For every Super Mario, Call of Duty, and Street Fighter that is held up as a top seller and replayed over and over again, there are many sad stories of games that not only didn't crack the sales charts, but didn't even have a shot at the big time. These are games that for one reason or another failed to make it to stores and are instead remembered as intriguing mysteries. You know what people say about wanting things you can't have. 1UP has a pair of features that chronicle some of these titles that are missing in action. Some games on the list are recent cancelations like Namco's Frame City Killer, others are legendary Nintendo leaks such as Star Fox 2, projects like Mega Man Legends 3 have been metaphorical knives in the chest of the fan community, and some are far more obscure such as the story of Ultimate Journey. This lost Bandai product for the Nintendo Entertainment System fell down the memory hole over twenty years ago, but there's still hope that it may resurface someday.
Among those fortunate enough to play Ultimate Journey was David Siller, the Electronic Gaming Monthly editor who devised the persona of Sushi-X. Siller went on to create Aero the Acro-bat at Sunsoft and Maximo at Capcom, but during his EGM tenure he was introduced to Bandai's new action-platformer. According to Siller, Ultimate Journey was the creation of Bandai of America employee Dan MacArthur, who submitted the concept and character sketches to Bandai's higher-ups. The company's Japanese branch then contracted a developer to turn the idea into a full NES game. It was not an uncommon arrangement, and a similar one led to Irem of America's Drew Maniscalco creating Ninja Baseball Bat Man a few years later.
Yet Ultimate Journey never materialized, leaving behind a few confused fans of NES action games. Evidently aimed at North American audiences, the game wasn't released in Japan. While it was apparently finished to the point where Bandai allowed it to be reviewed by magazines, it's possible the project wasn't sewn up entirely. For one thing, there's a curious lack of any Ultimate Journey advertisements in gaming magazines circa 1991.
If time and community tenacity have taught me anything, it's that any worthwhile lost game that's floating around out there somewhere in the underground will eventually resurface. Ultimate Journey is hardly the only NES game that dropped off the face of the Earth at the last minute. Capcom's The California Raisins: The Grape Escape suffered a similar downfall and it turned up several years ago for the community to enjoy and dissect. Seta's Bio Force Ape is alive and well now in the hands of a collector. Remember what happened to Squashed? Then there's Nintendo's own original version of EarthBound that was localized for North America and canceled; we all know how that ended up. So take heart, potential fans of Ultimate Journey and games like it. You may yet be able to play it someday.