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Dreamcast Mania! – Canceled games: Forever Denied

posted on September 13th, 2007 by jay

Over the last few weeks I wrote about two categories of canceled Dreamcast games, those that were PC ports trying to eke out a living on Sega’s machine and those that quickly found a new home on a competing console. In the final installment of this series I take a look at the most tragic of canceled games – games that gamers never got a chance to play.

Castlevania Resurrection

What was it?
This game was slated to be the third 3D Castlevania and star Sonia and Victor Belmont. The plot line was the standard Dracula-has-returned nonsense; if you’re one of the 36 people on earth who care about the story arcs in Castlevania, please let me know, it would be an honor to meet you. More importantly, Sonia was set to sport a very short skirt and wield a whip.

Would it have been good?
Some people are big fans of the 3D Castlevania games. I am not one of them and thus find it difficult to even pretend to objectively answer this question.

Would it have come out had the Dreamcast lived?
There have been conflicting accounts of why Resurrection was canceled. The standard story is that one Konami team handed the game to another to complete, the receiving team wanted to start over, tensions flared, games exploded. The other version of the story goes a little bit more like:

“How’s the game coming?”
“Oh, it’s ok. We finally implemented Sonia’s skirt aerodynamics so there’s now a reason for all those floor fans in the levels.”
“That’s cool…OMG is that the PS2?!”
“Holy shit, it is!”
“Man, how is Castlevania DC going to compete with a machine that has emotions?!”
“Castle what?”

Of course the real version of this was probably in Japanese.

More on Castlevania

Chakan
What was it?
In 1993 game designer Ed Annunziata adapted the graphic novel Chakan: The Forever Man into a video game. The story was moderately cliched but still compelling – a cocky swordsman challenges Death himself to a duel. Chakan wins and is granted immortality by Death, but is also cursed to hunt a supernatural evil. He cannot escape his immortality until all of this evil is destroyed and so the player’s goal is ultimately to win his own death.

The Dreamcast version of Chakan was again to be helmed by Annuziata. It was hugely ambitious; many of the design ideas read like a design doc from a 15 year old who is unaware of the amount of work needed to design games. Every cut scene would allow you to move the camera freely in order to discover new things about the characters and settings. Enemies would have different weaknesses – one would have super hearing so you needed to sneak up on him. Chakan himself would scan his environments and his eye movement would reveal clues and secrets. Sounds excellent, but the lack of finished game signals it was clearly too ambitious.

Would it have been good?
The original Chakan is an odd game. It is decent at best, but its dark tone and excellent plot made it a compelling title. If we assume the released Chakan would have had all the planned features fully implemented, then the Dreamcast iteration would surely have been fun. Of course it may have been the long feature list that made finishing the game impossible – if anything ever came out it likely would have been a half realized version of the initial vision.

Would it have come out?
In a way, it did. Art and plot material from Chakan have been discovered by fans in Soul Reaver 2, which explains why Annunziata will not speak about Chakan. Eidos likely bought his silence as well as his work. Despite Annunziata’s company AndNow claiming they will “NEVER” give up on the character, it seems very unlikely a new Chakan game will ever be released.

More on Chakan

Agartha

What was it?
A survival horror game planned by No Cliche. Plot details are scarce but the hook of the game was that you could pick the boring “save humanity path” or the more interesting “facilitate the end of the world as we know it path”.

Would it have been good?
Designer Frederick Raynal may not be a household name but he has had quite an impact on the industry nonetheless. Besides being the man behind Sega’s French developer No Cliche and designing the excellent Toy Commander, Raynal created Alone in the Dark. This means that he laid the foundation for the horror genre we know today. It also means that had this game seen release, it may have been an excellent Western survival horror game (take that, Resident Evil!). Of all the canceled games on this list, the loss of Agartha may be the most tragic.

Would it have come out?
Finally, a game that’s demise can be clearly linked to the death of the Dreamcast. When Sega went third party they killed No Cliche and thus Agartha. Had the console survived we would have seen whatever horrors the old man sees.

Streets of Rage 4
What was it?
The next sequel in the Streets of Rage series, this one was going to be in 3D. Composer Yuzo Koshiro has been trying to get the game made for years and has had no luck. Even before the Dreamcast days, Sega contemplated updating the series and at one time planned to purchase the unfinished Fighting Force and convert it into a new Streets of Rage. Obviously, it is good that never happened, or at least good for Sega fans.

Would it have been good?
Unlikely. Many excellent 2D games suck in 3D, and those series that eventually manage to work in 3D often still had trouble transitioning. If Spikeout is any indication of what Streets of Rage 4 would have been like, it’s probably better the game never materialized.

Would it have come out?
The Dreamcast version of Streets of Rage 4 allegedly never happened because Sega of America executives had never heard of the series. More likely, whether they had heard of it or not didn’t matter, it was an unpopular genre. I enjoy blaming things on Sega of America, so let’s say the first thing is true. Also, it’s somehow Bernie Stolar’s fault.

More on Streets of Rage 4

Dee Dee Planet
What was it?
Who knows? It looked to be an odd Japanese real time action version of Worms. Or something. Watch this video and you tell me.

Would it have been good?
It looks awesome. The minimalist art is very appealing and it’s four players and potentially frantic. Could have been a good game to put on after your friends whining about how hard and odd Chu Chu Rocket is became intolerable.

Would it have come out?
The game was finished and some copies were printed, but then, alas, a critical networking bug was found. This means that copies of the game should exist somewhere. It also means the company who made the game, Dori Dock, could either not afford to fix the bug or thought the game wasn’t worth fixing despite being completed. Both promising options.

Ecco 2 – Sentinels of the Universe
What was it?
A sequel to the first Ecco Dreamcast title, which was a dolphin simulator.

Would it have been good?

I never got very far in the Dreamcast version of Ecco because it was damn hard, but it was also damn pretty and fun to just swim around. I doubt Ecco 2 would have appealed to many people but it would have been a solid game.

Would it have come out?
Because the game was never actually announced and is only known to exist because someone auctioned off a copy of the unfinished game, it’s impossible to tell why the game was canceled. The first Ecco was released in 2000 so it is certainly possible that the Dreamcast’s cancellation in 2001 is what put an abrupt halt to work on Ecco 2.

Propeller Arena

What is it?
An arcade style dogfight (that means plane fight) game designed by AM2.

Would it have been good?
From what I’ve played, it can be fun, especially with four people. It’d be hard to say we missed out on a classic, though.

Would it have come out?
The game’s cancellation had nothing to do with Sega or the Dreamcast – the attack on the twin towers made Propeller Arena unmarketable. It was set to come out soon after the attack and the game allowed players to pilot their plane’s into buildings. What seemed like a fun idea quickly became distasteful. The game was completed before it was decided not to release it, so if you’re curious you could find it on the web and give it a try.

More on Propeller Arena

That wraps up my look at canceled Dreamcast games. The games that were simply PC ports and those that made it to other consoles don’t make me especially sad, but this last list of games that will never be released does. Funnily enough, the death of the Dreamcast only seemed to impact the first two categories of games. Besides Agartha and possibly Ecco 2, these other canceled games died independently of the Dreamcast.

2 Comments

  1. christian said on September 13, 2007:

    If Sega America execs did not hear of Streets of Rage, that just kind of proves how the Dreamcast failed didn’t it? You can’t have successful promotions and tactics if you’re people don’t even understand the company’s history.

  2. chris said on March 15, 2008:

    I would do anything to get my hands on the unfinished Agartha game. I wonder why there were never any videos of that game posted. I looked everywhere and never saw the game in action. Somebody must have this.

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