Lobo the Game
A game based on the Lobo character from DC Comics was slated for release by Ocean Software in mid-1996. Both the SNES and Genesis versions of the game ended up being canned, but versions of both have now been leaked onto the Internet. A good overview of this game can be found on a thread on Sega Saturno (if you can read Spanish). They, along with Hidden Palace are also responsible for finding and releasing the Genesis version back in 2009, kudos to them.
For a crappy late release game, Lobo got a fair amount of press. The Genesis version ended up getting reviews in EGM and Gamepro, where it was derided as being one of the worst fighting games available for the system. Nintendo Power gave it a look in the February 1996 previews, indicating that it didn't seem very complete at that point.
In the early half of 1996, had little in terms of new games to cover, gave it six pages of coverage in the May 1996 issue. Nintendo Power did not really give a favourable review either.
Really, the last quote from that review is spot on - this game is incredibly sparse. The version on the bootleg has the feel of a game that is not complete, though. It is probable that the Nintendo Power version was actually more complete. Here are some of the reasons I think that this prototype is not complete:
As far as the health bar, it is set up like in Killer Instinct, where you basically have two bars worth of health, and the match restarts if you get one of them knocked down. The game gives you 60 seconds, but because of the invincibility due to blocking, it is pretty much impossible to deal two health bars worth of damage. Not to mention that the special moves don't work most of the time, and they don't really deal more damage than a regular punch or kick.
Another problem is that there are only 6 fighters in the game, which is pretty small compared to most fighting games in 1996. They probably spent a lot of time with the graphics, but when you consider that Street Fighter 2, released near the start of the lifespan of the SNES, had more fighters, it looks pretty paltry. The lack of single player mode for characters other than Lobo would also have made this a hard sell. If this came out, it would be considered one of the worst games for the system.
The graphics in the game actually don't look bad. The similarities to Killer Instinct are pretty obvious, with its rendered graphics. The big difference is the lack of frames in the character animation. Perhaps this is not such a bad thing, because it means it doesn't suffer from the slowdown that is apparent in the Genesis version of the game.
The Genesis version of the game was reviewed in the September 1996 issue of EGM, and the June 1996 issue of Gamepro. A preview of the game was in the December 1996 issue of EGM, perhaps indicating that it hadn't been cancelled as of October/November 1996.
As mentioned above, it definitely looks like this game is not complete compared to the leaked Genesis version. Even so, I would say that the SNES version has smoother gameplay and less slowdown, not that that is saying much. The Genesis version has duller graphics and less detailed character sprites, but otherwise looks pretty similar to the SNES version.
There is a bit of an anecdote from John Lomax, who did some work on this game as an artist. His involvement must have been minimal, and he was not mentioned in the game credits.
For Lobo, it was very similar to Green Lantern. I worked on it for about a month before moving projects. It was originally going to be a Street Fighter-style beat 'em up, and I did work on background art for it, but the powers that be decided it would be better to give it to Ocean America to work on, so I don't know if it ever came out, even in Japan.
Obviously, this game had some difficulty during development. In the end, it was 1996, and the market for 16-bit games was dying off, especially for something that was as poorly reviewed as Lobo. I speculate that Infogrames purchasing Ocean at the same time may have also scuttled release plans.
Existence of a binary of the Super NES version of Lobo has been known for some time. Back in 2008, a website called the Church of Video Games posted some screenshots and video of Lobo that appear to have been taken with an emulator. Looking at it, it appears that this was not the same as the leaked version that appears here.
Note the lack of starscape in the leaked prototype version. I guess it is possible that the screen on the left was from the Genesis version, but the splash screen on that website was for the SNES version. Or it is possible that it is just a mockup. Hard to say. The videos that are posted on the site are definitely from the same version as what was leaked. It is not really known who actually made this bizarre website, but presumably it was someone who was involved with making this game.
At some point, someone got a copy of the binary and produced a bootleg of it. This was advertised on Nintendo Age in October 2014 by a company called Retro Quest. I bought one of these "limited edition" bootlegs off Ebay (presumably from the person who posted the first reply in that thread). The entire point of a "limited edition" of a bootleg is beyond me.
As mentioned in an article I posted at the start of the year, there has been a recent proliferation of SNES bootlegs. This is the first time I have actually had one of these in my hands, so it is useful to see what goes on under the hood. First off, the cart shells are completely new. They were originally designed by Piko Interactive, but have now become the standard for bootlegs. The cart just snaps together, the screws are purely for show. The special edition numbering has been stuck on after the fact. The label is made of nice glossy paper, but the colours are a bit washed out, so it looks cheap. It also is missing a serial code and Made in ***** text, which would make it look more authentic.
The back label is a really poorly done scan of a standard SNES back label. Holy oversaturated, Batman!
The boards are complete new. Although there are claims that they are not destroying other games to make these, obviously they had to wreck another cart to get the CIC chip. It really makes no sense, since region-free homebrew CIC chips have existed for years.
The PCB uses some sort of flash chip (a Sanyo LE28DW3218AM-80). I looked it up on Google and couldn't find much info on it. The label on it says "Aquapolis 2 Series". It appears to be hand soldered.
The box is fairly well constructed. The white box with the special numbering is actually part of the artwork. Looks reasonably authentic.
The back look less nice. The standard Nintendo disclaimers were obviously lifted off a scan, and have varying amounts of blur. The text describing the game has obviously not been proofread by a native English speaker. It is full of errors (galazies? emrciless?)
The manual is nice and glossy, so it gives the superficial appearance of being fairly professional. The layout of the front is not like a standard SNES manual, but it isn't too bad.
Looking inside the manual, it is laughably bad. The content is lifted indirectly from the Nintendo Power article, but whoever made this couldn't even be bothered to check that it was written correctly.
This "limited edition" version contained a poster of Lobo. It is printed on super-cheap paper using what is likely to be standard inkjet ink. They also put their signature right on top of the drawing. Not very impressive.
Although this bootleg has been out there for over a year, it wasn't dumped until a month ago, when it was posted on Nintendo Age. I dumped my copy, and it is bitwise identical. I found no evidence that the binary was tampered with, which is always a concern with bootlegs. Considering the poor quality of the bootleg, I doubt the person doing this would be skilled enough to put in a watermark. I guess we can't say with 100% certainty that it hasn't been tampered with, but I doubt it is. There were some claims that copy protection on the cart prevented it from being dumped. I don't know where these rumours started up, I dumped it first try with my Mash Mods dumper.
In the end, Retroquest, the maker of the bootleg, went out of business. They ended up selling only a portion of their "limited edition" bootlegs. Considering how much they were charging ($100), I am not surprised that they didn't sell all of them. The bootleg is only marginally better quality than some of the other bootlegs I have seen. I have no idea why people support these kind of ventures on collector sites, these are just blatant attempts to rip people off.
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