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Archive for April 13th, 2015


SEGA 3D Classics – 3D Fantasy Zone II Interview – Part 1

SEGA 3D Classics - 3D Fantasy Zone II

We once again join Yosuke Okunari and Naoki Horii to talk about the next title in the lineup for the SEGA 3D Classics, 3D Fantasy Zone II.

The Journey Up Until the System-16 Remake of Fantasy Zone II: The Tears of Opa-Opa

SEGA 3D Classics - 3D Fantasy Zone II
Left: Naoki Horii, President of M2; Right: Yosuke Okunari, Sega Producer

– This is the one that made me think, “Oh, no way, you guys!” Anyway, let’s get started. Thanks again for your time, gentlemen!

Yosuke Okunari (below YO): Our main focus for this second batch of games for the 3D Remaster project was 3D After Burner, 3D Fantasy Zone, and 3D Out Run, three major titles in their own right. And we planned to finish off the series with them and leave it at that. But we got the go ahead to continue along a little further, so we decided to satisfy our own desires and added 3D Fantasy Zone II to the release lineup.

This is what I was talking about in the last interview when I spoke about an encore. You know when you are at a concert, and the artist plays something that wasn’t on the original set list? It’s something they didn’t necessarily plan for. That’s kind of what this is. It’s a bonus song at the end that the fans weren’t necessarily expecting.

– Alright, I see.

YO: So there you go. It’s an “encore” in that sense. We released Fantasy Zone previously, and as far as “remastering” goes, we didn’t go back and “remaster” the original Fantasy Zone II, but rather we worked on the remake we made previously. So it’s like a remastering of relatively newer game, one that’s only 8 years old. It’s a bit of an outlier as far as this project is concerned.

– I wonder how many people actually thought this game was going make the cut.

YO: I imagine there were a few people who had a good hunch about it. Even if it’s outside the norm for the project, there were a couple reasons it was chosen. First, since the first game was released, we thought there would be some people who wanted to play the sequel. Second, the remade version of Fantasy Zone II has never been sold as an individual game, so we hoped a time and place would come along that would allow us to put it out as its own title. Lastly, everything we’ve done for the 3D Remaster Project to date with M2 has been emulation based, but if it was something they’d developed themselves, then the limitations of emulation would be removed and we’d be able to “unleash the beast” that is M2 and let them show us what they can really do with 3D.

Naoki Horii (below NH): Not only are we showing you what we can do, but it’s a compilation of all our techniques to date.

SEGA 3D Classics - 3D Fantasy Zone II

YO: And this version’s full name is 3D Fantasy Zone II W, with the “W” pronounced as “double.” In Japanese, we often use the letter “W” to mean “double.” What this means is, there is a whole other Fantasy Zone II present in the package.

One is Fantasy Zone II: The Tears of Opa-Opa’s System-16 remake, rebuilt for the 3DS. And the other is a completely new game, so you can double your fun.

– I see.

YO: I’d like to start out by talking about the System-16 remake of The Tears of Opa-Opa, which is a bit of a detour. But I do want to take some time to explain how this game came into being.

So this game, Fantasy Zone II: The Tears of Opa-Opa, was originally released in 1987 for the Sega Mark III. You see, the previous game’s Mark III port was a huge hit and one of the reasons for the proliferation of the Mark III itself.

The first Fantasy Zone didn’t get an arcade-based sequel, so this was a console-exclusive sequel. At this point, Sega had often remixed arcade games as they ported them to console, but I think this may have been the first time they created the sequel of an arcade game as a console title.

– Now that you mention it, I suppose that was the case.

YO: The development team was different from the original arcade game’s staff, and the game was developed specifically for home consoles with gameplay appropriate for the platform. The game was later ported to the Famicom and the MSX, as well. For a console game, it had a lot of game volume, and the fans at the time really enjoyed it, including myself. But there was one thing I was dissatisfied with—how the game was ported back to the arcades.

NH: The arcade version of The Tears of Opa-Opa ran on the Mark III compatible arcade board known as the System-E*, and was a straight port of the Mark III version, so for us arcade gamers, it was of inferior quality.

* System-E – One of SEGA’s arcade system boards. The CPU was a Z80 with the ability to handle 128 simultaneous sprites. Capable of square wave and noise for sound. It was comprised of similar hardware to a Mark III.

YO: For many fans of the arcade version of Fantasy Zone, the release of a sequel inferior to the original arcade game was just unacceptable. Not only that, some features from the console version were removed for the arcade version.

SEGA 3D Classics - 3D Fantasy Zone II

NH: So many fans would ask themselves, what if Fantasy Zone II had been built and released on the same System-16 that the first game had? And I, too, was one of those fans.

YO: Twenty years later, I meet M2. The first thing we worked on together was the PS2 version of SEGA AGES 2500 Series Space Harrier II Space Harrier Complete Collection, and on the first day I met Horii-san, we really hit it off with each other talking about how cool it would be to make a true arcade-style version of Space Harrier II, and not just a port. I was really just kidding around, honestly. (laughs)

But Horii-san responds, “Well to do that, it’d basically be as much work as creating a new game from scratch. Considering the budget and schedule for this project, it wouldn’t be possible.” But then he says, “You know, I really would like to try our hand at a System-16 remake of Fantasy Zone II someday.” I agreed that it was a great idea.

NH: From my point of view, I was finding that there was a producer at SEGA who would listen to this crazy dream I had in my youth. It was like a miracle was happening right before my eyes.

YO: Well, when I was younger, I had the same crazy dream, too. And if we’re going to do a remake by putting in the same amount of effort it would take to make a completely new game, rather than do something like Space Harrier II which wasn’t so different from the first game, we thought it would be more interesting to do a remake of Fantasy Zone II. Afterwards, when we released the over ten games in the SEGA AGES 2500 Series, we chose Fantasy Zone Complete Collection to be the final title, and in that title, we were able to realize this idea and give birth to a System-16 version of The Tears of Opa-Opa.

I said to him, “We can finally start work on that idea we had back when we first met,” to which he quickly replied with an “Okay!” But it’s not like Horii-san was going to build this thing by himself, and I heard a lot actually happened behind the scenes. (laughs)

SEGA AGES 2500 Series Vol. 33 Fantasy Zone Complete Collection

Released on September 11, 2008 for the PlayStation 2 as the final game in the SEGA AGES 2500 series. It’s available in Japan as part of the PS2 Archives, downloadable for PS3 and includes the following titles:

Fantasy Zone Arcade Version (System-16) (4 versions total)
Fantasy Zone Sega Mark III Version (OLD/NEW versions)
Fantasy Zone Neo Classic Version (Hidden unlockable)
Fantasy Zone II Remake Version (System-16)
Fantasy Zone II Sega Mark III Version
Fantasy Zone II Arcade Version (System-E)
Fantasy Zone Gear Adventure of Opa-Opa Jr. (Game Gear)
Super Fantasy Zone (Mega Drive)
Opa-Opa Arcade Version (System-E)
Opa-Opa Mark III Version
Fantasy Zone The Maze (Opa-Opa and International Versions)
Galactic Protector Sega Mark III version

SEGA 3D Classics - 3D Fantasy Zone IISEGA 3D Classics - 3D Fantasy Zone II

Fantasy Zone II: The Tears of Opa-Opa (Sega Mark III ver.)

SEGA 3D Classics - 3D Fantasy Zone IISEGA 3D Classics - 3D Fantasy Zone II

Fantasy Zone II: The Tears of Opa-Opa (System-E ver.) This is not what’s in the 3DS version.

NH: For me, the fact that it would be designed for the System-16 was really important, so it couldn’t just look like a System-16 game; it had to actually run on a System-16 Board.

When I first told the staff that we were going to make a new game for System-16, their reaction was, “Oh man, the boss is off his rocker again.” So they tried to get me to give up on the idea, saying that they looked into it, but the work area for System-16 was too small for current programming styles, and we wouldn’t be able to make the game fit. If we couldn’t solve this key issue, then it would be impossible. But I visited to some hardware guys in the area to talk to them about it, and they said, “Oh yeah, we can add some memory on to the board there for you.” So I had them add some memory onto a System-16B board. So the team tried to kill it off that way, but now they actually had to follow through with it.

– (laughs)

NH: When I showed the staff this System-16 board with memory added to it, I said, “As I recall there weren’t any obstacles else other than the lack of memory… right?” All they could do was just grit their teeth. Then

I said, “Alright, since this is something we can actually put out, we’re going to do this, right?” “…Yes, sir.”

And thus we went on to make the System-16 remake. We made it so it would actually run on a System-16 board as long as it has memory added to it. It was the birth of the System-16C.

YO: The process basically involved you guys building a PC-based System-16 emulator, and then getting the game running on that, right?

NH: Yes, essentially, we made it on an emulator, but then we’d burn it to a System-16 EPROM and would playtest the game on the board itself.

SEGA 3D Classics - 3D Fantasy Zone II
The System-16C board that currently lives at M2’s offices. The remake of The Tears of Opa-Opa can actually run on it.

– You put out a demo version that ran on Windows, didn’t you?

NH: Yes, we put out a demo of it that runs on Windows.

YO: When you take something you built on a PC emulator and burn it to a System-16 ROM to check it, there are a lot of framerate issues and other bugs that pop up, so you guys went back and to lighten the load and whatnot…

NH: We made adjustments to the emulator itself as well.

YO: To be more specific, when the screen gets filled up with bullets, the game really slows down. The background music gets all weird as well. Even if it was fine on the PC emulator, they still had to address and fix the bugs that would happen when it was actually running on System-16. At the time, M2 had a System-16 arcade board sitting right there in the middle of their meeting room.

NH: It wasn’t the sort of development studio you’d expect in the 21st century (laughs).

YO: Ultimately, we built the game in those conditions, and put it on the PS2. So it wasn’t necessary to make it work on System-16, strictly speaking. But M2, or rather Horii-san, insisted that it run on System-16.

NH: We wanted it to be as if it were the last System-16 game ever created. Should someone follow in our footsteps with another game, though, more power to them.

– (laughs) Regardless, getting it to run on an actual board was the key concept here.

YO: That’s right. And with that, they were able to include a System-16 remake version of The Tears of Opa-Opa in the PS2 version. It’s a bit convoluted, I suppose. (laughs) I don’t think there’s really that many people who got that excited about it in the same way we did, but even so, it was still a lot of fun to play a remade version of Fantasy Zone II with the visual tastes of that time.

NH: That’s probably just the easiest way to state it. We just wanted the people who played the Mark III or Famicom versions to say, “Whoa! There’s an awesome arcade version !”

– The fact that The Tears of Opa-Opa was released onto the Mark III-compatible System-E was an interesting development at the time as well.

YO: The reason Fantasy Zone was a commercial success was because of the Mark III version, as the arcade version wasn’t actually all that big of a hit.

After the Mark III version of Fantasy Zone II was done, they decided, “We’ve got a new Fantasy Zone game here, so let’s release it in the arcades as well.” Once the Mark III development was complete, the programmer quickly adjusted the specs for the arcade to create the System-E version.

NH: Yes, that’s right. A few things were removed from the Mark III version that would have been problematic in the arcade.

YO: Horii-san and his staff approached the remake from the standpoint of, “What if Fantasy Zone II had been built from the start as an arcade game?” But rather than create something out of thin air, they retained the Mark III’s flavor. It’s sort of an “alternate universe” version, if you will.

It retains the world, characters, and the story, and mixes things up a little to use the distinctive warp system to transition between the bright and dark sides. The new weapons have been adjusted for a distinctly arcade-like flavor. There even multiple endings. This is how a new Fantasy Zone, one with double the volume of the original game, was born.

SEGA 3D Classics - 3D Fantasy Zone II
Bright Side Shop. It’s wide screen, so the menu is even easier to see, and there is no time limit.

SEGA 3D Classics - 3D Fantasy Zone II
Dark Side Secret Shop. You have to find it yourself, but it sells rare items.

The Tears of Opa-Opa optimized for 3DS means widescreen and easier gameplay!

– And now we can play that version on the 3DS. So let’s talk about the 3DS version! The way this interview is playing out seems very familiar, but anyway…

YO: When we decided to port The Tears of Opa-Opa to 3DS as the fourth title in the second batch lineup, there were a few things I was hoping to see. First, since this game was originally coded by M2 themselves, I figured they would have a little more freedom when it came to adding stereoscopic 3D into it. This is what I was talking about when I said “unleash the beast” earlier.

Two, for the PS2’s Complete Collection had variety of titles from the Fantasy Zone series, and this one was in there as sort of a bonus version. But this time, the game was to be a stand-alone game, so I figured it needed to be something that would really hold its own. The System-16 version was going to be the base, but I discussed with them that I wanted something cooked up in a different way.

And three. You see, the disc version of the PS2 game is actually still on sale as a reprint, and the game is still available on PS3 as part of the PS2 Archives, so I needed it to be something that the people who played the PS2 version would want to play again.

NH: It’s not as if we built the System-16 with the mindset that it was just a small bonus feature, but for this version, we got a little carried away and made two games out of it.

– (laughs)

NH: The biggest difference between this game and the other 3D Remaster games is the fact that *we* made this one, so the analysis we typically do was practically no effort at all. And we have the source code, so we could reduce the emulation bits to the point where there is practically no emulation technology being used. In short, we could do whatever we wanted.
It is the same The Tears of Opa-Opa, but because of the System-16’s limitations, previously we could only have 127 objects out on screen at a time. On the 3DS, however, for some reason the System-16’s Video Display Process (VDP) could put out 2048 sprites. Things like that.

YO: This “double” version is a port of the System-16 remake, but it also breaks through the limits of the System-16’s framework in some parts. That’s because of something we wanted to do in Fantasy Zone but couldn’t: widescreen support. For the first game, simply making the game widescreen was doable, but maintaining game balance as we did it was difficult within the constraints of a port.

The Giga Drive titles aside, for the arcade ports, we’ve been doing widescreen all the way back starting with 3D Space Harrier, but Fantasy Zone was the first one that we were not able to do that for. And the reason was that rebalancing a game to handle widescreen is something that’s quite difficult to do with an emulation-based game. (You have to make adjustments to enemy appearances and bullet speed on a case-by-case basis.) This all began with the preposition that we’d build Fantasy Zone II by revisiting the game balance and tuning it for 3DS. As soon as we supported widescreen, it stopped being a System-16 game.

NH: Actually, for the first Fantasy Zone, we really challenged ourselves to support widescreen. But even if we were technically able to support widescreen on System-16, we figured we’d have no time to rebalance everything. After our analysis revealed how much time the adjustments would take, we had no choice but to give up.

YO: So, widescreen support was one of our initial goals for Fantasy Zone II.

NH: When we started building with widescreen support in mind, the programmer just up and started tweaking the game balance while it was being built, so it all came together quite nicely.

YO: When you’re making it with widescreen, not only is the width of the screen different, but your movement speed has to be adjusted as well.

NH: They’ve done such a good job on it that you don’t even notice the difference. It was rather interesting when they were in the middle of building it and enemies would pop out from where they would spawn if the screen was 4:3, but since we have the source code, fixing all that went quite smoothly. Had we really attempted to do widescreen in Fantasy Zone, it would have been a nightmare.

– When I was playing in it widescreen, I really didn’t feel cramped at all. It’s got a much more laid back feel to it. Everything is there from the original, but it’s all put together in a way suited to the 3DS screen, and there’s a strong sense of freedom.

NH: That’s due to the fact that we’ve made 11 titles on the 3DS so far and we know what we are doing, and the fact that it’s the second time we’ve made Fantasy Zone II.

– After listening to you talk about it, I have to ask: Was this 3DS version made by the same staff that built the System-16 version?

NH: Yes. The System-16 version team members worked on the 3DS version. And so all the little details that we had to put aside during our System-16 development were back on the table for this one. I’ll throw out an example that hardly anyone on the team even noticed, but I got bragging rights for noticing . When you destroy an enemy base, the wreckage falls down, and on the System-16 version, there isn’t enough processing to handle it so we just let it disappear when it goes off-screen. But on the 3DS version, they pile up on the ground. There’s a lot more room for those little details.

– That’s the total opposite of all the other 3DS Remasters to date. It seems that it’s always been the issue where the emulation sucks up all the 3DS processing, making you work hard to try to recreate the original game. The effort gets focused on replicating the environment from less powerful hardware, so I don’t think there’s been much discussion of upgrades like this.

NH: That’s right, it is the opposite. And even when we are tweaking it, since it’s something we made ourselves, we don’t start wondering where we need to go to fix things.

YO: And Opa-Opa Bros. released while we were in the middle of making this game, and of course the fans gave us feedback, and our own staff had their own opinions of the first game as well.

The feedback I was most concerned about from the previous game was that the bullets were hard to see on a normal 3DS. So for 3D Fantasy Zone II, we’ve made the bullets bigger. If you just play normally, you probably won’t even notice. You probably didn’t think, “Oh, the bullets are bigger” when you were playing earlier, did you?

SEGA 3D Classics - 3D Fantasy Zone II
An Opa-Opa Bros. screen.

SEGA 3D Classics - 3D Fantasy Zone II
A W screen for comparison.

– I thought the visibility had improved, for sure. It’s much easier to see what’s going on. It’s clearly different. And not just the bullets either, there was a lot that seemed much clearer. I was thinking it was just the style that 3D Fantasy Zone II uses, something I didn’t feel in Opa-Opa Bros.

YO: Easier-to-see bullets aside, another thing we’ve put in for first time players is the ability to suck in coins when you set it to low difficultly.

– That just feels good—that sound when coins just flow into you. That’s a dream feature that you just have to try.

YO: People who’ve never played Fantasy Zone often fly through without noticing the falling coins. They don’t understand that you have to go pick them up. But now when you turn down the difficulty, by getting close to the enemies when you kill them, the coins just suck into you. So people now go, “Oooooh, so I’ve gotta pick the coins up!”

However, the only settings the player can really adjust in this game are the controls and difficulty. There aren’t options to adjust things like rapid-fire speed because the game is optimized for the default setting.

– Compared to previous games in the series, this one does feel rather Spartan when it comes to those various settings items. It’s pretty easy to play with the default settings too.

SEGA 3D Classics - 3D Fantasy Zone II

SEGA 3D Classics - 3D Fantasy Zone II

SEGA 3D Classics - 3D Fantasy Zone II

These are the settings for 3D Fantasy Zone II. They are quite simple compared to previous entries in the series.

YO: For The Tears of Opa-Opa, there’s a save feature that lets you save at any point. That, combined with the adjustable difficulty, makes getting the true ending much more feasible. Though won’t be able to necessarily see them all, you can see some of the multiple endings if you save right before the last boss.

– Using the Save really makes things easier. On the flip side, though, it also reminds me of how when I was playing Opa-Opa Bros., I saved it when I was in a pretty pitiful state, and then had to clear the game by beating the boss with nothing but Twin Bombs.

NH: A lot a people don’t use these sorts of convenience features even if they know they are there, though.

– Some even consider their use a form of losing. (laughs)

NH: There are a lot of those people who want the old-school experience, including myself. We balance everything for 3DS with those people in mind. I think people who have played the PS2’s System-16 version will notice the difficulty tweaks.

– People who have played the Complete Collection who go and play the 3DS version will stop and go, “Oh, yeah it’s different.” It’s much easier to play for the 3DS, easier to understand, with a clearer presentation. You can really feel the polish that has gone into it.

NH: As long as it feels the same, it’s all good.

– The experience is the same on the 3DS, you could say. Even though the platform is different.

YO: This might be something I shouldn’t say, but honestly, Fantasy Zone was a hard game to play on 3DS. That said, that’s how the original is and Opa-Opa Bros. is a faithful remastering so we couldn’t depart too much from the original. We did what we could to alleviate some of the difficulty by adding convenience features.

NH: After Opa-Opa Bros. launched, I was looking around and noticed that people were really making use of those extended features to take on the game.

YO: The extra stuff is tacked on the outside, on top of the original.

NH: By allowing the new stuff to sit on top of the original, we give the player the option to get rid of all of them if they want to.

– The original is running on the 3DS, that being the most important thing, and then you’ve basically equipped it with external plugins, almost.

YO: In Opa-Opa Bros. and even 3D Out Run, essentially there is a lot of extra content in there, but in the end some people just want to turn all that off to play the original experience, and so that’s how we’ve built it.
We added a lot of handy abilities to the cars for 3D Out Run, but when people wanted to go back to the original arcade version, we wanted to make sure there was some visual difference between the cars with additional abilities. I mean, people who played it back in the day have a real emotional attachment to the original red car, you know? So regardless of the improved handling, or being able to run off road or whatever, even if the player thinks, “This is really nice. This car makes it so easy,” people will still think, “I’d like to try to beat this game with the original settings.” That’s why we made sure if you power up your car, it’ll look different from the original red car.

That said, for The Tears of Opa-Opa, that game was built as a 3DS game. M2 made the original System-16 version themselves. It’s the debut as a standalone title, so we don’t have to stick to those rules.

NH: And since it’s something we made, we were able to interpret it as we saw fit, and that really opened a lot of options to us. That’s what we mean when we say we had our way with it.

– And you brought back the Coin Stock that was in Opa-Opa Bros. and you can resume play from anywhere you like.

YO: Yes, the Coin Stock is back, as we had a very positive response to it. And while it depends on how you play, as long as you collect those coins, more convenience options will unlock as you play. We made them so they unlock pretty quickly this time around. We made them based on the previous game, but they become quickly available so you can just get to using them.

On the other hand, if you crank up the difficulty to the highest level on The Tears of Opa-Opa, it’s even harder than the Complete Collection version, now that we’ve removed the limitations of the System-16.

– Since the limits of what you can display has been lifted, you can put out more enemies and bullets, you mean?

YO: Yes, that too. The overall difficulty is lower, and those who have played the PS2 version might feel it lacks bite. But if you raise the difficulty to the max, it’s brutal. There are 4 levels of difficulty, and on the highest setting they come at you with red bullets basically from the very beginning.

NH: I’ve haven’t even cleared the PS2 version on its hardest setting, but our guy who made that version goes and makes it even harder? Well, that’s going to be a problem. (all laugh)

YO: On the PS2 version, if would lag if there were too many bullets on the screen at the same time, but that restriction has been removed this time around. Anyone who has played the PS2 or Archives version should give it a shot.

SEGA 3D Classics - 3D Fantasy Zone II
The Coin Stock. Coins you pick up accumulate over time, even if you turn off the game. The collected coins can be withdrawn and used for the Story Mode.

SEGA 3D Classics - 3D Fantasy Zone II
This is the highest difficulty. Note the red bullets.

A Compilation of the Best-Of Techniques from Past Games

YO: The biggest benefit of building the game from scratch is that we are able to put in more stereoscopic 3D effects than we have previously. Alright, Horii-san, “unleash the beast!” (laughs)

NH: Okay, so on the topic of putting 3D into the various objects, we’ve tried a lot of things up until this point. For example, we were able to get the enemy spawn bases to have “roundness” to them in Opa-Opa Bros, but that was done by layering just two objects on top of each other. This time around though, we’re able to display a large number of objects, so there’s no need to just settle for two layers. There’s a ton of them, up to seven layers even, and that makes things look really nice and curved. That’s what you get when you have virtual hardware that can display 2,048 individual pieces.
After all we’ve been through, being able to achieve the look we want without being limited by the number of in-game objects… Words cannot express the feeling.

YO: What makes this interesting compared to other 3DS games is that though this is 3DS, it doesn’t use polygons. It uses sprites, and they weren’t designed to be displayed in stereoscopic 3D in the first place. The same staff took 2D graphic art that was designed to run on the System-16 for the 2008 remake, and put those into 3D themselves. So considering that, this too is most certainly a “3D Remaster” title.

NH: The same staff basically disassembled all the objects that would need to be put into 3D. Starting with the background, they put objects in deep, in the front, then more in front, then all the way on top, all by hand. The result is just impressively smooth. It was just one person on our staff who stuck to it to get the work done. They were very set on getting a very good 3D implementation.

YO: Widescreen and 3D support really expand the playfield—to a much larger degree than even the other 3D Remaster Project titles.

NH: Opa-Opa Bros was really impressive, and 3D Shinobi III was another one we were really proud of, but 3D Fantasy Zone II really takes the cake. You could call it the most recent of our proud achievements.

– It’s not just that it looks 3D, but it looks really natural in 3D. That’s the difference. In previous games, you could tell that it’s in 3D, or that a lot of work went into the 3D support, but Fantasy Zone II is the real deal.

NH: It does seem like we crossed a certain threshold somewhere in the production process. It’s like we broke through to the other side. But nothing feels forced. It’s as if everything is as it should be. The people working on it really busted their butts to get it done, but for those enjoying the results, it seems as if a picture-perfect world is popping out at them in 3D.

– It’s like the difference between movies when they first started doing 3D, and movies these days. You don’t see things that seem forced—everything feels so natural. Your eyes don’t get tired.

SEGA 3D Classics - 3D Fantasy Zone II
Lots of places, including the bosses, have had stereoscopic 3D applied to them.

YO: In the grand scheme of things, there really aren’t that many 2D games that have been enhanced with 3D support. But M2 has worked on a lot of these projects in a short amount of time, from 3D Space Harrier to the current title. I think 3D Fantasy Zone II is the best they’ve done so far. It is in the most literal sense a grand compilation of the best 3D techniques they’ve developed as they’ve worked on each of the projects.

– This might just be me, but I imagine the process by which you take 2D visuals and put them into 3D probably hasn’t changed all that much. But in optimization through object placement and the way things move, Fantasy Zone II has simply blown everything else out of the water with how everything looks in 3D. It’s like there were limits to what you could do before, but now you have the freedom to do more.

NH: When we slice 2D visuals into layers to make them 3D, that’s intertwined with the timing for the object’s animation. When we’re recreating an existing game we make sure we don’t change the original animation timing. But in this case, we made some slight adjustments. It’s not that we made changes just to make it 3D—we made detailed adjustments so things look better. I think a lot of small changes come together to result in such a breakthrough.

– It’s like a lot of puzzle pieces have come together to fit perfectly. Like a lot of amazing things have combined to create something and looks and plays in the most natural, normal-seeming way.

YO: I think that’s one way in which this goes beyond what we’ve done previously.

– It’s something that a person who has been taking 2D visuals and putting them into 3D would appreciate. At least, I’m guessing it is.

NH: Though the people who have been reading our interviews might be able to appreciate it as well.

– And I’m sure they get a kick out of it (laughs). It just feels like a lot of care and work has gone into every little detail. Everything feels like it is as it should be.

NH: There aren’t as many loose seams anymore, at least.

YO: 3D polygon-based characters of course look just fine on 3DS in stereoscopic 3D, but I hope that people feel this stuff seems just as natural as well.

NH: That’s all I’m looking for.

– I wouldn’t be surprised if it stops some people in their tracks.

NH: I think we’ve really pushed things pretty far when it comes to the challenge of taking 2D pixel art and getting that into 3D. And this is the grand compilation of that.

– Horii-san, you spoke previously about how there were no other challengers looking to do this sort of thing.

NH: There aren’t. Though I would love to see other people doing this stuff.

– With this, all will know the fearsomeness of 3D pixel art. The work you’ve put in can be seen all over the place, such as the easier-to-see bullets.

NH: When it was in development, I went and stood behind the designer working on it, and I just stopped in my tracks. The number of layers they split an object into, and the time and effort they put into trial and error to get things right are just astounding. And they do that over and over. I think the results of all that work really shine through.

There’s a big difference between doing everything can think of within the constraints of system processing power and doing anything you want without the processing restrictions. A lot has happened between our first title, Space Harrier, and now when it comes to taking a character and making it 3D. We have gotten a lot better. But sometimes, we’d try something and end up giving up because it would cause things not to run at 60fps. I really hope the people who make the 3DS hardware see these games and smile.

– This is “awesomeness” that I’m looking forward to people getting their hands on.

YO: And 3D aside, if you are a Fantasy Zone fan, you need to play this remake of Fantasy Zone II. The original Complete Collection this is based on was sold in the final years of the PS2, and the fact that it had this System-16 version in it wasn’t really widely understood. So I think there are still a lot of people who haven’t played it yet. Also, I imagine there will be some people who have just played Fantasy Zone on their 3DS. I’d be honored if those people, and those who haven’t ever played Fantasy Zone II, would give it a shot.

And first-time players can also enjoy the multiple endings that are in the System-16 remake.

This game has a slightly complicated system for a shooting game, so there’s a lot of additional info displayed on the lower screen to help the player. In this game, you can travel between the Bright and Dark sides by using warp zones that appear throughout the stage, giving you a choice on which side to beat. And so there is now a big map that tells you which route you are going down, as well as fuzzy parameters showing Opa-Opa’s status .

NH: We usually can’t show a whole lot on the lower screen due to processing limits, but this was our chance to throw a lot of things in there.

– Come to think of it, did you discuss putting in a 4:3 screen ratio mode like the original game?

YO: The idea this time around was to make all changes necessary for people to play the original game on the 3DS, so we never really thought about that. So for the first time in this series, we don’t have a screen size setting.

– I see.

Join Us Tomorrow for Part 2!

Hard to believe, but this is only half of the total interview! Tomorrow we present the new Link Loop Mode and discuss a special new song composed by Manabu Namiki. Read part 2 here!