Monday Apr 25, 2016
With the SEGA 3D Classics Collection now released into North America, we wanted to provide the fans with what has become a long standing tradition: A translation of Game Watch Impress’s interviews of SEGA and M2, which outline some of the ins and outs of porting these titles to Nintendo 3DS, and their lasting legacy as true arcade classics that defined not just a generation of gamers, but the echos of which can be felt in the works of modern-age developers and programmers. The interviews as as lengthly as they are insightful so we’ll be releasing them in slightly abridged and arranged installments, the first of which is below. For the originals, click here to view Part 1 and Part 2.
But while there’s plenty of information here to delve over, you will notice the name Akira Saito in the interviews from time to time. Unfortunately, Mr. Saito died earlier this year after a battle with cancer at the young age of 43. With his incredible prowess in audio programming and his genius and inquisitive devotion to getting decades-old hardware precisely emulated on modern-day handhelds, all of the 3D Classics are truly elevated thanks to his efforts. As a company, we are both forever grateful to his amazing contributions to the project, and immensely saddened by his death. So our request to you is this: Even if it’s for just a moment, take a second while playing the 3D Classics and remember the hard work that Mr. Saito and all his colleagues at M2 contribute to the game. It would mean a lot to him.
With that, here are the localized versions of the interviews:
What’s with this FM Sound Unit toggle button for the SEGA Mark III Version of ‘Fantasy Zone’ !?
A FM Sound Unit option can be seen for the Mark III ‘Fantasy Zone’, even though FM shouldn’t be supported….
Yosuke Okunari (Below YO): Well, I’m sure Horii-san is bursting to talk about it, so let’s just get started about the biggest bonus feature for Fantasy Zone, the FM Sound Unit!
– When I played this a little while ago, I was surprised that there was a ‘FM Sound Unit’ option for the Mark III version of Fantasy Zone… This is hasn’t been a thing up until now, right?
YO: You are correct! The Mark III version of Fantasy Zone was released in 1986, but the FM Sound Unit wasn’t released until the fall of 1987. So, game titles that were released before the FM Sound Unit shouldn’t support it. The actual Mark III version of Fantasy Zone doesn’t, naturally.
….However, for the SEGA 3D Classics Collection, this Mark III version of Fantasy Zone does.
– That sentence makes me think “What in the world are these people talking about?” I suppose that’s always the case. (laughs)
Naoki Horii (Below NH): We have a story behind this as well. When we decided to put the MK3 version of Fantasy Zone in as a bonus, there was this one guy at the office who said, “Only adding stereoscopic 3D? Pfft, boring!” Seriously, that’s what I deal with here! As I’ve said before, even just that takes a ton of time, but then they say that’s boring… You gotta wonder what the guys are thinking! (laughs)
The FM synthesis version of the Fantasy Zone music was actually used in a different game called Fantasy Zone: The Maze*. So, we lightly discussed with (Manabu) Namiki, who is in charge of the sound, if we could bring the music from that. But Namiki said “Wait just a minute!”
He interjected by saying “The music for Fantasy Zone and Fantasy Zone: The Maze has a different tempo, and even if we brought it over, there’s no way we could turn that into a palatable dish for people.” He also mentioned the songs for the boss battles didn’t exist as well.
*Fantasy Zone: The Maze is a dot-eating genre game released at the end of 1987. It’s known as Opa-Opa in Japan.
….But for some reason, we ended up thinking about how nice it would be to have a FM Sound version. I’m not exactly sure how we ended up there. (laughs)
NH: One of the people working with Namiki on the sound was (Tatsuhiko) Kasuga. He also DJs chip-tune music under the name ‘Tappy’, so people may know him from that.
YO: He’s a new weapon at M2.
NH: He is. One day, he was handed a textbook on the Z80* by Namiki who just told him “Read this. Read, and be enlightened.” (laughs) Once he did, he brought out the audio driver for Fantasy Zone II, and succeeded in replacing the data and playing sounds. Through that, he learned enough to supplement the songs that available from Fantasy Zone: The Maze… But Namiki said, “Those tunes won’t cut it!”
* Zilog Z80: A very prolific 8-bit processor that was very common in the late 70s and 80s.
So we switched out one song, but before we knew it, somehow all the songs were completed. Kasuga said, “We’re placing the notes within the range of the Mark III Fantasy Zone II audio driver, but there’s a lot of bugs typical of an early-age driver so we’ll fix the bugs and then program it into this one (Fantasy Zone). “ Within 2 or 3 months, most of the songs were finished.
YO: I would play the new ROM at the office when they cut us one, so when I saw this “FM Sound Unit” option on the Fantasy Zone menu, I actually wrote in a bug report that said, “This game doesn’t support the FM Sound Unit, so please remove this option.” But it never seemed to go away. (laughs)
NH: We continued working on it without telling anyone.
YO: Even Shimomura was like, “I don’t know nothing!” But after a while we started thinking, “It’s strange, no matter how many times we bring it up, they aren’t removing it… Surely this must mean…!?” (laughs)
NH: I’m glad you thought about it that way. (laughs)
YO: And just as we expected, you did it. Although it really did come down to the wire.
And thus, the FM Sound Unit option that was completed. The Master System (Mark III) did have a lot of titles that supported the FM Sound Unit in a very basic way, after all. All you had to do was add one command, and songs created for the PSG sound chip would play on the FM synth chip using preset sounds. There was a lot of software made like that back then.
But the original MK3 Fantasy Zone wasn’t made like that. We’re not just playing the PSG sound chip music in a FM sound chip directly, but we’re following the song’s chord progression and tempo while bringing it closer to the original Arcade version.
The original MK3 Fantasy Zone music is heavily remixed [from the arcade version]. I personally like the remix, but the melody line is really different. You can really feel the taste of the people in charge of the porting at the time. But if you use the FM Sound Unit, the music is close to the arcade version while the chord progression sounds like the MK3 remix. You could say that the song’s expression is closer to the arcade version.
NH: When you defeat the boss and collect the coins while having the FM Sound Unit on, it’s basically the arcade version. I you’ll be surprised when you try it.
The audio driver is speced to the MK3 version of Fantasy Zone, but we wanted the sound notes as close to the arcade’s as we could, so we use the FM Sound Unit.
When the FM Sound Unit was first released, there were a lot of people who said, “Out Run and Fantasy Zone II are going to support it!” “I’ll be able to enjoy legendary SEGA FM Synth at home!” Everyone was excited… At first. Once they actually heard it, most people were probably like, “Well it’s out. And it DOES sound better I guess. But… it wasn’t quite what I expected.”
For this Fantasy Zone, we aimed to make it as close as possible to what people back then were hoping for. I personally think it sounds better than we ever dreamed it to be.
– So it’s a realization of the dream from long ago.
NH: I believe we finally were able to meet those original expectations of, “It’ll be totally different! It’s going to be rad!”
The ‘FM Sound Unit’. The cost was 6,800 yen (which was about $50 US in 1987, or $105 in today’s dollars)
YO: Now that we’re adults, we realized that the FM Synth sound chip used in the arcades, and the FM Sound Unit chip for the Mark III available for 6,000 yen are totally different, in both their performance and price. No matter how great your programming or technical skill, you simply can’t make it make the same sounds. Though you don’t realize that until your older.
The arcade version of Fantasy Zone ran on the Sega System-16 arcade board. That board had a YM 2151 sound chip, also known as an OPM, which is a four-operator sound-chip. But the one used in the FM Sound Unit is an OPLL, a two-operator sound-chip. There’s no way to make them the same. The sound will get simpler.
NH: Just starting with the number of operators, the OPM has 8 sounds with four-operators, making for 32 sounds. On the other hand, the OPLL has nine-channels with two-operators, making for 18 sounds. Even from the depth of sound that you can make, the possibilities are completely different.
I heard back when I just got my start in the industry back in the 1990s, that at the time the OPM sound chips were sold in pairs, and the cost of goods just to build a single one was about 5,000 yen. The FM Sound Unit was 6,500 yen, so there’s no WAY they could have used an OPM!
Adult concepts like that… When I learned that, I realized that if an OPM chip was used for the FM Sound Unit, the cost would be so high I wouldn’t have been able to buy it back then.
YO: Another difference between the two is that the OPLL only plays sounds that have been preset onto it. It can’t create a complex sound.
I mean, I know all this now that I’m 44 years old. (laughs) But now, when I play this MK3 version of Fantasy Zone with the FM Sound Unit on, it really sounds like its playing arcade quality sound. I thought, “This OPLL master has done some really fine work,” but oh, he learned it all from a textbook. Okay… (laughs)
NH: Kasuga knew basic things about the OPLL, but he said it was his first time working with a Z80 (laughs). He was a new employee that joined M2 only about a month or two month ago, but I was surprised at seeing that Z80 textbook on his desk. I guess we just roll hardcore like that. (laughs)
– Transforming new employees to personnel to be feared.
YO: M2 is bear den, that’s for sure.
NH: Additionally, if you turn on the FM Sound Unit for Fantasy Zone and Fantasy Zone II, it slows down the processing. The FM sound takes time to process. It’s just like the real thing.
So now Kasuga is saying, “I’m beginning to understand the Z80. We can make the FM synth’s sound driver run much, much lighter.” (laughs)
– But I guess that’s a little after the fact, so it’s too late to see if in the Classics Collection, I suppose?
NH: Yes. But having that frame drop is really important too, you know. Play this MK3 version of Fantasy Zone with the FM Sound Unit on, and when you use the 7WAY shot, you’ll noticed that it slows down quite bit. When I saw that, I though, “Oh, well now it really feels like Fantasy Zone. Of course it runs a bit slow.” I want ever to get the same thing from it. It’s really, really authentic. Although I would like to see the lighter version as well.
– But this is hardly ‘Extra’ level here, gentlemen. I’m sure the readers are freaking out too. In a good way, of course.
NH: I believe you can hear the FM Sound Unit sound on the video that will be released along with this interview , but there are songs that won’t be included, like the boss music feels really ominous now. Give it a play and hear for yourself!
Newly Included Power Drift was a very difficult task with a history behind it!!
Next we would like to introduces Kagasei Shimomura, who has inherited the SEGA 3D Classics project from Okunari-san as the Lead Producer. A SEGA-veteran, he originally started the SEGA Archives project many years ago, but moved on to other projects in the mid-term. But he’s back and joins us now to talk about Power Drift!
Kagasei Shimomura (Below KS): What I always aim for is to create something that the fans can be happy about. At the same time, I want to make sure it would be something the production staff would have fun creating as well. If you create something fun, it’s going to be a good product, so I tried to prepare a playfield where our creators can work freely. Get the budget, prepare an environment into which to sell it. That’s my style. I don’t have this skill that Okunari has where he’s super-knowledgeable about each individual game.
NH: Well, you say that, but pretty much know all of these titles.
KS: Well, I’ve been part of this industry for a long time. I think it would be correct to say that Okunari just knows too much. (laughs)
KS: The way Okunari and I work are different. Even though Okunari has stepped back from the forefront, he’s still a project team member.
NH: We still get requests from him.
YO: If I was still part of the project, I would’ve most likely said Power Drift was impossible. When we developed the Galaxy Force II for the PS2, we aimed to release it around 2005. M2 told me, “Galaxy Force II? Hmm, it’ll probably take about 3 months?” so I was amazed, thinking “Wow, they can do Galaxy Force II in 3 months. That’s incredible!” But in reality, it took 2 years!
NH: Uwahhh! There’s reasons and excuses!
(Horii crumbles into a crying heap)
YO: At the time, I had to really apologize to Shimomura. We had to change the ‘SEGA AGES 2500’* series release order.
KS: Oh, yeah, we did change the order, huh? (laughs).
*SEGA AGES 2500 Series Vol. 30 ‘Galaxy Force II Special Extended Edition’, released 2007. At the interview for it, Okunari-san talks of how it took two years from announce to release, two years of development, which necessitated changing the release order.
The image is from 3D Galaxy Force II seen in the Classics Collection. M2 previously took 2 years to port this. Power Drift is also Y-Board game and was released after Galaxy Force II.
YO: I thought it would be a waste not to use what we learned through those hard two years. When we started the 3D Remaster Project for the 3DS, we had the knowledge from those two years so we added Space Harrier and Galaxy Force II to the lineup.
For the second wave for the 3D Remaster Project, we were able to add on After Burner and Out Run to the lineup because we gave ourselves enough time to get it done. We spoke about how we needed to try and get these two games out.
But, the Power Drift uses the same Y-Board hardware as Galaxy Force, which has three 68000 CPUs. When they started on Galaxy Force II to the 3DS, I asked “So, how’s it going? You’ve done this before, so it’s a snap, right?” They replied “N-No, actually… It’s not a snap at all, it won’t run. We’re going to have to pull the programming to pieces.” Turned out to be a pretty big deal.
So, naturally if we tried to do Power Drift, it’s going to take even more effort.
– Taking probably at least over a year, I’d guess.
(Horii-san sits back up)
NH: There would be no way we could release it on schedule.
YO: So when they told me that Power Drift would be the main game for this collection, I thought “Oh, so I guess it’s going to end up releasing like sometime late next year.” I went to Shimomura-san and said, “These guys are pulling a fast one on you!” (laughs)
NH: What!? He said that to you?
KS: I believed you though!
– Shimomura-san is the trusting type! Okunari-san is one being fooled here.
KS: M2 is the little engine that could!
NH: If Shimomura-san is the parent in charge how we are raised, Okunari-san was our grandparent. He would look over us and go easy on us, giving us compliments like, “Oh, you’d did a great job!” He’s very laid-back. Even though he gets scolds us sometimes. (laughs)
We received a comment from the main programmer, Mr. Akira Saito
We heard that you were working on Power Drift from a couple of years ago, which became a huge help in the ‘Archives 2’. Could you tell us any of the appealing points of this port and any stories that happened connected to it?
Saito: One day, President Horii handed over the New 3DS development materials and told me “Make Power Drifter work on this!” which began my porting work. Thinking that the New 3DS will be fast, I started up an emulation but seeing that it wouldn’t move at full frame, I remember being worried for the road ahead.
After that, I would find spare time and kept on re-writing the code and making it more efficient. I managed to make it work in normal speed on the normal 3DS even though there were some skipped frames, and when I showed it to the president he seemed surprised so internally I pumped my fist. In the end, I was able to make it go 60fps even if it wasn’t on the New 3DS. I’m very relieved now.
I remember being staggered at the largeness of the internal character data for Power Drift. Normally, there won’t be characters that are over 1,000 dots for a game with a screen size of 320×224.
To tell the truth, compared to the other games I’ve ported I haven’t played Power Drift as much, so I didn’t know the stories from back then or how the cabinet ran. So when I first started on it, I was worried I wouldn’t notice if there were any differences on how it ran compared to the original. However, I work at M2. The president managed to drag people knowledgeable on Power Drift and put them on the project. I was able to hear many things such as about the game play and tricks. Thank you!
Power Drift: Achieving sound emulation that was not possible for the ‘3D Galaxy Force II’!!
– During the 3D Thunder Blade interview, Horii-san said that, “If we sell a crap ton of copies [of Thunder Blade], then I’ll go and make Power Drift by myself. “ (laughs).
YO: If we went by that logic, we wouldn’t have been able to create it. (laughs)
YO: If my memories serves me correctly, I was having a conversation with Horii-san back during the porting of Galaxy Force II for the SEGA 3D Remaster Project. It was around when started to think that, “If we try hard enough, we can move Y-Board titles on the 3DS too!” And M2 said, “The next Y-Board title should be Power Drift.”
But at the time, even though we talked about getting a ROM ready for analysis, we didn’t actually end up doing it. SEGA’s warehouse had a ROM for Power Drift and one for the Power Drift twin-cab*. We were thinking that we might be able to make it happen if we just put the time into analyzing it. is what we were thinking, but in reality we didn’t have time, so nothing became of it.
*Power Drift Twin Cabinet: A version able to play network multiplayer. There are differences from the normal version such as being unable to select a course.
– I see. But in reality, M2 was working on it under the radar.
NH: That we were. From the time the 3DS was released, Saito was thinking, “I want to get Power Drift working on 3DS!” But I didn’t see that being possible. Who knew that in the end, we’d get the sound working properly as well?
YO: Yes, this time the sound is a big deal. Unlike the original version of 3D Galaxy Force II, Power Drift has emulated sound as well. When you emulate, it makes it feel much more like the Arcade Game that it due to the sounds playing at the same time. It’s really exciting.
When we did 3D Galaxy Force II, we couldn’t squeeze enough power out of the emulator. If we had emulated the sound, there was a possibility that it wouldn’t run a 60FPS. So we reverted to streaming sound*. For Power Drift, we first started working on it thinking we would stream the sound as well.
* Streaming sound: Streaming sound is when they record the game sounds to audio files and play them back. The main difference between emulating sounds is that the way the sounds interact with each other in real-time differs from the real machine, the fact that audio data makes the game size much larger, and the fact that it’s easier on the CPU since all you need to do is play it.
NH: For the 3D Galaxy Force II, our initial impression was that even if we switched to streaming, we wouldn’t be able to get the game to run on 3DS. But as it turns out, we did get it to work.
So with that background, when we were talking about Power Drift with Shimomura-san, our first take on it was to build it like Galaxy Force II and stream the sound.
But the emulator has been getting lighter and lighter over our interations, so we started thinking that maybe this time we can emulate the sound too. So we gave it a shot.
– During our 3D Galaxy Force II interview, you discussed how even though you gave up recreating the BGM through emulation, it turned out alright that you streamed it instead. However, I got the impression that while it was hard, it wasn’t impossible, strictly speaking.
NH: That’s right. I mean, now that we have it working with Power Drift,we can look back on that time fondly, after all. I can say to you now that, “Power Drift won’t be streaming sound! It’s all internal,” but when we presented at the Tokyo Game Show 2015, it wasn’t working right. That was only 3 months before its release!
YO: They didn’t get the sound working until two versions before the final one.
NH: A ROM 2 or 3 days before the final version.
From the Tokyo Game Show 2015 stage event. Even during then, they were saying “Whether we can release it on the schedule date all depends on how smooth the development for Power Drift goes.”
– For the streamed event during the TGS, the BGM slowed down.
NH: Even the people watching the stream wrote comments like, “It’s kind of rough to be in this state this close to release. Is it going to be OK?” As you can imagine, we felt pressure to get it done as if our lives depended on it. (laughs)
KS: At the time, we figured that showing something would be better than nothing at all, so we had M2 work to prep that ROM. We asked them, “Just do what you can to pull something together for TGS, please.”
NH: While we were working on it, there were still some glitches like the screen going screwy, but we kept on at it. For the TGS, we sort of took a roundabout approach to make sure it looked okay and tried our best to make the sound come off good. But despite all that special work, it was looking like that’d more or less end up being what it was.
KS: They even told us, “Whatever you do, do not push this button.” (laughs)
NH: I remember that. That’s what was going on behind the curtains. (laughs)
– Shimomura-san, you mentioned to me that you told them to no worry about the Power Drift delivery date, just get it done. But if it was in that state in September… How did you feel at the time?
KS: I would talk with M2 about once a week, and I’d always ask, “You’re going to get it done, right?” They’d say, “Well, it’ll be cutting it close, but we’ll manage.” So I’d sort of slide it by the marketing team, saying, “Oh, sure, we’ll hit that street date, no problem,” all while preparing to jump off a bridge along with M2 should the worst come to past.
KS: I had my full trust in M2. And on the other side, I had Okunari-san constantly saying, “Is this really, really going to be okay!?” (laughs)
YO: Well, it was so close to the deadline it really WASN’T okay, you know!?
YO: We opened the lid on it, and found out Saito-san had been working on it from quite a while back. (laughs)
– Thanks to that you managed to finish it on time for the release date, but there was a huge hurdle in actually completing it.
NH: Man, it really was. During the development, we even thought having it so New 3DSs would run it at 60FPS and normal 3DSs at 3FPS. But we somehow we managed to make work on both. If we only focused on New 3DS, it would open a lot of doors, actually.
– I see. New 3DS has a higher clock rate, it’s more powerful, you mean. Sounds like a bit of a conundrum you had to sort though.
YO: Power Drift’s did cause problems for quite a while. The reason for the BGM slowdown we mentioned turned out not to actually be framedrop, but a bug actually. It was changing the speed the sound played at.
But Power Drift only plays one song during a whole play-through, so you only really notice it if you are playing and testing it like it was the Arcade version. You get to the 3rd stage, and you’re like, “Wait a minute, this bit of the song song shouldn’t be playing right here.” (laughs)
NH: Your body remembers from playing it so much.
– So wait…Was it a bug relating to the timer?
NH: No, if it was a timer related bug we would notice it quickly, but we didn’t. The cause turned out to be something much deeper.
A comment from sound creator, Mr. Manabu Namiki
M2 Chief Sound Creator Mr. Manabu Namiki: A sound creator that has worked on various title’s music, most centered around shooting games. Currently works in M2, and is the sound director for the ‘Sega 3D Revival’ series.
Power Drift became the first Y-Board title in the ‘Sega 3D Revival Project’ to emulate sound, but were there any difficulties in recreating it? Additionally, it’s another driving game like ‘3D Out Run’. If there were any parts you focused on about the ambience, please tell us.
Namiki: Starting with the Y-Board ‘3D Galaxy Force II’, for this project we’ve developed and ported similar genres of “physical experience” lineups. So using that previously gained skills, and the fact the game mechanics were close to ‘3D Out Run’, the overall sound including the ambience was smoothly reproduced.
…But that is lacking answer, so here’s a story to go with it. This game’s time functions to control the sound tempo was slightly different than conventional titles, so I asked the main programmer, Saito, to work with that section, but the main game-side’s programming was very turbulent and taking a long time. So until the last moments of the development, the tempos for all BGMs didn’t match… Even I was quite frightened by that fact (sweatdrop).
Of course the finished product has no problems, so there’s nothing to worry about. Please use your favorite BGM in the background while running the course! By the way, I liked the BGM for the E Course (not that anyone asked me).
Thursday Jan 21, 2016
The best thing about classics is that they never go out of style, which is why we are bringing nine classic SEGA games to the 3DS as part of the SEGA 3D Classics Collection. The best part – four of the nine classics are games that have never been released on the 3DS previously. For all of the included classics, developer M2 painstakingly recreated the experiences by breaking down the original games and powering them up with new visuals, game modes, and more to take full advantage of the 3DS. The game will be available in stores and digitally exclusively in the Americas for $29.99 on April 26th.
Puyo Puyo 2
Because it’s a collection, the most prudent thing to do would be to list the games included, starting with the titles never-before-released outside of Japan first:
Power Drift – This sprite-based circuit racer puts you head to head against other AI racers in a twisting, turning, jumping, looping race to the finish.
Puyo Puyo 2 – This head-to-head competitive puzzle game is simple to learn, hard to master, and compellingly addictive. Compete against the AI or friends in local multiplayer. Note: because of the quirks of trying to localize a game hard-coded in Japanese, the game has been left entirely in its original language. English instructions are available in the included digital manual.
Next, we have a pair of rarities not released on the 3DS before – true collectibles for the Master System enthusiast:
Maze Walker – Originally designed for the SegaScope 3-D glasses on the SegaMaster System, Maze Walker comes to life on the 3DS, faithfully reproducing the sense of depth as players try to escape the mysterious, twisting maze filled with unknown dangers. Originally released as Maze Hunter for the Master System in the West.
Fantasy Zone II: The Tears of Opa-Opa – The sentient space ship Opa-Opa is back to defend its bases from evil (but cute!) invaders in the classic scrolling shooter. For SEGA history buffs, this version of Fantasy Zone II is the original Master System version.
And for the previously released titles:
Fantasy Zone II W –Fantasy Zone II W, which was originally created for the Master System, is the version of Fantasy Zone II upgraded to the graphical capabilities of the System- 16 arcade board with added 3D effects. You can enjoy it in 2 game modes with different rules.
Sonic The Hedgehog – The evil scientist, Dr. Eggman (aka Dr. Robotnik), has snatched the animals of South Island, turning them into robot slaves. Only the famed blue blur can defeat Dr. Eggman and rescue the animals from his vile clutches in the game that started it all for the fastest hedgehog – Sonic!
Thunder Blade – In Thunder Blade, players control a helicopter and use guns and missiles to destroy enemy vehicles while flying between buildings, through caves, and into enemy bases. The re-mastered version boasts stereoscopic 3D visuals and adds a host of new features.
Galaxy Force II – As the star pilot of the Space Federation, it’s up to you to strap yourself into your TRY-X fighter and turn the tables on the invade forces of Halcyon and the Fourth Empire in this 3D shoot ‘em up. This remastered version has upgraded graphics with double the resolution of the original for a more pleasing aesthetic.
Altered Beast – Summoned from the dead by Zeus, players in Altered Beast must shape shift into various beasts and fight off hordes of demons to rescue the captured Athena from the clutches of Neff. Offers local co-op multiplayer.
Fantasy Zone II W
Galaxy Force II
The game will be released at a value price of $29.99 for the 3DS in stores and digitally on the Nintendo eShop for the 3DS, with retail packaging that features original artwork by Pokémon art director, Ken Sugimori (another added plus). For more information, please visit 3dclassics.sega.com.
Thursday Aug 20, 2015
3D Gunstar Heroes is now available on the eShop in North America and Europe!
– Just getting the game to run is already hard, but there’s new content in there too, right?
NH: Yes, as always, we have included additional content.
YO: There are two additional features in the game. The feature additional feature is two play modes: Standard and Gunslinger. The Standard mode has identical gameplay as the Mega Drive version.
In Gunstar Heroes, you can have two weapon types equipped at any time from a selection of 4 types total, and by combining the two items you can create a new weapon. There are ten of these combinations available, for a total of fourteen weapons with the basic weapons included. When playing the Gunslinger mode, however, you can use every type of weapon from the get-go and swap between the weapons on the fly. Specifically speaking, once you pick up any weapon to fill your second slot, you’ll be able to cycle through the weapons as you wish. You can switch between the fourteen weapon combos according to the situation you’re in by using the L Button and the R Button.
Also, you can select between two characters in Gunstar Heroes, named Red and Blue. They play differently from each other, as Red can fire while running, but Blue must stop to fire but can shoot downward.
There was actually a game that was developed by Treasure after Gunstar Heroes named Alien Soldier, and in this game, you can switch weapons and playstyles during gameplay. We thought that being able to switch between firing while running and having to stop to fire would be beneficial to the players, so we added the option to toggle between the two. Now that a player has access to all the options in their arsenal right at their fingertips to whip out on the fly, we dubbed it “Gunslinger”.
There’s also another game mode you can select called Mega Life. This mode simply doubles your HP from the beginning of the game. The original Mega drive has Easy, Normal, Hard, and Expert difficulties, but if you were a person who never could get a hang of Expert, you can select Mega Life to give yourself a leg up on the difficulty. It also serves as a helper to our fans who perhaps played the game back in their glory days and were able to clear it then, but might have a hard time clearing it now. They can now enjoy their original experience without having to stress about it too much. So there are those two merits.
NH: When you pick Expert Mode, the bosses have newer or different attack patterns. The fact that the bosses had these varied attack patterns was a really neat aspect of the game. If you’ve never played the game on the higher difficulty, please use the try using the Mega Life Mode in Expert Mode.
YO: Back when we were working on the Wii Virtual Console version, some users voiced that this game is too hard to play these days, or that they were able to beat the game back in the day but they just can’t beat the game anymore. If you can’t beat the game, well, that’s sort of on you, but the Mega Drive version of Gunstar Heroes did come out about 20 years ago, and it would be pretty mean if we just left all those people out to dry. We also want people who have never played to give the game a shot, so I hope that people will give all these new modes a chance.
– I recall that Gunstar Heroes was considered to be quite a difficult game when it first came out.
YO: That’s another interesting point, since console games let you choose your own difficulty level. There’s famous weapon combo known as the “Shachou Laser”* in Japan, which fires a homing laser just tracks in and defeats enemies one after another, so the player can focus on avoiding enemy attacks. Using this weapon decreases the difficulty for Gunstar Heroes. When we take a look at the developer interviews, they themselves say that it’s a cheap weapon and that the name actually came from the fact that president at the time would always use it. It really was a savior for many a beginner, most new players would pick it because it was so easy to use.
And so, please please take a step away from the Shachou Laser this time, since this game offers a variety of weapons! I want everyone to understand that. Until now, even when you’re about to pick up weapons, the players were so set on getting the Shachou Laser that if they picked up any other weapon, they would not be able to beat the boss battles. But when you play the game in Gunslinger mode, you can switch to Shachou Laser if you think the other weapons aren’t working out.
* Shachou Laser literally means “President Laser”. It’s the Japanese name given to the weapon created by combining Lightning and Chaser.
– So, the players who used to exclusively use the Shachou Laser back in the day should try to use different weapons in this version.
NH: That, and Shachou Laser it’s actually pretty weak, so on the higher difficulties its effectiveness wanes. I mean, it’d be sort of lame if people could clear it using this weapon. We want people to try going with a different strategy. Blowing through the game like that isn’t fun, you know?
YO: You’re right, Shachou Laser is really made for the normal difficulty. We would like you to try to beat Expert Mode properly.
We would like the players to re-live the enjoyment of using numerous types of weapons by employing the Gunslinger mode, and as well as using Mega Life mode to try clearing Expert difficulty.
– When you’re looking at these aspects, such as game balance, do get a feeling for the genius of Gunstar Heroes’ original developers?
NH: We do. There is this density, this intensity in the game itself, and then you go and talk about it with the original guys, they say it was created by a core team in less than a year. I can’t help but be amazed.
– Before you worked on the title, did you actually visit Treasure, the original developer?
NH: We didn’t go that far, but we happen to have staff at M2 who come from Treasure, so we’ve heard about it. They guy who was originally in charge of the backgrounds happens to be on our team, so when the programmer had just finished with converting the background into 3D, we asked him to take a look at the game. We bugged him about it, like “What do you think about this?” and “How about this spot?”, just really being persistent about it. But he would say, “Guys, that was 20 years ago, I don’t remember any of this!” But for the main parts, he did make some comments that it was different from his original intention, but he also conceded that the whole goal of the 3D Remaster Project is to ensure the players enjoy the game in 3D above all else. Throughout the work, we had a lot of constructive conversation.
– Does that mean the game differs from the original in some ways?
YO: When you look at it from a 2D perspective, there is not a single place that is different.
NH: Well, in a way it’s different, but when I look at it, I wonder myself what a particular background would even look like in 3D, so you can’t really say it’s different or off. What he was saying was that when he drew the backgrounds, he drew them so they’d look good then and didn’t really overthink it too much and was also having to work within the memory laminations of the time.
– So you’re saying that the original developers approve of the work?
NH: I would like them to approve of our work. I don’t think they saw the final version so I can’t say for sure.
YO: Treasure themselves have said that we should do as we wish, as they have faith in us. And so, to live up to their expectations, we have spent every last minute on turning the game into stereoscopic 3D.
– Then, were the extra contents that you told us about for the older generation of players?
NH: Yes, that would be correct.
YO: Well, I think Mega Life is good for people who can’t play the games as well as they used to, as well as people who play more modern games and want to make the game easier for themselves. Gunslinger changes the game a little, so I think it’s more for people who enjoy using a variety of weapons. To reiterate, if you’re the type of player who knows Gunstar Heroes gives you many options, but you still only use Red’s Shachou Laser, which I think is a large number of players, it would be good for you to try out new options. Maybe you’ll find you like Blue’s fixed shots better. Just try a lot of new things when you play, and you might find something new.
As for the weapons, I think a lot of people really did stick to a single weapon, but this time around, I would really like everyone to try out various weapons. Since we’re asking you to play the 3DS version maybe you should just try it with Gunslinger and Mega Life modes on. If possible, I would like everyone give Expert difficulty a shot.
NH: I feel the same. Hard things are hard, after all.
YO: If you haven’t played this game in a while, even if you have both modes on, I think you’ll find even Normal difficult.
– Gunstar Heroes just feels great to play, doesn’t it? Throwing enemies, blowing things up, dashing up, sliding low, tackling the enemies… It’s really fun. But when I played it earlier, I realized that I’d forgotten how to do a lot of things.
NH: Firing weapons, throwing enemies, sending the enemies flying and finishing them off with a body press, and there’s a great deal of strategy involved while all of this is happening, and everyone develops their own strategy on their own terms. But as time passes, you begin to forget your strategies, and it can feel like you aren’t doing so well. But as you play the game, you’ll begin to remember, “Oh, this is what I did back then!” This won’t be happening right when you buy the game; try to clear the game with the Mega Life first to regain your former skills from the Mega Drive days.
YO: I always had bad luck with dice rolls on the 4th stage, in the Dice Palace, and only ever roll 1s, and would have to go back to square one so many times. Game Overs all the time. And so I started from Stage 4 (in Gunstar Heroes, you can pick the order of stages except for the last stage), and then went to Stage 1 after clearing it. I’d not really thought about that strategy in a long, long time.
NH: I’m grateful that you checked the game out so thoroughly.
– Yes, that was true. Since you can choose the order of the stages, you can clear the stages you liked the least first.
YO: During the early stages of development for 3D Gunstar Heroes, Mega Life Mode was not an option, so I would ask myself, “Did I always have this much trouble with Stage 4? I remember how to beat all the bosses to a certain degree, so why all the Game Overs? What the heck? Did I get bad at this game?” But I realized later that I just got bad rolls on that stage.
NH: The die only has 1 through 3, after all.
You can tackle the stages in any order. A viable strategy is to take care of Dice Palace first. If you get bad rolls in Dice Palace, (it’s unfair, but) you can try again.
Please play the game on Expert so you can fight the 5 extra forms of Seven Force!
Seven Force always shows a surprising form each time you see it. Play Expert to make sure you see all the forms!
– So, are there any specific points where you would like the players to pay attention to?
NH: Slicing up the backgrounds for the 3D really creates a sense of space throughout the game, and we encourage everyone to check them out. Also, the boss character Seven Force is now a super cool looking character, so I hope everyone gets a kick out of fighting this boss.
In the beginning, we were actually really concerned about getting the backgrounds and the multi-sprite characters into 3D correctly, but I think they turned out well when we look at them now.
You’ll know what I mean when you see them It’ll surprise you. I think you’ll really understand the meaning behind turning a side-scrolling action game into stereoscopic 3D through playing this game, and I hope you have fun with it.
YO: Multi-sprite characters like Seven Force really leave an impression, and I think a lot of people remember the strategies for these characters being almost puzzle-like, but 3D Gunstar Heroes’ Seven Force just leaves a lasting impression as this big 3D robot.
NH: Adding depth accentuates all the details in the character. It exudes a stronger presence.
YO: Seven Force used to feel like was made of pieces of paper pinned together, but now that it has been converted to 3D, it doesn’t feel like that at all. It makes you wonder what it would look like if you looked at it from a different perspective.
NH: I totally get what you’re saying!
YO: It really looks much more like a mecha now.
NH: Yes, it does. It’s really imposing!
– Then I guess we’ll have to try our best to get to that point.
YO: Yes. The video we released only shows two forms of Seven Force, so please play the game yourself to see its five remaining forms. Every last one of them really looks like a well-developed mecha.
– Well, the mechas are very charming in Gunstar Heroes, after all. Alright, do you have any final comments for the players?
YO: Let’s see. It’s not only restricted to Gunstar Heroes, but I think it’s safe to say we have created the most spacious-feeling game among the titles in the 3D Remaster Project. I hope everyone can really get a since of things really existing in that space.
If I was to give one reason why this game gives off this sense of space, I would have to say that it’s because the player character is small. In other words, because the character is small, you can really see the background. Because you can see so much of the background, you can really see the details put into turning graphics 3D. It’s all thanks to the game’s design that we were able to create that sense of space.
Right before this screenshot, there’s a scene where the enemy robot’s arm comes out from the forest and surprises the player. Stereoscopic makes this scene even that more real.
I think this is because the original Gunstar Heroes is a well-made game, but when you’re walking through the forest at the end of the first stage, those robot hands fly out from the forest and at your character, you can really feel a sense of depth. I mean, you are looking at the same original sprites, but when you look at it with the stereoscopic 3D, you can feel a completely different feeling from the visuals. It’s truly the fruits of dedicated labor put in over the course of this project.
I think those who have played the game previously will appreciate these scenes even more, and didn’t play the game back in the days, I doubt you’ve ever played a game with as much depth as this one.
– So that’s the true value of SEGA 3D Remaster Project, right?
YO: That’s right. That said, I think there will be players who will play the game in 2D anyway.
NH: If you already play with the stereoscopic 3D on, please turn up your 3D dial even further.
I would like to add that although it was a title that needed to be ported, there were many issues to overcome that we kept putting it off. But we can now take pride that we did it using everything we’ve learned, and completed it successfully. I hope you enjoy the result.
– By the way, there’s one more title coming down the road, 3D Sonic the Hedgehog 2. Is Sonic 2 the last title because it was the hardest to develop?
YO: Well, speaking about the next episode, when we were talking making five games in the first batch, considering five Mega Drive titles for stereoscopic 3D, M2 stated that Sonic would be the hardest to port. We figured that if we didn’t make something amazing from the beginning and really knock the fans’ socks off, no one would stick with us, so we talked about porting Sonic first.
So we went and made Sonic, but the bar has just been rising and rising, so it’s like we are bookending the Giga Drive series with Sonic games. It’s because the development was the hardest out of all of them.
NH: I don’t want to spoil everything right now, but you know those scenes that everyone’s wondering about? The Special Stages? That’s what everyone’s going to want to know about.
YO: The Giga Drive arc of the SEGA 3D Remaster Project begins with Sonic and ends with Sonic, so you’ll be able to see the evolution of Sonic.
But still, it’s not that we saved Sonic for last on purpose, but rather, now that the development on Gunstar Heroes is finally over, M2 can focus all of their energy on Sonic 2, which was being developed concurrently. Please stay tuned!
– Thank you very much!
Thursday May 14, 2015
We announced today that 3D Thunder Blade, re-mastered exclusively for the Nintendo 3DS, is now available to download in the eShop.
3D Thunder Blade is a recreation of a one-of-a-kind combat helicopter arcade machine originally released in 1987, re-mastered for the Nintendo 3DS hand-held system. In 3D Thunder Blade, players control a helicopter and use guns and missiles to destroy enemy vehicles while flying between buildings, through caves, and into enemy bases. The re-mastered version boasts stereoscopic 3D visuals, support for the Circle Pad Pro or C-Stick, and adds a host of new features including two options for gyroscopic controls, adjustable difficulty settings, and a mode that recreates the look and feel of the original arcade machine with additional sound effects. Replay saving and stage select are also available!
Unlocked by completing the Arcade Mode, a Special Mode allows players to replay the game with upgraded attack powers, increased numbers of enemies with placements in new locations, all-new enemies, and an additional stage that was developed specifically for this re-master. 3D Thunder Blade also introduces brand new remixes of the original in-game music that can be toggled ‘on’ and ‘off’.
3D Thunder Blade is available now for download in the Nintendo eShop on Nintendo 3DS.
For more information on the creation of the SEGA 3D Classics, head over for an in-depth interview with the M2 Developers.
Wednesday May 13, 2015
It’s here! Part 2 of our 3D Thunder Blade article is even longer than part 1. Covering off everything from music, technical design challenges, and of course the secrets inside Special Mode.
As always, your comments are appreciated, I can assure you we geek out as much as you do on these articles and love to hear what everyone else thinks of them. Enjoy!
But Before We Get To The Special Mode
– So before we talk about the Special Mode, I wanted to ask you about something I was wondering about. So the original Thunder Blade ran on the X-BOARD, the one that After Burner used, so I think you probably had the same struggles with this port as you did with 3D After Burner II. I heard you began working on this one in earnest after you finished the work on 3D Out Run, so it seems like you had some limitations on the time you had to get it done.
YO: We did a lot of the typical straightforward optimization work that we normally have to deal with, but we didn’t encounter anything new or special on this project. I heard there were a lot of under-the-hood issues that you can’t directly see, like cleaning up bugs from the original.
NH: Because of the structure of the original code, we had more issues getting the game to 60 FPS than I can go into here. But the core essence of Thunder Blade is included in the program structure, so once we got it to run at 60 FPS there were no further problems with recreating the game. But it took us a lot of work to get our heads around the internal details to allow us to remix things for the Special Mode.
YO: First, we did a straight port, then we went on to do the 3D parts, and then we worked on widescreen…
NH: The widescreen implementation was hard, but at this point everyone expects us to do it, so there isn’t really much to tell there.
– Even so, there’s a lot of work that goes into that. When you put things into widescreen, you can see things that you weren’t able to see before, right?
NH: That’s right. For example, you can see things that weren’t in the original game, like on the title screen. We had to have Iuchi* go in and build out parts that didn’t exist for widescreen.
– Since there are two perspectives in the game, some parts of the game were like 3D After Burner, but some parts were different, right? There’s a lot more to draw, especially in the top-down views. The buildings are made up of something like 7 layered sprites, so how did you get that into widescreen?
NH: That part actually worked out okay.
YO: Thunder Blade is made so you basically move left and right freely within the background, so the graphics already existed. Though, there were a few problems…
NH: Like the bridge in Stage 3, which wasn’t long enough horizontally, so we had to address that. Also in the top-down parts, there were inner parts of the building that you weren’t supposed to be able to see, so we had to hide those as well.
– I believe I asked this in the first half of the interview, but you did have access to the source code, right? Did you have access to the source for After Burner II?
YO: There was no source code left for Out Run or After Burner. We did get the program source code and the sound source for Thunder Blade, however.
– Is it the same data that was used for the retail version?
NH: That’s a little hard to answer. Thunder Blade has both a Japanese version and an International version. The International version, which released after the Japanese version, had a lot of additional work that went into it and is quite different. However, the source data we got is something sort of in between those two versions.
YO: After the arcade version had finished, they were working on an upright version for the overseas market, and they made some tweaks for this upright version. Basically, the ending is different, and positions of obstacles and enemies are different. In Stage 1 and 3, I believe?
– So it had some adjustments in it.
YO: It’s a little like the “fixed” version of Out Run.
– Since they had a little extra time in the schedule for the overseas version, they were able to go back and fix a few things.
YO: That was probably the case.
– So it’s just that you don’t know at what exact point this source data was from.
NH: Back then, they probably didn’t have the strict version control systems that we have now. In any case, when we opened it all up, we didn’t know which version we were looking at, and there were a couple of spots were felt we needed to get it running on an arcade board to check. It was really helpful in the end, though, so I’m thankful we had it available to us.
– Like data locations… It serves as a good guide, at least, right?
NH: That’s right. It does serve as a good guide, but if you just blindly follow it, you may find that the result is different from the retail version. But it did act as a blueprint for when we were pulling the game apart, and that was significant. It’s like looking at the actual building while looking at the blueprints at the same time. I think we had a similar situation back when we were working on the SEGA AGES 2500 version of Virtual-On.
YO: In any case, having the program source code available really was a good thing for our Special Mode.
Unearthing the Sound, as Always
YO: So let’s go into the sound source. As a matter of fact, one of the things Thunder Blade was relatively well-known for was its sound. A lot of people have forgotten about the game itself, but the first SEGA soundtrack CD* that Scitron released, Galaxy Force II, had Thunder Blade on it as well. Only the CD version. The songs that Kouichi Namiki made are very cool, and as a result the game became well-known as well… But the reality is that the music on the CD is actually different from the arcade version.
* GALAXY FORCE –G.S.M.SEGA1- : Released in 1988, this CD had music from Galaxy Force, Thunder Blade, and Altered Beast.
When we ported Galaxy Force II to the PS2, Wave Master reissued the soundtrack as well*, but it was the first time we had recorded the music straight off the arcade board, and that caused a small stir among the folks who noticed. The arcade version and the Scitron versions were different, and the arcade version is slightly simpler in some of its details. It seems that the arcade version and the Scitron version were made separately at the same time. Like, an intro that was cut from the arcade version was restored, and there was stereo panning added in. So in a way, the Scitron version was the “complete version.” And after that, for the Mega Drive version of Super Thunder Blade, they followed the soundtrack version’s example and included the intro.
* GALAXY FORCE II & Thunder Blade Original Sound Track : A soundtrack CD released in 2007, containing versions of Galaxy Force II & Thunder Blade music recorded straight off the arcade board. You can get these on iTunes or Amazon.
And so while the soundtrack is very well-known, the arcade version of the song is even less well-known than the “no melody” version of After Burner’s theme.
NH: And since that was the case, of course we wanted to not only have the arcade version, but the soundtrack version of the music in our port of the game.
YO: But we didn’t know where to find the alternate version sound data. Of course this data wasn’t left on the retail arcade board.
So we started by asking Kouichi Namiki-san if he knew if the data had been saved and in what format. He told us that at the time, he had submitted the data to his supervisor, but he didn’t know what had become of it after that. Naturally, this wasn’t a surprise.
NH: This is data from 20 years before, at a previous job, after all.
YO: So then we asked Takenobu Mitsuyoshi*, who is part of the R&D 1 sound team, to see if he could locate the data that Namiki-san’s supervisor had left. And he was able to salvage it for us. We then handed it over to M2, converted it to an X-BOARD sound ROM, and after a number of tries, finally got it working. When it sounded just the like the soundtrack, we were super excited.
* Takenobu Mitsuyoshi: A classic SEGA composer and vocalist. You may know him for his work on Daytona USA!
NH: At first, that is. (laughs)
YO: But, once we started listening closely, we noticed something was…off. Listening further, we noted that the song was about 95% the same as the sound track version, but that remaining 5% was different.
– So it wasn’t the final version?
YO: Actually, it was even further refined than the soundtrack. And on top of that, it didn’t loop—instead, it would play through and finish. It was a version that was completely intended for performance. (laughs) So we went back to Kouichi Namiki-san and asked him, “So we got this data back, do you have any idea what this is?” And he said…
“I have no recollection!” (laughs)
– Well it was a long time ago.
YO: Well, if you think about it from the way it’s made, this new data was probably in fact the final version. So we decided to put it in. And thus, the Extra BGM that’s in 3D Thunder Blade has 3 additional main tracks, including the version that was further remixed past the soundtrack version. We currently have no plans to put this version on a CD or release it digitally, so if you want to hear it, you’ll have to go pick up the game. (all laugh) It’s in the Sound Test as well.
– Well, well…
YO: In addition, the 3D Thunder Blade version is clearer than the older soundtrack version.
– What a complicated situation, with the song being ever so slightly different from the OST… (laughs)
A Special Mode Based On the Overseas Enemy Placements; Shoot, Save, Get More Lives!
– Alright, are we ready to talk about the Special Mode?
YO: Absolutely! The Special Mode is basically what we would consider the final form of Thunder Blade. It’s really the complete version.
So first off, only one arcade version of Thunder Blade was ever available in Japan, so we didn’t really worry about the differences between the Japanese and International versions for Arcade Mode. Arcade Mode is the Japanese version, pure and simple. But everything that changed for the International version has been included in the Special Mode.
So while the base is the International version, the enemy placements have of course been further changed for Special Mode. The concept behind our Special Mode is to take the concept that is Thunder Blade and make the game more interesting while still maintaining that core Thunder Blade-ness.
So in order to further refine what makes Thunder Blade fun as a game, we did what old-school ports called…
NH: Yes, a Power-Up Port.
YO: It sort of like how for the Mega Drive and PC Engine, they went in with the intention of not only creating a faithful port, but enhancing it for home console platforms. You could say that it’s close to Micomsoft’s X68000 port. We wanted to add some content to make the game more fun, and the result is our Special Mode.
We put a lot of ideas into the Special Mode, and we even considered letting people play the Special Mode right out of the box, but in the end we felt that we needed the players to really understand how the original version was first, and then try the Special Mode. So just like 3D After Burner, you’ll need to clear the Arcade Mode once first to unlock the Special Mode.
– Was the design for the Special Mode decided soon after you began development?
YO: We were discussing what the Grantanoff was going to be this time around, and I threw out the crazy idea that I wanted to see more stages.
* “Grantanoff” was character added to the Mark III version of After Burner. Okunari-san wanted this character added to 3D After Burner II, asking M2, “Where’s Grantanoff?” on a weekly basis. Okunari-san dubbed it “Project Grantanoff.” Unfortunately Grantanoff didn’t make it into 3D After Burner II, but it became a code word for adding extra content to the games, such as HAYA OH in 3D Space Harrier, or the moving arcade cabinets.
NH: That you did. And I believe Saito agreed with you.
YO: And this game, while it has 4 stages, you could actually say it has 12 stages in total if you include the boss stages. But it’s presented as four stages. You know, when Galaxy Force was upgraded from I to II, they added that last stage, right? That stage required no additional graphics, and was built from graphics repurposed from other parts of the game.
So we discussed whether it would be possible to build a new stage by taking existing backgrounds and graphics and putting them together in a different way.
NH: Yeah, but I couldn’t do it alone. Fortunately Saito wanted to do it, too. While we were working on the first batch, I remember Okunari-san saying, “Why would we want to port such a short game?” So I’d been thinking, “Fine, we’ll just make it longer, then!”
– (laughs) I see…
YO: And with that, we started with the idea that the Grantanoff was going to be a bonus stage. So at first, it wasn’t the Special Mode, but just an extra stage.
NH: I think there are some people who have been reading our interviews who might step in and say that Thunder Blade is in and of itself a Grantanoff.
– (laughs) I’d be inclined to agree.
YO: Then as development progressed, Matsuoka-san, the director, and Saito-san continued analyzing the game and the game balance gradually started to change.
NH: You mean quickly started to change.
YO: When you take the arcade version and think about it in terms of a console game with a regular controller, there’s lots of things that make it hard to play. Like reloading your missiles is sort of slow. So there were a lot of tweaks that we wanted to make here and there. And even more basic, the missiles were hard to use in the first place.
Wasn’t it Saito-san who changed the missiles to air-to-surface missiles?
NH: It was. They were hard to hit with, so he fixed it because he could.
YO: Even in the Arcade version, there were places that you had to make a distinction between using your missiles and your cannons. You’d use the large explosions to do damage with the missiles, but we made a clear change to that. Super Thunder Blade had lock-on style missiles, but story-wise that was because it happened 3 years after the arcade version, wasn’t it?
NH: That’s correct.
YO: The idea was to power up everything so it felt like it was in a place somewhere between the arcade version of Thunder Blade and Super Thunder Blade. So while we were thinking about what to do with the stages, Saito-san was working on increasing the helicopter’s actual abilities.
By just increasing the helicopter’s core abilities, it made the game really easy. You could clear the Special Mode without much of a challenge. In particular, the missiles were just overpowered. So then the discussion turned to tweaking the game balance to compensate. That was Saito-san too?
NH: Correct. When he upgraded the missiles, he had already decided to change the enemy placements. Basically he had free rein to do what he wanted.
YO: The enemy placements create a totally new game balance and it’s much more of a “shmup” now. The enemies attack harder, but you can attack harder back. Once you get used to the Arcade Mode controls, it’s time to test your mettle on the Special Mode. Arcade Mode is more unassuming, but once you get used to the controls it’s been made simpler and we think you’ll enjoy it. But the Special Mode is much better suited for exciting gameplay.
I mean, when I first saw that tank on top of a building, I was like, “Whoa, what’s a tank doing there?!” The Special Mode came in rather late, but it saw some huge strides there at the end.
– Enemy placement just totally changed. I definitely felt there were more enemies.
NH: Yes. I’m just glad the processing and framerate worked out.
– If you were to take this Special Mode and burn it into a ROM, would it run on the original arcade board?
NH: Similar to what we did with Fantasy Zone II, we have hardware that was slightly enhanced. There are more character banks, since more stages means more characters. If there was a custom SEGA board that had more banks in it, it would run, though widescreen support wouldn’t be possible.
– One of the benefits of this second batch of games is that you’ve gotten better at data placement and program optimization, so I would think that at this point, you’ve got more time and energy to devote to things like that, right?
NH: In general, we’ve been doing a pretty good job for this second batch, but Thunder Blade was one of the rougher ones.
– Especially for the 3D bits, it really feels like you’ve gotten a handle on how it all works. Though I sometimes get the feeling things are fairly tight on the rendering end.
YO: This is our second time working on an X-BOARD project, after After Burner. Super Hang-On was based on the Out Run board, after all.
NH: From the point of view of the people making the games, the Out Run Board and the X-BOARD were pretty similar, but from the point of view of those porting them, they are actually quite different.
– Hmm, I see. Does it make a difference that this one was developed by the former AM1 group, as opposed to AM2?
YO: Yes, there’s that, too. There’s a difference between games programmed by Yu Suzuki, and those that aren’t.
– Since you had the source code this time, did it help with your analysis and let you fiddle with the internals more?
NH: Yes, I suppose it did. It’s like knowing the cardinal directions on a map, and we can where the major roads go if we don’t go in and mess with them. A lot of the details ended up being different, though. But regardless, the difference between having the code and not having it is night and day.
– As a culmination of everything you guys have done, a “port with more,” I’m sure there are a lot of touchups in there and you guys have had to put a lot of work into it.
NH: In a way, it’s an extension on Space Harrier, where we added in widescreen, moving cabinets, and the boss HAYA OH. But even with that comparison, yes, there’s a lot of things we had to get our hands into. We added in a whole new stage this time, so yes, we have definitely “got a handle on it,” as you say.
YO: There’s some representation of everything we’ve done to date in here.
– Did you feel like trying to come up with an interesting Special Mode for Thunder Blade was harder than you expected?
NH: We had a lot of separate ideas thrown out there in the meetings, like more stages.
– Personally, I always felt like the arcade version was lacking, but never could quite put my finger on it. I feel like there would have been a lot of different ideas and approaches that came up until you arrived at “the answer.”
NH: Well, I think there are many ways we could have done it. But we ultimately decided to raise the gameplay density in relation to the amount of time played. Some people stayed away from the game for a variety of reasons, including the feeling that the pace was too slow. So we took it in a direction where you basically are continuously shooting enemies. It’s rather close to 3D After Burner II’s Special Mode. This time, it’s “kill enemies, get lives.”
YO: For 3D After Burner II’s Special Mode, it was all about really going after that satisfying feeling of launching tons of missiles, and so we moved the enemies around to enable that. For 3D Thunder Blade, we are taking it one step further and upgrading your weaponry. In 3D After Burner II, we went a little bit beyond a remix, but we’ve gone even further with 3D Thunder Blade.
– Like there being a new enemy fighter in STAGE 3.
YO: Well, that was an unused enemy character we found in the ROM during the analysis. We wanted to set him free, as it were, and he was added towards the end of the development cycle. A week before the final version, even.
NH: There are times when it’s a good idea to do that, and times when it’s not. Usually, it’s not. We made changes here and there this time, though.
YO: I’m sure there was a reason that enemy didn’t make it into the original game. But this time, we just said, “Go go go!”
– So the data in the ROM was finished, rather than being incomplete?
NH: It seemed like it just wasn’t being used.
YO: I think it was a case of running out of time to place that particular enemy. We’ve also added some additional effects, like enhancing the sense of distance by making far-away graphics whiter.
NH: It’s sort of like fog.
YO: Saito-san really does get into the details.
NH: Even though he was always saying he doesn’t have any time. While he was helping out on Fantasy Zone and Out Run, he was always saying, “When am I going to be able to just focus on Thunder Blade!?”
A Totally Newly Created STAGE 5!
– So please tell us about this new STAGE 5.
YO: So in Thunder Blade, when you reach this dead-end at the end of STAGE 4, the boss appears and that’s the only 3D boss fight in the game. When you beat it, that’s the end. But we wanted to give people a little more closure, so for the Special Mode, we went and added a whole new stage. That fortress? Well now it’s just the entrance to the fortress.
– That’s a pretty interesting way to integrate it. The boss for STAGE 4 is just guarding the entrance.
YO: Since that’s the fortress gate, now you proceed into the sort of inner citadel. As far as the last stage is concerned… I’m sure they initially planned a lot of tricks and traps, but they just kept coming up with more and more. Like now a train cannon appears, and the train has all the proper animations. Thunder Blade never had anything like that during the rear-view style gameplay…
NH: No, it didn’t. We actually had to call in support for additions like that. We called in the assistance of a Mr. Haima Fuyuno, who used to do pixel art at Zoom*, and recently has been working at Shooting Game Side. Fuyuno-san and Saito-san formed a tag team of “precise insanity.” When you take “insanity” and put it together just right, you get something truly amazing.
* Zoom: A game studio that created titles such as GENOCIDE and PHALANX (X68000) as well as ZERO DIVIDE (PlayStation).
YO: Since you can hover in Thunder Blade, there are now shutters that block your way through a gate. That’s new. There are also enemies you need to defeat to progress. They fit very well within Thunder Blade. If you are good, you can defeat them without stopping.
It’s not really like STAGE 4, which is kind of like the EP4 Death Star Battle. It’s more like the EP6 one, with a newly added final stage.
– I was very surprised when I heard there was a totally new stage.
YO: At first, we were thinking we would just reuse graphics in the same way Galaxy Force II does. But then they said, “Nah, we are going to draw our own.” I thought, “You’re gonna what?” But because they went through the trouble, we now have the new train, the shutter door, and some other set pieces as well.
NH: It’s not piecing together stuff that’s already there. It’s really a new stage built from new resources. It’s completely new.
YO: Some people might find a lot of satisfaction in learning that Fuyuno-san did pixel art at Zoom.
NH: Fuyuno-san put a lot of effort in making sure it all melded with the SEGA style.
– To me personally, nothing felt out-of-place at all. Now that you mention it there are a few things that make more sense to me now, but the new art blends right in with the existing world.
YO: In any case, it’s brand new.
– It retains the appearance of being an extension of STAGE 4, but it looks like STAGE 5 has an enormous volume of content packed in there. It’s surprising that hardware back then could even do something like this.
NH: That’s an understandable reaction.
YO: Well, you don’t have to worry about size limits on the ROM, right?
NH: Yeah, but there’s a lot of restrictions here based on the programming side of things. We aren’t doing anything that’s above and beyond what the original X-BOARD could do. It’s similar to the System-16 version of Fantasy Zone II; things like the number of character patterns we could display at the same time are subject to the same limits that existed on the original board.
YO: Limits on things like color palettes or number of characters.
NH: That’s correct. If the original board had unused sockets available, we could use them to make additions, but we can’t go beyond that and increase the number of sockets.
– Actually, now that I think about it, why didn’t you include a top-view segment in the new stage?
YO: Because we felt that it was the back view stages that people wanted to play more of. So we opted not to make a top-view part so we could focus on back view gameplay. We wanted to build on the drama and tension from STAGE 4 right on through STAGE 5.
– You’re right. By just continuing forward in back view, there’s more continuity from STAGE 4 to STAGE 5. What about this stage’s background music (BGM)?
YO: It’s the soundtrack version of the boss song, BURNING POINT.
We wanted to take full advantage of the boss music’s long intro for the final stage. That’s why the stage structure is built the way it is. Actually, that song is the STAGE 1 BGM in Super Thunder Blade for the Mega Drive. And though I don’t think the director Matsuoka-san did that intentionally, personally I think it sort of leads into Super Thunder Blade. It’s an intro that really works well in a shooting game.
NH: It works well, I think. It turned out great, though I’m not sure that was the intent.
YO: The main draw for STAGE 5 is brand-new gameplay—a “physical experience” game no one has ever seen before, rather than a remix.
– Shooting down enemies and getting more lives definitely makes it feel like a similar concept to 3D After Burner II’s Special Mode. But there’s more—a whole new stage, and a better sense of closure now, for sure.
Revenge of the Gyro Sensor
– So based on everything you’ve said, this really is a grand culmination of all your work.
YO: Another reason you can call it a “grand culmination” is that it also has gyro controls for the moving cabinet. We’ve only used gyro controls once with 3D Super Hang-On, but since this is one of those games where you had to move the kit yourself, we felt this was another chance to give gyro controls a shot. We discussed if we could really recreate that aspect of jerking the control lever and how it never worked quite the way you’d expect. Well, the result is that there are two options to choose from, which you can see if you go to the Options screen. There are controls for acceleration and tilt.
If you actually try to play the game this way, it has that inexact feel that the original arcade machine did. It helps you understand how the original was rather hard to play. There aren’t a lot of these machines still out there in operation, so it’s quite hard to do a side by side comparison.
NH: Yes, I imagine one would be hard to find.
YO: We weren’t able to combine both the feel of swinging the control stick and the movement of the kit at the same time. Basically, you have to choose which aspect you’d like to try.
– I recall you mentioned that you had to battle with processing overhead when you did gyro controls for 3D Super Hang-On. Did you have any issues this time?
NH: Oh yeah, that. Since we’ve done so much work on these at this point, we didn’t have that much of an issue this time. We didn’t have to worry about that so much.
– You were saying the X-BOARD was tough to work with, but no issues this time even with gyro, huh?
NH: We’ve gotten to the point where we can do it if we try, I suppose.
YO: Also, one of the things that makes the Special Mode really special this time is that the movement and environmental sounds for the arcade machine are different from the arcade version. It’s actually based on a self-moving arcade machine like Space Harrier.
NH: We made that happen on the 3DS.
– Hahahaha! A dreamed-up arcade machine!
YO: The moving arcade machine in Special Mode is a new thing we made ourselves. It’s got motor sounds and all that, and we added in some additional sounds from After Burner II’s cabinet motors. I don’t know whose dream it is though. (laughs)
NH: A fictional arcade machine.
YO: If Thunder Blade had a moving arcade machine, this would have been it.
NH: Thunder Blade is a game that deserved a machine like that. Just putting it in 3D and flying between buildings is just amazing. I’m really glad we did it.
YO: It’s not quite an alternate universe timeline, but it will take you back to the 1980s for sure. The Special Mode is there to take you back for a taste of what might have been.
NH: Please give it a shot.
On To The True Finale of the SEGA 3D Remaster Project
– So, I think it’s safe to say that a lot of people are going to have fun with Thunder Blade. You guys finally had the chance to do it.
YO: (In Japan), we’ve set it to a 1000 JPY* price point, so while it’s a little more expensive, but we’ve put that much more work into it as well.
* Note that NA/EU region price is $5.99/£4.49/€4.99.
NH: If we sell a crap ton of copies, then I’ll go and make Power Drift by myself. (all laugh)
– (laughing) But you guys really made it this far.
NH: We did. We did. By ending the second batch in the SEGA 3D Remaster Project series with Thunder Blade, I feel like we’ve achieved a lot of things we set out to do with it. I’m really very satisfied. We were able to take the kind of 3D we wanted to do, and make it a reality.
YO: I think everyone out there probably knows that the series would end if Thunder Blade was released, and wanted him to wait a little longer.
– Yes, there are those who were saying that. “Do it after releasing these other games!” (laughs)
NH: Though Saito was always saying, “If it’s OK to delay the release, then give me more time!” (all laugh) “There’s things that I still want to work on!”
YO: You have to end development at some point—even the original development team ran out of time to create a proper ending.
– Ah, it looks like our time is up.
YO: This is the end here, so I just want to sincerely thank everyone for supporting the series. Because of you, we were even awarded a CEDEC AWARD for Engineering for the work on the project.
NH: All because of this interview series!
YO: Thank you so much.
NH: Yes, and thank you.
– No no, I’m glad things went so well. This wasn’t supposed to be a series in the first place. (laughs) Not only were they a big hit with the users themselves, but they also caught the eye of your fellow developers.
YO: The second batch ends now, with these five titles. The last interview for the first batch, we were also able to announce this second batch at the same time. But that isn’t the case this time. We do not know the future of this series, and we just want to see how things go going forward for the time being.
In any case, this interview series has continued for a long time, from the release of the first 3D Space Harrier to the release of 3D Thunder Blade. To all those who have taken the time to read these very lengthy entries, I’m very thankful.
I do want to say one last thing…
“The SEGA 3D Remaster Project will not perish! It will live on, again and again! The power of 3D is the dream of mankind!”
Wait, I feel like we just triggered an internal game over flag…?
NH: Thank you very much!
– Thank you very much!
The SEGA 3D Remaster Project will not perish!
With the end of our 3D Thunder Blade interview, Okunari-san, Horii-san, Sam, and I wanted to take some time and thank everyone who has helped make these titles so much fun to work on.
From my side, as Community Manager at SEGA, this has been by far one of the best series of titles I’ve worked on. Not only are the 3D Classics always surpassing my every expectation as a fan, with every update I’m constantly reminded of why the SEGA community is so awesome. With every release, we see an overwhelming amount of support from old fans of these games, and new fans discovering them for the first time. It’s a great thing, and I look forward to seeing it with Thunder Blade.
This is not the end! There’s even more 3D Classics coming this summer in the form of Streets of Rage 2, Gunstar Heroes, and Sonic the Hedgehog 2. I’ll be in line for each on day one, right alongside everyone else!
Naoki Horii – President of M2
This was a SEGA game that I would have done anything to see in 3D, so I’m really hoping that everyone enjoys it as much as I do. If you don’t, well, then we’ve got an awkward situation of me mixing business with pleasure, now don’t we? (laughs)
We will be sure to continue our take-no-prisoners attitude with our future technical and gameplay endeavors, so I hope you all will continue your support!
Yosuke Okunari – Producer, SEGA of Japan
Up until this point, the SEGA 3D Classics were supposed to draw to a close here in Japan, but thanks to all your support, we were able to add three more titles onto the list. They are all very famous titles that are unforgettable to any game fan who played them back in the early 90s. We here on the development side are all extremely excited to turn them into 3D. Each is being built with love and care, so please tell all the friends you played the originals with back in the day, and get together and play them co-op again now 20 years later!
Sam Mullen – Producer, SEGA of America
Tuesday May 12, 2015
In what has now become a long-standing tradition, we once again join SEGA Producer, Yosuke Okunari, and President of M2, Naoki Horii, to discuss a title that has been treated with some hostility in our interviews to-date: Thunder Blade. Since the feelings surrounding this game cannot easily be summed up, we will spend some time discussing them today.
3D Thunder Blade releases on May 14th across North America and Europe!
About Thunder Blade
Thunder Blade was the seventh in the “physical experience” arcade game series from SEGA, released in 1987. The arcade machine featured a control stick that controlled the cannon and missiles, and a throttle lever on the left side similar to After Burner. When you moved the control stick left and right, the entire seat would move along with it. However, the monitor, which was located low on the machine and locked in place, required the user to turn their head the opposite way when they would make big movements to avoid incoming fire. It was also known for the fact that the weight of the control stick would change depending on the weight of the player.
In addition to the Deluxe kit above, there was also an Upright arcade kit.
As far as arcade hardware is concerned, the game ran on the same X-BOARD utilized by After Burner (II), featuring the same dual MC68000 and single Z80 processors, allowing for 256 sprites on the screen at once, with specialized scaling hardware. The sound was driven by a YM2151 and PCM.
The sound was done by Kouichi Namiki. The guitarist’s unique bass and drum sound combined with his work on Super Hang-On, and later Galaxy Force, went on to generate a new wave of SEGA music fans.
You Have To Know About This Game
Yosuke Okunari (below YO): It’s been less than a month since we left you with our little cliffhanger. Thanks for waiting (laughs).
– For all the people who have been reading the interviews to date, and yourselves, of course, asking the question “Why did you choose Thunder Blade?” would be rather silly. In any case, congratulations!
Naoki Horii (below NH): Thank you, thank you! So let me rattle some things off for starters. First, we’ve had Thunder Blade running at 15 or 20 frames per second since the early stages of the 3D Remaster Project, but it was really quite a mess. But even at that point, it already looked pretty amazing in 3D, which is why I’ve always been talking about how we couldn’t pass up making Thunder Blade, and how it would actually look really cool in 3D.
YO: Back during the first batch, we had absolutely no plans to do it. Then when we started the second batch, there were three titles everyone wanted to make—After Burner, Fantasy Zone, and Out Run. But we wanted to do more than just those three titles, so this was one of the two we added on. It would be a little weird to say we just do what M2 wants, but that’s kind of what happened here, similar to Fantasy Zone II for the PS2. Or maybe I just sort of got caught up in their enthusiasm.
After we ended the first batch and went on to the second, they started working on this secretly behind the scenes—one last game to make Horii-san’s dreams come true.
NH: In the end, while Thunder Blade is the last game, I’m just glad it got done.
YO: And now we can make it available to everyone. We were able to bring it out as the last game in the series only because of everyone’s support for the 3D Remaster Project.
YO: That’s what we believe. Speaking of that, did you guys at M2 get any mail from the fans saying, “We want Thunder Blade”?
NH: No mail, but every time I mentioned Thunder Blade on Twitter, people would reply.
YO: I’m sure everyone thought you were joking.
NH: Possibly. I don’t think people were taking me seriously.
YO: The only people who were serious were probably Horii-san and maybe 10 other people.
NH: Yes, 10 others.
– Ten people…
NH: Well, if that’s all, then the sales are going to be rough.
YO: So this time around, we are using Thunder Blade as a means to showcase everything M2 has done to date with the release of 3D Thunder Blade. And it’s quite a showcase at that. To be exact, the team members that were involved in 3D Fantasy Zone II W didn’t work on this game, but the people involved with the other games in the series, from 3D Space Harrier to 3D Out Run, have come together to showcase their skills.
NH: It is most certainly a showcase! In addition to the core staff, there was another programmer who has been persistently focused on the Thunder Blade programming behind the scenes, thinking “Is this game really going to come out?” So it’s like our full strength + 1. The programming for Thunder Blade really wasn’t suited for running on 3DS in the first place, after all.
YO: This is true. When we started batch 2, we went and got the source code from the dev group that used to be AM1*. When they handed it over, they said, “You should be able to do something as long as you have this, so give it a shot,” but from the beginning it ended up being an arduous task on a scale we were not expecting.
* AM1 – One of SEGA’s former arcade development groups. They are currently called dai-ichi kenkyuu kaihatsu bu (1st R&D Department), but SEGA employees are still often called AM1 internally anyway.
NH: The way the programming is written is like BASIC… I’m not sure if that’s even the way to describe it. It just executes on and on, and it’s really hard to get at (hard to convert into Assembly code).
YO: It was a lot of gritty, detailed work to analyze the original software, all while doing normal dev work.
NH: Yes, very much so. It’s a miracle we even got the code itself rewritten. I almost just want to take the original code, change it into text, and post it for everyone to see, just so people could see what we did. The amount of work we did isn’t normal—people would tear up if they saw the sheer amount of effort we put into it.
YO: They were working on it while doing After Burner, and when that was done, they were working on it during their breaks. Then on to Out Run, and working on this on the side.
NH: Pretty much. We were working on it little by little in the background. It’s as if the final puzzle piece just happened to turn out to be Thunder Blade. Though I always suspected that would be the case. I’m glad it’s all closing out with this.
YO: There’s this gentleman who’s really been a main player behind the scenes for the 3D Remaster Project. His name is Saito-san*, a programmer who we’ve spoken about in the interviews before. Had he not been around, this project may have never existed.
* Akira Saito: A programmer at M2. He often comes up in relation to the sound work.
NH: When I would have meetings with Okunari-san, I would say, “We’ve come this far, and if we don’t make Thunder Blade, Saito is going to flip a table.” He really would have (laughs). I had to have something to keep him motivated (laughs). When you hang the carrot in front of the horse, he’s gonna go for it, you know?
YO: You sure that’s something you want to say in this interview, as the president of the company?
NH: Well, I hung the carrot in front of myself, as well. It’s a little odd doing that to yourself, but anyway. I mean, I like the other titles and all, and I played them a lot. But we’ve been at this marathon for near two years now, right? The reason we’ve been running is because Thunder Blade is waiting at the finish line.
I mean, when is there ever going to be another chance for this? So here we are, getting Thunder Blade into this second batch. No one else out there is just going to say one day, “Hey, you know what we should do? We should port Thunder Blade.”
YO: You’re right.
– I see.
NH: Back when the arcade version was originally running, I always felt sorry for the game. It’s sort of how you really feel for the kid who never quite makes it. You know, the unpopular kid. It was the kid at the arcade who never got the spotlight. But the game itself, the way it is presented, the technology used, it’s all really amazing. People who port these games, or people who do remakes or knockoffs, they will understand what I’m getting at. It’s one of those games “you have to know about”, and I feel a sense of duty to shine the spotlight on it.
Back then, there wasn’t anything for it on home consoles, so you couldn’t buy it and pass it around between your friends. And even if you went to the arcade, your friends would want to play other games, so it just wouldn’t happen. So we’ve come this far carrying this desire to let everyone else know about the game. But suddenly there was this opportunity—the possibility that Okunari-san might actually let us do it if we pushed hard enough. So the time had come for Thunder Blade’s day in the sun.
– You’ve been talking about Thunder Blade since the start of the 3D Remaster Project. Seriously, I went back and looked. You were talking about it back during 3D Space Harrier.
Times Thunder Blade has been mentioned in the interviews to date
– Even if you had been maybe working on it behind the scenes back then, the possibility was still really slim that it would actually happen.
YO: Nothing was decided during the first batch. We didn’t even know we were going to be able to do a second batch.
NH: We had it running on the 3DS hardware, and while the framerate was still really bad the game showed a lot of promise. I really felt that it was something we would have to do at some point. And in order to plant the seed for people to buy it if it DID come out, I made sure to bring it up as often as I could.
– So you were planning for it the whole time?
NH: Sort of, yes.
– So up until you started working on the second batch, there wasn’t even a possibility that this game would happen.
NH: It’s always Okunari-san’s style to mix one or two games into the line-up that he would say these games would usually never happen, but now is just the right time. And thus they get a remaster. For the PS2 SEGA AGES 2500, it was Fantasy Zone II. This time it’s Thunder Blade.
NH: It’s not easy to make it happen, after all.
A Look Back at the History of Thunder Blade
YO: I want to spend some time going over the history of Thunder Blade here. When you talk about SEGA’s “physical experience” series, they were really the stars of arcades back then. The first game, Hang-On, had its signature red bike kit, and then Space Harrier had its moving arcade cabinet. They both generated a lot of conversation around them. Then along the same lines as Hang-On, Enduro Racer came out with an arcade kit that you controlled yourself, followed by Out Run and then Super Hang-On. After that, After Burner. So at this point, you could say things had pretty much reached a peak.
NH: Out Run and After Burner were the pinnacle of glory.
YO: And the next game was Thunder Blade. Speaking from the point of what the arcade kits did, Hang-On was one where you moved the kit, and Space Harrier was the first one where the kit moved itself. Then Enduro Racer again was one you moved yourself, and Out Run’s kit moved itself. Then Super Hang-On was one you moved yourself. So they were basically alternating like that, okay?
Then came After Burner, which improved on Space Harrier and Out Run’s formulas with its Double Cradle cabinet. They have one at the Huis Ten Bosch resort in Nagasaki, where one of the main displays in the Huis Ten Bosch Game Museum in their Game Kingdom. You can play it on certain days… Anyway, so this cabinet came out. And there’s no other places you can play it anymore, but at the time of its original release it was everywhere and people were really excited about it.
So after that, it was said that a helicopter game was going to be released next, and people thought it would be an even more amazing game than After Burner. That game was Thunder Blade. Following the pattern of the preceding releases, it was a game that you would move yourself.
I myself was a gamer going to the arcades back then, and I haven’t talked to any of the development staff about this, so I don’t know anything about the background. But if I had to conjecture, I’d guess that the reason they would alternate between arcade kits that moved or had to be moved by the player was due to the space available to place the kit at the location. Basically, there are two types of arcades: very small, compact places and larger sites. So I get the impression they basically targeted those two sectors separately. And back then, small scale arcades were quite common.
NH: For those places, basically there was only room for compact kits outside table-style cabinets.
– That was the case, wasn’t it?
YO: So if an arcade didn’t have room for Out Run or After Burner, they could have Enduro Racer and Super Hang-On. So perhaps they wanted to provide some kind of vehicle game that wasn’t a bike for a low cost. Back then, I imagined that they released Thunder Blade to satisfy that market.
– I see.
YO: Thunder Blade shipped far fewer units than After Burner, but quite a few units still got out there. Probably something like 3 times as many as the 8th title in the series, Galaxy Force. More than Power Drift, even.
– I do seem to have the recollection that it was very common at the time, actually.
YO: However, the fact that you had to move it yourself, combined with the unique control style required of a helicopter, the feeling of speed… You know, with After Burner, that game makes you feel like you’re moving fast and a lot of its impact comes from that, but if you try to get that kind of speed out of Thunder Blade, you’re just going to be running into enemies and smashing into buildings… But if you slow down too much, the game loses some of its impressiveness, and you become a target for enemy fire. The game is hard. And then throw in the way the kit is built, and it’s just a hard game to move around in the way you want.
So I think that’s why it had such a hard time on the market. And with After Burner out there at the same time, I figure most people just opted for that game instead. That’s probably why it wasn’t in the arcades for very long. At least that’s my impression.
– There were a lot of Thunder Blade kits out there, but for me, I just didn’t see many people getting all that into it. I actually remember sitting in it the first time and being really impressed, but… I never came back to it. I don’t really recall having put much money into it. I think I probably spent more time watching other people play once in a while.
YO: Thunder Blade required you to overcome some pretty high hurdles to play. At the very beginning, it’s like, “TAKE OFF,” but you have no idea what you need to do. That’s where you START at. Racing games had their own hurdles, like having the gear shifter and no automatic option. You wouldn’t know when you were supposed to switch gears. But despite that, for Out Run at least, you could still move and focus on the steering wheel and the accelerator. And with After Burner as well, you could at least play, regardless of speed.
Thunder Blade tried to take the feeling of flying a helicopter and simplify it, but also recreate that atmosphere of being in the cockpit. But for most people, that was just a pretty high hurdle.
– But that said, it was a really interesting game because it had a two-perspective loop that it would progress through. And in the 2D top view, you could change your altitude as well. There were a few helicopter games like Kyukyoku Tiger (aka Twin Cobra) out at the time, but not many of them let you change your altitude, and the fact that the Thunder Blade kit would react to your weight was really interesting. From the point you took off, it really felt like you were moving it yourself. But whether that was easy to play or not is a totally different discussion. (laughs)
YO: They were being very serious when they built it, that’s for sure.
– But watching other people play, the ending is super short and there were only 4 stages. It was such a weird little game. That said, each stage has top and back view parts that it switches between halfway, so if you actually play it, it’s pretty long.
YO: I’m just guessing, but I think the ending probably just didn’t make it schedule-wise.
NH: No game has enough time.
– Whether it’s Out Run or After Burner, they all had proper (?) endings, you know? So when I saw the ending to Thunder Blade, I was a little confused.
YO: The games back then were made very quickly. You could build one out in three months. That’d be unthinkable these days.
– It doesn’t have a second playthrough. It just ends suddenly. So in that sense, it left quite an impression.
YO: After that, in the year following the arcade version (1987), it was ported to the Sega Mark III, and was released for the Mega Drive as a launch title as Super Thunder Blade. Since it was a Mega Drive launch title, Super Thunder Blade got a lot of attention, and would see a number of ports in the future… And even Yuji Naka, who would go on to work on Sonic and Phantasy Star II, worked on it as a programmer. I hear he banged it out in about three months.
– And around this time, there was a pretty big gap between arcade machines and home consoles like the Sega Mark III and Mega Drive. It was a time when arcade ports played starring roles on the home console lineups. But starting with “physical experience” games like Hang-On and Space Harrier, porting turned into a creative exercise. People were really curious how that experience could be recreated at home.
NH: Finding creative ways to reconstruct the experience was a really interesting thing to watch play out.
– And because of that, gamers at the time would pay a lot of attention to magazines and other sources to stay on top of those developments. In a way they were being educated so they could appreciate what the ports were doing. Myself included.
YO: Yeah, back then magazines like Beep would explain technical topics in a way that even elementary or middle school kids would understand. “How were they able to port Space Harrier to the Mark III?” “Why is there a frame around it?” Things like that. Like how they approached the technical side of things, such as, “We draw the character as a BG layer so it looks huge.” You’d think, “I dunno what a ‘BG’ is, but that’s what they said!” I think people who remember that are the types of people who are our main supporters for the SEGA 3D Remaster Project.
– Especially with the “physical experience” arcade games, the creative approaches to overcoming the gap in software and hardware capabilities helped to educate and mature the SEGA fans. They got to see all kinds of interesting attempts—many of SEGA’s ports made valiant efforts to recreate the arcade experience, but not all of them were successful. (laughs) Sometimes the attempts just left you with a vague feeling of sadness.
NH: Like “Ouch, you shouldn’t have done that.”
– That’s right. So for like Fantasy Zone, which I know isn’t a physical experience game, I thought, “Wait, where’re the background graphics?” But at the same time, I kept thinking how amazing it was. I think SEGA fans have been honed that way, bred that way even. So then with the SEGA “physical experience” games, which have you flying into the background with the scaling technology making sprites flow at you, I remember thinking “Man, there’s no way they can port this,” despite not really knowing anything at all. And when ports actually came out, I noticed that a lot of them were pretty different from the arcade versions.
Maybe it’s because of that, but it took a pretty long time for Thunder Blade to be released for the PC Engine and the X68000. The porting quality was higher than others, but it had taken them a lot of time and effort.
Perhaps it was the time gap, or maybe other factors, but the ports just stopped happening after that. And because of that, the game sort of fell off everyone’s radar. At least that’s my personal impression of the situation.
NH: Really, and I hear that a lot. But the way the game overlaps its sprites to enhance the space the game happens in and the way it shows depth creates an amazing experience in flying a helicopter… It really is a piece of work. The experience is very convincing. It did so many things right, but it was just close, you know. It’s really that kid who should have been, but wasn’t. That’s all I can say.
3D Thunder Blade, Easier to Play Than Ever!
YO: So I thought that maybe Thunder Blade was tough because of its controls. Perhaps that pushed people away. And now since we are porting it, we aren’t only going to reproduce it exactly as it was, but M2 has also gone in and made a number of adjustments as well.
The easiest one to notice is the speed adjuster. Pressing the L button will cause you to speed up, but now if you release the button you’ll maintain your speed. You don’t need to hold it down, so once you set your speed, you don’t need to worry about it anymore and you can focus on your controls.
In addition to that, if you turn the difficulty down to one star, you won’t take any environmental damage. This is pretty ground-breaking for this game.
NH: It is. In the original, if you hit something you would just crash and lose a life.
YO: This was one of the reasons Thunder Blade was so hard—the fact that compared to After Burner, there were also obstacles in the background that you had to avoid as well. And they are hard to dodge, which I think was exacerbated by the tricky controls.
– Crashing into buildings was definitely one source of deaths in the game.
YO: In Galaxy Force, you’d take damage to your speed and energy, but for this game, when you lower the difficulty to the easiest setting, running into an object just stops you in place, so flying is less stressful. Now you can just focus on moving your helicopter and shooting enemies. It’s much simpler as a shooting game. I think this change really makes a big difference.
– I tried playing with the difficulty set to one, and it was perfect for me since I was so out of practice.
YO: If you think, “man, this is hard,” while you’re playing, you can just drop it down a notch.
– Well, I think there some hardcore people out there who will refuse to do that though. (laughs)
YO: If you set it so you don’t take damage and get used to it, you stop getting hung up on the stage layout. The layout isn’t really that tricky in the first place, honestly.
– Back when you had to feed money into it to play, it was a really high hurdle to get past since you really needed to understand the stage layout to be able to progress. The stage itself attacks you.
NH: Like in the cave.
– You can run into the buildings in top view if you drop down to low altitude. You get shot at too. You’ve got to control your speed really well if you want to progress, which isn’t that hard, but it used to take a lot of money until you got the hang of it. It reminds me of Galaxy Force, too. You can really start playing that game after you realize it’s a racing game that you shoot in.
YO: Well, on that front, that’s where the Special Mode comes in. It’s this game’s “real deal.”
– Oh no! Here we go!
Continued in Part 2!
Join us tomorrow for the conclusion of our 3D Thunder Blade interview and a look into the Special Mode. As always, we do love hearing your feedback on these posts. If there’s something you are looking forward to, or even something you learned, let us know and share with your fellow fans!
Monday Apr 20, 2015
Another SEGA 3D Classic release, another chance at the classic SEGA hoodie. This update centers around 3D Fantasy Zone II, which launched last week for North America and Europe for the Nintendo 3DS.
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
For 3D Fantasy Zone II, we’re going along a similar route as our last contest, but making this round specific to the unlocks. As with the last game, 3D Fantasy Zone II allows players to bank coins earned per playthrough. At certain milestones, you’ll unlock new ways to play. Unlock two specific upgrades to earn two different entries into the contest. We highly recommend checking out Link Loop Land to earn some coins – good luck!
Challenge #1: Play and earn 300,000 coins to unlock the first upgrade.
Challenge #2: Play and earn 1,200,000 coins to unlock the third upgrade.
Then email a photo of your screen beating each of the challenges and submit it to Sega3DClassics@sega.com with the subject, “SEGA 3D Classics Classic Sweepstakes – 3D Fantasy Zone II.” 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=20850 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 4/30/15 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 Fantasy Zone II Sweepstakes (“Promotion”) begins at 12:00:01 AM Pacific Time (“PT”) on April 20th, 2015 and ends at 11:59:59 PM PT on April 30th, 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 earn one million 200 hundred thousand (1,200,000) coins, unlock the third upgrade and take a photo of your score (your “Third Upgrade Picture”). To receive one (1) additional entry send an email to Sega3DClassics@sega.com, attach your Million Coin Picture to the email, enter “Third Upgrade 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.
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 a sweepstakes service, 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, late, or contain irregular or invalid information, or are corrupted are void and will not be accepted.
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 July 2, 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.
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 – 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, late, lost or mis-directed mail, 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 select winners and award 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.
(8) Winner Information – Winners will be announced at http://blogs.sega.com on or about July 15, 2015.
Sega of America, Inc.
© SEGA. ALL rights reserved. SEGA is registered in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. SEGA, the SEGA logo, and 3D Fantasy Zone II are either registered trademarks or trademarks of SEGA Corporation.
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.
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