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SEGA 3D Classics – 3D Fantasy Zone: Opa-Opa Brothers – Part 1

SEGA 3D Classics - Fantasy Zone

This week we launch another SEGA 3D Classic on the Nintendo eShop with 3D Fantasy Zone: Opa-Opa Brothers! We also launch part 1 of our interview with Yosuke Okunari (SEGA of Japan) and Naoki Horii (President of M2) with a ton of new details about the creation of the game. We hope you enjoy!

Thanks again to Game Watch and Impress, Okunari-san, and Horii-san for their involvement in making these interviews available to our western audience. Special thanks to our producer Sam for translating these interviews for everyone’s enjoyment.

A Little about the Arcade Version of Fantasy Zone

SEGA 3D Classics - Fantasy Zone

Fantasy Zone, the second game created for SEGA’s System-16 arcade board, was released in 1986. Comprised of a MC68000 and a Z80, the System-16 board was considered to be a more general-purpose version of the “Harrier Board” employed by Space Harrier, which was equipped with two MC68000 microprocessors. There were two versions of the board, labeled “A” and “B,” with the latter featuring sprite zooming capabilities (maximum of 128 sprites on-screen at once), though those features were not available when Fantasy Zone was released. The sound source was a YM2151.

SEGA 3D Classics - Fantasy Zone
The shop is one of the main characteristics of the game.

Fantasy Zone is a side-scrolling shooter, somewhat of a rarity for a SEGA title, that features a single joystick with two buttons. The game’s protagonist, Opa-Opa, utilizes shots and bombs to destroy ten enemy bases located throughout each stage. Destroying these bases triggers the boss battle. Defeating enemies and bases causes them to drop coins, which the player can pick up. Once enough have been collected, a balloon-shaped shop will appear. By touching this ship, they player can spend coins on things such as upgraded guns, bombs, engines, and extra lives which can only be obtained via the shop. This feature was unique at the time, and gave the game its sense of originality. Technically speaking, there were four versions of the arcade ROM, with the OLD and NEW Japanese versions making an appearance in 3D Fantasy Zone. The other two international OLD/NEW versions, which are quite rare, featured the ability to continue.

SEGA 3D Classics - Fantasy Zone
You can purchase limited-use weapons with special abilities.

This game was ported to a number of home consoles, including the Mark III (Master System), Famicom, PC Engine, X68000, SEGA Saturn, etc. This version is the second release of Fantasy Zone by M2, with the first being the Japan-only SEGA AGES 2500 Vol. 33 Fantasy Zone Complete Collection for PlayStation 2.

SEGA 3D Classics - Fantasy Zone
Unique, colorful graphics

SEGA 3D Classics - Fantasy Zone
Destroying all the bases causes the boss to appear

Fantasy Zone, in unrelenting 3D!

– Alright, so the second game in the second batch of the 3D Remaster Project is Fantasy Zone, so I’m here once again to chat with you guys about it. Thank you again for having me. Okay, first off, as always, why did you choose Fantasy Zone?

Yosuke Okunari (below YO): I may have mentioned this when we were talking about 3D After Burner II, but for the 3D Remaster Project’s second batch, we wanted to work on games that we knew would make the domestic Japanese users really happy. So the reason we chose Fantasy Zone was because it’s very Japan-focused. The reality is this game is practically unknown overseas. The arcade version was hardly ever distributed outside Japan.

Naoki Horii (below NH): It’s pretty impressive that you still know stuff like that.

YO: The people overseas who know this game probably played the Master System version. They probably never played the arcade version back when it was originally out. Most of them, at least. There is a ROM version that’s dubbed the “International Version (US ver.),” but compared to Japan, it saw very limited distribution. I get the impression that there was a board that was distributed with the intention of it being the “International Version,” but when compared to other titles that saw widespread circulation, like Altered Beast or Golden Axe, it’s pretty unknown.

However, on the other hand the game was extremely popular in Japan. There was the arcade version, and then there was a Mark III / Master System version released shortly after that was one of the driving forces behind that console’s hardware uptake. And then a year later, Sunsoft released a well-made version for the Famicom. This port onto the major hardware platform at the time helped drive the game’s popularity. Then there was another port to the PC Engine / TurboGrafx 16 a year after that, and this contributed again to its fame, similar to Space Harrier. Basically, its appearance on all of the major players of the 8-bit generation of consoles was the key factor in the game’s popularity.

NH: Huh. So that’s why everyone knows it.

YO: We are able to bring the arcade version back due to the strong domestic response to the SEGA 3D Remaster Project.

NH: So what you’re saying is due to the response to 3D After Burner II, it’s okay to go and pick up Thunder Blade, right…?

YO: Well, 3D After Burner II might need to work a little harder before we can do that…

– (laughs) In terms of genre, Fantasy Zone is a first for the 3D Remaster Project in that it’s a side-scrolling shooter

YO: SEGA didn’t have a lot of shooting games that weren’t played from a 3D perspective. In the arcade, there were Sonic Boom and Scramble Spirits for vertical shooters, and we had games like Astro Flash for our side-scroll shooter lineup.

– So there weren’t many of these standard side-scrolling shooters.

YO: Aurail and Heavy Metal. I mean, I can keep throwing these out, so it’s not like we didn’t have any at all. But if you try to narrow it down to the ones we made internally, there really weren’t many.

– And despite that, Fantasy Zone is remarkable in the fact that it was well-known and a SEGA-made side-scrolling shooter. That’s what makes it seem quite special.

YO: This time around, in addition to the staff who have been working on our projects up to now, we also added team members who worked on the System-16 version of Fantasy Zone II for the Fantasy Zone Complete Collection. The project began as a kind of follow-up to that version of Fantasy Zone II*.

* NOTE: Fantasy Zone II was originally developed for the Mark III / Master System, and when ported back to the arcade, it ran on a board called the System E. This board featured specs very similar to the Mark III / Master System, which was technically inferior to the System-16. The version of Fantasy Zone II in the Fantasy Zone Complete Collection is a remastered version that runs on System-16, and thus is of higher quality.

SEGA 3D Classics - Fantasy Zone
System-16 version of Fantasy Zone II

As far as stereoscopic 3D is concerned, we are pretty fixated on the details at this point now that we are on the 10th game in our series. Based on what we did with 3D Shinobi III, we put a lot of work into the 3D work for the backgrounds. There is a real sense of 3D now.

NH: Just looking at it, it seems as if every single pixel has some depth associated with it. However, from a technical standpoint, we didn’t have the leeway to actually go that far. We were able to split either the background or foreground into up to 4 layers, and we had a good deal of freedom in adding depth to the text, though it’s about 8 pixels tall.

YO: I suppose it’s a bit as if we brought the Giga Drive to System-16.

NH: Theoretically speaking, we can do a little more than the Giga Drive. We can assign each ‘cell’ to any of the 4 levels of depth, though there are some limits to that. And if you have a cell that crosses multiple depth levels, we can place individual ‘chips.’ It’s actually possible to go even further with the 3D-enabled System-16 (I call it the “System-16E”) but that’s as far as we went this time after we took the limits of our development tools and brains into account.

YO: When we talk about our previous 3D Mega Drive games, it’s important to note all those games were 2D action games. So we started by taking the side-scrolling screens and making them 3D. And that’s why we chose the Mega Drive version for our first game, 3D Altered Beast, since it used scrolling layers for a 3D effect. After we built up more experience with 3D Ecco the Dolphin, we were able to take the original single-layer backgrounds of 3D Shinobi III and add depth to them.
Well, it’s less that we were suddenly able to do it, and more that we had become more efficient, and decided to put more work into getting it done.

NH: Yes, so now we can take a single background layer, and split it up into multiple ones. And this time we’ve gone and done the same on System-16.

YO: This is pretty well-known by people who followed Fantasy Zone back in the day, but Denpa Shinbunsha (Micomsoft) X68000 version actually supported stereoscopic 3D*, with scrolling layers similar to what we did with 3D Altered Beast. But for 3D Fantasy Zone, we were able to create a look very close to multiple layer scrolling, similar to 3D Shinobi III and 3D Streets of Rage. We’ve really brought a sense of depth to what was originally a flat image.

* The X68000 had a 3D port, which required an adapter to connect the ‘Famicom 3D System’ Glasses, which employed ‘active shuttering’ using LCD to create the 3D effect. When Fantasy Zone was released, the adapter was not available, so Micomsoft published instructions on how to build the adapter from scratch.

NH: For example in Round 1, every plant in the foreground has depth. This is something we were able to do for the first time in this game.

– I was really surprised when I played it, but even the enemy bases are in 3D now!

NH: We were able to do that because we doubled the number of objects being used.

YO: The fact that the characters themselves are 3D is one of the interesting points this time around.

NH: The Round 1 enemy bases (called dorarinfura) have their center sections sort of popping out, and the bases in Round 2 (called baibaapu) have both hands sticking out.

YO: The 3D adds a sense of roundness to the characters.

SEGA 3D Classics - Fantasy Zone
Round 2’s enemy bases, baibaapu. Their hands look like they are sticking out.

NH: We actually wanted to add 3D to the bosses as well. We actually did have 3D on them. But when you would defeat one, the 3D would get messed up when they’d break apart. So unfortunately we had to give up on it. But there are some situations, like Round 2’s boss (Boranda), where we put in 3D processing since the parts don’t get messed up when they break apart.

YO: It’s something that’s easier said than done. What they’ve done here is even more work than what we did on the Giga Drive.

NH: Explaining the way the background 3D works is rather difficult with just words, so we’ve gone and prepared a graphic for you. Simply put, in order to show a 2D graphic in 3D, you have to show what’s behind things in the background and what things look like from the sides. Things that you couldn’t see in a single layer screen. That’s all got to be visible in the game.

And of course, those parts of the picture aren’t part of the original graphics. By bringing new parts into the background, as you see in this graphic, you can increase what is displayed without adding or redrawing a single pixel. It’s like a 3D puzzle.

SEGA 3D Classics - Fantasy Zone
M2’s explanation graphic.

SEGA 3D Classics - Fantasy Zone
Can you see how they fit the puzzle pieces together to create the 3D effect?

– Whoa!

NH: Next, when it comes to putting multiple layers into objects such as the enemy bases, there are some parts that we can’t really leave sitting in the background. For example, in Round 2, the bases have hands that stick out. So in that situation, we had to go in and actually make changes to the original graphic and remove the hands from the body, which is situated in the background.

Incidentally, it turns out that our programmer, Akira Saito*, had been secretly trying various things involving 3D-ifying in-game objects, and our main game designer, Koga, took an interest in what he was doing. And he plied Saito with gifts and forced him to put the stuff he was working on into the game. I’d like to encourage such arrangements going forward.
* Akira Saito has had a hand in almost every 3D Remaster Project title. He’s been involved with sound drivers since the X68000 days.

– (laughs) … Gifts, eh? Well in any case, it feels really fresh and new, so there are even more stereoscopic 3D things to look forward to.

YO: In terms of 3D, Fantasy Zone seems pretty run-of-the-mill at first, but there was a significant amount of work that went on behind the scenes. Consequently, you really can appreciate the colorful, vivid atmosphere of the game through its 3D. It will remind you of the way the original game blew you away when you first saw it. But it doesn’t feel like a dated game, at all. It really feels like a normal modern game you’d see on 3DS.

SEGA 3D Classics - Fantasy Zone
Markers have been added that indicate the distance and altitude of the bases

Oh, and I just want to throw this out there, but we tried a lot of different things to get widescreen support in there. Unfortunately, we were not able to get it in this time. It was sort of a situation where it was possible, but not really possible at the same time.

NH: Though, with enough time, nothing is impossible!

YO: Well if it was just adding in widescreen, we could have done that without any problem. But then there would be enemies that’d have to be drawn that wouldn’t be if the screen was 4:3, and this has an impact on game balance. You start having to make decisions on what to display and what not to display, and you end up with differences from the original game’s balancing. We gave up on it because we decided that our time would be better spent on other things rather than programming widescreen and adjusting for game balance. So instead, there’s a full screen mode that just stretches the 4:3 screen out, and it’s not bad at all, actually. And it doesn’t mess with the game balance. Be sure to give it a shot.

So instead of working on widescreen, we put our efforts into adding markers that indicate the locations of off-screen enemy bases. With these, you will now know the altitude of the bases, and as you get close, the arrows get bigger as well. It should help avoid situations where you accidentally run into a base while moving around, or where you totally overlook an undestroyed base.

Also, we’ve added the Classic Screen Mode like we had in the Giga Drive titles—the one that makes it look like you are playing on a CRT screen. I highly recommend trying it. If you happen to own a black 3DS, try setting it on a table and watching a replay using this mode. It really feels like you are playing on a table-style arcade cabinet.

– That’d be quite a throwback for those who played on those back in the day.

YO: For anyone who happened to visit the No Continue Kid and Game Center CX collaboration cafés in Shibuya, you’ll get a taste of that at right in the comfort of your home. (laughs)

– And the lower touchscreen is being used this time as well, right?

YO: Well, it’s not like we’ve been ignoring the lower screen in previous games. There have been a lot of things we’ve wanted to do with it. It’s just…

NH: We haven’t had the processing power. We are talking about drawing three screens worth of stuff (the upper screen has to process 3D, which is two screens worth of processing). Internally, I’ve always told the staff that any attempts to draw to the lower screen while drawing to the upper screen will be treated with extreme prejudice. But hey! Now you can see details about how many more bases you need to beat. You can see the boss character, too! How about that?

Similar to what I was talking about earlier, our designer, Koga, was sneaking peeks at the game design for 3D After Burner II, and started saying, “Oh man, this is bad. We haven’t got any upgrades for Fantasy Zone. Okay, let’s do something fancy with the lower screen.” I have to say, the programmer really was not in good shape at that point.

YO: You can kind of use it as a tactical guide. If you’re not familiar with the game, you can look at the upcoming boss and get an idea of what weapons you should purchase.

– Though if you get really into the game, you’re not really going to have time to look at the bottom screen, especially if you’re not familiar with it. (laughs)

YO: That is true. (laughs) But the fact that the lower screen has more going on makes it feel more like your typical 3DS game, you know? (laughs)

NH: We heard some people saying that just having the menu on there was rather lacking.

A slight digression, but drawing to the lower screen causes your processing speed to take quite a hit. We put a lot of effort into the staff credits this time, and we were getting a lot of frame dropping on the upper screen so we had to draw the lower screen at around 15 frames per second. And despite that we still frame drop on the upper screen.

– (laughs) Sounds like trying to replicate System-16 on the 3DS uses as much processing power as the Giga Drive.

NH: Yes, it does. In some aspects it’s even harder than Mega Drive. From the developer perspective, there are some really crazy things that have to happen. Though none of that ultimately concerns the end user.

SEGA 3D Classics - Fantasy Zone
You can stock up coins and select which round you want.

– Alright, so I’d like to ask you all about some topics other than the porting itself, such as the game system. It sounds like you’ve added a lot of things into the game’s design itself.

YO: The ability to bank coins is probably the most ground-breaking addition, considering all the numerous ports that Fantasy Zone has seen. As you play the game, the coins that you collect with Opa-Opa are basically placed into a savings account. The amount you use in-game isn’t counted; it simply counts the coins you collect.

This ‘Coin Stock’comes in handy when you use the now standard Round Select feature. This helps address the issue where if you start a later round with no coins, it’s pretty impossible to clear because you can’t buy anything from the shop. So now you can withdraw from your Coin Stock.

– It’s a lot easier to pick up where you left off from the Round Select.

YO: Right. You’ll start the game with the money you withdrew and it makes it a lot easier to get going on any round. However, you need to decide by yourself how much to take out, and any left over money will just disappear if you game over. So you’ll need to be careful not to use too much and think about how much money is appropriate to take out.

But if you are too stingy with your cash, you might feel like you should have taken out more while you are playing. By adding a ‘bank’ into what is ultimately a game based on capitalism, in some ways it’s even more Fantasy Zone-esque than previously.

NH: If we go on to make III, let’s have the player pay back that loan. You know, Fantasy Loan… *buh dum tss*
ALL: (laughs)

– Something like Hero Bank*, right?
* Hero Bank is a game published by SEGA in Japan, where players rent heroes to participate in epic battles. The protagonist, in search of glory, rents a hero suit but ultimately puts himself in enormous debt.

NH: Yes, I suppose so.

YO: You know, there’s actually a hero outfit in Hero Bank called “Segalion” that has Opa-Opa as its helmet. (laughs)

But Wait, there’s more!

Join us tomorrow for part 2 of our SEGA 3D Classics interview about Fantasy Zone in which we discuss the new UPA-UPA mode! We hope you enjoyed our first part and all of our SEGA 3D Classics interviews. As always, we love to hear what you think of these articles, feel free to post in the comments below.


SEGA 3D Classics – Developer Interviews

Each month we’re featuring a look back at some of our most classic SEGA titles through the SEGA 3D Classics for the Nintendo 3DS. With each game release, we’ve also included an in depth interview with Yosuke Okunari (SEGA of Japan) and Naoki Horii (President of M2) to discuss how these titles were re-created. We hope you enjoy these interviews and the 3D Classics!

3D Classics Series 2

SEGA 3D Classics - 3D Thunder Blade
3D Thunder Blade Interview part 1, part 2.

SEGA 3D Classics - 3D Fantasy Zone II W
3D Fantasy Zone II W Interview – Part 1, Part 2

SEGA 3D Classics - 3D Out Run
3D Out Run Interview – Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4

SEGA  3D Classics - Fantasy Zone
3D Fantasy Zone Interview – Part 1, Part 2

3D After Burner II
3D After Burner II Interview Part 1, Part 2.

SEGA 3D Classics Series 1

Space Harrier logo
3D Space Harrier Interview

Super Hang On logo
Super Hang-On Interview

Sonic Logo
3D Sonic The Hedgehog Interview

Altered Beast logo
3D Altered Beast Interview

Ecco Logo
3D Ecco the Dolphin Interview</em>

Galaxy Force II logo
3D Galaxy Force II Interview

Shinobi logo
3D Shinobi III Interview

streets of rage logo
3D Streets of Rage Interview


Free Stuff Friday – January 16th, 2015

Continuing in our week of SEGA 3D Classics, we’re giving our download codes for 3D After Burner II on the Nintendo 3DS eShop for today’s Free Stuff Friday giveaway!

On the Block

SEGA 3D Classics - 3D After Burner II

We have four 3D After Burner II codes to giveaway, which are valid for North America and Europe. Good luck!

How it Works

Free Stuff Friday - Sign up for Twitter

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 and click the green “get started — join!” button in the center of the page.

Free Stuff Friday - Example Tweet

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?
A: Twitter is really easy to use! Twitter has a helpful tutorial that walks you through the basics.

Q: How do Direct Messages work again?
A: Check this guide on how to send Direct Messages using the default twitter clients on the web or on a phone.

Q: How can I be sure my Direct Messages are reaching you?
A: Send @SEGA a Direct Message with the word ‘test’ and we’ll respond to confirm we’ve received it.

Q: I have a question for SEGA on Friday, around 11am Pacific Time, why aren’t you responding?
A: We’re probably swamped with messages while running the giveaway, try messaging us later in the day or when it appears to be less busy.

Q: I won a Sonic Shirt that’s too small for me, can I exchange it?
A: No, we don’t allow for exchanges or trade ins. The prizes are up for grabs as is, so in some cases you’ll want to be sure you can use it (like a shirt), or are in can redeem it (like a game).

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(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.


Sponsored by:
Sega of America, Inc.
350 Rhode Island Street, STE 400
San Francisco, CA 94103


3D After Burner II Available Today on Nintendo 3DS

SEGA 3D Classics - 3D After Burner II

3D After Burner II, the first release in the second series of 3D re-masterings exclusively for the Nintendo 3DS is available today in the Americas and Europe to download in the Nintendo eShop.

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3D After Burner II is the 1987 flight game masterpiece first released on SEGA’s X Board arcade hardware. Delivering a true vintage arcade experience, the re-mastered version features eye-popping stereoscopic 3D visuals and offers a host of options and settings, including the ability to adjust the difficulty settings and other visual enhancements, such as smoke transparency that were not present in the original version. Players are able to choose from a number of real-life arcade cabinets wherein everything from the appearance to the environmental sounds of the specific cabinet are recreated, providing a true and authentic arcade experience.

SEGA 3D Classics - 3D After Burner II

SEGA 3D Classics - 3D After Burner II

The highlight of 3D After Burner II is the addition of the ’special mode’ which can be unlocked once the player completes the game. The ’special mode,’ while maintaining the basics of the ’arcade mode,’ provides the player with a completely new gaming experience and allows the players to control time by utilizing the ‘burst’ which makes avoiding incoming attacks easier and increases the number of lock-on targets.

3D After Burner II also enhances the original audio experience by including soundtracks with additional melody lines, discovered in SEGA’s archives, from the time of the game’s original development.

We hope you enjoy 3D After Burner II, let us know if you plan to pick it up in the comments below!


A Classic contest, for the SEGA 3D Classics

Each month we’re giving SEGA fans a chance to pick up some rare SEGA merch for doing what you love – playing our SEGA 3D Classics!

Classic games, Classic Contest

SEGA 3D Classics - Classic Contest

Back when these SEGA Classic games were available in arcades, there was a contest style of taking a photo of yourself alongside game progress, results screens, or with credits. We’re bringing that back – each month, with each release of a new SEGA 3D Classic, we’re offering up a few challenges to complete in the games. A chance to take a photo and show off your successes, and get entered into a drawing for prizes.

Classic Contest, Classic Prize

SEGA 3D Classics - Classic Contest Prize
We’ve made versions of our SEGA Controller hoodie over the years and it’s always in demand from our fans, so we figure it would be the perfect prize. For each giveaway, we’re giving away 10 of these hoodies to fans who enter the Classic Contest. As you can see, we’re still in the process of making them, so we’ll fill you in on the details. The hoodie will be black with white embroider stitch, we’ll also have an embroidered SEGA logo under the hood on back.

How to Enter

SEGA 3D Classics - 3D After Burner II

There are two challenges for 3D After Burner II, both grant one entry into the contest. Complete both challenges, submit two photos, and have two entries into the drawing for the hoodie.
Challenge #1: Complete 3D After Burner II for the Nintendo 3DS and unlock Special Mode. Take any photo from the game with the burst meter from Special Mode active or visible.

Challenge #2: Complete Special Mode. Take a photo alongside the game with the Mission Complete screen, with the burst meter visible.

We recommend that you record your replay, ensuring you can get the perfect shot. Simply pause the game, take a photo, or have a friend take it for you.

Then submit to with the subject, “SEGA 3D Classics Classic Sweepstakes – 3D After Burner 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 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 1/29/15 at 11:59:59 PM PT.

Classic Official Rules

Sega of America, Inc.
SEGA 3D Classics Classic Sweepstakes Series
1st Classic: 3D After Burner II
Official Rules

See Section (3) of these Official Rules for FREE method of entry by email.

(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 After Burner II Sweepstakes (“Promotion”) begins at 12:00:01 AM Pacific Time (“PT”) on January 15, 2014 and ends at 11:59:59 PM PT on January 29, 2014 (“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 –
• Purchase and play 3D After Burner II. Complete the play in Special Mode and take a photo of yourself playing with the burst meter active anywhere in Special Mode, (your “Special Mode Picture”). To receive one (1) entry send an email to, attach your Special Mode Picture to the email, enter “Special Mode 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.

• Continue game play to complete Special Mode and take a photo at the Mission Complete screen with the Burst Meter visible (your “Mission Complete Picture”). To receive one (1) additional entry send an email to, attach your Mission Complete Picture to the email, enter “Mission Complete 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 –
To enter without a game purchase and game play, to receive one (1) entry send an email send an email to, enter “SEGA 3D Classics Classic Sweepstakes – 3D After Burner II” 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.

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.

(4) Data Collection – Sponsor collects personal information from you when you enter the Promotion. By entering the Promotion, you agree to all of the terms and conditions of Sponsor’s Privacy Policy. For information about how personal information may be used, see Sponsor’s Privacy Policy, which is available at

(5) Prizes
– Ten (10) winners will each receive a Sega branded sweatshirt, approximate retail value (“ARV”) is thirty U.S. dollars ($30).

There are a total of ten (10) prizes, with a total ARV of all prizes of three hundred U.S. dollars ($300). The odds of winning depend upon the number of eligible entries received.

(6) Prize Awarding – Winners will be selected in a random drawing from all eligible entries conducted by Sponsor on or about March 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 on or about March 13, 2015.

Sega of America, Inc.
350 Rhode Island Street, STE 400
San Francisco, CA 94103

© SEGA. ALL rights reserved. SEGA is registered in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. SEGA, the SEGA logo, and After Burner are either registered trademarks or trademarks of SEGA Corporation.


SEGA 3D Classics – 3D Afterbunner II – A Classic Reborn – Part 2

SEGA 3D Classics - 3D After Burner II

We hope you are as excited as we are for the release of 3D After Burner II this Thursday! Today we continue our SEGA 3D Classics interview, talking about sound design and an all new mode for After Burner II. Enjoy.

Thanks again to Game Watch and Impress, Okunari-san, and Horii-san for their involvement in making these interviews available to our western audience. Special thanks to our producer Sam for translating these interviews for everyone’s enjoyment.

As always, your comments, posts, and replies are always appreciated. Let us know what you think of these interviews, and the games themselves!

A Present from Hiro-shishou: Sound Data with a Melody!

SEGA 3D Classics - 3D After Burner II
Above is Namiki-san, who joined the recording session this time. Below is Chibi-Tech-san.

– Alright, let’s bring in the sound director, Manabu Namiki, to join the conversation. Can you tell us about making the sound for 3D After Burner II?

Manabu Namiki (below MN): Similar to past projects such as 3D Space Harrier, 3D Super Hang-On, and the Giga Drive games, I’ve been overseeing the sound efforts. We started by recording the sounds from the After Burner II arcade cabinet itself. For all the previous titles, my colleague Chibi-Tech, and Matsuoka, the director, would take a trip down to SEGA’s long term storage facility and record all the sounds that the motors, buttons, and triggers make. But for After Burner II, I had a chance to go with them and climb into those machines, trigger the sounds, and record them.

This was different than what we’d done in the past, since I was able to see the machine myself and record things in the best conditions possible. With the help from Wavemaster’s Tsujisaka-san, I was able to actually to turn off the cooling fans as well, which are always a source of noise. But the way the cabinet is designed, some of these fans aren’t easy to just turn on and off. There’s the risk of electric shock, and you might even get injured because the cabinet itself moves. So we weren’t able to get them ALL off, but enough to get a clear recording.

– I see.

MN: If you turn on the environmental sounds in 3D After Burner II, when it’s idling, you can hear the fans, as well as the machinery that drives the cabinet. This is actually recorded from a real machine. This too is part of the environmental sounds.

– You had those in 3D Galaxy Force II as well. Those sounds are really cool. Personally, I think having them makes all the difference, and really leaves you with a different impression. When you hear them, it really gets you excited.

NH: Though, there are those who just want to hear the game’s sounds unaltered.

MN: And for those users, all you have to do is go into the game options and adjust the balance and volumes to your own preferences.

– Now that you actually attended the recording yourself, was there anything different that you noticed?

MN: There weren’t any big surprises, but we really were blessed by the location itself and the condition of the cabinets. The SEGA staff at the warehouse even took considerations to provide us with a room that didn’t have too much acoustic reverberation. And as a result, I think we were able to get a better recording than previous attempts.

SEGA 3D Classics - 3D After Burner II

YO: Now that you mention it, we had earthquakes or rain during past recordings. It was pretty rough.

NH: Though we made efforts during the recording so you’d not notice.

– Like when you put blankets over the cabinets for the Galaxy Force II recording.

YO: Oh, and here’s a little something that some fans have been asking for, but in 3D After Burner II, you can actually adjust the balance of the background music (BGM) and sound effects (SE) for the sound source emulator. So now the equalizer and balancer actually coexist.

MN: That’s the result of the work of Saito, our programmer.

YO: When we released 3D Space Harrier and 3D Super Hang-On, we got feedback where users would say, “The SE is too loud, I just want to turn the SE down a bit.” This is a very common feature in modern games. But when you talk about emulated games, the truth is this isn’t something that’s typically possible.

MN: In 3D Space Harrier and 3D Super Hang-On, both the BGM and SE are played through the same sound source just like the original hardware, so there isn’t a clear distinction between the two in the first place. So there’s no separate volume controls.

YO: However, we streamed the background music for 3D Galaxy Force II, with the SE being run through the internal sound source, so it was possible to change the balance between them. But you couldn’t use the equalizer since streaming is just playing back a recording.

MN: But for 3D After Burner II, our programmer set out to make it a reality. This is a pretty big step forward on the sound front for the 3D Remaster Project.

NH: One might ask why we don’t just create two sound sources, one specifically for BGM and one for SE. But this poses a problem for speed and optimization, so having two ultimately isn’t very realistic.

– Wait, so how exactly are you now able to change the balance?

MN: From a software point of view, there is no distinction between the SE and BGM, so we had to go in and say, “This is a sound… This is music…” Then we mark the places where it seems like we would be able to control the volume, and go in and swap out the code and data. It’s just the result of all the previous work and know-how we’ve accumulated on these projects, combined with old-fashioned hard work to find a way to make it happen.

There is this aspect of the 3D Remaster Project where we can’t do something initially, but as we handle more projects we find a way to do it. We knew that we couldn’t do everything right out the door, so we accomplish them one by one, knowing that accomplishments now will enable future accomplishments. Knowing that last time, we couldn’t do something, but this time we nailed it. It’s like one long road, and we’re traveling down it in a quest to achieve the ultimate remastering.

SEGA 3D Classics - 3D After Burner II
Fully featured sound options.

SEGA 3D Classics - 3D After Burner II
And, of course, a sound equalizer.

– 3D Galaxy Force II utilized streaming for its music, but you’ve gone back to emulating everything for 3D After Burner II. Was there anything different work-wise for you on 3D After Burner II?

MN: Since I’d built up experience working on Space Harrier, Super Hang-On, and Galaxy Force II, I feel like I was able to bring all those experiences and apply them to After Burner II, a game that was between Super Hang-On and Galaxy Force II in the timeline. I had a lot of trouble with Galaxy Force II.

NH: Trouble, was it? (laughs) That’s putting it lightly.

All: (Laughs)

MN: There are things I’d not have cued in on if I hadn’t worked on Galaxy Force II first, but I can now. And this isn’t just me. I think it goes for the rest of the development staff as well.

YO: Yes, it’s been multi-year process going back to the PlayStation 2 days.

MN: There’s one more point from the sound team about 3D After Burner II I want all the users out there to know about. We’ve implemented a low-pass filter for the first time in the “physical experience” game series in the 3D Remaster Project.

A “low-pass filter” is something we actually put into the Giga Drive* titles about halfway through. On 3D Altered Beast, we were working on the Mega Drive’s rather unique “DA,” a component of the PCM that sounds really rough and scratchy. When we got that working on the 3DS, though, it didn’t sound the way we were expecting.

* For more information about the Giga Drive, please refer to our previous blog posts:

YO: We touched on it a bit during the 3D Altered Beast interview. For the first game, 3D Sonic the Hedgehog, it didn’t sound particularly off when we played it straight, but for 3D Altered Beast, Namiki-san said, “This won’t cut it.”

MN: Yeah. So I was thinking about how to go in and adjust that. For the FM sound source as well, I noticed that the emulated sound and sound that I recorded straight off an actual Mega Drive sound quite different.
Eventually, I implemented a low-pass filter. Simply put, it’s a filter that cuts out the high frequencies, and lets the low ones through. The audiophiles out there will understand, but by putting this in, it’s sort of like taking the “Tone” knob on a cassette player or an amp and adjusting the treble. As a result, I think we got closer to how the Mega Drive actually sounds.

NH: It made it much better.

MN: Only people on the development team heard what it was like before we put the filter in, so let me try to explain what the differences are to the users out there. When it wasn’t in, the treble was pretty strong and it sounded like things were almost too clear. Some people might feel that’s OK, but when you play the sound off a board and compare it to a recording off the 3DS, there’s a difference. By putting a filter on After Burner II, I feel like it’s much closer to the actual machine itself.

With the sampling frequency used on arcade boards from the After Burner II era, the ROMS back then weren’t all that large, so for things like distorted guitars, percussion sounds, or sound effects, they had to think about what level of sound quality they wanted. And while I think Hiro-shishou* probably put a lot of work into it, the sound quality possible on the original hardware, and the quality we can currently get through software simulation is quite different. So I think this is a worthwhile point of pursuit.

There is a soundtrack released by Wavemaster called AFTER BURNER 20th Anniversary Box. I think we’ve got the 3D After Burner II sound to a point where if you take the arcade version sound off that soundtrack and compare with sound from the headphone jack on a 3DS, you’ll think it was pretty close. I think it’s very close to the sound we recorded straight off the arcade board. I’m pretty happy with what we were able to do. The low-pass filter has some constraints on it, so we can’t use it everywhere we might want to, but it still makes a big difference.
* Hiroshi Kawaguchi, After Burner II’s original composer. ‘Shishou’ is a term similar to ‘sensei’ and denotes reverence.

SEGA 3D Classics - 3D After Burner II

– What exactly causes the output to change if you are faithfully emulating the FM sound source and bringing in the PCM data from the original chipset?

MN: The sounds are always converted to analog through the board’s circuitry, but the digital-to-analog converter and the wiring after that can have a pretty big differentiating effect on the sound. It can be a challenge to do this through software where you are replicating the analog circuitry due to CPU power restraints, even with the know-how we’ve built up. If you want to get very detailed, you’d have to emulate all the various components of the circuitry, such as the condensers and the individual resistors. We’re talking about silicon-level emulation here. So instead of all that, we tried 3DS’s pre-equipped low-pass filter instead.

– And you found that to be pretty effective, it seems. Not only where you able to achieve the sound quality you were looking for, but it sounds like you were able to revive two songs that had melodies through the internal sound source?

MN: Well, that story started with our director, Matsuoka, telling us that we were going to be emulating the music this time for After Burner II.

NH: It’s always better when a game’s file size is small*! This is something that our main programmer, Saito, worked himself to death over. If the file is really big, it eats up time during our own functionality checks. Saito exploded at one point saying, “That’s just unacceptable!” and demonstrated his prowess with a lot of optimization work, which ultimately saved us a lot of time overall.
*Streamed music results in a larger file size.

– It’s also nice for the consumers because it doesn’t eat up a lot of space on their SD cards.

NH: It certainly took more time to download 3D Galaxy Force II from the eShop compared to the other games in the series, so that was another reason Saito attacked this problem with a vengeance.

MN: I had no problem with taking the emulation route [for After Burner II], but when they started talking about these ‘melody versions,’ then it was sort of a problem. As we mentioned, there were soundtrack CDs for After Burner II that were released, and these CDs had BGM versions with melodies that were not present in the arcade version. These ‘melody versions’ did not actually exist in either the Japanese or overseas versions of the ROM. This leads one to believe that they existed only in the original developer’s data. I thought that this data may well be lost to the world and didn’t exist anymore. But surprisingly, it did still exist and Okunari-san provided it to us.

YO: It turns out that the CD version of AFTER BURNER 20th Anniversary Box was digitally re-recorded, and these ‘melody versions’ were supposedly the hardest part of the remastering effort. The original composer, Hiro-shishou, actually had the original 1987 data. That is, on an ancient 8” floppy disc (laughs).

– An 8” floppy!? (laughs) Wow, that takes me back.

YO: The fact that the original data was even saved in the first place is a bit of a miracle, but playing it back was quite a task. After a lot of work from the Wavemaster staff, they were able to retrieve the data off the floppy and restore the sound data. They then used that to re-record the tracks for the CD Boxset. We subsequently received a request from M2, who thought there must be some data since it had gone through a new recording. So I was able to give them the music without having to deal with the trouble of getting the floppy to play the data.

NH: In order to use a song that didn’t exist in the original game, we needed to reach out to Hiro-shishou and get his permission to use the data. Once we did that, we converted it to a ROM that’d run on the original arcade board.

YO: When we say “sound data,” we mean that back then they used the ICE (in-circuit emulator: hardware that emulates embedded circuitry; aka. a development kit) to build the data out, but they didn’t go so far as to build the ROM data that would actually run on the machine.

MN: I had them show me the data they recovered from the floppy, and it wasn’t final data that could be burnt onto the final ROM, or play on a mass-produced arcade board. I think what they had on that first CD was a recording off a development board that used an ICE. That’s probably what the final melody version was. So what I had to do was go and convert the data to something that would run on a mass-produced arcade board, and that’s what’s being emulated on 3DS.

YO: So the version in there with the melody included is without a doubt the original data. You could take our version and swap it in with the sound ROM on an actual arcade board and it would actually play.

NH: Though we’ve never actually burnt a ROM.

YO: We are talking about emulation here, so you can actually toggle the extra BGM on and off mid-game. You can’t change the songs while it’s playing, but you can switch it without resetting. For example, if you switch it ON while you’re playing the first stage, it will play the melody version of “After Burner” when you get to stage 4.

SEGA 3D Classics - 3D After Burner II

– So you’re saying that you’re not just muting the melody for the no-melody version, but there are actually two separate versions in the game?

YO: That’s right. And if you want to get really specific, the difference doesn’t stop at whether or not the melody is playing.

MN: Yes, that’s right. Even I don’t have a complete grasp on all the full contents of the data.

YO: It seems like they probably built and finished the one with the melody first, and then when they cut the melody out for production, they went back and touched up spots that seemed off to them.

MN: It’s probably not just the melody channel being muted, but rather it’s properly adjusted so that other things are using the track that the melody portion was residing in. They are completely separate pieces of data.

YO: It’s like you can see the progression of the sound from After Burner, to the completed melody version, to After Burner II.

MN: In my head, I feel like they went back and put a little more work into it when it was going to be put on the album. Even for the version without the melody, the volume balances are a little different, though it’s quite subtle. But the differences are so insignificant you could hardly call it a different piece of data. And if we’d not actually gone and opened up the hood and peered inside, we never would have known. And even now that we have opened the hood, we still don’t really know the whole story. (laughs)

NH: Basically we took the parts we thought were the most important, converted them into data, and got them running on 3DS.

MN: Yes, that’s right. And as a result, you can switch between versions with and without the melody while you are playing the game. It’s something we weren’t able to do before, but we were able to do it this time.

NH: I’m glad we got that in.

– This is sort of like how you guys got HAYA OH in for 3D Space Harrier, so fans of the game back then are going to be happy to hear this… And the fact that these things that could actually run on the arcade boards are being emulated.

YO: I heard once they dropped the melody out because the noisy environment of an arcade would have drowned it out, and they also wanted to capture what at the time felt like a real, gritty battle. But I think it really works on a 3DS now that I’ve played it. It feels natural when you are just casually playing the game in your home. By default, it is set to the arcade spec with no melody, but you can set it to how you want, whether you want to relive the arcade days or try something new.

– This is sort of a unique situation because it was the 80s when this music was originally made.

MN: The music back in 1987 was heavily influenced by this strong interest in Western music, especially hard rock, so there was a strong preference for that kind of sound. Music has gone through a lot of transitional changes over the past 20 years, and people have much more refined tastes. What I mean is that I think people are a little more open-minded when it comes to music. I’d like to think people would naturally think ABII is just fine with a melody in it.

– A lot certainly has happened.

MN: I think it’s going to be hard for those out there who are playing After Burner II for the first time, for those who have never sat in an original arcade cabinet, to really understand the environmental sounds. But for those who know what it was like back then, for people who have sat in the arcade machines in the 3D Remaster Project and know what it’s like, 3D After Burner II takes things to the next level. From the actual motor sounds, to the sounds of the thing moving, there’s more in there than any title to date. We went in and thoroughly balanced all the control sounds and the sounds from the game itself, so I want everyone to go in and try playing it with headphones, with the environmental sounds on while in the “Double Cradle” arcade cab at least once. It really gives you the feeling of sitting in the machine and playing the game. When I play it myself, my body remembers what it was like to feel the machine move, because the whole thing felt so real. I feel like I can even remember how the machine smelled. Though, I have a fresh memory of it since I got to play it recently when we went to SEGA’s storage warehouse.

All: (Laughs)

– Thank you so much.

Rearranging Game Resources to Create a New Game Experience with the Special Mode!

SEGA 3D Classics - 3D After Burner II
Play a new kind of After Burner II with Special Mode!

– Alright, I think it’s about time we talk about the Special Mode for this game.

YO: You could say it takes After Burner II’s gameplay and makes it more interesting. It certainly extends the gameplay.

– I’m not sure how to put it, but it sounds like you’ve added a “Burst” to the game while keeping the missile management and lock-on controls close to the original version. Similar to After Burner Climax, “Burst Mode” slows down the action, right?

NH: That’s right.

YO: The fun of After Burner II is all about locking on to enemies and shooting them down, so we really focused on that. Basically, we’ve gone and turned up the rhythm a bit. We’ve adjusted the enemy squadrons so they keep rushing at you as you blast through the stage.

We’ve also made locking on to things much easier. Horii-san mentioned earlier that if you are having trouble locking onto things, just lower the difficulty. But in Special Mode, the lock-on box is always the same as Arcade Mode’s easiest setting. So you can easily lock on to everything. It’s tuned so you can just keep locking on and firing missiles until you run out.

– It gives everything a new rhythm.

YO: There’s also a “rival” plane.

– You took the original game’s bonus stage, and added a rival plane. (laughs)

NH: It is most certainly not a bonus now. (laughs)

YO: Well, it was a bonus in the original game. (laughs)

– You can’t just sit there and fire off missiles and get by, right?

SEGA 3D Classics - 3D After Burner II
You will build your Burst Meter as you defeat enemies, and excuting Burst Mode will slow down everything but you!

YO: Well, if you use your missiles wisely to set off chain explosions and build the Burst Meter…

– So you’re saying that it lends itself to a play style where you address enemy groups one by one. I certainly felt that it had a different kind of gameplay compared to the arcade version. So this is the first “Project Grantanoff”* aspect of this second round of games.*
* “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.

YO: For 3D After Burner II, I wanted to do something different than just the stereoscopic 3D and the moving arcade cabinet, which we’ve done before. The idea behind “Project Grantanoff” is that we need something in there that hasn’t been in a port to-date, and this special mode is M2’s answer. It’s different than HAYA OH. It’s more of a remixed version of After Burner II.

– When we originally discussed HAYA OH, Horii-san spoke about how you took existing boss routines and recombined them, but for 3D After Burner II’s Special Mode, you actually had to remake all the enemy squadrons and change the sprite palette to monochrome for the Burst Mode. You basically had to do a thorough analysis of the original After Burner II and build a completely separate mode that might even run on the original arcade board.

NH: Yes, that’s right. We were able to dive pretty deep into it due to the results of our analysis. You could say it gave us an oxygen tank for the dive, in a way.

YO: Not only can you enjoy playing a port of the original game, you can experience this new presentation as a 2013 version of After Burner II. It also really brings out what makes After Burner II interesting. If you go back and look at interviews with the developers back then, they talk about the things they wanted to do but couldn’t. One of those was “dog fights.” They said they ran out of time to do it. They talk about how fighter planes are all about dog fights.
I don’t know how far the original developers thought about it at the time, but we decided to actually do that, within After Burner II’s architecture.

– Hearing you guys talk about this is reminding me of the SEGA AGES 2500’s System-16 version of Fantasy Zone II, but this is still a little different, isn’t it?

YO: That System-16 version was built around the idea of “what if this game existed in the 80s?” So while we were working within the limitations of yesteryear hardware, we weren’t applying modern game design concepts. Let me give you an example: these days having a boss that has two forms would be a given, so if M2 did their best, they might be able to make a boss that had two forms with various kinds of attacks, even on the System-16. But in the 80s, bosses having only one attack pattern was the norm and characteristic of the style of the time, so you have to stay true to that. That’s the difference between that game and the concept behind 3D After Burner II’s Special Mode.

The concept behind this Special Mode does little to change what made the game originally interesting, but instead brings it out in a modern way. On the other hand, After Burner II does actually have a sequel: After Burner Climax. That game was praised for the fact that it kept the fun of After Burner II while adding in Climax Mode. That’s something we took into consideration as 3D After Burner II’s Special Mode took shape.

NH: Yeah, it’s sort of like putting the pieces back together in a different way.

– That said, I feel like if there was a Special Mode back then, then this would have been it. And in that way it feels similar to the “what if?” aspect of Fantasy Zone II. But on the other hand, it also feels like what you get if After Burner Climax’s Climax Mode was redone in a world of 2D sprites.

YO: Well, it’s not as if we set out trying to remake it.

SEGA 3D Classics - 3D After Burner II
Rival fighters also make an appearance

– Figuring out how to use this new system seems like it’ll be a point of enjoyment for people. Spending time to figure out how to attack each stage is sort of cathartic in its own way.

YO: The Special Mode isn’t something made by Yu Suzuki, After Burner II’s original designer. Out Run has a sequel called Turbo Out Run that runs on the same architecture but was made by a different designer, and they are pretty different in terms of gameplay. In the same way, 3D After Burner II and its Special Mode are pretty different. But unlike Turbo Out Run, we didn’t change the game itself, but instead further brought out and expressed the good aspects of After Burner II.

NH: We were able to take a fresh look at this game and do what we did because of the efforts of our main programmer, Saito, and this guy named Hiroshi Iuchi, who is a designer who comes from a different background.

– Wait… What? You’re saying that the Iuchi-san had a hand in working on this Special Mode?*
* Hiroshi Iuchi is a Japanese game designer and director who is known for his work on Radiant Silvergun, Ikaruga, and Gradius V. He currently is associated with M2. He recently worked on a title called Kokuga at G.rev, with Namiki-san working on sound.

NH: Both Saito and Iuchi added their own content into the Special Mode. Iuchi joined mid-way through the project. While Saito said he wanted to put in something similar to Climax from the very beginning, Iuchi came along and said, “I wanna see some dogfights.” So in the end, both got put in and Iuchi did the balancing.

YO: There’s some interesting chemistry going on there.

– Wow, this has gotten pretty serious.

YO: 3D After Burner II’s Special Mode is a great example of a “Grantanoff” for this second round of games.

– Even I’m really interested to see how the players are going to react to it. HAYA OH sort of came out of nowhere, but at the same time people thought it was awesome. For this Special Mode, the base game is still After Burner II but the gameplay is different. It’s quite a different beast.

YO: While the base concept behind a port is the same as Nintendo’s Virtual Console, for the 3D Remaster Project, we want to make sure there’s one or two twists in there. This project started from the idea that adding stereoscopic 3D would fundamentally change a game. But we need to be offering something new that makes you want to go and play these games again, even though some of them have been ported many times in the past. So we need to put in something to make that happen.

The same goes for movies; you buy a DVD for a movie you love, and you watch it over and over. But then it comes out on Blu-ray and it has special scenes, interviews, and other content. People love that. But having worked on the PlayStation 2 era SEGA AGES and SEGA AGES ONLINE series, I realize that the time of impressing people with just collector content has passed.

It’s not a given that the fans are simply going to be satisfied with what you bring out. You need to bring something they haven’t done before. You need surprises. It’s all about peeking into this world unknown, like the players who were surprised and delighted when they stumbled upon HAYA OH in 3D Space Harrier, or people who played 3D Galaxy Force II and realized for the first time, “Wow, so this is what Galaxy Force II is” because it was something new now that it had 3D. That’s what we are going for. I want to see more of this.

3D After Burner II’s Special Mode will make you think, “I never realized you could make this kind of fun with After Burner II,” and, “Now I can enjoy an After Burner II I never knew.” There’s fun in that. And on the other hand, if you’ve only played After Burner Climax, then you can play this version as well.

NH: By putting things in that don’t necessarily follow what you remember about the game, you ensure that people will spend more time playing it. Yes, it’s sort of a bonus side feature, but for an early game such as After Burner II, if you don’t go about it correctly, it’s ultimately probably not going to feel right.
YO: I’m not really sure if people reading our interviews have already played Special Mode, but for those out there who are on the fence, I just want them to know that there is an After Burner II here that you haven’t played before.

And going forward, the concept behind this second batch is that we can continue to provide you with consistent deliveries of these sorts of games, all at a competitive low price. We have multiple projects running in tandem with different designers on them, so we hope you guys stay tuned to see what kind of “Grantanoffs” we deliver next.

NH: Just you wait and see!

YO: We’re going to go on another dive, so stay tuned. Next up is the 10th installment.

NH: Oh damn it! I forgot to bring up Thunder Blade this time!

YO: And of course, the 10th game is not Thunder Blade. Neither is the 11th. So no need to stay tuned for that.

– (laughs) Thank you very much, gentlemen. See you all next time!


SEGA 3D Classics – 3D Afterburner II – A Classic Reborn – Part 1

SEGA 3D Classics - 3D After Burner II

This week we continue our series of translated interviews from Game Watch & Impress about the SEGA 3D Classics. These interviews detail the amazing amount of work that developer M2 has done to deliver the best possible versions of our classic SEGA titles on the Nintendo 3DS. These new interviews are much longer than our last batch, so we’ve opted to split them up a bit leading into the release of 3D After Burner II later this week.

Thanks again to Game Watch and Impress, Okunari-san, and Horii-san for their involvement in making these interviews available to our western audience. Special thanks to our producer Sam for translating these interviews for everyone’s enjoyment.

Catch up on all our SEGA 3D Classics interviews

Space Harrier logo
3D Space Harrier Interview

Super Hang On logo
Super Hang-On Interview

Sonic Logo
3D Sonic The Hedgehog Interview

Altered Beast logo
3D Altered Beast Interview

Ecco Logo
3D Ecco the Dolphin Interview</em>

Galaxy Force II logo
3D Galaxy Force II Interview

Shinobi logo
3D Shinobi III Interview

streets of rage logo
3D Streets of Rage Interview


A Little about the Arcade Version of After Burner II

SEGA 3D Classics - 3D After Burner II

Following up on our previous installments, we’ve gone to visit M2, the developer of SEGA’s 3D Remaster Project. We will be speaking with the president, Naoki Horii, and the SEGA producer, Yosuke Okunari. We’ve also invited M2’s sound director, Manabu Namiki, to join this time.

After Burner was the first title to be released on SEGA’s “X-BOARD” arcade board, which made its debut in 1987. While it consisted of the same dual MC68000 and single Z80 processor set up as Space Harrier’s “Harrier Board,” it ran at a different clock speed. It featured sprites with enlargement capability, and it could display up to 256 sprites on the screen at the same time. It also was equipped with an YM2515 and PCM sound source.

The game had a number of arcade cabinet variations, starting with the “Double Cradle” (moved both forward/backward and left/right) and the “Single Cradle” (moved left/right). More variations were released later, including “Sit-down” and “Upright” variations.

SEGA 3D Classics - 3D After Burner II
The “Commander” cabinet

The initial release of After Burner featured 18 stages. Two months later, the ROM was swapped out with After Burner II, which featured 23 stages. The first edition had its control stick (with buttons for firing) positioned in the center of the cabinet and lacked the throttle lever. For After Burner II, a new throttle lever was put in on the left side of the seat to allow you to control the speed of your plane.

For weaponry, the plane had an unlimited number of bullets for its vulcan cannon, and a limited stock of missiles. Players would lock-on to incoming enemy planes to fire missiles, which would then home in on their targets. This was a primarily differentiating factor from Space Harrier’s gameplay. Generally speaking, the stage layouts themselves were similar to that of Space Harrier, with both normal and bonus stages, but there were additional cutscenes where your plane would get resupplied with missiles either mid-flight or on the ground. Another differentiating aspect from Space Harrier was the fact that enemy planes and missiles would approach from behind and chase your plane, and the player could then operate the throttle to speed away or allow them to fly past. Additionally, you could also swing left/right on the control stick to send your plane into a barrel roll.

The game’s soundtrack is known for its PCM-based distorted guitars and drumbeats. While some songs were notable for their lack of melody, such as Stage 1’s “Final Take Off” and Stage 4’s “After Burner,” these songs saw melodies added into them with the later release of “After Burner SEGA GAME MUSIC Vol. 3.” The melody versions went on to be used in the PC Engine (TurboGrafx 16) version of the game.

A number of home consoles also saw releases of one or both of After Burner and After Burner II, including the Mark III (Master System), Famicom, FM-TOWNS, X68000, Mega Drive, PC Engine, SEGA Saturn, and 32X. But despite M2’s extensive porting background with SEGA, 3D After Burner II is the first time they have had an opportunity to work on the title.

As a special favor for this interview, Okunari-san has provided us with photos and movies of the After Burner II cabinet in SEGA’s permanent storage warehouse to help us remember what this machine was like. Before you play 3D Afterburner II, you should take some time to familiarize yourself with the original version. And for those who have played it in the past, we think you’ll enjoy this little trip down memory lane.

SEGA 3D Classics - 3D After Burner II

SEGA 3D Classics - 3D After Burner II

SEGA 3D Classics - 3D After Burner II

SEGA 3D Classics - 3D After Burner II

SEGA 3D Classics - 3D After Burner II

SEGA 3D Classics - 3D After Burner II

SEGA 3D Classics - 3D After Burner II

SEGA 3D Classics - 3D After Burner II

SEGA 3D Classics - 3D After Burner II

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Taking all the know-how built up until now to deliver a new After Burner II

SEGA 3D Classics - 3D After Burner II
The re-release of After Burner II, which was the first title for the high-end X-BOARD

– So the 2nd round of the 3D Remaster Project begins with After Burner II. What was the porting work for this title like?

Yosuke Okunari (below YO): The arcade version of After Burner II was the first game for the X-BOARD. It was a more powerful piece of hardware that built on top of previous games like Space Harrier and Outrun. This was the first hurdle we had to overcome to make 3D After Burner II a reality. It was a predecessor to the Y-BOARD, which was what Galaxy Force used. As it turns out, we’d previously done quite a bit of study and analysis of the Y-BOARD when we ported Galaxy Force II to PlayStation 2. Despite that, we had a pretty tough time when we were converting all that work to 3DS. But since we had taken the work we did on the PlayStation 2 version of Galaxy Force II and previously brought that to the 3DS, bringing the X-BOARD to the 3DS actually went relatively smoothly.

Naoki Horii (below NH): You could say that it just slid right in. We didn’t need to bother you so much on this one, did we now?

YO: Not so much, I guess.

NH: That’s what I like to hear. (Everyone laughs.) I told him, “Hey! We got After Burner running! Even though you never asked us to work on it.” To which Okunari-san said, “What? The Mega Drive version?” I couldn’t help but feel a little hurt that he’d think we’d aim so low!

YO: Well, we were right in the middle of choosing the Mega Drive titles.

NH: Well, I laughed at the time, but I’m pretty sure doing a 3D conversion of the Mega Drive version would be no easy task. Not that we’ve tried (laughs).
Incidentally, I think the hardest one to port would be the SEGA Mark III version. Everything is a single background layer, so there’s no way we could make that into 3D.

– (laughs)

YO: And with that, let’s just set aside Horii-san’s digression, and get back to the fact that our successes in the first batch were bearing fruit, and there we were starting development on 3D After Burner II. But just like everything else, simply running on the hardware isn’t good enough. So there we were finishing up 3D Super Hang-On and starting to turn our attention to 3D Galaxy Force II, and M2 had After Burner II running as a test. It was still really far from being a final product, by any measure, but I recall you guys had it to a point where it had 3D, right?

SEGA 3D Classics - 3D After Burner II
The movement of the original “Double Cradle” arcade cabinet is faithfully recreated. The attack alert lights even flash, just like their original respective cabinets!

NH: Yes, that was around when we first showed it to you.

YO: But when I went to play it, I wasn’t able to lock-on to anything. Nothing at all. By putting in 3D, the game got much more difficult. This was the first gameplay hurdle with After Burner II. Let me explain things in the context of Space Harrier to help understand what the issue was. In Space Harrier, your character, which is in the foreground, is shooting bullets that track to enemies in the background. So you end up spending a lot of time focused on your character in the foreground. But in After Burner II, you also have to manually acquire lock-ons to enemies who are near the horizon line, so you need to constantly look at both the foreground and the background. Even though the games seem similar, it turns out the eye movements required of the players are quite different.

NH: It’s basically a game of “whack-a-mole” where you are having to keep two things lined up.

YO: “Bash the moles as soon as they appear. Avoid attacks from the moles you let slide through.” That’s the basics behind this game. But the act of locking onto things by lining up something in the foreground to these enemies that exist in the background becomes quite difficult once you put this into 3D. If you just turn down the 3D effect, you can play just like you would normally, but with it on, the enemies are far away and hard to lock onto. That was my impression of that initial test version. I couldn’t understand why it was so much harder, despite being the same game.

This was the first time I noted that while putting in 3D makes everything pretty and have depth, you’re going to have to make some adjustments for ease-of-play.

NH: Those “Adjustments for ease-of-play”… There are some situations that take a fair amount of work to correct, and there are ones that work out far easier than you’d think. After Burner II was a case where we had to do a fair amount of work. Including dealing with the issues caused by the 3D implementation.

– OK, wait. Can you go into a bit more about detail about the fact that the difficulty went up because the enemies appear farther away?

YO: So basically, when you play the game in 2D, your eyes can track your character in the foreground and the enemies in the background because everything is on the same plane.

NH: It’s like looking at something on a piece of paper. You just move your character to where the enemies are and lock on.

YO: But when you put depth into that, you’re not going to be able to focus on both your character and the enemies. Your brain knows, “This is depth inside the screen,” and so things don’t line up.

– So for example, and I don’t know if this is an adequate one or not, but let’s say you are looking at a game through a camera lens. When you are using a deep field of focus, it’s like playing in 2D. And when it’s a shallow field of focus, that’s 3D. Basically when you focus on a single thing, everything else becomes blurry.

NH: Your eyes move around quite a bit, even when you are just looking at a single screen.

YO: We put a number of adjustments into 3D Galaxy Force II to compensate for this, but I saw this test version of After Burner II before we finished Galaxy Force II. It got me thinking, “Man, this is something that’s going to need a lot of work.” As a result, due to M2’s work on 3D Galaxy Force II’s final stage and other parts that had a lot of depth, we built a pretty decent knowledge base on how to handle these issues. At this point, we’ve gotten the game to a point where you can play the game by looking at both the foreground and the background, just like if you were playing in 2D.

NH: We did make a lot of adjustments to make it easier to play, but there may still be some players who will find it hard to lock on to targets. If that happens, go ahead and reduce the difficulty level all the way down to one star. The lock-on area widens, and you’ll have the enemy dropping like flies.

SEGA 3D Classics - 3D After Burner II
Five levels of difficulty. Each star increases your lock-on range.

– To me, the distance of things in the games feels very different when compared to just the other “move into the background” titles, like 3D Space Harrier, 3D Super Hang-On, and 3D Galaxy Force II.

YO: Well, for starters, the Y-BOARD had a 2D screen, of course, but it was capable of performing finer depth calculations than previous iterations.

– Well, in addition to that, Space Harrier had a floor and ceiling (depending on the stage), Super Hang-On had only the floor, and Galaxy Force II had basically nothing and instead had sprites flying around you. So that leads one to think that stages basically differ based on “how you build the box.” Judging from the responses from the web, I got the impression that people wanted to see some depth applied to the floor and ceiling in Space Harrier, in the same way that Galaxy Force II had. Though I understand it depends on a number of factors, such as how you go about applying the visual separation, how the 3D feels, as well as people’s own personal preferences.

YO: When you take photos in 3D, you have to put something in your foreground or you won’t get a sense of the 3D effect. It’s just like that. The more things you have at each depth level, the more you can feel the 3D. So in the case of Galaxy Force II, there are a lot of objects available, so that’s probably why people thought it was easy to get a sense for the 3D.

– That, and the game’s scroll speed is actually pretty different. Sorry, I probably walked into this without thinking about it too much, but it’s gotten me thinking about how it’s the various differences in the games that makes them feel different.

YO: And the Y-BOARD actually was handling Z-axis calculations internally.

NH: Yes, it makes a pretty big difference when you start off with Z values so your peaks are in 3D.

– You never have to fake it. Even if it’s a sprite, it has a precisely calculated depth value associated with it. That must have helped in the transition to 3D.

YO: After Burner II’s X-BOARD still had a number of those little “fake outs” in it, similar to Space Harrier, but After Burner II still made advances over Space Harrier because the 3D effect is being built from these multiple layers of objects. The improvement in the way the game screens were originally being expressed still comes through when put into 3D. And then there’s M2’s know-how when it comes to putting in depth, which has also made advances.

NH: There’s a broad horizon line that goes right back deep into the screen, and it has a lot of objects placed leading back to it. I really think we got it to a place where you think, “Aaah, I’m really flying through the air.”

YO: So for 3D After Burner II, more so than 3D Space Harrier, I really think you’ll get that sense of depth, similar to 3D Galaxy Force II.

NH: When it comes to adding depth to things, we took a rather conservative stance when we were working on 3D Space Harrier. It was the first one, after all. But now that we have this established framework, we’re much more flexible when it comes to adjusting and tweaking things.

SEGA 3D Classics - 3D After Burner II
A mainstay for the 3D Remaster Project, the “Stage Select screen.”

SEGA 3D Classics - 3D After Burner II
Another returning favorite, the gameplay Save/Replay feature.


This concludes part 1 of our 3D After Burner interview. Check back tomorrow for part 2 as we learn more about the audio in the 3D Classics and information on the new mode added to 3D After Burner II.

As always, your comments are appreciated, let us know what you think!


Relive the Golden Age of Arcade Gaming Exclusively on Nintendo 3DS

SEGA 3D Classics Batch 2

The second batch of SEGA 3D Classics are headed exclusively to the Nintendo 3DS hand-held system, spotlighting SEGA’s arcade history. Beginning with the release of 3D After Burner II in early 2015, the second batch of titles will be released monthly and include 3D Fantasy Zone, 3D OutRun, 3D Fantasy Zone II, and 3D Thunder Blade.

SEGA 3D Classics Batch 2

Not only does each title deliver a full-fledged vintage arcade experience, recreating the environment down to the mechanical sounds of the arcade machines themselves, but it also adds to the original experience with new modes, options, and original musical tracks.

SEGA 3D Classics Batch 2

“These games were completely re-built to offer a robust 3D experience that offers more modern gameplay while still keeping true to the original,” commented John Cheng, President and COO, SEGA of America. “These are the best versions of some of our most unforgettable games and playing them is just like sitting in an arcade machine”.

SEGA 3D Classics Batch 2

All games will be priced at MSRP $5.99/€4.99/£4.49 and will be available for download in the Nintendo eShop on Nintendo 3DS.

SEGA 3D Classics Batch 2


SEGA 3D Classics – 3D Streets of Rage Interview with Developer M2

Our final 3D Classics interview ends with Streets of Rage, which released last week across the Nintendo 3DS eShop. We hope you’ve enjoyed reading these interviews as much as we have. Enjoy 3D Streets of Rage and all the 3D Classics!

Thanks again to Game Watch and Impress, Okunari-san, and Horii-san for their involvement in making these interviews available to our western audience. Thanks to Siliconera for coordinating with us to help spread the word to SEGA fans across the web. And special thanks to our producer Sam for translating these interviews for everyone’s enjoyment.

As always, your comments are appreciated!

3D Streets of Rage: How to Make Perspective Pop!

3D Streets of Rage

Pictured: Yousuke Okunari, Producer, SEGA CS3 (left), Naoki Horii, President, M2 (right)

Streets of Rage Primer
Originally released in Japan on August 2, 1991 with an overseas release shortly after, Streets of Rage is a side-scrolling beat’em up game where you choose from one of three ex-police force characters: Axel, Blaze, or Adam, and fight through eight stages against armies of syndicate thugs, using your bare fists or weapons you pick up along the way. Streets of Rage is known as Bare Knucklein Japan.The game quickly earned popularity for its co-op play, where players can perform team attacks, as well as instant special moves that call in the firepower of your former police comrades.

After being ported to the Game Gear, Streets of Rage was featured in the Mega-CD SEGA CLASSIC ARCADE COLLECTION, which also included the international version. It was subsequently ported to Wii Virtual Console, and most recently, to the Xbox 360 as part of SEGA Vintage Collection 3’s Streets of Rage Collection, which included all three titles from the series.

Streets of Rage was followed by two sequels, Streets of Rage 2 and 3, which benefited from a larger ROM size, bigger characters, and more animations.

3D Streets of Rage
Choose from characters Adam, Axel, and Blaze. From II on, Adam is either kidnapped or otherwise occupied, and thus not available as a playable character.

3D Streets of Rage
The game supports 2P Co-op play. Other “rival” titles at the time were unable to do this, so it was a point of pride for MegaDrive fans.

“Then, as he was explaining that they still hadn’t tested everything out yet, I cut through the hemming and hawing and green-lit the project.”

– Hi guys.  Can we hear a little bit about what led you to select Streets of Rage to follow 3D Shinobi III in the line-up?  Why not release Streets of Rage 2 and 3, for instance?
Naoki Horii (below, NH): Because we’re going to release 2 next! (everyone laughs) That is, if Okunari-san here will let us…

– Genre-wise though, this is the first remake of a beat’em up on the Gigadrive.

Yousuke Okunari (Below, YO): When we were selecting titles for the GigaDrive, all four titles prior to Shinobi III were what you could call “2D side scrolling platformers”, but of course there were other genres out there that we wanted to do. When I sat down with the development schedule though, I was pretty sure that any genres outside of platforming would take too long.

So I knew there would be risk associated with including anything other than a side scrolling action game in the 3D Remaster Series, but I really wanted to do a beat’em up. SEGA has a history of making beat’em ups with games like Golden Axe and Streets of Rage, and I really wanted to bring that heritage into 3D. We just had to somehow do that within the confines of the schedule… More important than that though, M2 actually told me at the beginning that “an action side-scroller won’t work in 3D!”

– I see.

NH: There are a lot of strange perspectives baked into the backgrounds in those games. Take the diagonal scrolling parts for instance.

YO: If we tried to use the GigaDrive techniques we’d developed with earlier games, like those from 3D Sonic, all the characters would wind up floating on top of the backgrounds. While side-scrolling action games look like they have depth, the actual gameplay is completely 2D, and everything else is just a matter of placing graphics with a faux 3D perspective. That’s what you have to bring into stereoscopic 3D, and it wasn’t possible within the existing GigaDrive concept. So this wasn’t just going to be a matter of displaying existing MegaDrive backgrounds in 3D, like we’d done with other games. We came to the conclusion that our existing approach wasn’t going to work for a side-scroller.

That said, I still wanted to remake the Golden Axe or Streets of Rage series in 3D. I saw this as essentially intertwined with the future of the 3D Remaster Project, so I kept coming back to M2 with the idea. I’d say: “Hey, we can at least do one beat ‘em up, right?” and he’d tell me: “Side-scrolling beat’em ups have graphics with weird faux perspectives that you can’t just carry over into 3D. The normal approach doesn’t work.” After a bit, he came back and said, “Now the first Streets of Rage doesn’t have any paths that go up or down the screen, there’s just one path forward. We could probably make that one work.” That’s how I persuaded him to work on it… Then, as he was explaining that they still hadn’t tested everything out yet, I cut through the hemming and hawing and green-lit the project. (laughs)

– Seems like there’s always some kind of reckless story around these ports, but this one sounds like you’ve stepped it up a level. (laughs)

NH: Yes indeed.

YO: M2 had already turned the project down once, so….

NH: Well, we were still testing out code at the point when we had to decide on the lineup titles…so it’s partly our fault for being slow.

– You’re right though. The very first Streets of Rage was basically a single-route game.  Most people don’t realize that unlike previous 2D side-scrollers, this game had a perspective that ostensibly looked down on your character and the floor, while letting you move in all directions. Objects and enemies were drawn in the same way… Those objects and enemies don’t have 3D handling; they’re just pretending to be 3D. Given how characters are standing on the floor, if the angle changes, all of that magic will disappear. That must be the hardest part of porting a beat’em up like this.

NH: That’s right, that’s right. If we were just talking about a 2D side-scroller, that’s fine, but when the game scrolls diagonally, that’s a new set of problems.

– With so many visual tricks used to create the illusion of depth in the original, I guess the challenge becomes how to bring them into 3D. Off the top of your head, you might think you could just give the backgrounds depth, push them back into screen and problem solved, right? That’s just what I imagine, I don’t really know how you’d deal with it.

NH: The developers at the time had to take what were ostensibly 3D scenes and flatten them into 2D, and use perspective to somehow keep them visually believable.

– Whereas you guys have to convert a faux 3D image into a real 3D image… I can see how that wouldn’t really work.

NH: Yeah.

YO: I actually have an early test version of the game right here on hand, so you can what we’re talking about. (brings out a 3DS) Check out the 3D.

– Oooh, OK. So this is what the default 3D approach looks like.

YO: At first, you’re like “Seems legit! This is pretty cool!” But as you keep playing, you’ll come across places in the game which were drawn at the time with a specific background perspective, and didn’t take into account vanishing points etc. That’s why M2 felt that remaking the game in 3D would be impossible.

NH: Indeed.

YO: What you wind up with are characters floating above the background. …Next let’s show you the finalized version that we remade after observing these issues.

– (While playing) Yeah, it’s completely different. Wow, this is impressive. When you move from the background to the front of the screen, you get a real 3D perspective.

NH: Even though the actual character’s size doesn’t change, right? Which is important in terms of the game system.

– For sure. Wow, this is cool. I never really noticed it in 2D, but my punches really hit hard now. That’s a big difference. Just walking around next to this phone booth is impressing me.

NH: I’m sure that line would be music to the ears of the person who drew it (laughs)

– OK, playing this, I’m seeing how hard it must have been to port a beat’em up into 3D.

NH: Still, there are going to be a lot of people who want this or that game in 3D.  Galaxy Force remade in 3D was a beautiful sight, but this is great in its own way. If anything, I’d really like to spend some time and  go to town on a game like this.

– Just seeing the street signs in 3D is really cool. You don’t so much feel it when your character and enemies are far away from each other, but once an enemy closes in and line up on your axis, and then you smack him, the 3D is really crisp. You can tell if he’s on a different level than you as he approaches. It’s something that’s easier to understand when you play it, I suppose.

YO: Knowing that this was going to be the title we’d struggle the most with amongst the GigaDrive games, I chose to move its development to the rear of the release schedule. In our previous interview about Shinobi III, I mentioned how that game could be thought of as a culmination of everything we’d done up until then, and that to finish it, we had to grind through a lot of tedious work. Streets of Rage is a dimension beyond Shinobi III, because we are remaking in 3D what were originally 2D images drawn to look 3D. Since both titles were developed concurrently, some of the discoveries we made with this game were brought over to Shinobi III, such as that game’s final stage or the stage start screen. Giving these parts of the game authentic 3D depth brought another dimension to them.

– And now the bar has been raised again.

YO: That’s why I chose Streets of Rage as the one beat’em up game to green light: it’s one of the most straightforward side-scrollers we had available. In a sense it was an experiment, but now that I know it was a hugely successful one, I think it’d be great if we could follow up on it. At least I hope we can… M2 might be sick of it all by now though. (laughs)

NH: Although it was really a tough project, once we had assigned depth to each raster line of the floor, we were able to see what specs we needed for the floor. We then positioned objects and enemies along those raster lines, and all of a sudden it felt like you couldn’t ever miss with your punches.

YO: Since the 3D actually affects how the game feels, it’s completely different from the type of faux 3D that we have in, say, 3D Altered Beast’s cave stage or the depth we created for 3D Ecco.

NH: We assigned position data to the same floor we’d assigned depth to. Then as the characters moved, we matched them to the position data, and essentially merged the character and the floor. And all of a sudden…

– That sounds like some really impressive tech.

NH: Once the depth information was assigned, all of a sudden we had a space, or box, built within the screen. It actually surprised me. This was our 5th Megadrive title, but in terms of gameplay it wound up being quite different from the others. All the other games had some really impressive visuals, but you never miss a punch with 3D Streets of Rage, and that feels awesome.

YO: In the other 3D Remaster games, the player character always moved on a single line. But in a beat’em up, your character can move freely from right in front of you to the rear of the screen. Enemies and objects too also have depth data associated with them. If you look back on gaming history and how action games have evolved, first they just had a single static screen, then they evolved into scrolling screens. Next we saw action games focused on jumping, which replicated gravity within their mechanics, and then the sort of faux 3D beat’em up sub-genre you see with Streets of Rage was born.

So that means that the evolution from 2D side-scrollers to “belt floor” beat’em up games was actually an evolution towards 3D, so to speak. It might not be obvious to someone who hasn’t followed or isn’t aware of the evolution of action games, so some people might not get what I’m saying. But you’ve played a bunch of action games, don’t you see a big difference there?

– What was once beautiful faux 3D becomes an albatross when you put it in real 3D.

YO: Indeed. If only the games were just made in 3D first, everything would be fine.

– And that’s why it made sense to remake arcade games which moved “into” the screen in 3D. However when it came to remaking Megadrive titles in 3D, you weren’t going to get away without doing a “belt floor” beat’em up game.

NH: I think the result is worth the work we put into it, and I hope people who play it will appreciate what we’ve accomplished as well.

– You can’t really get that across from just a screenshot.

YO: This is a game that we were able to do because we had the experience of the previous four titles. Of course we had an idea of what we wanted to do at the beginning, but unless you actually build it and see it working, you can’t fully appreciate what the game’s going to be like, you know? Once we got to work though, the game looked great.

NH: Really though, besides Streets of Rage, I really hope a lot of people will give all of the 3D MegaDrive remakes a try. I think the quality will surprise you.

– This came up when we were talking about Shinobi III, but is this title also compatible with the Gigadrive v2.0?

NH: Yes. Although there’s still room for growth there.

“If Shinobi III was the sum of everything we’ve accomplished so far, Streets of Rage is the next dimension.”

YO: Just like the other games, there were a few interesting stories around the process of getting the game into 3D. For starters, stage 3. If you play it in 3D on the 3DS, then you might not notice anything, but this is actually the first stage to be different in the GigaDrive version compared to the MegaDrive version.

NH: Yeah, the ocean’s draw priority is different.

YO: In the original version, the wave animations for the ocean are in the screen’s foreground, so they cover the player’s feet when they step in the water. When we dropped that straight into 3D, it looked off. The perspective was broken, and the waves looked like they were just popping up and down perpendicular to the ground. (laughs) Since we were remaking the game based around the 3D view, M2 went in and changed the waves’ sprite priorities. As a result, the animation is the same, but they’ve added perspective to it. Accordingly when you play the game in 2D, the draw priorities will differ from the original MegaDrive version.

3D Streets of Rage3D Streets of Rage
Stage 3. The graphics of the waves at the player’s feet differ from the original.

NH: If only we had Z-buffers, then each pixel had its own depth information (when drawing objects in 3D computer graphics, typically every pixel on a surface has depth coordinates associated with it, so you can calculate how deep objects are relative to each other by pixel).

– That would earn you another dimension, wouldn’t it?

YO: Now, even though I’d agreed that we could get SoR 1 into 3D, there was one spot that I knew they’d have trouble with and that was Stage 7. Stage 7 is an elevator scene, and it’s a good example of something that was beyond what M2 had worked on up until that point.

NH: Take your pick: the perspective on the elevator, the background…I mean, just look at it…we did everything we could.

YO: … Well, since you managed to remake Stage 7 in 3D, I think that means you can almost do anything(laughs)

NH: Yeah, but still…

YO: Up until the end this didn’t look right, and we really struggled with it. Well, M2 did, that is.

– Of course, the original development team would have had no idea when they were making the game that someone would wind up creating a 3D version.

YO: The same is true for Sonic and Shinobi III, too.

NH: Notice how as the elevator goes up, right around the middle of the ascent, the background perspective changes out of nowhere…

3D Streets of Rage
The Elevator scene. Note the perspective of the elevator compared to the building in the background.

– And hey, as you throw enemies out of the elevator, you can sort of see the little visual tricks they used to make this part look 3D. (laughs)

NH: Yeah.

YO: Still, I think that in the end, we got the 3D on this stage to where it needed to be.

– Yeah, there’s nothing “off” about it at all. It’s great. (laughs) And intriguing. When you’re moving up, you can see the little trick in there with the positioning of the wall on the left… This must have been very hard to remake in 3D. Things developers never would have given a second thought to back then wind up creating serious challenges for you guys.

YO: Yeah, the difference in the perspective of the left wall and the carriage looked strange when we put it into 3D.

– I just tried the special attack too, and it looks like you got the Stage 7 version into 3D as well. (laughs)

3D Streets of Rage
A special attack. Your ex-coworkers come to your aid with a surface-to-air surprise.

YO: Yes, of course! Including things like that tempted us to tinker even more with other stages. For instance, Stage 5’s background was originally a single graphic…

– Nice, even the background shown through the boat windows is properly 3D. I love it. When you dive this deep, it makes me wonder if you guys are OK with just $6 for this game.

NH: At the end of the day though, it’s still only the 1st Streets of Rage.

– This really works within the GigaDrive v2.0? Processing costs, and all?

NH:  We did what we could to make it work…so yes.

YO: I want to point out one last place we had a hard time with, even though there were a ton of them. On Stage 6 where the pressing machine is, there was a perspective here that just didn’t work in 3D. This was a toughie.

NH: That graphic had a lot of conflicting elements. When we first started on the project, there were a lot of spots that we knew how to approach in 3D, and as we worked on it, new ideas on how to do this or that better kept coming up. Okunari-san would give us feedback on a daily basis on our new versions as well, offering suggestions and advice. He had some really good ideas that escaped us at first.

– Every time I hear these stories, it surprises me how far overboard Okunari-san’s demands goes…

NH: Those unreasonable demands can be fun. If only we had an unlimited amount of time….

YO: If we had an unlimited amount of time, M2 would go bankrupt. (laughs)

NH: Ah maybe… Ok, what if we had unlimited money as well! (laughs)

– Still though, it seems like the pace at which you’ve release these GigaDrive titles is pretty quick.

NH: Well, since the hardware they’re based on doesn’t really change, anything related to the controls etc. won’t either.

YO: M2 had built the GigaDrive architecture, which they could apply to multiple titles, and they focused a lot on its 3D functionality.

NH: Since we’ve allocated engineers to the 3D tech, we were able to work on several games at the same time. The folks adding the 3D have developed their own habits and “styles” for implementing 3D, which has been interesting to watch.

– And this isn’t just regular 3D compatibility; it also works for this side-scrolling beat ‘em up.

YO: Laying out the initial groundwork was the hardest part; everything was a slog until M2 built the GigaDrive. Getting the MegaDrive to run emulated on 3DS was the first hurdle, and once that was done, they had a platform from which to build the GigaDrive which was its own challenge. They then had an environment where an artist or programmer adding 3D could do so according to their own personal style… Since the titles overlapped, they were able to work more efficiently and cut down on the really laborious parts of the process.

– It sounds something you’d need a smart approach for.

NH: There’s a lot of ‘smarts’ being used in Streets of Rage.

YO: Up until Shinobi III, the focus for getting the 3D working was on the technical aspects of background scrolling. With Streets of Rage, pretty much everything was similar to what we did with the trees and construction signs in 3D Sonic [Link to Sonic interview], except that games had themselves evolved, and things that were drawn in faux “3D” for Streets of Rage pretty much had to be brought into real stereoscopic 3D in the remake. At first, you can only faintly imagine what the end product of that looks like, but what it takes to actually get there is mostly a thankless job.

–  Having scrolling in 3D across multiple background layers is certainly the easiest way for people to communicate the 3D effect to people. But for Streets of Rage, all the original graphics have some kind of perspective applied to them, which can tempt you to try and actually make them 3D. But when you start down that road…

NH: There were also reasons back in the MegaDrive days that developers had to try to save on memory usage. So even if you had to break the perspective a bit, the graphic was fine as long as it looked like what it was supposed to be. There’s a lot of that going on in Streets of Rage, which was hard to deal with.

– You pop up the backgrounds in 3D, but then they conflict with how the characters are positioned. Fixing that contradiction must be a tedious process.

NH: Definitely.

– How do I put this… Take monster movies for instance, where you’re like “wait is that a miniature building they’re using in the close-ups? The perspective is all off….but meh I guess it looks good!” However, when you see the same model in 3D, all of a sudden it looks totally off.  What you guys are doing is basically fixing all the perspective problems with a miniature model by hand…  

NH: That’s a good example.

YO: If Shinobi III was the sum of everything we’ve accomplished so far, Streets of Rage is the next dimension.

The only catch in “Fists of Death” Mode: No one-hit kills off a single throw!

3D Streets of Rage
You can switch between the International and Japanese versions in 3D Streets of Rage.

3D Streets of Rage
Classic mode, which recreates the early 90s feeling of playing on a CRT TV screen.

– Alright, shifting gears a bit. Similar to previous GigaDrive titles, I’m assuming both the Japanese and international versions are available in the 3DS version?

YO: Yes, all the standard features of GigaDrive titles are included, so you can play the JP version if you want. And thanks to the features we included with 3D Altered Beast, the game supports local 2P co-op as well.

NH: Another small little bonus: the music that’s played when you select the icon on the Home screen? That’s a Manabu Namiki arrangement of Koshiro-san’s original Streets of Rage track. Well, not quite an arrangement, he just tweaked the track length so it loops properly. (laughs)

YO: Yeah, tracks for the Home screen have to be a certain length, you know. Previously, we’ve always had to pick a very short song or some kind of sound effect to go there, but we couldn’t find anything that worked for Streets of Rage. We tried a lot of stuff, but in the end this is what worked best. It’s kind of like when they make a short version of an anime theme song just for TV.

– So it’s basically a jingle.

NH: Hey look at that, when you’re playing 2P co-op, Adam isn’t on the bottom screen. He also doesn’t make an appearance in II or III… Coincidence!?

– (laughs)

YO: We’ve also added something we call “Fists of Death” mode to Streets of Rage 3D. It’s a really simple and satisfying version of the game, where you get to knock out any enemy with a single punch. It’s the easiest way to get through every stage. You can also crank up the difficulty to “Hardest” and try it that way.

NH: “Hardest” is fun because you’re always in danger of dying, but you have to mow through piles of enemies. If you screw up, it’s game over. So you can raise the difficulty to get a real challenge, or lower it with Fists of Death just to have something to play around with.

The thing is though, creating the Fists of Death mode wasn’t actually that easy… When you get knocked out, notice how the ground around you vibrates a bit when you revive. This effect damages all characters on screen, and in early versions of “Fists of Death”, that was enough to wipe out all the enemies around you. So we had to go in and tweak the original programming to account for it, and in that process there was even a point where enemies would be knocked out by simply touching your character. Like you’re surrounded by a cloud of poison or something.

– (laughs)

YO: Also, since the damage for throwing enemies is calculated slightly different from normal damage, we made it so you can’t defeat enemies with a single throw. Besides that, there are certain characters who crouch when you go to punch them, and they were tricky to deal with. M2 had to tweak each enemy so they’d actually keel over after one hit.

NH: At first we were like: “One-hit kill mode? Yeah we’ll have it ready in no time”…
But it’s always something, you know?

– Still, you didn’t include Fists of Death because you thought it’d be easy to add, right?

NH: It seemed like it’d be a fun way to play, and we thought it wouldn’t take too much time to implement… It was a matter of combining what we knew we could do, and what we thought would be fun. Of course it’s still a blast to wail on enemies in the regular mode as well.

YO: We had a similar mode in the Golden Axe Collection for SEGA AGES ONLINE (Sega Vintage Collection).

– Sounds like you had to strike a balance around the game design between good ideas and efficiency.

NH: There were also situations in Fists of Death mode where you’d defeat enemies before the enemy appearance table was set to bring out the next wave, so sometimes enemies wouldn’t even appear. Even when you want to make the game easier, you really get put through the grinder, and this time was no exception. (laughs) We had to put a lot of work into the enemy generation code.

– The programming required is more involved, the characters are bigger, and you’ve got a lot going on in the backgrounds.

YO: When you put it that way, I think M2 are really the only ones who can really understand what that generation of developers had to go through. (laughs)

NH: Definitely. This is the kind of work where you have to track someone else’s footsteps, and get better every time at guessing what kind of challenges they endured on their journey.

– Sounds like you’re treading some murky waters. (laughs)

YO: In any case, “Fists of Death” turns out to be a really fun, satisfying new mode. Everyone should give it a shot. We also enabled the cheat code from the original to let you use the stage select and raise your life settings as well.

– I see.

YO: Oh, and you know the back attack you could do in the original by pressing B and C at the same time? We’ve assigned that to the R button, so it’s easier to do.

– Much appreciated!

Round one of the 3D Remaster Project, finished!

– At the end of the day, despite the games’ schedules overlapping, you guys never caught a break when creating these ports. (laughs)

NH: I guess not. But when you come this far…
I guess the  games that I’d want to do in the future, or games that we’ll probably get requests for, would probably  be Gunstar Heroes or Landstalker. Though I think they’d be at least twice as hard as anything we’ve done up until now.

– Incidentally, you previously mentioned that Streets of Rage was chosen to be your last title. Does that mean this project is finished?

YO: Yes, this brings the 3D Remaster Project to a close.

NH: Wait, really!?

– Really!?

YO: “Their battle has only begun.”

NH: I feel like you’re cutting us off here.

YO: “Look forward to the next episode from the team at M2!”

NH: Damn it! Then we might just have to order another season… that’ll ultimately be canceled…[1]

– (laughs)

YO: In any case, it’s the end of the first batch. We’re going back to the kitchen for awhile.

NH: … I don’t know if I can handle much more of this. Another 50 week sprint? A whole other year…

– So you’re saying that this is the end point for the titles you’d originally planned.

YO: Correct. The 3D Remaster Project started out as a project for the new 3DS hardware, where we’d have Virtual Console titles coming out along with “something new” the side. Something that wasn’t just a single game, that could become a series. We got started without knowing if we could even get the games we selected into 3D, so we had to stock the series with enough titles to ensure that it was going to be worth all the effort. Those were the 8 titles we’ve released, and they took two years. It was a long road, but I think we can draw the curtain on this installment.

Space Harrier logo
3D Space Harrier Interview

Super Hang On logo
Super Hang-On Interview

Sonic Logo
3D Sonic The Hedgehog Interview

Altered Beast logo
3D Altered Beast Interview

Ecco Logo
3D Ecco the Dolphin Interview</em>

Galaxy Force II logo
3D Galaxy Force II Interview

Shinobi logo
3D Shinobi III Interview

streets of rage logo
3D Streets of Rage Interview (you are here)

– I’m a little scared to ask, but… What do you mean by the end of this series, and “going back to the kitchen”?

YO: Whether we can continue this project or not is really up to its reception by the fans. I emphasized this when we were discussing 3D Space Harrier, but it’s the truth. Thankfully, due to the support we’ve received in the 6 months after we released 3D Space Harrier in Japan, in other words the number of people who picked up the games, it looks like we’ll be able to carry on with the series.

NH: Wow! Are you sure that’s OK to say?

– Yee-haw! (Joy)

YO: The first batch is done, but for a second one, we need some time. For the Japanese market, we will be back with a second batch. For overseas folks, whether it gets localized or not will depend on the success of the first series. But the range of what we can actually do with a second batch of remakes is also dependent on the same factors.

NH: Now hold on. Are you saying that if people out there buy stacks and stacks of these remakes, I might be able to do Thunder Blade?

YO: … …

– (laughs)

NH: Still no comment I see.  I’d held off about Thunder Blade all day, so you were probably thinking I wasn’t going to bring it up again.

– (laughs)

YO: Let’s just set aside whether or not Thunder Blade is a game that people want.

NH: In 3D, I know it will be awesome.

– (huge laughs)

NH: Saeki-san, you laugh, but it would really bowl you over.

-… Personally I’d definitely like to see it in 3D.

YO: We’ll be back.

NH: Yes we will.

YO: But first, we need to look at how Shinobi III and Streets of Rage fare in Japan and overseas. We’re in the kitchen, so just give us some time. Ultimately, whether we can exceed what we‘ve done in our first batch of games comes down to our fans. So I hope the first 8 titles are enough to earn their support.

NH: Yes, I hope so too. Until we can move onto the next series, I want to take this time to thank everyone. To the folks who were really impressed with 3D Space Harrier, thank you. I hope we can impress you again in the future.

– What a wrap up. Man, these interviews have been really exciting, so I’d really look forward to a second batch. It might be a bit late to ask this, but how has the reaction been to the project so far compared to your expectations for it?

YO: In terms of 3D Space Harrier, when the 3DS was announced, I knew I wanted to see it in 3D, and I think for SEGA fans and other people as well, this was a game people wanted to see in 3D. I’ve thought that ever since the 3DS launched, and I think M2 probably feels the same.

NH: For sure.

YO: I imagine the fans probably thought that if SEGA was going to put something out in 3D, it’d have to be Space Harrier. So in that sense, once Space Harrier was released, I feel we’d dished out something good enough to make you say, “Man, Space Harrier is still totally awesome.”

Fans have also been sending us a lot of different game names that they want to see ported, and we’ve been able to deliver some of those, some of which we didn’t think we could manage originally. Putting these games into authentic 3D was a first for us, but something we were able to do with the new direction 3DS was taking us in. There were a lot of challenges along the way, but we’ve also had a lot of fun that we never expected, as we’ve catalogued in these interviews. I hope everybody can find something to appreciate in each of the remakes.

For example, the gyro controls in 3D Super Hang-on, which is something that has nothing to do with the 3D, I think was implemented really well. Or like in 3D Streets of Rage, things that you thought would look one way in real 3D, have a little twist to them and give you a nice surprise.

For 3D Space Harrier, some parts went as expected, but beyond that I think I can say that we were able to enjoy the journey as much as the players can enjoy the fruits of it. If we had just dropped in extra features and 3D compatibility, folded our arms, called it a day and it meant nothing to anybody else, there would’ve been no point. Maybe the same feature works well with another game. Or maybe there are more discoveries to be made in the next batch of games. Either way we do think that players have enjoyed what we’ve done so far and it’s up to us to keep that going. Getting feedback directly from the fans helps us keep thinking about how to approach ports in the future.

NH: I think we’re going to see a big response to the 3D remakes, and that will be enough to let us put out Thunder Blade. My main task is thinking about what I want to work on after we wrap up Thunder Blade.

– (laughs)

NH: Well, that goes without saying.

– Of course it does. (laughs)

YO: Wait, does that mean you managed to get those 250,000 signatures I told you to gather?

NH: Well, not signatures, per say. More like, you know, “smoke signals”, or vibes if you will. We both know it’s going to sell like crazy.

– (laughs)

NH: Though I guess depending on cloud cover, it can be tough to see smoke signals.

– (laughs) Personally, Thunder Blade is one of those titles I wanted to see from the get go. I think it’d be great if future releases prompted people to revisit and revaluate games like Thunderblade, and up-ended expectations of classic titles.

NH: That’s the kind of potential I think Thunder Blade has.

YO: I realized this when we were working on 3D Space Harrier, but there are basically two main reasons that this project was so well received by fans. One is playing games in 3D. The second is the addition of new features. When I say ‘addition’, I don’t mean remaking the game into something completely different. It could be something like putting HAYA OH into the arcade version of Space Harrier, putting the Spin Dash in Sonic, or adding the Moving Cabinet modes to the arcade ports. We’re always trying to come up with just one more little bonus that we can drop in. Something that hasn’t been done yet. Since we’ve been able to deliver on that, I think the 3D Remaster Series distinguishes itself from what we put out on Virtual Console up until now.

Of course we also want to enable people to play their favorite games from yesteryear unchanged on modern hardware, so we’ll continue to support Virtual Console. But I want to do something beyond what we’ve already done in the second batch.

NH: We’ve got a lot of good ideas, and we’ve already got some impressive graphics in the works. Get hype.

– Over the course of these interviews, I think once you actually sit down with the games, the entire context you guys have been describing becomes that much clearer. I definitely look forward to seeing what else this project can give birth to.

YO: Perhaps an odd example, but it’s sort of like when they put out the first season of a TV anime and have to decide a half year later whether to follow up with a 2nd season, do a couple of OVAs, or just go ahead and order a movie version.

NH: If we did a ‘movie version’ of this project, what would that be like? Like using an Oculus Rift hooked up to a console or something?

YO: Hahaha, is that how you imagine it? (laughs) Well, the way forward again depends on how the games are received. At some point, we might come to the conclusion that the world just doesn’t need any more GigaDrive games. But in the end we hope everyone enjoys the games we’ve been able to bring out so far, and hopefully the ones we can bring out in the future.

– Thank you so much for your time, gentlemen! I look forward to your future work!


Copyright ©2013 Impress Watch Corporation, an Impress Group company. All rights reserved.


[1] Translator’s note: This is a play on a common technique used for ending a serialized manga. When a comic loses popularity, they are often ended in rather sudden ways and perhaps halfway through a particular story arc. Instead of just ending the story, they often include text on the last panel that implies the story continued on even afterwards. Okunari-san is mimicking a typical copy pattern in those situations.


SEGA 3D Classics – 3D Shinobi III Interview with Developer M2

Shinobi III is our second to last title in the 3D Classics series of interviews. As you’ll come to find, a lot of work was expertly done by M2 to bring this classic Genesis / Mega Drive game to the 3DS.

Thanks again to Game Watch and Impress, Okunari-san, and Horii-san for their involvement in making these interviews available to our western audience. Thanks to Siliconera for coordinating with us to help spread the word to SEGA fans across the web. And special thanks to our producer Sam for translating these interviews for everyone’s enjoyment.

As always, your comments are appreciated!

How will this title from the MegaDrive’s late lifecycle make it into 3D!?

Originally posted 8/7/2013

3D Shinobi III

Right, Naoki Horii, M2 President, left, Yousuke Okunari, SEGA CS3 Producer

Shinobi III Background
Shinobi III: Return of the Ninja Master (known as The Super Shinobi II in Japan) released simultaneously worldwide on July 23, 1993. It was the second MegaDrive installment of the Shinobi series, released four years after its predecessor, The Revenge of Shinobi, and included 7 “rounds” for a total of 21 stages.

The plot of the game revolves around the evil organization known as NEO ZEED, who attempt to control the world through destruction and violence. They were thoroughly defeated by Joe Musashi a few years before the events of this game.

But it turns out that the organization’s leader at that time was nothing but a figurehead, and NEO ZEED has returned to power to threaten the world.

Its true leader, known only as the Shadow Master, has made NEO ZEED more powerful than ever and is fiendishly plotting to finish off Joe Musashi once and for all.

The battle between Joe Musashi and NEO ZEED, between light and darkness, begins again!

3D Shinobi III3D Shinobi III
Flying kicks and dash slashes were added to Shinobi III.

Shinobi III features a dazzling array of moves for a game of its time: players can perform double jumps, rain shuriken down upon their enemies, dash, wall jump, dive kick, hang down, and dice up their foes with various sword techniques.

“Effortlessly pulling off things which people assumed the MegaDrive just couldn’t do…”

– Thank you again for sitting down with me, gentlemen. To date, you’ve released 3D Sonic The Hedgehog, 3D Altered Beast, and 3D Ecco the Dolphin as “GigaDrive” titles. But I’d like to ask what prompted you to choose Shinobi III to represent SEGA’s library of action games. Because I remember that the previous installment, The Revenge of Shinobi, also made a big impact at the time.

Yousuke Okunari (below, YO): The Revenge of Shinobi is of course the bigger title. However, when we released The Revenge of Shinobi as part of the SEGA Vintage Collection last year on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, we got a lot of feedback from people requesting the sequel as well.

Earlier on we had released Shinobi 3D on 3DS, which was a new title in its own right, and which in its own way paid homage to Shinobi III. So we thought that people who got to know the series through that game might better appreciate Shinobi III, since it has more variety in the actions you can perform compared to earlier installments.

We also wanted to keep popularizing some of SEGA’s more well-known games through the 3D Remake Project, which led us to include one title from the Shinobi series. Lastly, and you might know this if you’ve played 3D Galaxy Force II, we wanted to draw attention to how impressive sprite-based games can be when viewed in 3D compared to polygon-based graphics, like those used in Shinobi 3D.

Naoki Horii (below, NH): There are a lot of showpieces for the 3D within the game.

– Looking at your line-up after 3D Sonic, Shinobi III will be the fourth side-scrolling title that you’ve released using the GigaDrive, so I was thinking that maybe you chose Shinobi III based on how effective you thought the 3D would be.

YO: If you want to adapt what were originally 3D shooting games (such as Space Harrier) into stereoscopic 3D, porting the arcade versions is the most effective approach. Namely because the MegaDrive didn’t support sprite scaling. On the other hand, if you want to port 2D side scrolling games, there are a bunch of classics to choose from on the MegaDrive.

In terms of building up M2’s know-how as well, I thought we’d get better at the porting process if we focused on games of a similar genre to the ones we’d previously done.

3D Shinobi III
1-1, An example of multi-layer scrolling in stage 1.

– I see.

YO: Now Shinobi III is our fourth title that uses the GigaDrive, so I figured development would go pretty smoothly. Little did I know how wrong I was…

NH: That’s because MegaDrive games themselves evolved over time. By the time Shinobi III came out, games on the same hardware were really humming along, using sprites and backgrounds in very advanced ways, parallax scrolling backgrounds, all sorts of things. Developers around that time would do things like adjust sprite priorities (which determine what sprites display on top when sprites overlap) to spiff up a game’s backgrounds by making a single layer look like two or three.

YO: Looking back at the previous titles we released, we have Altered Beast, which was a launch title in 1988, then Sonic which came out in 1991, and finally Ecco and Shinobi III, which both released in 1993. Ecco’s biggest advancements were mainly in its impressive visual presentation, but Shinobi III’s advancements were programming innovations that changed how graphics were displayed. Since it had been five years since the hardware’s release, Shinobi III was at the point where it wasn’t just using all of the MegaDrive’s capabilities, it was effortlessly pulling off things that people assumed the MegaDrive just couldn’t do.

NH: We knew that remaking this kind of game in 3D was going be painstaking, but we also knew the final product would really impress people.

3D Shinobi III
2-1, The horse scene in Shinobi 3D was drawn with a 3D perspective. Shinobi III uses parallax scrolling to convey depth.

YO: When we were deciding on our MegaDrive lineup, both M2 and I felt that Shinobi III would make for a really fun game in 3D, so we went ahead and included it. We knew that the game had some parallax scrolling areas in it, and that it was also a straightforward side-scrolling action game, so we figured it would just be a matter of adding 3D to specific parts of the stage that really stand out, like we did with 3D Sonic. M2 agreed with me, and said, “OK, sure. Though, it just might take some work since it’s a game from late in the MegaDrive’s lifecycle…”

But when they actually got started, it was much harder than they imagined. For starters, there are a lot more stages in Shinobi III than other games from that time.

NH: Yeah, there are a ton of stages…

YO: We underestimated the game: there are seven rounds, and each round has three stages. That’s twenty one stages in total! Altered Beast had five. Ecco’s maps are big, but each one is one big image that’s almost like looking at an ant colony from the side. Which means that in terms of the visual presentation, similar graphics were used repeatedly, and you could use the same approach on them as you added depth.

NH: You’ll basically be fine doing the same thing over and over again.

YO: However, Shinobi III changes everything up in all its stages. The game progresses through completely different environments and completely different worlds, which meant we had to change our approach to creating 3D effects for each graphic in the game…

At first, we tried to do things the same way we were doing them previously, for example in 3D Sonic, where we added depth to the parallax scroll layers and objects in the background that had originally been drawn with a faux 3D perspective, and added 3D to previously flat backgrounds, like we did with Altered Beast or Ecco. But it just wasn’t enough.

3D Shinobi III
4-1, This water surface features parallax scrolling.

– When you say “it just wasn’t enough”, you mean there was still something “off” about the graphics?

NH: At the end of the day, the MegaDrive was a console with two backgrounds and sprites on top of them, so the range of things developers were able to do was somewhat limited. Still, they did develop graphic swap techniques that let them make it look like there were three or four background images on the screen. Which means that even if we added depth to both background layers, or changed the priority of raster layers, it wouldn’t be enough; we’d wind up breaking the game’s presentation because certain parts of the game would look wrong. While we did make use of those techniques, we also had to touch up the graphics to give the game a real stereoscopic 3D feel.

If you’re parallax scrolling a background layer graphic that already has some sort of depth baked into it, the GigaDrive techniques aren’t going to help. There were a lot of places in the game for which we had to go in and add depth to by hand.

– Games around that time also had a lot of huge boss characters.

NH: That’s right.

– Those bosses may just be one big graphic, but depending on the perspective, you might be tempted to add depth to their arms and legs.

NH: When the bosses have multiple parts, people want to see depth on them, especially since a lot of stages have bosses with phases that completely change how they’re displayed on-screen .

3D Shinobi III3D Shinobi III
Left: 3-3’s boss. A big enemy that moves around the screen. Right: 4-3’s boss is large as well.

The GigaDrive v2.0 is here!

– Some stages scroll vertically as well, don’t they?

YO: Vertical scrolling was one thing we really struggled with in Shinobi III. For example, stage 6-1. We ran some tests on this stage to see how 3D would look in one of the vertical parallax scrolling sections (hands over a 3DS).

We had a really hard time getting 3D working for the vertically scrolling rock wall here, as well as the elevator scene in 2-2. You might think the GigaDrive is transforming these scenes into 3D, but to make it work we actually had to upgrade the GigaDrive to version 2.0.

– (laughs)

3D Shinobi III3D Shinobi III
Left: 6-1, One of Shinobi III’s vertical multi-layer scrolling stages. Right: 2-2, which also uses vertical multi-layer scrolling.

NH: That’s right, v2.0! The team members who built the GigaDrive thought that the features we’d implemented for 3D Sonic would be enough to support 3D in other MegaDrive titles, but they were wrong! It was like: “Oh boy, now we’ve got to deal with Vertical raster scrolling?!” Well, that’s not the right term, actually. Really we should call it “vertical multi-scrolling”.

YO: Raster scrolling is done using scanlines, so yes, the term “vertical multi-scrolling” would be correct.

NH: But everyone called it “vertical raster”. So one of the biggest changes to the GigaDrive for v2.0 was support for vertical multi-scrolling.

– The way you’ve added depth to these vertically scrolling parts of the stage really gives them a facelift!

NH: Yeah, it does.

YO: Late-cycle MegaDrive games became very focused on how to show visual depth within the MegaDrive’s limitation of only two background layers. Shinobi III is one of those games. So if you can take that onto the 3DS and add 3D to it as-is, it just enhances what was already there.

However, since M2 had to use a lot of different methods to create real 3D effects, there wasn’t a single method that could add 3D to all stages in all situations. This meant analyzing how the programmers for the original version had wrung out faux 3D effects from within the MegaDrive’s original feature set, one scene at a time. In order to remake those graphics in 3D, we had to go back to the GigaDrive itself and extend its capabilities.

This is the “grinding away in the pits” that we alluded to in our 3D Galaxy Force II interview. Shinobi III has twenty one stages, and of course you can’t get away with just one 3D effect per stage. Some parts of the stage are similar to each other, and some are completely different. Really, I’m just impressed that the project even finished.

NH: We did run a little over schedule.

YO: You did, but it was a battle with time.

3D Shinobi III
7-3, the biggest development challenge for 3D Shinobi III. You need to see it in 3D to get the full effect.

NH: Because the 3D programming was looking like it might run over schedule a bit, we were able to add in a couple more 3D touches with the lost time. Since we’ve made so much progress with 3D vertical multi-scrolling, it makes me want to use it in other games. You know, after we get Thunder Blade out.

– (laughs)

YO: The hardest part about this game was the final boss. You’ll know what I’m talking about if you see it, but it’s worth checking out the original in 2D first.

– This looks impressive even to the untrained eye…

YO: The original already had an extremely 3D-esque look to it, and it was rasterized to the screen to give it a wavy effect, despite being a single graphic. This is the kind of thing you’ve just got to remake in 3D.

– The original graphic was clearly drawn to give the impression that the floor and the ceiling start in front of you and then move into the background.

YO: It’s similar to the ground and ceiling graphics in Space Harrier. It’s the graphic designer telling you to look at something in 3D. But there’s no depth information of course. This was actually still 2D right up until just before the final version of the game. Out of respect to the original, we knew that we couldn’t just leave it in 2D, so the Shinobi project manager over at M2 worked hard on it, until the 59th minute of the 11th hour.

And… Well, here. Take a look at it again in 3D.

– Wow, it’s popping out of the screen, as if that’s how it was always meant to be. (laughs) I see what you mean. So the wireframes at the top and bottom of the screen and the wavy portions of the backgrounds are separate layers, right?

YO: Two separate scroll layers are rasterizing on the screen. We’ve added depth information to the single graphic of the undulating wire frame. With the GigaDrive releases up until now, we made background and foreground layers 3D by assigning them different depths, but in this case we’ve “knocked” the wireframe into the background to give it “diagonal depth”.

– (Laughs) So that’s what’s happening. Sounds like you had to pull out all the stops. It’s like always with you guys, you know it’s got to wind up looking like this, and then it does.

YO: The difference between adding depth values to two parallel layers, and thus making them 3D, and knocking the wire-frame portion diagonally into the screen was like night and day. The 3D effect of parallax scrolling is ultimately just like the 3D effect in Galaxy Force II: lots of sprites are overlapped among several different parallel levels. However, collapsing a graphic diagonally into the screen requires a totally different approach.

3D Shinobi III
The stage intro screen. The forest spreads out before Joe, as he stands on the precipice. Depth has been added to this graphic.

– So did you give each horizontal line on the screen its own depth value? That’s possible, right?

NH: It is, but it’s very processor-intensive.

YO: Similarly, when you’re at the stage start screen, there are stage illustrations hovering in mid-air with Joe Musashi standing right in front of you, and both of them are in different locations. The background and forest have been made 3D by collapsing the graphic into the background, which makes it look like the forest is extending to the horizon. Just getting this screen done was an ordeal on its own.

– I suppose collapsing a single graphic into the background diagonally was something you hadn’t done yet on the GigaDrive, and making it happen was quite a challenge.

YO: That’s right.

– Once people saw the parallax scrolling that we were just talking about in the last stage, it became a rather common technique used in games, didn’t it?

NH: Yeah it did. Just another tool of the trade.

– And the 3DS version shows what you can do with the same image in 3D.

NH: Of course, no one ever imagined it would be in 3D in the first place, right? They just wanted to give a 3D edge to the graphics. It’s that much more powerful in real 3D.

– It must have been quite the process.

NH: This was actually the first time the programmer who added 3D depth to the game had ever touched the GigaDrive. Up until then he had been working on Virtual Console Game Gear titles. So I asked him if he wanted to try adding some 3D to Shinobi, and all of a sudden he was adding it everywhere he could.

– (laughs)

NH: He just didn’t know when to give up. He worked on it like a man on a mission, right up until we were out of time.

– Well, that’s the kind of project this is, I suppose. No one knows when to quit… (laughs)

NH: Yeah, exactly. (laughs) When I come into work, I’m always like, “boy, you guys seem to be having fun over there!”

YO: Now this is probably something most people wouldn’t care about, and something I didn’t even realize until it was explained to me, but some of the visual effects in this game were created with very elaborate programming tricks, and they’ll basically fall apart when you put them into 3D. An example would be 3-1.

NH: There’s a trick that other companies have used in shooting games, for example, where you take a square graphic and shift it one pixel at a time, which makes it look like it’s a single scrolling background graphic. The catch is that your background graphic has to be a single block. You could call it “cycling background cells”. We’ve added 3D support for techniques like this with the new GigaDrive v2.0. Stage-wise, a good example is the biological weapons research facility in stage 3-1.

– Huh. Yeah now that I think about, this does seem like something the MegaDrive shouldn’t be graphically capable of.

NH: At first glance, it seems like there are a ton of background layers, but this stage is actually just made of square-shaped graphics arranged around each other. Or rather, they look like a background because of how they’re placed. With this approach, you only have to shift a single block when it’s drawn, leaving fewer areas that you have to redraw. You save on memory as well as processing time.

What it took to make 3-1 3D

3D Shinobi III
3-1. A typical multi-layer scrolling stage in the original game. The top and bottom areas, as well as the experiment pods in the back are multi-scrolled. While the MegaDrive was only capable of scrolling two backgrounds, it looks like more are being scrolled here…

How 3-1’s screens are rendered by the GigaDrive.

3D Shinobi III
A diagram detailing how M2 went about crafting the screens for the 3D version.


Diagram Above

Normal BG-A FG Layer (Window)
Normal BG-B Not displayed
Extended BG1 FG Layer (Front)
Extended BG2 FG Layer (Rear)
Extended BG3 BG Layers (A)
Extended BG4 BG Layer (B&C)


* A & C move at the speeds they appear to move at.

* B is drawn on Extended BG4 with the same depth as C, but is animated by cycling cells, and scrolls at the same speed as layer A.

* It may be possible to freeze the cell animation and scroll at the same speed as background C, but doing so makes the background look different from the original.

(You may not notice it at first since the screen flickers in this section of the game, but if you watch layer B while your character is moving, you’ll notice that it doesn’t move in sync with C.)

3D Shinobi III    3D Shinobi III

Background Layer B is actually comprised of animation tiles that are laid out on-screen and rapidly redrawn to give the impression that they’re scrolling. The 3D version adds depth information to these tiles.

– Wooooow. That is a pretty smart approach.

NH: It is smart. The team really dug deep for this one. But if you use that technique to add depth the way we normally do for GigaDrive, it wouldn’t work right. So we had to extend our functionality for games that use cell cycling.

– I see. I guess that’s the only way to create 3D in a stage like this.

“When you know the original developers wanted to create a sense of space in the original game, it makes you want to push that even further.”

YO: We had underestimated what our original plan would require. However, from among the games we originally selected for the lineup, we thought that Sonic and our next release were going to be the toughest. We wanted to get the hardest games out of the way first.

NH: We were ready to stake the fate of the GigaDrive on Sonic

YO: Yeah. For Sonic, the idea was “Let’s blow everyone’s socks off!” We figured that if we could bring the parallax scrolling portions of the stage into the background, it would impress people. But once we sat down to get started, we realized how off our calculations were. (laughs)

– (laughs)

NH: Yeah we did.

YO: We should have spent more time with each game when we were choosing titles.

NH: When we were considering which parts of the game to remake in 3D, we figured, “Hey, we can do this, we can do that”, because we’d already done it on Sonic. That was a mistake. (laughs) If we’d moved Sonic to the rear, we could have drawn a reasonable line in the sand about what we were going to do with Shinobi III.

– (laughs) Well, you guys don’t really know when to give up either (laughs). I feel like even if the release order was reversed, you still would have convinced yourself that “Hey, we can do this,” or, “That’s going to be a snap.”

NH: At M2, we might have told ourselves that if we do Shinobi first, 3D Sonic would be out of this world.

– (laughs) Then again, if you went straight to late life-cycle MegaDrive titles, you might have had to delay the releases for the arcade and GigaDrive games, right? I mean so far, you’ve been developing titles one by one, and gradually improving your approach by taking the lessons learned from the previous game into the next game. As a result, you’ve been able to work more efficiently, but at the same time you find things you feel like really have to be included in the game as you go along. Considering that, if you’d done Shinobi III first, you might never have gotten around to the other GigaDrive titles, and there wouldn’t have been any games for a while after the 3D Super Hang-on release. (laughs)

NH: That’s definitely possible.

YO: In the end, I think that Shinobi III wound up being a culmination of all the things we’ve accomplished on the GigaDrive up until now.

NH: Yes, everything we’ve built into the GigaDrive to date has made it into this game. It’s got all the toppings.

YO: With Shinobi III’s development, the GigaDrive is finally complete…

NH: … That’s what I wish we could say, but there are still a lot of small problems and stuff that’s not quite there yet. For example, if we wanted to do Gunstar Heroes, we’d have to expand its functionality. (laughs)

– Yeah, that game has multi-jointed characters and other relatively unique specs since it came out at the very end of the MegaDrive’s life cycle.

YO: OK well, let’s say that with Shinobi III, the GigaDrive version 2.0 is finally complete. Beyond that, it’s all down to M2 working on the nitty gritty details to bring quasi-3D elements from the late-era games into true 3D.

NH: Well, the original MegaDrive-era graphical artists and programmers were also deep in the muck, and even though they were working on 2D CRT screens, they wanted to evoke “space” within the game to the extent that they could. When you know the original developers wanted to create a sense of space in the original game, it makes you want to push that even further.

YO: Those little nitty gritty details are the things I hope people notice the most in Shinobi III.

“It really is a second attempt, twenty years later, to deliver to the players that sense of depth, that sense of really being in the game.”

YO: Incidentally, just as we’ve done with all the other 3D Remaster Project games, this title also has two features that weren’t in the original game.

One is the stage select. Unlike 3D Sonic, this wasn’t in the MegaDrive version. You can now see every stage boss, from start to finish, right out of the gate. I say this every time, but we really want people to see how the 3D looks in all the stages, regardless if you’re actually able to clear the game or not.

– Did the original have three continues? I can’t remember. It’s great that you can jump straight to any stage.

NH: The continues are now unlimited as well.

3D Shinobi III3D Shinobi III
Select any stage when you start up the game.

YO: Another thing we’ve included is the “Expert Ninja Mode”. This is something that allows you to assign controls to each button. Both The Revenge of Shinobi and Shinobi III essentially have the same basic controls: Jump, Attack, and Ninjutsu. But in Expert Ninja mode, you can actually assign separate buttons for the close range (kunai) and long range (shuriken) attacks.

We also included a guard button, so you can now guard instantly. In The Revenge of Shinobi, when powered up, you could block things with your two kunai, and use your katana to deflect shuriken, but in Shinobi III, you had to hold down the button to guard so Joe would toss out a shuriken first and your guard wouldn’t instantly activate. Guarding didn’t work the same way it did in The Revenge of Shinobi. In the 3DS version’s Expert Ninja Mode, you can now guard with the push of a single button. The guard hitbox is a bit tighter than it was in Revenge, but the fact that you can instantly block attacks now is huge for players.

You can assign the guard button to L, R, A, B, Y, or even X if you want. Use whatever works for you!

And actually, this isn’t the first time this mode has made an appearance. You might not be aware of this, but you could use it with a cheat code in the original. The game actually supported the 6-button gamepad for the MegaDrive, which at the time had just been released. Still, since we are porting the game to the 3DS, we’d run out of buttons if we left the 6-button support in there, so we needed to a proper implementation for this control scheme. And since trying to assign all these buttons with the button configuration we’ve had up until now would be a bit of a pain, we’ve adapted the controls into icons. Really, there probably weren’t a ton of people who knew about and used the cheat code for the original, so in this version, we’ve included the functionality as a default default. I think it brings a breath of fresh air to the gameplay.

– … People might think that the guard will make them invincible throughout the game, but that’s not the case.

NH: No, that’s not the case. It’s sort of like how people thought the original Street Fighter would be easier if you switched from pressure-sensitive buttons[1] to a 6-button layout, but that wasn’t the problem in the first place.

– (laughs) It was the button inputs that made that game tricky.

YO: Playing Shinobi III with a guard button makes it totally different from what you’ve played before.

– In car terms, it’s like switching from an automatic to a stick shift.

YO: People who’ve mastered the normal control method, or played the normal style but got stuck somewhere along the way should give it a try. I think they’ll find it’s like playing a different game.

I’ve never asked the original development team, but I hear this game took a quite a while to develop and I have a feeling they wanted to make it so that the guard action was instantaneous. Perhaps they gave up when they were doing adjustments to the game balance or something. At the very end of the development cycle, they heard 6-button controller was coming out and implemented support for it, so I imagine that at that point it was too late to include the guard by default. Since we’re working on the port, we figured it was time to let that feature shine.

– It wouldn’t have been odd around that time to have a guard action. I think it’s a good idea.

YO: And since now you have your shuriken, which are limited in number, on a separate button, it makes you want to get in there and attack at close range.

– Yeah, it’s even more of an action game if you keep yourself from using your shuriken.

YO: Shinobi III also had two new close range attacks: dash slash and kick, in addition to the kunai attack. So trying to get through the game without using any shuriken can be fun in quite a different way.

– So Expert Ninja Mode wasn’t part of the original development plan?

YO: The idea at first was to include it as a hidden feature.

NH: Making it available by default came along later in development.

YO: I really wanted to highlight the fact that this command existed in the game. I always thought of it as a little hidden bonus, but if you know how to access it, it’s a lot of fun. So we brought it to the forefront with Expert Ninja Mode. You can think of the 3DS version’s guard as a bonus action like the Spin Dash we added to 3D Sonic. You could certainly play without shuriken if you want, but that sort of “self-restricted” gameplay is a little old school, you know. (laughs) Of course, if you want to play with infinite shuriken, we’ve left the original cheat code in as well.

3D Shinobi III3D Shinobi III
If you go to the OPTIONS, set the S.E. to “SHURIKIN”, then set the “SHURIKIN” count to “00” and wait a few moments, the numbers will turn into an infinity sign, granting you unlimited shuriken. Also, note that this is the only place you will see shuriken misspelled because it drives the localization producer crazy.

– You can also select the difficulty, so people who are skilled at the game can tune the difficulty as they like. That’s also similar to the addition of 3D Sonic’s Spin Dash, I suppose.

YO: It’s actually the opposite of 3D Sonic since in this case, we’re taking things that were in an earlier game and adding them to the sequel. In this version, you can use the guard without powering up. One of the things we struggled with was updating the UI template with icons for the button config, which we were fine with up until then. But if we hadn’t switched the config over to icons, it would be really hard to figure out what you’re doing. It sounds minor, but this change actually wound up impacting our schedule. (laughs)

– Well, the control config is definitely easier to understand now that it’s more visual. I think it’s a nice addition that people will appreciate.

NH: It’s a modest upgrade, but we did put a fair amount of time into it. Definitely fool around with it.

YO: The international version is also in there too, although the only difference is the logo (and a little bit of text). (laughs)

– So the difficulty of the international version isn’t any different from the Japanese one?

YO: Apparently not.

3D Shinobi III3D Shinobi III
You can play the Japanese or international version, which have a different title screens.

3D Shinobi III3D Shinobi III
In the screen settings, the GigaDrive allows you to use Normal display modes, as well as “Classic” mode, which replicates CRT screens. The screen is rounded out, with colors that bleed, bringing back the days of playing it on an early 90s television set.

– Alright gentlemen. Final words before we close up?

YO: Given that it was one of the MegaDrive’s later titles, Shinobi III is the most refined version of the 2D Shinobi series. I think that it’s a fine example of a well-executed action game. It’s also a showcase for how we’ve taken all the in-game effects from the original and remade them in stereoscopic 3D. If you’ve never had a chance to play this game, there has never been a better time.

When this game originally came out, there were a lot of other competing action games being released at the same time, and this installment didn’t have Yuzu Koshiro-san’s music, who was involved in the first game. So it had a couple of dings against it, and there may have been some people who passed over it. But in reality, the music is really good, and it’s highly regarded by action game lovers. So while there may be a good number of people who haven’t tried it, I think they’re really missing out. (laughs)

– It’s definitely a hard choice, but I think that The Revenge of Shinobi was a little more widely known. That said, I think Shinobi III is really polished, and something people should play through themselves.

YO: The dash is really fun. For the people out there who want to play The Revenge of Shinobi, I recommend you check out the version on Wii Virtual Console, or the SEGA AGES ONLINE (Sega Vintage Collection 3 overseas) version. (laughs) It’s a different console, but it’s on sale now and people love it! If you’re one of those who are just dying to hear Yuzu Koshiro-san’s on 3DS, then go and pick up a copy of the Game Gear version of Shinobi on 3DS Virtual Console. That one is a masterpiece as well, so if your interest in the series is piqued, please give it a try!

NH: Just as our predecessors tried to wring out every last bit of power from the MegaDrive to create amazing graphics, we also did our best to squeeze out every last drop of stereoscopic 3D that we could from Shinobi III. Please enjoy the fruits of our persistence. We think you’ll like it.

– Since you’ve relate all the trouble you guys go through to make it, I wind up empathizing with you guys as I play the games.

NH: I think that there were spots that people overlooked back then like, “Hey wait a minute. The MegaDrive shouldn’t be able to do three layers of scrolling!” By putting Shinobi III in 3D, it’s easier to see some of these impressive achievements. I hope people will get a kick out of wondering how some of this stuff was accomplished.

YO: The effort that they put in back then… it’s amazing how they were able to create such a sense of depth within the game, in terms of both programing skill and graphical design. And now M2 has taken up the reigns by turning it into 3D. It really is a second attempt, twenty years later, to deliver to the players that sense of depth, that sense of really being in the game.

– And it sounds like you have another title coming along in due time as well! So I look forward to talking to you guys again! Thank you so much!


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[1] The original Street Fighter machines had only two pressure-sensitive buttons: punch and kick. The strength of the attack was determined by how hard you hit the button.