Super FX Chip Games (partially found builds of unreleased video games utilizing coprocessor; 1993-1995)
The Super FX chip is a coprocessor designed by Argonaut Software for use on the Graphics Support Unit (GSU) of select games on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) in order to provide graphics that would otherwise be unattainable on the system. The chip had two main functions; allowing the system to display advanced 2D graphical effects like sprite scaling and stretching, and (more famously) allowing the system to display early polygonal graphics without the significant slowdown that would be present otherwise.
In spite of the extremely limited usage of the chip and its variants (only being utilised in 8 of the 1756 games officially released throughout the lifespan of the SNES), both it and the games it supported are still fondly remembered by fans and critics alike to this very day, with Star Fox and Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island in particular being frequently ranked among the best games ever released on the system, and still receiving re-releases up to the present day. However, throughout the heyday of the SNES, there have been numerous games developed with the FX chip in mind that ended up being unreleased for one reason or another, the majority of which have yet to see the light of day in any form since then.
The Comanche games were a series of flight simulation games developed by NovaLogic (later THQ Nordic) from 1992 to the present day in which the player flies a series of military missions in a RAH-66 Comanche attack helicopter (also unreleased). The games were some of the first to make use of voxel graphic technology, and have largely been met with critical and commercial success, achieving a global sales total of 2.5 million copies in 2004.
An SNES port of the first game in the series, Comanche: Maximum Overkill, was also put into development by NovaLogic under the title of Comanche FX (otherwise referred to as just Comanche ). The game started production in 1993 following the beginning of production on the FX chip itself, and was very ambitious for its time, featuring one of the first known attempts at displaying voxel graphics on a home console, along with plans for networked multiplayer via a link cable known as the Super NES Game Link Cable.
The game was frequently promoted in magazines and was also featured at E3 1995, but it ultimately went unreleased due to unresolved issues relating to the graphics and speed of the game. At time of writing, the ROM of the game has yet to be uploaded online.
FX Fighter is a realtime 3D fighting game developed by Argonaut and published by GTE Entertainment on the MS-DOS. In the game, you play as one of eight aliens taking part in a tournament to declare the greatest warrior in the galaxy in order to prevent the destruction of their respective home planets. The game was released on June 24th, 1995, and was positively reviewed, eventually receiving a sequel one year later entitled FX Fighter Turbo.
The game initially began life as an SNES title under the tentative name of Fighting Polygon, which would have taken advantage of the FX chip technology in order to supply advanced polygon graphics that would have otherwise been impossible to portray on the console. The game was heavily showcased at the Winter 1995 Consumer Electronics Show, wherein it was announced that Nintendo and GTE would be jointly developing and publishing the game. In spite of this agreement, the game was cancelled later that same year due to the forthcoming release of 32-bit systems such as the PlayStation, along with an unwillingness to compete with the SNES port of Killer Instinct , with the game eventually being released on MS-DOS as mentioned above. The SNES port of the game currently remains unavailable to the public in any capacity.
Pilotwings was an amateur flight simulation game developed by Nintendo and released on the SNES in North America on August 13th, 1991 as a launch title for the system. In the game, the player attempts to earn pilot licenses by taking part in lessons in light plane flying, hang gliding, and skydiving among other things. The game made heavy use of Mode 7 (a graphics mode on the SNES that allowed a background layer to be scaled and rotated, thus giving the illusion of 3D), and received positive critical reception upon its release, with two sequels later being produced; Pilotwings 64 on the Nintendo 64 in 1996, and Pilotwings Resort on the Nintendo 3DS in 2011, with both games also being launch titles for their respective consoles.
At numerous points throughout the mid-1990s, various gaming magazines alluded to the idea that a Pilotwings sequel was in development for the SNES, but never went into further detail about the project. Because of this lack of detail on the part of the magazines and no official announcement of the game ever being made, these claims were often thought to be either speculation or possible miscommunication relating to details about Pilotwings 64.
However, on July 16th, 2013, John Szczepaniak (author of The Untold History of Japanese Game Developers book series) contacted Dylan Cuthbert (a programmer who had previously worked with both Argonaut and Nintendo) via Twitter with questions about the project. Dylan responded the following day, claiming to have seen a prototype of the game running on the FX chip. He also made reference to this in a 2017 Reddit AMA in response to a question about the (non-existent) cancelled FX chip game Super Mario FX, stating that:
"I think it was just light experimentation, such as the FX chip based Pilot’s Wings experiment too, just to see what could be done and was quickly re-worked on the prototype N64 hardware. They were already experimenting with motion capture for better animation in 1995 or thereabouts."
Based on Dylan's words, the game appears to have never advanced beyond the early prototyping stages, with what work was done being quickly cancelled in favour of Pilotwings 64. To date, no material from the game has made its way online.
PowerSlide FX (otherwise referred to as just PowerSlide) was a racing game developed for the SNES and 3DO by MotiveTime and intended to be published by Elite Systems. The game was one of two SNES racing games being created by the two studios simultaneously; the other being the released Dirt Racer. But while Dirt Racer was a fast paced, over the top arcade style game, PowerSlide FX was intended to be a far more realistic game that would provide "an authentic, track-based simulation" with intent to "implement rigid-body dynamics" in order to "not only replicate the ‘look’ but also mimic the ‘feel’ of driving performance vehicles." Such was their dedication to providing a realistic driving experience that car simulation specialist Torquil Ross-Martin was brought in to advise programmers as to how the car's tyres would react to different terrain among other things. The team developing the game had also made plans to include other ambitious features as well, such as a split-screen multiplayer mode, along with the inclusion of real world cars in the game.
The game was cancelled at an unknown point when it was at roughly 70% completion as a result of the high cost of cartridge production, which made it incredibly difficult to make a return on the cost of software development. Following the cancellation, the game remained unavailable for public consumption for many years, though both versions of it eventually made their way into circulation through one way or another. In 2007, the 3DO port of the game was made available to purchase via Good Deal Games (a video game shopping website dedicated to the physical release of homebrew and unreleased software for older systems), who had acquired it from Elite back in 2003. Later, on December 12th, 2008, Matthew Callis of the website Eludevisibility.org uploaded the ROM of a demo of the SNES version showcased at the Spring 1994 European Computer Trade Show to the website. Many years later, Elite themselves announced that they would be completing the SNES version of the game and releasing it on a cartridge. These plans appear to have fallen through however, as no update was made beyond the initial announcement.
Far and away the most infamous of the cancelled Super FX chip games, Star Fox 2 was a multidirectional space shooter developed by Argonaut and Nintendo EAD for the SNES between 1993 and 1995. A direct sequel to Star Fox (the game for whom the FX chip was initially created), the game features the Star Fox team defending their home planet of Corneria from the incoming forces of Andross, intercepting fighter pilots, ballistic missiles, and battleships among other things while also preventing the hijacking of a satellite designed to assist Star Fox in their goal. The game features the addition of a semi-real-time strategy system to the combat, along with new ship types, a more advanced 3D game engine, and two new playable characters (Fay and Miyu).
Development of the game began on February 16th, 1993 following the completion of the international and competition variations of the first game, with the first announcement of such occurring in December of that year via the third issue of British gaming magazine Edge. The first public appearance of the game took place at the Winter 1995 Consumer Electronics Show, where a build of the game was available to play. Nintendo's upcoming system at the time (then codenamed "Ultra 64") had gone through a release delay alongside heavy re-planning, so Nintendo instead chose to demonstrate several of their 16-bit offerings such as Star Fox 2 and the aforementioned FX Fighter. While the reception of the event as a whole was rather negative, Star Fox 2 was the subject of high praise from those who visited the display and played the build (of which there were many).
The game was absent from E3 1995, with Nintendo instead choosing to focus on promoting their upcoming "Ultra 64" and Virtual Boy consoles, alongside other projects that emphasised 3D technology. This lack of information as to the state of the game lead to many rumours that it had been quietly cancelled, all of which were only accentuated when the September 1995 issue of Electronic Gaming Monthly claimed as such. Said claim was vehemently denied by Nintendo's official magazine Nintendo Power, but it turned out to be entirely true. The game was cancelled due to its graphical inferiority in comparison to upcoming systems, and Nintendo never spoke of it again for decades afterwards.
In the years following the cancellation, several different builds of the game found their way into public circulation. The first known instance of this took place in mid to late 1999, when the game was removed from the undumped listings of defunct ROM website cherryroms.com, indicating that a build had leaked at some point during that time period. This turned out to be the case, and while said build did have many of the final game's features already implemented to an extent, there are still many issues that indicate that this it was made early on in the game's development (lack of real-time strategy elements, crashes, screen flickering, unused character names, unused characters, etc). Later, in 2002, screenshots appeared on a German website showcasing a far later build of the game than that which was previously available. This build quickly made its way into the hands of the public, though its origins still remain a mystery. Some claim that it was found via a prototype cartridge, others say that came from an already compiled binary dump provided by a former developer, and one individual reportedly involved with the finding stated that it was compiled from the game's source code, with more than one build making its way to people not involved with the development. Regardless, this build was often referred to by fans as the final beta, with the majority of gameplay features implemented and running near flawlessly. However, Dylan Cuthbert had made reference at numerous points in the past to several different gameplay features in the game that were not present in this build (such as randomness in enemy formations and the multiplayer mode featured in the previous build), indicating that the full game was still not yet available to fans.
Finally, after more than two decades of silence on the project, on June 26th, 2017, Nintendo announced the creation of the SNES Classic, a dedicated mini console that emulated 20 of the SNES's most iconic games. In order to further entice people into buying the system, Nintendo included the completed version of Star Fox 2 as an unlockable bonus that could be obtained by completing the first level of Star Fox. On September 29th, 2017, the SNES Classic was released, rendering the game found.
Transformers: Generation 2
Transformers: Generation 2 was a video game developed by Argonaut for the SNES between 1993 and 1994 that was based on the Transformers media franchise (specifically on the Generation 2 line of toys that were available at the time). The game was first announced in the November 1993 issue of British SNES magazine Superplay, with Takara confirming in a January 1994 press release that the game would be showcased at one of that year's Consumer Electronics Shows. Whether or not this was actually the case is unknown.
The game was cancelled at an unknown point during early to mid 1994, with Takara stating in the July 1994 issue of GamePro that development of the game would be shifted to either the Nintendo 64, PlayStation, or an unspecified Sega platform. While two Transformers games were released on the Nintendo 64 and PlayStation, it remains unknown if they bore any relation to this title.
For many years, it was rumoured that the game had in fact been reskinned before being released as Vortex, due to both being Argonaut developed, FX chip supported SNES games in which you control a transforming robot. This was later confirmed to not be the case in the October 2015 issue of Retro Gamer, with programmer Michael Wong-Powell stating that:
"When I first talked to [Argonaut boss] Jez San about the chip they were developing it was one of the games on the cards. I originally thought of moulding my ideas into the Transformers game, but Jez wanted a few games out on Super FX, so I kept my game separate. "
To date, nothing from this title has surfaced online.
- Wikipedia page for the Super FX chip. Retrieved 17 Apr '20
- Wikipedia for the Comanche series. Retrieved 17 Apr' 20
- Wikipedia page for the FX Fighter series. Retrieved 17 Apr '20
- Wikipedia page for Pilotwings. Retrieved 10 Jun '20
- Wikipedia page for Star Fox 2. Retrieved 17 Apr '20
- Wikipedia page for Vortex. Retrieved 13 Sep '20
- Digital Trends list of best SNES games. Retrieved 17 Apr '20
- List of NES and SNES games available via Nintendo Switch Online. Retrieved 17 Apr '20
- Press release from NovaLogic that references the sales figures. Retrieved 17 Apr '20
- LinkedIn page for NovaLogic special projects manager John Brooks that briefly mentions the game. Retrieved 17 Apr '20
- SNES Central page for Comanche FX. Retrieved 17 Apr '20
- Giant Bomb page for FX Fighter. Retrieved 17 Apr '20
- Moby Games page for FX Fighter. Retrieved 17 Apr '20
- Unseen 64 page for FX Fighter. Retrieved 17 Apr '20
- SNES Central page for FX Fighter. Retrieved 17 Apr '20
- Unseen 64 page for Pilotwings 2. Retrieved 10 Jul '20
- Dylan Cuthbert Reddit AMA featuring a comment about Pilotwings 2. Retrieved 10 Jul '20
- Nintendo Life article about PowerSlide FX. Retrieved 17 Apr '20
- SNES Central page for PowerSlide FX. Retrieved 17 Apr '20
- Page for PowerSlide FX on Good Deal Games. Retrieved 17 Apr '20
- Page on Good Deal Games about their acquisition of PowerSlide FX. Retrieved 17 Apr '20
- Eludevisibility.org post about Powerslide FX. Retrieved 17 Apr '20
- PowerSlide FX Spring 1994 European Computer Trade Show demo. Retrieved 17 Apr '20
- Nintendo Enthusiast page about the announcement. Retrieved 17 Apr '20
- Archive of said German website detailing the final beta build of the game with said screenshots. Retrieved 17 Apr '20
- SNES Central page on "THE ULTIMATE STARFOX 2 FAQ V0.9" (see Section 2.3). Retrieved 17 Apr '20
- SNES Central page for Star Fox 2. Retrieved 17 Apr '20
- Official Nintendo page for the SNES Classic, includes mentions of Star Fox 2. Retrieved 17 Apr '20
- Superplay issue 13, page 18. Retrieved 17 Apr '20
- Lost Levels forum post about the game and press release. Retrieved 17 Apr '20
- GamePro issue 60, page 174. Retrieved 17 Apr '20
- Nintendo Life article reiterating Retro Gamer's comments. Retrieved 17 Apr '20