In the first of what I hope will be one of many interesting retrospectives, we are going to be taking a fairly in depth look at Ultimate’s famous missing game, ‘Mire Mare’. A potentially great and eagerly awaited part of the ‘Sabreman’ series; unfortunately never released.
Sabreman was first introduced to us in the excellent ‘Sabre Wulf’ (review coming soon) and then continued his adventures in ‘Underwurlde’. Those of you who have had the pleasure of playing and completing ‘Underwurlde’ will remember that there were three exits you could choose to end the game, each which contained an advert for a then upcoming game continuing the adventures of Sabreman. The first exit mentioned ‘Knight Lore’, which was released around the same time as ‘Underwurlde’, the second ‘Pentagram’ which came out a year later in 1986 and the third names ‘Mire Mare’.
In addition, if you successfully completed ‘Knight Lore’ and ‘Pentagram’ the following poem and message were displayed, respectively – THE POTION CASTS, ITS MAGIC STRONG, ALL EVIL MUST BEWARE, THE SPELL HAS BROKEN, YOU ARE FREE, GO FORTH TO MIREMARE and CONGRATULATIONS, YOU HAVE COMPLETED, THE PENTAGRAM, YOUR ADVENTURE CONTINUES IN, MIRE MARE.
Why didn’t we get to see this potentially awesome game?
In the mid-eighties the Stamper brothers (owners of and main coders for Ultimate) were looking beyond home computers and turning their interest towards developing games for the emerging consoles. There are many documented reasons for their decision: (i) increasing frustration with the technical limitations of computers at the time, in particular their main platform the Sinclair ZX Spectrum (most don’t realise that the Stampers didn’t actually code many games for other home computers), (ii) elimination of load times with the new cartridge based consoles and (iii) increasing amounts of software piracy. As such, from as early as 1983 they became interested in developing games for Nintendo’s NES, which alleviated many of their concerns and frustrations. In 1985 the Stampers sold part of Ultimate to US Gold and formed a new company within Ashby Computers and Graphics (the parent company of Ultimate) to produce games for the NES. That company was to become the (once) much regarded Rare Ltd.
What really affected the production of ‘Mire Mare‘ was that the US Gold takeover occurred much quicker than had been anticipated. US Gold were not interested, at least initially, in developing new games under the Ultimate label; instead they wanted access to the back catalogue for their own budget Kixx label. The result was that although rumored to be partially coded (the cover art work had even been done), ‘Mire Mare’ was at best incomplete and US Gold subsequently cancelled the game.
It was envisaged by many that ‘Mire Mare’ was being coded as another Filmation game, but Leigh Loveday from Rare Ltd. revealed in the late 1990’s that it would have been more of a return to the ‘top down’ game play of ‘Sabrewulf’. Leigh even sneekly managed to scan the cover artwork, from Tim Stampers personal folder.
So there we have it; a missing game that could have been a fantastic end to the Ultimate legacy if it were not for a rapid take over from US Gold.. ..fortunately this is not entirely the end of this particular story.