Thursday, February 11, 2010

Oh What Could Have Been: Hellraiser on the NES

How fucking bad ass would this have been???!!!!!

I still remmeber the day I got my issue of Nintendo Power in the mail and saw the advertisement for this game. It was supposed to revolutionize the gaming industry with its next gen graphics that would re-invent the way we would play video games. This new technology was going to make Hellraiser a first-person scroll game that would appear to be in 3D - mind you this years before event he SNES debuted. Well it was never released, thus I did not include it in my NES horror games retrospect post last week. For years I always wondered what the hell happened to this game? Was it a dream, was it an epic fail? What the hell-raiser? Hardy-har-har!

The article that got me all hyped up when I was a little puke

Anyway I located a site a few months back and spread the word to those who were in the dark about the game like me or simply did not even know it existed to begin with. Source is an excellent article from UVL (the two final entries/updates are from someone who worked on the game)...

The main character is trapped in the Hellraiser puzzle box (a cube). A solvable puzzle from the outside (think Rubic's Cube), and some sort of other dimension on the inside. The player can find ways in the game, to manipulate the outside and therefore solve the puzzle and escape. Of course HellRaiser's assorted buddies in the cube interfere with the main character, this is a 1st-person-shooter after all. Meanwhile, the changing configuration of the cube also changes the layout of the levels on the inside, allowing access to new areas and blocking access to others. Once solved, the player and demons are freed and the player must then unsolve the puzzle in reverse order one demon being banished per move, while also 1st-person-shooting.

The box shown is an early version. The final box for Hellraiser was to be a replica of the Hellraiser cube (big enough for the add-on hardware)

This game was going to use and improved version the Wolfenstein 3D engine (layered and animated textures) and a Z80 CPU. ON THE NES! Two configurations were explored for the Z80 CPU. One solution would have the CPU on the circuit board in the cartridge, more than doubling its retail cost. The other solution would have been an add-on unit, purchased separately, that plugged into the expansion port on the bottom of the NES (It's hidden under a snap-in cover then under a vent that must be cut out). Also included was some programmable array logic chips (PAL) and 4? megabytes of Dynamic RAM. The whole thing could run in parallel with the NES and access the NES' RAM without a memory controller (programmers had to manually prevent conflicts via software). Claims of "16-bit graphics" were made but in reality the graphics were constructed from two sets of 8-bit graphics. The idea was to switch from a frame of one set to a frame of another set at 60 frames per second. The frames were supposed to blend in human perception and create an illusion of one color. While humans can only perceive 30 frames per second, technical aspects of CTRs cause flicker to be perceptible at frame rates of up to 120. On the NES, with uniquely designed Video RAM (at the time), was never intended to display 60 FPS, the flicker was definitely noticeable (in fact the Atari 2600 can do faster frame rates than the NES). Screenshots, video cameras, even some photo cameras, also failed to fully capture the effect and were often perceived as double the horizontal resolution but the two frames sliced up like venetian blinds for every other raster.

The cost for the add-on unit and Hellraiser game separately would have been more than if the CPU was in the cart. But, subsequent games for the add-on (Super 3D Noah's Ark) would have been higher quality games on the NES at normal price. It seems that Wisdom Tree may not have license the Wolfenstein 3D engine directly from id software, instead, Color Dreams did! When Color Dreams switched to being Wisdom Tree, they took the license along.
Zerothis - # 2008-08-16 07:55:14

[From NES Warpzone]"I worked on Hellraiser which you know never was released. They [Color Dreams] had the rights to make the game for several years and just sat on it. I don't know why. We were gonna use the Wolfenstein 3D engine for the game. I remember that the progammer on Hellraiser got the graphics in and the monsters working. It was all very bare bones stuff, but it was getting there and looked like it'd be fun. And then it was abandoned again for other titles." [sic] - Roger Deforest
Roger Deforest - # 2008-08-16 07:40:26 - game Author comment - source
Source: UVL


Lisa Marie said...

"We have such sights to show you!"


That's it.... I'm breaking out the nintendo tonight!

B-Movie Becky said...

Whoa...that is way cool. I never about this game. It's too bad it never got to the fans. Wolfenstein 3D engine + Pinhead? Count me in!

The Frog Queen said...

That is a huge tradegdy....I am a very obessed Clive Barker fan. Makes me sad. ASBLACKASOBAMA - I will keep watch for cops while you break in! :D


TS Hendrik said...

Never knew anything about it. That's really fascinating stuff. The basic premise of the game still sounds innovative enough that they could make a Hellraiser game now, and with all the graphic-y goodness.

Kato said...

Woah. Sounds like one of my bad dreams, but looks WAY cool!

HellRaiser always scared the crap out of me!

oducerproducer said...

Nice man, as much as i prefer old school games to new ones, i think Hellraiser might actually make a good game still today.

G.~ said...

That would have been really fucking bad ass!!! It's gotta come out now, you put it out there.
You'll see.

How could someone sit on that? Do they not have the slightest bit of common sense? What the fuck is wrong with people?! ;)

Carl (ILHM) said...

Oh dude you KNOW I would have been all over that action!

Strange Kid said...

WHA-?! That sounds so bad-ass!!

I'm throwing down the gauntlet here and now for some game studio to come along with a modernized survival/horror take on this game. This is exactly what we need: new blood and intelligent gameplay.

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