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Kien: Gaming’s Longest Wait for the Ultimate Game

Nintendo Game Boy console, location

The finally released Kien is a real wonder of sheer endurance and passion in this hurry-scurry video game development era. As an Italian action platformer, it has just hit the market after 22 years of development and instantly became the most delayed video game in history.

The story of Kien began back in 2002, when a group of five Italians, armed with little more than a few hundred euros, some computers, and a shared passion for playing video games, launched an ambitious endeavor. Their goal was to produce the first Italian game for Nintendo’s Game Boy Advance. Nobody in the team had experience in creating video games at all; however, it was driven by unrelenting optimism and the aversion to traditional employee work.

For two years, the team put in hard work, barely wasting any kind of free time available, and worked on bringing an idea to life. The game, titled Kien, was an ambitious action platformer with complex features. However, the project suffered many setbacks, and by the finish, only one of the original team members remained, Fabio Belsanti.

Kien’s release was pushed back even further when the selected publisher pulled out aftermarket analysis concluded that the game was too much of a risk. The high production cost of Game Boy cartridges, about $15 a pop, made it an enormous financial hurdle.”The amount of capital required just to print the initial copies was daunting,” Belsanti said.

Even in the presence of these kinds of obstacles, Belsanti’s passion for historical tales and early Japanese games kept him going. Indeed, he even drew inspiration from unpublished books on the Italian Renaissance dating back to the 15th century with this influence seeping down into Kien’s storyline and graphical style. Interchangeably, it puts players in the shoes of a warrior and a priestess, each having different special abilities.

While Kien languished in development limbo, Belsanti pivoted his company, AgeOfGames, to educational games just to keep the business afloat. Its main hits were entertainment video games like ScacciaRischi, a platformer developed for Italy’s INAIL meant to teach tens of thousands of students about workplace safety and health during times of COVID-19.

Interest in retro gaming has resurged over the last few years, which made it possible to release Kien now. It brings them closer to Belsanti compared to the resurgence of vinyl and cassettes in music, driven by nostalgia and curiosity from newer generations. “I believe we are in a phase similar to [the revival of] vinyl or cassettes for music,” he mused.

Incube8 is Kien’s new publisher, and it specializes in games for classic consoles,  so it’s supported the game’s release. Now, Kien can be purchased in a unique translucent gray cartridge and comes complete with a multipage manual,  a rarity in today’s modern gaming scene. “On a romantic level, the thought of releasing the game on its original console is simply magical,” Belsanti said. “To see Kien come to life on the very platform it was designed for is a dream come true.

Discussing already its spiritual successor of Kien, AgeOfGames is looking to present a title that really pulls value and charm from its original predecessor despite its lack of modern graphics. According to Belsanti, the intensity of the video game experience can be bigger at times in older games where resources are very much limited. “My imagination created a bridge between the artwork and the pixels, and filled every limit and absence with fantastic stories,” he reflected.

Kien’s release not only marks the end of a 22-year journey but is also a celebration of retro gaming. It has shown that sometimes the most compelling stories come from places people least expect.

More for you:

  • Italians released a game that took 22 years to make.
  • Kien: the most delayed video game in history finally released after 22 years.
  • Kein: Most-delayed video game in history’s 22-year journey to release end.

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