Kaio: King of Pirates
Comcept and Intercept
Keiji Inafune is a legend in the video game industry, known for his work on the ever-popular Mega Man series. Although the public failure of has most recent project, Mighty No. 9, has tarnished his reputation a bit, he still has a long legacy of games he has worked on spanning over twenty years. With such a pedigree behind him, you wouldn't think it would be hard for a developer of his caliber to get a project off the ground. But game development is often a tricky business and cancellations can come without warning, even to those who are renowned for their development talent. Thus is the case for one of the first games Inafune pursued after forming his own independent studios, Comcept and Intercept. Inafune founded Comcept after leaving Capcom in 2010 and their first few titles were mobiles games available on iOS and Android. Kaio: King of the Pirates would be first announced in 2011, with the intention of releasing on the Nintendo 3DS a year later in Japan.
Kaio was an ambitious project. It wasn't envisioned initially as a standalone project, but the starting point for at least a trilogy of games that would hopefully spawn a multi-media franchise. It was announced at Jump Festa in 2013 that the studio Pierrot would be creating an anime series and that two manga series were also in the works. The game would be a retelling of the classic Chinese epic Romance of the Three Kingdoms, which game fans would know as having spawned the Dynasty Warriors games as well as a dedicated Romance of the Three Kingdom video game series. However, the game would not be a direct retelling of the story, but would be an adaption featuring a cast of anthropomorphic animal pirates. Infaune had hoped the game could serve as a gateway for Western audiences to experience that story, much in the same way that Journey of the West had been introduced to Westerners through Akira Toriyama's Dragon Ball. The main character of the game was a blue penguin named Sangokushi and would supposedly star a cast of over 300 different characters. It would have been an action role-playing game with some sort of unexplained multiplayer features. While he had put out games on mobile platforms previously, Inafune had specifically eyed the 3DS as the target platform due to his belief that people would rather player games for a longer period of time on a dedicated gaming handheld rather than on mobile devices.
Unfortunately, that is the bulk of what is known about the game. Only a single trailer for the game was ever released, but the trailer did not provide much in the way of hard information about the game. There is no gameplay shown, and very little about the story can be gleamed from it. After that trailer was released, the company remained tight-lipped about the game. The only significant updates being the announcement of delays. First it was pushed to 2013, then later to 2014. Marvelous finally announced the cancellation at the beginning of 2015 and it mentioned that the company had spent around $3.8 million on the project before it was canned. The only reason given by Marvelous for the cancellation is that the marketplace had shifted and so they saw no reason to continue development on the title. What exactly that means, we may never know, but if I had to wager a guess, I would say there were some underlying issues with development that ultimately preventing the game from reaching completion and this is just the 'nice' way to explain it's cancellation. After all, 2015 was still a decent year for the Nintendo 3DS and I don't think there's any reason why the game couldn't have done well on the 3DS. Given that there doesn't appear to be any evidence of a playable build of the game makes me think they just never got to that point.
Did we lose much from Kaio's cancellation? Difficult to say, but given the track record of Inafune after he left Capcom, there is a chance that if the game had come out, it may not have been that great. For whatever reason, he just hasn't been able to recapture the magic he had when he was working on the original Mega Man games and I cannot say with any certainty that Kaio would have done much better. Of course, being a fan of anthropomorphic animal characters, it is disappointing that the anime series never took off either. Even if the game never surfaced, it could have lived on in animated form. Given the popularity of One Piece in Japan, it could have carved out its own niche as an alternative to that long-running series. Alas, it was not meant to be, though assuming that Inafune still owns the rights to the project, maybe someday he will see fit to try and bring it to life one again.