Published in Gaming

Italians release a game which took 22 years to make

by on05 July 2024

Available now for the Game Boy Advance

An Italian team of developers has released a game after 22 years in development, breaking records for slowness set by Duke Nukem Forever.

Kien, an Italian action game, is  the most delayed video game in history. The game is now available for the Game Boy Advance, a console that has long been discontinued.

In 2002, five Italians with no game development experience embarked on a journey to create the first Italian game for the Game Boy Advance. With just a few hundred euros, some computers, and a passion for gaming, they set out to make their dream a reality.

The team worked tirelessly for two years, often sacrificing their free time to develop an ambitious game with complex features. The game, Kien, faced numerous delays and never saw the light of day until this year, with only one original team member, Fabio Belsanti, remaining.

Kien surpassed the infamous 15-year delay of Duke Nukem Forever, becoming a meme in its own right. Now, gamers can purchase Kien on a Game Boy Advance cartridge.

The game challenges players to choose between two protagonists, a warrior and a priestess, each with unique abilities.

Fabio Belsanti (pictured), the last man standing from the original team, faced challenges when the chosen publisher backed out after market analysis deemed the game too risky. The high production costs of Game Boy cartridges also posed a significant financial barrier.

Despite these setbacks, Belsanti's passion for historical tales and early Japanese games fuelled his determination. He drew inspiration from unpublished 15th-century books about the Italian Renaissance, which influenced Kien's storyline and graphical style.

Belsanti's company, AgeOfGames, pivoted to educational games to survive. Its notable success, ScacciaRischi, developed for Italy's INAIL, has educated tens of thousands of students on workplace safety and health, including during the Covid-19 pandemic.

A resurgence in the retro gaming scene in recent years has rekindled interest in older consoles and rare games. This shift, coupled with reduced costs for producing Game Boy Advance cartridges, made the release of Kien feasible.

Belsanti compares the revival of interest in retro games to the resurgence of vinyl and cassettes in music, driven by nostalgia and curiosity from newer generations.

He said, “ I believe we are in a phase similar to [the revival of] vinyl or cassettes for music. A return to previous, more primitive forms of the medium driven by nostalgia from the generations who lived those eras and curiosity by those who came after such technology.”

Incube8, Kien's new publisher, specialises in games for classic consoles and has supported the game's release. Kien is now sold in a distinctive translucent gray cartridge, complete with a multipage manual, a rarity in modern gaming.

For Belsanti, releasing Kien on its intended platform is a magical experience, fulfilling a dream that began over two decades ago.

AgeOfGames is already developing a spiritual successor to Kien, hoping to capture the essence of the original game's value and charm, despite its lack of modern graphics.

Belsanti believes that the intensity of the video game experience can sometimes be more significant in older games with limited resources. Imagination bridges the gap between the artwork and on-screen pixels, creating rich, fantastical stories.

Last modified on 05 July 2024
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