Creative conflict to blame for Project H.A.M.M.E.R.’s cancellation
Revealed as part of a showreel at Nintendo’s E3 2006 press conference that outlined games in development for Wii, Project H.A.M.M.E.R. abruptly disappeared from the release schedule.
Developed by Nintendo Software Technology, Nintendo of America later confirmed at E3 2007 that it had been put on hold, although no reasoning was ever given as to why the beat ’em up never saw release.
Work on Project H.A.M.M.E.R. began in 2003, after GameCube’s 1080° Avalanche went gold. The team was no larger than 10-12 people, comprised of animators, environment artists, level designers and engineers.
Dark in tone, the game’s plot centred on cyborg MO-9 who had been created through a secret government program called Project H.A.M.M.E.R. Set in the near future, the United States falls under attack from a robotic invasion with the military unable to stop them. Equipped with a high-tech hammer, MO-9 is called in to stop them and would face off against villains with similar cybernetic enhancements.
Gameplay was relatively basic, with players smashing their way through enemies before reaching an eventual boss fight. The Wii Remote could be whirled to perform a spin attack, whereas a Power Slam could be deployed by swinging the controller downward.
But, why was it cancelled? Project H.A.M.M.E.R. was struggling to evolve into a worthwhile experience, with NST’s Japanese executives and the western development team reportedly clashing over every creative decision.
While the developers suggested overhauling the gameplay mechanics, the executives ignored such advice and believed that it was the game’s environments that needed more interactivity. More developers were brought in after Metroid Prime Hunters was completed, eventually being secretly renamed ‘MachineX’ internally.
It was nearly finished, but worries persisted that continually swinging the Wii Remote wasn’t fun. With management continuing to push toward drastically changing the visual style, MachineX was eventually put on hold.
However, that wasn’t the end. The idea was reworked into a more casual experience that focused on environmental destruction, named Wii Crush. But again, this wasn’t particularly fun and staff became frustrated with the lack of respect that the company’s executives had shown toward the development team.
This culminated in MachineX’s head designer being fired, with the executives refusing to take responsibility for the project’s mismanagement. Such decision only caused more staff to resign, with Nintendo of America alarmed by the situation and beginning an internal review of working conditions as the subsidiary. Expectedly at this point, the results weren’t positive.
MachineX continued to be developed by a small team in 2009, before funding was withdrawn. The damage was done, with Nintendo Software Technology relegated to working on smaller projects such as Wii Street U and Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Tipping Stars.