Game development is as much a story of as-rans as it is of big blockbusters. For every Halo there is a failed FPS prototype, for every Mario Kart a racer whose engines stalled before leaving the starting grid.
Today we get a wonderful look at some of the titles that nearly graced the original Xbox and Dreamcast, thanks to the unveiling of a priceless stash of never-before-seen versions and prototype games at Hidden Palace.
Hidden Palace, if you’ve never heard of it, is a video game development preservation community – collecting not only these early versions and prototypes, but also never-before-seen artwork, hardware, code, and more. His latest effort was “Project Deluge” which brings together material from thousands of development records and shares the best of what has been found.
The the latest version is a real wonder, featuring early releases from Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, Jet Grind Radio, WWF Attitude and more for Dreamcast. But it’s the Xbox stuff where some really wild stuff is.
Raiders of the Lost Xbox
Perhaps the biggest gem here is a never-before-seen English localization of Dinosaur Hunting: Ushinawareta Daichi, which despite its almost complete appearance never made it out of Japan. It’s kind of like Jurassic Park crossed over with Monster Hunter, and was intended for the original Xbox.
Then another near-complete game, starring the idol from the Saturday morning cartoon, He-Man. He-Ma: Defender of Grayskull saw a PS2 release in Europe, but nowhere else, and its Xbox version, now kept by Hidden Palace, never saw the light of day. Another interesting find is an almost complete version of Pac-Man World Rally. It arrived on PS2 and Gamecube, but this Xbox version never made it past the prototyping stage.
The fact that so many of these games were close to being finished but never made it to their intended home on the Xbox says a lot about the console wars of the day. The original Xbox was a powerhouse and paved the way for the modern successes of Microsoft’s Xbox Series X. But it couldn’t compete with the mighty PS2, which remains the best-selling console of all time with over 155 million units sold worldwide. It’s likely that publishers saw a better return possible by focusing only on a PS2 version and letting the Xbox ports of time flounder.
A final curiosity to highlight among the hundreds of articles here is an unreleased title called The Vatz. Developed by Beenox Studios for PC and Xbox, it was set to be showcased at E3 2002 and ran on a custom engine called Goliath which was said to be capable of advanced physics rendering. Planned to be a vertical slice to attract publishers, the demo was as deep as the development of the third-person sci-fi game, and it faded into obscurity.
There is much, much more to find on Hidden palace, and there’s even the option to download versions for those who want to try and get them to run on original hardware or emulation software – a feat that’s more than possible, according to the site. Take a tour and let us know if you spot any goodies we’ve missed here.