Tuesday Apr 14, 2015
We continue our look at 3D Fantasy Zone with the addition of an all new mode of play and an all new track from Manabu Namiki. If you missed yesterday’s update, be sure to catch up on part 1!
Very exciting stuff, we can’t wait to hear what you think. Enjoy!
Link Loop Land: Fantasy Zone boiled down to a dense, time-driven soup. Yummy.
Yosuke Okunari (below YO): The reason we call this one “W,” or double, is because it’s actually got a whole other game in it called Link Loop Land, which I’d like to talk about.
This new game is M2’s answer to my request to go wild and do what they wanted to, rather than just do a port.
Naoki Horii (below NH): The idea was not to go back and add something to The Tears of Opa-Opa, which we were happy and done with, but instead to make something totally fresh.
YO: When we had decided to go and release Fantasy Zone in batch 2 with the first and second titles separate, since the games were very similar, we wanted to make sure there was something differentiating them.
For Opa-Opa Bros., which we worked on first, we added on the Mark III version’s bosses, and added the different play style that was Upa-Upa Mode. Those were our Grantanoffs for that game. But if we approached Fantasy Zone II with the basic same concepts, it would be really hard to make them that different, and we didn’t want to be predictable. So for Fantasy Zone II, we decided to go with a completely different Grantanoff concept.
Put another way, we figured that fans would be happy with Opa-Opa Bros. since we added bosses and Upa-Upa Mode. But for the remake of Fantasy Zone II, at the end of the day it’s just one game, and in comparison to the first game, we knew people wouldn’t think it was enough.
NH: Okunari-san talks this way all the time! Really. (all laugh) “The schedule is the most important thing for me, but the users have needs!”
YO: So I said, “What do you think we should do?” And the result of these discussions was one idea: Let’s make a score attack game. And now there is an Endless Mode called Link Loop Land.
In the previous game, Upa-Upa took the main stage in an unprecedented way, so if we were going to put out Fantasy Zone II, I knew everyone would want to see him brought back. And so for this Endless Mode, he’s back as the main protagonist.
Fantasy Zone II: Link Loop Land Prologue
Ten years after the battle with Menon forces, a new planet is discovered in the Fantasy Zone.
- He’s in debt again!? (laughs)
YO: There’s lots of people who are wondering what happened in between I and II, after Opa-Opa meets his father and learns where he has been, and what happened after Upa-Upa Mode’s ending.
NH: Yes, lots… (laughs)
YO: This is a bit of a spoiler for the Upa-Upa Mode ending, but Upa-Upa ends up in massive debt, (all laugh), so we figured he’ll need to work to pay it back. And so Endless Mode continues on with this storyline… (laughs)
NH: I think SEGA is a really forgiving company!
- Financial ruin, huh? So he didn’t just lose all the money he had.
YO: Well, it wasn’t his money in the first place. (laughs)
- Oh, right. He spent someone else’s money, and now has to pay it all back. That’s pretty good.
YO: And so now we have a reason for him to set out on a new journey. (laughs)
- This is really similar to Hero Bank (laughs).
YO: Well, Hero Bank was done by the same dev group (laughs). Anyway, this story is the basis by which he takes the stage again.
NH: Even though we wanted to make another game, schedule-wise we didn’t have enough time to make anything big. Since we went through the effort of fleshing him out as a character in the first game, we felt we should make a game for him.
The guy in charge of making this game is a programmer by the name of Yamanaka, who also worked on the System-16 remake itself, as well as Contra: ReBirth and Castlevania: The Adventure ReBirth. Yamanaka loves games like Geometry Wars, which get harder and harder and require the player to cope with it. He apparently wanted to do that with Fantasy Zone.
At first, there are only bases floating in the air and there aren’t that many enemies. But as you keep playing, the bases keep appearing and one base could be made of four bases. They tried a lot of stuff.
- I’ve played it myself, and now that you mention Geometry Wars, I feel like I get it better now.
NH: And so the result is just non-stop. They narrowed in on the specs, saying “Sorry Warps, but you gotta go!” And these kinds of games where you die instantly can be really stressful, so there has to be some kind of relief sometimes, so there are Repairers and enemies that function like bombs. It’s built so you can keep up with a skyrocketing level of difficulty.
YO: Fantasy Zone is a rather straightforward shooting game, but that’s because it was built in the 1980s. But we are conscious of the fact that shooting games post-2000 have lots of enemies and bullets flying around, and we wanted to see what that would be like.
- But, the fact that Fantasy Zone II had warps was one of the reasons for its replayablilty, but from the point of view of a portable game, a score attack mode that lets you pick up and play quick in short bursts is a very good fit as well.
YO: You’re exactly right. The Tears of Opa-Opa is a game that requires a lot of thought when you first start playing it, so we wanted to do something that was more fitting for a portable game. Something like the Caravan Modes common in Hudson’s shooting games. But we settled on a design where it was endless rather than having them end after a time limit.
NH: Something that would get your blood pumping in small gameplay spurts, something you could do on the train. Though it could be something that you would sit at home and try to break your own score, and that would be fine, too.
- It adds something new to the Fantasy Zone series gameplay. If you just fly around haphazardly, you’ll end up running into the enemy bases, just like the original, but it’s a very different feeling. Since you can freely make the game how you want, you can do this sort of mode as well.
NH: You could say that this is a very thick, dense version of Fantasy Zone, but that density makes it very different from Fantasy Zone.
- Even so, it doesn’t feel unnatural at all. It’s very easy to play.
NH: That might be because you played I and II, and then tried this one.
YO: And since the gameplay was so different, we decided to make it its own game. Koga-san* came up with the name—Link Loop Land.
* Keisuke Koga, game designer at M2, worked on the System-16 remake and Opa-Opa Bros.
NH: I was a little concerned that the title didn’t have “Combo” or “Chain” in it anywhere, but Koga really likes NiGHTS, so…
- Oh! OK, I get it! It’s got Link and then Loop. Right! (laughs)
NH: That totally few over my head, I’m sorry to admit. (laughs) I even said, “Is this… NiGHTS?” in the middle of a meeting.
YO: There was apparently a standing order that the words “combo” and “chain” we not allowed.
- So that’s how the Link Gauge got its name.
NH: Koga said, “When we are done with this project, let’s do a 3D version of NiGHTS.” To which I said, “Not possible!”
- It’s a Saturn game. (laughs) Right right. “Link Gauge”… I like it. Having it as a gauge makes it easier to see how everything is connected, rather than showing everything with just numbers.
YO: Just like NiGHTS, you need to defeat the next enemy before your link is broken.
NH: It makes me wonder how many people who will play this mode will actually draw the comparison with NiGHTS. We didn’t even notice it ourselves. Though if you read this interview first, that’s sort of cheating.
YO: Going back to when we were talking about The Tears of Opa-Opa and how lowering the difficulty will cause the coins to get sucked into you, that’s the standard way Link Loop Land works, so it’s easier to keep your link going.
NH: Please give the Score Attack a shot.
YO: When you finish a round of Link Loop Land, it throws your score up on screen, nice and big, so we hope there’s going to be some healthy competition on Miiverse. All you have to do is compare screenshots, though it’s a bit old school that way. (laugh)
And Of Course, a New Song from Manabu Namiki!
YO: Since Link Loop Land is a brand new game, it got its own theme song written for it as well. A new song by Manabu Namiki.
For the System-16 remake of The Tears of Opa-Opa, they followed the System-16 specs and used the same sound bank and sound drivers from the arcade version of Fantasy Zone, and of course Link Loop Land follows the same rules. But in addition to that, similar to Space Harrier’s main theme, it’s a rather long song that changes during boss battles and when you defeat the boss, it goes back to being the normal theme.
NH: We had bigger plans back when we were planning it out, but in the end this is what we came up with. Namiki provided us with a comment that also goes back to the 2008 remake.
Manabu Namiki’s Comment
When Fantasy Zone released into arcades back in 1986, it was one-of-a-kind with its vivid colors, gameplay, graphics, and music. The impact that game had on me is still unmatched now in the 21st century. I was in middle school at the time, and we were so absorbed in competing with each other. The eagerly-awaited sequel was released the following year in 1987 on home consoles, and then 21 years later in 2008, a remake project appeared, a System-16 version of Fantasy Zone II, and I got the chance to work on the sound, including the music.
And now, 6 more years later, it is back as 3D Fantasy Zone II W, and again, I’m overseeing and working on the sound. I’d never imagined I’d be able to dig in this much on the sound work of a game I loved so much, you know?
Alright, let’s talk about the sound for this game. First, The Tears of Opa-Opa is just as it was when we released the System-16 version 6 years ago. It remains an homage to the concept of what it would have been like had it been released in ’87 as a System-16 game, nothing added, nothing taken away. That said, usage of FM Sound and its reproduction has made great advancements, and the sound quality was adjusted to take maximum advantage of that, so relax and take time to give everything a listen.
When I was actually working on the sound for the remake in 2008, my approach was, “What if I fell into a time warp and was sent back to 1987, and got assigned to create the sound for the System-16 version of II?” I had to come up with this crazy concept to match the crazy remake project we were working on. I imagined that I’d found myself in a SEGA development room in 1987 and told to work on the sound for II, and Hiro-shishou had come by and given me a PC and the sound source program. And once I completed the work, I’d be able to return to the 21st century. Or at least that’s what I told myself while I was working on it.
And then the new Endless Mode, called Link Loop Land, for which I’ve written a brand new song. So awesome! And of course it’s built to use all of the System-16 version’s sound gear.
Sound Source: FM Sound Source YM2151 @ 4Mhz
Everything is in line with these above specs, so it should be playable on the actual System-16 arcade board itself. And since this is all 6 years after my first hack at it, I’d gone and totally forgotten all the ins and outs of how I put things together. I was worried if I’d even be able to pull it off, so I went looking for my backup drives and recovered some folders off them, reviewing files one by one. And slowly it all came back and I was able to do it. Would I be able to do it again 6 years from now? Honestly, I don’t know…
Lastly, the new song itself. Just like when I worked on the System-16 version the first time around, I didn’t want to do something that was a cheap knockoff of the original music. Honestly, I really didn’t want to make something that makes people think, “Yeah, I guess that’s sort of like FZ. I guess it’s okay.” So I retained that same concept, and stayed very conscious of the fact that I wanted to make something that really melds solidly with the game itself.
The above specs and concepts were absolute to me. I didn’t want to get caught up in forms or expected patterns, so I focused on the feeling of excitement when you hear it, and how it should make you want to keep moving forward and play over and over again. I let myself be guided by my formative experiences playing Fantasy Zone in the arcades, and how lucky I was to be able to play a part in creating the next entry in the series. I had to fulfill that duty. This is “♪ENDLESS LOVE,” from me to Endless Mode, Fantasy Zone, SEGA, shooting games, game music, development staff, and all the players out there. I hope you all enjoy it!
The next one is the real finale! (or is it?)
YO: And there you have it. A Fantasy Zone for 3DS with a different concept than 3D Fantasy Zone: Opa-Opa Bros., double the fun with two new games. They are both chock-full of fun. The remake version of Fantasy Zone II doesn’t end with simply a port.
NH: Two stories, The Tears of Opa-Opa and Link Loop Land. Two protaganists, Opa-Opa and Upa-Upa, and a story with two branches, Bright and Dark. It’s double no matter how you slice it.
- And with those two games, you have both a Fantasy Zone-like experience as well as something off on its own vector, so while the core game is the same, I feel as if a wide range of shooting game fans can enjoy it. And I mean that for playability as well. There aren’t that many domestically targeted portable shooting games in the vein of Geometry Wars, where enemies just keep coming at you.
NH: We can make adjustments to the programming for difficulty, like when and where enemies appear and how many, so it was pretty easy to make in a short amount of time. It’s hard to do things in a short amount of time if you have to make each stage one by one. If someone told us to make 100 stages, well, that’d be impossible. So in that sense, it was the only way to go about it.
- I see. Was it about half a year for development?
NH: From the very beginning of the project, yes, it was about six months. But if you’re talking about the time from when we had a lot of people jump onto it, it was around when Opa-Opa Bros. was finishing up, I guess? It was a really dense schedule. Like, you’d wonder when we were getting sleep.
YO: We brought back the staff from the original System-16 remake, and had them carry over from the work on Opa-Opa Bros. onto this game.
NH: Though, we did get a head start on the work for Link Loop Land.
- And so you have two “Grantanoffs” this time around, it seems.
NH: Well, the System-16 remake of The Tears of Opa-Opa was sort of a Grantanoff itself in the first place.
YO: And Link Loop Land is an all-new game, so you could say it surpasses Grantanoff status.
- I see.
YO: Actually, at the present time, Fantasy Zone has received the highest praise out of all the Batch 2 games. So this is an appropriate encore for that game.
NH: If we see a ton of copies sell, I’m sure we can make a III.
YO: That’s a dream I’d like to see become a reality…
- Yes, a ton of copies would be very good! (laughs) Alright, let’s wrap up then. So I think everyone is wondering what’s going to happen after this. You touched on this at beginning, but after the big climax after the first 3 titles in Batch 2, with an encore of Fantasy Zone II, are you guys finished with these 4 games?
YO: Yes, it’s been a long time since we started, but the 3D Remaster Project comes to a close with this title…is what I should say, but actually there is one more title that we’ve been holding back. This one is really the last one. Even at a concert after the encore is finished, if the audience is really hyped up then sometimes you can get the performers to squeak out one last song. And this is that song. It’s the true finale.
YO: We’ve actually brought it with us. It’s still in development, but would you like to give it a shot?
- Are you sure? Sure, I’d love to give it a shot— Wh-what… No way!?!?!
TO BE CONTINUED!
We hope you enjoyed the article and are as excited as we are to see Fantasy Zone II release this Thursday. I’m super addicted to Link Loop Land, I’m looking forward to seeing the Miiverse posts of everyone’s best runs.
Of course, there’s other very exciting news in the world of the 3D Classics, the announcement of three Genesis games that will be arriving this summer. Very exciting stuff, we’re loving the feedback that’s been coming through across the internet with the news.
As always, we love reading your feedback about this interview or anything about the 3D Classics, let us know what you think!
Monday Apr 13, 2015
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
- 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.
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.
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 II: The Tears of Opa-Opa (Sega Mark III ver.)
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.
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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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?
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Friday Mar 20, 2015
Free stuff Friday! With recent changes to SEGA, the amount of Free Stuff Friday giveaways we do is going to decrease significantly. That said, when we have time and can set something up, we’re going to do our best to get some of the SEGA merch out to fans.
On The Block
This week, we’ll be supporting our 3D Classics with a chance at the Classic Contest prize - the SEGA hoodie. We’ve got a mix of sizes, from Small to Extra Large that you can pick up in today’s giveaway. We have four hoodies to giveaway today, good luck!
How it Works
1. You must have a Twitter account and be following @SEGA on Twitter to be eligible. If you don’t have a Twitter account, you can create one by going to http://www.twitter.com and click the green “get started — join!” button in the center of the page.
2. Giveaways start around 11am Pacific Time on Fridays. We tweet a message with instructions and participants send a Direct Message (commonly called DM) in return. Send a Direct Message changes depending on what Twitter client you are using, we recommend reading this helpful tutorial before the giveaway day.
Note: @SEGA is verified, you can send a Direct Message without being followed. This is totally against everything Twitter has taught you about Direct Messages, but it really works.
Example of a typical giveaway:
@SEGA Tweets: “GIVEAWAY: Sonic T-shirt, size L. Be the 15th person to DM “Sonic Adventure” to win!”
You see this, and want to win it, so you send us a direct message that says “Sonic Adventure”. If you are the 15th person to do so, you are the winner! Quotation marks do not matter, capitalization does not matter, but spelling does matter! (Note, this is just an example, please do not Direct Message this example phrase).
3. We will announce the winner the following week across our blog in the next Free Stuff Friday giveaway. Please read the official rules at the end of this post to confirm eligibility.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: I’ve never used twitter before, how does it work?
Q: How do Direct Messages work again?
Q: How can I be sure my Direct Messages are reaching you?
Q: I have a question for SEGA on Friday, around 11am Pacific Time, why aren’t you responding?
Q: I won a Sonic Shirt that’s too small for me, can I exchange it?
Official Rules & Regulations
Sega of America, Inc.
NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED.
This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by or associated with Twitter.
Age of Eligibility: The Promotion is open only to individuals who are twenty-one (21) years of age or older and individuals between the ages of thirteen (13) and twenty-one (21) who have the permission to enter of a parent or legal guardian who agrees to be bound by these Official Rules.
How to Enter: Sponsor will announce the prize we are awarding, a word or phrase, and what number of response you need to be to win. Send us a direct message (DM) via Twitter and be that number to win the prize. (@ replies do not count as entries!)
How Many Times You Can Enter: Limit of one (1) direct message per person per prize.
How Winner(s) Will Be Determined: Winners will be randomly determined on an “nth entry basis”; i.e. For example, Sponsor will randomly which entrant will be selected for a given prize; i.e. the 50th or 100th.
How Winner(s) Will Be Notified: Winners will be notified on Twitter through Direct Messages (DM) as well as through email.
Where and When Winner(s) Will be Announced:Winners will be announced at least one week after the promotion starts on the SEGA Blog (blogs.sega.com).
(2) Eligibility – The following are NOT eligible to participate: Employees, officers and directors of the Sponsor, its parents, affiliates, subsidiaries, divisions, advertising, promotional, fulfillment and marketing agencies, (collectively “Promotion Entities”) their immediate families (parent, child, sibling & spouse) and persons living in the same households of such individuals (whether related or not), are not eligible to participate in the Promotion.
The promotion is void in all countries currently under sanction by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”) of the U.S. Department of the Treasury to include: Balkans, Belarus, Burma, Cote d’Ivoire, Cuba, DR of the Congo, Iran Iraq, Liberia (the former regime of Charles Taylor), Lebanon, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Yemen, and Zimbabwe. Please note that the list of sanctions countries ca change at any time, however, a current list can always be located at http://www.treas.gov/offices/enforcement/ofac/programs
Further, the promotion is void in any jurisdiction where prohibited by law, rule or regulation.
(3) Entering the Promotion – Creation of false accounts on Twitter is prohibited. (Message, data rates or other charges may apply if you are participating via the use of a SMART mobile device; check your mobile plan for rates and details. Participation may not be available on all carriers.) In the event of a dispute as to any Entry, the authorized account holder of the Twitter account used to enter will be deemed to be the entrant. The “authorized account holder” is the natural person assigned the account by the online service provider or other organization responsible for assigning the accounts. You may be required to show proof of being an authorized account holder. Any attempt by any entrant to obtain more than the stated number of entries by using multiple/different/duplicitous e-mail addresses, the use of multiple identities, registrations and logins, or any other methods will void that entrant’s entries and that entrant may be disqualified. Entries that are incomplete, contain irregular or invalid information, or are corrupted are void and will not be accepted.
(6) Prize Awarding – If you are potential winner and a minor in your jurisdiction of residence, your parent or legal guardian must accept the prize on your behalf by providing their name and complete mailing address for the purposes of prize fulfillment. If you do not respond to the Sponsor’s Prize Notification Message by the date indicated in the message, the prize is forfeited and will not be awarded. If you have provided an invalid or inaccurate email address or postal mailing address for the purpose of prize fulfillment any returned communication or prize items will be forfeited and in this event at Sponsor’s sole discretion an alternate may be selected. Any unclaimed prizes will not be awarded. In compliance with Canadian law, any potential Canadian winner will have to correctly answer a multiple part mathematical skill question as a condition of being named a valid winner. Acceptance of a prize constitutes permission for Sponsor to use winner’s name for advertising and promotional purposes as Sponsor so determines without notice or further compensation, except where prohibited by law. Prize recipient shall not be permitted to (a) replace his/her designated prize with another prize or item, (b) transfer or assign his/her designated prize to another person, or (c) substitute any prize or prize component for cash. In the event of unavailability, Sponsor reserves the right to substitute a prize of equal or greater value. All federal, state, local, and other taxes on prizes, (including any applicable import taxes on prizes) are the sole responsibility of the person accepting the prize.
(7) General – At the conclusion of any given Promotion or prize winning cycle and the selection or naming of the published winner(s) for that Weekly Promotion Period or prize winning cycle, Sponsor, in its sole discretion, has the right to modify any rule associated with the Promotion including but not limited to the requirement for entry, number of entries you can receive, the number and value of prizes available and the deadline for entry or participation prize winning activity including, or at Sponsor’s sole discretion, to discontinue the Promotion completely.
By participating in the Promotion, each entrant unconditionally accepts and agrees to comply with and abide by these Official Rules and the decisions of the Sponsor, which shall be final and binding in all respects. By participating in the Promotion, participants agree to release, discharge and hold harmless Twitter and Promotion Entities from any and all damages whether direct or indirect, which may be due to or arise out of participation in the Promotion or any portion thereof, or the acceptance, use/misuse or possession of prizes. Further, the Promotion Entities do not make any warranty, representation, or guarantee, express or implied, in fact or in law, relative to the use of any prize, including, without limitation, quality, merchantability, and fitness for a particular purpose. Further, no responsibilities are accepted for any additional expenses, omissions, delays, re-routing, or acts of any government or authority.
All decisions of the Sponsor in any matter relating to this Promotion shall be binding and final. If there are fewer eligible entries than the number of available prizes, any unclaimed prizes will not be awarded. Sponsor is not responsible for technical failures of any kind, including but not limited to the malfunctioning of any computer, cable, network, hardware, software, or web site. Sponsor is not responsible for lost, interrupted or unavailable network server or other connections, miscommunications, failed telephone or computer or telephone transmissions or technical failure, jumbled, scrambled or misdirected transmissions, for incorrect or inaccurate entry information, howsoever caused, or other error of any kind whether human, mechanical or electronic. Entrants found tampering with or abusing any aspect of this Promotion, as solely determined by Sponsor, will be disqualified. If disqualified for any of the above abuses, Sponsor reserves the right to terminate entrant’s eligibility to participate in the Promotion. Any attempt by any person to deliberately undermine the legitimate operation of the Promotion may be in violation of criminal and civil law, and, should such an attempt be made, Sponsor reserves the right to seek damages from any such person to the fullest extent permitted by law. Sponsor’s failure to enforce any term of these Official Rules shall not constitute a waiver of that provision. Sponsor reserves the right to terminate, cancel, suspend and/or modify the Promotion if any fraud, virus or other technical problem corrupts the administration, security, or proper play of the Promotion, as determined by Sponsor in its sole discretion. In such event, Sponsor reserves the right to award the prizes at random from among the eligible entries received up to the time of the impairment. The Promotion and the rights and obligations of Sponsor and entrants will be governed by and controlled by the laws of the state of California, applicable to contracts made and performed therein without reference to the applicable choice of law provisions. All actions, proceedings or litigation relating hereto will be instituted and prosecuted, without resort to any form of class action, solely within the state courts of California located in San Francisco, California and federal courts located within such state and county with respect to any action, dispute or other matter pertaining to or arising out of the Promotion. In the event any provision of these Official Rules will be held to be unenforceable, these Official Rules will continue in full force and effect without such provision.
Wednesday Mar 11, 2015
Round 3 of our Classic Contest series is all about 3D Out Run! For each game, we’re having players complete a few skill challenges to be entered into a classic SEGA prize – our super popular SEGA controller hoodie. Are you up to the challenge?
Classic Contest, Classic Prize
Our prize for all of the 3D Classic Contests is a very special SEGA hoodie. This will not be sold in stores and is your chance to own one of the most sought after SEGA hoodies we’ve made. In contrasting navy blue and grey, the hoodie is 10oz, embroidered, and awesome. Don’t miss out!
How to Enter
As you might expect for 3D Out Run, our challenges are all based around beating the game in various ways. If you’ve been following our Interview series, you might have spotted a few of the optional upgrades that unlock on completing the game. These are extremely helpful in earning the second challenge, but not required. Good luck!
Challenge #1: Complete 3D Out Run in any of the end points and unlock your first upgrade.
Challenge #2: Complete all of the 3D Out Run tracks (A through E) to unlock the original Arcade Mode.
Then email a photo of your screen beating the challenge and submit it to Sega3DClassics@sega.com with the subject, “SEGA 3D Classics Classic Sweepstakes – 3D Out Run.” In the body of the email provide your first/last name, email address, state and country of residence, your age and date of birth. Easy!
NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. See Official Rules at http://blogs.sega.com/?p=20502 for FREE entry. Open to legal residents of the United States, D.C. and any member state within the E.U. excluding residents of U.S. territories, possessions and overseas military installations, 13 years of age or older. Ends 3/25/15 at 11:59:59 PM PT.
Classic Official Rules
Sega of America, Inc.
NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED.
(1) Description – Sega of America, Inc. (the “Sponsor”) is offering “SEGA 3D Classics Classic Sweepstakes Series” (the “Classic Promotion Series”). The Classic Promotion Series consist of (8) separate sweepstakes (“Sweepstakes”). In all Sweepstakes in the Classic Promotion Series winners will be determined and prizes awarded on the basis of random selection from eligible entrants. The 3D Out Run™ Sweepstakes (“Promotion”) begins at 12:00:01 AM Pacific Time (“PT”) on March 11, 2015 and ends at 11:59:59 PM PT on March 25, 2015 (“Sweepstakes Period”).
By participating in the Promotion, each entrant unconditionally accepts and agrees to comply with and abide by these Official Rules and the decisions of the Sponsor, which shall be final and binding in all respects. By participating in the Promotion, participants agree to release, discharge and hold harmless Facebook and Promotion Entities (defined below) from any and all damages whether direct or indirect, which may be due to or arise out of participation in the Promotion or any portion thereof, or the acceptance, use/misuse or possession of prizes provided for or in connection with the Promotion. Further, the Promotion Entities do not make any warranty, representation, or guarantee, express or implied, in fact or in law, relative to the use of any prize, including, without limitation, quality, merchantability, and fitness for a particular purpose. Further, no responsibilities are accepted by Sponsor or any other Promotion Entities for any additional expenses, omissions, delays, re-routing, or acts of any government or authority.
(2) Eligibility – The Promotion is open only to legal residents of the United States, the District of Columbia and any member state within the European Union who are eighteen (18) years of age or older at time of entry and individuals between the ages of thirteen (13) and seventeen (17) who have the permission to enter of a parent or legal guardian who agrees to be bound by these Official Rules.
Employees, officers and directors of the Sponsor, its parents, affiliates, subsidiaries, divisions, advertising, promotional, fulfillment and marketing agencies (collectively “Promotion Entities”), their immediate families (parent, child, sibling & spouse) and persons living in the same households of such individuals (whether related or not), are not eligible to participate in the Promotion.
Void in Puerto Rico, all other U.S. territories and possessions, overseas military installations, and where prohibited by law, rule or regulation. All federal, state and local laws and regulations apply.
(3) How to Enter – There are two (2) ways to enter:
Via Game Purchase and Game Play -
• Continue game play to complete all of the 3D Out Run tracks (ending A – E) and unlock the Arcade Mode; take a photo of the arcade setting in the options screen (your “Arcade Picture”). To receive one (1) additional entry send an email to Sega3DClassics@sega.com, attach your Picture to the email, enter “Arcade Entry ” in the subject line and in the body of the email provide your first/last name, email address, state and country of residence, your age and date of birth.
FREE Entry by email –
There is a limit of two (2) entries per person regardless of entry method and a limit of one (1) prize per person for the entire Classic Promotion Series.
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There are a total of ten (10) prizes, with a total ARV of all prizes of three hundred U.S. dollars ($300). The odds of winning depend upon the number of eligible entries received.
(6) Prize Awarding – Winners will be selected in a random drawing from all eligible entries conducted by Sponsor on or about March 27, 2015. Potential winners will be contacted within one (1) business day of the drawing by the e-mail address associated with their entry (“Prize Notification”) and provided with a Prize Claim Document (“PCD”), which must be returned to Sponsor within five (5) days of the Prize Notification. If any potential winner is between the ages of thirteen (13) and seventeen (17), his/her parent or legal guardian must complete the PCD with his/her information and accept the prize on behalf of their minor. Non-compliance with any of these requirements and/or the return of Prize Notification as undeliverable will result in disqualification, winner’s forfeiture of the prize and (at Sponsor’s sole discretion), and the selection of an alternate winner. Any unclaimed prizes will not be awarded.
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(8) Winner Information – Winners will be announced on or about April 15, 2015.
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Tuesday Mar 10, 2015
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!
- 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.
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.
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.
YO: Really going back to the source there.
NH: So very Namiki-san.
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.
- 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.
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
- 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!
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.
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.”
- 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.
- (laughs) Thank you very much, gentlemen. I’m anxiously awaiting the next title. Thank you for your time!
Monday Mar 09, 2015
Another blog update means we’re one day closer to 3D Out Run launching on the Nintendo 3DS on March 12th! In the previous two updates (part 1, part 2) we discussed the technical details in building 3D Out Run, as well as adding in new features or fixing old bugs. Starting today we look at the sound from 3D Out Run and tomorrow we’ll have an update covering the music!
Lots of really interested stuff as always, it’s especially cool to learn that 3D Out Run is the first version to fix a few lingering sound and music bugs from the original arcade hardware. All through a good ear and a strong attention to detail – incredible. As always, we appreciate hearing what you think of these updates!
Reproducing a Game’s Sound Isn’t as Straightforward as You’d Think!
- Alright, let’s bring Namiki-san into the conversation, and ask about sound-related topics as they pertain to 3D Out Run.
Manabu Namiki (below MN): SEGA graciously allowed us to record our sounds for After Burner II as well as the ones for Out Run at their warehouse back [in 2013]. We took these back and edited them, and set them aside as standbys for when any actual work was needed. So I actually did the core work for 3D Out Run’s sound back in October of 2013.*
There were a number of things we ran into when doing the sound recreation for Out Run. The first problem was this one bit in the waveform data for one of the PCM ROMs that is always on and the ROM itself was mass manufactured with it that way. In other words, one of the ROMs in the production version of Out Run has corrupted wave data.
Naoki Horii (below NH): He’s correct. And people who are well-informed on the topic might be aware of it. Even the Sega Saturn version had to address this issue.
- I see…
Yosuke Okunari (below YO): This problem cropped up back when Wavemaster was doing the soundtrack for the 20-year Anniversary Box Edition, and we were recording sounds straight off the arcade board itself. We asked the original composer, Hiro-shishou, to review the data, and there was something “off” about it. The fact that sound being recorded straight from the board was “off” was “off” in and of itself. Anyway, since the sound coming off the arcade board was apparently incorrect, they knew were going to have to re-record it, so we burnt a new ROM with the sound data and recorded off of that. So the issue is fixed in that soundtrack.
MN: In other words, in a similar fashion to what we were talking about in the 3D After Burner II interview, Sega pulled the source file off an 8” floppy disk and burnt that onto a new ROM for that 20th Anniversary Box Edition, which they used to restore the master waveform data to the state before it was corrupted during mass manufacturing, and thus allowing us to record it in its originally intended form. That recovered waveform data is what we are using in 3D Out Run.
- (Laughs) I see.
MN: Another thing was “Splash Wave.” There’s this glitch later in the song where the melody and other parts of the song get out of sync. This even happens on the version included in the 20th Anniversary Box Edition, but we fixed this in our version with the exception of the Arcade Mode. We used the same technique we used to fix the song “Defeat” in 3D Galaxy Force II.
Let me explain: First in regards to the melody getting off beat, I thought this might be caused by a part of the melody’s music data that indicates how long a note should play. So I listened to the recorded version of the music to figure out where exactly the song gets out of sync and started my search there. It wasn’t really something you could spot visually by looking at the digital data, so I tried narrowing down the location by listening to it. At the same time, we were analyzing the playback programming on the Z80 and the music note data, and finally found the telltales we needed to track down the notes we were looking for.
I ended up going through the hexadecimal music data to find the intro part of the song, then followed along saying, “Okay, yes, these are the notes for this part.” I found the request number for “Splash Wave” in the sound program and followed that to the entry tables it referenced—in other words, I tracked down the address where the song data was stored, and just started reading that data. I found the melody part within each track, and followed that data from the start. As I did that, I was able to narrow it down to the later part of the song.
NH: What was it? A specific channel’s clock was off by one?
MN: Well, let me take a look right now.
NH: Back in the X68000 days, I used to make my own sound drivers and editors as a hobby, and when I would compile things I could look at the total clock count data. So it was pretty easy to notice, “Hey wait, this one channel has a few too many in it.”
MN: That was possible because the compiler was counting the steps. But this time around, there wasn’t any useful function like that we could use.
- So this means Namiki-san dumped the binary data and went through it all himself? Wow, that’s impressive.
MN: I found it by basically writing comments next to every single line of hexadecimal, like “This is the intro here.” To an outsider, it looks like a fool’s errand.
NH: Well you say “a fool’s errand,” but for us, it’s more like being a museum curator.
YO: You never come in contact with this sort of thing unless you are actually doing the porting work for a game.
NH: If you only play the games, these aren’t issues you typically experience.
YO: Even when making soundtracks, you typically don’t go this deep either.
MN: I suppose so. The desync we are talking about here is very subtle, at a level where you might completely miss it if you weren’t really following along with the melody. Oh, here, I found the sound data! The count value that sets the length of a note was 6 counts over, so it was 48 milliseconds too long. The song is perfectly synched until partway through, but this caused the desync toward the end. With that fixed, it plays correctly all the way through. I believe this puts it back into the form Hiro-shishou originally intended. This is the first time this fix has ever been made, right?
YO: Personally, it’s not something I can really discern the difference for, but if it wasn’t done for the Sega Saturn version or the 20 Anniversary Box Edition, then yes, it’d be a first. By the way, if you want to hear the original, just put the game in Arcade Mode and everything will play like the original.
MN: And actually, there was one more thing. This is for “Splash Wave” as well. In the intro part of the song, I found this issue where a ride cymbal in the PCM’s rhythm palette starts taking over the PCM channels reserved for the background music, overwriting other instruments like snare and bass drums. This affects the 20th Anniversary Box Edition’s intro portion as well, resulting in sounds getting cut off during the song.
It looks like all the versions that have been released to date have been in this state, and it’s subtle enough that if you just listen to it, you’d probably think that’s the way it’s supposed to be, without giving it a second thought. But for better or worse, since I am involved in the project, and I found the issue, it really bothered me…
MN: Normally, Out Run reserves 6 PCM channels for background music. The remaining 10 channels are used for sound effects. But in this case, the ride cymbal was taking over those 6 background music channels. In the meantime, though, during the intro part of the song the game itself is just getting started, so the number of channels you need for sound effects like the car peeling out from the start line is limited. Leaving PCM channels reserved for sound effects but not using them—well, that’s a waste, so I worked with our programmer, Saito-kun, to see if we could reserve some of those sound effect channels for music for a limited time.
NH: I’d heard you guys were doing that. Is that something you could burn onto a ROM and fix the PCM on the original arcade board?
MN: That wouldn’t be possible, as we didn’t fix it directly using Z80 code.
NH: So you fixed the data after it had been emulated.
MN: It’s not that it wouldn’t be possible to modify the Z80 code directly, but doing so would probably have some effect on the sound effects. For 3D Out Run, we change the reserved channels only for certain parts of the timeline, to avoid affecting the sound effects. It’s kind of hardcore.
NH: Well I think everyone’s really impressed with you, too, Namiki-san, even the people reading this interview. There’s not much difference. You two are almost equally impressive, and that slight difference is only noticeable in our office.
YO: As always, a fine example of the elite and talented motley crew at M2.
MN: Yeah, this sort of collaboration could only happen with comrades in the motley crew.
NH: In a typical environment, people wouldn’t even understand what you were saying.
MN: The response would be, “What the heck are you talking about?” And that would be the end of the conversation.
- (laughs) You guys.
MN: We work at M2, the Promised Land, after all.
NH: Cut it out with this “Promised Land” nonsense.
YO: Well, you’re one of the chosen few who has wandered the desert and arrived at this “Promised Land,” Namiki-san. (laughs)
- That’s right. (laughs)
MN: Well now that the issue is fixed, that sound of the PCM hitting those beats without interruption just feels good. That rhythm section in the intro, you know? And if you switch it back to Arcade mode, it reverts to the original set up, so the interruption in the sound is restored.
NH: The Out Run fans really pay attention to this sort of thing.
- That reminds me. You mentioned it earlier, but environmental sounds are included this time, correct?
YO: Everyone expects this stuff from the games now, so we hadn’t mentioned it yet. But yes, Moving Cabinets and Environmental Sounds are in.
NH: The Deluxe and Standard kits are included, of course. And as a little bonus, we threw in the Upright arcade cabinets as well.
YO: However, note that not every behavior associated with the cabinets is reproduced this time around, so in a way, you could say this is all just extra stuff on the side.
- What do you mean?
YO: The basic movement for the Out Run arcade machine is that the part you sit on moves left and right, but the front part of the machine where the monitor is doesn’t really move. So, if we had tried to reproduce that on the 3DS, you wouldn’t see any motion on the 3DS screen itself.
NH: We tried a lot of things back at the office, and we decided that including cabinet motion would be pointless if no one could tell it was happening. So we enhanced the motion a little, to convey the general impression rather than stick to exact realism.
YO: It ended up as a bit of a mix with Space Harrier’s cabinet behavior.
NH: The background is the same background that’s in 3D Galaxy Force II, so it’s like playing the next game in that same arcade.
YO: We didn’t put a Chiba background in there this time, so please don’t bother looking for it.*
* 3D Galaxy Force II features a hidden 3rd background type that looks like countryside in Chiba Prefecture, southeast of Tokyo. You can access it by going to the “Background” settings and holding A with TYPE highlighted for about 5 seconds.
The Moving Cabinets and Environmental Sounds are part of this project’s appeal.
NH: We just barely got it in, so we didn’t have any time at all to go and take pictures.
- (laughs) OK, backing up a bit, can I ask you to talk in detail about the environmental sounds? Did anything interesting happen during the recording process?
MN: So regarding the machine sounds, we basically put the sound assets in like we always do, but for Out Run, I made a specific adjustment to them. You know the sound that the pedals on the Deluxe and Standard machines make when you press them, that “bak bak bak” sound? I really wanted to get that right.
NH: We’re getting into “What the heck are you talking about?” territory again. (laughs)
MN: Relative to the sound when you throw the steering wheel all the way to one side, or the “gacha” sound when you switch gears, I dressed up the sound for the pedal a bit more, accenting the “bak” sound and making it sound like perhaps it’s coming from beneath you. So it’s a little different than just integrating the recorded sound. This is the first time I’ve tried this for these physical games in the 3D Remaster Project. This is the first game that came equipped with a pedal, after all.
YO: That’s true. It’s the first car driving game, and 3D Super Hang-On didn’t have pedals, nor did we record environmental sounds for it.
MN: I have strong memories of playing Out Run and the feeling of pressing that pedal down. And while you can’t actually press a real pedal with your foot on 3DS, I thought it would be neat if when you play it with the Environmental Sounds turned on, it would feel just like you are sitting in the cabinet and hearing the sounds. So I put a lot of work into it. I think it’s at a point where if you have memories of playing the original arcade machine, by playing with the brake and accelerator sounds, those memories will come flooding back. Please give it a try.
YO: I’d like to add one more thing to the sound topic, and again this is one of those things that everyone has just come to expect, but you can adjust the volumes for the music, the game sound effects, and the environmental sound effects separately. Even though it’s all emulated internal sound. (laughs)
On top of that, there are 3 levels of engine volume you can switch between, separate from the volume settings. Many of the previous ports allocated more sound resources to the background music and sound effect playback, rather than the engine sounds. So we thought that there may be players who aren’t really used to the arcade version’s engine sounds if they had been playing the ported versions. Turning the engine sounds off completely makes it all feel a little empty, so we decided to put in 3 levels of volume. So for people who care about that sort of thing, feel free to adjust it per your preferences.
- (laughs) Such attention to detail!
Join us Tomorrow for Part 4!
Tomorrow we finish our blog series on 3D Out Run with a look at some of the music and the creation of new tracks. We hope you enjoyed this update and are excited for the release of 3D Out Run on March 12th!
Friday Mar 06, 2015
We’re back with part 2 of our interview with developer M2 and SEGA of Japan talking about the SEGA 3D Classics. In this section of the interview we look at a few of the new options available in 3D Out Run. Yosuke Okunari (SEGA of Japan) and Naoki Horii (President of M2) aren’t satisfied in just bringing out the best version of Out Run ever, they want to add in a few extras to make it even better. But new options aren’t always so easy to implement, so read on and see how it all came together. Enjoy!
A New Machine That’s Speeder Then The Original With Constant Gear-Gacha!
Yosuke Okunari (below YO): Alright, let’s talk about the “Grantanoff” — the new features, starting with the new songs and then the new car. So for the new song, I’m going to bring Namiki-san in to talk about that, and for the new car, we added an American-style car. And that’s not all. When you think Out Run, you think of a candy apple red sports car, so we’ve gone and mixed things up with a not-candy apple red sports car.
Before you start the game, on the attract screen, you can now choose your car on the lower touch screen. The car types are linked to a particular ability, each with an improved aspect over the original car. One has better handling, so it doesn’t drift as hard as the original. The next one has improved fenders so it doesn’t get thrown aside when it runs into other cars. And then there’s the one with the improved engine. It has a higher top speed. And then last but not least, one with improved tires. This improvement allows you to run off the road and not lose speed.
*Check out the 3D After Burner II interview for details about “Grantanoff.”
Naoki Horii (below NH): You’ve probably got it figured out already, but there were a lot of things that had to happen to get each of these power-ups added. For example, raising the top speed with the engine—when you are running at the frame rate of the original Out Run, and you go over the speed of 293 km/h, the amount your car moves around and the collision detection of the objects starts to not match up, and you can clip through things. It’s just too fast (and so the collision isn’t detected in time).
So to get the engine upgrade to work, we had to go in and rework the internal processing quite a bit. Now, your hit collision extends out further in front of your car when you have a high top speed.
- This sounds similar to the glitches that happened when you added the Spin Dash to 3D Sonic The Hedgehog.
NH: That’s right. It’s something we wouldn’t have known about had we not tried to make 3D Out Run.
YO: If you go with the improved engine, your max speed will go to 352 km/h.
- That is quite a power-up.
NH: Oh, it certainly is.
YO: When you speed up the car, the game proceeds quicker as well. As a result, it actually makes handling more difficult.
- I see.
YO: Your car will change color or design depending on which parts you choose. This is because I said that I initially said I wanted to add more cars. M2 told me, “With this schedule? Not going to happen.”
YO: You know, because in Out Run 2 you had a lot of car options. But that said, there wasn’t really much time to design new cars, and since this is an emulation-based game, we can’t really add in a lot of new designs anyway.* There are limitations on data volume and palette, as well, but I pleaded with them to add in at least one. M2 felt that just a single car would be a bit lonely, so they volunteered to change its capabilities.
* In order to add a single car, you need to add in new sprite angles for the left and right side, as well as animations and patterns for crashes.
NH: We have some young designers on staff, and when we first got started with the additional content, they were all like, “Are you sure you don’t want drifting or anything like that?”
- That’s the striking difference between Out Run and Out Run 2. That and the fact they were different generations of games.
YO: Well, we weren’t looking to change the gameplay for this first-generation Out Run, but we still wanted something that brought a new flavor to the game. So this is what we have.
- Two body types, and some different colors.
YO: When you use the upgraded parts, the timing for avoiding other cars changes. If you powered up everything, it would probably get pretty easy. But if you don’t equip every part, and say just go with the engine, you will notice you fishtail all over the place, and it’s pretty fun. Each part makes the game a little different, and I hope everyone finds the fun in that.
- Well this sounds like it’ll be fun. Not only does the car behavior change, but the difficulty changes as well.
YO: There is separate save data for “Normal” and “Tuned,” as well. You’ll get more parts every time you cross the goal line, so the more you clear the game, the easier it gets (laughs). So your first goal might be the hardest one. For those who think it’s too hard, you can lower the difficulty and remove the other cars from the road. Or save halfway through. In any case, just try to get through to the finish line, collect all the parts, and have fun trying them all.
For the tires you get at the very end, it basically puts you into a state where you’re basically always using the gear gacha trick. Scitron* put out a strategy video long time ago about the SEGA “physical experience” games, which included Out Run. They played through the full game using the gear gacha technique, pretty much off the road the whole time. We made it so you can try that yourself without having to use the gear gacha technique, because it’s an automatic gear gacha machine. But of course there’s obstacles like rocks and whatnot, so you have to have an understanding of what lies outside the course. If you get into it, it becomes an entirely different game. (laughs)
* Scitron is a Japanese multimedia company that was known in the 80s for their video game soundtrack publications.
- It’s its own kind of fun. The gear gacha technique is really hectic, and not having to do it is easier on your hardware.
YO: If you’re the type who actually wants to do the gear gacha yourself, you can go to the Input Settings and set the gear type to “Hold.” This will make it so the gear is set to LO when the button is held, and HI when it’s released. Or if you set it to “Switch,” repeatedly pressing the button will switch between LO and HI gear, so try and see which one you like. And I should note that there are four parts that you can get, and when you get to the ending the 5th time, one additional thing will be unlocked. That’s the “Arcade” Mode. I mentioned this earlier, but this mode lets you play a faithful reproduction of the original running at 30 FPS.
NH: Actually, that’s not all. Most of the bugs we fixed for this port that were in the arcade version come back.
- Reverting to its ancestral form, I suppose.
YO: For example, there’s actually a bug in the original arcade version and the previous ports—the displayed times are wrong. This time around, the way Arcade Mode records sectional times is the same as the original, while the Special version has this bug fixed. So even if you race the exact same way in the two modes, your times will differ slightly.
NH: Specifically, the time counter and the lap time counter use different calculations. The counter on screen counts 60 frames as one second, while the lap time counts 64 frames as one second, so there’s a 4-frame difference.
YO: The fun in Out Run is all about running through these courses over and over, so there are a lot of elements you can enjoy—whether that’s the differences between the Japanese and Overseas versions, or the spec differences between the Normal and Tuned cars, or even the internal differences between the Special and Arcade versions. There’s a lot of gameplay to be had here. You times are recorded at every checkpoint, so you can even have fun doing speed runs.
By the way, when we were talking about the “Grantanoff” for this game, there was an idea that was similar to Super Hang-On’s World Mode where you could run all 15 courses one after another. We actually went as far to build it out, but killed it in the end.
After putting it in, we found out it was actually really boring. It made me realize how crucial the forks in the road were to Out Run’s game rhythm.
NH: The road forks are what make Out Run a really tight game.
YO: But since we went through the trouble of making it, there was also a discussion of just putting it in anyway. But the director, Matsuoka-san, was very strongly against it.
NH: I wanted to include it because we had put quite a lot of time into it, but even if we left the forks in there, you drive through the same locations in the end no matter which way you go, which seems pointless. So we just ended up cutting it.
YO: We ultimately couldn’t make it more interesting than the normal game. The fun in Out Run is all about starting from the beginning each time and driving through the different branches. We really didn’t have a choice.
NH: We talked about how nice it would be to create a course editor, but then what would we do about the finish lines?
- If you edit them, then you would have been able to connect the courses in ways they’ve never been connected before.
YO: It’s an issue of whether the end result is fun enough to justify the work involved. We also want to make sure it doesn’t undermine what makes Out Run fun. Those who have tried 3D Super Hang-On’s World Tour mode might have been looking forward to it, but it just didn’t make it this time. If it’s something you wanted to try, I’m sorry!
- There were some people who thought there would be a mode where you could play all 15 courses. Or thought there’d be an editor that allowed you to tweak the car graphics.
YO: We actually looked into that a bit. But even though it’s an old game, there’s quite a few patterns you’d have to create!
NH: And if you don’t understand how palettes work, you can’t make anything anyway.
YO: We even discussed taking polygon based cars and allowing people to edit the textures, and then converting those into pixel versions. (laughs)
NH: The moving tires are animated through the palette, so it would get really complicated. (laughs)
- Oh, wow, you guys really put some thought into it.
YO: The point is: Is it interesting as new content? How does it extend the game’s fun? For Out Run, in the end we settled on making it so you could drive various types of cars.
NH: I think you’ll find it feels really nice if you give it a play.
YO: If you were one of those people played it back in the day, you’ll be able to get a taste of what made old driving games fun.
NH: It’s a different kind of fun from games created with polygons.
- A fun not found in modern racing games
Stay Tuned – The Interview Continues on Monday
Thanks for staying to check out part 2 of our interview with developer M2 and Sega of Japan for our SEGA 3D Classics. Starting Monday we dive into the interview with Manabu Namiki and focus on the sound and music design.
Thursday Mar 05, 2015
3D Out Run arrives on Nintendo 3DS on March 12! While translating this month’s interview from GameWatch & Impress, we realized it was incredibly long. Much longer than our normal blogs are, which are already pretty lengthy. To help break everything up into a more digestible format, we’re posting the interview across four updates leading up to the release next week. The first two parts cover the game with Yosuke Okunari (SEGA of Japan) and Naoki Horii (President of M2). The second two parts features Manabu Namiki and focuses on the sound and music design.
If you love these interviews, post and let us know! We really feel passionate about being able to deliver such an in depth technical look into how these games are created. Thanks for reading, enjoy part 1 …
A Word About The Original Arcade Version
The racing game Out Run began operating in 1986 as the forth entry in SEGA’s series of “physical experience” games. The gameplay follows a man and woman as they throw their car canopy back and race across the countryside, crossing checkpoints within the given time limits. Players need to avoid running into other cars and off-course obstacles or else be violently thrown from their vehicle. The pyramid-like course structure resulted in 16 possible routes.
The arcade cabinet came in Deluxe, Standard, Cockpit, and Upright versions, with an accelerator and brake at your feet, and shifter with HI/LO positions on the left side of the seat (the Upright kit’s is on the right). The Deluxe and Standard cabinets moved with your steering, and when you ran off course or crashed.
One of the ground-breaking features of the game at the time of its release was the ability to choose from three radio songs before you started playing: MAGICAL SOUND SHOWER, SPLASH WAVE, and PASSING BREEZE.
There was also a time when players of Out Run were particularly focused on speed runs of the game, and a bug was discovered where you could maintain speed even when running off course by rapidly changing the gearshift, which came to be known as gear gacha. This play style led to many of the arcade cabinets seeing a shorter-than-expected lifespan, due to wear and tear on the gear shifter.
The arcade board itself was an evolution of Space Harrier’s, and was dubbed the Out Run Board. It used two MC68000 processors and a Z80 for sound control, and was capable of displaying 128 sprites at one time. The sound itself was done with a YM2151 and a SEGA proprietary PCM, which were not only used for sound effects, but also for the rhythm parts for the background music.
Setting A New Standard For Ports
- It’s finally Out Run’s turn for the 3D Remaster Project. Shall we start?
Yosuke Okunari (below YO): It’s the third game in the 3D Remaster Project’s second batch, and the 11th game overall. Honestly, I didn’t think we’d be able to continue this far. But it is time to release what some consider to be the climax of the series, 3D Out Run. I want to thank you and everyone else for supporting us.
YO: Actually, I was thinking this game would come out sometime in the summer of 2014 (the title released in the spring of 2014 in Japan). Last year’s series finished up in the summer, after all. I’m glad we were able to keep on track.
NH: Is this a compliment? Or are you saying you didn’t think we could do it?
YO: Well, we got some help from various groups, and as a result you can all take a drive during Golden Week*. I’ve always timed arcade game releases to coincide with long break periods, so personally I think it really worked out.
* Golden Week is a period at the beginning of May in Japan where three national holidays line up and the public takes advantage of this to take up to a week and a half off.
- I think Out Run is a title everyone’s been waiting for.
YO: You know, people always ask why we didn’t put the really famous games from SEGA’s physical experience lineup, like Out Run and After Burner, at the front of the series rather than the end.
And thanks to you all, we have received very positive feedback on 3D Space Harrier. And with this second batch, we started by releasing games that were of particular interest to the Japanese users. The reason we didn’t do After Burner II and Out Run in the first batch is that these are games that M2 hadn’t worked on in the past, and would be much more difficult to develop, as well as the fact there’s a lot of other “paperwork,” so to speak, that these particular titles required prior to being released.
For Out Run especially, there’s a number of reasons we cannot simply release the original arcade version as-is, and thus it’s previously been considered “unportable.” But we’ve heard so many people tell us, “Release Out Run!” And of course, it’s a title we want to release as well. I mean, if you are going to have Space Harrier, Super Hang-On, and Galaxy Force II, it’d just be strange if we didn’t also have After Burner II and Out Run.
NH: Well, won’t it be strange if we don’t have Thunder Blade!?
YO: You really just don’t give up on that. Would it really be that strange if we don’t?
NH: Wouldn’t it? I mean, the game really does stand out.
YO: It only stands out because you keep bringing it up in these interviews.
- Well, I’d like to see you guys put out Thunder Blade.
YO: Anyway… We knew that if we were going to do a second batch, we knew that we’d need to see if these two games were going to be possible. So with that decided, we started with After Burner II and went through the things we needed to confirm one by one. Ultimately we were able to bring out 3D After Burner II in a form meeting everyone’s expectations, more or less.
Next was Out Run. 3D Out Run was basically being done in parallel with After Burner II, with the same core staff doing the development. And let me just preemptively answer the question that’s burning in the throats of all the hardcore fans reading this interview: the car design is not the same as the original.
Since we knew that we couldn’t do a 100% reproduction of the original, we had to ask ourselves if we should even bother doing the port. This was the first hurdle we had to clear. Can we really retain the essence of Out Run? What are the things we can do?
We took a hard look at the porting history of this title such as the Sega Saturn version, the Dreamcast version, and the Xbox version, and decided to aim once again to not only port this game again, but set a new standard by retaining the good stuff—everything that was within our ability to do so.
I said this back when we started the SEGA AGES 2500 series (Japan-only), but we’ve continued to deliver games that capture the experience and feeling of playing the games back when they were originally released, resurrecting these famous SEGA titles for the current generation. We’ve done that by doing faithful ports, or with new ideas such as moving arcade cabinet modes and environmental sounds recorded off the cabinets themselves.
Everything we are now capable of, all the ideas that we’ve come up with to get you as close as possible to that original arcade experience, all the ways we can extend the fun, all the results of our trial and error… We’ve brought it all to 3D Out Run.
- There was some doubt when the news came out about the fact that the player’s car would be different from the original. But it seems like there was a bit of a situation surrounding that. Personally, as long as it’s not something that changes the gameplay itself from the original, I don’t think some amount of change is a big problem. But I wonder how our readers feel about it.
YO: If it were a budget or schedule constraint, then there might have been something we could have done, but that wasn’t it. So we appreciate everyone’s understanding for 3D After Burner II and 3D Out Run.
Run everything we can at 60 frames per second! A better-than-the-original Out Run.
- So tell us a bit about any technical hardships you guys had this time with the porting work.
YO: If you’re someone who’s been reading all our interviews to-date, perhaps you’ve noticed that there seems to be less talk about our trials and tribulations with the porting work for the second batch of games.
YO: This is because about half of the talk during the first batch of interviews was about how M2 told us that a game wouldn’t run, but then they used their technical know-how to make adjustments to the program optimization and data organization and make something that basically runs just like the original, pushing the 3DS to its limits.
First Horii-san said Space Harrier wouldn’t work, and then he said Galaxy Force II most certainly wouldn’t work. But in the end they were able to get them running, so for the second batch with After Burner II and Fantasy Zone, they were able to get things started relatively smoothly because of the breathing room we’d created with our previous achievements.
NH: Our hard work is paying dividends.
YO: That said, that hard work came back once again with Out Run. When was it that you showed me Out Run working for the first time?
NH: It was quite some time ago. Wasn’t it back in the spring of 2013?
YO: It’s worth noting that our second title, Super Hang-On, ran on the same arcade board as Out Run (commonly known as the “Out Run Board”, though it was the 2nd game on the system). So when the work on Super Hang-On was finished, M2 figured that with a little more effort, they could get Out Run working as well.
NH: Super Hang-On had an Out Run Board version as well, so we had a rough idea as to the work that would be involved.
YO: So with that, I had them show me the game running. But I immediately rejected it saying, “No. This isn’t going to work.” And the reason was because the port was running at 30 frames per second.
NH: Yes, but the arcade version rendered at 30 FPS as well.
- Oh, the original runs at 30 FPS, too.
YO: Out Run is the only game from that era of SEGA arcade “physical experience” games that ran at 30 FPS. All the other ones ran at 60 FPS. Out Run used a new arcade board that was a souped up version of Space Harrier’s Harrier Board, but I think because the development team put an extreme amount of work into the visual aspects of the title, the game was released running at 30 FPS. I don’t think anyone complained at the time, and it never bothered me personally until the Sega Saturn version was released.
- The Sega Saturn version! Wow, that was a really amazing port, wasn’t it?
YO: When you played the Sega Saturn version normally, it would run just like the arcade version at 30 FPS, but by putting in a cheat code, you could run the game at 60 FPS. It was a true testament to Rutubo Games, the developers, and I bet it caused those who played in this mode to “see the light,” as it were. I was actually in charge of the marketing for that game back then, and I was really impressed with Rutubo’s work the first time I saw it.
So when M2 first showed told me the game and said, “We got Out Run working,” I thought back to that and said, “This is going to have to run at 60 FPS.”
NH: Even though rendering at 30 FPS was being faithful to the original, there was a precedent for 60 FPS.
YO: The reasoning was that since the Saturn version ran at 60 FPS, the fans are undoubtedly going to want to see it running at 60 FPS. And since M2 is the sort of company that gets fixated on things like running at 60 FPS, it’s really a must-have.
NH: Well, you know… You aren’t wrong, but in order to get it rendering at 60 FPS, you need to get it running at around twice the speed of the arcade version.
- It reminds me of when we were talking about the Neo Classic version for 3D Galaxy Force II (that game’s Special Mode).
YO: Oh, yeah. It’s exactly like that. (laughs)
NH: Even if something’s impossibly difficult, if we keep whispering in the dev team’s ear, somehow it ends up happening.
YO: Though in that situation, we were talking about putting in graphics with twice the resolution of the original, all while the memory usage was already redlining.
- What you’re saying is that for 3D Galaxy Force II, it was a battle with memory management, but for 3D Out Run it’s a battle with using the machine power efficiently.
YO: That’s back when we were working on 3D Galaxy Force II and M2 was telling me that it was impossible. (laughs)
- So nothing ever changes (laughs). M2 just simply tells you it’s not going to happen.
YO: …Well, that’s what they said, but later when we finally got around to doing the second batch, we talked about how we were going to do Out Run this time around, but M2 would have to bring their best and get it running at 60 FPS. They never promised that they could, but we just kind of ignored that and gave it the green-light anyway.
- You once again “cut through the hemming and hawing,” as you put it? (laughs) Well, I guess there was a precedent for it working out in the end.
NH: Yes, and we ended up agreeing to it…
YO: The development started, and the first version that M2 uploaded didn’t have anything running at 60 FPS. Though, to be exact, there was a switch that simply read, “Smooth.” (laughs)
- (laughs) “Smooth Mode” was what they called the cheat in the Sega Saturn version, wasn’t it?
YO: I said to the director, Matsuoka-san, “The fact that you have this switch here… This means you’re going to get it running at 60 FPS, right?” And he said, “Well, we’ll do our best, but I’m not in a position to say that we can actually do it.”
NH: That’s why I like Matsuoka. “I’ll do my best.” In my case, I just say, “Yeah, I guess we have to do it, don’t we?” And it just ends in hardship for everyone.
YO: So then some time went by and the alpha version arrived. When you turned on this Smooth Switch, everything rendered quicker. I got all excited, saying “Wait, what!? It’s running at 60 FPS! Matsuoka-san, you did it! All you had to do was put your mind to it!” But Matsuoka-san said, “No, look closer.” It turns out only the road was being drawn at 60 FPS, and all the other objects like the billboards and other cars were still running at 30 FPS.
NH: We were able to get everything running at 60 FPS by addressing each spot one by one.
- I see.
YO: So then some time passed and the in-game started to run in 60 FPS, starting with the other cars, then the billboards, and so on. Director Matsuoka was telling me, “We are gradually putting what we can into 60 FPS, one thing at a time.”
NH: And it’s not just a split between background and foreground objects. There are more detailed categories than just those. So every time we put something new into 60 FPS, we’d send the ROM around internally and ask, “Can you tell what’s different?” And a discerning colleague would spot the new area. That was our “60 FPS Evaluation Committee,” as it were.
And by repeating this process, we were able to get the ending and the startup scenes up to 60 FPS as well. The Saturn version left those portions at 30 FPS. Though I’m not sure there’s a point to running those scenes at 60 FPS!
NH: We were on a mission to run every part of the game at 60 FPS. However, we eventually started running out of processing power, so we ultimately had to go back to the way the Saturn version was and run the ending at 30 FPS. I guess there are reasons why Rutubo did things the way they did. (laughs)
YO: In any case, we had a talk and decided that we’d just keep working on upgrading individual parts, and if we run out of time that’s the best we could do, and that’s fine. Once we had the objects running at 60 FPS, we went and took this “Special” mode that we created and just made it the default, in the same way we did with 3D Galaxy Force II. We want the user to experience Out Run in all its glory right out of the box, and the best way to do that is at 60 frames per second.
NH: Though making that the default made life a lot harder for us.
YO: Taking our Special content and making that the default was sometime just before beta, wasn’t it?
NH: Yes, it was quite recent.
YO: When we showed Nintendo what we were working on, it was still in a state where the 30 FPS and 60 FPS bits were mixed half and half. Later we had something that was mostly running at 60, but there were still bits like the crash scenes that were still at 30. There were a number of 30 FPS scenes still in there, actually…
But when you get it to that point, you start thinking, “Isn’t this good enough?” But in the final stretch from beta up to the final version, more and more bits and pieces of 60 FPS kept creeping in. And before I knew it, everything was running at 60 FPS. Toward the end, I couldn’t even tell what was being changed in the last few updates.
- Speaking from a render processing standpoint, you guys saved a lot of machine power in 3D Galaxy Force II because you made the upfront decision to use streaming for the music, right? But for 3D Out Run, you’re emulating the music as well. Did you ever consider changing your initial plans to emulate everything
NH: Not really. We figured that we got things to work with the Y-Board, and it didn’t really seem right to stream the music to achieve double the rendering on the Out Run Board.
YO: If you want to reproduce the music through streaming, you end up with a much larger data size. Most users get by with using the SD Card that their 3DS comes with, which would be a 2GB card for normal 3DS and 4GB for the XL. Since we are releasing a lot of games in this series, we want the users to be able to line them all up on their 3DS at one time, you know? So we want each title to be as small as possible. M2 is especially keen on this. I asked them if they were really okay with no streaming, and they were very obstinate about wanting to do it with emulation.
NH: We didn’t know if we could get everything running at 60 FPS, but we knew we wanted to do the sound via emulation. That never changed.
YO: We had the intention of doing everything through emulation from the get-go, but then I had this fixation on getting everything running at 60 FPS, so I was raising the bar even further. (laughs) We support widescreen this time as well, like it’s no big deal. But that means things not displayed in the original need to be rendered on screen, and this requires more rendering power. For 3D Galaxy Force II, the original version always displayed wide so it was doable, but for After Burner II and Out Run, if you just widen the display area it causes empty spots where sprites aren’t being rendered, so you have to fill that in. That caused a bit of trouble on our part, didn’t it?
NH: Yes, that’s right. And you can see things you weren’t supposed to see.
YO: For After Burner II’s take-off and landing scenes, the aircraft carrier takes up the entire screen in 4:3, but when you display it in 16:9 it looks strange if you don’t show the ocean on the sides. And when you land on the carrier and come to a stop, the movement of the water has to stop, but in the original 4:3 the water keeps flowing off screen. So you have to make efforts to stop that, too. Basically you have to put work into fixing things that you never noticed in the original.
The original ran at 4:3, so by displaying in widescreen, portions that were not previously rendered are now visible, which requires data to be displayed there as well as increasing the area that needs to be drawn, which in turn increases processing requirements.
- There’s additional work that occurs because you have to clean up stuff that was not visible in the original because it was outside the screen frame.
YO: Like if you were watching a movie, and you saw something off the set, it sort of kills the magic.
- You have to hide backdrops and mic booms and all that off-camera.
NH: Hide all that piano wire for the fight sequences!
YO: Throughout the entire development process with Out Run, the graphics guys were pursuing any means possible to get rid of any differences with the original, while the programmers we focused on doing whatever possible to increase speed. Running things at 60 FPS of course creates bugs and glitches as well, so those also had to be addressed. In that sense, this was the most difficult project out of the second batch of ports.
NH: Upgrading every single little thing so it runs at 60 FPS took the most time. If you could just tweak the clock of the entire system and turn everything up to run at 60 FPS, well, that would be easy. But you can’t do that with this.
- I have one thing that’s been bugging me I’d like to ask about. To get a game that originally ran at 30 FPS to run at 60 FPS, it’s double the number of screens you have to draw, so you have to draw two frames for every one frame the original drew. How are you synthesizing these new additional frames? You’re not just drawing the same frame again, right?
YO: We didn’t have the Saturn source code available to us, so we weren’t able to thoroughly investigate how Rutubo went about handling it, but the Saturn version’s 60 Frame Mode had this aspect where everything ran really smoothly, but it also lost its sense of speed. 3D Out Run does not suffer from that.
NH: The game itself is running at the same speed as the original, so once the game finishes drawing a frame, the next image—the image displayed 30 frames later—is also finished drawing. At 60 FPS, we are basically calculating where the background and objects will be placed between the previous frame and next frame, and adding that additional frame in between.
- So it’s the same technique that TVs employ for screen smoothing.
NH: This is what I’ve been talking about, getting every single little thing to render at 60 FPS. The Saturn version probably used the same idea. Since the speed you move at is known, you can use that to calculate that in-between frame.
- Oh, I see. So adding on to that, the scrolling is sync’d with the car’s movements, so if for example the car slows down, couldn’t it break the 3D? For example, if you got a game over during a fork in the road, it’d just freeze the screen like that, right?
YO: People who don’t read these interviews might just drive through those parts and think nothing of it. That certainly was the case with me. But for those out there who are reading these interviews, I want you to know that M2 put a lot of work into the forked road sections to make them so they look natural in 3D. I’m sure they’d be happy if you remembered them when you are taking those turns. (laughs)
NH: Just as Okunari-san is saying, obviously we have to make it look 3D. I feel like asking the people out there reading the interview to think that it’s really amazing is a bit futile, because it’s so obvious that it needs to be there. (all laugh)
- If you didn’t take a still screenshot of it, I don’t think I would have noticed it either. This isn’t the sort of thing you’d notice if you hadn’t been taking screenshots back in the day when everything was interlaced. When you take games that use line buffers and bring that onto games that buffer the whole frame, you run into a lot of tough issues. Though this isn’t something that matters much to the average player.
YO: I’m sure people who know what we’re talking about are grinning right now. (laughs) The kind of people who watch the transition between scrolling left and scrolling right in Fantasy Zone with one eye closed.
What we did in Out Run was built on what we did on After Burner, and that was built on what was done on Galaxy Force II, Super Hang-On, and Space Harrier. The technology we’ve built up over past projects is what makes the next project possible.
- Most people, including myself, would think that once you got Galaxy Force II working, it would be trivial to get any of the other “physical experience” titles working on the 3DS.
NH: Well, you wouldn’t be wrong. Of course, there are certain exceptions to that, like adding 3D and whatnot.
- Not to mention things like the System-24’s rather strange architecture.
But Wait, There’s More (and more, and more)
This concludes the first part of our translated interview from Game Watch & Impress. Tomorrow we’ll close our part two with a look at the extra features and updates in 3D Out Run. On Monday, we’ll kick off our translated interview with Manabu Namiki on the game audio. Thanks for reading!
Tuesday Feb 17, 2015
Are you having trouble with 3D Fantasy Zone? Are you trying to enter our contest, or are just having trouble getting through the game? We’ve got you covered! We pulled together a few quick tips and tricks that well help you out, as a few secrets you might not have known about!
Hidden Rapid Shot Speed
One of the best features of 3D Fantasy Zone is the Rapid Shot option for your primary and secondary weapons. No more button mashing, no more hand cramps, defeat enemies and bosses with ease! But wait, there’s more …
By default, you can select two different speeds of Rapid Shot, but there’s a hidden third speed that you may not know about. To unlock, press and hold down the “A” button while on the fastest shot speed, then wait for 5 seconds while continuing to hold “A”, and pow – three speeds of auto fire!
Earn One Million Coins and Upgrade!
If you are still having trouble reaching the one million coins in our SEGA Classic Contest, then this is the section for you. Earning one million coins not only adds a second entry into our contest, it also unlocks a new feature – extended usage of weapon upgrades. This means more Wide Beam, Laser Beam, or 7 Way Shot while playing in any level in the game!
1. Take only $6000 into the round (or less if you prefer), reduce your Number of Lives to 1, and activate Base Markers in the options.
New Unlocks at Two Million and Three Million Coins
While the extended weapon time is nice at one million coins, the upgrades at two million and three million are even better. At two million coins you’ll unlock ‘Gold Rush’, which will give you double money for each enemy or base destroyed. This makes it much easier to reach one of the all new hidden bosses in the game, but we’ll get to that in another post …
At three million coins you’ll unlock the Unlimited Weapon Time upgrade. Now you’ll never run out of your primary weapon and can use 7 way shot forever. This can make the game a little easy, but it can also increase your chances of beating the last level and unlocking Upa-Upa mode!
Have a Strategy? Share it!
We hope these quick tips help you get through the game and see all the features within 3D Fantasy Zone! If you have a strategy or special tip that you’d like to highlight, let us know in the comments below.
Thursday Feb 12, 2015
3D Fantasy Zone: Opa-Opa Bros is available today on the Nintendo 3DS eShop!
3D Fantasy Zone: Opa-Opa Bros. is the popular side-scrolling shooter, first released for the SEGA System-16 board in 1986, in which players control a sentient spaceship named Opa-Opa to fight bizarre invader enemies. The re-mastered version combines stereoscopic 3D visuals with a host of additional features to deliver cutting edge gameplay with a classic feel. 3D Fantasy Zone: Opa-Opa Bros. also introduces a new feature called the “coin stock” system that allows players to accumulate coins for use across play sessions and to unlock in-game abilities. Furthermore, the game features an unlockable mode in which players are able to play as Upa-Upa, the little brother of Opa-Opa, upon completion of the game.
Read the Interview!
We’ve also released an incredibly in depth interview detailing the creation of the game by developer M2. You can find it in two parts here:
Enter the Contest!
We’re also running a special contest with a chance to win a classic SEGA hoodie for performing a few challenges in game. Play the game, beat a few challenges, take some photos, submit them online, and you could be one of our 10 winners in this month’s contest.
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