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Archive for March 10th, 2015


SEGA 3D Classics – 3D Out Run – Part 4

SEGA 3D Classics - 3D Out Run

We’re two days away from 3D Out Run launching on the Nintendo 3DS! Here is part 4 from our interview with developer M2 and SEGA of Japan which originally launched on Game Watch & Impress. New Songs and the credits, don’t forget to watch the credits!

New Songs with 100% Real Out Run Sound Juice!

SEGA 3D Classics - 3D Out Run

– OK, so we’ve been talking about Namiki-san, the porting master. But now I have questions for Namiki-san, the composer. I’m surprised that completely new songs have been added this time around.

MN: Ah yes, the new songs. Whose idea was that again?

YO: Well, it started with the fact that Out Run has a history of adding new songs when ports and sequels get made. So when we started the discussion about what we were going to do this time, we came up with the idea of creating remixed versions and using streaming to play them, similar to the Sega Saturn version. Or perhaps include songs that were added for home console ports, such as the Mega Drive version’s “STEP ON BEAT” or Out Run 3D’s “SHINING WIND.” Or even perhaps take these console versions, and remix them into arcade board versions (YM-2151 versions). And within those discussions, the first issue that popped up was that everyone wanted to avoid using streaming because of data volume concerns. And there was also resistance to simply dropping in songs from the past. So then naturally it came down to putting in new songs. I think it was either Matsuoka-san, the director, or perhaps Kikuchi-san who made the call.

MN: I joined the conversation once those two got to talking about it. And since it’s us at M2 making this new song, of course we are going to forgo streaming and make it run within the Z80 sound programming, using the FM sound source and the onboard PCM source that the arcade version uses for its own songs. So we decided to write new songs using Out Run’s native data format. (laughs)

NH: In other words, we’d write songs that would play on an actual arcade board if you put it onto a ROM.

MN: I don’t think anyone else would even think about doing this. We’re back in “What the heck are you talking about?” territory.

– (laughs)

YO: Even within M2, I don’t think this is something that anyone would propose internally unless it was Namiki-san himself.

NH: Jane-Evelyn Nisperos, aka Chibi-Tech, isn’t too different. She was responsible for the tune “UPA-UPA” in 3D Fantasy Zone. When we told her that it had to play on the original sound driver, her face just lit right up. She had this expression like “Of course! You know, you just have to do it that way.” Although for Fantasy Zone, we ended up using streaming for that particular situation.

YO: Well that was just one song, it was small so it didn’t have a big effect on the data size, and we had bigger fish to fry on that project.

MN: A bit of a rewind, but back in 2008 when they were working on the System-16 version for Fantasy Zone II for the PlayStation 2, I was working as an exclusive composer for Basiscape*. I got involved with that crazy project, and M2’s programmer Saito-kun and I did a lot of work investigating the data format for SEGA’s FM sound source drivers.
* Basiscape is a Japanese music composition firm that primarily focuses on video game music.

After that, when we added HAYA OH to 3D Space Harrier, Saito-kun went and just dropped it in before I could say anything about it. (laughs) I ended up fixing some pitch issues and doing some other adjustments after that. So we basically had already figured out a lot of the technical aspects regarding SEGA’s sound hardware. When it came to adding new songs to Out Run, it definitely seemed to be in the realm of possibility.

So our advantage was that we could use all the instrument data from the FM sound source, the rhythm sounds on the PCM—all the sounds that already existed in the arcade version of Out Run—and use those to make new songs that had a similar feel to the original songs. You could go as far as to say the songs were made with pure, “100% Real Out Run Sound Juice.”

YO: The sound is utterly unadulterated.

NH: Nothing added, nothing taken away.

MN: The song I worked on is titled “Cruising Line.” The other songs have words like “wave,” “shower,” and “breeze”—in other words, shining imagery of oceans and wind that give you a sense of going on a drive. So I wanted to put in something that sounded like that, too. I wanted to avoid throwing the word “drive” in there since that’d just be too obvious. (laughs)

NH: It would have been a bit on the nose.

MN: Reminiscing back to the 1980s, Japanese people started referring to driving cars using English terms like “to cruise” or “go cruising,” probably in the latter half of the decade. And with Out Run being more mid-decade, I was wondering if people had actually started saying that yet, but still felt that “cruising” had a nice ring to it. So I went with that. I was also worried that if the name invoked a specific image, it would stand out too much once it was lined up with the other songs. So I thought back to Japanese fusion bands that were popular at the time, like “Cassiopeia” and “Square,” and felt that something abstract might be nice. The word “line” struck me as a keyword that didn’t have one specific meaning, and could be used to mean a road, or even the horizon, or even an airplane vapor trail. (laughs) Or something like that…

I really feel like those three songs in the original arcade version were very key to the game, and I was aiming to subtly add a bit of color. I mean, I think everyone really loves those original songs, after all. And I didn’t want to really force things with a name that really stuck out. Just trying to fill a supporting role here.
In regards to the song itself, I personally got the impression that out of Japanese fusion musicians, Out Run’s songs might have been inspired by the likes of Naoya Matsuoka. So I felt compelled to put in a bit of that 1980s Japanese fusion-inspired style.

YO: Really going back to the source there.

NH: So very Namiki-san.

SEGA 3D Classics - 3D Out Run
Lots of people think of ocean-side palm trees when you talk about Out Run.

MN: If you really want to get into details, it’s more Japanese jazz piano or Japanese Latin fusion than anything else. Naoya Matsuoka-san’s album, The September Wind, has a cover with this 1980’s style American graffiti illustration (done by Hiroshi Nagai) with palm trees by the ocean-side, which was a very common sort of thing at that time. I made me think of things like the illustrations for FM STATION magazine done by Eizin Suzuki. I really feel like Out Run’s overall image, from the style to the sound, was inspired by the art and music of the day.

That said, if I followed those same influences and created a song along the exact same lines, what would be the point of composing a new song? Where would the challenge be in that? So instead I tried something with a little more Japanese fusion flavor, rather than Latin fusion.

It’s not as if I made a conscious effort to reference existing bands’ albums, but when I was in my teens, I would come across this style of music on records, the radio, or TV from time to time, as well as had guitarist friends who would cover those kinds of bands. So I tried making something in the vein of that era.

The song is upbeat and fresh, and even compared to the other Out Run songs. The intro especially is pretty cheerful and upbeat. I wanted to make something that had a different approach from the pre-existing three songs, and thus set out to make something that seemed light and bright and exciting from the get-go.

And then there’s the fact that Out Run features this situation where you are having a fun drive with your lover, so I felt that the song needed to be something you would listen to with your significant other. When I asked myself what the motivation was for the new song, that’s where I would end up. Well, back then I was a junior high school student… Now I’m just some guy in his 40s (laughs), but I still wanted to make a straightforward song with that feeling of driving through the beautiful countryside, in love with a pretty girl in the passenger seat (bashful laugh). It’s a little embarrassing, I suppose. I wanted to play up the feeling that this was a special, treasured time.

ALL: (grins)

– I think it’s great that someone who was around during that time found that kind of motivation. I wish I could ask Chibi-Tech about the song she made, too.

NH: She’s actually at a concert in Europe at the moment. Sorry about that. We will send along a comment from her once she returns.

MN: Actually one more thing, sorry. There’s another hook I tried to work in. When you run through the courses in Out Run, the course backgrounds change, right? At first it’s the coast, and in the new version it’s got cliffs and big gates… The scenes change, and the song itself goes through transitions as well, through the intro, an A Melody, and a B Melody that roughly correspond to the scenery. I wanted the listener to be able to freely call up an image of the scene, and I wanted to make it so that image changes to match the transitions in the game. So that’s one thing you could listen for.

The intro portion is very upbeat, the A Melody has a very cool, clear weather feeing, and the B Melody has the feeling of a field of flowers. Out Run has some rather cool sounding songs, but I wanted this song to have a bit of a pop sound to it. In the main chorus, it comes back to a feeling of driving forward in your car, and I wanted it to make people think, “I wonder what the scenery looks like up ahead.”

Toward the end of the song, the mood changes suddenly, and it chills out a bit. It’s similar to PASSING BREEZE which was one of the original three songs, so in a way it’s a bit of a homage, or at least paying respect, in that it’s following in those “moody” footsteps.

So by mixing all these things—Out Run itself, the background of the 1980s, Japanese fusion, and an image of what driving through the beautiful world of Out Run with the woman I love might be like—I got “Cruising Line.” Please give it a listen.

Oh, and one more thing. I’ve spent a lot of time making music for shooting games for companies like Cave, so one of my themes with my work is that the music needs to sync with the progress in the game. I tried this with 3D Out Run as well. It’s not perfect and I wasn’t sure how far to take it, so it’s a little rough in spots, but I did write the song with that in mind. So if you can drive well and not wreck, the song should change when you hit the crossroads.

I felt that this would make for an interesting goal for the player, who by getting better at the game and driving well, could hear the music change as they went through the forks in the road. This could be another thing that motivates the player to become a better driver. If you can do it, making it to the goal becomes even more satisfying. So I consciously made the song that way. That was perhaps one more reason for me to make the new song. A new song that coexists with the gameplay itself.

NH: So Namiki-san, yup. Very much so.

MN: Depending on the person, it might be a song that just goes in one ear and out the other. But since I got to work on this project, I wanted to put in as much as I can (laughs). I hope people like it. The original three songs are a very hard act to follow, so I would be very happy if people would choose to listen to the new song, Cruising Line. It’s a song that my current self would write for a game of that era.

NH: I’d really like it if you would write a new song for Thunder Blade.

MN: (laughs)

YO: You can control the speed of your chopper in Thunder Blade, so it might not be a good fit for him.

NH: That’s the response I was expecting… (all laugh).

YO: I’d really like it if Namiki-san would write a new song for some other game (laughs). I’d like to suggest Virtua Racing, perhaps. In other words, actually have background music.

MN: And Thunder Blade was done by Kouichi Namiki, anyway.

NH: Double Namiki!

– (laughs) And Horii-san’s dream just gets bigger and bigger. Namiki-san, thank you so much for your time.

A Word From Chibi-Tech

SEGA 3D Classics - 3D Out Run
The new song from Chibi-Tech, Camino a Mi Amor.

– What did Out Run mean to you?

Chibi-Tech: My introduction to Out Run was actually quite unusual from many other players, to be honest! I was still a kid when Out Run was released, and only stared at kids older than myself in the local mall playing the game and giggling whenever the game characters flew out of their car during a crash. But even when I tried playing it for myself, I couldn’t even accelerate the Ferrari because I was still too small to even reach the pedals with my feet at that time…

Only by the early 90s I was finally tall enough to play the game, but coincidentally MTV had started airing a commercial teaching young viewers the dangers of drinking and driving. What made this commercial peculiar was that it featured actual Out Run gameplay… with an actor’s hands trying to steer the game and crashing the car repeatedly—complete with the scariest jingle added during each crash!

YouTube Preview Image

The message would seem so cliché and corny nowadays, but at the time the commercial’s message was frighteningly effective, and in my young age it made me genuinely scared to play Out Run! I had (and still do have) an immature and overactive imagination, and my fear was so profound that I had thought the cabinet’s seat was booby-trapped to eject me out of my seat whenever I crashed my car—and that I would hear that dreaded jingle during my final moments of life! Only after finally playing in its proper way did I realize that playing Out Run in the arcade was quite fun—and was not the frightening machine that was out to haunt your every crash.

– Can you describe the process of writing the song “Camino a Mi Amor”?

Chibi-Tech: It was actually spawned from an idea I had from long time ago: I grew up in California, where the radio airwaves equally consisted of both English and Spanish-speaking stations. When I just graduated from high school and gas prices were still cheap, I used to drive literally everywhere around California with my car while turning up my car stereo loudly. Yes, I was THAT person. During that same era, I had an insatiable addiction to Latin freestyle dance music. There were many Spanish-speaking Latino-oriented radio stations around my town, and the local English/Spanish hybrid radio station would play Latin freestyle dance music whenever I drove to both college and my receptionist job. One day on my way to work I thought to myself, “You know, I really think this kind of music would go really well in a cruising game like Out Run!”

Fast-forward to today as a composer for M2, and I realized that my little dream could finally come true! Out Run could finally mirror real life where you can tune in to the local Spanish dance hit radio station! Especially since Out Run’s existing soundtrack already had a Latin-influenced European vibe, it was only inevitable that I add Latin freestyle dance to its list of stations.

YO: In order to understand what Namiki-san is getting at, I encourage everyone to try reading this interview again once they have listened to the song, and I think you’ll be impressed. Namiki-san’s “Cruising Line” is all the way to the left, and Chibi-Tech’s “Camino a Mi Amor” is all the way to the right.

In addition, I’d like to announce that the Out Run soundtrack is out as well. It features songs from the arcade version of Out Run, Turbo Out Run, Out Runners, and Out Run 2. AND! As a bonus, the two new songs from the 3DS version are also included. And of course, you can buy them a la carte, should you prefer.

Buy on iTunes
Buy on Amazon

NH: We even made a sound ROM for this!

YO: That’s right. For this soundtrack, we didn’t record off the 3DS. We burned a sound ROM specifically for Out Run, and actually put it on the arcade board and recorded it. Those soundtracks are truly the real deal. Though in a way, it’s sort of a backwards way of doing it, since the new songs were made originally for the 3DS, so perhaps we should have recorded them off the 3DS instead. (laughs)

– Amazing. I’m really excited about that.

Don’t Forget The Credits!

– As always, it sounds like 3D Out Run had its share of stories to tell.

YO: Everyone on the staff really digs in and does everything they can on their own work. A lot of tuning and polish went into 3D Out Run to recreate the memories of the arcade version to the fullest extent possible. I hope everyone can relive the fun of the original Out Run on the Nintendo 3DS.

NH: At the very least, people need to try driving through the big gates at 60 frames per second. I also want to say a world of thanks to Game Center Nyarise in Nagano, who had a perfectly working arcade cabinet. I have to tip my hat to those who put in the effort to keep a kit like that in actual operation. Oh, and as always, we included staff credits that make you overlook the lower screen completely. Please check it out.

– Oh yes, I’m looking forward to that. I always make a point to not look at them now, and instead watch them on my own after release.

NH: The staff really got me this time, too.

– Speaking of the credits, we first touched on them in our interview about 3D Fantasy Zone. It seems people are really watching them, and looking forward to them as well. I’m excited, too.

YO: We made 3D Super Hang-On really sharp looking, but then we didn’t have any spare time to do anything with 3D Galaxy Force II and so it’s just flying. And then we had a lot of people tell us that the Giga Drive ones were a bit bland.

– Everyone found 3D After Burner II to be quite funny. It was really good. This is another aspect of the series that has been getting better and better over time.

NH: I’m hoping we can earn a reputation as a company that goes crazy on the credits.

– “We’re doin’ it… even though no one asked for it,” sort of thing.

YO: The staff credits started to get out of hand back around 3D After Burner II. Romyu-san worked on that one. And when Koga-san saw what he did, he freaked out and did a number on 3D Fantasy Zone. Romyu-san is responsible for Out Run.

The credits sequence was based on 3D Super Hang-On at first. I thought it was a little bland, so I made the mistake of saying, “The people who saw 3D Fantasy Zone’s credits will have their expectations up, so we might be better off just showing the user’s replay instead, like we did for 3D Galaxy Force II.”
But we were told that to put in the replay at that point would be quite a task, and we were talking about potentially just having the credits. But they said they wanted to give it another shot before the final version. And after just a few days, this is what they came up with… Want to take a peek?

– No thanks. I’ll watch it when I download the retail version!

NH: Are you sure?

– I’ll leave it for the release version, thanks!

YO: This one is really impressive considering how little time they had to put it together.

NH: Since we did such a good job on the 3D Space Harrier credits, it started with the idea that we could make something that really shows off what we can do, like an advertisement. We wanted to put our credits in the games back in the Virtual Console titles, but we ultimately were not able to. We had ideas like “playable credits” and the like. But in the end that didn’t become a reality and now here we are with 3DS. There are a lot of companies out there with really impressive staff credits, after all.

– That said, it’s a challenge to put together something that’s fun using the resources you have available.

NH: We have some really neat tools at our disposal, so we can use those to make things without even getting a programmer involved.

– Seeing how much fun you guys have with the credits makes it fun for players too, so I’m really looking forward to see you continue it in the future. Though in reality, it might be more like development teams trying to one-up each other (laughs). The bar keeps rising and rising (laughs).

NH: It certainly is.

YO: So with that, we have packed as much as we can into 3D Out Run despite not having much time after the 3D Fantasy Zone release. But this is the climax point of this second batch in the series.

– You mean this is it for the second round?

YO: No, that isn’t the case. But the next title is sort like an encore after the main finale. Oh, and I should mention that the next title isn’t Thunder Blade. I’ll just get that out of the way.

NH: N-No!

– (laughs) Thank you very much, gentlemen. I’m anxiously awaiting the next title. Thank you for your time!