Wednesday Jul 06, 2016
Stop me if you’ve heard this before:
“We’re working on it.”
It’s an oft-used PR phrase that people have come to see as a general throwaway response. And while I can’t speak for every case, I can at least tell you that when it comes to publishing SEGA Japanese IP games (and ATLUS’!) in Europe, it’s true. We are working on it. Or were, really, since we just inked a deal with Deep Silver to release multiple upcoming titles in Europe. Physical versions.
That means that 7th Dragon III Code: VFD will be coming to European regions as both a physical and digital title, which will be published by Deep Silver for the EU territory.
The next question out of your mouth I’m sure is “but why? You have SEGA Europe, use them!” Yes, we do have a European branch, but they’re very much their own business, and as a business unit, SEGA Europe focuses on our Western IP titles – the titles developed by our Western studios such as Creative Assembly, Relic Entertainment, Sports Interactive and in partnership with studios such as PlaySport Games. With the majority of those titles being released on PC, we’ve seen an evolution of SEGA Europe into a more digitally-centric business over the last few years. For any packaged releases of SEGA Europe Western IPs they already partner with Deep Silver to bring those titles to market in Europe. It made sense to mirror that partnership with the SEGA of America-managed Japanese IP titles which currently have a heavier bias towards physical release. Sega Europe will still be publishing Yakuza 0.
Added bonus – this deal also applies to some upcoming ATLUS titles, so if you’ve been hankering for Persona 5 or Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse, Deep Silver has the EU covered!
We aren’t ready to share release dates for those just yet, but for all our fans in Europe, we can finally say “we worked on it, and now we’ve got an answer for you.”
Monday Jun 27, 2016
Hello, everyone. This is Ohtani again, the sound director of Sonic series.
This is entry number 2 of the Mario & Sonic at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games Sound Director interview, with sound directors Mr. Nakagawa and Mr. Tokoi, if you haven’t read part 1 yet, visit the link here!
Ohtani: I wanted to talk about the main theme, in the previous Mario & Sonic series the main themes were more orchestral themes but in Mario & Sonic at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, the main theme has a very distinctive samba rhythm. I felt it was very impressionable and memorable. How did the idea occur to you?
Tokoi: When I started working on the music, I did a workshop with our team members and we discussed what sort of sound would work for this title.
O: I remember you were watching a lot of samba videos while brainstorming with everyone.
T: The important point was that it’s not a complex melody, and that it should be uplifting, light beat that you can imagine Rio from. The latter parts we focused on speed and momentum. I usually make the total code and melody first, and then I start implementing details. I tend to start with the main rhythm or bass, but this time I started to compose a melody for the piano. I composed the total structure of the song at first and added other elements gradually. Finally, I arranged the tune in the late stage of compositional process. I decided to add the solo part of Bateria after I discussed with our team members.
O: It helps set the tone of the song with a very impressionable intro.
Plenty of Brazilian tones during the events, even for Mario?
Nakagawa: In the 3DS version of Mario & Sonic, there are Olympic Game events mode where you can enjoy the events like you would in the Olympic Games and Plus events mode that you can enjoy each events with a bit of a special gimmick. In the Rhythmic Gymnastics, we used the main theme from Super Mario Bros., which is very recognizable. We’ve arranged that theme to Brazilian music as well, and it comes in two different types of events, Olympic Games and Plus event.
O: The main theme of Super Mario Bros. with a Brazilian twist, interesting.
N: In this game, you can play as your Mii and even change the costumes of the Mii and there’s special power ups for each events. Like for the costumes during Rhythmic Gymnastics, we put in some Brazilian instruments here and there, like for the button press sound effects. I hope everyone enjoys the bits of Brazilian elements we’ve put in.
O: That sounds fun!
N: Football(Soccer) is one of the popular Olympic Games events, and we had Mr. Otani take over the music for that.
O: Yes, I composed the songs for Football and 100m. I received a request to put in more of the Brazilian feel too, but also to make it more fully competitive. So instead of composing a more of a major key of fun and bright song, I made it more of a minor key to draw out the tension.
N: Yeah, I think you got the Brazil feel down.
O: I’m glad to hear that! With Football, I tried to emulate the stadium feel by adding chorus, like fans chanting in the crowds. So everyone in the development team, from directors, programmers, project managers, designers all the way to the sound team joined in to record the chorus.
T: Thanks that, the stadium sounds awesome in the game.
O: We should‘ve taken photos when we were recording. You can hear the chorus when your team is doing better than the other team.
T: The chorus comes up when you make a goal too.
N: Yeah, it’s really fun and has that uplifting Brazilian vibe when it comes up.
O: When you make a goal, the song changes from this minor key to a real party.
T: It’s so contrasting, it’s great.
O: Maybe because of this, it didn’t feel like I made one song for an event, but several parts for what’s happening in game.
N: We’ve implemented dynamic BGM before in Mario & Sonic at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, where the depending the situation of the game the music changes. It’s now a standard in this title. My favorite is Boxing, as the situation ramps up it gets intense. I hope the change in music comes natural. I made some sound effects to get the viewers excited as they’re in the ringside and they’re gradually getting into the event, like having them sound like they’re counting down when your character is down in the ring. I owe a lot to the programmers for implementing everything but it was fun trying a lot things.
O: I think it’s time to warp up this interview; do you have any messages you’d like to leave our readers with?
N: I put in a lot for this recording. I received a lot of support, not only the musicians in Rio de Janeiro but many talented musicians in Japan as well. I think we had over a hundred talents supporting and thanks to them we feel the music is very unique and retains its Brazilian atmosphere. I hope everyone enjoy the game itself and the music while they’re playing!
T: I hope you enjoy the exciting events of the Olympic Games in Rio. We tried to create a music experience that you could enjoy the atmosphere of Rio de Janeiro like we did. I hope you enjoy the fun, uplifting sounds.
O: I think this is one of more distinctive Mario & Sonic sound track yet! Thank you very much for your time.
N & T: Thank you.
Finally, we’d like to introduce the opening movie of the Wii U Mario & Sonic at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games that was recorded in Brazil. Enjoy! See you later!
Friday Jun 17, 2016
(Hi guys – Aaron here! Today, we have a special interview for you from Sonic Team! Often the Sonic Team website in Japanese will get some really cool interviews, but they rarely get properly translated into English. We hope you enjoy this one! Now, on to your regularly scheduled blog post…)
Hello everyone! I’m Ohtani, the sound director for the Sonic series.
Ohtani: Hello Mr. Nakagawa and Mr. Tokoi. Can we have a quick introduction?
Nakagawa: Hello, I’m Teruhiko Nakagawa. I am the sound director for the Nintendo 3DS version Mario & Sonic at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
Tokoi: Hello, my name is Kenichi Tokoi. I’m the sound director for Mario & Sonic at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games for the Nintendo Wii U.
O: Mr. Nakagawa was the sound director for Sonic Rush series and Sonic Colors on the Nintendo DS, and Mr. Tokoi started his career from Sonic Adventure series and has been involved to many other Sonic titles as well. You could say that they both have a long relationship with Sonic. Actually, you guys have worked on almost all of the Mario & Sonic titles right?
N: Yes, I’ve been with Mario & Sonic since the first title, Mario & Sonic at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games.
T: I started with the second title of Mario & Sonic, Mario & Sonic at the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games
N: Yes, since then we’ve been working together on the Mario & Sonic series, London, Sochi and this fifth title, Rio.
Brazilian music as concept.
O: Let’s start this off by talking about the concept of the music for this game.
N: This is the first Olympic Games held in Latin America and since Brazil is known for their samba music, we felt that we should go with Brazilian music this time.
O: And it was okay to move forward, just like that?
N: Yep, there was no objection.
T: Well, it’s Rio! We started by researching what sort of music is in Brazil. At the beginning of the project everyone shared different types of music that they felt Brazilian and studied what Brazilian music is.
N: At first we thought, Brazil and Cuba are both are Latin right? But as Tokoi and I kept researching…
T: There were specific rhythms. We had a Brazilian percussionist listen to our music samples and he commented “This song has Cuban rhythm”. We didn’t have a clue what samba supposed to feel like.
N & O: (laugh)
T: Thus our crucible began.
N: Yeah, Tokoi then said, “We need to go to Brazil and record.” It took me by surprise.
O: He probably wanted to record the real Brazilian sound.
T: It got me curious, what is samba? I needed to listen to the real thing.
O: There are few songs that have been recorded overseas but has anyone at Sega recorded in Brazil?
Tokoi: No, I don’t think so.
Recording in Brazil
Nakagawa: So, we went to Rio de Janeiro about one year ago.
Tokoi: It was two weeks before the Rio Carnival; we were there for about 10 days to the end of January. The Rio Carnival was held from February 14-17, last year.
Ohtani: You could complete recording in that time frame?
T: Yes, it was crazy. I can’t believe we managed to get everything. It was all about samba around town, even at our hotels, the outfits, the decorations were all samba.
O: That must have been some time to start recording.
N: Yeah, everyone is gone when the carnival starts, so we needed to do it before.
T: Yes, the Bateria band (percussion group that performs samba music) that we had for this recording was practicing for the carnival coming up. They kindly agreed to perform for us in between their practice, it must have difficult to juggle their time but they recorded with us nonetheless.
O: Yeah, samba is known for their unique rhythm.
N: We definitely wanted the Brazilian feel and rhythm, which was our priority. We were able to incorporate many local musicians; we had wind instruments, brass sections, and a Brazilian string instrument called Cavaquinho, a six string guitar, electric bass, harp, a mixed chorus and an accordion. It was great that the guitarists were Brazilian; I realized afterwards that even the bassist was playing with a Brazilian rhythm. I had composed the song with a Latin rhythm and soon found out our bassist had difficulty playing, until we changed it to a Brazilian rhythm.
O: I see, and you recorded not only a percussion section but also an orchestral piece at Brazil. What kind of music did you record?
N: The main theme would be the biggest part, which is included in both Mario & Sonic at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games 3DS and Wii U. We also recorded arranged versions of the song as well.
O: The song playing in main title screen
N: Yeah, it’s used in the main title screen, replays, and staff credits etc. We’ve used the main theme in places that represents the game overall. Also in the 3DS version, I composed the theme for Pocket Marathon. All of these were recorded in Brazil. Well the rest is a little surprise for later but when you clear the game, the song used there is also recorded in Brazil.
O: Oh, that sounds nice!
From winter in Japan to summer in Rio
N: We had a layover in New York before we arrived in Rio de Janerio. It was midwinter in New York and it was freezing cold. New York was much colder than Tokyo and so we were prepared for that, but as soon as we traveled south pass the equator it was the complete opposite. We were told shorts and sandals are a must, and it definitely is.
T: Yeah we wore flip-flops everywhere. Everyone was wearing them.
N: The overall atmosphere at Rio was casual. It wasn’t really scary; we walked around drinking and watching soccer and such. It is a tourist destination, so everyone was pretty causal.
T: Yeah even the musicians that joined us in the recording sessions were pretty easy going and casual.
N: We booked one of the nice beach-front hotels on the famous Copacabana beach. The studio was about a five minute walk from the hotel.
O: Oh I’m jealous. I wish you guys brought me with. haha
Recording of Bateria
O: So, how was recording with the Bateria group?
T: So for our recording, we had members from Unidos Da Tijuka and Salgueiro, winning teams from 2014 to play the base part for a day. We started with the main theme, but it took longer than we expected, so we talked about how to proceed and figured it out the parts along the way.
O: How did you record the catchy part of the song? Have you decided the parts beforehand and planned accordingly?
T: We did have it planned, but we recorded it last. We had lots of catchy parts that everyone contributed so we recorded and kept these parts. We figured it’s easy to record all the base parts first, so we kept to that method and put it together later.
O: So you recorded all of the basic patterns first and then recorded other orchestra sessions.
T: Yes, after that recording went pretty smooth. In Brazil, apparently there’s a genre category called AXE and our main theme belongs in that genre.
N: Yeah, apparently it’s pop-like samba.
O: Oh, are there any changes to how you approach the music when it’s AXE?
T: We follow a basic Bateria rhythm and then we expand it further. Like the leader of the group will listen to the music and communicate to the other members how they should play and bam, they play it in their first try. The leader figures out the beat each part and the other members follow the lead. It’s pretty quick once it’s decided. The parts have a unique dialect or local accent and it sounds deviating to us but when put together everyone plays perfectly together.
O: So what you’re saying is that they all have the same deviation or dialect of rhythm?
T: Yes, the deviation is just all the same.
N: I guess it’s hard for the Japanese to reproduce.
T: Yeah, that’s hard.
O: How is the rhythm different?
T: The second beat is stressed. The Brazilian music has two-four metre and the second beat is stressed. The rhythm is like “weak-strong, weak-strong” and the stressed second beat sounds like deviating to us. The first beat is weak and the second one is always strong. All of the musicians there naturally stressed on the second beat. In Japanese rhythm of music, we tend to stress the first beat but in Brazil, the stress always comes on the second beat. So the tempo is quite different.
O: You mean the blank between the first and second beat is different from the Japanese music?
T: Not only the blank but the second beat itself too…well, it’s difficult to explain. It is very unique dialect or accent of music. It’s so hard to describe!
O: That must be the secret of samba’s characteristic groove.
The OK sign
N: I really liked that everyone did this thumbs up sign when we were talking about things and they wanted to sign off an “OK”. Not just the musicians we worked with, but the people in Rio around the city too. It gave a warm feeling, like while we’re recording after explaining to the conductor about the music they always showed the thumbs up sign to signal they got it. I guess it’s the language barrier; it made me feel relieved when I saw the sign that he understood what I was trying to say.
T: All of the performers expressed themselves very clearly.
O: It’s very important to communicate with each other for a good recording and I see that the communication there went well.
Well, I hope you’re feeling a lot more in the Brazilian-mood!
We recorded the conversation of 3 people, but it’s already too long, so we’ll update the rest next week. In Special entry for Mario & Sonic at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games™! Sound interview [Part 2], we’ll be talking about the background story of the main theme development and some of the creative process of the BGM, so please check it out!
See you then!
Tuesday May 17, 2016
Power Drift –Yu Suzuki’s Finest 2D Game, Recreated with Detailed Care
Power Drift was released by SEGA into the arcades in 1988. Developed by what would eventually become AM2, the famous Yu Suzuki was involved with its creation. The arcade cabinet’s Deluxe Version seat would move in response to the way you handled it, with a standard style Sit-Down Version and a local multiplayer version being released later, dubbed the Twin-Cab Version.
In addition to the arcade version, it saw ports for the PC Engine (Turbo Grafx-16) in 1990, the Sega Saturn in 1998, and a Dreamcast version as part of the 2001 Yu Suzuki Gameworks Vol. 1. We’re back with Part 2 of the interview! You can read the first part here.
– So for Power Drift, there was a Twin Cabinet Version that supported network-versus. What did you do with that?
NH: This is a port of the Deluxe Cab, which is the nicest of them, so not the Twin this time. If we added the Twin, we’d have to make it support network play, which is a totally different beast.
YO: Besides, the Twin doesn’t just change the cabinet; it’s a fundamental rework of the game itself.
I don’t know this first hand, but from what I imagine, when Power Drift was released, Final Lap (1987) had started this Twin Cab boom around thattime. So they must have thought SEGA should release a twin cabinet too. Power Drift filled that need.
But Power Drift wasn’t originally made to be played against other players. It had limitations like it being too fast or courses not being built for multiplayer. So I believe that was why the Twin Version has slower speed and the crazy courses were cut from the game and made into more normal courses.
That’s what the Twin is, so when we had to pick a version of Power Drift to do, you can imagine our hesitation.
NH: Of course, there are people who like it, and being that these are ‘archive’ projects, we would’ve liked to put both of it in. But if we did that, we would have to re-look at the schedule and use extra energy for that netplay. It would have required more memory too. It’d have been very difficult when you think about it.
– The game itself had large differences, and internally it was completely different, so it would have been like a totally new project.
NH: One of the biggest reasons was that from a coding perspective, it was a completely different game. It wasn’t that everything was different, but it was to the point that it wasn’t the same game. We would like to someday port the Twin as well, but it wasn’t possible this time. I mean, like we said, look where we were as of September. (wry smile)
– You spoke earlier about the source code. Galaxy Force II was created by the group later known as SEGA AM1, while Power Drift was create by the team later known as SEGA AM2, so it’s one of Yu Suzuki’s titles, correct? Even though it was the same Y-Board, I’d imagine there were differences in how it worked.
NH: Hmm, I wonder. Regardless, we pull the code the pieces, analyze it, and reconstruct it.
YO: Actually, we never provided the source for Power Drift to M2. We handed over the source for Thunder Blade though….
Oh, I remember now! When we made 3D Out Run, we were looking for the source and materials for Out Run and we found the source for Yu Suzuki Game Works* on the Dreamcast. We found Power Drift in there.
NH: Oh that’s right! I think it was the SH-4 version. *
YO: We handed that to Horii-san, and asked if he could use it to port Out Run. I remember him saying, “This may make Power Drift a reality…” (laugh)
– He was so enamored by the Power Drift (laugh).
NH: I do vaguely recall that!
* SH-4: A CPU architecture that was employed in the Sega Dreamcast and NAOMI Arcade boards.
*Suzuki Yu Game Works Vol. 1 – Released 2001. A book that compiled materials of works by game creator Mr. Yu Suzuki, with the extra disk having five “physical experience’ games that Yu Suzuki worked on including Hang-On, Space Harrier, Out Run, After Burner II, Power Drift available to play on the Dreamcast.
YO: The Power Drift from the Yu Suzuki Game Works was different than the other games that appeared in Shenmue. The sound was streamed, and I’m sure who worked on that bit was different from the rest. Out Run most likely was created on the same line as the Sega Saturn version while Power Drift was newly created. While build them, I’m sure there were many changes and tricks done to make it work on the Dreamcast. Those probably became the foundation for the work Saito-san was doing on the project.
NH: He probably got all excited when he realized that they were doing it this way or that way because of the SH-4.
YO: But the source I gave them wasn’t the final version. (laughs)
NH: The source is never the final version. It’s usually the one before the submission master, or one slightly better than that. Looking at the one past the final is really nice. It’s a learning experience as you can see things like, “Oh they regretted that so they went back and fixed it,” or , “Why would they take time to go back and fix THAT?!”
– They make it so that if they have the time to, they can switch it out with an even better build.
NH: It does happen.
– For Galaxy Force II, you have previously mentioned that the Y-Board had its L/R channels reversed. So for the SEGA AGES 2500 series, you fixed it when you recorded the stream data. Was it the same for the Power Drift’s system board?
NH: It was mostly the same, and I believe the L/R channel was reversed just like Galaxy Force II. However, I believe they used to create the Y-Board along with the cabinets so it may be that the L/R channels were fixed in the latter lots.
YO: Most likely, the arcade development for Galaxy Force and Power Drift were done concurrently.
NH: I actually had a chance to talk with Yu Suzuki a while ago, and we chatted about Power Drift. I commented that it was an amazing time back then. SEGA used to build all the boards themselves and still made money back on them. He replied nonchalantly, “Crazy right? But, I think they were able to make all that back with just one of my games.” He’s so cool. (laughs)
A tremendous amount of sprites at 60fps, a title worthy of being called one of the best Sega “physical experience” games of the 2D graphics era.
– As for the porting process, did you make sure Power Drift worked in its 2D state first before starting to make it 3D? Or did you do that process simultaneously?
NH: I believe we worked on the porting and stereoscopy process simultaneously. For Power Drift, you were able to change the camera-view with the start button, so even though it was really rough, we put in depth with the 3D at a rather early stage. We’ve mentioned before how hard it is to add in widescreen back when we discussed Out Run, After Burner II, and Space Harrier, so naturally we had trouble there.
– I see. The Y-Board has z-axis (depth) values for the sprites as well, correct?
NH: The Yu Suzuki Works games do. The z-axis has always been there. So we build off of those for stereoscopic 3D.
YO: Additionally, we have to decide on where’s the center point, where’s the horizon point, those sorts of things. We got a built-up knowledge base for that sort of thing, so we didn’t lose any time figuring that out before dropping in the 3D.
NH: We’ve become pretty used to the 3D stereoscopy process, so we want to tackle new challenges too. Taking an example from Galaxy Force II that we tried and failed, it’s a game where you move forward into the screen, so you know how objects should appear really deep in the screen, right? If we were able to double the limit of how many things we could show, it would look even better. We hope to be able to do that in the future.
– I see. One of the huge aspects of stereoscopic 3D is that the way you view it changes, so it sounds like the feel of it would change a lot as well.
By the way, in Power Drift, the cars move up and down, and the sharp turns cause the course and cars to swing hard left and right. I mean, the things being drawn on screen change drastically, right? Did that all work out in the end?
NH: You have to make sure you can make it over the parts where the load is the heaviest, and man, Power Drift has some really heavy parts! There’s no leeway at all! As we said before, it was enough that we considered splitting framerate targets between normal and New 3DS.
What also made the process difficult was mostly the fact that we didn’t have anything to work off of. We didn’t have the original arcade source code, so we would have to pull data out of the ROM, analyze it, rinse, repeat to finally get a basic source image. Sort of what we for Galaxy Force II too.
– You said that since Galaxy Force II had recreated for the ported to PS2, that helped when building it for 3DS. But you didn’t have [that groundwork] for Power Drift.
NH: Right, we had that for Galaxy Force II. So in that sense, Power Drift was a completely new port for us.
YO: Huh? Didn’t we hand over the source for Galaxy Force II? Though, it was an 8-inch floppy disk so maybe you couldn’t even read it in the first place.
NH: Oh I was readable, but we couldn’t use it in the end. So we had to analyze it by hand. It was quite difficult, actually. (laughs)
Power Drift – The 3D stereoscopy makes the game better! Detailed Painstaking reproduction of how the cabinet handled and the way it sounds!
Playing the Power Drift. Switching into the cabinet mode lets players can enjoy how the arcade version felt back then!
– OK I’m going to give Power Drift a shot… Wow, the background in cabinet mode has Space Harrier and Thunder Blade. There’re posters for for Galaxy Force II and Fantasy Zone too. So much detail.
YO: The placement for it kept changing up until the final version. It seems like they kept reconsidering things, like the placement for Thunder Blade is a little too this, or a little too that. We would take photos of the screen for PR purposes, but they kept changing it. So we would shake our heads and re-take it, but then it would change again. (laughs)
– But it’s the small details that make it fun. Even though it sounds like hard work. By the way, how did you record the environmental sounds this time around?
YO: SEGA doesn’t have the cabinets for ones after Power Drift. So we had to go to the MIKADO game center in Takadanobaba after-hours and record the cabinet noise in the middle of the night. But there were some mistakes and whatnot, so we had have two recording sessions. Other than the sound, the cabinet at the MIKADO is missing the emblem in the center of the steering wheel so we had to go to the ROBOT arcade center in Fukaya in Saitama to make sure we had it right.
– Sounds like you had to travel around a it. Oh, and I’m seeing four gear types in this version, including an AT setting. What is this?
YO: The arcade didn’t have AT, so that’s a new feature. For the ‘Switch’, ‘Toggle’ and ‘Hold’ settings, you can use them to make L/R buttons have the same function, or you can make it the same as how the Dreamcast version had it.
Gear Type & Command Settings
Different people have different play styles based around when to drift or changing gears. You’ll get a variety of gear styles, just like 3D Out Run. You can really feel the attention to detail to make sure the game is easy to play.
YO: There was a lot of attention here. Power Drift hasn’t really seen a proper console port before.. There were ones for PC Engine (Turbo Grafx 16), Sega Saturn, and Dreamcast, and the Dreamcast one was mixed in with others in the Yu Suzuki Game Works, as we’ve mentioned. I don’t think there were a lot of people back then who had the chance to really play Power Drift. Those who did probably did it through the arcade.
That’s why the advice Professor Asobin gives when loading the game are things useful to clearing the game.
Kubota-san, who joined M2 mid-project, was a player of the arcade version, so he taught us all these tricks about the game. This game has lots of ways to slow down before turning a corner, so memorizing those tricks is a real good idea.
NH: Kubota played Fantasy Zone quite a lot, but he also played Power Drift quite heavily too. For example, during the debug process when we had to finish all courses in 1st place, Kubota just blew through it. He was a huge help.
– How did you go about really getting the sensation of steering right, which is very tactile? Were you able to smoothly apply the steering’s analog input resolution to the 3DS slide pad?
NH: There was enough resolution so we could map it directly. However, if we kept it totally same, there would be a noticeable difference due to the difference in how the controls work. So we would play the cabinet at MIKADO, and try to match that sensation with the 3DS. You know, just try to get it right that way.
At the end of the day though, we owe a lot to some guys who let us borrow an arcade board, to which we connected a Dreamcast steering wheel controller and played that. We would make the final adjustments on the 3DS by comparing it to the way the MIKADO cabinet and Dreamcast steering wheel controller felt.
YO: We really put a lot of thought into how this felt, but we are ultimately waiting on feedback from the players as to whether or not it feels just like the arcade or feels completely different. It’s really quite subjective.
NH: Recreating the feeling of the actual machine was really difficult, but by the time Kubota joined the team, it was basically done. Kubota said he didn’t feel anything wrong with it. We think it’s easier to play than the Dreamcast version.
YO: Incidentally, Power Drift has sort of adjusts our position on the track, which makes it easier to drive, but there’s an option to toggle that on or off.
– Since the tactile feel of the game has a direct impact on the gameplay, it’s good to know you’ve adjusted it as needed. So next, I wanted to focus on the 3D itself. This is pretty amazing! Though, there might be some who get sort of nauseous from it…
NH: Well, you are running over a pretty bumpy road, after all.
– You really feel the depth of this screen you are driving into. The stereoscopic 3D goes pretty far into the screen. It feels like this might even have the deepest parallax to date.
YO: Power Drift is a rollercoaster game, so there’s parts where you’re driving high up, and then drop really fast. Thanks to the stereoscopic 3D, you really get that feeling of falling.
– The stereoscopic 3D really delivers a unique charm here. In the other games, the 3D is applies in a similar fashion, but for this game, you can really see how the sprites make up the course, and it makes it easier to play.
YO: Another way we’ve made it easier to play is that while we’ve ported all same difficulties levels that exist in the arcade versions of Power Drift and Puyo Puyo 2, we’ve also add in a lower difficulty that’s lower than what originally existed.
Power Drift is a hard game. Personally, I think when you first play it, you should play it at the easiest difficulty. The collision detection is much looser. You can learn how it’s supposed to feel.
– I get it. I gotta say though, I really feel nothing out of place with the controls, and the 3D really stands out (no put intended). In the original arcade, when you crash, there were just things all over the screen so it was hard to understand what was happening. But seeing it in stereoscopic 3D makes it easy to see the placement and distance between everything.
NH: Well, that’s because it’s a Yu Suzuki game (because z-axis is there from the get-go). It’s all well-thought out. It really is.
– It seems you can switch between the Japanese version and overseas version. What are the differences?
YO: The game itself shouldn’t change. There are a lot of Japanese messages in this game, and all this changes is the messages into English.
– And is it true that the replay fast forward speed is quicker on the New 3DS than the regular one?
NH: Yes, that’s right.
YO: It’s just a matter of the processor not being able to keep up during fast-forward. You can really see the difference in the specs here.
– I see. And you can adjust the BGM and SE controls for arcade games is in as well. You guys started adding that feature in halfway through the SEGA 3D Remaster Project, but it’s basically a tried-and-true standard now. But it’s not actually that easy to put in, is it?
NH: We add interrupt request numbers for all of the sounds, which let’s us change them. We’ve done this before, so since we know how to do it, we sort of leave it until the end to work it in. But does start to pile up, and creates a rather exhausting amount of stuff to do.
The four types are: The original 4:3 style; Widescreen style, which fits the 3DS; Full Screen, which just stretches it to fill the screen; and Cabinet View, which puts you in the actual arcade cabinet! And when you turn the Moving HUD on, it enables the “2D” screen mode, which makes it so only the cabinet and background are in 3D.
– Is my understanding correct that you didn’t add any additional features or modes outside what was in the original game?
NH: No, we didn’t. Our main focus was getting widescreen and stereoscopic 3D.
YO: As you know, we typically add in new and additional content into games in the 3D Remaster Project, which we affectionately call a “Grantanoff”*. For this project, the Grantanoff wasn’t new content, but just simply MORE content.
For example, we added a whole new stage and a boss for Thunder Blade, so we basically added more game. So in that respect, you could say half of the content itself is a Grantanoff.
Putting in an whole new title is a Grantanoff, so you don’t get a Grantanoff in a Grantanoff. Sorry!
*Grantanoff: In the second wave of the SEGA 3D Classics series, this term is used for ‘ a new feature not found in the original’. It comes from the name of a boss specific to the Mark-III version that they tried to add into 3D After Burner II.
It might not mean much to the players out there, but having the Power Drift running on 3DS is a miracle itself. We were even able to recreate the sound so it was a miracle of a miracle. I hope everyone can appreciate and enjoy that.
Puyo Puyo 2 – Porting the arcade version, Okunari-san’s makes a plea on the fans’ behalf
Puyo Puyo 2 is the second game in a now long standing series, originally developed Compile and published by SEGA into arcades in 1994.
On the spec front, it runs on the “C2 Board”, which is based on the Mega Drive / Genesis hardware. The CPU is a MC68000P10, with 2 background layers, and the capability displaying 80 sprites on-screen. The Sound IC chip is a YM3438 (OPN2C), a SN76494 (DCSG), and a µPD7759 for the ADPCM sample playback.
This game has been ported many times over the years in many shapes and forms, and has existed on practically every generation of home console hardware, with new stories and characters being added as console-only content. Different consoles would have different features, with original modes like “Endless Puyo” (a mode where you can play by yourself endlessly), “Mission Puyo” (a mode where you clear each mission given to you, similar to a chess problem), and “Multiplayer Puyo” (a mode where you can play against up to 4 people).
Puyo Puyo has also made various appearances outside Japan under different monikers, especially in the early years. Puyo Puyo 2 was release outside Japan on both the Genesis and Game Gear as Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine, and the SNES version of the series, Super Puyo Puyo was released outside Japan as Kirby’s Avalanche or Kriby’s Ghost Trap, in NA and EU respectively.
However, a pure port of the original arcade version of Puyo Puyo 2 was first done by M2 in 2011 for the Wii’s Virtual Console Arcade version. It was open for online battle mode through the Nintendo Wi-Fi connection, but in May 2014 the Nintendo Wi-Fi connection service ended, which ended the online matching service for this title.
– I would like to focus on Puyo Puyo 2 next. It’s my understanding that when you decided to include a puzzle game, Puyo Puyo 2 wasn’t the first choice, correct?
KS: So rewinding a little bit, before we settled on Power Drift, we had a couple of titles to choose from for this. We talked about Alien Syndrome, Golden Axe, Turbo Out Run, and even Columns.
NH: (looks at the lineup list) These are pretty bold choices.
– I’d like to see Alien Syndrome someday. Stereoscopic 3D would be really effective in that game.
NH: Oh that game is amazing. We did a little test on it to see how it would turn out and it was great. Although, doing every single stage would be quite an effort.
– During TGS, you talked about when Columns was brought up, Okunari-san suggested Puyo Puyo 2 would be better.
YO: Once we settled on Power Drift being sort of the main addition to the lineup, I felt I needed to stir the pot a bit more. You could say it was enough with just Power Drift, but I really wanted more games in the collection compared to the one we had done before.
So I was thinking about having them add more games, and I remembered in a previous interview Horii-san saying he wanted to do a puzzle game and it’d be easy to do on 3DS.
NH: Let’s make that “it’d seem easy to do.”
YO: (laughs) The idea was to port a puzzle game, which is relatively easier to do, so that we can add more game titles, but also not take a lot of time doing it. And since it’s all in a single package, we have to think about the mix-and-match of genres so they don’t overlap. A puzzle game we hadn’t previously selecting as part of the SEGA 3D Classics on the Nintendo eShop, something that would be easy to add 3D too…
So with that, I turned to Shimomura and asked, “How about a puzzle game?” So then M2 replies with, “We can do the Mega Drive version of Columns,” to which I said, “What!? That game AGAIN!?”
NH: Well, we suggested exactly because it was “again!” As it turns out, we’d just finished porting it as part of the VITA companion app that accompanied the Japanese version of Yakuza 0, so we’d already had it analyzed. So it wouldn’t have taken much time to get it onto 3DS. But Okunari-san said, “From a consumer perspective, we just released that game.”
YO: As a customer, even though there are differences between PS Vita and 3DS, if we put in the same game that M2 had just released within the same year, we wouldn’t really be able to use that a selling point, right? So from there, we thought, “OK OK, what’ s a puzzle title that SEGA owns that is going to make the most fans happy.” Well, the only answer is Puyo Puyo 2. No the first one, either.
So I say this to M2, and they replied, “Okay, we’ll port the Mega Drive version of Puyo Puyo 2.*” Man, I was like, “What are you guys thinking!?”
* The Genesis version is known as Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine outside Japan.
M2 had previously ported the arcade version of Puyo Puyo 2 for the Wii Virtual Console. The reason we did it was because we had remembered Puyo Puyo fans saying to Hosoyamada-san, “The Mega Drive version and the arcade version aren’t the same! There’s just something specially about that arcade version! That’s what we want!” But even after saying that, they were pretty bent on doing the Mega Drive version.
The Mega Drive version Puyo Puyo 2 runs on Mega Drive, while the arcade version runs on the C2 board, which they say is close to the Mega Drive hardware.
If you can build the Giga Drive, surely you can make a stereoscopic 3D enabled version of the C2 Board, right!?
And that’s what I told Shimomura to tell M2. (laugh)
*Mizuki Hosoyamada: Overall producer for Puyo Puyo series at SEGA.
NH: Wow, the suggestions going on behind the scenes here are just too much!
KS: If I wanted the fans to feel how magnificent the games, I figures I had to ask. So I said, “Dear sirs, might ask if this is possible?”
YO: Originally, I told Shimomura, “If we are going to go as far as to add the Mega Drive version of Columns, wouldn’t it be better to put the arcade versions of Puyo Puyo, Puyo Puyo 2, and Columns and Columns 2?”
NH: That’s crazy! This man spouts madness!
YO: But then I figured, “OK, maybe that’s a little bit of puzzle game overkill. (laughs) So let’s just choose one.” But M2 had replied saying Mega Drive Puyo Puyo 2. So I felt that we weren’t on the same page.
NH: What? We were on the same page!
– Well, it doesn’t sound to me like you were on the same page. He wants to do the Arcade version. (laugh)
NH: What I mean is that even though we look like we always do what we want, we select games while keeping that schedule in mind. I know it doesn’t look like it.
But we really do!
– Do you now? (laughs)
NH: We do! I’m serious!
If we’re doing Power Drift, we have to keep the load light for other games or else we would run out of breath before crossing the goal. That’s what I meant. You guys are turning my words against me!
YO: Well, I had heard that Saito-san was in charge of Power Drift, so I figured there was another open development line.
NH: An open line he says! Ha… Hahahaha!
(Horii-san starts laughing)
KS: Well, you know. If you don’t shoot for just above your capacity, you know? You won’t get anything interesting!
NH: …Oh, I know what you mean!
– Well, I suppose that’s how producers are supposed to be tugging on the leash, handling the team, as it were. (wry laugh)
NH: Investors always say the most unreasonable things!
– Although you’ve done it on a different console, would you consider adding on a new arcade title on top of Power Drift something that is a little or a lot above capacity? (laughs)
NH: I was so sure we wouldn’t be able to hit the schedule this time. When we were building out the team for this Collection, and discussing with the director Matsuoka, he stated, “This is impossible! I’ll have no part of this!” We had to really negotiate with him to get him to stay on board.
YO: This whole lineup thing was before we had the date and budget set though.
NH: But you still told us to finish it before the end of the year.
YO: That I did. (smiles)
– You could kind of guess where they were aiming for the release date though.
YO: I’m just asking this from the position of a fan now though. (laughs)
NH: Even Matsuoka said that even if we got really expert programmer to help, it would help but we still not get it done in time.
– So you barely got it done, but were saved by this unexpected new employee. (laughs)
NH: We brought on a new guy who wasn’t working on sound,this guy Kubota. He’s also a huge SEGA fan, and when he saw the development for the Power Drift on the 3DS he quietly said “Oh… my… god… it’s running…” From a fan perspective, Power Drift looks like it shouldn’t actually run on 3DS.
– You’re right, it’s really hard. On the SEGA side, were you guys really confident Puyo Puyo 2 and Power Drift would really run, be finished on time, and everything would be okay? Or… were you nervous?
KS: We were nervous. (laughs)
KS: During the company meeting, I was asked “Is this project going okay?” to which I would answer, “Oh yeah, it’s going fine,” while internally thinking, “If I were Pinnoccho, I’d have poked this guy’s eye out with my nose right now.”
Even though I was saying it’d be done on time, what meant is that I’d get it done on time. So I would turn M2 and say, “I’ve put my neck out for you and said it’s going to be fine, so I’m leaving this in your hands.”
NH: The typical I’m-leaving-this-in-you-hands shtick.
– You’re pressure style is a bit different than Okunari-san’s. …Just listening to all this makes my stomach knot up. (laughs)
A comment from the director, Tsuyoshi Matsuoka
– I heard during the start of the development for this game, when you heard the lineup for the game titles you objected by saying, “This is impossible! I’ll have no part of this!” Could you tell us how you felt back then and any difficulties you had during development?
Tsuyoshi Matsuoka: I have a clear recollection of the time, but saying, “Impossible! I’m stepping down” feels like the moment I step out the door a monster would attack me.
That aside, I never thought this project would actually move forward. We are talking about nine titles here, and I had no idea why they would put Fantasy Zone in there. And adding in FM Sound? Geez, I had no idea.
Thursday May 05, 2016
Soon, a small handful of you may be getting messages from us on YouTube about your ability to upload and maintain certain Sonic Boom TV show content. Don’t panic! We’re not the kind of bullies that want to have your accounts damaged or your rings stolen just because you like the Sonic series.
In the short term, we’ll be sending some letters to people who have uploaded full episodes of Sonic Boom TV Show content, so that they can remove them without needing to worry about getting a copyright strike on their account. Users who don’t remove them on their own will have them taken down.
We think the stuff you guys do is awesome, and we thank you for your understanding and continued support. It’s also important to note that this applies specifically to the Sonic Boom TV show. If you guys have any other questions, please do let us know. Thanks very much!
Monday Apr 25, 2016
With the SEGA 3D Classics Collection now released into North America, we wanted to provide the fans with what has become a long standing tradition: A translation of Game Watch Impress’s interviews of SEGA and M2, which outline some of the ins and outs of porting these titles to Nintendo 3DS, and their lasting legacy as true arcade classics that defined not just a generation of gamers, but the echos of which can be felt in the works of modern-age developers and programmers. The interviews as as lengthly as they are insightful so we’ll be releasing them in slightly abridged and arranged installments, the first of which is below. For the originals, click here to view Part 1 and Part 2.
But while there’s plenty of information here to delve over, you will notice the name Akira Saito in the interviews from time to time. Unfortunately, Mr. Saito died earlier this year after a battle with cancer at the young age of 43. With his incredible prowess in audio programming and his genius and inquisitive devotion to getting decades-old hardware precisely emulated on modern-day handhelds, all of the 3D Classics are truly elevated thanks to his efforts. As a company, we are both forever grateful to his amazing contributions to the project, and immensely saddened by his death. So our request to you is this: Even if it’s for just a moment, take a second while playing the 3D Classics and remember the hard work that Mr. Saito and all his colleagues at M2 contribute to the game. It would mean a lot to him.
With that, here are the localized versions of the interviews:
What’s with this FM Sound Unit toggle button for the SEGA Mark III Version of ‘Fantasy Zone’ !?
A FM Sound Unit option can be seen for the Mark III ‘Fantasy Zone’, even though FM shouldn’t be supported….
Yosuke Okunari (Below YO): Well, I’m sure Horii-san is bursting to talk about it, so let’s just get started about the biggest bonus feature for Fantasy Zone, the FM Sound Unit!
– When I played this a little while ago, I was surprised that there was a ‘FM Sound Unit’ option for the Mark III version of Fantasy Zone… This is hasn’t been a thing up until now, right?
YO: You are correct! The Mark III version of Fantasy Zone was released in 1986, but the FM Sound Unit wasn’t released until the fall of 1987. So, game titles that were released before the FM Sound Unit shouldn’t support it. The actual Mark III version of Fantasy Zone doesn’t, naturally.
….However, for the SEGA 3D Classics Collection, this Mark III version of Fantasy Zone does.
– That sentence makes me think “What in the world are these people talking about?” I suppose that’s always the case. (laughs)
Naoki Horii (Below NH): We have a story behind this as well. When we decided to put the MK3 version of Fantasy Zone in as a bonus, there was this one guy at the office who said, “Only adding stereoscopic 3D? Pfft, boring!” Seriously, that’s what I deal with here! As I’ve said before, even just that takes a ton of time, but then they say that’s boring… You gotta wonder what the guys are thinking! (laughs)
The FM synthesis version of the Fantasy Zone music was actually used in a different game called Fantasy Zone: The Maze*. So, we lightly discussed with (Manabu) Namiki, who is in charge of the sound, if we could bring the music from that. But Namiki said “Wait just a minute!”
He interjected by saying “The music for Fantasy Zone and Fantasy Zone: The Maze has a different tempo, and even if we brought it over, there’s no way we could turn that into a palatable dish for people.” He also mentioned the songs for the boss battles didn’t exist as well.
*Fantasy Zone: The Maze is a dot-eating genre game released at the end of 1987. It’s known as Opa-Opa in Japan.
….But for some reason, we ended up thinking about how nice it would be to have a FM Sound version. I’m not exactly sure how we ended up there. (laughs)
NH: One of the people working with Namiki on the sound was (Tatsuhiko) Kasuga. He also DJs chip-tune music under the name ‘Tappy’, so people may know him from that.
YO: He’s a new weapon at M2.
NH: He is. One day, he was handed a textbook on the Z80* by Namiki who just told him “Read this. Read, and be enlightened.” (laughs) Once he did, he brought out the audio driver for Fantasy Zone II, and succeeded in replacing the data and playing sounds. Through that, he learned enough to supplement the songs that available from Fantasy Zone: The Maze… But Namiki said, “Those tunes won’t cut it!”
* Zilog Z80: A very prolific 8-bit processor that was very common in the late 70s and 80s.
So we switched out one song, but before we knew it, somehow all the songs were completed. Kasuga said, “We’re placing the notes within the range of the Mark III Fantasy Zone II audio driver, but there’s a lot of bugs typical of an early-age driver so we’ll fix the bugs and then program it into this one (Fantasy Zone). “ Within 2 or 3 months, most of the songs were finished.
YO: I would play the new ROM at the office when they cut us one, so when I saw this “FM Sound Unit” option on the Fantasy Zone menu, I actually wrote in a bug report that said, “This game doesn’t support the FM Sound Unit, so please remove this option.” But it never seemed to go away. (laughs)
NH: We continued working on it without telling anyone.
YO: Even Shimomura was like, “I don’t know nothing!” But after a while we started thinking, “It’s strange, no matter how many times we bring it up, they aren’t removing it… Surely this must mean…!?” (laughs)
NH: I’m glad you thought about it that way. (laughs)
YO: And just as we expected, you did it. Although it really did come down to the wire.
And thus, the FM Sound Unit option that was completed. The Master System (Mark III) did have a lot of titles that supported the FM Sound Unit in a very basic way, after all. All you had to do was add one command, and songs created for the PSG sound chip would play on the FM synth chip using preset sounds. There was a lot of software made like that back then.
But the original MK3 Fantasy Zone wasn’t made like that. We’re not just playing the PSG sound chip music in a FM sound chip directly, but we’re following the song’s chord progression and tempo while bringing it closer to the original Arcade version.
The original MK3 Fantasy Zone music is heavily remixed [from the arcade version]. I personally like the remix, but the melody line is really different. You can really feel the taste of the people in charge of the porting at the time. But if you use the FM Sound Unit, the music is close to the arcade version while the chord progression sounds like the MK3 remix. You could say that the song’s expression is closer to the arcade version.
NH: When you defeat the boss and collect the coins while having the FM Sound Unit on, it’s basically the arcade version. I you’ll be surprised when you try it.
The audio driver is speced to the MK3 version of Fantasy Zone, but we wanted the sound notes as close to the arcade’s as we could, so we use the FM Sound Unit.
When the FM Sound Unit was first released, there were a lot of people who said, “Out Run and Fantasy Zone II are going to support it!” “I’ll be able to enjoy legendary SEGA FM Synth at home!” Everyone was excited… At first. Once they actually heard it, most people were probably like, “Well it’s out. And it DOES sound better I guess. But… it wasn’t quite what I expected.”
For this Fantasy Zone, we aimed to make it as close as possible to what people back then were hoping for. I personally think it sounds better than we ever dreamed it to be.
– So it’s a realization of the dream from long ago.
NH: I believe we finally were able to meet those original expectations of, “It’ll be totally different! It’s going to be rad!”
The ‘FM Sound Unit’. The cost was 6,800 yen (which was about $50 US in 1987, or $105 in today’s dollars)
YO: Now that we’re adults, we realized that the FM Synth sound chip used in the arcades, and the FM Sound Unit chip for the Mark III available for 6,000 yen are totally different, in both their performance and price. No matter how great your programming or technical skill, you simply can’t make it make the same sounds. Though you don’t realize that until your older.
The arcade version of Fantasy Zone ran on the Sega System-16 arcade board. That board had a YM 2151 sound chip, also known as an OPM, which is a four-operator sound-chip. But the one used in the FM Sound Unit is an OPLL, a two-operator sound-chip. There’s no way to make them the same. The sound will get simpler.
NH: Just starting with the number of operators, the OPM has 8 sounds with four-operators, making for 32 sounds. On the other hand, the OPLL has nine-channels with two-operators, making for 18 sounds. Even from the depth of sound that you can make, the possibilities are completely different.
I heard back when I just got my start in the industry back in the 1990s, that at the time the OPM sound chips were sold in pairs, and the cost of goods just to build a single one was about 5,000 yen. The FM Sound Unit was 6,500 yen, so there’s no WAY they could have used an OPM!
Adult concepts like that… When I learned that, I realized that if an OPM chip was used for the FM Sound Unit, the cost would be so high I wouldn’t have been able to buy it back then.
YO: Another difference between the two is that the OPLL only plays sounds that have been preset onto it. It can’t create a complex sound.
I mean, I know all this now that I’m 44 years old. (laughs) But now, when I play this MK3 version of Fantasy Zone with the FM Sound Unit on, it really sounds like its playing arcade quality sound. I thought, “This OPLL master has done some really fine work,” but oh, he learned it all from a textbook. Okay… (laughs)
NH: Kasuga knew basic things about the OPLL, but he said it was his first time working with a Z80 (laughs). He was a new employee that joined M2 only about a month or two month ago, but I was surprised at seeing that Z80 textbook on his desk. I guess we just roll hardcore like that. (laughs)
– Transforming new employees to personnel to be feared.
YO: M2 is bear den, that’s for sure.
NH: Additionally, if you turn on the FM Sound Unit for Fantasy Zone and Fantasy Zone II, it slows down the processing. The FM sound takes time to process. It’s just like the real thing.
So now Kasuga is saying, “I’m beginning to understand the Z80. We can make the FM synth’s sound driver run much, much lighter.” (laughs)
– But I guess that’s a little after the fact, so it’s too late to see if in the Classics Collection, I suppose?
NH: Yes. But having that frame drop is really important too, you know. Play this MK3 version of Fantasy Zone with the FM Sound Unit on, and when you use the 7WAY shot, you’ll noticed that it slows down quite bit. When I saw that, I though, “Oh, well now it really feels like Fantasy Zone. Of course it runs a bit slow.” I want ever to get the same thing from it. It’s really, really authentic. Although I would like to see the lighter version as well.
– But this is hardly ‘Extra’ level here, gentlemen. I’m sure the readers are freaking out too. In a good way, of course.
NH: I believe you can hear the FM Sound Unit sound on the video that will be released along with this interview , but there are songs that won’t be included, like the boss music feels really ominous now. Give it a play and hear for yourself!
Newly Included Power Drift was a very difficult task with a history behind it!!
Next we would like to introduces Kagasei Shimomura, who has inherited the SEGA 3D Classics project from Okunari-san as the Lead Producer. A SEGA-veteran, he originally started the SEGA Archives project many years ago, but moved on to other projects in the mid-term. But he’s back and joins us now to talk about Power Drift!
Kagasei Shimomura (Below KS): What I always aim for is to create something that the fans can be happy about. At the same time, I want to make sure it would be something the production staff would have fun creating as well. If you create something fun, it’s going to be a good product, so I tried to prepare a playfield where our creators can work freely. Get the budget, prepare an environment into which to sell it. That’s my style. I don’t have this skill that Okunari has where he’s super-knowledgeable about each individual game.
NH: Well, you say that, but pretty much know all of these titles.
KS: Well, I’ve been part of this industry for a long time. I think it would be correct to say that Okunari just knows too much. (laughs)
KS: The way Okunari and I work are different. Even though Okunari has stepped back from the forefront, he’s still a project team member.
NH: We still get requests from him.
YO: If I was still part of the project, I would’ve most likely said Power Drift was impossible. When we developed the Galaxy Force II for the PS2, we aimed to release it around 2005. M2 told me, “Galaxy Force II? Hmm, it’ll probably take about 3 months?” so I was amazed, thinking “Wow, they can do Galaxy Force II in 3 months. That’s incredible!” But in reality, it took 2 years!
NH: Uwahhh! There’s reasons and excuses!
(Horii crumbles into a crying heap)
YO: At the time, I had to really apologize to Shimomura. We had to change the ‘SEGA AGES 2500’* series release order.
KS: Oh, yeah, we did change the order, huh? (laughs).
*SEGA AGES 2500 Series Vol. 30 ‘Galaxy Force II Special Extended Edition’, released 2007. At the interview for it, Okunari-san talks of how it took two years from announce to release, two years of development, which necessitated changing the release order.
The image is from 3D Galaxy Force II seen in the Classics Collection. M2 previously took 2 years to port this. Power Drift is also Y-Board game and was released after Galaxy Force II.
YO: I thought it would be a waste not to use what we learned through those hard two years. When we started the 3D Remaster Project for the 3DS, we had the knowledge from those two years so we added Space Harrier and Galaxy Force II to the lineup.
For the second wave for the 3D Remaster Project, we were able to add on After Burner and Out Run to the lineup because we gave ourselves enough time to get it done. We spoke about how we needed to try and get these two games out.
But, the Power Drift uses the same Y-Board hardware as Galaxy Force, which has three 68000 CPUs. When they started on Galaxy Force II to the 3DS, I asked “So, how’s it going? You’ve done this before, so it’s a snap, right?” They replied “N-No, actually… It’s not a snap at all, it won’t run. We’re going to have to pull the programming to pieces.” Turned out to be a pretty big deal.
So, naturally if we tried to do Power Drift, it’s going to take even more effort.
– Taking probably at least over a year, I’d guess.
(Horii-san sits back up)
NH: There would be no way we could release it on schedule.
YO: So when they told me that Power Drift would be the main game for this collection, I thought “Oh, so I guess it’s going to end up releasing like sometime late next year.” I went to Shimomura-san and said, “These guys are pulling a fast one on you!” (laughs)
NH: What!? He said that to you?
KS: I believed you though!
– Shimomura-san is the trusting type! Okunari-san is one being fooled here.
KS: M2 is the little engine that could!
NH: If Shimomura-san is the parent in charge how we are raised, Okunari-san was our grandparent. He would look over us and go easy on us, giving us compliments like, “Oh, you’d did a great job!” He’s very laid-back. Even though he gets scolds us sometimes. (laughs)
We received a comment from the main programmer, Mr. Akira Saito
We heard that you were working on Power Drift from a couple of years ago, which became a huge help in the ‘Archives 2’. Could you tell us any of the appealing points of this port and any stories that happened connected to it?
Saito: One day, President Horii handed over the New 3DS development materials and told me “Make Power Drifter work on this!” which began my porting work. Thinking that the New 3DS will be fast, I started up an emulation but seeing that it wouldn’t move at full frame, I remember being worried for the road ahead.
After that, I would find spare time and kept on re-writing the code and making it more efficient. I managed to make it work in normal speed on the normal 3DS even though there were some skipped frames, and when I showed it to the president he seemed surprised so internally I pumped my fist. In the end, I was able to make it go 60fps even if it wasn’t on the New 3DS. I’m very relieved now.
I remember being staggered at the largeness of the internal character data for Power Drift. Normally, there won’t be characters that are over 1,000 dots for a game with a screen size of 320×224.
To tell the truth, compared to the other games I’ve ported I haven’t played Power Drift as much, so I didn’t know the stories from back then or how the cabinet ran. So when I first started on it, I was worried I wouldn’t notice if there were any differences on how it ran compared to the original. However, I work at M2. The president managed to drag people knowledgeable on Power Drift and put them on the project. I was able to hear many things such as about the game play and tricks. Thank you!
Power Drift: Achieving sound emulation that was not possible for the ‘3D Galaxy Force II’!!
– During the 3D Thunder Blade interview, Horii-san said that, “If we sell a crap ton of copies [of Thunder Blade], then I’ll go and make Power Drift by myself. “ (laughs).
YO: If we went by that logic, we wouldn’t have been able to create it. (laughs)
YO: If my memories serves me correctly, I was having a conversation with Horii-san back during the porting of Galaxy Force II for the SEGA 3D Remaster Project. It was around when started to think that, “If we try hard enough, we can move Y-Board titles on the 3DS too!” And M2 said, “The next Y-Board title should be Power Drift.”
But at the time, even though we talked about getting a ROM ready for analysis, we didn’t actually end up doing it. SEGA’s warehouse had a ROM for Power Drift and one for the Power Drift twin-cab*. We were thinking that we might be able to make it happen if we just put the time into analyzing it. is what we were thinking, but in reality we didn’t have time, so nothing became of it.
*Power Drift Twin Cabinet: A version able to play network multiplayer. There are differences from the normal version such as being unable to select a course.
– I see. But in reality, M2 was working on it under the radar.
NH: That we were. From the time the 3DS was released, Saito was thinking, “I want to get Power Drift working on 3DS!” But I didn’t see that being possible. Who knew that in the end, we’d get the sound working properly as well?
YO: Yes, this time the sound is a big deal. Unlike the original version of 3D Galaxy Force II, Power Drift has emulated sound as well. When you emulate, it makes it feel much more like the Arcade Game that it due to the sounds playing at the same time. It’s really exciting.
When we did 3D Galaxy Force II, we couldn’t squeeze enough power out of the emulator. If we had emulated the sound, there was a possibility that it wouldn’t run a 60FPS. So we reverted to streaming sound*. For Power Drift, we first started working on it thinking we would stream the sound as well.
* Streaming sound: Streaming sound is when they record the game sounds to audio files and play them back. The main difference between emulating sounds is that the way the sounds interact with each other in real-time differs from the real machine, the fact that audio data makes the game size much larger, and the fact that it’s easier on the CPU since all you need to do is play it.
NH: For the 3D Galaxy Force II, our initial impression was that even if we switched to streaming, we wouldn’t be able to get the game to run on 3DS. But as it turns out, we did get it to work.
So with that background, when we were talking about Power Drift with Shimomura-san, our first take on it was to build it like Galaxy Force II and stream the sound.
But the emulator has been getting lighter and lighter over our interations, so we started thinking that maybe this time we can emulate the sound too. So we gave it a shot.
– During our 3D Galaxy Force II interview, you discussed how even though you gave up recreating the BGM through emulation, it turned out alright that you streamed it instead. However, I got the impression that while it was hard, it wasn’t impossible, strictly speaking.
NH: That’s right. I mean, now that we have it working with Power Drift,we can look back on that time fondly, after all. I can say to you now that, “Power Drift won’t be streaming sound! It’s all internal,” but when we presented at the Tokyo Game Show 2015, it wasn’t working right. That was only 3 months before its release!
YO: They didn’t get the sound working until two versions before the final one.
NH: A ROM 2 or 3 days before the final version.
From the Tokyo Game Show 2015 stage event. Even during then, they were saying “Whether we can release it on the schedule date all depends on how smooth the development for Power Drift goes.”
– For the streamed event during the TGS, the BGM slowed down.
NH: Even the people watching the stream wrote comments like, “It’s kind of rough to be in this state this close to release. Is it going to be OK?” As you can imagine, we felt pressure to get it done as if our lives depended on it. (laughs)
KS: At the time, we figured that showing something would be better than nothing at all, so we had M2 work to prep that ROM. We asked them, “Just do what you can to pull something together for TGS, please.”
NH: While we were working on it, there were still some glitches like the screen going screwy, but we kept on at it. For the TGS, we sort of took a roundabout approach to make sure it looked okay and tried our best to make the sound come off good. But despite all that special work, it was looking like that’d more or less end up being what it was.
KS: They even told us, “Whatever you do, do not push this button.” (laughs)
NH: I remember that. That’s what was going on behind the curtains. (laughs)
– Shimomura-san, you mentioned to me that you told them to no worry about the Power Drift delivery date, just get it done. But if it was in that state in September… How did you feel at the time?
KS: I would talk with M2 about once a week, and I’d always ask, “You’re going to get it done, right?” They’d say, “Well, it’ll be cutting it close, but we’ll manage.” So I’d sort of slide it by the marketing team, saying, “Oh, sure, we’ll hit that street date, no problem,” all while preparing to jump off a bridge along with M2 should the worst come to past.
KS: I had my full trust in M2. And on the other side, I had Okunari-san constantly saying, “Is this really, really going to be okay!?” (laughs)
YO: Well, it was so close to the deadline it really WASN’T okay, you know!?
YO: We opened the lid on it, and found out Saito-san had been working on it from quite a while back. (laughs)
– Thanks to that you managed to finish it on time for the release date, but there was a huge hurdle in actually completing it.
NH: Man, it really was. During the development, we even thought having it so New 3DSs would run it at 60FPS and normal 3DSs at 3FPS. But we somehow we managed to make work on both. If we only focused on New 3DS, it would open a lot of doors, actually.
– I see. New 3DS has a higher clock rate, it’s more powerful, you mean. Sounds like a bit of a conundrum you had to sort though.
YO: Power Drift’s did cause problems for quite a while. The reason for the BGM slowdown we mentioned turned out not to actually be framedrop, but a bug actually. It was changing the speed the sound played at.
But Power Drift only plays one song during a whole play-through, so you only really notice it if you are playing and testing it like it was the Arcade version. You get to the 3rd stage, and you’re like, “Wait a minute, this bit of the song song shouldn’t be playing right here.” (laughs)
NH: Your body remembers from playing it so much.
– So wait…Was it a bug relating to the timer?
NH: No, if it was a timer related bug we would notice it quickly, but we didn’t. The cause turned out to be something much deeper.
A comment from sound creator, Mr. Manabu Namiki
M2 Chief Sound Creator Mr. Manabu Namiki: A sound creator that has worked on various title’s music, most centered around shooting games. Currently works in M2, and is the sound director for the ‘Sega 3D Revival’ series.
Power Drift became the first Y-Board title in the ‘Sega 3D Revival Project’ to emulate sound, but were there any difficulties in recreating it? Additionally, it’s another driving game like ‘3D Out Run’. If there were any parts you focused on about the ambience, please tell us.
Namiki: Starting with the Y-Board ‘3D Galaxy Force II’, for this project we’ve developed and ported similar genres of “physical experience” lineups. So using that previously gained skills, and the fact the game mechanics were close to ‘3D Out Run’, the overall sound including the ambience was smoothly reproduced.
…But that is lacking answer, so here’s a story to go with it. This game’s time functions to control the sound tempo was slightly different than conventional titles, so I asked the main programmer, Saito, to work with that section, but the main game-side’s programming was very turbulent and taking a long time. So until the last moments of the development, the tempos for all BGMs didn’t match… Even I was quite frightened by that fact (sweatdrop).
Of course the finished product has no problems, so there’s nothing to worry about. Please use your favorite BGM in the background while running the course! By the way, I liked the BGM for the E Course (not that anyone asked me).
Monday Apr 04, 2016
Hatsune Miku is back and bigger than ever in the upcoming rhythm game, Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA X. For those new to Project DIVA, it is an addictive core rhythm game starring the digital singer, Hatsune Miku. Project DIVA X is driven forward though a narrative which centers on Miku and her friends undertaking various requests as they explore the five Clouds that make up their world. For the Miku veterans, Project DIVA X has 30 songs and 300 modules (costumes) that get dropped. Available exclusively on the PS4 and PS Vita, Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA X will release in physical and digital formats this fall.
In Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA X, the world is comprised of five unique Clouds, each with its own aura – Classic, Cool, Cute, Elegant, and Quirky. As Miku and her friends progress, the auras of the songs they perform and even the modules they choose will have a profound effect on fulfilling challenge conditions for players to test themselves with. There’s also the newly added Concert Editor, which lets players create their own mini-concerts from the songs, modules and accessories they collect. As players take on Requests and explore Clouds with Miku and her friends, they begin to forge relationships, and ultimately, will reveal the secret of the eponymous “X.”
Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA X features include:
Digital Singers Take Over the Living Room – Produce live concerts accessorized to the max with unlockable costumes, songs, and stages to create custom live concert starring Hatsune Miku and her friends!
30 Miku Tracks – An assortment of new and classic Hatsune Miku music will be yours to jam to! The songs are split into auras and have different difficulties and challenges to complete. Project DIVA X includes new arrangements and medleys by beloved artists as well.
Cloud Requests – Go to five different Clouds with Miku and her friends, and explore them and the challenges within. But naturally, selecting the right modules and accessories are key to fulfilling the requests. There’s also Free Play, which offers the traditional experience for Project DIVA games.
Interact with Miku and Her Friends – Things start to get very meta for the digital singer as she and her friends discover what it’s like to live in the world of Project DIVA X – players can interact with the characters.
For more details, check out the official website at http://miku.sega.com/divax.
Wednesday Feb 10, 2016
So we have some good news and some bad news. The bad news: you can’t Power Drift yet. The good news: on launch day for the SEGA 3D Classics Collection, you can Power Drift with awesome SEGA decals all over your 3DS! That’s right, pre-orders and a limited number of launch copies will come with the SEGA Classics Decal Sheet bonus item. The sheet will be available in every physical launch edition of the collection, and features nine SEGA logos and console stickers. The decals are a silver hue to add a nice contrast to your 3DS, giving it a distinct retro sheen. The collection features some of SEGA’s signature games, and the bonus item adds the right amount of vintage goodness to complete the throwback experience.
Here’s a brief history of the decals:
Master System logo — Originally released in 1985 as the Sega Mark-III in Japan, the Master System was redesigned and renamed when it launched in North America in 1986 with an added FM Sound Unit.
Master System console — An authentic line-art likeness of the North American/European version of the console!
Mega Drive logo — Originally released in Japan in 1988, the Mega Drive was the 16-bit successor to the Master System. Widely considered one of the greatest video game consoles of all time, the system was home to many classic games such as Altered Beast, Sonic the Hedgehog, and many more.
Genesis logo — Please choose a “Blast Processing” joke to your liking. Are we good here?
Genesis console — An authentic line-art likeness of the Model 1 SEGA Genesis console!
16-Bit — Emblazoned on the front of the Genesis, the 16-Bit logo let everyone know you were working with POWER. Affix this decal to give a blast processing boost to whatever needs it most.*
Professor Asobin -Before Sonic, Alex Kidd, and Opa Opa, this dapper white rabbit appeared in most SG-1000 game manuals and gave helpful advice to players. Although he was briefly replaced by Dr. Games, he soon returned and appeared in game manuals up until the Mega Drive/Genesis era.
SEGA logo – A SEGA decal collection wouldn’t be complete without the company logo!
GigaDrive logo – This last logo represents something different than the other ones we’ve covered because it’s a “virtual console.” In order for the SEGA 3D Classics Collection to run perfectly on the Nintendo 3DS, developer M2 created the GigaDrive which is how these games take full advantage of the 3DS’s capabilities (such as stereoscopic 3D). Read more about the GigaDrive here
*this almost certainly won’t work
The SEGA 3D Classics Collection will be released for $29.99/CA $44.99 in the Americas on April 26, 2016. The collection is available for the 3DS in stores and digitally on the Nintendo eShop. For more information, please visit 3dclassics.sega.com.
BTW, are you following us on Instagram? We’ve been recently posting gameplay videos from the 3D Classics Collection. Check it out @sega
Tuesday Feb 09, 2016
The fast among you will have already seen this, but the Sonic Runners Original Soundtrack Volume 2 has released on iTunes Store and Amazon! (And, if you haven’t already heard the music for this mobile game, it’s pretty fantastic!)
This second volume features seven songs from Sonic Runners, including songs used in Timed Mode and special holiday events, like Christmas and Halloween. Here’s the full track list:
1. Going My Way
Just like the first soundtrack, these songs were created by Tomoya Ohtani, the sound director of Sonic.
You can speed over to pick up the soundtrack at any of the links below. Happy listening!
Tuesday Feb 02, 2016
You may have noticed SEGA stepping a bit up to the plate more with localizations for Valkyria Chronicles Remastered and the SEGA 3D Classics Collection. Well… we’re not stopping there! 7th Dragon III Code: VFD is the next title in our sights, and we’re bringing it in its physical form for the Americas! And even though the series debuted in 2009 on the DS, 7th Dragon III Code: VFD is a self-contained episode, full of dungeon-crawling goodness.
To give you a taste of what you’ll be looking at when 7th Dragon III drops later this year, here’s a quick look at what the game is about:
A bleak world and engaging story – The year is 2100, dragons have invaded Earth and are ravaging the human race. As the protagonist, players must team up with “video game company” Nodens Enterprises to become a dragon hunter and save the universe.
Unique settings and time periods – Fortunately for humanity, Nodens Enterprises has found the key to tip the scales in favor of mankind. The protagonist must travel through time to three different eras — the mythical kingdom of Atlantis, futuristic capital of the land of Eden, and present-day Tokyo — in order to defeat the True Dragons and stand a chance against the most powerful one… the 7th Dragon: VFD.
A deep party system and character customization options – All characters are completely customizable from the get-go. Players will be joined by two squad members in the field, and have up to nine characters in their party. With eight classes (such as Samurai, God Hand, Rune Knight, and more), 40 voice options, and 96 appearance options, gamers will have plenty of options to develop the perfect dragon hunting team.
Base building with Nodens Enterprises HQ – Fighting dragons is tough work, but at least the team can recuperate at HQ where they can develop skills, collect side quests, and even go on dates. In addition, more floors such as a library, skylounge, and cat café can be added in order to improve HQ. Yes, you read that correctly, it says cat café.
Lots of dragons! – Although there are a variety of enemies to fight, it would be wise to be prepared for the myriad dragons you’ll face. It’ll take careful planning and strategy to defeat these dragons, so choosing the right squad — and right look — is paramount!
This is just one of MANY dragons you’ll tussle with in the game.
Customize your party to be the perfect dragon hunting team!
Nodens Enterprises is your friend. Let employees like Nagamimi the rabbit help guide you!
Clearly, the cat café is the highlight of the game.
7th Dragon III Code: VFD will be available this summer exclusively on the 3DS in the Americas. The game is rated T by the ESRB. For more information, please visit 7thdragon.sega.com
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