Gamers don’t always get what they want and sometimes their wants become so apparent and obvious that developers have no choice but to cave in. Of course, developers don’t exactly deliver in the way gamers expect or want. Sometimes we end up getting teasers of what could be, and more often than not nothing really follows after it, and so we end up with a heart wrenching what could have been.
Here’s five of the most bittersweet teasers that gaming has seen over the years. These include a mix of demos, some less than ideal releases, and of course a few games that almost made it but were sadly cancelled.
5. Sonic World (Sonic Jam)
Despite the fact that SEGA’s days as a hardware manufacturer are long behind, Sonic on the SEGA Saturn continues to be a fascinating subject, if not a historical curiosity. Digging into the history of Sonic on the Saturn will reveal some really unusual things, and a ton of speculation of what could have been. From the many cancelled renditions of Sonic Xtreme to whispers of a Sonic Adventure prototype developed for the Saturn (which isn’t outlandish considering that Shenmue on the Saturn is an actual thing).
After years of false hopes and less than ideal alternatives (Sonic R), Sonic Team and SEGA decided to give something to fans with the inclusion of Sonic World inside Sonic Jam (a compilation of Genesis Sonic games). Here you get to take control of a fully polygonal Sonic in a vibrant fully 3D world which was really just a glorified 3D museum. There’s rings to collect, fully functional 3D mechanics, springboards to jump on and even Tails to assist you in exploration. It looked great and it was almost too cruel to Saturn owners who were begging for a real Sonic game.
4. Conker’s Big Reunion (Project Spark)
One of the most memorable reactions at E3 was the one Conker got back in 2014, it started with cheers from the gaming community… a new Conker game for Xbox One! But mere moments later it turned out to be Conker themed content for Project Spark, and that lead to a collective sigh. Gamers want a new Conker? Well they can make it themselves!
Still, Project Spark is a pretty cool piece of software for what is, and the developers didn’t exactly throw Conker assets at players, as they even put together a cool little adventure that follows after the events of Conker’s Bad Fur Day. Conker’s Big Reunion has you explore some neatly designed levels, complete with stealth sections, shooting segments, chainsaw shenanigans, and even a fun boss battle to wrap it all up. As well-made and enjoyable as it is, it only lasts for a couple of hours, which leaves a lingering hole in your heart. Still, there’s apparently more episodes being planned and in the meantime hopefully someone in the Spark community creates a decent Conker game. All things considered, Project Spark’s Conker content is worth the price of admission for any gamer yearning for a new Conker or a classic 3D platformer.
3. Silent Hills
The situation between Kojima Productions and Konami is still a puzzling affair, and given the apparent disassociation between the two, Kojima is still actively promoting the upcoming Metal Gear Solid V: Phantom... and we can count on the game making it to shelves, unlike the very promising reboot of the Silent Hill franchise.
Silent Hills, a joint production of Kojima Productions and film maker Guillermo del Toro, was unceremoniously cancelled after the falling out with Konami. This PS4 exclusive looked mighty impressive too, and unless something changes in the future, the only glimpse of the game we will ever have is the excellent playable demo (titled P.T) which is no longer available for download. The consequence? Overpriced PS4 systems on Ebay that have the demo downloaded. What a shame.
2. Streets of Rage 4 (Fighting Force)
Fighting Force began life as Streets of Rage 4, a 3D beat ‘em up for the Saturn to follow up on the success of the Genesis trilogy. Again, digging through the history of its development will reveal some fascinating tidbits, but at the end of the day the developers (Core Design/Eidos) had a falling out with SEGA and decided to turn it into its own IP.
An early playable demo of this Saturn Streets of Rage 4 was made available to the gaming press at the time, which even featured Axel as a playable character. After the cancellation of the Streets of Rage 4, it would be rebranded as Fighting Force. Ironically, despite starting life on the Saturn, Fighting Force would end up on the PlayStation and Nintendo 64 only, with a sequel showing up on the PlayStation after which the series was never heard from again.
Snatcher made its way to North American markets as one of the few must haves available on the SEGA CD add-on for the Genesis. This point and click sci-fi detective adventure was one of Hideo Kojima’s few departures from the Metal Gear franchise to create something cool, and Policenauts was a follow up to that story-driven concept. A sci-fi adventure with a Mel Gibson (a la Lethal Weapon) looking protagonist that featured an immersive setting and some mature writing. The Saturn version was considered for a North American release, with the North American box art popping up in magazines advertisements much like Sonic Xtreme did at one point.
Unfortunately, localization issues (particularly English dub syncing) would soon confirm the cancellation of the US release, with fans to this day working on fully translating the Saturn version of Policenauts themselves. The original Japanese Saturn release of Policenauts still makes for a rather inexpensive collectible.