to boot.
Stringing these worlds together, the element of ether acts as a conductor between realms; opening different possibilities for each and adding even more gameplay layers.
Unfortunately, developer Fuzzyeyes was hit with the harsh economic reality that it could not pursue its visionary dreams. In late 2009, the independent studio was forced to lay off staff members and suspend all development plans during a ‘transition’ period. Even though CEO Wei-Yao Lu claimed that business would pick back up in early 2010, nothing was heard from the studio since. Publisher Southpeak Games made no further claims to this ambitious Australian title and in the end it seems Edge of Twilight has gone down the dark path its unknown presence resided. Personally, I demand this game is salvaged and not only brought back, but championed in all its glory; as the title would deserve. This game needs completion; the masses need its completion. Edge of Twilight might well be the Holy Grail, waiting to be found.
Note: After contact with Rob Burman, PR at Southpeak Games, he has told me that production of Edge of Twilight is still ongoing and they are working on an announcement soon. Get pumped!