30 ans après, ce jeu a fini par sortir : découvrez l'histoire d'un record fou !

Skull & Bones, Cyberpunk … There are games that spend a lot of time in development. But not everyone you can think of comes close to this game originally designed for the SEGA arcade machine and finally released on the Nintendo Switch, PS4, Xbox One, and PC nearly 30 years later. A look at the history of this video game that should never have seen the light.

Summary

  • A spiritual brother for Wonder Boy
  • An unexpected retro resurrection
  • A release nearly 30 years later

A spiritual brother for Wonder Boy

Here we are at the beginning of the 90s. Arcade terminals, despite a slight decline, continue to make the heyday of young players and have allowed them to discover titles that have become legendary. This is particularly the case with Wonder Boy, a license from Westone. In 1992, the Japanese company embarked on a similar project: a colorful 2D platformer with the sweet name of Clockwork Aquario.

This new license should still stand out from the Westone colossus, both in terms of gameplay and universe, as well as technical capabilities. In this regard, Clockwork Aquario is particularly ambitious. The developers want to push the limits of the Sega System 18. In addition to this, we find in the team of the big names who worked on the famous Wonder Boy license, as Ryuichi Nishizawa (the father of the franchise) and Takanori Kurihara.

In short, Westone wants to hit hard for this new license. But unfortunately, things don’t go as planned … Since 1993, the tide has started to turn to the side of the video game industry. 2D platformers are no longer popular, now it’s the era of 3D games and fighting against. Hence, a title like Clockwork Aquario no longer has its place. The first test sessions in local arcades are inconclusive. Few players care, preferring to start short games on the games of the moment rather than spending long minutes in front of the SEGA and Westone terminals. Suffice it to say that by leaving Clockwork Aquario, the two run the risk of making an oven and this is unthinkable. In 1994 Clockwork Aquario was permanently canceled.

30 years later, this game finally came out: discover the story of a crazy highscore!

Despite these changes in the industry, we have remained faithful to the platform genre, our area of ​​expertise. We thought the fighting games trend was going to fade, but it’s never over and they’ve even become more and more popular.

Ryuichi Nishizawa

For Westone, the cancellation of Clockwork Aquario marks the abandonment of the arcades. Faced with a market that no longer corresponds to it, the company decides to turn to console games. A lackluster transition that does not allow Westone to establish itself as a privileged player in the sector. After years of survival, the ax fell in 2014: Westone went bankrupt. But while the studio is truly dead and gone, Clockwork Aquario is rising from its ashes. And it is on social media that it started the most unexpected return in the history of video games.

30 years later, this game finally came out: discover the story of a crazy highscore!

An unexpected retro resurrection

It all starts with a simple photo. A Japanese blogger shares with his readers a photo of an old game he was able to test during a test session located in the downstairs arcade of his home. This simple capture intrigues, talks and turns on all social networks. The general public has just discovered Clockwork Aquario, 12 years after its cancellation. But nothing happens.

30 years later, this game finally came out: discover the story of a crazy highscore!

It was only when Monster World Collection was released in 2012 that Ryuichi Nishizawa realized the surprising interest Clockwork Aquario was generating. The rediscovery of the wonderful world of Wonder Boy and Monster World has made players want to finally discover the mysterious one of Clockwork Aquario. In addition to the attraction for the retro side, the idea of ​​getting your hands on a long-lost game that only a handful of players has been able to put to the test is enough to make curious young and old dream. And it shows on social media.

Faced with this enthusiasm, Ryuichi Nishizawa decides to give his stillborn baby to life. He sifts through the files on his old PC and eventually finds the Clockwork Aquario source code. Just to measure the temperature, he tweets the news:

It’s not a buzz with a double-Z, but the announcement still requires a certain community of players. Ryuichi Nishizawa believes in it and therefore goes to visit the M2 studio, which rightly stood out on Monster World Collection and SEGA 3D Classics. But unfortunately nothing happens … nothing until 2018. That year, a key player entered this story: Dennis Mendel and his Strictly Limited Games studio.

30 years later, this game finally came out: discover the story of a crazy highscore!

At work to sign the return of another game canceled in 1994, Ultracore, the team is very interested in this source code story for Clockwork Aquario. It must be said that most of the developers are huge Wonder Boy fans. Bringing his spiritual successor back to life is therefore something of a dream for them. Building on their previous work, they had no problem getting their hands on the game’s code, so they got to work providing a demo of the game to show to its creator at Tokyo Game Show 2019. Ryuichi Nishizawa is conquered and this moment marks the beginning of a great collaboration aimed at bringing this game of tragic destiny back to life, signing one of the most unexpected records in the world of video games.


A release nearly 30 years later

After a very long pause, the development of Clockwork Aquario therefore resumes in 2019, with the members of the original team. Programmer Takanori Kurihara takes the lead on the project which is not limited to a simple remaster / port. In fact, a real restoration work is started to sublimate the base by filling the sections that have disappeared over time.

When we started working on the game, we thought we had all the programs and data needed to do it. But as development progressed, we found that some data was missing. … It was very difficult to match the additions with the pixels of the time. It was comparable to the work of a craftsman restoring a work of art.

Ryuichi Nishizawa for Gematsu

30 years later, this game finally came out: discover the story of a crazy highscore!

The development of Clockwork Aquario is one of those rare and timeless moments in the gaming world. In almost 30 years the video game industry has changed a lot and so has the way of doing it. With Clockwork Aquario two diametrically opposed eras met, two ways of working, two visions, two fields of possibilities … And it is not surprising that this moment remains forever in the mind of the developers.

30 years later, this game finally came out: discover the story of a crazy highscore!

Almost 30 years after its genesis, Clockwork Aquario finally sees the light on November 30, 2021. From a critical point of view, the game is neither a failure nor a success. If the mechanics have not quite aged well, the nostalgia effect and ingenuity of the title allow it to get a more than correct score of 69/70 on Metacritic. As for sales, we don’t have precise figures. But while the title’s release was an event for a good number of insiders, it failed to become a mainstream hit. Some will be tempted to say that this whole story was not worth the candle. What’s the point of reviving such a game and fielding an entire team for such a small niche? Well the answer is simple: for the passion and pleasure of finally giving life to a fallen game that otherwise would have sunk into oblivion forever.

This game is visionary. It’s almost a miracle that a game that has been canceled is now on sale after 27 years.

Ryuichi Nishizawa for Gematsu

30 years later, this game finally came out: discover the story of a crazy highscore!

Clockwork Aquario is neither a remake nor a port, but a game that started in 1992 before undergoing a long hiatus and finally coming out in 2021. Sure, it didn’t take 29 years to develop, but it’s still the title that records the longest time between the start of its creation and its release. As such, it is enrolled in the Guinness World Recordin which this surprising period of time is celebrated officially equal to 28 years and 81 days.

Thanks to Strictly Limited Games and ININ Games, Ryuichi Nishizawa was able to live a true dream: to bring back his baby, but also the entire universe of the late Westone. At the same time, Monster World / Wonder Boy was entitled to many remakes, more or less well received but never hated. Ryuichi Nishizawa has even indulged in some crazy thoughts, like a remake of the Aurail shooter or even a return of Milano no Arbeit Collection, a pixel art marvel never released outside of Japan. Simple dreams or ongoing projects? The future will tell, but what is certain is that retro games always have good times ahead of them.


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