Two days ago, a mysterious NeoGeo game was posted on the vintage enthusiast site Neo-Geo.com by Brian Hargrove (NeoTurfMasta), who discovered the unpolished gem while scavenging through Japanese auction sites. The news spread like wildfire and it took only within 48 hours for an ex-developer to come forward and confirm some details on the game.
Takumi Matsumae (aka Coin), an artist that formerly worked at a small game dev studio Toy Pops to do pixels, revealed that the game was being developed by FACE and his company was outsourced for the project, himself being one of the staff that worked on it. The game was eventually canceled, and to his recollection its tentative name as Dragon's Heaven. Matsumae's current artworks can be seen on Pixiv.
Kouji Ogata (KON), a former Technos graphics developer, has confirmed Matsumae's assumptions that former Technos developers may have been involved in the game. A number of ex-Technos staff moved to FACE after their company disbanded and launched the fighting game project. Ogata still has connections with Kengo Asai, former R&D division head at FACE.
In the April 1997 issue of NeoGeo Freak, R&D chief Kengo Asai commented that he was involved in the planning and creation of Technos' Gowcaizer and that FACE has a number of staff with fighting game development experience.
As FACE's first attempt in something akin to a fighting game, Asai and his team was planning on creating one that would be heavily story-based with a lot of text, which Asai was going to write. The project was scheduled for announcement by summer and targeted for a year-end release. But as history goes, that never happened. Asai now works as a freelance scenario writer.
The actual interviewer of the Neo Geo Freak article, Masanobu Arakawa
has also come forward, confirming that Asai worked on Gowcaizer and that's probably the reason why the characters in FACE's Money Idol Exchanger were designed by Junko Ishida (who was married to Gowcaizer's character designer Masami Obari). Arakawa however doesn't seem to have any additional info on the canceled game itself.
According to News site ITmedia
that contacted Kouji Ogata (KON) for additional information, Ogata was originally a Technos Japan employee who moved to Face around the end of 1994/early 1995 and there were 3-4 staff working on the game's prototype. Ogata was involved in the early stages of the game's development which was moving forward under a tentative name, but he doesn't recall the name or know whether the game ever actually got a solid name.
As for the game's concept, KON commented that "Producer Kengo Asai was involved in Samurai Spirits(Shodown) as well, and he seemed have been thinking of making this project into a weapon-based fighting game as well".
In terms of graphics, backgrounds were made in prerendered 3D. KON also commented that the visual direction of the characters was particularly taking time, and it had to go through numerous changes before getting its current look.
Regarding the discovery of the vintage ROM, Ogata commented "It's astounding that it was discovered from an overseas fan site. But I'd rather not imagine what sort of circumstance made it end up leaking."(Thanks to Brian Hargrove /NeoTurfMasta for the heads up)
Takumi Matsumae (aka Coin)--
I believe this is an unreleased fighting game from FACE, the company that made Money Idol Exchanger and whatnot. I think this was made around 1997. I know because they oursourced and I did some pixel art for it.
Back then I just got out of highschool and suddenly found myself having to do these pixel arts. And pixel art for fighting games are seriously hard, so yeah they ended up being terrible. I don't know if they actually got used, because soon afterwards the project itself went into pending status.
I did the pixels for the left girl in this screenshot. It was being developed after Technos closed operations, so it might've been that a guy from Technos moved ship and worked on it. FACE didn't have any experience in fighting games as far as I recall.
The company that I worked was named Toy Pops, and they were in Ikebukuro. Too bad the company's name wasn't Toy Box. As a result of this project going into pending, the company had to close in 3 months after I joined them.
I think the tentative title for the game was Dragon's Heaven, or something like that. I remember vividly how the project was a serious headache, lol.
I hope this info makes its way to ex-Face personnel or the people in America. I unfortunately can't do English so I can't hit them about it!
Kouji Ogata ---
@fifth_coin You're absolutely correct. A number of Gowcaizer staff including myself moved to FACE and we launched it as a new project. Btw there's one character that's not human in the game, and I was involved in creating his movements.
The character that you worked on was being handled by someone else at the time when I was around. I think you probably came after I had left FACE.
I hope that helped a bit. Also coincedently, I recently made contact with Asai-san although it was for an unrelated case.
(Note: Rumors of an ex-FACE producer having commented on the game is misinformation.)