Cool Herders

2007 HarmlessLion (Previously Alten 8)

Platform: Nintendo DS

Cool Herders is a neat unofficial and independently created commercial title for the SEGA Dreamcast that was published around 2005. A Nintendo DS version was put into production, but was sadly never to see a proper commercial release.

The basic premise of the game is that you have to try and save the most sheep in a series of rounds, either by grabbing them or by stealing your opponent’s sheep. The game came with a story mode, and also a multiplayer option where you could fight against 3 other opponents. It could be described as a sort of mixture of Chu Chu Rocket and Bomberman.

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After the success of the Dreamcast release, it was decided to build a Nintendo DS edition in 2007 with a whole new adventure attached to it. Developer Mike Brent had basically been looking to find a modern platform to move the development to, and initially started experimenting with getting the game running on the Gameboy Advance platform. He succeeded and then then looked for a publisher to take the game on.

Mike landed at Alten 8, who were not interested in the GBA platform, but asked if he could perhaps create a Nintendo DS edition of the game. So a conversion began, but rather than porting the Dreamcast edition, a new development was started with the original team involved.

The new story for the DS game was described as follows:

“The young herder Zeus receives a curious note from his friend and rival, Iskur, which leads him out of Zealande to strange and mysterious locations, trying to recover the stolen sheep and understand Iskur’s mysterious turn of behaviour!”

Although development and support from Alten 8 and Nintendo would go great at first, things would drag on a bit longer than anticipated, with what essentially was a brand new game.

The team was small and those involved were working full time jobs already. Mike admittedly had taken too much on and was getting burn out trying to juggle everything.

Eventually, Alten 8 decided to pull out of the DS publishing business, so Mike and HarmlessLion made a deal with Nintendo to transfer the dev-kit to them and continue work on the game. At one stage the game was moved from planned cartridge release to DSiWare planned release.

“Things kept going as much as possible until it came to a point where the money had simply ran out and a job offer had to be taken up.”

Work slowly dragged on, but Mike was still burning out. Things kept going as much as possible until it came to a point where the money had simply ran out and a job offer had to be taken up. The game would sadly be shelved as a result.

The game had reached a 90% complete stage, with four player local wireless multiplayer available (though not complete). The single-player story mode was fully complete, with seven worlds and three stages each, and there were also twelve playable characters, with their own special power (as well as secret characters).

In addition to the above, there were new mini-games created, and playable from outside the story mode (with 2 complete, and more to have been created). Mostly just needing a bit of extra content and polish to finish off, it was looking and playing superbly and a huge shame it never quite made it over the line.

Mike got in touch with GTW in November 2021 to ask if we would house a page on the game and also very kindly has allowed us to put up a download of the game.  Within the download below is an honest and open post mortem document about the development (which helped us to write most of this page), extra art files, and of course the ROM image itself.

We highly recommend checking out the work that Mike and his team created, and get a glimpse of what could have been a great release for the Nintendo DS.

With thanks to Mike (Tursilion) Brent (who reserves all rights to the title) from harmlesslion.com for approaching us and allowing us to add the download to GTW.

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