Hammer time

Not so long ago we covered the tortured production of the Wii title Project H.A.M.M.E.R., a waggle-heavy action title in development by Nintendo Software Technology, Nintendo's famed North American studio.

Revealed early in the life of the Wii, the game would never see the light of day and, as the earlier report revealed, was dogged by poor management at NST, accusations of racism and the departure of many of its key staff.

After speaking to numerous sources close to the project, more details regarding Project H.A.M.M.E.R. have now surfaced - including details regarding the Japanese Nintendo staff tasked with bringing it to market, and the fateful contribution of none other than Shigeru Miyamoto.

The creator of Mario was apparently less than pleased with the news that NST had spent over $1 million on lavish CGI sequences which were ordered prior to the game design being nailed down - even before the game was officially announced in 2006, in fact. These sequences - created by CGI firm Silver Ant - would have carried the game's narrative, and even by modern standards they're quite impressive (you can view some of them in the video below).

Early in Hammer's development, NST created Mario vs. Donkey Kong 2: March of the Minis for the DS. Again, a substantial amount of cash was handed over to Silver Ant for CGI cut-scenes for the game, leading to the person in charge of budgetary concerns on both H.A.M.M.E.R. and Mario vs Donkey Kong 2 getting a slapped wrist from Miyamoto. He apparently branded the massive investment in CGI "superfluous", and NST would do no further business with Silver Ant as a result. Interestingly, since the original Project H.A.M.M.E.R. video went live, all references to the Nintendo projects that Silver Ant worked on have been removed from the company's official site.

More information has surfaced regarding the senior Nintendo staff who worked on Project H.A.M.M.E.R., and - as a result - carry a large portion of the blame for its ultimate failure. Katsuhiko Kanno was the person in charge at the game's inception, and has been cited by sources as "difficult to work with", "rude" and "uncooperative." Around this time, is is thought that a large number of NST staff left the company under their own volition, with reports claiming that the staff roster dropped from around 50 employees to approximately half that number.

To steady the ship staff were moved onto the project from elsewhere in Nintendo's North American network. Metroid Prime level designer Jason Behr was brought on to bring things back on course, but found himself singled out as a scapegoat for the game's shortcomings - shortcomings he could do little to solve. He stayed on until around 2008, and would leave NST to join Monolith Productions. He would then move onto Halo studio 343 Industries before found his own studio, Sunbreak Games.

As development lurched from one disaster to the next, it appears that the senior staff at NST finally spotted the friction between Kanno and his team. He was removed from the project in 2007 and replaced by Masamichi Abe, the director of Pikmin 1 and 2, as well as Tekken 2 during his time at Namco.

Towards the end of the project, Metroid Prime producer Kensuke Tanabe joined in a supervisory role, but it is reported that he had little impact - if any - on development, only visiting NST's offices a handful of times. Project H.A.M.M.E.R. would, as we've previously reported, be re-tooled around this era as Wii Crush, a casual title aimed at the Wii Sports audience. Despite support for the Wii MotionPlus accessory being mooted at one point, the project was finally killed off in 2009.

Project H.A.M.M.E.R. was a costly misstep not only for Nintendo, but for NST. It lost much of its talented workforce thanks to disagreements between management and staff, and since the project's failure the studio hasn't been trusted with any other large-scale titles.