Nintendo works with many third-party developers and more often than not it seems that those partnerships end with both companies speaking well of one another and praising the hard work in which the groups engaged. What happens if things go the other way? What's to become of a company that lets Nintendo down? Is it possible to rise above the famed publisher's disappointment and bounce back? For answers, consider the tale of Body Harvest. This Nintendo 64 title switched genres several times during its four-year development window before launching in 1998. Nintendo was originally very impressed with developer DMA Design and planned big things for Body Harvest based on a simple "design document" (a drawing of a bug next to an overturned car), but in the end DMA and Nintendo were unable to see eye to eye and the bugs and their cars were sent packing. Edge has the story of how it all went wrong.
After two years of hard slog DMA eventually presented an action game to Nintendo. Unsurprisingly, it was not what Nintendo had seen in the design document and more importantly, it was not to its taste. A crack team of Nintendo experts, including a producer from the Zelda series, flew over to sort out the mess. It was suggested that the game be reincarnated as an RPG – not what DMA wanted to hear. For the following year, Nintendo worked closely with the developer. Richard Ralfe, Body Harvest’s designer, describes it as a turbulent time. “[Nintendo’s] input was greatly appreciated, but provided massive headaches for us – its focus for the game was very different from the original concept,” he remembers.
At the time, the N64 was missing a big RPG and was being embarrassingly outsold by the PlayStation. Nintendo made plans for Body Harvest to plug the crucial RPG space and DMA grudgingly accepted. “We had problems with their reasoning initially, but after sitting down and discussing the possibilities we came on board.” A series of strange meetings ensued with a Japanese interpreter translating peculiar sci-fi terminology. With DMA’s broad Scottish accents the tense collaboration was at least lined with comedy. Sadly, things weren’t improving very fast and Nintendo didn’t see the funny side.
When Nintendo felt that DMA had suffered enough, the team was taken out to dinner in a traditional Japanese restaurant. [Shigeru Miyamoto] was present but he didn’t say much and looked somewhat solemn – probably still searching for meaning in the profound image of bug and car.
Body Harvest landed in stores courtesy of publishers Midway Home Entertainment and Gremlin Interactive during the release windows of Nintendo's own Banjo-Kazooie and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Needless to say, there was no Body Harvest 2. Don't cry too hard for DMA though, for the company eventually became a little developer known as Rockstar North and went on to greater things in the form of Grand Theft Auto, Manhunt, Red Dead Redemption, and beyond.