The history of gaming is a road that has been paved with failures (Virtual Boy), left-field success stories (Wii) and properties that have failed to attain the recognition they deserved (Dreamcast).
There have been great, ambitious games, such as Limbo, that have stewed in development hell for ages. And then there are games that catch the public interest only to fade away into obscurity, whether from corporate negligence, development issues or companies that failed to take a risk on their production.
The following is a brief list documenting the rise and fall of six titles that, for all the right reasons, looked incredible from the start and yet never had the chance to get off the ground.
1. City of Metronome (PS3)
This looked like a cool one. With shades of Tim Burton and a locale that recalls the sci-fi noir sets of Dark City, Metronome was to be an adventure built around the concept of using sounds to solve puzzles as well as handle enemies.
Tarsier, the developers behind this title as well as the Vita version of Little Big Planet were very gung-ho about the project, and they came so close to completing it.
City of Metronome revolved around the usage of sound. Although a detailed plot was never revealed, fragments of the story describe a conspiracy involving a slave race of creatures called Metrognomes. The protagonist would need to record and play back sound to advance through the game.
For example, recording the yappy bark of a Chihuahua and then lowering the audio’s pitch would result in a much larger-sounding dog noise. This noise could be used to frighten off would be guards. The sound of a door opening would serve as a key to open up a locked door. This latter implementation proved frustrating for the developers, who found that though the idea was unique, the sounds themselves were nothing more than “keys” to advance your character’s progress.
2. Earthbound 64 / Mother 3 (N64)
It’s hard to call this a canceled game, since it did end up being made for the Game Boy Advance exclusively in Japan. Prior to that however, Earthbound 64, as it was formerly called, was to come out for the Nintendo 64 Disk Drive peripheral. Several trailers and concept art have come out over the years, and much of the gameplay and storyline made it intact in its GBA transfer.
Earthbound 64′s downfall came about as a result of the failure of the N64DD. Rumors persist online that prototype cartridges and leaks exist out in the wild in some form, leading to much speculation and desire for this lost prototype.
3. Dead Phoenix (GCN)
One of the planned Capcom Five, Dead Phoenix was to play the role of initiate to drum up third party support for the Gamecube. Dead Phoenix was set in a Medieval-inspired world and would play similarly to Panzer Dragoon. Players would control a winged soldier as he blasted his way through enemies.
A neat twist involved an RTS component where you could switch to forces on the ground to defeat earthbound foes. Rumors abound that its engine would lead to the inspiration of Kid Icarus Uprising.
We all know how this one turned out. Of the Capcom Five: Viewtiful Joe struck gold on the PS2, PN.03 tanked critically and commercially, Killer7 launched Suda51′s career abroad and Resident Evil 4 seemed to be the only high profile exclusive left until Capcom ported it to the PS2. As for Dead Phoenix? Never released. What a bummer.
4. Mega Man Legends 3 (3DS)
After nearly a decade without a sequel to the underrated Mega Man Legends series, Capcom had plans to announce a new title on the 3DS. However, the manner in which they intended to develop the title was quite unorthodox, with the company encouraging fans to engage creatively in the development process. Fans would also vote and decide on character and enemy designs.
Capcom planned on releasing a downloadable prototype demo before the game’s launch, but the project was abruptly canceled for reasons that are still hotly debated in the Mega Man community. The game’s cancellation is said to have been the last straw for Mega Man designer Keiji Inafune, who went on to to form his own company, Comcept, shortly after Mega Man Legends 3 failed to get greenlit.
Inafune even offered to freelance himself out to Capcom in order to finish the game. They denied this request and then proceeded to neglect making new titles in the Mega Man franchise to such an extent that Inafune himself decided to create his own spiritual successor in the form of Mighty No. 9.
And the rest is history.
5. Star Fox 2 (SNES)
For those of you who live in a neighboring alternate reality, Star Fox 2 was released in 1995 to much fanfare and critical acclaim, becoming a top tier swan song of the SNES era. For those of you who live in our universe, however, Star Fox 2 was actually completed only to never be released in either Japan or the US.
Star Fox 2 greatly diverges from its predecessor. For one, Star Fox 2 makes complete use of the SNES’ pseudo 3D and Mode 7 capabilities. Instead of going through a linear level structure, Fox and crew would need to defend their home planet by intercepting enemy forces and missiles on a tactical map in addition to destroying enemy bases on various planets. You could also switch between sky, land and underwater modes on the fly. Not only did it look like an ambitious game, but it made use of modes and gameplay that were years ahead of its time.
So what happened? Some say that cultural disputes between the American Argonaut and Japanese Nintendo corps prevented the game from being released. The major theory is that Shigeru Miyamoto wanted a greater leap between 2D and 3D gameplay when the N64 released and believed Star Fox 2 could compromise this vision. Whatever the reason, we lost out on a great looking game. Nevertheless, nearly completed Betas have surfaced online and many aspects of the game have made their way into Star Fox Command on Nintendo DS.
6. Capcom Fighting All-Stars (PS2)
It was an Arcade and PS2 title that would draw its characters from a pool of Capcom fighters such as Street Fighter, Rival Schools and Final Fight. The game would play similarly to Street Fighter EX, but would return to one-on-one battles while simply keeping the 3D graphics as part of its aesthetic design. Four completely new characters would be added to the cast, the most popular being Ingrid, who despite not ever appearing in her actual game would make a cameo in Capcom Fighting Jam.
The combat system would have played out similarly to the core Street Fighter games. One prominent new mechanic would be a three-tiered health meter that would correspond to a power gauge. At full health, your ability to use “super moves” would be at its lowest, adding a challenging twist to combat. It would also be possible to implement “finisher” moves, a concept mostly foreign to Capcom fighters.
Allegedly, negative feedback from beta testers spelled the demise of this interesting take on the fighting genre. It is believed however that some of that negative feedback came from the jump to 3D, which was clearly not an issue for Street Fighter IV. Oh well.