Sabreman Stampede (cancelled Xbox 360 3D platformer-adventure game; 2002-2005)
|Sabreman in his explorer outfit.|
Sabreman Stampede was a 3D platformer-adventure game created by Rare. Ltd around the early to mid 2000s for the Xbox (and later, the Xbox 360).
After Microsoft purchased Rare from Nintendo in 2002 before Activision was able to, games that were currently being developed by Rare for Nintendo hardware were in a state of confusion. Some like Donkey Kong Coconut Crackers and Diddy Kong Pilot became It's Mr. Pants and Banjo Pilot respectively. One game, however, was in the state of limbo, and that was Donkey Kong Racing. After not hearing any more information from E3 2001 and also hearing the buyout of the company to Microsoft, it seemed like all hope was lost until 2002.
During an edition of Scribes (which was a Rare magazine at the time) in May 2002, one of the readers asked if Sabre Wulf was going to have any sequels, like in his previous installments. Leigh Loveday responded with this quote, possibly hinting at Sabreman Stampede, "Further updates? Who knows... but don't think this is the last we'll be seeing of Sabreman." In the same month, on another edition of Scribes, a reader wrote in asking what happened to Donkey Kong Racing, which Loveday responded with this tidbit of information, "As for Donkey Kong Racing, you'll see soon enough..." Later in the year, a news site named Raretopia posted a timeline of Rare's gaming history, marking Donkey Kong Racing as "still in development." The site also said that the game was changed to a Sabre Wulf license, had a (then unofficial) codename called "Stampede" and that the people who were going to be making the game were former Jet Force Gemini and Mickey's Speedway USA members.
In June of 2003, Microsoft trademarked Sabreman Stampede which confirmed what Raretopia was saying since November of 2002. In the same month, Raretopia predicted that it was going to be unveiled to the public by the end of 2003 and released shortly after the reveal, like with Donkey Kong Racing. In October, as part of a restructuring of projects that Rare was working on at the time, 2 games were going to be cancelled. One of the games was called Quest. People thought the other game was going to be Sabreman Stampede, but it turned out it was actually going to be a game called Arc Angels.
In January of 2004, a Rare employee said on the FatBabies forum that Sabreman Stampede was still in development while another game, Kameo: Elements of Power, was moving development from the Xbox to the Xbox 360. In May of the same year, Loveday confirmed the Sabreman game by saying, "Well, yes and no. It's not called Donkey Kong Racing anymore, it's not for the GameCube anymore and by this point, I'd imagine so little of the original art and code remains that it's barely even the same game anymore, but yes, it's still coming out. In some form. Wait and see, if you haven't already picked up on the new title that's been unofficially floating around the electrical interweb for months now."
In 2005, David Wise commented on another question for Scrolls, saying that the game would have to "wait a bit longer than E3," to be properly announced to the public. People were speculating at around this time next E3 that Sabreman Stampede was finally going to make an appearance. At E3 2006, there were two new Rare games shown. One was the third installment in the Banjo-Kazzoie franchise (which is now Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts) and the other was not Sabreman Stampede but rather Rare's newest IP at the time, Viva Pinata. In 2007, Loveday confirmed it was canned in the snippet part of the Scribes edition stating, "At the time, it was still coming out in some form. What's to redeem? You can only work with the facts you have."
It was actually cancelled in late 2005 due to a lack of game development. The team that was working on Sabreman Stampede kept putting in more scenery and more animals with different controls and techniques. There was pretty much no story or game objectives that were being developed, and after three years of low productivity, Microsoft insisted that the team help port the games Kameo and Perfect Dark Zero over to the Xbox 360, while a few artists and designers stayed behind to make 3D models and scenery. The team realized that the game was going nowhere, and was eventually cancelled.
Originally, Sabreman Stampede was going to be like Donkey Kong Racing, as it was going to be a racer with the Sabreman characters jumping between animals in-game to get to the goal. During the course of all the builds, the team liked this one the best. When it was ported to the Xbox however, the prototype was criticized by one of the higher-ups as being too "old-school," which lead the team to make "meandering" changes to the game until it became a platformer-adventure game.
The story would have been Sabreman and his newly introduced wife Flo crashing on a mysterious island with a hot air balloon/blimp (in the concept art though, it was suggested that it was actually a plane crash). Sabreman would have to explore the island, talk to the villagers and perform tasks for them, and to ride different animals to get to new sections of the island. This happened pretty late in development, around 2004-2005.
The game was basically a "GTA-style game with animals." When you grab onto a specific animal that could be ridden, a minigame starts where you have to hold on for a couple seconds until the animal is "tamed." The whole "capturing animals" minigame caused heated conversations with the team members because it was basically an animal-cruelty simulator that was also its core game mode and transportation. This game idea was also added in late in development, so it was still considered if the team was to add it or not right up until its cancellation. Rideen animals included elephants, ostriches, lions, rhinos, crocodiles, and although never seen Sabreman riding in the videos, giraffes (in the concept art, eagles, mountain goats, and giant scorpions could also have been rideable, but would probably have been in the mountainous part of the island and/or a desert themed area).
The game was going to have a much more cartoony style, with Sabreman originally to have a huge head and tiny arms to reflect on his original Spectrum design. Microsoft however, wanted a much more realistic style and the artists try to compromise the game to have both cartoony and realistic elements.
Around 2008, Mundorare uploaded 5 minutes of previously unreleased footage of one of the builds from Sabreman Stampede, along with a lot of concept art. Around 2014, a Neogaf user also posted some concept art of Sabreman Stampede. In 2015, along with Rare Replay, two songs that were going to be released for Sabreman Stampede were released under the "Top-Secret Tunes" soundtrack. Other than that, not much material from the game has been shown.
- Mundorare's article (and wealth of information) on Sabreman Stampede. Retrieved 31 Dec '17
- The Unseen64 article on the game. Retrieved 31 Dec '17