Tuesday Jul 21, 2015
This is a translation of an edited version of the article located here.
About Streets of Rage 2
We are kicking off the bonus titles to Batch 2 SEGA’s 3D Classics with world renowned Streets of Rage 2, and back once again is the dangerous duo of Yosuke Okunari, producer at SEGA Games, and Naoki Horii, president at M2.
3D Streets of Rage 2 releases July 23 across North American and Europe!
As you may know, Streets of Rage 2 was a side-scrolling beat’em up action game originally released in 1993 on the SEGA Mega Drive and Genesis. Axel, Blaze, Max, and Eddie (aka Skate) take on the evil syndicate led by Mr. X once again. It evolved the original Streets of Rage formula with bigger sprites, new special moves, newly-designed stages, and better gameplay. All the elements of the original game, such as musical score by Yuzo Koshiro and two player VS mode have all been faithfully reproduced in this new 3D remake!
This game was a monumental achievement in the beat’em up genre, considered by some to be “the best fighting-action game”. For those who have previously mastered the game, or newcomers who want a lighter experience can enjoy “Casual Mode”, explained later.
Let’s check in with Okunari-san and Horii-san and find out what they’ve been up to!
Three World Renowned Titles, Picked By Hand!
– First off, I would like to ask about the reason you selected these particular games. I’m sure you had plenty to choose from; why Streets of Rage 2, Gunstar Heroes and Sonic The Hedgehog 2?
Yosuke Okunari (below YO): These three titles are not a “Batch 3”, but should be considered the 6th, 7th, and 8th games of the second batch. The reason is that, if you recall, there were eight games released in Batch 1. But the second batch started with the intention of only releasing domestically in Japan. Because the first batch was released overseas a year after the Japanese release, we were unable to see the worldwide response to the series and unsure if we would be able to release more titles worldwide in the future.
By the time the first batch was announced in the US and Europe, the first season was already out and finished here in Japan. The Japanese audience really liked the series, and we wanted to release more titles as soon as we could. So we came to the conclusion to do another round of games, even if it only ended up being released only in Japan. And thus, we set out developing five additional titles. Around the time we finished development of this second batch, we finally started getting an idea of the reaction to the first batch from the overseas users, which in turned enabled us to release the second batch of games internationally. And so it came to be the five titles in Batch 2 were released in the US and Europe a year after Japan. 3DS Thunder Blade marked the end of the second wave, but we thought that it was a bit of a missed opportunity if we were releasing games into North America and Europe that were chosen specifically for the Japanese audience.
So after discussing things with our North American team, we came up with the idea to add games for those regions. And thanks to that, by some miracle we were able to keep developing. (laughs) We added three more games to bring the count to eight, matching the first batch. But coming back to the original question, we wanted to choose games that had strong international appeal. As I mentioned back when we were talking about Fantasy Zone, this second batch really was just for the Japanese fans. Fantasy Zone isn’t a very big title overseas.
– Tell me, how well did the Master System version sell in Europe?
YO: It was released there, but the numbers aren’t much to talk about. And the Master System was a pretty minor gaming system in the US as well, you know.
– Some are misled into thinking that the Master System only existed in Europe, but it seems like that was true, in a way.
YO: Well, there is talk that it actually sold better than ‘the other guy’. But we did Fantasy Zone because it was a Japan-exclusive lineup. So we thought, “Let’s pick games from the Genesis and Mega Drive this time.” I mean, you guys here at Game Watch helped spread the name of the “Giga Drive”, the Mega Drive-based virtual hardware that supports 3D, after all.
Naoki Horii (below NH): We made up the term on our own and had you spread the word because we wanted to continue with it a little longer. It’d be a bit of a waste if we only used it for the games in the first batch. (laughs)
YO: Lots of people who read the articles remembered that word: Giga Drive. (laughs) They must have been asking themselves, “What Giga Drive game is going to be released in the next batch?” But we never ended up doing any. (laughs)
NH: I’m sure some were probably thrown off by that. (laughs)
Streets of Rage 2 Port: Not Gonna Happen
YO: So this time we wanted to take the Giga Drive out for another spin. The games are all tried-and-true. I’m positive fans of the time will approve.
But why weren’t these three games in the first batch to start with, you may ask. Well, that’s because it was impossible. You see, when we first started the SEGA 3D Remaster Project, these games were—of course—on the list of candidates. The method we used to decide the five games was lining up the Mega Drive games that were released on the Wii’s Virtual Console in order of popularity and selecting the ones that we could remake in 3D from the top down. After narrowing the candidates, I went and had a chat with M2.
NH: About which ones we could and couldn’t do.
YO: For Streets of Rage, we thought that since we are limited to only five games, we should skip the first one and go straight to the sequel. I proposed the idea of starting with the sequel to M2. I was immediately turned down. (laughs)
NH: I told him, “It’s impossible!”
YO: He said it wouldn’t work because the Mega Drive requires too much processing power.
NH: That’s right. It takes a lot of resources to emulate the Mega Drive, and adding stereoscopic 3D requires even more on top of that.
YO: There are just games that we can and cannot get to run, and games that we can and cannot put into 3D. Regardless of how popular the title may be. And I might catch some flak for this, but just because it’s popular, is putting Puyo Puyo on the roster really a good use of one of the limited slots we have for this 3D Remaster Project?
– That’s an easy to understand example.
YO: Conversely, M2 proposed even told me “How about Puyo Puyo!?”
NH: Well you know, we’re always falling behind schedule. Having an easy job really would have really helped…
YO: 3D Galaxy Force II was the hardest of the Batch 1 games, and 3D Altered Beast went the smoothest. If you’ve played them, you probably can see that. We put off the harder work until later and tried to get used to the process gradually.
And then there’s Streets of Rage, which was Batch 1’s final title, meaning that it was an incredibly hard game to develop. Sonic the Hedgehog, Altered Beast, Ecco the Dolphin, and Shinobi III were all pure horizontal side-scrollers. So we wanted to have a beat’em up, and Streets of Rage is visually perfect for a stereoscopic 3D treatment. The end product really makes you go “Now THIS is 3D!”, but at the time, M2 wouldn’t go for it.
NH: We just didn’t know if we could pull it off.
YO: It’s a linear game, so I tricked him by saying, “All you need to do is add depth to the beginning of Stage 1, and then it’s just copy and pasting from there!”
NH: “As if it’s going to be that easy,” I thought. But we got it done, thanks to our experience with the previous seven games.
– But in Streets of Rage 2, it scrolls downward almost immediately after starting the game.
NH: That was the problem.
When considering the original Streets of Rage, we knew doing a 3D conversion was going to be hard, but since the game used small sprites and ran at 30 frames per second (fps), we figured it was at least possible. We were having a hard time maintaining the Mega Drive running at full speed on the 3DS at the time. This game seemed like it would be easy on processor, so we gave it a try, despite my doubts of it being a copy-and-paste job. (all laugh)
YO: There were spots where we had to manually convert parts to 3D where we couldn’t copy-and-paste, like the elevator on Stage 7, but in the end, the floors in these beat’em ups just look great in 3D. Also, we wanted to be sure to have Local Play, so we put in multiplayer the same way we did with the Game Gear Virtual Console games. But there was a problem with implementing Local Play for Streets of Rage 2: it runs at 60 fps.
– It’s taxing on the processor, I presume?
NH: It sure is. The characters are huge, and the wireless play runs at 60 fps? Streets of Rage ran at 30 fps, so we figured it wouldn’t be too hard to keep up with at 30. But Streets of Rage 2 was tightly made. I mean they squeezed every bit of juice out of the Mega Drive on that one. It just oozes with the spirit of “Let’s put everything we can in,” so we knew that bringing it to the 3DS would be a real challenge.
– So, in short, it’s impossible.
YO: But then something happened that took the impossible and spun it right around. It happened at the end of develop of Streets of Rage. I didn’t talk about it during the Streets of Rage interview because I wasn’t sure if the project would continue, but…. Well, Horii-san, how about you explain.
End of Summer Vacation – M2’s Dev Team Is Boss
NH: Converting Streets of Rage into 3D as a huge undertaking, and the programmer in charge of the stereoscopic 3D work was at it nonstop for a month or two. When the project was over, he said, “I’ve worked 48 hours every day. I deserve a vacation. Basically, I’m going to drop off the radar for two weeks.”
– He was that stressed out?
NH: He first working on the 3D conversion of Sonic The Hedgehog, all while giving Streets of Rage a lot of thought as to how he was going to do it. With Sonic The Hedgehog setting the bar, it really put the pressure on everyone to deliver. He was very influential on the quality level we strive for in the Giga Drive 3D conversions. After those two weeks of rest, he came back, and as if turning in his homework over summer vacation, he handed over this program he’d been working on over his break. It was the entire first stage of Streets of Rage 2 in 3D. Putting aside the fact he didn’t actually take a break (all laugh), he had gone and made this. It was running on the PC, and while we weren’t sure we could squeeze down the processing to fit, not only did the diagonally scrolling bits work, it looked really cool.
YO: Everyone was shocked. I mean, the games for the second batch had already been chosen and locked in. He must’ve have believed we were going to do more.
NH: Who knows? I’m thinking that he did it because people said it couldn’t be done. He’s that kind of guy.
YO: So then back in the fall of that year, Horii-san stops by and hands me some 3D glasses and says, “Hey, check this out.” And there it is. Streets of Rage 2 working in a development environment. (all laugh) He’s like, “Hey, check out this diagonal action!” (laughs) “Horii-san, you said it couldn’t be done, but here it is!”
NH: I wanted him to see it because we’d done it, but I didn’t think he’d give me such a hard time about it. (all laugh)
– So, you felt like you’d been a bit lied to. In a good way.
YO: But like I said, the lineup for Batch 2 had been decided already. We thought that if the games like After Burner saw success, maybe we would be able to get around this, so it was basically a step away from being filed away in the warehouse. Right around the time we finished up Thunder Blade, when the discussion about adding three new titles came up, this PC version of Streets of Rage 2 in 3D sounded like it would finally have hopes of seeing the light of day.
– So you start making Stage 2 and on. Were there any problems getting it to run when porting it from the PC to the actual 3DS?
NH: There were problems, but we were able to manage knowing that it wasn’t technically impossible.
– So converting the first stage was the biggest hurdle?
NH: It was definitely a considerable obstacle.
YO: This Streets of Rage 2 was only running on the PC at the time, but we were further improving our optimization skills on the 3DS by dealing with 60 fps games like After Burner and Out Run. And at the same time, our ability to covert things into 3D improved as well, as demonstrated by the award we won last year. Since our skill at how to make 3D look really good was improving, we were able to add in more improvements on top of that original PC version in the final product. Like the bar counter before the boss. By taking the skills we learned from converting the first Streets of Rage, and combining that with the optimizations and 3D know-how from working on Fantasy Zone II and the second version of Space Harrier*, we were able to coalesce that into what is 3D Streets of Rage 2. And it even has 60 fps Local Play, just like the real thing.
* 3D Space Harrier was further improved over the original release in the Japan-only retail release of SEGA 3D Fukkoku Archives, released late 2014 in Japan.
NH: I’m amazed myself!
YO: Well, it’s expected by the players, right? (laughs)
NH: Of course it is. (laughs)
– From the sound of things, it can be a challenge to just getting the basic things you’d expect to work.
YO: And in that sense, this was totally not possible two years ago. Two years ago, even Space Harrier was experiencing slowdown up until the final touches.
NH: Things wouldn’t run fast enough, 60 frames dropped to 30, and so on.
– Do you tune the Giga Drive emulator itself for the improvements? Or do you fine tune it on a per-game basis?
NH: There’s times when we tune the whole thing, and times when we do for each title. We now know almost too much about the 3DS. When have good hunches about what makes the 3DS tick, and have a good picture of the internal structure of the hardware that isn’t in the documentation.
– That sounds like how it was at the end of the original Xbox development period.
NH: Yes, you may be right. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not discrediting the hardware. I’m just saying that we’ve built up a lot of know-how about the ins-and-outs of the hardware, and how to get the best out of it.
– I don’t have any award I can give him, but the programmer who went and did all this research on his own is incredible.
Stayed tuned for the second part of the interview, releasing on Thursday along with the game!
Posted by sara in SEGA on 4:50:13PM Jul 21, 2015
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