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SEGA 3D Classics – 3D Streets of Rage Interview with Developer M2

Our final 3D Classics interview ends with Streets of Rage, which released last week across the Nintendo 3DS eShop. We hope you’ve enjoyed reading these interviews as much as we have. Enjoy 3D Streets of Rage and all the 3D Classics!

Thanks again to Game Watch and Impress, Okunari-san, and Horii-san for their involvement in making these interviews available to our western audience. Thanks to Siliconera for coordinating with us to help spread the word to SEGA fans across the web. And special thanks to our producer Sam for translating these interviews for everyone’s enjoyment.

As always, your comments are appreciated!

3D Streets of Rage: How to Make Perspective Pop!

3D Streets of Rage

Pictured: Yousuke Okunari, Producer, SEGA CS3 (left), Naoki Horii, President, M2 (right)

Streets of Rage Primer
Originally released in Japan on August 2, 1991 with an overseas release shortly after, Streets of Rage is a side-scrolling beat’em up game where you choose from one of three ex-police force characters: Axel, Blaze, or Adam, and fight through eight stages against armies of syndicate thugs, using your bare fists or weapons you pick up along the way. Streets of Rage is known as Bare Knucklein Japan.The game quickly earned popularity for its co-op play, where players can perform team attacks, as well as instant special moves that call in the firepower of your former police comrades.

After being ported to the Game Gear, Streets of Rage was featured in the Mega-CD SEGA CLASSIC ARCADE COLLECTION, which also included the international version. It was subsequently ported to Wii Virtual Console, and most recently, to the Xbox 360 as part of SEGA Vintage Collection 3’s Streets of Rage Collection, which included all three titles from the series.

Streets of Rage was followed by two sequels, Streets of Rage 2 and 3, which benefited from a larger ROM size, bigger characters, and more animations.

3D Streets of Rage
Choose from characters Adam, Axel, and Blaze. From II on, Adam is either kidnapped or otherwise occupied, and thus not available as a playable character.

3D Streets of Rage
The game supports 2P Co-op play. Other “rival” titles at the time were unable to do this, so it was a point of pride for MegaDrive fans.

“Then, as he was explaining that they still hadn’t tested everything out yet, I cut through the hemming and hawing and green-lit the project.”

– Hi guys.  Can we hear a little bit about what led you to select Streets of Rage to follow 3D Shinobi III in the line-up?  Why not release Streets of Rage 2 and 3, for instance?
Naoki Horii (below, NH): Because we’re going to release 2 next! (everyone laughs) That is, if Okunari-san here will let us…

– Genre-wise though, this is the first remake of a beat’em up on the Gigadrive.

Yousuke Okunari (Below, YO): When we were selecting titles for the GigaDrive, all four titles prior to Shinobi III were what you could call “2D side scrolling platformers”, but of course there were other genres out there that we wanted to do. When I sat down with the development schedule though, I was pretty sure that any genres outside of platforming would take too long.

So I knew there would be risk associated with including anything other than a side scrolling action game in the 3D Remaster Series, but I really wanted to do a beat’em up. SEGA has a history of making beat’em ups with games like Golden Axe and Streets of Rage, and I really wanted to bring that heritage into 3D. We just had to somehow do that within the confines of the schedule… More important than that though, M2 actually told me at the beginning that “an action side-scroller won’t work in 3D!”

– I see.

NH: There are a lot of strange perspectives baked into the backgrounds in those games. Take the diagonal scrolling parts for instance.

YO: If we tried to use the GigaDrive techniques we’d developed with earlier games, like those from 3D Sonic, all the characters would wind up floating on top of the backgrounds. While side-scrolling action games look like they have depth, the actual gameplay is completely 2D, and everything else is just a matter of placing graphics with a faux 3D perspective. That’s what you have to bring into stereoscopic 3D, and it wasn’t possible within the existing GigaDrive concept. So this wasn’t just going to be a matter of displaying existing MegaDrive backgrounds in 3D, like we’d done with other games. We came to the conclusion that our existing approach wasn’t going to work for a side-scroller.

That said, I still wanted to remake the Golden Axe or Streets of Rage series in 3D. I saw this as essentially intertwined with the future of the 3D Remaster Project, so I kept coming back to M2 with the idea. I’d say: “Hey, we can at least do one beat ‘em up, right?” and he’d tell me: “Side-scrolling beat’em ups have graphics with weird faux perspectives that you can’t just carry over into 3D. The normal approach doesn’t work.” After a bit, he came back and said, “Now the first Streets of Rage doesn’t have any paths that go up or down the screen, there’s just one path forward. We could probably make that one work.” That’s how I persuaded him to work on it… Then, as he was explaining that they still hadn’t tested everything out yet, I cut through the hemming and hawing and green-lit the project. (laughs)

– Seems like there’s always some kind of reckless story around these ports, but this one sounds like you’ve stepped it up a level. (laughs)

NH: Yes indeed.

YO: M2 had already turned the project down once, so….

NH: Well, we were still testing out code at the point when we had to decide on the lineup titles…so it’s partly our fault for being slow.

– You’re right though. The very first Streets of Rage was basically a single-route game.  Most people don’t realize that unlike previous 2D side-scrollers, this game had a perspective that ostensibly looked down on your character and the floor, while letting you move in all directions. Objects and enemies were drawn in the same way… Those objects and enemies don’t have 3D handling; they’re just pretending to be 3D. Given how characters are standing on the floor, if the angle changes, all of that magic will disappear. That must be the hardest part of porting a beat’em up like this.

NH: That’s right, that’s right. If we were just talking about a 2D side-scroller, that’s fine, but when the game scrolls diagonally, that’s a new set of problems.

– With so many visual tricks used to create the illusion of depth in the original, I guess the challenge becomes how to bring them into 3D. Off the top of your head, you might think you could just give the backgrounds depth, push them back into screen and problem solved, right? That’s just what I imagine, I don’t really know how you’d deal with it.

NH: The developers at the time had to take what were ostensibly 3D scenes and flatten them into 2D, and use perspective to somehow keep them visually believable.

– Whereas you guys have to convert a faux 3D image into a real 3D image… I can see how that wouldn’t really work.

NH: Yeah.

YO: I actually have an early test version of the game right here on hand, so you can what we’re talking about. (brings out a 3DS) Check out the 3D.

– Oooh, OK. So this is what the default 3D approach looks like.

YO: At first, you’re like “Seems legit! This is pretty cool!” But as you keep playing, you’ll come across places in the game which were drawn at the time with a specific background perspective, and didn’t take into account vanishing points etc. That’s why M2 felt that remaking the game in 3D would be impossible.

NH: Indeed.

YO: What you wind up with are characters floating above the background. …Next let’s show you the finalized version that we remade after observing these issues.

– (While playing) Yeah, it’s completely different. Wow, this is impressive. When you move from the background to the front of the screen, you get a real 3D perspective.

NH: Even though the actual character’s size doesn’t change, right? Which is important in terms of the game system.

– For sure. Wow, this is cool. I never really noticed it in 2D, but my punches really hit hard now. That’s a big difference. Just walking around next to this phone booth is impressing me.

NH: I’m sure that line would be music to the ears of the person who drew it (laughs)

– OK, playing this, I’m seeing how hard it must have been to port a beat’em up into 3D.

NH: Still, there are going to be a lot of people who want this or that game in 3D.  Galaxy Force remade in 3D was a beautiful sight, but this is great in its own way. If anything, I’d really like to spend some time and  go to town on a game like this.

– Just seeing the street signs in 3D is really cool. You don’t so much feel it when your character and enemies are far away from each other, but once an enemy closes in and line up on your axis, and then you smack him, the 3D is really crisp. You can tell if he’s on a different level than you as he approaches. It’s something that’s easier to understand when you play it, I suppose.

YO: Knowing that this was going to be the title we’d struggle the most with amongst the GigaDrive games, I chose to move its development to the rear of the release schedule. In our previous interview about Shinobi III, I mentioned how that game could be thought of as a culmination of everything we’d done up until then, and that to finish it, we had to grind through a lot of tedious work. Streets of Rage is a dimension beyond Shinobi III, because we are remaking in 3D what were originally 2D images drawn to look 3D. Since both titles were developed concurrently, some of the discoveries we made with this game were brought over to Shinobi III, such as that game’s final stage or the stage start screen. Giving these parts of the game authentic 3D depth brought another dimension to them.

– And now the bar has been raised again.

YO: That’s why I chose Streets of Rage as the one beat’em up game to green light: it’s one of the most straightforward side-scrollers we had available. In a sense it was an experiment, but now that I know it was a hugely successful one, I think it’d be great if we could follow up on it. At least I hope we can… M2 might be sick of it all by now though. (laughs)

NH: Although it was really a tough project, once we had assigned depth to each raster line of the floor, we were able to see what specs we needed for the floor. We then positioned objects and enemies along those raster lines, and all of a sudden it felt like you couldn’t ever miss with your punches.

YO: Since the 3D actually affects how the game feels, it’s completely different from the type of faux 3D that we have in, say, 3D Altered Beast’s cave stage or the depth we created for 3D Ecco.

NH: We assigned position data to the same floor we’d assigned depth to. Then as the characters moved, we matched them to the position data, and essentially merged the character and the floor. And all of a sudden…

– That sounds like some really impressive tech.

NH: Once the depth information was assigned, all of a sudden we had a space, or box, built within the screen. It actually surprised me. This was our 5th Megadrive title, but in terms of gameplay it wound up being quite different from the others. All the other games had some really impressive visuals, but you never miss a punch with 3D Streets of Rage, and that feels awesome.

YO: In the other 3D Remaster games, the player character always moved on a single line. But in a beat’em up, your character can move freely from right in front of you to the rear of the screen. Enemies and objects too also have depth data associated with them. If you look back on gaming history and how action games have evolved, first they just had a single static screen, then they evolved into scrolling screens. Next we saw action games focused on jumping, which replicated gravity within their mechanics, and then the sort of faux 3D beat’em up sub-genre you see with Streets of Rage was born.

So that means that the evolution from 2D side-scrollers to “belt floor” beat’em up games was actually an evolution towards 3D, so to speak. It might not be obvious to someone who hasn’t followed or isn’t aware of the evolution of action games, so some people might not get what I’m saying. But you’ve played a bunch of action games, don’t you see a big difference there?

– What was once beautiful faux 3D becomes an albatross when you put it in real 3D.

YO: Indeed. If only the games were just made in 3D first, everything would be fine.

– And that’s why it made sense to remake arcade games which moved “into” the screen in 3D. However when it came to remaking Megadrive titles in 3D, you weren’t going to get away without doing a “belt floor” beat’em up game.

NH: I think the result is worth the work we put into it, and I hope people who play it will appreciate what we’ve accomplished as well.

– You can’t really get that across from just a screenshot.

YO: This is a game that we were able to do because we had the experience of the previous four titles. Of course we had an idea of what we wanted to do at the beginning, but unless you actually build it and see it working, you can’t fully appreciate what the game’s going to be like, you know? Once we got to work though, the game looked great.

NH: Really though, besides Streets of Rage, I really hope a lot of people will give all of the 3D MegaDrive remakes a try. I think the quality will surprise you.

– This came up when we were talking about Shinobi III, but is this title also compatible with the Gigadrive v2.0?

NH: Yes. Although there’s still room for growth there.

“If Shinobi III was the sum of everything we’ve accomplished so far, Streets of Rage is the next dimension.”

YO: Just like the other games, there were a few interesting stories around the process of getting the game into 3D. For starters, stage 3. If you play it in 3D on the 3DS, then you might not notice anything, but this is actually the first stage to be different in the GigaDrive version compared to the MegaDrive version.

NH: Yeah, the ocean’s draw priority is different.

YO: In the original version, the wave animations for the ocean are in the screen’s foreground, so they cover the player’s feet when they step in the water. When we dropped that straight into 3D, it looked off. The perspective was broken, and the waves looked like they were just popping up and down perpendicular to the ground. (laughs) Since we were remaking the game based around the 3D view, M2 went in and changed the waves’ sprite priorities. As a result, the animation is the same, but they’ve added perspective to it. Accordingly when you play the game in 2D, the draw priorities will differ from the original MegaDrive version.

3D Streets of Rage3D Streets of Rage
Stage 3. The graphics of the waves at the player’s feet differ from the original.

NH: If only we had Z-buffers, then each pixel had its own depth information (when drawing objects in 3D computer graphics, typically every pixel on a surface has depth coordinates associated with it, so you can calculate how deep objects are relative to each other by pixel).

– That would earn you another dimension, wouldn’t it?

YO: Now, even though I’d agreed that we could get SoR 1 into 3D, there was one spot that I knew they’d have trouble with and that was Stage 7. Stage 7 is an elevator scene, and it’s a good example of something that was beyond what M2 had worked on up until that point.

NH: Take your pick: the perspective on the elevator, the background…I mean, just look at it…we did everything we could.

YO: … Well, since you managed to remake Stage 7 in 3D, I think that means you can almost do anything(laughs)

NH: Yeah, but still…

YO: Up until the end this didn’t look right, and we really struggled with it. Well, M2 did, that is.

– Of course, the original development team would have had no idea when they were making the game that someone would wind up creating a 3D version.

YO: The same is true for Sonic and Shinobi III, too.

NH: Notice how as the elevator goes up, right around the middle of the ascent, the background perspective changes out of nowhere…

3D Streets of Rage
The Elevator scene. Note the perspective of the elevator compared to the building in the background.

– And hey, as you throw enemies out of the elevator, you can sort of see the little visual tricks they used to make this part look 3D. (laughs)

NH: Yeah.

YO: Still, I think that in the end, we got the 3D on this stage to where it needed to be.

– Yeah, there’s nothing “off” about it at all. It’s great. (laughs) And intriguing. When you’re moving up, you can see the little trick in there with the positioning of the wall on the left… This must have been very hard to remake in 3D. Things developers never would have given a second thought to back then wind up creating serious challenges for you guys.

YO: Yeah, the difference in the perspective of the left wall and the carriage looked strange when we put it into 3D.

– I just tried the special attack too, and it looks like you got the Stage 7 version into 3D as well. (laughs)

3D Streets of Rage
A special attack. Your ex-coworkers come to your aid with a surface-to-air surprise.

YO: Yes, of course! Including things like that tempted us to tinker even more with other stages. For instance, Stage 5’s background was originally a single graphic…

– Nice, even the background shown through the boat windows is properly 3D. I love it. When you dive this deep, it makes me wonder if you guys are OK with just $6 for this game.

NH: At the end of the day though, it’s still only the 1st Streets of Rage.

– This really works within the GigaDrive v2.0? Processing costs, and all?

NH:  We did what we could to make it work…so yes.

YO: I want to point out one last place we had a hard time with, even though there were a ton of them. On Stage 6 where the pressing machine is, there was a perspective here that just didn’t work in 3D. This was a toughie.

NH: That graphic had a lot of conflicting elements. When we first started on the project, there were a lot of spots that we knew how to approach in 3D, and as we worked on it, new ideas on how to do this or that better kept coming up. Okunari-san would give us feedback on a daily basis on our new versions as well, offering suggestions and advice. He had some really good ideas that escaped us at first.

– Every time I hear these stories, it surprises me how far overboard Okunari-san’s demands goes…

NH: Those unreasonable demands can be fun. If only we had an unlimited amount of time….

YO: If we had an unlimited amount of time, M2 would go bankrupt. (laughs)

NH: Ah maybe… Ok, what if we had unlimited money as well! (laughs)

– Still though, it seems like the pace at which you’ve release these GigaDrive titles is pretty quick.

NH: Well, since the hardware they’re based on doesn’t really change, anything related to the controls etc. won’t either.

YO: M2 had built the GigaDrive architecture, which they could apply to multiple titles, and they focused a lot on its 3D functionality.

NH: Since we’ve allocated engineers to the 3D tech, we were able to work on several games at the same time. The folks adding the 3D have developed their own habits and “styles” for implementing 3D, which has been interesting to watch.

– And this isn’t just regular 3D compatibility; it also works for this side-scrolling beat ‘em up.

YO: Laying out the initial groundwork was the hardest part; everything was a slog until M2 built the GigaDrive. Getting the MegaDrive to run emulated on 3DS was the first hurdle, and once that was done, they had a platform from which to build the GigaDrive which was its own challenge. They then had an environment where an artist or programmer adding 3D could do so according to their own personal style… Since the titles overlapped, they were able to work more efficiently and cut down on the really laborious parts of the process.

– It sounds something you’d need a smart approach for.

NH: There’s a lot of ‘smarts’ being used in Streets of Rage.

YO: Up until Shinobi III, the focus for getting the 3D working was on the technical aspects of background scrolling. With Streets of Rage, pretty much everything was similar to what we did with the trees and construction signs in 3D Sonic [Link to Sonic interview], except that games had themselves evolved, and things that were drawn in faux “3D” for Streets of Rage pretty much had to be brought into real stereoscopic 3D in the remake. At first, you can only faintly imagine what the end product of that looks like, but what it takes to actually get there is mostly a thankless job.

–  Having scrolling in 3D across multiple background layers is certainly the easiest way for people to communicate the 3D effect to people. But for Streets of Rage, all the original graphics have some kind of perspective applied to them, which can tempt you to try and actually make them 3D. But when you start down that road…

NH: There were also reasons back in the MegaDrive days that developers had to try to save on memory usage. So even if you had to break the perspective a bit, the graphic was fine as long as it looked like what it was supposed to be. There’s a lot of that going on in Streets of Rage, which was hard to deal with.

– You pop up the backgrounds in 3D, but then they conflict with how the characters are positioned. Fixing that contradiction must be a tedious process.

NH: Definitely.

– How do I put this… Take monster movies for instance, where you’re like “wait is that a miniature building they’re using in the close-ups? The perspective is all off….but meh I guess it looks good!” However, when you see the same model in 3D, all of a sudden it looks totally off.  What you guys are doing is basically fixing all the perspective problems with a miniature model by hand…  

NH: That’s a good example.

YO: If Shinobi III was the sum of everything we’ve accomplished so far, Streets of Rage is the next dimension.

The only catch in “Fists of Death” Mode: No one-hit kills off a single throw!

3D Streets of Rage
You can switch between the International and Japanese versions in 3D Streets of Rage.

3D Streets of Rage
Classic mode, which recreates the early 90s feeling of playing on a CRT TV screen.

– Alright, shifting gears a bit. Similar to previous GigaDrive titles, I’m assuming both the Japanese and international versions are available in the 3DS version?

YO: Yes, all the standard features of GigaDrive titles are included, so you can play the JP version if you want. And thanks to the features we included with 3D Altered Beast, the game supports local 2P co-op as well.

NH: Another small little bonus: the music that’s played when you select the icon on the Home screen? That’s a Manabu Namiki arrangement of Koshiro-san’s original Streets of Rage track. Well, not quite an arrangement, he just tweaked the track length so it loops properly. (laughs)

YO: Yeah, tracks for the Home screen have to be a certain length, you know. Previously, we’ve always had to pick a very short song or some kind of sound effect to go there, but we couldn’t find anything that worked for Streets of Rage. We tried a lot of stuff, but in the end this is what worked best. It’s kind of like when they make a short version of an anime theme song just for TV.

– So it’s basically a jingle.

NH: Hey look at that, when you’re playing 2P co-op, Adam isn’t on the bottom screen. He also doesn’t make an appearance in II or III… Coincidence!?

– (laughs)

YO: We’ve also added something we call “Fists of Death” mode to Streets of Rage 3D. It’s a really simple and satisfying version of the game, where you get to knock out any enemy with a single punch. It’s the easiest way to get through every stage. You can also crank up the difficulty to “Hardest” and try it that way.

NH: “Hardest” is fun because you’re always in danger of dying, but you have to mow through piles of enemies. If you screw up, it’s game over. So you can raise the difficulty to get a real challenge, or lower it with Fists of Death just to have something to play around with.

The thing is though, creating the Fists of Death mode wasn’t actually that easy… When you get knocked out, notice how the ground around you vibrates a bit when you revive. This effect damages all characters on screen, and in early versions of “Fists of Death”, that was enough to wipe out all the enemies around you. So we had to go in and tweak the original programming to account for it, and in that process there was even a point where enemies would be knocked out by simply touching your character. Like you’re surrounded by a cloud of poison or something.

– (laughs)

YO: Also, since the damage for throwing enemies is calculated slightly different from normal damage, we made it so you can’t defeat enemies with a single throw. Besides that, there are certain characters who crouch when you go to punch them, and they were tricky to deal with. M2 had to tweak each enemy so they’d actually keel over after one hit.

NH: At first we were like: “One-hit kill mode? Yeah we’ll have it ready in no time”…
But it’s always something, you know?

– Still, you didn’t include Fists of Death because you thought it’d be easy to add, right?

NH: It seemed like it’d be a fun way to play, and we thought it wouldn’t take too much time to implement… It was a matter of combining what we knew we could do, and what we thought would be fun. Of course it’s still a blast to wail on enemies in the regular mode as well.

YO: We had a similar mode in the Golden Axe Collection for SEGA AGES ONLINE (Sega Vintage Collection).

– Sounds like you had to strike a balance around the game design between good ideas and efficiency.

NH: There were also situations in Fists of Death mode where you’d defeat enemies before the enemy appearance table was set to bring out the next wave, so sometimes enemies wouldn’t even appear. Even when you want to make the game easier, you really get put through the grinder, and this time was no exception. (laughs) We had to put a lot of work into the enemy generation code.

– The programming required is more involved, the characters are bigger, and you’ve got a lot going on in the backgrounds.

YO: When you put it that way, I think M2 are really the only ones who can really understand what that generation of developers had to go through. (laughs)

NH: Definitely. This is the kind of work where you have to track someone else’s footsteps, and get better every time at guessing what kind of challenges they endured on their journey.

– Sounds like you’re treading some murky waters. (laughs)

YO: In any case, “Fists of Death” turns out to be a really fun, satisfying new mode. Everyone should give it a shot. We also enabled the cheat code from the original to let you use the stage select and raise your life settings as well.

– I see.

YO: Oh, and you know the back attack you could do in the original by pressing B and C at the same time? We’ve assigned that to the R button, so it’s easier to do.

– Much appreciated!

Round one of the 3D Remaster Project, finished!

– At the end of the day, despite the games’ schedules overlapping, you guys never caught a break when creating these ports. (laughs)

NH: I guess not. But when you come this far…
I guess the  games that I’d want to do in the future, or games that we’ll probably get requests for, would probably  be Gunstar Heroes or Landstalker. Though I think they’d be at least twice as hard as anything we’ve done up until now.

– Incidentally, you previously mentioned that Streets of Rage was chosen to be your last title. Does that mean this project is finished?

YO: Yes, this brings the 3D Remaster Project to a close.

NH: Wait, really!?

– Really!?

YO: “Their battle has only begun.”

NH: I feel like you’re cutting us off here.

YO: “Look forward to the next episode from the team at M2!”

NH: Damn it! Then we might just have to order another season… that’ll ultimately be canceled…[1]

– (laughs)

YO: In any case, it’s the end of the first batch. We’re going back to the kitchen for awhile.

NH: … I don’t know if I can handle much more of this. Another 50 week sprint? A whole other year…

– So you’re saying that this is the end point for the titles you’d originally planned.

YO: Correct. The 3D Remaster Project started out as a project for the new 3DS hardware, where we’d have Virtual Console titles coming out along with “something new” the side. Something that wasn’t just a single game, that could become a series. We got started without knowing if we could even get the games we selected into 3D, so we had to stock the series with enough titles to ensure that it was going to be worth all the effort. Those were the 8 titles we’ve released, and they took two years. It was a long road, but I think we can draw the curtain on this installment.

Space Harrier logo
3D Space Harrier Interview

Super Hang On logo
Super Hang-On Interview

Sonic Logo
3D Sonic The Hedgehog Interview

Altered Beast logo
3D Altered Beast Interview

Ecco Logo
3D Ecco the Dolphin Interview</em>

Galaxy Force II logo
3D Galaxy Force II Interview

Shinobi logo
3D Shinobi III Interview

streets of rage logo
3D Streets of Rage Interview (you are here)

– I’m a little scared to ask, but… What do you mean by the end of this series, and “going back to the kitchen”?

YO: Whether we can continue this project or not is really up to its reception by the fans. I emphasized this when we were discussing 3D Space Harrier, but it’s the truth. Thankfully, due to the support we’ve received in the 6 months after we released 3D Space Harrier in Japan, in other words the number of people who picked up the games, it looks like we’ll be able to carry on with the series.

NH: Wow! Are you sure that’s OK to say?

– Yee-haw! (Joy)

YO: The first batch is done, but for a second one, we need some time. For the Japanese market, we will be back with a second batch. For overseas folks, whether it gets localized or not will depend on the success of the first series. But the range of what we can actually do with a second batch of remakes is also dependent on the same factors.

NH: Now hold on. Are you saying that if people out there buy stacks and stacks of these remakes, I might be able to do Thunder Blade?

YO: … …

– (laughs)

NH: Still no comment I see.  I’d held off about Thunder Blade all day, so you were probably thinking I wasn’t going to bring it up again.

– (laughs)

YO: Let’s just set aside whether or not Thunder Blade is a game that people want.

NH: In 3D, I know it will be awesome.

– (huge laughs)

NH: Saeki-san, you laugh, but it would really bowl you over.

-… Personally I’d definitely like to see it in 3D.

YO: We’ll be back.

NH: Yes we will.

YO: But first, we need to look at how Shinobi III and Streets of Rage fare in Japan and overseas. We’re in the kitchen, so just give us some time. Ultimately, whether we can exceed what we‘ve done in our first batch of games comes down to our fans. So I hope the first 8 titles are enough to earn their support.

NH: Yes, I hope so too. Until we can move onto the next series, I want to take this time to thank everyone. To the folks who were really impressed with 3D Space Harrier, thank you. I hope we can impress you again in the future.

– What a wrap up. Man, these interviews have been really exciting, so I’d really look forward to a second batch. It might be a bit late to ask this, but how has the reaction been to the project so far compared to your expectations for it?

YO: In terms of 3D Space Harrier, when the 3DS was announced, I knew I wanted to see it in 3D, and I think for SEGA fans and other people as well, this was a game people wanted to see in 3D. I’ve thought that ever since the 3DS launched, and I think M2 probably feels the same.

NH: For sure.

YO: I imagine the fans probably thought that if SEGA was going to put something out in 3D, it’d have to be Space Harrier. So in that sense, once Space Harrier was released, I feel we’d dished out something good enough to make you say, “Man, Space Harrier is still totally awesome.”

Fans have also been sending us a lot of different game names that they want to see ported, and we’ve been able to deliver some of those, some of which we didn’t think we could manage originally. Putting these games into authentic 3D was a first for us, but something we were able to do with the new direction 3DS was taking us in. There were a lot of challenges along the way, but we’ve also had a lot of fun that we never expected, as we’ve catalogued in these interviews. I hope everybody can find something to appreciate in each of the remakes.

For example, the gyro controls in 3D Super Hang-on, which is something that has nothing to do with the 3D, I think was implemented really well. Or like in 3D Streets of Rage, things that you thought would look one way in real 3D, have a little twist to them and give you a nice surprise.

For 3D Space Harrier, some parts went as expected, but beyond that I think I can say that we were able to enjoy the journey as much as the players can enjoy the fruits of it. If we had just dropped in extra features and 3D compatibility, folded our arms, called it a day and it meant nothing to anybody else, there would’ve been no point. Maybe the same feature works well with another game. Or maybe there are more discoveries to be made in the next batch of games. Either way we do think that players have enjoyed what we’ve done so far and it’s up to us to keep that going. Getting feedback directly from the fans helps us keep thinking about how to approach ports in the future.

NH: I think we’re going to see a big response to the 3D remakes, and that will be enough to let us put out Thunder Blade. My main task is thinking about what I want to work on after we wrap up Thunder Blade.

– (laughs)

NH: Well, that goes without saying.

– Of course it does. (laughs)

YO: Wait, does that mean you managed to get those 250,000 signatures I told you to gather?

NH: Well, not signatures, per say. More like, you know, “smoke signals”, or vibes if you will. We both know it’s going to sell like crazy.

– (laughs)

NH: Though I guess depending on cloud cover, it can be tough to see smoke signals.

– (laughs) Personally, Thunder Blade is one of those titles I wanted to see from the get go. I think it’d be great if future releases prompted people to revisit and revaluate games like Thunderblade, and up-ended expectations of classic titles.

NH: That’s the kind of potential I think Thunder Blade has.

YO: I realized this when we were working on 3D Space Harrier, but there are basically two main reasons that this project was so well received by fans. One is playing games in 3D. The second is the addition of new features. When I say ‘addition’, I don’t mean remaking the game into something completely different. It could be something like putting HAYA OH into the arcade version of Space Harrier, putting the Spin Dash in Sonic, or adding the Moving Cabinet modes to the arcade ports. We’re always trying to come up with just one more little bonus that we can drop in. Something that hasn’t been done yet. Since we’ve been able to deliver on that, I think the 3D Remaster Series distinguishes itself from what we put out on Virtual Console up until now.

Of course we also want to enable people to play their favorite games from yesteryear unchanged on modern hardware, so we’ll continue to support Virtual Console. But I want to do something beyond what we’ve already done in the second batch.

NH: We’ve got a lot of good ideas, and we’ve already got some impressive graphics in the works. Get hype.

– Over the course of these interviews, I think once you actually sit down with the games, the entire context you guys have been describing becomes that much clearer. I definitely look forward to seeing what else this project can give birth to.

YO: Perhaps an odd example, but it’s sort of like when they put out the first season of a TV anime and have to decide a half year later whether to follow up with a 2nd season, do a couple of OVAs, or just go ahead and order a movie version.

NH: If we did a ‘movie version’ of this project, what would that be like? Like using an Oculus Rift hooked up to a console or something?

YO: Hahaha, is that how you imagine it? (laughs) Well, the way forward again depends on how the games are received. At some point, we might come to the conclusion that the world just doesn’t need any more GigaDrive games. But in the end we hope everyone enjoys the games we’ve been able to bring out so far, and hopefully the ones we can bring out in the future.

– Thank you so much for your time, gentlemen! I look forward to your future work!


Copyright ©2013 Impress Watch Corporation, an Impress Group company. All rights reserved.


[1] Translator’s note: This is a play on a common technique used for ending a serialized manga. When a comic loses popularity, they are often ended in rather sudden ways and perhaps halfway through a particular story arc. Instead of just ending the story, they often include text on the last panel that implies the story continued on even afterwards. Okunari-san is mimicking a typical copy pattern in those situations.


Celebrate the Season with a Spectacular Blue Holiday Sale for Mobile Titles

Celebrate the holidays with a special “blue” holiday sale as five popular SEGA mobile titles featuring the iconic blue hedgehog himself, Sonic The Hedgehog, race through the season at a special discount price!

Sale Duration

  • December 20th, 2013 – January 1st, 2014

Sonic Jump for $0.99

Leap to new heights with Sonic, Tails, or Knuckles by downloading Sonic Jump for iOS, Google Play, and the Amazon App Store for $0.99 during this limited-time event.

Sonic CD for $0.99

Join Sonic in this critically acclaimed mobile version of the classic SEGA CD platformer as he travels to the distant shores of Never Lake to battle his arch-nemesis, Dr. Eggman. Originally priced at $2.99, Sonic CD will be available for $0.99 for iOS, Google Play, and the Amazon App Store.

Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing for $0.99

Start your engines and get ready for the ride of a lifetime with team Sonic and a cast of legendary SEGA heroes across land, sea, and air in amazing transformable vehicles as they battle for first place at the finish line. Originally priced at $1.99, Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing will be available for the low price of $0.99 for iOS, Google Play, and the Amazon App Store.

Sonic The Hedgehog 4: Episode I for $0.99

Inspired by the classic platforming gameplay that made Sonic an icon, Sonic The Hedgehog 4: Episode I is the sequel fans have waited over 16 years for. Originally priced at $4.99, Sonic The Hedgehog 4: Episode I will be available for $0.99 on iOS, Google Play, and the Amazon App Store.

Sonic The Hedgehog 4: Episode II for $0.99

The sequel to Episode I finds Sonic facing a new threat with the return of Metal Sonic, who has formed a deadly alliance with Dr. Eggman. Join with Tails and race across four brand new Zones to save the day. Originally priced at $4.99, Sonic The Hedgehog 4: Episode II will be available for $0.99 for iOS, Google Play, and the Amazon App Store.

Official Links


Get Your Sonic The Hedgehog ‘Live Wallpaper’ for Android!

Brighten up the day and your Android device with Sonic The Hedgehog! Tap Sonic to discover fun sounds and cool animations in this Live Wallpaper exclusively for Android. The best part… You’ll never lose all your rings!

Get the Sonic The Hedgehog Live Wallpaper today from the Google Play Store for only $0.99!

Download Sonic The Hedgehog Live Wallpaper on Google Play


Go Dance Feat. New Songs from Flo Rida, Maroon 5 & OneRepublic

New songs from Flo Rida, Maroon 5, and OneRepublic are now available in Go Dance for iOS!

  • Whistle – Flo Rida
  • Lucky Strike – Maroon 5
  • Good Life – OneRepublic

More hit songs on the way!

*These additional songs are in-app purchases.

Official Links

Follow GO DANCE for game updates, new song releases, and more!

Download GO DANCE for iOS from the AppStore today!


“Whistle” Performed by Flo Rida
Written by Tramar Dillard, David Glass, Antonio Mobley, Breyan Isaac, Justin Franks, Marcus Killian, Joshua Ralph, and Arthur Scott Pingrey
Published by Tubby and the Spaniard Music Publishing, Snaresbrook Music / Reach Music Publishing, Inc., Sony/ATV Tunes LLC (ASCAP), Sony/ATV Music Publishing UK Limited (PRS), Ego Frenzy Songs (ASCAP), and Rumor Mill
Courtesy of Atlantic Recording Corp.
By arrangement with Warner Music Group Video Game Licensing
(P) 2012 Atlantic Recording Corp.

“Lucky Strike” Performed by Maroon 5
Written by Adam Levine, Ryan Tedder, Noel Zancanella
Published by Universal Music – Careers on behalf of itself an Sudgee Music (BMI), and Write 2 Live and Patriot Entertainment, LLC
Administered by Kobalt Music Publishing America, Inc.

“Good Life” Performed by OneRepublic
Written by Ryan Tedder, Brent Kutzle, Eddie Fisher, and Noel Zancanella
Published by Sony/ATV Tunes LLC, Velvet Hammer Music, Midnite Miracle Music (ASCAP), and Acornman Music, LJF Publishing Co, and Patriot Entertainment, LLC
Administered by Kobalt Music Publishing America, Inc.


Sonic Lost World – Yoshi’s Island DLC Now Available!

Sonic Lost World - Yoshi's Island Zone DLC

In Yoshi’s Island Zone, Sonic must race across Yoshi’s world in a brand new action-packed level. As you speed through this level, both Yoshi and Sonic players will notice some familiar items including pipes, coins, piranha plants and even Sonic’s iconic loop de loops, all in the unique graphic style of Yoshi’s world. Can Sonic find all the Yoshi’s eggs to save all of the Yoshis? Well you’ll need to explore the whole level to discover hidden areas to uncover these.

YouTube Preview Image

The Yoshi’s Island Zone DLC is available for download right now from the eShop and is free to all owners of Sonic Lost World!

Check out more screens from the upcoming DLC below.

Sonic Lost World - Yoshi's Island Zone DLC

Sonic Lost World - Yoshi's Island Zone DLC

Sonic Lost World Yoshi's Island DLC

Sonic Lost World Yoshi's Island DLC

We hope you enjoy this update and would love to get your feedback in the comments below – tell us what you think!


SEGA 3D Classics – 3D Shinobi III Interview with Developer M2

Shinobi III is our second to last title in the 3D Classics series of interviews. As you’ll come to find, a lot of work was expertly done by M2 to bring this classic Genesis / Mega Drive game to the 3DS.

Thanks again to Game Watch and Impress, Okunari-san, and Horii-san for their involvement in making these interviews available to our western audience. Thanks to Siliconera for coordinating with us to help spread the word to SEGA fans across the web. And special thanks to our producer Sam for translating these interviews for everyone’s enjoyment.

As always, your comments are appreciated!

How will this title from the MegaDrive’s late lifecycle make it into 3D!?

Originally posted 8/7/2013

3D Shinobi III

Right, Naoki Horii, M2 President, left, Yousuke Okunari, SEGA CS3 Producer

Shinobi III Background
Shinobi III: Return of the Ninja Master (known as The Super Shinobi II in Japan) released simultaneously worldwide on July 23, 1993. It was the second MegaDrive installment of the Shinobi series, released four years after its predecessor, The Revenge of Shinobi, and included 7 “rounds” for a total of 21 stages.

The plot of the game revolves around the evil organization known as NEO ZEED, who attempt to control the world through destruction and violence. They were thoroughly defeated by Joe Musashi a few years before the events of this game.

But it turns out that the organization’s leader at that time was nothing but a figurehead, and NEO ZEED has returned to power to threaten the world.

Its true leader, known only as the Shadow Master, has made NEO ZEED more powerful than ever and is fiendishly plotting to finish off Joe Musashi once and for all.

The battle between Joe Musashi and NEO ZEED, between light and darkness, begins again!

3D Shinobi III3D Shinobi III
Flying kicks and dash slashes were added to Shinobi III.

Shinobi III features a dazzling array of moves for a game of its time: players can perform double jumps, rain shuriken down upon their enemies, dash, wall jump, dive kick, hang down, and dice up their foes with various sword techniques.

“Effortlessly pulling off things which people assumed the MegaDrive just couldn’t do…”

– Thank you again for sitting down with me, gentlemen. To date, you’ve released 3D Sonic The Hedgehog, 3D Altered Beast, and 3D Ecco the Dolphin as “GigaDrive” titles. But I’d like to ask what prompted you to choose Shinobi III to represent SEGA’s library of action games. Because I remember that the previous installment, The Revenge of Shinobi, also made a big impact at the time.

Yousuke Okunari (below, YO): The Revenge of Shinobi is of course the bigger title. However, when we released The Revenge of Shinobi as part of the SEGA Vintage Collection last year on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, we got a lot of feedback from people requesting the sequel as well.

Earlier on we had released Shinobi 3D on 3DS, which was a new title in its own right, and which in its own way paid homage to Shinobi III. So we thought that people who got to know the series through that game might better appreciate Shinobi III, since it has more variety in the actions you can perform compared to earlier installments.

We also wanted to keep popularizing some of SEGA’s more well-known games through the 3D Remake Project, which led us to include one title from the Shinobi series. Lastly, and you might know this if you’ve played 3D Galaxy Force II, we wanted to draw attention to how impressive sprite-based games can be when viewed in 3D compared to polygon-based graphics, like those used in Shinobi 3D.

Naoki Horii (below, NH): There are a lot of showpieces for the 3D within the game.

– Looking at your line-up after 3D Sonic, Shinobi III will be the fourth side-scrolling title that you’ve released using the GigaDrive, so I was thinking that maybe you chose Shinobi III based on how effective you thought the 3D would be.

YO: If you want to adapt what were originally 3D shooting games (such as Space Harrier) into stereoscopic 3D, porting the arcade versions is the most effective approach. Namely because the MegaDrive didn’t support sprite scaling. On the other hand, if you want to port 2D side scrolling games, there are a bunch of classics to choose from on the MegaDrive.

In terms of building up M2’s know-how as well, I thought we’d get better at the porting process if we focused on games of a similar genre to the ones we’d previously done.

3D Shinobi III
1-1, An example of multi-layer scrolling in stage 1.

– I see.

YO: Now Shinobi III is our fourth title that uses the GigaDrive, so I figured development would go pretty smoothly. Little did I know how wrong I was…

NH: That’s because MegaDrive games themselves evolved over time. By the time Shinobi III came out, games on the same hardware were really humming along, using sprites and backgrounds in very advanced ways, parallax scrolling backgrounds, all sorts of things. Developers around that time would do things like adjust sprite priorities (which determine what sprites display on top when sprites overlap) to spiff up a game’s backgrounds by making a single layer look like two or three.

YO: Looking back at the previous titles we released, we have Altered Beast, which was a launch title in 1988, then Sonic which came out in 1991, and finally Ecco and Shinobi III, which both released in 1993. Ecco’s biggest advancements were mainly in its impressive visual presentation, but Shinobi III’s advancements were programming innovations that changed how graphics were displayed. Since it had been five years since the hardware’s release, Shinobi III was at the point where it wasn’t just using all of the MegaDrive’s capabilities, it was effortlessly pulling off things that people assumed the MegaDrive just couldn’t do.

NH: We knew that remaking this kind of game in 3D was going be painstaking, but we also knew the final product would really impress people.

3D Shinobi III
2-1, The horse scene in Shinobi 3D was drawn with a 3D perspective. Shinobi III uses parallax scrolling to convey depth.

YO: When we were deciding on our MegaDrive lineup, both M2 and I felt that Shinobi III would make for a really fun game in 3D, so we went ahead and included it. We knew that the game had some parallax scrolling areas in it, and that it was also a straightforward side-scrolling action game, so we figured it would just be a matter of adding 3D to specific parts of the stage that really stand out, like we did with 3D Sonic. M2 agreed with me, and said, “OK, sure. Though, it just might take some work since it’s a game from late in the MegaDrive’s lifecycle…”

But when they actually got started, it was much harder than they imagined. For starters, there are a lot more stages in Shinobi III than other games from that time.

NH: Yeah, there are a ton of stages…

YO: We underestimated the game: there are seven rounds, and each round has three stages. That’s twenty one stages in total! Altered Beast had five. Ecco’s maps are big, but each one is one big image that’s almost like looking at an ant colony from the side. Which means that in terms of the visual presentation, similar graphics were used repeatedly, and you could use the same approach on them as you added depth.

NH: You’ll basically be fine doing the same thing over and over again.

YO: However, Shinobi III changes everything up in all its stages. The game progresses through completely different environments and completely different worlds, which meant we had to change our approach to creating 3D effects for each graphic in the game…

At first, we tried to do things the same way we were doing them previously, for example in 3D Sonic, where we added depth to the parallax scroll layers and objects in the background that had originally been drawn with a faux 3D perspective, and added 3D to previously flat backgrounds, like we did with Altered Beast or Ecco. But it just wasn’t enough.

3D Shinobi III
4-1, This water surface features parallax scrolling.

– When you say “it just wasn’t enough”, you mean there was still something “off” about the graphics?

NH: At the end of the day, the MegaDrive was a console with two backgrounds and sprites on top of them, so the range of things developers were able to do was somewhat limited. Still, they did develop graphic swap techniques that let them make it look like there were three or four background images on the screen. Which means that even if we added depth to both background layers, or changed the priority of raster layers, it wouldn’t be enough; we’d wind up breaking the game’s presentation because certain parts of the game would look wrong. While we did make use of those techniques, we also had to touch up the graphics to give the game a real stereoscopic 3D feel.

If you’re parallax scrolling a background layer graphic that already has some sort of depth baked into it, the GigaDrive techniques aren’t going to help. There were a lot of places in the game for which we had to go in and add depth to by hand.

– Games around that time also had a lot of huge boss characters.

NH: That’s right.

– Those bosses may just be one big graphic, but depending on the perspective, you might be tempted to add depth to their arms and legs.

NH: When the bosses have multiple parts, people want to see depth on them, especially since a lot of stages have bosses with phases that completely change how they’re displayed on-screen .

3D Shinobi III3D Shinobi III
Left: 3-3’s boss. A big enemy that moves around the screen. Right: 4-3’s boss is large as well.

The GigaDrive v2.0 is here!

– Some stages scroll vertically as well, don’t they?

YO: Vertical scrolling was one thing we really struggled with in Shinobi III. For example, stage 6-1. We ran some tests on this stage to see how 3D would look in one of the vertical parallax scrolling sections (hands over a 3DS).

We had a really hard time getting 3D working for the vertically scrolling rock wall here, as well as the elevator scene in 2-2. You might think the GigaDrive is transforming these scenes into 3D, but to make it work we actually had to upgrade the GigaDrive to version 2.0.

– (laughs)

3D Shinobi III3D Shinobi III
Left: 6-1, One of Shinobi III’s vertical multi-layer scrolling stages. Right: 2-2, which also uses vertical multi-layer scrolling.

NH: That’s right, v2.0! The team members who built the GigaDrive thought that the features we’d implemented for 3D Sonic would be enough to support 3D in other MegaDrive titles, but they were wrong! It was like: “Oh boy, now we’ve got to deal with Vertical raster scrolling?!” Well, that’s not the right term, actually. Really we should call it “vertical multi-scrolling”.

YO: Raster scrolling is done using scanlines, so yes, the term “vertical multi-scrolling” would be correct.

NH: But everyone called it “vertical raster”. So one of the biggest changes to the GigaDrive for v2.0 was support for vertical multi-scrolling.

– The way you’ve added depth to these vertically scrolling parts of the stage really gives them a facelift!

NH: Yeah, it does.

YO: Late-cycle MegaDrive games became very focused on how to show visual depth within the MegaDrive’s limitation of only two background layers. Shinobi III is one of those games. So if you can take that onto the 3DS and add 3D to it as-is, it just enhances what was already there.

However, since M2 had to use a lot of different methods to create real 3D effects, there wasn’t a single method that could add 3D to all stages in all situations. This meant analyzing how the programmers for the original version had wrung out faux 3D effects from within the MegaDrive’s original feature set, one scene at a time. In order to remake those graphics in 3D, we had to go back to the GigaDrive itself and extend its capabilities.

This is the “grinding away in the pits” that we alluded to in our 3D Galaxy Force II interview. Shinobi III has twenty one stages, and of course you can’t get away with just one 3D effect per stage. Some parts of the stage are similar to each other, and some are completely different. Really, I’m just impressed that the project even finished.

NH: We did run a little over schedule.

YO: You did, but it was a battle with time.

3D Shinobi III
7-3, the biggest development challenge for 3D Shinobi III. You need to see it in 3D to get the full effect.

NH: Because the 3D programming was looking like it might run over schedule a bit, we were able to add in a couple more 3D touches with the lost time. Since we’ve made so much progress with 3D vertical multi-scrolling, it makes me want to use it in other games. You know, after we get Thunder Blade out.

– (laughs)

YO: The hardest part about this game was the final boss. You’ll know what I’m talking about if you see it, but it’s worth checking out the original in 2D first.

– This looks impressive even to the untrained eye…

YO: The original already had an extremely 3D-esque look to it, and it was rasterized to the screen to give it a wavy effect, despite being a single graphic. This is the kind of thing you’ve just got to remake in 3D.

– The original graphic was clearly drawn to give the impression that the floor and the ceiling start in front of you and then move into the background.

YO: It’s similar to the ground and ceiling graphics in Space Harrier. It’s the graphic designer telling you to look at something in 3D. But there’s no depth information of course. This was actually still 2D right up until just before the final version of the game. Out of respect to the original, we knew that we couldn’t just leave it in 2D, so the Shinobi project manager over at M2 worked hard on it, until the 59th minute of the 11th hour.

And… Well, here. Take a look at it again in 3D.

– Wow, it’s popping out of the screen, as if that’s how it was always meant to be. (laughs) I see what you mean. So the wireframes at the top and bottom of the screen and the wavy portions of the backgrounds are separate layers, right?

YO: Two separate scroll layers are rasterizing on the screen. We’ve added depth information to the single graphic of the undulating wire frame. With the GigaDrive releases up until now, we made background and foreground layers 3D by assigning them different depths, but in this case we’ve “knocked” the wireframe into the background to give it “diagonal depth”.

– (Laughs) So that’s what’s happening. Sounds like you had to pull out all the stops. It’s like always with you guys, you know it’s got to wind up looking like this, and then it does.

YO: The difference between adding depth values to two parallel layers, and thus making them 3D, and knocking the wire-frame portion diagonally into the screen was like night and day. The 3D effect of parallax scrolling is ultimately just like the 3D effect in Galaxy Force II: lots of sprites are overlapped among several different parallel levels. However, collapsing a graphic diagonally into the screen requires a totally different approach.

3D Shinobi III
The stage intro screen. The forest spreads out before Joe, as he stands on the precipice. Depth has been added to this graphic.

– So did you give each horizontal line on the screen its own depth value? That’s possible, right?

NH: It is, but it’s very processor-intensive.

YO: Similarly, when you’re at the stage start screen, there are stage illustrations hovering in mid-air with Joe Musashi standing right in front of you, and both of them are in different locations. The background and forest have been made 3D by collapsing the graphic into the background, which makes it look like the forest is extending to the horizon. Just getting this screen done was an ordeal on its own.

– I suppose collapsing a single graphic into the background diagonally was something you hadn’t done yet on the GigaDrive, and making it happen was quite a challenge.

YO: That’s right.

– Once people saw the parallax scrolling that we were just talking about in the last stage, it became a rather common technique used in games, didn’t it?

NH: Yeah it did. Just another tool of the trade.

– And the 3DS version shows what you can do with the same image in 3D.

NH: Of course, no one ever imagined it would be in 3D in the first place, right? They just wanted to give a 3D edge to the graphics. It’s that much more powerful in real 3D.

– It must have been quite the process.

NH: This was actually the first time the programmer who added 3D depth to the game had ever touched the GigaDrive. Up until then he had been working on Virtual Console Game Gear titles. So I asked him if he wanted to try adding some 3D to Shinobi, and all of a sudden he was adding it everywhere he could.

– (laughs)

NH: He just didn’t know when to give up. He worked on it like a man on a mission, right up until we were out of time.

– Well, that’s the kind of project this is, I suppose. No one knows when to quit… (laughs)

NH: Yeah, exactly. (laughs) When I come into work, I’m always like, “boy, you guys seem to be having fun over there!”

YO: Now this is probably something most people wouldn’t care about, and something I didn’t even realize until it was explained to me, but some of the visual effects in this game were created with very elaborate programming tricks, and they’ll basically fall apart when you put them into 3D. An example would be 3-1.

NH: There’s a trick that other companies have used in shooting games, for example, where you take a square graphic and shift it one pixel at a time, which makes it look like it’s a single scrolling background graphic. The catch is that your background graphic has to be a single block. You could call it “cycling background cells”. We’ve added 3D support for techniques like this with the new GigaDrive v2.0. Stage-wise, a good example is the biological weapons research facility in stage 3-1.

– Huh. Yeah now that I think about, this does seem like something the MegaDrive shouldn’t be graphically capable of.

NH: At first glance, it seems like there are a ton of background layers, but this stage is actually just made of square-shaped graphics arranged around each other. Or rather, they look like a background because of how they’re placed. With this approach, you only have to shift a single block when it’s drawn, leaving fewer areas that you have to redraw. You save on memory as well as processing time.

What it took to make 3-1 3D

3D Shinobi III
3-1. A typical multi-layer scrolling stage in the original game. The top and bottom areas, as well as the experiment pods in the back are multi-scrolled. While the MegaDrive was only capable of scrolling two backgrounds, it looks like more are being scrolled here…

How 3-1’s screens are rendered by the GigaDrive.

3D Shinobi III
A diagram detailing how M2 went about crafting the screens for the 3D version.


Diagram Above

Normal BG-A FG Layer (Window)
Normal BG-B Not displayed
Extended BG1 FG Layer (Front)
Extended BG2 FG Layer (Rear)
Extended BG3 BG Layers (A)
Extended BG4 BG Layer (B&C)


* A & C move at the speeds they appear to move at.

* B is drawn on Extended BG4 with the same depth as C, but is animated by cycling cells, and scrolls at the same speed as layer A.

* It may be possible to freeze the cell animation and scroll at the same speed as background C, but doing so makes the background look different from the original.

(You may not notice it at first since the screen flickers in this section of the game, but if you watch layer B while your character is moving, you’ll notice that it doesn’t move in sync with C.)

3D Shinobi III    3D Shinobi III

Background Layer B is actually comprised of animation tiles that are laid out on-screen and rapidly redrawn to give the impression that they’re scrolling. The 3D version adds depth information to these tiles.

– Wooooow. That is a pretty smart approach.

NH: It is smart. The team really dug deep for this one. But if you use that technique to add depth the way we normally do for GigaDrive, it wouldn’t work right. So we had to extend our functionality for games that use cell cycling.

– I see. I guess that’s the only way to create 3D in a stage like this.

“When you know the original developers wanted to create a sense of space in the original game, it makes you want to push that even further.”

YO: We had underestimated what our original plan would require. However, from among the games we originally selected for the lineup, we thought that Sonic and our next release were going to be the toughest. We wanted to get the hardest games out of the way first.

NH: We were ready to stake the fate of the GigaDrive on Sonic

YO: Yeah. For Sonic, the idea was “Let’s blow everyone’s socks off!” We figured that if we could bring the parallax scrolling portions of the stage into the background, it would impress people. But once we sat down to get started, we realized how off our calculations were. (laughs)

– (laughs)

NH: Yeah we did.

YO: We should have spent more time with each game when we were choosing titles.

NH: When we were considering which parts of the game to remake in 3D, we figured, “Hey, we can do this, we can do that”, because we’d already done it on Sonic. That was a mistake. (laughs) If we’d moved Sonic to the rear, we could have drawn a reasonable line in the sand about what we were going to do with Shinobi III.

– (laughs) Well, you guys don’t really know when to give up either (laughs). I feel like even if the release order was reversed, you still would have convinced yourself that “Hey, we can do this,” or, “That’s going to be a snap.”

NH: At M2, we might have told ourselves that if we do Shinobi first, 3D Sonic would be out of this world.

– (laughs) Then again, if you went straight to late life-cycle MegaDrive titles, you might have had to delay the releases for the arcade and GigaDrive games, right? I mean so far, you’ve been developing titles one by one, and gradually improving your approach by taking the lessons learned from the previous game into the next game. As a result, you’ve been able to work more efficiently, but at the same time you find things you feel like really have to be included in the game as you go along. Considering that, if you’d done Shinobi III first, you might never have gotten around to the other GigaDrive titles, and there wouldn’t have been any games for a while after the 3D Super Hang-on release. (laughs)

NH: That’s definitely possible.

YO: In the end, I think that Shinobi III wound up being a culmination of all the things we’ve accomplished on the GigaDrive up until now.

NH: Yes, everything we’ve built into the GigaDrive to date has made it into this game. It’s got all the toppings.

YO: With Shinobi III’s development, the GigaDrive is finally complete…

NH: … That’s what I wish we could say, but there are still a lot of small problems and stuff that’s not quite there yet. For example, if we wanted to do Gunstar Heroes, we’d have to expand its functionality. (laughs)

– Yeah, that game has multi-jointed characters and other relatively unique specs since it came out at the very end of the MegaDrive’s life cycle.

YO: OK well, let’s say that with Shinobi III, the GigaDrive version 2.0 is finally complete. Beyond that, it’s all down to M2 working on the nitty gritty details to bring quasi-3D elements from the late-era games into true 3D.

NH: Well, the original MegaDrive-era graphical artists and programmers were also deep in the muck, and even though they were working on 2D CRT screens, they wanted to evoke “space” within the game to the extent that they could. When you know the original developers wanted to create a sense of space in the original game, it makes you want to push that even further.

YO: Those little nitty gritty details are the things I hope people notice the most in Shinobi III.

“It really is a second attempt, twenty years later, to deliver to the players that sense of depth, that sense of really being in the game.”

YO: Incidentally, just as we’ve done with all the other 3D Remaster Project games, this title also has two features that weren’t in the original game.

One is the stage select. Unlike 3D Sonic, this wasn’t in the MegaDrive version. You can now see every stage boss, from start to finish, right out of the gate. I say this every time, but we really want people to see how the 3D looks in all the stages, regardless if you’re actually able to clear the game or not.

– Did the original have three continues? I can’t remember. It’s great that you can jump straight to any stage.

NH: The continues are now unlimited as well.

3D Shinobi III3D Shinobi III
Select any stage when you start up the game.

YO: Another thing we’ve included is the “Expert Ninja Mode”. This is something that allows you to assign controls to each button. Both The Revenge of Shinobi and Shinobi III essentially have the same basic controls: Jump, Attack, and Ninjutsu. But in Expert Ninja mode, you can actually assign separate buttons for the close range (kunai) and long range (shuriken) attacks.

We also included a guard button, so you can now guard instantly. In The Revenge of Shinobi, when powered up, you could block things with your two kunai, and use your katana to deflect shuriken, but in Shinobi III, you had to hold down the button to guard so Joe would toss out a shuriken first and your guard wouldn’t instantly activate. Guarding didn’t work the same way it did in The Revenge of Shinobi. In the 3DS version’s Expert Ninja Mode, you can now guard with the push of a single button. The guard hitbox is a bit tighter than it was in Revenge, but the fact that you can instantly block attacks now is huge for players.

You can assign the guard button to L, R, A, B, Y, or even X if you want. Use whatever works for you!

And actually, this isn’t the first time this mode has made an appearance. You might not be aware of this, but you could use it with a cheat code in the original. The game actually supported the 6-button gamepad for the MegaDrive, which at the time had just been released. Still, since we are porting the game to the 3DS, we’d run out of buttons if we left the 6-button support in there, so we needed to a proper implementation for this control scheme. And since trying to assign all these buttons with the button configuration we’ve had up until now would be a bit of a pain, we’ve adapted the controls into icons. Really, there probably weren’t a ton of people who knew about and used the cheat code for the original, so in this version, we’ve included the functionality as a default default. I think it brings a breath of fresh air to the gameplay.

– … People might think that the guard will make them invincible throughout the game, but that’s not the case.

NH: No, that’s not the case. It’s sort of like how people thought the original Street Fighter would be easier if you switched from pressure-sensitive buttons[1] to a 6-button layout, but that wasn’t the problem in the first place.

– (laughs) It was the button inputs that made that game tricky.

YO: Playing Shinobi III with a guard button makes it totally different from what you’ve played before.

– In car terms, it’s like switching from an automatic to a stick shift.

YO: People who’ve mastered the normal control method, or played the normal style but got stuck somewhere along the way should give it a try. I think they’ll find it’s like playing a different game.

I’ve never asked the original development team, but I hear this game took a quite a while to develop and I have a feeling they wanted to make it so that the guard action was instantaneous. Perhaps they gave up when they were doing adjustments to the game balance or something. At the very end of the development cycle, they heard 6-button controller was coming out and implemented support for it, so I imagine that at that point it was too late to include the guard by default. Since we’re working on the port, we figured it was time to let that feature shine.

– It wouldn’t have been odd around that time to have a guard action. I think it’s a good idea.

YO: And since now you have your shuriken, which are limited in number, on a separate button, it makes you want to get in there and attack at close range.

– Yeah, it’s even more of an action game if you keep yourself from using your shuriken.

YO: Shinobi III also had two new close range attacks: dash slash and kick, in addition to the kunai attack. So trying to get through the game without using any shuriken can be fun in quite a different way.

– So Expert Ninja Mode wasn’t part of the original development plan?

YO: The idea at first was to include it as a hidden feature.

NH: Making it available by default came along later in development.

YO: I really wanted to highlight the fact that this command existed in the game. I always thought of it as a little hidden bonus, but if you know how to access it, it’s a lot of fun. So we brought it to the forefront with Expert Ninja Mode. You can think of the 3DS version’s guard as a bonus action like the Spin Dash we added to 3D Sonic. You could certainly play without shuriken if you want, but that sort of “self-restricted” gameplay is a little old school, you know. (laughs) Of course, if you want to play with infinite shuriken, we’ve left the original cheat code in as well.

3D Shinobi III3D Shinobi III
If you go to the OPTIONS, set the S.E. to “SHURIKIN”, then set the “SHURIKIN” count to “00” and wait a few moments, the numbers will turn into an infinity sign, granting you unlimited shuriken. Also, note that this is the only place you will see shuriken misspelled because it drives the localization producer crazy.

– You can also select the difficulty, so people who are skilled at the game can tune the difficulty as they like. That’s also similar to the addition of 3D Sonic’s Spin Dash, I suppose.

YO: It’s actually the opposite of 3D Sonic since in this case, we’re taking things that were in an earlier game and adding them to the sequel. In this version, you can use the guard without powering up. One of the things we struggled with was updating the UI template with icons for the button config, which we were fine with up until then. But if we hadn’t switched the config over to icons, it would be really hard to figure out what you’re doing. It sounds minor, but this change actually wound up impacting our schedule. (laughs)

– Well, the control config is definitely easier to understand now that it’s more visual. I think it’s a nice addition that people will appreciate.

NH: It’s a modest upgrade, but we did put a fair amount of time into it. Definitely fool around with it.

YO: The international version is also in there too, although the only difference is the logo (and a little bit of text). (laughs)

– So the difficulty of the international version isn’t any different from the Japanese one?

YO: Apparently not.

3D Shinobi III3D Shinobi III
You can play the Japanese or international version, which have a different title screens.

3D Shinobi III3D Shinobi III
In the screen settings, the GigaDrive allows you to use Normal display modes, as well as “Classic” mode, which replicates CRT screens. The screen is rounded out, with colors that bleed, bringing back the days of playing it on an early 90s television set.

– Alright gentlemen. Final words before we close up?

YO: Given that it was one of the MegaDrive’s later titles, Shinobi III is the most refined version of the 2D Shinobi series. I think that it’s a fine example of a well-executed action game. It’s also a showcase for how we’ve taken all the in-game effects from the original and remade them in stereoscopic 3D. If you’ve never had a chance to play this game, there has never been a better time.

When this game originally came out, there were a lot of other competing action games being released at the same time, and this installment didn’t have Yuzu Koshiro-san’s music, who was involved in the first game. So it had a couple of dings against it, and there may have been some people who passed over it. But in reality, the music is really good, and it’s highly regarded by action game lovers. So while there may be a good number of people who haven’t tried it, I think they’re really missing out. (laughs)

– It’s definitely a hard choice, but I think that The Revenge of Shinobi was a little more widely known. That said, I think Shinobi III is really polished, and something people should play through themselves.

YO: The dash is really fun. For the people out there who want to play The Revenge of Shinobi, I recommend you check out the version on Wii Virtual Console, or the SEGA AGES ONLINE (Sega Vintage Collection 3 overseas) version. (laughs) It’s a different console, but it’s on sale now and people love it! If you’re one of those who are just dying to hear Yuzu Koshiro-san’s on 3DS, then go and pick up a copy of the Game Gear version of Shinobi on 3DS Virtual Console. That one is a masterpiece as well, so if your interest in the series is piqued, please give it a try!

NH: Just as our predecessors tried to wring out every last bit of power from the MegaDrive to create amazing graphics, we also did our best to squeeze out every last drop of stereoscopic 3D that we could from Shinobi III. Please enjoy the fruits of our persistence. We think you’ll like it.

– Since you’ve relate all the trouble you guys go through to make it, I wind up empathizing with you guys as I play the games.

NH: I think that there were spots that people overlooked back then like, “Hey wait a minute. The MegaDrive shouldn’t be able to do three layers of scrolling!” By putting Shinobi III in 3D, it’s easier to see some of these impressive achievements. I hope people will get a kick out of wondering how some of this stuff was accomplished.

YO: The effort that they put in back then… it’s amazing how they were able to create such a sense of depth within the game, in terms of both programing skill and graphical design. And now M2 has taken up the reigns by turning it into 3D. It really is a second attempt, twenty years later, to deliver to the players that sense of depth, that sense of really being in the game.

– And it sounds like you have another title coming along in due time as well! So I look forward to talking to you guys again! Thank you so much!


Copyright ©2013 Impress Watch Corporation, an Impress Group company. All rights reserved.


[1] The original Street Fighter machines had only two pressure-sensitive buttons: punch and kick. The strength of the attack was determined by how hard you hit the button.


Total War: ROME II – Caesar in Gaul Available Now

Rome II - Caesar in Gaul

Caesar in Gaul, the first campaign expansion for Total War: ROME II, is available to download now. Bringing Caesar’s Gallic war to life in thrilling detail, Caesar in Gaul offers a tighter scope in terms of time and geography than ROME II’s original grand campaign.

Playing as Rome or one of the key barbarian tribes in this seven-year conflict, players will experience a campaign map that represents an expanded, more detailed vision of Gaul and the south coast of Britannia. With multiple turns per year, this expansion also brings seasonal changes, with new gameplay effects and stunning visual alterations.

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Caesar in Gaul also offers players a new historical battle to challenge their generalship. The Battle of Alesia, the decisive engagement of Caesar’s war in Gaul, offers a unique tactical situation in which the Romans must survive a twin-pronged onslaught of the massed Gallic forces.

Concurrent with this launch, a new patch bringing important gameplay changes will download automatically via Steam for all ROME II owners. For full patch notes please visit the Total War Wiki.

Caesar in Gaul brings numerous other features, including new units, new mid-game challenge mechanics and a greater focus on historical characters. For more detailed information, head to the steam page, where the expansion is available to purchase for £9.99, $14.99, €14.99.


SEGA 3D Classics – Galaxy Force II Interview with Developer M2

3D Galaxy Force II

Our next article is all about Galaxy Force II and is a must read for any old school arcade fan, or really anyone unfamiliar with the Galaxy Force game. They said it couldn’t be done, but M2 delivers an arcade perfect port of Galaxy Force II with full 60fps delivered in face melting 3D. It’s a sight to behold, we hope you enjoy both the game and the interview!

Thanks again to Game Watch and Impress, Okunari-san, and Horii-san for their involvement in making these interviews available to our western audience. Thanks to Siliconera for coordinating with us to help spread the word to SEGA fans across the web. And special thanks to our producer Sam for translating these interviews for everyone’s enjoyment.

As always, your comments are appreciated!


3D Galaxy Force II

Left, Naoki Horii, M2 President, Right, Yousuke Okunari, SEGA CS3 Producer

3D Galaxy Force II

Galaxy Force II Background
Galaxy Force was first released in arcades in 1988. Whereas Afterburner’s ‘double cradle’ arcade cabinet allowed for forward, backward and left/right movement on two axes, Galaxy Force’s cabinet allowed for more than 300 degrees of movement to the left and right and came in two varieties: a compact “Deluxe” version with slightly restricted movement, and a “Super Deluxe” version that added up and down movement as well. The more expensive Super DX version was a larger machine, requiring a wide area to be chained off for safety purposes. Since many smaller arcades were unable to accommodate this space requirement, the Super DX version did not see wide distribution. Its main board was called the Y-Board (a revision of the previous X-board), with three MC68000 CPUs. This hardware dropped the number of backgrounds, but it could display a larger number of sprites and had advanced sprite-scaling features. It was well-equipped for sound, with a PCM-enabled YM2151 chip (FM sound source). The game displayed at a 320×224 pixel resolution.

The cabinet was equipped with a throttle on the left to control the speed of your ship TRY-Z (your ship), and a control stick on the right for controlling its lateral and vertical movement. The original Galaxy Force ended after only four stages, but a sequel was released about two months later as Galaxy Force II which fixed a number of issues with the game, added two more stages, and allowed you to select your starting stage. Effectively all machines in operation were converted to II, so unmodified originals became rare.

Ports of Galaxy Force to the Mega Drive, FM-TOWNS, and the Sega Saturn were all based on Galaxy Force II, with only the international Master System port being an exception. Then in 2007, an M2-developed “Special Extended Edition” was released as part of the SEGA AGES 2500 series for PlayStation 2. This was not just an arcade port, but included the MegaDrive and Master System versions as well, as well as a “neo classic version”, which featured enhanced graphics and sound options, widescreen, higher resolution on in-game objects and transparencies.

“It’s not going to run.” “Ok, then how can we get it running?”

– To start off, I’d like to ask how you went about deciding to bring back this arcade title. I recall you mentioned the last time we talked that there was a significant difficulty jump from porting Space Harrier and Super Hang-on to porting Galaxy Force II.

Yousuke Okunari (below, YO): OK well first, when we were choosing the lineup for the 3D Remaster Project, we had to consider which games would really stand out. You know, which games would have the most impact if we put them into 3D. We wanted to do Space Harrier first, but once that was in 3D, I had to think about which game would be the most well-received, and…

Naoki Horii (below, NH): You settled on Thunder Blade, right?

YO:Galaxy Force II was the obvious choice.

NH: You just totally ignored me!

– (laughs)

YO: When we made the SEGA AGES 2500 version for the PS2, we were able to recreate the game with more modern touches by making some graphical improvements (increasing the resolution of objects by 4x, adding support for transparencies and widescreen) in the “Neo Classic Mode”. When I was getting the 3DS project off the ground, I thought that if we could add 3D to the game, it would remove the difficulty spikes you experience when you go into the cave sections of the game. From the beginning, I asked M2 to make that one of their goals.

M2 had some experience working on Space Harrier at that point so they had an understanding of how much work would go into the port. And they told me, “GF2 is out of the question.” The Y-Board that GF2 uses is about 1.5 times harder to port than Space Harrier. Still, M2 had spent about two years analyzing the arcade board for the PS2 version, so in some ways you could say they had made it their own at that point. I told them “you’ll be fine!”, and had them begin production.

NH: After finishing the PS2 version, I felt like I really wanted to make that version of the game portable. At the time, I was thinking PSP. You can use the PSP to view still images, so I made some mockup images of widescreen GF2 and put them on my PSP. And boy, they looked really stunning. Before you worry about whether a game’s going to run or not, you need to see if it even looks good, you know?

So then we tried to build prototype, but no one could get it running on the PSP. Though if we tried now, we probably could get it running. Regardless, I wanted to get GF2 running on a handheld in widescreen. That’s when Okunari-san said that he wanted to work on 3DS. It was like a godsend, so we gave it a shot. Now that I think about it, I should have realized that given how much trouble we had porting it to the PSP, we’d have just as much on the 3DS. But I was caught up in the fact that we finally had a chance to make a portable version.

– (laughs)

YO: So then your whole team had to figure out how to make it work.

– Well, considering that you’d already finished your hardware analysis when you did the first port, it seems like everything would be OK…but you weren’t yet thinking about which hardware you’d wind porting it to, right?

NH: That’s right.

– So when you decided to bring it to 3DS, you must have known that it had three 68000s rather than the two that Space Harrier had…

NH: Well, we hadn’t started working on Space Harrier at that point.

YO: The idea was that the first project milestone was Space Harrier, and if that went well, then we’d move onto the next game. GF2 was one of those next games. We weren’t going to get anywhere if we couldn’t do Space Harrier. We’d already included stereoscopic 3D for Super Hang-on on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, so it was just a matter of bring that over to the 3DS. So when we thought about which title we wanted to remake in 3D next, Galaxy Force II was the natural choice.

– So the three arcade titles were never actually being worked on in parallel then? You did them one at a time.

NH: That’s correct. But there are things we learned during the process, and as Space Harrier progressed, we came to realize that this aspect or that feature would probably be very difficult to do when we got to GF2.

YO: Up until just before its release, the processing that 3D Space Harrier required to maintain 60 frames a second wasn’t occurring in the frame time needed (when all the processing for a single frame draw does not occur in 1/60th of a second, it slips over into the next frame, delaying the frame draw. This creates what people perceive as ‘lag’). Then, despite all the work we put into 3D Space Harrier, 3D Super Hang-on wasn’t running at a perfect 60 FPS either up until about a month before release it because we added gyro controls etc. So when I was getting the project off the ground, I asked M2 when they’d be able to do GF2, and they told me that there’s no way they could get the game working. We had this big meeting, with M2 on one side saying, “It’s not going to run,” and me on the other asking, “Well, then how can we get it running?”

NH: Yeah, we figured that porting GF2 along the same lines as Space Harrier ultimately wouldn’t pan out. We’d have to take a completely different approach to how we were drawing to the screen, so we wound up assigning one programmer to create graphics for GF2 and write a specialized rendering routine for the Y-Board.

The idea was to run GF2 on the 3DS’s upper screen, and optimize the processing by outputting a graphical cache data to the bottom screen. Basically. So we went about painstakingly calculating ways to cache data that would avoid speed drops, and finally got where we needed to be.

– You had to throw out the methodology you’d struggled with on Space Harrier and start all over.

NH: Yes, we had to step up the way we were going about it.

YO: Simply put, we had to include the processing of a whole extra CPU in there. The last port barely ran when it was emulating two CPUs, and now we had three.

– So not only does the 3DS have to deal with that extra processing, the arcade board itself also had an added CPU and an increase in the number of sprites it could draw, because at the time, boards would double in power every time a new one came out, right? The GF2 arcade board had some specialized sprite-scaling hardware, didn’t it?

3D Galaxy Force II

A picture of someone’s GF2 board sitting on a Micomsoft XAC-1 computer desk at M2.

NH: Yes, GF2 had a much more powerful board (compared to Space Harrier’s). It really was twice the game, and the board had 68000’s lined right up on it like bam, bam, bam, along with the ROM itself. You look at it and all you can do is cross your arms and frown. (laughs)

– All your efforts in optimization were offset by the performance increases with the more powerful Y-Board.

NH: Of course, you can’t just rely on ‘optimization’ to make up for the difference, you have to scrape together memory by saving calculation time and resources here and there. We optimize the rendering, and we can optimize the 68000-side code as well. The process is like filling a cup with 1,000 rain drops. Thankfully, our optimization had made some really incredible progress, to the point where it looked like we could squeeze sound emulation in there as well.

But in the end, there were some snags, and we got concerned that we wouldn’t be able to get the game running at 60 FPS. It just didn’t end up being that easy.

– I remember you said that the last two games used the internal sound processor to do BGM emulation, but are you saying that this one uses streaming instead?

YO: If you switch from emulated sound to streaming, you do save a little bit on processing power[1]. For awhile during the early development, M2 was building the game without any sound playing. I forget, was there a time where you had sound emulation running?

NH: For this one? No, I don’t think so.

YO: At some point, they finally showed me a version of GF2 that was running at more or less 30 FPS with some slowdown.

NH: Here. This was a version we built just to see if the emulation engine would run, with no graphical optimizations or anything.  (hands over a 3DS)

– Ooooh! Yeah the frame rate is a bit slow but the game works, that’s for sure. The sprites also aren’t displaying quite right but you can tell where you are. Right now I’m inside a cave.

NH: As you can imagine, this was the point we knew we wanted to make the project happen. The game looks like it’s running in slow motion, but we thought we’d be OK if we could just get it running twice as fast. We didn’t know if all the in-game objects would even fit into memory, but we did have some ideas on how to speed things up. We knew we couldn’t just drop the ROM in as-is, we had to adapt the code in a way that made sense for the 3DS hardware.

– So you were already thinking about it in a completely different way than you approached 3D Space Harrier. As if it was a totally new title.

NH: Well, 3D Space Harrier had a little more trial and error involved in it. And we had an easier time porting its data over as well.

– So once you ported the 3D Space Harrier ROM, getting its performance up to speed was the hard part?

NH: It took a while. Getting it to run at a smooth 60 frames per second was the hard part. There are places where even the original arcade board suffers from slowdowns and frame drops.

YO: Around the time of this version, Horii-san told me:  “This is what we’ve got so far. It’s still pretty far away from a finished product.” But this is M2 we’re talking about, and they always get things to run lighter and faster over time. They already had this one working at 20-30FPS. M2 just had to press on with performance acceleration, so I convinced myself that we’d be fine.  (laughs)

NH: Well it’s true, and Okunari-san knows this from working with us. We say things like, “Man, online play in Game Gear titles? That’s going to be rough,” or, “Ad hoc play working on a MegaDrive game? Yeah right!” And then we go and get GF2 running, it makes no sense. (laughs) I wonder why it runs!

– (laughs)

“Bring the sprite quality up to Neo Classic standards”

YO: Anyways, so M2 had the game working. Kind of. And when they were telling me how they might be able to get sound emulation functioning, I turned around and said that hey, since the graphics are work, the next step is building the game to the Neo Classic version’s specs (the SEGA AGES 2500 version with enhanced graphics). Namely because it didn’t matter if we got the arcade version running. Fans would be expecting the Neo Classic version’s graphics. I didn’t want to have the 3DS port looked at as inferior. So I told them that the 3DS version had to live up to the Neo Classic standards or bust.

They came back and said, “Oh, you want transparencies? Not a problem.” “No, no, no,” I said. “Not just that. I want the pixel art the same as well.” M2 had redrawn all the graphics in 4x resolution for the PS2 version, so it would be a waste if we didn’t use those assets.

NH: But that meant that, we’d be putting object data four times larger than the original into a straight arcade port that we had barely got running. I.e. it’s going to take four times the memory! At that point, we had no idea if the arcade version’s data would even fit into memory, let alone with graphics 4 times their original size. It was fantasy land. But I knew what the fans would want, and personally, I thought, “We’re a decade into the 21st century, damnit! This is what people are expecting.” At the same time, the dev team had a kind of “what have we gotten ourselves into” feeling.

YO: The 3DS’s resolution is 400×240 pixels, so excluding the space to the left and the right, it’s pretty close to the arcade version’s native resolution. So M2 said hey, we can replicate the arcade graphics dot by dot at a 1-to-1 ratio, so why not just go with the original arcade resolution. The thing is though that in GF2, sometimes enemies will fly at you from behind and at other times you’ll fly through the background. I told them that I didn’t want to see any of that jaggy pixilation when objects were zoomed in on!

NH: Yeah. Afterburner is the same way. And I knew Okunari-san would say something like that, which is why I said, “Isn’t a port of the original game good enough!?” Now of course, the higher resolution graphics would of course look best if we could actually implement them…

YO: So I told Horii-san: “The higher res graphics are going to look awesome, just give it a try.” (laughs) I knew they wouldn’t have quite the dramatic impact they had in the PS2 version, but it would have some effect. What could it hurt?

NH: …This guy, I swear. Anyways, so here I was, not knowing if the game would run at 60 FPS or not, and I say, “OK, fine. We’ll do it.” So we stopped trying to load all the graphics for all the stages into memory as a single pack, and instead bundled the graphics into individual packs per stage. The project manager told me “we haven’t even got the basic framework working and you’re really going to do something way beyond it?”

YO: M2 had to rebuild the game so it would load the high res graphics a stage at a time.

NH: Thankfully however, it was pretty easy compared to the work we had to do to up-res the roughly 10,000 images we used in the PS2 version. The thing was though, that if we screwed up while packing the graphics, they wouldn’t show up on screen, so there was the danger that that we might get bugs that we couldn’t even locate because the graphics wouldn’t show up. At any rate, we went and split them up into packs anyway, loaded them per stage and then dropped them into the 3DS’s memory. It goes without saying that at this point we still didn’t know if we could get the game running at 60 frames a second.

– This sounds like it’s shaping up to be a rather reckless project. (laughs)

YO: What’s more, there isn’t enough time to load data between stages (when you start up GF2, you can choose which stage you want to play, which changes the stage order, and in turn affects what needs to be loaded). M2’s technical prowess keeps the load times short.

NH: Well, it’s more about the team’s hard work than it is technical prowess per se. I’ve seen some comments on the net saying, “Man, those guys must really be grinding away in the pits on this stuff,” and it’s absolutely true. It’s like collecting and saving pennies to buy something really expensive.

– Yeesh. (laughs) You can’t help but groan a bit.

NH: Okunari-san’s schedules are absolute. All while he’s saying, “Let’s do this. Let’s try that.” He is a shady guy. Really shady. I’m secretly studying his ways.

YO: (laughs) But you got the game running at 60 frames per second with high res graphics! It just took a bit longer than we planned….

NH: Ah! …Well, it didn’t take as long the PS2 version, at least. That one dragged on for a year.

– (laughs)

YO: The 3DS version took about the same…

NH: … Er…Hmmm… In any case, the result is that the sprites don’t pixelate when they’re scaled. You might not notice unless you go out of your way to directly compare them, but the difference is tremendous.

YO: Oh yeah and once you clear the game, you’ll unlock the ability to select the original unaltered arcade version, where you can get a good idea of how nice the higher res graphics and transparencies are.

– Oh, you can play the original arcade version, too?

YO: Now don’t be surprised by the fact that the ending has no sound. (laughs) That’s how it was in the arcade. Anyways, thanks to M2, GF2 on 3DS is now the best replication of the game to-date. We thought that the PS2 version was the most complete version, but its one weakness was that it’s hard to know where you’re going in the caves.

3D Galaxy Force II

A screen from Arcade Mode.

That’s where the stereoscopic 3D helps. We knew that if we added in 3D, the game would be easier to navigate. And as we were building, it was interesting watching our hypotheses get proven right before our eyes. It got faster and faster as M2 worked on it, from 15 FPS, to 20 FPS, to 30 FPS, and every time it got better looking. Once it hit 60 FPS, I thought, “Man, this is so much easier on the eyes!” The differences between the sprites are very clear when the graphics are displaying so fast due to the high frame rate. I realized that rendering the cave scenes at 60 FPS was a must in 3D.

M2 told me at first that the game might drop to 30 FPS when in the caves, due to rendering overhead and memory issues, but I said, “Well, as long as the game speed itself doesn’t slow down, I guess we’ll have to deal with it.” But in the end the caves runs more or less at 60 FPS, and the difference vis-a-vis 30 FPS is clear as day. It made me feel like the game really matched well with its rendering speed.

In 3D Space Harrier’s case, the blessings you get from bringing an old shooting game to 3DS are that you can now dodge all the pillars, and you know where you need to be to dodge or avoid getting hit by the second stage boss. The caves in GF2 are ALL pillars, so it’s very easy to see their boundaries now.

NH: Taking in how huge outer space is, or flying through one of the solar prominences like “ahhhh” feels amazing. It makes everything worth it.

YO: We knew this game would be great with 3D, but you could say it’s even better than we imagined. You really do feel like there’s a 3D space within the game. There is a feeling of substance, something that’s a little different from 3D polygons, that’s very well-realized here. This game design approach was popular right before the 3D polygon aesthetic became the norm, and it’s sort of a lost art from a transition period in the game industry. But when we put GF2 into stereoscopic 3D, it made me wish that this had been the way things had kept going. It almost has a steampunk type of appeal to it, you know what I mean? 3D created by overlapping sprites.

– The difference between Space Harrier and Galaxy Force II is that for GF2 during the cave scenes etc., there are sprites all around you to the top, bottom, left and right. In Space Harrier, the ground surface is just there and scrolls to give the game a sense of speed, but for the Galaxy Force II caves, sprites are drawn for all four directions, which gives the game a different look.

I believe this technique started with Afterburner. The sprites are scaled up as they fly towards you, but if they don’t move really fast, it starts to look a little strange, like the sprites aren’t connected to each other. If you don’t render the sprites well, the graphics probably will look pretty clunky in 3D even if you go to the trouble of adding depth information. It always bothered me when you get shot down in Afterburner and lose speed. Sometimes all the sprites wind up lining up in a horizontal line. (laughs)

NH: Now there were some polygon games as well that would start gradually rendering things from far off.

– That’s true, but it always felt off to me. When I played Galaxy Force II, I really got a sense of how important it is to balance depth, draw speed and  sprite movement speed.

YO: I think another reason the game looks pretty is because we added the transparencies in. That makes it much easier to see things. The way the lava feels, the way the water flows, it all blends together beautifully and the backgrounds look amazing because of the transparent effects.  When we built GF2 for PS2, we put everything in it that we could think of, and the result was the Neo Classic version. But since we’re on a new system now, the graphics are on a new level.

3D Galaxy Force II3D Galaxy Force II

Left: Special Mode (widescreen), Right: Arcade Mode (widescreen)

NH: When we were working on the PS2 version, we actually tried to see if we could increase the number of sprites that fly at you by tweaking GF2’s original programming. Ultimately we weren’t able to do it, but we’ve been able to make the game easier to play in a different way: by adding in stereoscopic 3D.

– I noticed this when playing the last stage, but I think that you can really feel more aware of objects when you’re playing in 3D, versus 2D.

YO: The last stage has that part in the beginning where you’re flying out of a hyper-dimensional wormhole, the background is all windy and you feel like you are flying through some area with cool visual effects, but you don’t really know what’s going on and you run into the wall a lot at first. Now with 3D available, you can actually see what you need to do! You finally understand that there was a proper path after all! (laughs)

– Exactly. Personally, I always had a hard time distinguishing between space and the background on the last stage. Now that it’s in 3D, it’s like I can see the edges of planes, or like they say in polygon based games, I can see the invisible hit boxes around objects.

NH: Mmm hmm.

– It’s like I can see the borders between walls, there’s collision here. What is that?

YO: I think it’s just how human eyes work. Since we can perceive depth, we feel like this is a wall, and that we’ll hit it. Whereas when you’re playing in 2D, you can be aware of the game field as a single space.

– When you’re playing in 2D, the borders between sprites look like they run into each other, especially on the last stage. But when I’m playing the same stage in 3D, it looks like those borders are floating immediately in front of my eyes. It’s a strange feeling.

YO: I guess if your eyes can receive depth information, they can also sort through the objects on screen.

– I thought the same thing about 3D Space Harrier. When I play arcade games, I can’t completely keep up with what’s going on on-screen, and I end up dodging around in a number 8-shaped pattern. As a result, I end up completely overshooting when I go to dodge things like the Binzbeans in Space Harrier. However in 3D, I feel like I’m aware of where I am and can properly dodge things. It’s completely different.

YO: The same was the case for Space Harrier, but Galaxy Force II was too ahead of its time. In some ways, you could say that the game is now finally truly playable.

– There were some uncomfortable things about games back then. I felt like there was a disconnect from moment to moment in the experience. But now, maybe because of the optical illusion of 3D, it’s like you’re finally able to understand, and things connect.

3D Galaxy Force II

Circle Pad Pro is also supported!

YO: That’s why I feel like Galaxy Force IIis finally complete.

– I see that.

NH: It’s said the same thing about 3D Space Harrier, but I definitely want people to experience the game themselves.

YO: Space Harrier was somewhat easy to play in 2D anyway, but I feel like the difficulty of GF2 has dropped considerably now that it’s in 3D.

NH: Control-wise, the game supports the Circle Pad Pro now too.

YO: Yeah, M2 said they weren’t going to include Circle Pad Pro compatibility at first, but then later on, they turned around and said they wanted to borrow my developer version. (laughs)

NH: The original Galaxy Force II had a control stick on the right, and a throttle on the left, and I really wanted people to be able to play it that way.

3D Galaxy Force II

Backgrounds included for Moving Cabinet mode. They also have depth, so the background looks far away. This is the Super DX Cabinet

YO:You’re still able to change the controls around, so of course you can still move your character using the left thumb pad as well.

Even the background’s moving! Welcome to “Moving Cabinet Mode”!

– You know, it’s almost overwhelming how much easier GF2 is to play once you pick it up and give it a try. As you’ve said, this is the result of countless tiny tweaks adding up to shore up the processing speed. But I can’t believe you got a Moving Cabinet mode in here too, as that would just create even more rendering load.

NH: It does add rendering overhead. However the way we port arcade games and the way we port MegaDrive games is different, so it’s actually easier to put in cabinet modes for games that were originally ride-on cabinets. Either way, we built GF2 from the beginning with the idea that we would include a Moving Cabinet mode.

YO: M2 were the ones who included Moving Cabinet mode in the first place (refer to Space Harrier Interivew), after all, and since it’s in 3D Space Harrier, it had to be in 3D Galaxy Force II. Still, I knew that the base porting work alone was going to be tough, so my position was that it’d be nice if the mode made it in, but it wasn’t a must.

The thing is, the GF2 arcade cabinet really moved and spun around a lot. Following the releases of Outrun and Afterburner, ride-on arcade machine movement became more and more complex. So since the cabinet wasn’t going to move the same as Space Harrier, and we had to replicate it, we felt we needed to make some backgrounds in the same go. When we were working on 3D Space Harrier and 3D Super Hang-on, it would have been nice to get the backgrounds in, but M2 said they couldn’t get them in because a lack of memory and rendering power.

The thing that I pointed out though was that for GF2, if there’s no background, you won’t be able to get a sense for how the machine is moving around… And so one day they were implemented in the ROM.

– (laughs)

NH: You know, I just went and dropped in a picture I’d taken during while cherry blossom viewing at a nearby park, and it looked amazing. It was unreal, like I was playing GF2 in a sunny spring park. So then we got caught up in trying to get the backgrounds in.

YO: We made it so you can choose which background you want.

NH: Yes, you can choose either space or an arcade as your background.

YO: Thunder Blade is in the background of the arcade one. Horii-san’s favorite.

NH: It’s one step closer to my greatest ambition. (laughs)

– I know I’ve said this a dozen times, but it’s amazing you got the Moving Cabinet Mode in, despite GF2 being a more challenging port than Space Harrier, which you said was already tough on its own.

NH: Changing how we built the port was important. I’m confident that what we’ve done here is something other companies wouldn’t be able to catch up to. Not that anyone would bother to try though…

– (huge laugh) Really though, GF2, and its cabinet, were a sort of logical endpoint for the sprite-based games, right?

NH: A culmination of their best aspects, yes.

– Even so, even among the games that you’ve worked on, from that time, there weren’t many you could really call a “beast” in the sprites department. In other words, they aren’t quite sprite-intensive enough to give you the basis for bringing them into 3D.

NH: I wonder if other companies at the time felt that SEGA was working with just sheer force of will.

– SEGA made ride-on games back then by just adding on feature after feature, right?

NH: That’s where a lot of the momentum came from. From Hang-on to Space Harrier, Afterburner, Galaxy Force II. They went as far as the R-360[2].

– That was a serious accomplishment.

YO: It probably had a lot to do with the advancement of computers, and the economic boom that was happening in Japan at the time. We’re talking about an era where arcade kits would sell regardless of price.

– And these games’ arcade machines were very expensive.

YO: Yeah but, I don’t think GF2 sold that many units. (laughs)

NH: Regardless of whether it sold or not, I think people really remember the cabinet. They might remember it as the one that was a bit embarrassing to climb into. For the 3DS port’s Moving Cabinet Mode, we wanted to have people in background who you’d make eye contact with as you play, but we unfortunately wound up having to cut them out.

– Ah! You mean like when you’d get rotated in the cabinet, sense someone looking at you, glance away from the screen and make awkward eye contact with somebody, right? (laughs)

NH: Yeah, that’s the experience we wanted to port! (both laugh) Really wanted to. My staff used a picture of me while building the game, and tried building a version to that effect, but ultimately they weren’t totally happy with the result. So they ended up cutting it.

YO: Maybe we should have had Miis in the background.

NH: Even if we’d done Miis, it wouldn’t replicate the original awkwardness of it. We wanted it to be genuinely uncomfortable when your eyes met the other person’s, you know?

– The fact that when you were playing, the cabinet’s frame was the only protection from other people’s line of sight was definitely a really weird thing about this game.

 NH: When you turned, you’d lock eyes with the people in line waiting to play. We weren’t able to port that this time, but personally I think it gives us material for a new port in the future.

YO: The backgrounds we have in GF2 were something we threw together in the final stages of development, so please forgive how they look. We do hope it can help you remember that time you were playing, made eye contact with somebody and then felt awkward. (laughs)

NH: Give it a shot. It’ll all come back to you: “Oh yeah. There was that one time that guy was watching me…”

– I’m sure my skill also had something to do with it, but the movement of the machine was probably one of the hardest things about that game, personally speaking. The uncomfortable moments when your head would move around as the machine moved and disrupt your line of sight to the game.

NH: That’s why it was an amazing arcade machine. You had to have some balls to get in it, since once you did, you knew it was going to be an embarrassing experience with people looking at you.

– On top of that, since it was chained off for safety reasons, it felt kind you were participating in some kind of show. Almost like: “Please do not touch the equipment.” (laughs) Of course you weren’t though.

YO: Actually, now that I think about it, maybe the idea for the Virtual On’s live monitors[3]  came about from the lessons of GF2.

– Yeah because with that game, other than the person actually playing, no one can really grasp what’s happening in-game by just staring at the screen.

YO: That reminds me. For GF2, the background was just a single-layer graphic, but we added depth information to it so it really feels like you are in the arcade machine. 3D Space Harrier’s frame was a single graphic, so we had to change it up. We also wound up having to include two different types of Moving Cabinets…

– Oh of course. (laughs) Because there’s DX and Super DX versions. Space Harrier and Super Hang-on had cabinets that moved and ones that didn’t, but the games after Afterburner had two different types of moving cabinets didn’t they?

NH: That’s why you’ve gotta just focus on the center of the screen. But backgrounds are something we’ll need to work on as we continue forward with this series. (grins) You know, in preparation for Thunder Blade and all…

YO: … … …

– (laughs)

NH: No comment from Okunari-san, I see. (laughs) He’s not even interrupting me anymore.

3D Galaxy Force II

The Deluxe cabinet faithfully reproduced!

YO: Since we are talking about arcade machines, let’s talk a little about what went into gathering assets for them. GF2 has the DX and Super DX versions, but we only have the regular DX version at SEGA’s storage archive. I really wanted to go see a Super DX version, but I was told that there aren’t any more left in Japan. So I poked around on the net and found a blog where someone wrote back in 2009 that there is a broken machine resting quietly in a ryokan[4]up in Hokkaido.

So I thought, even if it’s not really working right, I can at least record some of the motor sounds. I gave the ryokan a call, but they didn’t really understand what I was talking about. They told me, “I’m not really following you, but it should be there.” So I put in a travel request to fly up there and check it out.

If it was just M2 and myself going, depending on how busted up the cabinet was, there was a possibility that we’d get there and be unable to get any recording done, so we decided to take someone who could fix the machine on the spot if needed. However, we didn’t have anyone at SEGA who could fix that particular machine, so I talked to Ikeda-san at the arcade Mikado in Tokyo’s Takada-no-Baba district, and Tsujisaka-san from Wavemaster. We even decided that if we got there and it looked fixable, then Ikeda-san would consider buying it. So we went ahead and put together an itinerary for the team. But at the last minute, when I went to make a reservation at the ryokan, the person who took my call said, “Oh, I’m terribly sorry. We threw that machine away.” So sadly, we had to cancel the trip. We were even considering asking you (Game Watch) to come as well. (laughs)

– Well, that’s just a shame…

YO: Still, even after that, Horii-san got a lead that there was a guy in Hokkaido that had a Super DX kit. While we’re sitting there wondering why the hell so many people in Hokkaido have Super DX machines, Horii-san reaches out to this individual…

– Wait, it wasn’t the one that was originally at the ryokan, was it?

NH: First, I had the guy send us some pictures. As it turns out, the guy had bought it from a merchant who had picked it up as scrap from the ryokan. But unfortunately, he hadn’t been able to get it working, and by the sound of things, it was going to need some restoration.

YO: And so I had no choice but to look for one by adventuring around the States via YouTube. (laughs) In the end, we had to refer to some bonus footage we’d collected for the PS2 version of the 1988 release of Galaxy Force, and used that to recreate the Moving Cabinet’s movement in-game.

For the motor movement sounds, we ended up having to use the DX sounds for the Super DX version as well. Just like with Space Harrier, we opened the machine up, turned off the loud fans, and covered everything with cushions to block out all the other sounds in the room. Every time it turns into a real endeavor.

– I see. But now that you’ve come so far with Galaxy Force II, I’m sure that from the players’ point of view, there are people thinking “Since they managed to port GF2, shouldn’t they be able to bring back earlier games?”  “Surely they’ll port this game, or that game.” What do you say to that?

YO: We were able to port GF2 because we had experience building the PS2 version, but that doesn’t mean that any game on the X or Y-boards is a piece of cake.

NH: If we were to port another one, we’d have to go back and analyze the code from square one. Though of course we could leverage our previous experience.

YO: It would also take a lot of time. But hey, if we did, I’d want to port the best version of the game for porting, even if that takes awhile. When we announced 3D Galaxy Force II, it was a little disappointing that people thought it would be the MegaDrive version. Since we are choosing the best assets on which to build the 3D versions, it doesn’t necessarily mean we’ll use the MegaDrive version. For Altered Beast, we chose the MegaDrive version because it had multi-layered backgrounds, which we made 3D, and it let us add in “Random Form” mode. Even if the MegaDrive version would have run, it wouldn’t have been wide screen compatible, and there would have been other minus points.

NH: I guess the subtext of this is that you want us to add scaling features to the GigaDrive.

YO: I wouldn’t go that far. (laughs) I’m just trying to be completely open with Game Watch here. This interview is getting pretty long, so people will probably forget what I said afterwards. (both laugh)

– Oh, no no. I’m quite committed to these interviews. Every time I interview you guys and go back to write the article, I re-read previous articles to make sure I’m not letting anything slip by. Because of that, they do generally get longer and a bit sprawling, so yeah I’m sorry about that.

I was left with the strong impression that the GigaDrive concept was going to be a core element of any MegaDrive ports that followed after Sonic. So when I heard GF2 was coming out, I was inclined to think that you were working on the MegaDrive version.  I think everyone got the most hyped when the article discussing the GigaDrive came out.

NH: I get hyped as well, and there are new titles coming down the pipe for the GigaDrive. Lots of games that are totally different once put into 3D. When I hear people getting so excited about things like the GigaDrive, it reminds me how many people there are out there who shared that era of gaming with me.

– The word “GigaDrive” itself turned out to be even more of a key word than I imagined it would.

NH: You haven’t seen the GigaDrive in full form yet. It’s been evolving across Sonic, Altered Beast, and Ecco. Just you wait and see.

– On that note, you could say that the peak of the arcade-based ports in the series, both difficulty-wise and in terms of the 3D implementation, is 3D Galaxy Force II, correct? Meaning that the Gigadrive’s returns have been huge.

NH: Not just yet. You won’t be saying that once Thunder Blade is finished.

– (laughs)

YO: GF2 was released in 1988, the same year as the MegaDrive itself, so it’s been twenty five years. The PS2 version was released six years ago in 2007, but you could say that GF2 has finally been completed after twenty five years. It’s not quite the Sagrada Familia, but Gaudi didn’t build that all by himself, he had his disciples pick up the work. There was the arcade version, then the PS2 version, and now you can see its completed form in the 3DS version.

NH: For me, it would be complete if I could see it on a big screen.

YO: For me, the 3DS offers the best environment for immersion.

NH: Yeah, you can also take it with you on the road as well.

YO: I think the 3DS XL is the best hardware to play the game on as well, in terms of sprite resolution. If we put it on a bigger screen, we’d have to increase sprite resolution and density, and it would slowly move away from the original arcade version. We’d need to make a lot of adjustments.

– That is how things would have to go, for sure.

YO: Neither M2 or I have any idea what kind of GF2 we could make five or ten years from now. (laughs)

NH: There are a lot of potential approaches, like increasing the amount of depth in the backgrounds and whatnot.

– It’s impressive to see how powerful these “into the screen” scrolling games are when they’re remade in 3D. Thank you again for your time!

3D Galaxy Force II

We snuck into M2’s development floor, which is wide open and easy to navigate. This is where ports and original titles are built!

3D Galaxy Force II

This is Matsuoka-san’s desk, the director for the 3D Remaster Series. The design document on-screen outlines Game Pad Pro compatibility.


Copyright ©2013 Impress Watch Corporation, an Impress Group company. All rights reserved.

[1] 3D Galaxy Force II uses streaming for its music, and emulation for its sound effects.

[2] The R-360 was a fully rotational arcade cabinet built by SEGA.

[3] Virtual On has separate monitors that display the in-game action, so bystanders don’t have to watch the actual players to see the action.

[4] A ryokan is a Japanese-style inn.


Sonic The Hedgehog 2 Re-Mastered for iOS & Android!

One of the Greatest Games of All Time, Sonic The Hedgehog 2 Comes to Mobile Better Than Ever

Unveiling the rumored Hidden Palace Zone… restored in its entirety for the first time!

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Sonic The Hedgehog 2 is back on mobile and better than ever with a fully revamped version of the adventure that first brought Sonic and Tails together. Sonic The Hedgehog 2 is available for the first time on Google Play bringing a new way for you to enjoy the classic game. This version is free as an update for fans that have already downloaded the game for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch and new players can purchase the re-mastered version from the App Store.

Re-discover the high speed adrenaline rush through iconic zones such as Emerald Hill, Chemical Plant, and Casino Night. Spin, dash, and loop de loop with upgraded visuals and a silky smooth frame rate. Defeat deadly enemies as Sonic, Tails or Knuckles and experience brand new content in the challenging Boss Attack Mode where you can now try and beat all of the game’s bosses in a single run.

For the first time, you can finally discover the secrets of the much rumored and never-before-seen Hidden Palace Zone. This brand new level was never included in the original Genesis version of the game, and features new enemies, hazards, and an epic showdown with Dr. Eggman. This hidden zone is a forgotten treasure finally ready to be discovered on mobile.

Download Sonic the Hedgehog 2 now from Google Play or the App Store for £1.99/€2.69/$2.99.

Sonic The Hedgehog 2 Screenshots

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Hidden Palace Zone Screenshots

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Official Links