6 fangames shot down by cease and desist letters

Fandom's reward

Being part of a creatively-driven fan community is a fantastic experience. Everyone shares a common passion - be it a movie, book, or game - and channel that energy into something constructive. Some people make art, others create music. And a few bring all those creative efforts together into something massive. Each entry on this list features a fan-developed game years in the making. Years spent toiling away in the developer's free time, hundreds of hours fueled by all-consuming fandom. And then poof all that work was undone.

The threat of a cease and desist letter hangs heavy over the heads of all fan developers working with someone else's creation. It is the Sword of Damocles, the Eye of Sauron, the all-powerful force that at any moment could shut the project down - but so often waits until the last minute to do so. Here are seven lovingly crafted fan games sunk by such letters.

Chrono Trigger: Crimson Echoes

It's only natural fans would want to spend more time exploring one of the Super Nintendo's most beloved JRPGs. While Chrono Trigger had an official sequel - Chrono Cross - it wasn't the direct sequel some wanted. Enter Kajar Laboratories, the fan-driven developer behind Chrono Trigger: Crimson Echoes, an extensive ROM hack that looked and played just like the original. Set five years after Lavos' demise, Crimson Echoes finds the original cast on a new adventure involving alternate timelines, reptilian AI, and a resurrected king from the past. These plot points help set up the events of Chrono Cross, thus bridging the gap between the two games.

And here's the worst part: the game was cancelled just weeks before its release. After five years in development, Crimson Echoes was officially shut down in early May of 2009, mere weeks before its planned release date. By this point, the game reportedly contained "35 hours of gameplay and 10 separate endings" along with some new modes and other extras. Basically, everything you could have wanted from a Chrono Trigger 2.

Fighting is Magic

The extensive fan-community surrounding My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic is one of the most creatively-driven communities out there. So it should come as no surprise that - between all the music, artwork, and movies - a few fan-made MLP game have popped up as well. Fighting is Magic was a 2D fighting game from MANE6 who hoped to marry the spirit of My Little Pony with the high-speed action of Capcom's Vs. series. The result was a bubbly, fully-realized fighter light years away from anything you'd find on MUGEN.

And here's the worst part: Fighting is Magic got hit with a cease and desist letter shortly after helping raise over $200,000 for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. In 2013, the organizers behind EVO held a donation drive on their Facebook page to determine the eighth game in their fighting game tournament lineup. Fighting is Magic was on that list, and drummed up a fair amount of support, but that didn't save it from getting shut down shortly thereafter.

Pokenet

Kids and adults the world over have been capturing pocket monsters for almost two decades, and yet we still don't have an official Pokemon MMO. In 2009, a small team of independent developers sought to fix this glaring omission with Pokenet. Players were able to battle, train, and level up their Pokemon, even though the game was still technically in beta. In essence, it looked like a really crowded version of the Pokemon FireRed and LeafGreen games, with dozens of trainers wandering the Pokemon wilderness.

And here's the worst part: Pokenet was shut down on April Fool's day. What kind of a sick joke is that? Plus, if you do a simple search for 'Pokemon MMO' you'll discover Pokenet isn't the only Pokemon MMO in town. So why did it have to be canned while all these others live on? Your guess is as good as mine, and mine is 'bad luck'.

Streets of Rage Remake

This one is a real heartbreaker. After eight years toiling away on their own time, Spanish developer Bomber Link finally released Streets of Rage Remake. This massive game was a glowing tribute to an arcade classic. It contained over 100 stages, 19 playable characters, and a 76-song soundtrack remixed by five different musicians. It was a beast and, according to the developers, designed completely from the ground up. According to the game's website, "It does not use reverse engineering nor a single line of code from the original games. It's all based on visual interpretation."

And here's the worst part: Not only did Sega can this glowing endorsement of their own franchise, they shut down their own Streets of Rage remake as well. A video of a prototype Streets of Rage remake hit the web in 2012, courtesy of developer Ruffian Games. The footage shown was of a playable demo thrown together in six weeks. It was all for naught, however, as the project was apparently scrapped for unknown reasons.

Metal Gear remake

The story of this fan-developed Metal Gear remake helps highlight just how arbitrary the whole cease-and-desist process appears. In 2014, a fan-developer Outer Haven announced it was halting development on its remake of the 1987 classic, Metal Gear. This came as a bit of a shock after the same developer just a few months prior announced that they had received Konami's blessing to move forward with development. For Pete's sake, they even got David Hayter himself to supply some voice work for their trailer. These guys were dedicated.

And here's the worst part: they had the green light from Konami, or so they thought. Originally, the developers were told that, so long as they didn't make a profit from the game, Konami was "happy for them to go-ahead with the remake." Apparently not all of Konami was happy with this, as evidenced by a follow-up a few months later in which they canned the entire thing. However, there is a silver lining to this tale. The remake's developers have since formed Big Cake Games and are working on a new game that's Metal Gear-free.

Super Mario 64 HD

Super Mario 64 is one of the most beloved 3D platformers of all time, and a testament to Nintendo's skill at game design. Even so, if you want to play the game today there are only a few ways to do so. Developer Royston Ross offered a new alternative earlier this year with Super Mario 64 HD, a high-definition remake of the Bob-omb Battlefield using the Unity game engine. You could even play it in your browser. But after about a week in the spotlight, the game was taken down at Nintendo's request.

And here's the worst part: the entire thing was a tease within a tease. Not only did we get a very limited taste of the Bob-omb Battlefield in HD - remember, it wasn't up for long - that stage in itself was a tease of a fully realized Super Mario 64 HD, something that should really be in our lives. I guess we'll just have to make due with our $10 ROM dump on Virtual Console.

The silver lining

What's especially odd - and/or maddeningly frustrating - is that the likelihood of a company issuing a cease and desist letter appears almost arbitrary. Why did Pokenet get singled out as the PokeMMO to axe? Why did a remake of a Super Mario 64 stage get shut down when there are hundreds of Mario 64 hacks and remakes out there? And here's the big one: why is there not an industry-wide standard covering this sort of thing?

Look at Valve: they embraced the fan-developed, HD remake of Half-Life. Capcom officially released the fan-developed platformer Street Fighter x Mega Man. Even Activision was able to sort out its relationship with that fan-made King's Quest series. If all companies required all fangames to be shut down, that would be one thing, but instead it appears the decision hinges on the personal whims of the companies themselves.

So I say embrace the creativity. These fangames are a testament to the rabid devotion of their communities; not to mention an excellent source of good PR. You don't build a loyal community by stifling its creative efforts.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Maxwell grew up on a sleepy creekbank deep in the South. His love for video games has taken him all the way to the West Coast and beyond.
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