Nintendo’s Lost IP, Part 3: Sweet 16-Bit

“Focus first on creating fun and new game-play, and then we’ll figure out what the character is or what the IP is that’s going to go with it.”

Word from Nintendo’s creative director Shigeru Miyamoto is that the company is, in fact, working on an unannounced, new IP for a future release. The quote above is from an earlier interview in which the man behind Mario explained his philosophy for use of characters and settings; Nintendo likes to create a game concept first, then decide which IP is best suited for it, or else create a new one if warranted.

Obviously this doesn't always apply; the New Super Mario Bros. series was created from the ground up to sell 2D side-scrolling platformers to Mario fans. I doubt anyone said at the beginning of development, “Wouldn’t this be great for a return to the Takemaru’s Ninja Castle IP?”

Over the last few weeks, I've been looking at Nintendo’s forgotten and abandoned franchises. Today, I pick up with the series that started on the Super Famicom and Super Nintendo Entertainment System, but just didn't have any staying power in Nintendo’s eyes.

Battle Clash
Introduced: 1992, Battle Clash (Super NES)
Latest entry: 1993, Metal Combat: Falcon’s Revenge (Super NES)
Nintendo has a long track record of producing innovative accessories for its consoles that never get much use. The Super Scope is the best-known of these from the 16-bit era. A shoulder-mounted light gun, it came with a pack-in game but saw very few other releases that took advantage of its capabilities. I can tell you from experience, and it’s been 18 years since I touched one, that this thing was not very precise and a was a serious battery hog. At any rate, Battle Clash was a mech-themed light gun shooter, released a year later in Japan as Space Bazooka for the Super Famicom. Apparently Nintendo felt it did well enough to warrant a sequel, 1993’s Metal Combat, which was released only in North America and PAL territories.

Wild Trax
Introduced: 1994, Wild Trax (Super Famicom) / Stunt Race FX (Super NES)
Everyone always asks Miyamoto, “When are we going to get another F-Zero?” His answer is always the same: “Meh.” But I’ve never read of anyone asking Miyamoto-san to return to his answer to SEGA’s Virtua Racing, the adorable and enormously entertaining Stunt Race FX. Built using the same technology as Star Fox, this cartoony racer was loads of fun and actually looked pretty decent for its time. Like V.R., it has not aged very well. Depending on what forum you read, either Nintendo claimed that accurately emulating the Super FX chip is too difficult for a Virtual Console release of Star Fox, or Super FX creator Argonaut software owns the rights to the technology, so its lost racing cousin may never see the light of day again.

Tin Star
Introduced: 1994, Tin Star (Super NES)
Another Super Scope game, Tin Star was exclusive to North America and didn’t even require a Super Scope to play. Players could use the standard controller or SNES Mouse to move a cursor on screen and shoot at things. The concept is basically a western but with robots instead of humans and horses, and there’s no discernible plot, so maybe this title is best left alone in its shallow grave.

Ken Griffey Jr. Major League Baseball
Introduced: 1994, Ken Griffey Jr. Presents Major League Baseball (Super NES)
Latest entry: 1999, Ken Griffey Jr.’s Slugfest (Nintendo 64)
I have avoided mentioning sports entries in this series on extinct Nintendo IP so far, but I’m making an exception here. Nintendo used to put out a lot of sports titles with nary a Mario in sight - Super Tennis; Super Play Action Football; NCAA Basketball; Kobe Bryant in NBA Courtside to name a few. But of all of these, the absolute pinnacle was the arcade-style, 16-bit steroids-infused home run derby known as Ken Griffey Jr. Presents Major League Baseball. I played the heck out of this game as a kid, meticulously using printed box scores in the newspaper to change the phony roster names to the real players they were supposedly representing, then leading my Texas Rangers to an incredibly unlikely World Series title. So why should Nintendo return to baseball now? They still own an MLB team, the Seattle Mariners; and with EA and Take-Two clearly stating they are done making sports games for the Wii U, it’s a perfect time for Nintendo to come out and show sports gamers that hey, this console can do sports pretty darn well! Can you imagine the possibilities of managing rosters with the GamePad, or drawing on the screen to create precise pitches, or holding the GamePad up toward the ceiling to simulate catching an outfield fly ball? Or heck, go for broke and make another arcade-style slugger! JUST DO THIS, NINTENDO! Do it for me.
(Oh yeah, I should probably mention that while the second game in this series, Ken Griffey Jr.’s Winning Run, looked very good on the Super NES, it was pretty horrible.)

Marvelous
Introduced: 1996, Marvelous: Another Treasure Island (Super Famicom)
It’s not a coincidence that Marvelous resembles The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past; it was the first game designed by Zelda series director Eiji Aonuma. It’s something of a top-down action-RPG, and it looks GORGEOUS. What would be today called DLC was later released in two “updated” chapters via the Japan-only Satellaview, a digital download service for Super Famicom owners. It’s a pity Nintendo never saw fit to continue the series or bring it to the West; I think it could have gained a decent following.

Shin Onigashima
Introduced: 1987, Famicom Mukashibanashi Shin Onigashima (Famicom Disk System)
Latest entry: 1996, Heisei Shin Onigashima (Super Famicom Satellaview)
I inadvertently skipped this series when completing my survey of 8-bit franchises, but it’s just as well. This is an incredibly Japanese game and I don’t see how it could find any success elsewhere, though some of the music is used in Super Smash Bros. Brawl.

Sutte Hakkun
Introduced: 1997, Sutte Hakkun (Super Famicom Satellaview)
Another fine-looking puzzle-platformer hybrid available only in Japan, and only on the now-defunct Satellaview download service. I have a hard time discerning exactly what the object is from watching YouTube play-throughs, but I gather it involves moving clear blocks, filling them in, and using them as platforms to advance through courses. This seems like it would be a perfect 3DS download title in some form!

Power Soukoban
Introduced: 1999, Power Soukoban (Super Famicom)
I guess you could describe this as a top-down puzzle dungeon crawler with a very heavy dose of Zelda infused. The goal is to plug holes with rocks before demons from another dimension can crawl through. Or something.

The lists are getting smaller as we come closer to the present day! Next time, I’ll survey the Nintendo-created franchises that started on Nintendo 64 but wouldn't stick around.