Friday Dec 06, 2013
Go Dance for iOS brings all-new songs to dance to including:
More hit songs on the way!
Follow GO DANCE for game updates, new song releases, and more!
“Some Nights” Performed by fun.
“Pound the Alarm” Performed by Nicki Minaj
“When I Grow Up” performed by Pussycat Dolls
Thursday Dec 05, 2013
We continue our series of interviews with developer M2 regarding the SEGA 3D Classics for the Nintendo 3DS – Today’s interview is all about Altered Beast. As with all of the articles, the Altered Beast interview has some pretty insightful info about the creation of these games onto the 3DS platform.
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, if you read and enjoy this interview, please take the time to post a comment and let us know!
Out of Nowhere: A Web Interview for 3DS’s 3D Altered Beast?
We hear about new parallax scroll effects not present in the original, the new “Random Form” option, as well as what else is in store for the 3D Remaster series!
Altered Beast (arcade version) in the Sega Vintage Collection.
Wii Virtual Console (MegaDrive Version)
- I know you guys are busy, but thanks again for taking some time with me to talk about 3D Altered Beast.
Yosuke Okunari (below, YO): Honestly, I didn’t think you’d take the time to do an interview just for Altered Beast. (laughs) I appreciate it.
- Well, let’s get down to it! There’s an arcade version and a MegaDrive version of Altered Beast, and you’ve chosen to port the MegaDrive version for this project. Why is that?
YO: Well, we decided from the very beginning of this project that besides Sonic The Hedgehog, we wanted to port multiple games from the MegaDrive.
The project started two years ago (2011), and it took us more or less a year and a half to finish our first game, 3D Space Harrier. Once development for that game had progressed a bit, we started working on 3D Super Hang-on, which took just under a year. Despite the fact that these are both titles we’d worked on before, and were quite familiar with how they worked, development was pretty long.
Naoki Horii (below, NH): We had zero technical experience with the 3DS, and we needed time to remake these games to work well with the 3DS’ particularities. We also didn’t have a lot of engineers working on it, so it took a while to get the 120 frames per second for stereoscopic 3D working.
YO: That said, everything took far longer than we’d imagined. (laughs) If we kept going at that pace, our next title would have taken another year, which would’ve been very bad for the project. So we needed the MegaDrive games in the mix to stabilize the rate at which we could put out titles. When you port games from the same system, it lets you work more efficiently since you save time spent on analyzing the original hardware.
NH: If we were just porting a single game, sure we could probably get it working. But we figured that if we’re going to port something, we might as well do it in a way that lays a foundation for the next step. So we chose the path that offered the most opportunity down the road.
YO: When we looked at what games to port from the MegaDrive, we started with the games that were performing well on Wii Virtual Console, and from there narrowed down candidates based on popularity. One of those titles was Altered Beast. Maybe it’s because people find the bear really funny, I don’t know, but Altered Beast seems to be a pretty popular game!
- Is it now? Actually yeah, after the game was announced, I saw that ‘the bear’ started trending on Twitter. (laughs)
YO: Keep in mind that there’s an arcade version of Altered Beast, but unlike the arcade version, the MegaDrive version has two layer scrolling, and without those two layers, you really don’t have a foothold to start working on stereoscopic 3D. The arcade version basically doesn’t have any parallax scroll at all.
Another reason we chose the MegaDrive version of Altered Beast was the hidden feature in it where you can select which beast to transform into. Only the MegaDrive version let you choose which form to transform into on each stage.
Around the time the original game was released, there was a shortage of titles for MegaDrive users, so the ability to choose your beast form added a lot of replayability. When I used to play, I didn’t find choosing my transformation to be very fun, so I’d close my eyes and have my friend choose it for me. I wouldn’t know what beast I’d change into, and that added a lot of excitement to the experience. (laughs) I used to wish there was a way to do that automatically, so I had M2 add that in.
- So that’s the SPECIAL feature this time: the “Random Form”?
NH: We almost always overshoot our development cost estimates, but the “Random Form” was a miraculous feature that took far less time to implement than I thought it would. When you use it, you can really tell how certain beasts work better in certain stages. There are a lot of spots you’ll find you’re able to do something you never thought of before. Also, for tough spots in the game, our project director, Tsuyoshi Matsuoka, came up with the idea to let you use extra Spirit Balls to change form in a pinch. It took some time, but it was a lot of fun once we got it in. I’m really glad we included it. (laughs)
YO: ”Random Form” gives you a chance to come back if you happened to get to the boss in a form that’s not good for the fight. I think it really deepens the gameplay. (laughs) Like when you play single player, you’ll typically pick up three spirit balls and then arrive at the boss. So what I do is pick up only two spirit balls on the first “loop” of the stage, leave the third ball, and then when I got to the stage’s second “loop” part, I get two chances of getting the form I want at the boss. (laughs)
NH: Which means that if you get the wrong transform twice, it’s time to give up. (laughs) So it got us a pretty risky yet wonderful new feature. Debugging two-player co-up later on was a grind, but that’s a different discussion. Actually, we initially wanted to make it so that you can transform into different beasts when you’re playing two-player, but we only had so much time and weren’t able to get it to work in the end. That was a bummer.
YO: Since Spirit Balls drop everywhere in two-player, you’ll get situations where a player accidentally picks one up, you know? That causes both players to change into a new beast, where you’ll hear things like: “Why the hell did you pick up that Spirit Ball!? We were Weredragons, man!” It’s pretty fun. (laughs)
Defeating the white two-headed dogs will earn you Spirit Balls that power up your character. Picking up another when you’re in the third power-up form will transform you into a beast.
Two Player Co-op. Fighting the boss while transformed is a snap, but…
If you get to the boss in human form, it’s a much rougher ride.
Here, the player is transforming from the Weredragon to the Werebear with “Random Form”. The Weredragon can stay in the air, but as soon as he transforms into a Werebear, he falls to the ground.
YO: So, the result is “Random Form” mode. Actually, a lot of discussion went into deciding the Japanese name. The original name was “Random Form” [as it is in the English version], but the director said he wanted to change it.
When the mode got implemented, the name had been changed to “Impulsive Transformation”. I was a bit irritated with it at first since it’s a little goofy, so I told them that it needed to be changed. I said I’d think up something better, but after playing the game for two or three days I sort of got used to it. So in our meeting the next, I said: “Yeah, I guess it’s fine. Let’s leave it like that.” (laughs)
NH: We argued a lot over the name. Here are just some samples of the names we came up with. Take a look.
…and after an intense selection process, the surviving candidate was “Impulsive Transformation”.
- Wow, so much work for a single name. And you had so many name ideas… (laughs)
YO: I haven’t heard all of these either, but I do remember rejecting most of them. (laughs)
Dividing single image backgrounds into raster layers, and adding stereoscopic 3D!?
- So, this has been on my mind me since we talked about it in our last interview. Can you talk about how the GigaDrive-related components are included in 3D Altered Beast?
NH: We’ve made some pretty fundamental revisions to the GigaDrive at this point. Every time we try porting a new MegaDrive title, we gain insight into what kind of features and specifications we need for it, and we put more work into the 3D so that it works better with the Gigadrive, beyond what we had in previous iterations.
An example would be how we added support for vertical parallax scrolling, etc. How can I put this… Basically, the GigaDrive spec I showed to you guys last time was from its initial development stage. Once that was in play, our team members had lots of feedback about how it should function as we go forward. Maybe that’s how building real hardware works? Anyways, Altered Beast more or less uses the same v1.0 hardware draft that Sonic used. So it wasn’t so much the GigaDrive components, but more making the game itself work with the Gigadrive that we wound up focusing on.
YO: Originally, we intended to wrap up Altered Beast with a bit less effort, but once we finished 3D Sonic, there were a lot of things we wound up obsessing over. We started going out of their way to look for more spots we could squeeze more 3D in. (laughs)
NH: A lot of them were in these really ordinary but very detailed spots. Like how we wound up adding 3D to stage 3 when that wasn’t in the original plan.
YO: Some of these 3D touches would be hard on the eyes, so we’d have the designer toss the changes out and revert back to the original. We also made the sky in the last stage 3D, right?
NH: That was probably the most extreme fix for this game. In the original game, the sky was a single graphic. But it was just screaming to be broken up and raster scrolled. And so we fed it to the GigaDrive’s stereoscopic 3D. Now the original MegaDrive version we’ve made uses parallax raster scrolling as well. Too bad there’s no way to show it to people though. (laughs)
YO: Multi-layer scrolling effects were added when the arcade version was ported to the MegaDrive, and when we ported this version to the GigaDrive, we wound up adding even more. (laughs)
I’d also like to talk about some of the touch ups we’ve done to the sound reproduction. The sound artist Manabu Namiki joined M2 during the course of the 3D Remaster Project, and thanks to him, the sound reproduction quality for this series is even better than some of the titles M2 has worked on previously. Namiki-san had previously worked on sound drivers for the PlayStation 2 SEGA AGES 2500 series as an external contractor. But he’s been carefully supervising things for us now that he works at M2 as a sound director. From what I hear, he put a lot of effort into Altered Beast in particular.
NH: Namiki-san records music and sounds from the original hardware, and then compares it to the waveforms outputted from the 3DS. He looks for reasons things sound different, sees if there’s a way to fix it, and then tries to figure out if the fix in question is possible within the processing restraints of the 3DS. It’d be great if that was all there was to it, but the programmer who works on the sound driver has other important things he has to do for the other 3D projects. Like implementing HAYA OH in 3D Space Harrier (bonus content yes, but very important).
Still, despite how intensely busy the other 3D projects are, Namiki-san will still issue manifestos. Things like, “Where’s Altered Beast’s bass, damnit!?” I hope everyone gives the final result a listen.
YO: Given that Altered Beast was one of the first MegaDrive titles and it’s already being handled with this much care, we think Namiki-san will have a very positive impact on future titles.
The benefits of the local play feature
- So, this is going to be the first game in the 3D Remaster Project series that you can play two-player, correct?
YO: That’s right. It supports simultaneous two-player over local wi-fi. Really though, since this was in the original, it had to go in.
NH: You say that so casually.
YO: Actually I wasn’t sure if 2P co-op was something we would be able to do. I said to Horii-san, like I always do, “hey, since we had co-op in the Game Gear VC version, you can implement it in this version, right? Just do what you did last time.” Of course, that was not the case.
NH: Not only was it not easy when we did it on VC, but this time we’re running the game on a virtual machine with processing-intensive architecture.
YO: People who have played the local multiplayer in the VC Game Gear version are probably aware of this, but local multiplayer actually pushed right up against our memory limits, and because of that we had to limit some of the graphics functionality.
For example, the frame around the image we implemented for the VC Game Gear version wasn’t 3D-compatible. Since we have to sync the game on two separate systems, both games have to have the exact same settings, and when you add stereoscopic 3D to that, it’s not going to run at full speed.
NH: That said, of course we included 3D support for 3D Altered Beast local multiplayer. I say “Of course!”, but like I mentioned, it wasn’t something that we got up and running easily. (laughs)
- When we talked for the 3D Sonic interview, you said that when you brought games you’ve ported to the GigaDrive to the 3DS, the processing already was near the memory limit. How did you find the room to support local multiplayer?
YO: From the outset, Horii-san told me “I want to include local multiplayer in the game in some way, but let’s move the game to the rear of the release schedule”, and “Is it OK if it only runs at 30 frames per second in 2P mode?”
NH: I did.
YO: That’s because it was a GigaDrive title, right?
NH: Well, that’s not necessarily the reason. We built the GigaDrive so it could easily run MegaDrive games in 3D, but of course it doesn’t run lighter or faster than the MegaDrive did. Improving the performance just comes down to elbow grease. Basically, hard work (read: optimization).
- So the 3rd and 4th titles in the 3D Remaster Project are both MegaDrive games. What’s next for you guys?
YO: The next game is a MegaDrive title, too. Of course we’re working on some arcade games at the same time, but our next project has been a particularly challenging one.
NH: We’re having an unbelievably hard time with this title. The programmer who easily got Space Harrier and Super Hang-on working on the 3DS for had to call in an assistant just for graphic optimization… I don’t want to hype it up too much, so please wait for more info about it.
YO: In any case, we don’t want to have too much time between now and the next release. However, it’s still under development, so I can’t make any guarantees.
NH: Really at this point, we should be able to release ports one after another, but the 3D in 3D Sonic worked out so well that we wound up tweaking the GigaDrive’s 3D constantly for this next title. As a result, we’ve really invested ourselves, and it’s a bit too late to back out now.
YO: I think we’ve taken care of more than half the 3D effects for the next title at this point? Every week, more 3D touches get added. Keep an eye out for it.
- So it sounds like you aren’t going to stop at four titles like the fans seemed to be expecting. Personally, I want to see the 3D Remaster Project go on as long as it can.
YO: No one over here ever said anything about four titles. (laughs) Still, since people seem to expect the releases in batches of four, that made the process of getting these first four done pretty special. Thanks everyone.
Some of you might know this if you’ve been following these interviews, and others might not, but I want to reiterate that the reason we’ve been able to release titles at this clip is because they’ve been in development for two years. At any rate, it takes us about a year to develop a single title. (laughs) We were really happy that our first game, 3D Space Harrier, was so well-received and with everyone’s support, we hope we can keep porting.
Plus, if we get even more positive feedback, we’ll be able to use the knowledge base we’ve built up with the 3D conversions, and attempt even bigger projects. So we hope for your continued support.
NH: Titles we never thought would run on 3DS are now out in the wild. If we can keep this up, I think people will be pleasantly surprised with what we can do. I hope we can show you more in the near future.
- Hmmmm, OK well you’ve got my support. I look forward to dropping by and speaking with you in the future if there’s an opportunity. Thank you very much!
Copyright ©2013 Impress Watch Corporation, an Impress Group company. All rights reserved.
 For about a month after 3D Altered Beast’s announcement, many Japanese game fans changed their Twitter icon’s background to the flame effect shown when transforming in Altered Beast.
 kimagure henshin, lit. ‘Impulsive Transformation’, in the Japanese version.
 Despite the common English usage, hentai has a couple of synonyms in Japanese, one of which means “to change form”.
 “GigaDrive” is the name M2 gives to the virtual hardware they’ve created through emulation. It’s essentially an improved MegaDrive that supports stereoscopic 3D.
Wednesday Dec 04, 2013
Most of the time we hear about designers, artists, and writers of games as they are the ones who dream up the worlds that we spend a lot of our time in. However, it’s always important to remember that all these dreams would never become reality without the dedicated efforts of the engineers behind the scenes. So, in the hopes of helping you all understand what kind of challenge this is, we sat down with Takuya Yamazaki, the Server Programmer on Kingdom Conquest II, to hear what he has to say about his profession! Cool Fact: He is also the creator of Super Monkey Ball’s AiAi!
1. Thanks for joining us! Before we dive in to what you do for SEGA, can you introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about what you do on Kingdom Conquest II?
2. Engineers are always in high demand at tech-based companies, and gaming companies are no exception. Did you always want to work in games?
3. What kind of games have you worked on in the past? How did you come to work on Kingdom Conquest II?
Wednesday Dec 04, 2013
“Man With A Mission” is a hot new rock band from Japan! Purchase this in-game song pack now for Go Dance on iOS and you will also receive a redeemable code: an iTunes Song Code to download one of MWAM’s songs for free! You will also be rewarded with a special in-game avatar and new stage.
*Please note that an iTunes Song Code will be issued from mid-December 2013. If you purchase the song pack prior to that you will receive an iTunes Song Code at a later date. iTunes Song Codes are valid for 6 months from date issued.
MWAM Bundle Details
“MAN WITH A MISSION” Song Pack: 100 Stars (US$1.99)
*iTunes Song Code (for one song*), special MWAM avatar, and a special MWAM stage
Follow GO DANCE for game updates, new song releases, and more!
Tuesday Dec 03, 2013
We’re back with more interviews from the ongoing series of SEGA 3D Classic interviews! This week touches on the challenges of creating a game like Sonic the Hedgehog in 3D, it’s quite the read and filled with a lot of technical details in crafting the game. As you’ve likely seen in our series, the M2 developers really put a lot of passion behind creating these games and making them as perfect as can be.
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.
If you read and enjoy this interview, please take the time to post a comment and let us know!
The hard road from porting the MegaDrive version, to full 3D-ification on the 3DS! How’d they do that!?
- Thanks for having me over again!
Yousuke Okunari (below, YO): So far with the 3D Remaster Project, we’ve put out Space Harrier and Super Hang-on. People might have been looking forward to another arcade cabinet game port, but our next release is actually a stereoscopic 3D adaptation of Sonic The Hedgehog.
As we discussed in our previous interviews, our previous two releases were games where the player “scrolls into the screen”, something easy for anyone to imagine in 3D. But for the next game, we wanted to put out a game that people wouldn’t expect to see in 3D. With that in mind, we considered multiple titles and in the end we chose Sonic’s debut game, because there’s nothing more SEGA than that.
Still, it took us awhile to settle on Sonic. First, as you may know if you’ve been following the interviews, there was quite a bit of time between when the 3D Remaster Project first started and when 3D Space Harrier was released. This put us essentially around the time when development had just started on Sonic Generations, which later released for the PS3/Xbox360. Generations included a completely 3D version of the Green Hill Zone stage which replicated the original very well and also included support for stereoscopic 3D.
So right then, there were some inevitable doubts about whether there was any point to re-making MegaDrive Sonic, and if a remake like that was needed. However, we came to the conclusion that “building something in 3D” and “taking something that was drawn in 2D and making it 3D” ultimately resulted in two different experiences, so we decided to move forward with a 3DS port.
Naoki Horii (below, NH): So when you asked us if there were any MegaDrive games we could remake in stereoscopic 3D, SEGA had already started development on Sonic Generations?
YO: That’s right.
NH: Interesting that Sonic survived the cut then.
YO: Once we’d decided to restore SEGA titles with stereoscopic 3D, I actually wanted to do some home console games as well. So when M2 and the North American and European SEGA staff decided on the lineup of games for the 3D Remaster series, which included Space Harrier and Super Hang-on, and removed Thunder Blade (laughs), Sonic was one of the titles on the list.
We started Game Gear development for Virtual Console at the same time that work on the 3D Remaster Project was going forward, and I was of course asking M2 about whether we could bring titles on SEGA hardware other than Game Gear to Virtual Console. When I talked to them about it, M2 told me “MegaDrive games probably won’t work out…” …And now, Sonic is up and running. (laughs)
NH: You’re leaving a lot of the story out. (laughs) The 3DS had a big change in architecture from the Nintendo DS and Gameboy Advanced; it uses a GPU that specializes in stereoscopic 3D. When you bring software from an era when games were composed of sprites and backgrounds into an emulator on the 3DS, you wind up doing a lot of work in a very roundabout way. And that offsets the performance gains you get with the CPU. That’s why I said “they probably won’t work out.”
YO: So from the outset I was hearing that MegaDrive games on the 3DS would be hard.
NH: The MegaDrive for instance has two background layers and four pallets (color definition tables). Replicating that is the tough part.
YO: We had intended to get Game Gear games on Virtual Console from early on in the 3D Remaster Project, but I had to think over our approach for the MegaDrive titles, since we’d put them on the backburner after we were told that the games wouldn’t run on 3DS. One way was to use the ‘copy by eye’ method, where you rebuild the program from scratch but it looks exactly the same to the player. I figured M2 wouldn’t want to do it that way…but on the other hand, emulating the titles was going to be hard.
NH: I think the problem was that we didn’t have time to build a ‘copy by eye’ in the first place…
YO: Creating a ‘copy by eye’ does indeed take time. Not only do you need to do a complete analysis on the game from top to bottom to ensure that it’s accurately reproducing the original, testing takes ages because you have to make sure all the little hidden tricks in the game are in, and it’s easy to miss things that don’t run the same as the original.
NH: It’d be much quicker to make a Gradius ReBirth than remake Gradius by eye. (both laugh)
YO: Anyways, since this is supposed to be a “Remaster” project, we were in a bit of a bind. Horii-san had said “the games won’t run”, however he came back and told me “but there’s a way to make them run.” The same thing happened when we started on the SEGA AGES 2500 series for PlayStation 2. The typical emulation methods didn’t work at first, but after a while we were able to get a MegaDrive emulator running on the platform. He told me: “If we use the same approach, we might be able to get MegaDrive games running on 3DS too.”
NH: It’s not quite the same approach. The point was that if we struggled with it as much as we did for the PS2 games, it might work. Doesn’t have a damn thing to do with the approach. (both laugh)
- Did you wind up cutting MegaDrive features that weren’t being used in the game?
NH: We cut some of the fat, accelerated things by writing some assembly code and whatnot. However for the 3DS remakes, we wanted to effectively utilize the 3DS’s CPU resources as much as possible, so we wrote assembly where we needed assembly, and swapped out code as needed from the emulator, which was written in C. This took quite a bit of time, and turned into quite a magnificent bit of work. So we had to slowly cobble together performance speed by doing things like writing code that more easily hits the cache every time it’s called.
YO: It’s M2’s policy that any input lag is out of the question, which means they have to get the control response as close to the original as possible. Since that’s a project pillar, speed becomes a very complicated and important aspect of the program. They invested a lot in this point for the PS2 version, and the same amount of struggle went into the 3DS version as well.
NH: The older I get, the more exhausting it is. (laughs) I definitely have a hard time pulling all-nighters anymore. (laughs)
YO: So in the end, we decided not to do any straight MegaDrive ports for [3DS] Virtual Console. However, we figured that if we put in more resources and time than we would for a typical Virtual Console game, added in bonus content, and brought it to the table as a 3D Remaster Project title, then it might be worth doing. So we moved forward with several MegaDrive projects.
| The never-ending battle with slowdown.
YO: That said, after starting development, we immediately ran into problems. Unlike games like Space Harrier which were built in 3D from the very beginning, the difficulty of converting a 2D game into 3D was on a different level.
In order to give this an easy explanation, I’ve brought along the first version of the game we got working on the 3DS. Take a look. This is the prototype for 3D Sonic The Hedgehog. With this version, you can play from start to finish like you normally would.
Since the MegaDrive has two backgrounds layers and some sprites, the initial idea was to add depth information to the background portions, and then place sprites with depth info right in front of you. We thought that by doing so, the game image would come out in stereoscopic 3D. However, when you put the game in 3D like this, the screen looks empty. Compare it to the final version and you can see that the rasterized portions of the backgrounds look quite different. I wonder if the people reading this will get the picture. (laughs)
- The rasterized portions of the background in this first version don’t have depth information yet, right?
YO: That’s right. When we played the initial version, we found that playing it in 3D didn’t really add much impact or appeal. Even though we’d got it running, we even started to think to ourselves, “maybe this isn’t going to work. Maybe we should just give up on Sonic.” Since Sonic was the flagship game for the MegaDrive, it would need to have a new aspect of fun to it in 3D… but the initial version was just a simple implementation of the 3D. We DID get it working, but the fun wasn’t there yet. Especially the first stage, Green Hill Zone, didn’t feel 3D and thus wasn’t very exciting.
However for the loop-de-loops in the stage, there were places that would have broken the 3D effect when you look at it which M2 told me they had fixed by patching the original code. In other words, M2 had gone in and applied 3D processing to those parts of the level by hand.
As we discussed that approach, M2 mentioned that while they were researching stereoscopic 3D, they found that if they applied 3D processing to areas of the stage that use parallax scrolling backgrounds, it looked amazing. So I said, if that’s the case, maybe we should add depth to the clouds, the ocean and all that. M2 told me that doing so was certainly possible technically, but it was going to generate processing overhead, and require a fair bit of work. Still, I felt like we definitely had to do it, so I kept bringing it up.
What’s more, to keep the game speed up, they hadn’t yet implemented the FM Synth emulation. Every time the FM Synth made a sound, the program would generate slowdown, so it was as if I was asking them to make it lag even more.
A 3D-compatible Virtual MegaDrive: the Gigadrive Plan
- Something I was curious about when you mentioned how hard it was to get MegaDrive games to run on the 3DS was that, compared to the PS2 port,, it sounds like you have to squeeze out twice the framerate (60fps to 120 fps, 60fps x 2 eyes (left and right) = 120fps), all while not having any input lag. That sounds like a really tough goal, right? It’s pretty an amazing feat.
NH: Around the time we were building Super Hang-on for SEGA AGES ONLINE, Okunari-san told us to “make everything 3D,” so we put a bunch of different games into 3D and showed them to him. At the time, we’d actually built a development environment that allowed us to make and show off quick implementations of stereoscopic 3D at a pretty low cost. We figured we’d just run the same program on the 3DS and that’d be good enough. However on the 3Ds, a lot of things weren’t working (depth adjustments we’d made to the background and sprites were broken), so at that point, we knew going in and fixing each issue one by one would be no small task.
Let me give you an example. When you add binocular depth to the game (by creating two separate screens, one for the left eye, and one for the right), you tend to lose the right and left edge of the screen, since you can’t add art that never existed in the first place. Fixing little issues like this one by one gets pretty overwhelming.
Once we had decided to include depth in rasterized areas, we figured we might as well build a MegaDrive architecture that supports stereoscopic 3D, a new SEGA console we dreamed up, which we decided to call the “GigaDrive.” We figured that if we can build this new platform on the 3DS using emulation techniques, and then create a version of Sonic The Hedgehog that runs on it, all our problems would be solved! This would give us smarter and more flexible 3D compared to patching the MegaDrive game program. In that sense, you could say we’re just “patching” a patch for a GigaDrive game, which gave us a lot more latitude to work with.
- So that changed your approach to the port.
NH: That’s right. But at that point we still had no idea if the thing was going to work. (both laugh)
Inside this “GigaDrive”, we increased the number of background layers to four, gave each layer a Z-value (depth info), and gave each raster line a Z-value which allowed us to for instance, knock the lake into the background. Funny because I was just mentioning how hard it would be to port the game since the Megadrive has two background layers. (both laugh)
- I see what you mean.
NH: So, rather than patching a MegaDrive game, we approached the project with the idea of porting the game to new hardware (which was already running on the 3DS).
- Would that let you port the graphic-related data as-is?
NH: Yes, and we can also port over the game’s main routine.
- I guess that means you’re saving processing load at a lower layer then?
YO: All of these struggles with the code came about because of my irresponsible request. But after a while, they managed to get depth showing for the rasterized portions. At that point I felt like the effect was looking pretty good. In the stages after Marble Zone (Stage 2), there’s quite a bit of rasterized imagery, and once they made those areas 3D, I felt like the approach was going to work. We had finally seen the light at the end of the tunnel.
However, starting from this version the game speed dropped below 100%. (laughs)
NH: Yeah, we were consistently losing about two frames of processing.
YO: Now there was one bit of 3D processing M2 had included which I didn’t ask them for. It was the depth effect between Sonic and the trees in Green Hill Zone. You might not notice it when you play the MegaDrive version, but there are actually two types of trees there, ones in the background and ones in front of Sonic. M2 added depth difference to them. Which meant that suddenly it seemed like the area Sonic was running in had real depth. I said, “hey this is amazing, let’s use this,” at which point Horii-san looked at me with a deeply serious face and said, “On every stage?” (both laugh)
NH: Of course I did! I mean, we’re talking about EVERY STAGE! (laughs)
YO: Which means more processing load. And on top of that, since this was on the GigaDrive, it all of course had to be done by hand.
- Depth effects were created in the original game by just changing the sprite draw priority rendered on the same layer. But once you assign depth values to those sprites, you’ve got something completely different, right?
NH: That’s the gist of it.
- (smiles) And you’ve got to assign priorities one by one, right?
NH: One by one. And of course it’s different for each stage.
- I see…
YO: The last bits of 3D we added in were the electric lights and construction signs in Starlight Zone. There are some that are brighter and some that are dark, but this depth is baked into the graphic.
NH: We wanted to realize what the original graphic artist for these objects wanted to do. …and also everyone points it out, so we wind up doing it.
- In other words, since there are already objects that that feel like they have depth to them in the game it wouldn’t feel right if depth information wasn’t assigned to them… It seems that the original team on the MegaDrive was trying to create visual depth by using objects that are alternately lighter and darker. So when you remake the game 3D, they’d look off without depth information.
YO: These are the kinds of things that slowly build up as we argue over the details, even though we have to keep the game speed up…
- (laughs) So does adding depth increase the background layers?
NH: We added four background layers, and that’s a lot to process already, but changing the depth info on top of that adds even more processing and slows down the program. From the start, before we even thought about maintaining the framerate we were already short on processing power. So as we added things, we made speed improvements along the way.
- On one hand, you’re adding things that require more processing, and on the other you’re doing your best to reduce the processing load. Sounds like this project was also a constant struggle.
YO: For Space Harrier and Super Hang-on, the games themselves were built in 3D from the start, so all we had to do was add 3D based on the program itself and that was it. However in Sonic’s case, 3D depth data didn’t exist, so we had to survey the art and add depth as appropriate. Also, when you turn off 3D, it has to look just like the original MegaDrive version. The differences between the two are pretty interesting.
NH: With Sonic The Hedgehog, I think we’ve gotten the game to the level where if you went back and played the original, it feels like Space Harrier does, like it was built in 3D.
YO: Building Sonic like this, I feel like you guys really boosted your tech for porting MegaDrive games to the 3DS.
NH: Absolutely. Just looking at the finished game, you might not think we struggled much with it, but really the whole thing was a struggle. It all comes down to one thing: Adding priority to sprites that have depth, even if they’re part of the same graphic.
YO: It’s like they say in the animation industry: “We spent days on a 5 second cut.” (laughs) That’s very much M2’s style, and it’s what it took to get stereoscopic 3D working.
Just adding Spin Dash does not a finished job make.
- So what’s the ‘Special’ addition to this game?
YO: Alright, let me introduce some of the game design changes we made for the 3DS version. Looking back at the release of 3D Space Harrier and 3D Super Hang-on, one thing that we were concerned about was the game difficulty. So for this game, we went in and implemented stage select as a standard feature, i.e. the one that was included in the MegaDrive version as a cheat code. If you turn ‘Special’ on from the very beginning, you’ll be sent to the stage select screen when you start the game.
Originally, you could go to the stage select in the MegaDrive version by inputting the cheat command at the title screen, but since it was a cheat code and Sonic being a twenty year old game, we figured we should just make it a standard feature. The ‘Special’ setting is off by default, but if you turn it on, you can play from any stage you like the first day you buy it.
The original (Japanese) manual and advertisements for Sonic The Hedgehog mentioned that the game had “a variety of stages.” Because of that, lots of people, including myself, played hard to get to the next stage. But the first game was pretty hard, with stages like Marble Zone (Stage 2) and Labyrinth Zone (Stage 4), and I think some folks probably gave up on the more technical stages. If the same thing happened in this version, you wouldn’t get to experience the fun of running through some of the later stages in 3D like Star Light Zone, which M2 has spent a lot of time on. And that would be a bummer.
- At the time, I probably didn’t give it any thought, but now that I think about it, there is a lot of stuff in this game.
YO: We’ve made the stage select a standard feature because we want players to see every stage, and for the people who gave up on the original to come back and give Sonic another try. One more thing is the Spin Dash. This was actually a lot of work to put in. These days, everyone knows the Spin Dash from modern Sonic, but it wasn’t in the very first game. So when people go to play the first game, they’re like, “Wait, what?” (laughs)They always try to Spin Dash right away.
The only version that included it was the version included in Sonic Jam for the Saturn. You can use the Spin Dash in that version, so when I asked M2 to put the Spin Dash in, I brought the program source along with me. (laughs)
- I see. (laughs)
YO: But Sonic Jam was a Saturn-era game, so it wasn’t running Sonic The Hedgehog via emulator.
NH: First off, we wanted to find out if there was some data in Sonic Jam that resembled the MegaDrive version of Sonic The Hedgehog, and if there was, we could just do a comparison to the original game, note the differences, and analyze them. But as we got deep into the code, we realized “there’s nothing like that here at all”, and that’s where the story starts.
YO: M2 told me: “we looked over Sonic Jam’s source code, but we don’t get it.”
NH: Well, it wasn’t so much that we “didn’t get it” but rather that looking through a couple gigabytes of data and picking out what we need would be super exhausting. So I asked Okunari-san, “We need to know where to start looking, so please let us talk with the original development staff.”
YO: I immediately went to Takashi Iizuka, the head of Sonic Team, and asked him who worked on that portion of the game, and he told me, “Oh, Yuji Naka did that part.” His name was in fact in the credits, despite being a department manager at the time. (laughs) So Yuji Naka himself added Spin Dash as a “fix” to the original MegaDrive version… I had no other options, so I wound up sending a mail to Naka-san, who is now the president of a company called Prope, and asked, “Sorry, but could you let us know how you added Spin Dash to the game?” And he replied with some sage words of advice.
- Oh, wow!
NH: There was a nice explanation and he basically said “It’s easy, give it a shot.” Which makes you go: “Easy!?…what the…” you know? Man, people from that era are really amazing. But thanks to his help, we were able to get the Spin Dash implemented. Still, it’s not like we just put it in and it worked perfectly. No, once we started playing with it, we ran into places in-game where we had to question whether it even worked with the game design. Once it was implemented, there was a ton of things to check.
YO: When it was first implemented, there were no animations or graphics for it. Since the action wasn’t in the original, the graphic wasn’t either.
NH: Sonic The Hedgehog already nearly maxes out the MegaDrive’s VRAM, so when you’re told to add in Spin Dash animations on top of that, you don’t have much space to work with. That’s when we decided that our new virtual platform, this thing we were calling the GigaDrive, needed a VRAM extension.
YO: After that, we were able to pull graphics and animations from Sonic The Hedgehog 2 and add them into the game. The next problem we ran into once the Spin Dash got implemented was that since it wasn’t an action in the original, there were places in the game where you would wind up flying off the screen and dying.
I sort of panicked, and was saying “oh, this is bad,” to which M2’s programmer said: “well, what’d you expect?” So I went back to Sonic Jam to see what they had done, and it turned out they’d addressed all those bugs in their version. That’s when we realized that we’d need to bring in not only the move’s action itself, but all the bug fixes from Sonic Jam that went along with it as well!
- Wait, so you mean that the Sonic The Hedgehog in Sonic Jam wasn’t using the original MegaDrive version’s data?
YO: No, it was based on the original data.
NH: It’s doesn’t run on an emulator; I think the original code was most likely adapted for the Saturn. It’s similar to how people got arcade games running on the X68000. It was a pretty common approach for titles in the latter half of the Saturn’s lifecycle. This is also similar to the method used to run Space Harrier on the Super 32X.
- So the changes made to the Sonic Jam version were useful as a reference point?
NH: Yes they were.
YO: The programmer at M2 knew early on. In an interim version of the game, I got really excited that the Spin Dash was working but he pointed out to me: that “yeah, it ‘works’, but that’s all it does…” Anyways, after a bit of a process and before I knew it, the Spin Dash had been implemented perfectly. Although it was really pushing up against our deadlines…
NH: You know, Okunari-san touched on this earlier, but since people assumed that the Spin Dash would be included by default, once you implement it again, they wind up thinking “well of course I can Spin Dash”. Whereas it’s something we were pulling our hair out over…
YO: Yeah, after M2 worked so hard to get the move in, they told me they wanted to make the Spin Dash the game’s “Special” feature. But I said, “No no no, in this day and age, people expect the Spin Dash. We should just slip this into the main game.” No one’s likely to turn off Spin Dash, other than those who just really want to play the complete original version. Not nowadays. So we quietly included the option to turn Spin Dash off in the back of the system options.
NH: And I was fine with that… Okunari-san always comes to us with these sorts of proposals, and we’re more than happy to implement them. But then… when we tell him, “Hey, um, you know this is going to take a while, right?” and start talking deadlines, he’ll tell us: “The deadline is iron-clad. If it’s not going to make it in time, then we don’t have to implement it.” That’s the spiel, but somehow every time, the changes make their way in…. Okunari-san has a lot of opinions that come from him personally, and not from a producer perspective. And I think that’s without a doubt been key in maintaining the quality of the 3D Remaster Project.
YO: As a result, they’ve managed to make 70% to 80% of the reckless ideas I throw at them happen.
NH: So when he says “Don’t do it if it’s not going to make it in time,” that’s generally what winds up happening.
| The 3D Remaster Project moves forward!
YO: Thanks to this support, Horii-san’s “GigaDrive” steadily presses on.
NH: From M2’s standpoint, since we’ve gotten away from the original plan to emulate the game in 3D, and instead wound up creating an extension of the hardware spec that makes it easier to put MegaDrive games into 3D, we think of the GigaDrive as an ‘unofficial’ new SEGA console.
The specs are very clearly defined, and someone out there with enough skill could make probably make the same hardware. That’s the level at which we’ve built it. In other words, if you (virtually) popped in a GigaDrive cartridge, you could play Sonic in 3D, and if you took an old MegaDrive cartridge and put it in, you could play that too; we’ve built it with that type of cross compatibility in mind.
Personally, this is something I care deeply about. I don’t know how people would react when they hear the word “GigaDrive”, I don’t know if they’d say “Huh? …what’s that?” or get totally hyped about it, but I’ll send you a spec sheet, so you can check it out for yourself. (laughs)
NH: I thought it would be pretty awesome to reproduce the ultimate MegaDrive on the 3DS. To keep the MegaDrive atmosphere intact, we made no changes to the art palettes. There are still four.
We did expand the background layer count by four… two each for the left and right eye. And these can hold Z-values for each render line. Sprites have Z-values as well. And, since there wasn’t enough VRAM for 3D Sonic The Hedgehog, we expanded the VRAM by another 64Kbytes, to twice the size of the original MegaDrive. With just a little more pushing, maybe we could actually build some hardware with it. Not that SEGA would sell it for us though. (both laugh)
YO: Well, there wouldn’t be any software for it, right? (laughs)
NH: Yeah, there wouldn’t be. We’d of course be happy to make some ourselves though. Incidentally, when I told people at the office that Project GigaDrive was our next project, they all started using “GigaDrive” in their weekly and daily reports, and getting really involved in the whole idea. So internally at M2, I think it’s been a really good thing. Maybe in a couple of years, we can get Power Drift running on it and put that out. (grins) That’d be cool.
- With regards to the GigaDrive’s architecture, what level of hardware are we talking about?
NH: We’ve expanded the flexibility of the MegaDrive, to a larger extent than for instance how the PC Engine Super Grafx multiplied the number of sprites and backgrounds that the PC Engine had, and added memory to it. With the GigaDrive, Video Display Processor functions were added for the expanded game functionality, there are more sprite tables, you can use six background layers, the backgrounds have depth, all objects have depth, etc. Once you’ve got all this working, you can build Sonic The Hedgehog in 3D.
YO: Honestly, since we were really maxing out the specs, there are a few things that we cut compared to 3DS Space Harrier and 3D Super Hang-on. One is widescreen support. We haven’t done anything to show what would be outside the normal screen, partly to maintain the game balance of the original. We also wound up not adding a frame around the game screen.
NH: We really wanted to put in a TV frame. But if we did, there wouldn’t have been enough processing power to handle the stereoscopic 3D. Since that’s another thing we’d have to draw, we gave up on it. Instead we added “Classic Mode” as an additional 3D mode, where we were able to replicate a CRT TV in 3D. This mode is pretty nice. Hopefully you’ll agree that it looks like an old TV. The graphics blur too.
YO: Other companies have done the same thing, so you might think, “Oh, I’ve seen that.” But if you look really hard, you can see how the colors blend.
NH: It blends like it would if you’d hooked up a console with composite cables. The red blends a little less than a real machine. Give it a shot when you have a chance.
YO: Yeah, it does a good job of replicating that sort of fuzziness you see with the MegaDrive over a composite connection.
- Does the process take a normal screen and apply a filter to it?
NH: That’s right. Well, it’s more like a shader than a filter.
- So you’re adding processing when the screen’s being rendered.
NH: Correct. Which means we just barely get everything into memory, and that’s why we weren’t able to include the CRT TV frame. We struggled on that one.
YO: We also weren’t able to include full screen support or replays. That’s how hard it is to get MegaDrive games running on the 3DS; it was more challenging than porting an arcade game.
NH: Well, we could have got the TV frame in if we’d cut the stereoscopic 3D. (laughs)
YO: Although the additions to the game wound up being a little simple, we were able to get the MegaDrive Sonic The Hedgehog running perfectly on the 3DS, and with 3D to boot. So we slotted it in our line up as release #3. That said, you can’t really get an idea of the 3D in this game from screenshots, even more so than 3D Space Harrier, which is a little frustrating. For those who want to see how the 3D turned out, it’s only 600 yen ($5.99/€4.99/£4.49) , so please buy it and give it a shot. I want people to see it in motion.
- Yeah I hope people check out the 3D effects on the rasterized parts of the game. People who were really impressed with the raster scrolling effect back then would love it. For those who have played the MegaDrive release, it’s kind of like a treasure hunt trying to find spots that are different from the original.
YO: The 3D makes you want to climb to the top of the stage just to look into the background. It’s the same game you played back then, but it looks completely different. In that way, I suppose it’s kind of like 3D Space Harrier. This year is the 25th anniversary of the MegaDrive, so I think it’s great that we’ve released Sonic in a milestone year like this.
NH: Parallax scrolling was often used by taking backgrounds and overlapping them with the intent of giving the impression of depth, so it’s perfect when you put it in 3D.
- It’s pretty crazy to think that those backgrounds now have Z-values.
NH: Yeah. It shows you that if you spend time on something, you can work out the problems.
YO: I just give the orders.
NH: You also need time. With every project, I always think “if only we had more time.” (laughs)
YO: Since we now have the MegaDrive architecture running on the 3DS, we will be using it as much as we can going forward. However, some games work well in 3D and some don’t, so we have to consider whether we can remake them in 3D within the standard development timeframe for a downloadable game. For example, Landstalker would be an incredible game in 3D, but it has a lot of stuff that looks 3D that are actually 2D. For that reason, it’d be faster to just build it again from scratch than remake it in stereoscopic 3D. It all depends on the work involved and whether the game will sell, you know? Unlike Virtual Console, these aren’t just ports. They’re hand-made 3D recreations, and since we have to consider whether they’re worth the effort, it’s always hard to choose what to green light.
- Oh, now that you mention it, when the 3D Remaster Project website was updated for 3D Super Hang-on, two more spots opened up. People were wondering if that means four titles will be released in all?
YO: As the Chinese saying goes: intro, development, pivot, conclusion. Which implies four titles to some people. But that would mean Sonic is the pivot. (laughs) In any case, 3D Space Harrier and 3D Super Hang-on earned us a pretty good reaction, and the people who played it have help spread the word. Thanks to that, this project will continue on a little longer… Really though, the next game is coming very soon. (laughs)
NH: Yes, the show goes on for a bit longer. We look forward to everyone’s support!
- Thank you very much for your time. Can’t wait to see what you have lined up next! Keep up the good work!
Copyright ©2013 Impress Watch Corporation, an Impress Group company. All rights reserved.
 Gradius ReBirth is a WiiWare title developed by M2 and published by Konami in 2008/2009.
 Parallax scrolling is a technique where multiple images are scrolled horizontally at different speeds to give the impression of depth to the screen. While there are a few ways to do achieve this, the MegaDrive used a method called raster scrolling, which is specifically what Mr. Horii is referring to.
 Released as Sega Vintage Collection 3 overseas. Remastered version of classic SEGA titles for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.
 Sonic Jam, for the Sega Saturn, featured a version of Sonic The Hedgehog that had Spin Dash.
 Kishoutenketsu, a common narrative structure based in Chinese poetry.
Wednesday Nov 27, 2013
We continue our SEGA 3D Classic interviews with Super Hang-On, which appears on Nintendo eShop tomorrow alongside Space Harrier. We’re really excited to get these games out to fans and hope these interviews bring all new insight into not only the creation of the games, but also the finer details inside.
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.
If you read and enjoy this interview, please take the time to post a comment and let us know. We’ve got a lot of folks looking on reading the feedback, so don’t hesitate to post!
Originally posted 3/27/2013
Pictured: Naoki Horii, President, M2 (left), Yosuke Okunari, Producer, SEGA CS3 (right)
- Thanks for having me over again!
Yousuke Okunari (below, YO): We got a lot of positive response from our 3D Space Harrier interview article, so we figured we should give it another try. (laughs) But I wondered why that article [was so popular], so I wanted to ask you. For example, it seemed to have a very different reaction compared to, say, the article about Jet Set Radio, a game we just released last month. I’m thinking it’s thanks to Horii-san here showing up. (laughs)
- I think there are several reasons, including the article being targeted at a different age group. Also, the fact that 3D Space Harrier isn’t just another port; it has full stereoscopic 3D, the moving cabinet mode and it reflects the freshness of what it was like to play the game when it was new. Something you often hear when it comes to retro ports is people saying “I used to be good at these, but I can’t play them anymore” or “It’s like being punched in the gut by reality”, but 3D Space Harrier nicely avoids these issues due to the ease of playing the game in 3D. As a player, it’s always a little embarrassing when you have to drop the difficulty or change the options around.
YO: When we were making 3D Space Harrier, we talked a lot about what we should to make the game more accessible.
Actually, what I argued with M2 the most about with 3D Space Harrier was the way we were going to have HAYA OH appear as the hidden last boss. At first, he would show up as long as you got to the end of the game, no matter what. But there’s no surprise to that, so I proposed that we add unlock requirements for him. The disagreement was with my initial suggestion, to set it up so you had to get to the end of the game with only three continues. I said, “Since players can create save points, this won’t be that hard.” But M2 was really against it. “Then not everyone is going to be able to fight him,” they said.
Naoki Horii (below, NH): I mean, these days, there are a lot of people out there who just play for 3 minutes and then they’re done playing for the day.
YO: So M2 proposed that if they start from the last stage and clear it without dying, HAYO OH should unlock, but I thought the challenge factor was way too low. In the end, we wound up putting both unlock conditions in. Seeing the reaction post-launch, there are certainly people like me who wanted it to be a little harder, but the majority seem to have been able to unlock HAYA OH by clearing the last stage without dying, so I feel that it was an appropriate difficulty setting in the end.
NH: If this was years ago, I would have gone with the harder conditions. As a player myself, I would want others to start from the beginning, go in focused and play to the end, just like the old days. My thinking hasn’t changed there. However nowadays, with people playing in trains and such, depending on how they play, they may not even see the stuff we’ve gone through the trouble to create, and the last boss may be out of their reach. I really wanted people to see it.
YO: On release day, I sat there watching Twitter to see when people would find it. And about one or two hours later, someone tweeted something like “Ah!” Two people were going off about it, and we knew neither of them. After that, more and more people popped up, and there was murmuring about whether or not they should keep it to themselves, this atmosphere like “should we talk about it at this point?” People were voluntarily restraining themselves from spoiling it from others, sort of like how people behaved after the movie version of Evangelion came out.
NH: That sort of unity is really cool.
YO: Seeing that, I feel like we were blessed with a lot of really considerate fans. It seems like those folks are the ones that really liked the previous article. So although it’s not quite the 8 years we put in for making Space Harrier, I figured we could have a chat regarding the 4 years it took to bring 3D Super Hang-on into being.
| From Virtual Console Arcade to SEGA AGES ONLINE, Making Hang-on without permission, and transforming Super Hang-on into 3D
YO: This all starts with developing Space Harrier for the Virtual Console Arcade (VCA). Shortly after its release, M2 came to me one day and said, “We finished Hang-on!” which I hadn’t even asked them to work on. They told me that, since Space Harrierwas playable with the nunchuk, “you can play this one with the nunchuk too!” They showed it to me out of nowhere when I was visiting their offices.
NH: We really wanted to keep working on VCA. We wanted to put out every SEGA game.
YO: Hang-on started a new era within SEGA machine architecture, as everything up until then was SYSTEM 1 or SYSTEM 2, which was 8-bit hardware. But this was the first title on 16-bit boards, which wound up influencing the subsequent SYSTEM 16 core. Hang-on was further modified to create Space Harrier’s “Harrier board”, which was subsequently slightly downgraded and generalized to create SYSTEM 16. Since M2 had ported Space Harrier’s arcade board, Hang-onwas highly compatible.
NH: Relatively speaking, yeah.
YO: So one day I went to M2’s offices and there it was, Hang-on. At that point it was about half-done. If we were really going to put it out, there were a lot of things we’d need to change, like graphics we can’t use now, etc. Also, since Hang-on’s horizon line doesn’t move up and down, and the course only moves left and right, it’s actually rather a plain game if you just play it as-is. I didn’t feel like playing it with the nunchuk really captured the fun of playing the original. So since Hang-on by itself wasn’t really clicking, I thought that maybe if we released it in combination with Super Hang-on, we could add some historical context to create something I could get SEGA interested in. So that’s what we talked about.
NH: That was the discussion, yes.
YO: In the end, there was a lot of back and forth, but we weren’t able to push Hang-on through the company. We did however get approval to move forward with Super Hang-on, and we released in on VCA. But releasing only on VCA wasn’t enough… so we wound up releasing it on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 as well. And that’s how SEGA AGES ONLINE was born, you see. If the Hang-on project had never happened, SEGA AGES may have never come into being.
- So that’s the background story.
YO: This is how Super Hang-on’s development moved forward. Shortly after the release of the Wii version, I went over to see M2 and they told me: “We made Super Hang-onin 3D!”
NH: Around that time, there was talk about Nintendo releasing a successor to the Nintendo DS, and it turned out to be the Nintendo 3DS, which displays 3D to the naked eye, a device we never thought would exist. I got so excited I went and got a pair of red/blue 3D glasses. (laughs) Much like Space Harrier, these games where you move forward into the game are perfectly suited for stereoscopic 3D. So we tried it out, and it worked pretty well.
- So you just built in stereoscopic 3D compatibility without asking anybody? (laughs)
NH: At the time, we hadn’t gotten to grips with the 3DS yet, so we wanted to know what the 3D would look like.
- Why Super Hang-on?
NH: Well, there’s the fact that in Super Hang-on, you move forward “into” the background, as well as the fact that’d we’d just worked on it for VCA. So it made sense. That and we thought how it looked in 3D display was awesome, which made other games less attractive… (laughs)
YO: Around that time, PS3 had just started to support stereoscopic 3D as well. We had no plans to include it, but when I gave it a shot, it was definitely fun.
NH: When you crash and the rider goes flying… that’s pretty out there.
YO: We started talking about how great 3D was, and I decided to move forward with including it in the project. As a result, we released not only the PS3 version but also the 360 version with 3D support.
NH: As long as 1stparties build protocols for us, any current gen console is capable of outputting 3D on televisions.
| With gyro controls and the moving cabinet mode, at last we have a recreation of the real arcade machine experience.
YO: As all that was going on, I figured, “hey, since Super Hang-on is already in 3D, let’s go ahead and put it out on 3DS.” So the Wii VCA version eventually linked into this 3DS version, which wasn’t planned for at the outset. That’s how we got started on the 3DS version.
NH: There probably aren’t a ton of people out there buying every single port of Super Hang-on, but to those who do, we really appreciate it.
YO: We had decided that our first 3D release was going to be Space Harrier. Then, one day when M2 was working on 3D Space Harrier, this “Moving Cabinet” mode showed up. It was M2’s idea, and they thought it’d be pretty fun to include. Ultimately we feel that it was a feature in 3D Space Harrier that fans were really happy about.
NH: Without a doubt.
YO: So we started wondering what we should do for Super Hang-on. Naturally, M2 had included the Moving Cabinet mode for Super Hang-on as well. However, when I played it, I blurted out: “Where are the gyro controls though?!” Haha, pretty mean, right? Gyro controls were never in any plans for the game from the outset. (laughs)
NH: Yeah well… look… the thing with gyro controls is that the control is nice and all, but at the time it actually required a lot of extremely heavy processing. Putting them in meant we wouldn’t be able to maintain 60 frames per second. It was one of those rock and a hard place situations. After all, when we put the arcade mode into Space Harrier, we weren’t able to keep it at 60 fps then either, but we made some speed enhancements at the very end.
YO: I mean, when you think Super Hang-on, you remember playing on those arcade machines that you lean on, right? I said, “How can you not support gyro? That’s so un-M2 of you.” Apparently M2 had a whole struggle with gyro controls on their side, which I wasn’t aware of, and I just kept saying “I want gyro controls in.” And what do you know, a little while later… it was gyro-compatible. That’s a little bit of M2 miracle working. But honestly, just because the gyro controls got in, the game still wasn’t that fun.
- What!? (laughs)
YO: I believe we’ve had a few games that support gyro controls, but there aren’t a lot of people out there who enjoy playing like that. And the reason is that it’s just easier to play on the slide pad or d-pad. That’s why, in order to make it a more satisfying experience, I asked M2 to link the Moving Cabinet mode and gyro controls up, so when you turn, the screen tilts in sync, you know? And once they did that, the game become so much more fun.
NH: I think the thing that makes it so engaging is the fact that objects on-screen react in tune with your own movements. I think.
YO: By including gyro controls with the moving arcade cabinet, I think Super Hang-on is the first time we’ve really reproduced the feeling of a player moving an arcade machine.
NH: Oh, for sure.
YO: People who played the games years ago probably know this, but SEGA’s arcade racing sims would be released in pairs, where one arcade machine moves on its own, and players move the other one. Examples of the former would be Space Harrier, Outrun, Afterburner, and examples of the latter are Hang-on, Enduro Racer, and Super Hang-on.
So I decided that if we were going to release something after Space Harrier, it should be a game where you move the machine with your body, so in that respect the release order makes sense. Syncing up the gyro and the screen creates an incredible simulation of moving the arcade machine. I’ve had a number of people play Super Hang-on, and while the person playing isn’t moving at all, to them it seems like they’re really moving around. For 3D Space Harrier, when you’re in arcade machine mode, you kind of sense that you’re tilting because the screen is tilting, but since 3D Super Hang-on has screen sync, you really feel as if you’re tilting. So yeah, I think we’ve reproduced that arcade experience.
Super Hang-on hadn’t been ported much up until we did the Wii version, so if you’re not the type who went to arcades a lot, you might get the impression that it’s a rather obscure game. Also, since the MegaDrive version was one of the first games to come out, it was a little on the plain side. The X68000 was able to use the Cyber Stick (an analog controller), and the port one after that was basically the Wii version. The Cyber Stick and Wii nunchuk kind of give that tilting feeling, but it’s not the same as the whole bike leaning back and forth.
NH: Like Okunari-san is saying, 3D Super Hang-on is the best there is in replicating that feeling of being on the arcade cabinet’s bike. But if you’ve been following us up to now, you have to realize that this is totally coincidental. (both laugh) We didn’t really aim for it to be this good, so we actually feel a little bitter at the result [because it was accidental rather than intentional]! If the whole gyro discussion was as easy as thinking everything out ahead of time and deciding how we were going to adjust each part of the game, building that into Moving Cabinet mode, and then saying “Here you go!”, we could feel like we accomplished what we set out to do. But it never turns out that easy… (laughs)
YO: By tossing the ball back and forth with M2 like this, I think we’re making some pretty interesting games. With SEGA AGES, we really managed to satisfy people with the quality of the ports themselves, but you know, it’s also about playing the game as it was when the original came out. I feel like the amount of people who appreciate the ports for their faithful reproduction of that original experience are on the decline, so the approach we have with the 3DS, of adding new ideas to the experience, is something I feel has a good resonance with our fans.
NH: You can take it with you, and pause whenever you want.
- Let’s hear more about some of the detailed work that went into 3D Super Hang-on. I’m going to play it while you guys talk.
* Additional Difficulty settings also allow for Time Attack
YO: OK, well, one of the things that M2 really focuses on is difficulty. The original arcade version had four difficulty levels, but this one has six. The VCA version was a straight port, but while we were working on that, we had a problem where some of our testers weren’t able to clear the game. The game was too hard. In the end, we managed to solve the problem, but in the SEGA AGESversion, we thought we should add some difficulty options that weren’t in the arcade version. So we wound up adding more time to the clock when you pass through a checkpoint.
NH: That’s right. We boosted the time bonus.
YO: For 3D Super Hang-on, M2 also disabled the hitboxes for opponent vehicles.
NH: Some might say at that point, why not just remove the enemy vehicles altogether? But if you do that, the screen looks really empty. So we left them in to keep the game screen lively.
YO: These settings weren’t in the original game, and you could almost call it a Time Attack Mode. Since you can hit your corners at max speed, the game is easier to clear. For people who’ve played the game before, putting it into the easiest difficultly level and just having a pure battle with the course itself is also really fun.
NH: And if you run into an opponent, it’s OK. (laughs) They won’t slow you down.
- So compared to the arcade version, you’ve basically added two difficulty settings lower than the original easy setting.
YO: That’s correct.
* Button Configuration Options
YO: We also added in the ability to configure your buttons. (laughs) This wasn’t included in 3D Space Harrier, but it was something we heard a lot of people ask for.
NH:Sorry about that. We figured that if we had rapid fire and all, no one would need a button config, but we got a lot of requests for it. We had a change of heart. (laughs) Sorry for underestimating everyone!
YO: M2 and I argued quite a bit on the button config defaults… Like, since you hit turbo with your thumb normally, I thought the Y button would be perfectly fine. I mean, strategically speaking, the Y button is the easiest to hit when you really need to push turbo rapidly. But it might be a bit tricky for people when they first pick it up if the accelerator isn’t on one of A/B/X/Y buttons, so currently the default is the R button. For those playing Time Attack hardcore, or people who play the game a lot, I would suggest adjusting the button config to find a setting that works best for you.
* Screen Size & Moving Cabinet Mode
YO: The screen size is the same as 3D Space Harrier, but for this game, the default view frames the screen. This is simply because we want people to play using the gyro sensor. This is the first time the game has supported wide screen, and it’s something we put a ton of work into, but since gyro mode is so fun we had to choke back our tears and pull widescreen from the defaults. If you play using gyro with widescreen, it just doesn’t feel quite right, you know? You have to see the edges of the arcade cabinet when the screen tilts. That’s why we set the screen defaults to framed. You can also choose between the Sit Down or Mini Ride On versions of the game, which will change the arcade cabinet graphics accordingly.
For the Moving Cabinet Mode, since you move the game yourself, we put three levels of “leaning” in the settings. When the game is in Moving Cabinet Mode, the gyro controls will be enabled. Note that once they’re turned on, the gyro settings will reset to their defaults. Also, per M2’s request, you can set it so the screen will lean in the opposite direction the control leans (normally, turning right will make the screen lean left, but you can make it so turning right leans the screen right). I don’t know if any of this is needed, but some people might like it that way.
NH: These are the kind of things that are just fun to include, you know?
YO: For the Sit Down type, since the original cabinet didn’t lean, we considered disabling the gyro controls, but… well that would be no fun, so for the Sit Down type, we made it move too. (laughs)
NH: The players can just turn off gyro controls if they want, you know?
YO: And this is digressing a bit, but when we were developing the Sit Down version for Wii, we went and looked at a real arcade kit. At the time, the only machine in the city or suburbs was one over at “Game Fuji” in Ichikawa. So we made the trek to take some pictures of it, and the photos we took are the ones we wound up using for 3D Super Hang-on’s Sit Down frame. (laughs) The cabinet might not even be there anymore, so we are really in those guys’ debt!
* Lap Times & Continuing
YO: In 3D Super Hang On, we made it so your lap times get recorded now. Oh and we added a stage select. So if you get a game over on any of the courses, you can restart from the nearest odd numbered stage. The reason why you restart from the odd stages is that the backgrounds change with every odd numbered stage, so the game itself is made as if each two-stage pair is a single course. We actually did try and see what it’d be like to start from the even stages, but some of the checkpoints would be right in the middle of a curve, so it didn’t give you a good start. Odd stages always start like normal.
* Sound & Arcade Sound Effects
YO: We didn’t include any arcade cabinet sound effects this time.
NH: Right because there wasn’t much to record.
YO: We talked about putting the banging sound from when you lean on the machine in, but that’d be it. So since it’d be kind of weak with just that sound, we cut it. Instead, you can play the background music as much as you want, and the equalizer screen’s buttons are much easier to use this time around! (laughs)
NH:Everyone brings that up. Things that get thrown in at the end get put in rather hard to find places. That was the first thing we heard about.
- (smiles) Yeah, when I was playing 3D Space Harrier after it was released, I had to kind of search for it. (laughs)
YO: In that sense, M2 is getting better at this. (laughs)
Oh, and on another unrelated note, when we first ported Super Hang-on, we had ROMs on file internally for both the Sit Down and Mini Ride On types, but the Mini Ride On type ROM still had copy protection on it. So when we were porting to the Wii, we had to use the Sit Down type ROM. However, the courses for the Sit Down and Mini Ride On types are different. And you know, back when Super Hang-on was in arcades, I think…
NH: … More people played the Mini Ride On type. Probably.
YO: So we decided that we needed to use the Mini Ride On type. For the Wii version, we were in a dead heat between M2 working to get the copy protection off, and hitting the schedule deadline. It was neck and neck for a while, and once we hit beta, we wound up swapping the ROM into the game. Our QA test team quickly came back to us and said: “Um, all the stages have changed.”
- Well, that would be a bit of a surprise if you didn’t know. (laughs)
NH: Since that would basically mean starting testing all over from scratch, the test team was furious. We appreciate all the hard work they put in.
YO: That said, switching the ROM had the side effect of helping them clear the game (The Mini Ride On type is a little easier). However they found a bug about four days before we were going to master up. If you ran over the curb for an extended period, the game’s music would cut out. Suddenly we had to figure out whether this was something that happened in the original version or if it was a bug in the port, meaning we had to do an urgent verification on actual hardware. At the time, there were two places in Tokyo where Mini Ride On cabinets were running: Club Sega in Akihabara, and Warehouse in Shinonome (which no longer exists), but they were both broken at the time. (laughs) So we didn’t have any choice but to ask a favor from the guys at the Akihabara store to take the machine they had, which was pulled to pieces in the arcade’s backyard, put it back together and do emergency repair procedures on the broken spots. Then, when we tried reproducing the bug, bam! It showed up! (laughs) Since it occrred on the original hardware, we left the bug in for the SEGA AGES version, but for 3D Super Hang-on, since this was supposed to be the final version, we fixed it just like we fixed the SFX bug in 3D Space Harrier.
NH: That we did. It had to do with sound requests. Once a sound started playing, it would keep going waiting for the next “key off”, or the other way around. It’s something that happens with a lot of SEGA games.
- (laughs) OK! So what’s the “Special” feature for this title, then?
YO: Our special feature for this game is the “World Course”. It was a part of the “Trials” mode in the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions, but this time, if you race all four courses, the “Special” mode will unlock. This was an idea I had back when we were working on the SEGA AGES version, but something that’s always bothered me was the background music. You see, when you played the World Course [in the PS3/Xbox360 versions], you’d have to listen to the same song for something like 30 minutes. Even if you really liked that song, you tend to get tired of it. But this time, the music will change when the course changes. I brought the issue up with our director on the PS3/Xbox360 version, and he told me with the saddest look on his face, “If only you’d told me a bit sooner…” So right from the start of 3D Super Hang-on, I was like, “You remember that thing we talked about?”
YO: Now you choose which song you want from the very first Africa course, and the other three songs will change in order. By the time you get to the end, it’ll have played all four songs.
NH: Hope you enjoy it. (laughs)
YO: Oh, and for the PS3/Xbox 360 version’s World Course, we used the Sit Down Type courses, but this time you can choose between Sit Down and Mini Ride On types.
There’s also a World Course ending, which is something totally new that M2 made. Hopefully people will get a kick out of it. It’s based on the pre-existing graphics, but it’s the first new animated sequence for Super Hang-on in 25 years. (laughs)
NH: Actually we apparently only made one new graphic. We needed to add something. If you know the game, you’ll recognize it when you see it. Definitely check it out!
- (laughs) I’m excited about the release now, as well as the credits!
3D Super Hang-on’s biggest selling point actually isn’t the 3D
YO: You know, as a game 3D Super Hang-on might be a little plain, but if you’ve played 3D Space Harrier, I think you’ll find a lot to enjoy. We’ve got the 3D from 3D Space Harrier, and the gyro controls. I want people to give the gyro controls a shot, so we put the gyro control option right there on the menu where it stands out the most.
- You’re really pushing the Gyro! (laughs)
YO: I’m telling you, 3D Super Hang-on’s gyro control has a taste all of its own. A lot of the fans who played 3D Space Harrier said “I didn’t see the point of playing in 3D on the 3DS so I’ve been playing in 2D. But I turn the 3D on for 3D Space Harrier.” We felt really honored to hear that. For those who haven’t played with the gyro sensor on 3DS much, please check it out in 3D Super Hang-on. The difficulty of the game is up to the player, but comparing this version’s controls to those of earlier versions, including the nunchuk on the Wii VCA version, we firmly believe the 3D version has the best controls.
- When I played it with the nunchuk, I found it really easy to maintain my course. You can do that on an analog stick [like in the PS3/Xbox360 version], but personally, I felt that tight spots were easier to manage on the nunchuk. I found it really useful when you go into a corner and hit turbo for a speed boost, or when you want to yank the handle slightly, or pull it and then hold your course.
YO: Yeah, the gyro controls make it even easier to hold that mid-lean state.
- I noticed this when I played 3D Space Harrier too, but it’s really noticeable how easily the 3D allows you to see where things are positioned. The PS3/Xbox360 version of SEGA AGES ONLINE also supported 3D, but I think there probably weren’t as many people on those platforms who experienced it. The 3DS has 3D built in at the hardware level, so as long as you have one, anyone can check it out. Plus you’ve got the gyro controls for another, different experience.
NH: Yeah, exactly. You don’t have to add anything else.
YO: The biggest sales point for 3D Super Hang-on actually isn’t its 3D. It’s the gyro controls. It’s really Gyro Super Hang-on. The one unfortunate thing is that if you are going to use gyro, you should turn off the 3D. But that’s not something we can work around.
- That’s something that’s tricky with naked-eye 3D, I guess. It moves you out of the sweet spot.
YO: Yeah. If you’re playing in 3D, I recommend turning off gyro and enjoying the game in widescreen mode.
- You guys had to work hard to get 3D graphics working on 3D Space Harrier, but how about 3D Super Hang-on?
NH: Since we had stereoscopic 3D in the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions, it was just a matter of porting it to this version. And while we were initially concerned due to the fact that the arcade version of Super Hang-on had slightly different hardware compared to Space Harrier (the CPU clock was different, etc), we were able to get it running.
YO: I think we were able to get all the polish in since this is the same team that’s been doing these ports over and over. If this was their first port, there would have been no way to get all this content packed in within the timeframe we had. By linking the projects up and increasing their number, we were able to accomplish this level of quality. We’ve ported Super Hang-on to 4 different types of hardware at this point, and that’s what allowed us to add all these modes within the development time we had. If it was just a case of porting Super Hang-on to the 3DS as a one-shot, the best we could’ve done was get the game running and that’s it.
- Even though Space Harrier and Super Hang-on themselves haven’t changed much over the years, your porting these titles from previous releases on more powerful systems and adding new features, so it seems like that would be hard considering processing power. But despite that, you’re able to port them due to the amount of experience you’ve accrued.
YO: At first, when M2 told me “it’s not going to work,” I thought to myself “What kind of nonsense is that?”
NH: Even now, we pull him aside and tell him, “It doesn’t work. Sorry…” (laughs)
YO: But if you wait a bit, they always come back and say “Ok, it’s running now.” See Horii-san? You can do anything if you put your mind to it. (laughs)
NH: It’s funny, you know. We’ve been at it like this for years now.
YO: Really though, I hate the tough love approach. (laughs)
NH: I think we’ll keep making these gradual advances in processing speed and data reduction. Even then it will be a slow improvement as we go along.
- By building games like that, you build leverage for the next project. And sometimes there’s a big pay off by combining things in a smart way.
NH: Yes, there are times when it does bear fruit. On the other hand, there are a lot of games out there that never had their time in the spotlight, you know? Like, Thunder Blade, and… um… Thunder Blade… (laughs)
YO: If we’d just put gyro controls into Super Hang-on and that’s the end, you’d probably just think, “well, that’s cute I guess…” But since we’re carrying on with the ports while making new stuff like that cool Moving Cabinet mode from Space Harrier, we’re able to make a bigger impact by combining the Arcade Machine features with gyro controls.
NH: It makes me wonder what cabinets for Afterburner or Galaxy Force would be like.
- How would you go about replicating that? Even if you give it the same description as the Arcade Machines for the other two games, the development approach and how it’d feel to play are completely different. Replicating that really requires building things one step at a time.
YO: If we were to port those, first we’d need the actual arcade machine. This time we had the photos on hand for the Sit Down type since we’d gotten them on a previous project, so it makes me want to document everything we can get our hands on, while we still can.
- That would be a ton of work. You know, as I play this with the gyro controls, I really think you’ve done a great job replicating the feeling of the cabinet, the slight difficulty that the leaning cabinet created, and the feeling when you cut back and forth. When things got really tough, I remember putting my feet down on the floor and just tilting the arcade machine. (laughs)
YO: When we were doing 3D Space Harrier, we wondered just how many people would get on board with this crazy idea.
NH: I wondered at first who we were even building it for.
- Certainly there were more than 1000 people that felt nostalgic for the moving cabinet and environmental sound effects. (laughs)
YO: The combination of those two was key. So I’m not going to say Super Hang-on is a simple game without it, but I hope people check this mode out.
NH: We’re running out of things to do now, so we want to hear from everyone next time their suggestions as what to try.
- Does that mean an open call for ideas? (laughs) This remake series seems like it really has to balance both the technical difficulty of emulating the game screen and the hardware, and emulating the cabinet itself.
NH: It’s not just a matter of getting the game to run at a perfect 60 frames per second, it’s the part about reproducing the authentic ambiance of the original that’s hard… And since Space Harrier wound up working so well… Everyone’s really busting their ass here. (laughs)
- (laughs) That’s because you raised the bar with 3D Space Harrier.
NH: Well, you could say that we’re burning both ends of the candle in order to knock everyone’s socks off. (laughs) To say we’re ‘looking for ideas’ might sound a bit weak, but please send us your feedback. (laughs)
- If anyone has any ideas for M2, give us a shout! (laughs) (NOTE: This article was originally posted some time ago, but M2 is always open to your opinions and feedback. Feel free to contact email@example.com )
YO: That said, I think we’re already moving a little bit ahead of what everyone expects. I think the series is coming along pretty well. I think with3D Super Hang-on, people probably could have guessed we would do ‘3D’ and ‘gyro controls’, , but I think the game has enough to excite the people who played the original arcade machines and make them say “Hey! Look how they did that!”
- This series weaves together a lot of different technology, and I always admire how none of the work goes to waste.
YO: Yeah, it really doesn’t.
NH: You can build a mountain out of trash. Once it’s larger than Everest, it’ll be worth something! (laughs)
YO: I hope players get a new appreciation for the 3DS hardware.
NH: Personally I think it’s a really nice piece of hardware. Though developing for it is exhausting. (laughs) Still, for the players, it’s a really nice machine.
- I’ve asked every time we do this, but what’s in the future for the 3D Remaster Project?
YO: 3D Space Harrier has done quite well for us, and I feel like it’s lowered the barriers to doing what we want to do next.
NH: Thank you very much.
YO: This series will keep going after 3D Super Hang-on. Since we had Space Harrier in development ahead of time for research purposes, we are expecting to pick up the pace after Super Hang-on. The next one is going to be a lot of fun as well, so sit tight!
- Alright, well you’ve got me interested! Thanks so much!
Copyright ©2013 Impress Watch Corporation, an Impress Group company. All rights reserved.
 Known as Sega Vintage Collection 3 outside Japan.
 Vintage Collection 3 overseas.
 Super Hang-on has two arcade cabinet formats in Japan: Sit Down type, a more standard kit with a chair and handlebars, or Mini Ride On type, which has a small motorcycle that you climb onto and tilt back and forth to control. The overseas arcade cabinet had slightly different configurations, but generally they were the same.
 3D Space Harrier contains sound effects that mimic the sounds of the original arcade cabinet. See the 3D Space Harrier interview for details.
 “master up” refers to creation of the final version of the game for submission to 1st party manufacturers.
Wednesday Nov 27, 2013
We’ve done a number of interviews with members of the Kingdom Conquest II team, in all different branches and fields of game operations, from development to support. Therefore, it stands to reason that there is someone overseeing all of the mobile title operations here at SEGA. That person is Ethan Einhorn. He’s responsible for Kingdom Conquest II and all of the other mobile games we’ve grown to love, and we managed to sit down with him for a few minutes to learn about what he does.
1. What do you do here at SEGA? What do your responsibilities include?
2. You’ve been working at SEGA for quite some time. Can you give us an idea of what your journey has looked like up to this point?
3. What kind of path/career advice would you give to someone looking to work in games?
Tuesday Nov 26, 2013
Pick up classic and new Sonic adventures for your Samsung phone just in time for the holidays!
Note: This promotion is only available to Samsung phone and tablet owners via Samsung Apps, and only available in select countries. Please check the Samsung Apps store to verify if the desired game is available for your device and country of residence.
Tuesday Nov 26, 2013
The Sonic speed boost you’ve been waiting for!
Download now for Free from Google Play: http://bit.ly/sdashand
The long awaited, hit mobile title Sonic Dash is now available to download on Google Play. This free to play, endless runner is developed by SEGA’s Hardlight Studio, the creators of Sonic Jump. Get ready to feel the speed on Android like never before, as Sonic runs, jumps and spins his way through rolling hills, perilous temples and scorching sand dunes. Sonic Dash brings high speed, frenzied fun as players complete missions to increase their score multiplier and battle it out for leaderboard supremacy. With daily challenges, multiple playable characters, deep social integration and Sonic’s unstoppable dash ability, you can find out for yourself how far the world’s fastest hedgehog can run.
“Whenever we’ve talked about Sonic Dash, someone has asked when it will be released on Android,” said Hardlight CTO Chris Southall. “This level of enthusiasm made it very easy when deciding to create the Android version.”
To celebrate the release, Sonic Dash will be holding an exclusive Android score multiplier challenge event this weekend. From November 29th-31st, players taking part will receive a game-wide bonus to their score multiplier, giving them an edge to help rise up their friends’ leaderboards.
Click thumbnail to view full-sized image
Monday Nov 25, 2013
We are extremely excited to present to fans a series of interviews on our upcoming 3D Classics on the Nintendo 3DS. The interview originally took place across the Game Watch and Impress website, featuring both Yosuke Okunari from Sega of Japan and Naoki Horii from the developer M2. These interviews show not only the care that went into making the absolute best versions of these titles on the 3DS, but also a lot of the technical challenges in creating 3D versions of our classic SEGA games.
Big thanks to Game Watch and Impress, Okunari-san, and Horii-san for their involvement in making these interviews available to our western audience. We hope you enjoy these interviews and encourage you to feedback with your own questions or comments. Let’s begin with Space Harrier and information on how the project got started…
- Alright, let’s start by talking a little about this company called M2. Horii-san, do you mind?
Naoki Horii (below NH): Talk to people in the game industry and you’ll find out that everyone was a “gamer kid”. We’re no different ourselves, and our company’s first actual game was a MegaDrive title called Gauntlet. That was a game that you could play with four people, and some friends and I from school and the local arcade got together and built a copy of the game from memory. We remade it exactly as we remembered it, took it to a company called Tengen, and finally got the money we needed to buy the materials we needed. Just like that. So our first game was a highly faithful port of the arcade version. You could call it a ‘copy by eye’ since we remade what we saw. That’s where I started, and here I am twenty years later, happy with what we’ve accomplished.
Yousuke Okunari (below, YO): He just wants to port the game he loved…
NH: Back in those days, arcade games were expensive and you couldn’t just buy them. Not only that but you had to keep feeding 100 yen coins into them. Even if you went and bought a port, it wouldn’t be the same thing. You’d think to yourself “Something’s just different.” We wanted it to play games as close to the original as possible, and eventually we figured we should just do it ourselves.
 Gauntlet was an action fantasy RPG game released by Atari in 1985. The MegaDrive version was released by Tengen. The MegaDrive version was released in 1993 and was called Gauntlet IV overseas.
- So it all started with Gauntlet.
NH: Back then, there wasn’t a good port of Gauntlet, so you couldn’t play with four players at home yet. Everything started once we thought “hey, we probably know this game well enough to build it.”
YO: Then eventually they started working with us (SEGA).
NH: Back in the time of Gunstar Heroes on the Game Gear, there was a SEGA employee named Hiroshi Aso. He approached us and said “Wow, you made Gauntlet, huh? Well how would you like to work on Game Gear? Go ahead and pitch a couple games you’d like to do.” So we suggested a game called Edward Randy. If you think about it, Gunstar Heroes is just an improved version of Edward Randy. So porting that to the Game Gear was our first job with SEGA.
YO: Gunstar Heroes is often regarded as a game that really pulled out all the stops when it comes to the MegaDrive’s capabilities, and trying to port that to the Game Gear was no small task. By the way, the Game Gear version is available in the Gunstar Heroes: Treasure Box, on sale now via PS2 Archives. You have to use a cheat code to play it though… (laughs)
NH: So we had a break from working with SEGA for about 4 years, and then we worked on the Windows version of Sakura Wars. We also helped out a bit on the Dreamcast version as well. The first time I saw the Saturn version, I thought to myself “Oh boy, this game is just massive”, and I definitely remember how much of a rough time we had on that project.
YO: After the Dreamcast version of Sakura Wars, M2 was doing other projects for a while. Then a PS2 action adventure game called Project Altered Beast came along, and internally we had the idea of including the original Altered Beast in the game as a bonus feature. It just happened that M2 was working on a port of the arcade version of Altered Beast at that time.
NH: We were trying to port it by ourselves, you know. I just had a hunch that something like this might come up, so we went ahead and ported it without being asked to. That’s how we got started, right?
YO: Yeah, but the whole “put Altered Beast in Project Altered Beast” thing died on the drawing board. However, the fact that M2 could do ports got shared around internally at SEGA. So for Sega Rally 2006, the idea of putting the original Sega Rally in the game came up, and M2 was basically a silver bullet. Right around that time, AM2 was working on a port of Virtua Fighter 2 for SEGA AGES 2500, so we had a ported Model2 engine available. However, there weren’t any production lines open for Sega Rally and AM2 couldn’t get around to it. So then we asked M2 if they wanted to handle it.
NH: That was just learning from imitation, though.
YO: This wound up being M2’s first PS2 job with SEGA. For VF2, AM2 basically used an emulation-style implementation, but the Sega Rally’s arcade board was a later version than VF2, so it wouldn’t run as-is. M2 analyzed the game engine on their own, and rebuilt the game in the process of porting Sega Rally. In the end, it took a while to get Sega Rally 2006 released and it ended up coming out later than Space Harrier. VF2 had been received really well, and we decided to continue the ports this way for the SEGA AGES 2500 games. Right after I’d finished up on Dragon Force, we got the OK to continue on with the series. We were talking to a lot of developers in order to build the next lineup of ports, and that’s when I met them for the first time.
 Known as The Cliffhanger: Edward Randy overseas. Released only in Japan in 1990 by Data East.
 This a reference to Sega Ages Vol. 25: Gunstar Heroes: Treasure Box, a PS2 game only released in Japan.
 AM2, short for Amusement Machine R&D Department 2, is one of SEGA’s development teams. They are responsible for many of SEGA’s popular franchises such as Virtua Fighter, Shenmue, Daytona USA, Project DIVA Arcade games.
- Oh really? Wow that’s unexpected.
YO: So from there, the idea of porting Altered Beast for SEGA AGES 2500 came up. But just doing an Altered Beast port as a packaged title would be kind of hard sales-wise, so we ended up having M2 port S.D.I & QUARTET, although in the end there probably wasn’t much of a sales difference between the two. (laughs) Next we said, “Hey, let’s do Space Harrier. Its hardware is pretty close to SYSTEM 16.” From there, we had M2 work on a couple of titles for us. And that’s how SEGA AGES 2500 Space Harrier II was born, which was released on PS2 Archives about 7 years ago.
NH: It still impresses me how much we code in assembly even now. Our staff is really incredible…
YO: They showed me what were basically finished versions of Altered Beast and Shinobi running on SYSTEM 16, and though the sound wasn’t working yet, I figured if it was running this well, they’d have it up and running in no time. Boy was I wrong…
NH: When we tried to accurately reproduce all of SYSTEM 16 on a PS2, we couldn’t get the FM sound sources to fit in. When we thought about where to onload those, we remembered the PS2’s I/O Processor (33MHz) for the PS backwards compatibility feature. So we banged out some assembler code for it and got the FM sound source working. (For details check out Sega Voice Vol.15)
YO: It was Space Harrier’s 20th anniversary at the time, and since it’s a game from 20 years ago, we figured that the PS2 would have no problem running a game like Space Harrier. I mean, it ran on the Dreamcast after all (it was in Shenmue), but that’s just not how it worked out. The ins and outs of emulating things were still being figured out back then. Being new to this, even I thought we could churn out ports pretty quickly, but it turns out that wasn’t really the case.
It turns out that since the hardware is different, it takes quite a lot of machine power to emulate these games. M2 is quite fussy about these kinds of things, and they wanted to really get the controls right from the get-go. In other words, eliminating input lag. Around this time, people were really concerned about this term “input lag”. They’d say “really, the hard part is reducing input lag as much as possible.” Space Harrier is actually one of the easier titles in this sense, but for other games, reducing input lag is a big task and took up a lot of our time.
NH: There are a lot of situations where if we could just slow the processing down by a single frame, everything would be much easier.
YO: Sort of like how when you use a number of polygons at 60 frames per second, and then run the program at 30 frames per second, you can use twice the number of polygons?
NH: Yeah, it’s kind of similar, but with input lag, you have to grind away on a lower program layer. If you can get just 1 more frame worth of time, you can do what you can during that frame, which makes things easier.
YO: Also, while we were trying to port the arcade version of Space Harrier, I thought releasing the port for 2,500 yen ($25) might be a little tricky since a remake already existed. I wanted to have some other versions ported as well, and since M2 had made progress on MegaDrive and Mark III emulation, so we decided to make a bundle. But due to some concern that there’d be some confusion with the remake being released first, we added “II” to the title.
NH: We had this idea that if people thought the game was Space Harrier II from the MegaDrive, they might not pick it up. Actually, I remember Okunari-san saying “If we port this, people will be able to play it not only on the PS2, but on 3 and 4 as well.” Well, now you finally can play it on all versions on the PS3 I guess. (laughs) When the backwards compatibility feature was removed from the PS3, we were a little worried. (laughs) But now we’re in an age where all that work is available for 800 yen (~$8).
YO: The Game Gear version is also in SEGA AGES 2500 Space Harrier II as a hidden feature now, but at the start we had no intention of doing that. Namely because the Game Gear version is a downgraded version of the Master System one, and since it was built for a portable game system, the resolution wasn’t great for playing on a TV screen. Still, M2 said they wanted to include everything they could. However, since the hardware specs for the Master System and Game Gear differ, M2 couldn’t get the Game Gear version working and were about to give up on it. But we got it in at the very end.
NH: 7 years ago, my take on it was: “I don’t want to buy Space Harrier again.” I wanted to make a version that had everything you need. (both laugh) Then later on we wound up developing the Wii and 3D versions. At this point I hope I can just ask for everyone’s forgiveness since I buy them all myself. (both laugh)
YO: Yeah we’d not planned to develop the Game Gear version at the start, but once we got past beta it was like “Game Gear version got in on time! It’s done!” however it really wasn’t on time at all. (laughs) The manual was already done, and the release date was set so we couldn’t advertise it at all. So we wound up making it an unlockable feature and said: “Oh well, you get another game in there, it’s just hidden away.” But as a result, it seems that people thought that every installment of the PS2 SEGA AGES 2500 series had to have some sort of extra game in it.
NH: You were really brave to hear us out there at the very end.
YO: Well, you still send me outrageous requests even now… (both laugh)
NH: Oh I don’t know. I think we’ve gotten better…
YO: That’ll be the day! (laughs) But anyways, this theme of specs changing while M2 builds the ports certainly echoes down the line.
 SDI is a shooting game released in 1987 for Arcade and later the Master System. Quartet is a side scrolling shooter released in 1986 for Arcade and the Master System.
 SYSTEM 16 is a 16-bit arcade board released in 1985 that ran games like SDI, as well as Golden Axe, Fantasy Zone and Shinobi. Space Harrier runs on the same board as Hang-On, which is similar to System 16 but with more processing power.
 Assembly code is one step above coding directly in machine code. It’s generally considered very difficult to work with.
 Beta is a development milestone state that generally indicates the game is functionally complete, but there are bugs and glitches that need to be fixed before the game can be released.
- So the scene was set by SEGA AGES 2500 Space Harrier II.
YO: One of the most last-minute moments we had was with Fantasy Zone Neo Classic in SEGA AGES 2500 Fantasy Zone Complete Collection. Neo Classic was based on a game originally made by Sunsoft, so we had to rush to get a contract in place with them. (laughs)
NH: Oh really?
And the mysteries of Space Harrier keep on coming!
YO: Back to the subject at hand, Space Harrier was ported to the PS2 with M2’s considerable technical skill and all was grand. For a series based on older game ports, I thought we had a great launch, and we got a lot of feedback.
One instance that particularly surprised me was when we put S.D.I. & Quartet and Space Harrier II out for display at the Tokyo Game Show. Since it was our first time showing off the full version in front of customers, I was at the booth myself. The first people to stop by on the first day were M2’s first SEGA supervisor, Aso-san, who was also the developer for the original arcade version, as well as two developers from ”Game Rotsubo”, who ported Space Harrier for the Super 32x and Sega Saturn.
YO: I didn’t even have time to be surprised before one of the guys started playing. These guys are legends to me. They brought Space Harrier to the 32X and Sega Saturn, which had had much lower specs than the PS2. These guys played our PS2 version, with eyes as big as dinner plates. I mean, you know these guys LOVE Space Harrier to death, so of course they are going to be interested in people who work on it. So they played up to Stage 7 (Lucasia: where the mammoths come out), and then I heard one go, “Ah!”
So I got all nervous, thinking “Oh man, what…” and then asked them about their impressions after they’d finished. They gave it their seal of approval, saying “It’s really well done.” But then they said “There’s one thing. On stage 7, there are these slanting boulders in the background. The issue is with the background horizon…. you see the boulders are supposed to be on the ground, and are only supposed to be displayed below the horizon line, and when Harrier runs on the ground, they’re clipping into the horizon line. If the line goes up, there’s a bug where the color gets a little weird and turns slightly black. That isn’t happening on this PS2 version.”
NH: In this case you’re seeing the correct graphic on the PS2 hardware, but that’s because it differs from the architecture of the original Space Harrier’s hardware.
YO: That’s how the boulders in the first half of the 7 stage display. The original staff said “it’s a bug, but it was pretty how the boulders sort of twinkled.”
- Huh, how about that.
NH: I don’t know if anyone else has pointed that out, but their comment was the first time we’d heard about it.
YO: I think in the end, they were probably the only ones who pointed it out. In any case, being a newbie myself, I wound up thinking the port had a long way to go, and we could do even better. Oh and there was another problem that came up regarding the height of the horizon line. We addressed this with the “Harrier’s moving area” option in 3D Space Harrier.
When the PS2 version was released, we saw comments on the net saying that if the player sits at the highest position on screen, the horizon line’s uppermost position would differ from the arcade board. We thought “Well, we built the game to the exact spec of the original, so why are people seeing differences?” At the time, we had no idea why. That and the sound quality. People said that the sound isn’t the same as the OST CD or the arcade version. Amps and other equipment will make it different from the arcade version at a very basic level anyways, but since M2 wanted to make sure there was no input lag they had to use some of the game’s processing power to eliminate it, and that slightly weakened the sound quality.
NH: From that point on, there were probably some games we worked on where there’s a difference in audio between the game and the Sound Test menus. If you noticed that, let us know. It’s easier to lighten the processor load in a Sound Test menu.
YO: You can hear the difference in the hidden sound mode in PS2’s Fantasy Zone Complete Collection.
NH: Yeah, I seem to recall we did it there.
YO: M2 is getting better at this, and the quality’s also rising since we are devoting more of the console’s processing power to sound emulation.
- Interesting (laughs). So it sounds like in your experience, the game’s sound quality was limited by the power of the console, to the extent that you were performing calculations internally and then outputting the sound.
NH: When using streaming output, you can’t reproduce the behavior where some sounds would disappear due to sound effects being played. It depends on the game, but a lot of people actually like that effect. We wanted to cater to that need. But if streaming is the best option for a particular game, we’ll go with that.
- You used both approaches in Galaxy Force II, right?
YO: Well for that collection, there weren’t that many titles included, so we thought we’d give it a shot. So yes, there’s a streaming version and an internal sound source version. Oh, and an FM Towns version. (laughs)
NH: For the streaming version of Galaxy Force II, we had a guy at Wavemaster record it for us, so it turned out really nicely. At that point we found out that the original PCB version outputs the L/R channels backwards. (laughs) Since the original was backwards and thus ‘correct’, we matched this up with the arcade speaker specs.
 The FM Towns is a PC variant made by Fujitsu that specialized in multimedia applications. Galaxy Force was released on the FM Towns with CD-DA streamed music.
- There’s always something, huh?
YO: So anyways, after releasing Space Harrier II on the PS2 in 2005, we decided to release Space Harrier onto the Virtual Console Arcade in 2009. Being blessed with another chance to release the title, we wanted to make sure the Stage 7 bug could be reproduced, as well as put some extra effort into the sound. We also wanted to look into the Analog Stick and Horizon Line problems.
- So you finally got a chance to poke around this mystery, eh?
YO: On SEGA’s side, we have a Space Harrier machine that we keep for cataloguing purposes, so I actually went down and played it in the warehouse. And it’s true; the horizon line in the PS2 version is higher than the arcade version. It was different. On the original machine, the Tomos enemies that appear in the 1st stage are easier to shoot. I wanted to know why the arcade version was so different, so I went into test mode to take a look and noticed that when I pulled on the stick, the analog input wouldn’t max out. Which means that the controls were programmed that way to move the cabinet.
When we made the PS2 version, we did look at the original arcade board, but we didn’t actually look at the full arcade cabinet. That’s why it’s different. So for the Wii Virtual Console Arcade version, we took the arcade control differences into account. The Wii version can be controlled using the nunchuk, after all, so for us, the Wii version was the one we were most satisfied with.
- So finally that puzzle was solved!
YO: But even after implementing the control corrections, we still got comments saying it wasn’t right. Something was still wrong with the horizon line. Now it was too low! We had players saying “You got it right on the PS2 version, so why couldn’t you do the same for the Wii version?” I decided to visit as many arcades that had Space Harrier machines as I could, and studied the various videos that were posted to the net. And there were cabinets where the horizon would rise as high as it did on the PS2 version.
- So in other words, the PS2 and the Wii versions were both accurate ports?
YO: We puzzled over why the horizon line was higher on certain cabinets, and the dev team came to the conclusion that the sticks in the cabinets were probably loose. Our warehouse kit hadn’t really been used all that much, and it also gets maintenance from time to time, so it’s in pretty good condition. But the cabinets at arcades have been out there for over 20 years, and their sticks get worn out. When you fix an arcade stick that’s broken, its throw distance changes, and as a result the player’s movement also changes. When sticks loosen, you can move them further than you previously could, allowing you wider control of Harrier.
So anyone who plays the cabinet nowadays may be using a joystick that’s in poor shape, and they might find that the horizon line is higher than what they remember as the real Space Harrier, and we can’t deny that. Generally speaking, we were left with the conclusion that the Wii version is in line with what the developers imagined at the original release. As a side note, the 32X and Sega Saturn version differ in the same way, with the Saturn version’s horizon line staying low like the Wii version.
- Sounds like this one wasn’t all that straightforward.
YO: That’s why for the 3DS version, we believe we’ve addressed player concerns by putting in 3 levels of movement ranges.
What did it mean to add stereoscopic 3D to Space Harrier?
- OK Finally we are at the point where we can actually talk about 3D Space Harrier! (laughs)
YO: Three years since we released the Wii version and it’s finally here! (laughs) Sorry for the wait!
NH: Geez, that was a super long leadup! (all laugh)
YO: When the Nintendo 3DS was released, it included Virtual Console on it, which led us to start working on Space Harrier. At the same time, Nintendo indicated to us that they were looking for games that also use 3D. I thought, “Man, I want to do that.” So I went to Horii-san and said “We’ve got to do this 3D thing,” and he burst my bubble saying, “Oh come on, that’s ridiculous! Do you have any idea how much trouble that’d be to do!?” I took a look at the sample 3D version of Xevious provided by Nintendo for reference, and I really wanted to do something similar, but I kept being told that re-making 2D games in 3D was a pretty big effort.
- Remaking a game originally built in 2D into 3D… tell us about that.
YO: If you want an idea of how hard it is, just consider how M2 has been building games. They’ve been using emulator techniques that replicate the hardware since the PS2 days. That’s one way of faithfully reproducing the originals, but the drawback is that it’s really hard to go back and add things to the code. For example, you wouldn’t be able to add in extra bosses, or build new stages.
NH: That’s why you won’t see extra features that were added to console or PC ports of older SEGA arcade games in the SEGA AGES ports. They weren’t in the original game.
YO: Re-making games in 3D is almost impossible for similar reasons. When you take a character sprite that was originally in 2D and bring it into a 3D viewpoint, you have to build the graphic from scratch. So for example, back in the 8-bit era, very large enemies were often displayed as backgrounds. But if you did a simple 3D conversion of an enemy like that, it would end up being on a different plane from the player character and look like it’s out on the horizon. If you want real 3D, then it’s basically the same as rebuilding the game from scratch.
NH: Some things you can change, and some things you can’t. At the time I thought we could probably build a visual copy of the game in 3D, and I wanted to. But cost-wise, there was no way it was going to happen, you know? This was back just before the 3DS release.
YO: But when I asked Horii-san if there wasn’t some way to rebuild the game in 3D, he said “Let’s do it” (both laugh)
- You guys are crazy! (laughs)
NH: Well, if you pick up the 3DS version I’m sure you’ll understand, but you feel like you’re playing the definitive version Space Harrier when it’s in 3D, right? I know we’re already there, but when I played the game, I felt like we had finally arrived in the 21st century, that’s how much of a killer app Space Harrier3D was for me. Once we knew what it was going to look like, it really motivated us when we were working on it. The whole staff put a lot of thought into how we were going to get this into 3D because we knew that if we could get it done, it was going to be really cool.
YO: M2 told me that “This is going to be really hard to develop, so be aware of that,” to which I said “Let’s do it,” and so we did. Now of course, we’re SEGA, so if we’re going to make 3D games, we had to start with a 3D shooter, which of course means Space Harrier. So there we were, working on Space Harrier for the 3rd time.
NH: That’s how we got to 3D Space Harrier. We had to recreate the game world (called Dragonland, for those who don’t know) in 3D from the graphical depth of the original arcade cabinet, which wasn’t ever made in 3D. There were people who helped and worked with development who’d never played Space Harrier before, and some told me they couldn’t get good at the game. When I asked them what they have trouble with, they’d say it was hard to tell whether objects were right in front of their character or not.
Once we had the game in 3D, the same people came back and said “OK, now I get it! I can play it now!” Hearing that made me really happy we went through with the project. We started this game because I wanted to do it, so the sales didn’t matter to us, but moments like that really surprised me.
- So by making the game 3D, it was easier to understand where enemies and objects are placed.
YO: For the PS2 version, we included a version of Space Harrier 3D originally released on the Mark III that you could play by putting in a cheat code. That game is much easier to play in 3D. When you can see things in three dimensions, you see where the background stops, and you know what to dodge, so it’s a lot easier that way. When you play the same mode in 2D, it’s really, really hard. On the other hand, one could say that 3D Space Harrier’s difficulty is a lot lower than the arcade original. The stage where you dodge the fast scrolling pillars in particular is a lot easier. Dodging enemy bullets is simpler, and you know how long you can wait before you have to get out of the way.
NH: Being easier to play is certainly one aspect. One thing I also really want people to notice is how much more spacious and expansive the game world feels in 3D. Check out the screen.
- In 3D, you only have to worry about what’s right in front of you. For 2D games you have to watch the whole screen, so the gameplay definitely changes.
YO: Yes, it’s the same game but different.
NH: There are still a lot of games that we have fun ideas for. For this game in particular though, I want to say that playing with the 3D effect off is out of the question.
YO: It’s the same for movies. If you watch the same movie in 3D and 2D, you certainly watched the same thing. But it’s a totally different experience.
- When I saw Space Harrier in 3D for the first time, I think it was a modified “3D” version of the X68000 release. I think the programmer must have figured out the positions and behavior of the background and sprites to build the 3D. I’m no expert though, so I’m just guessing. Still, for 3D Space Harrier, I imagine M2 had to get in there and actually fiddle with the ROM itself to get the arcade version running. How did you create the 3D effect? You’d need to understand not only the architecture of the original hardware and software, but also understand the structure of the hardware you’re porting to, as well as modifying your emulation engine, right?
NH: Yes, that’s right. You have to understand the underlying game before you can add things on top. For this project, we did it all using a method that’s similar to emulation, however strictly speaking, it’s not emulation.
YO: At the core, there’s a program running that’s based on emulation techniques.
NH: Specifically, the code that ran on the arcade CPU, the MC68000, isn’t used in 3D Space Harrier. Replacing that code allowed us to finally get the 3D working.
YO: That’s what we mean when we say this game is the result of all of the hard work and technical skill developed up until now.
NH: Since we could take our time with Space Harrier 3D, we were able to do things like support wide screen.
YO: Wide screen support in this version is a first for any port of Space Harrier. The only other game we’ve done that supported wide screen was the PS2 version of Galaxy Force II.
NH: For game design reasons, Harrier’s movement range is the same as it always was, but it just feels better to play in wide screen.
YO: This is the 3rd Space Harrier I’ve requested from M2, and it might really be the last Space Harrier, or at least the last port. So we wanted to make it the definitive version. When we were interviewed for the PS2 version of Space Harrier II, we said that if you bought the PS2 version, you’d never need another version, but 7 years has passed, and well… turns out there was still a lot of work to be done. (laughs)
NH: I thought about it a lot, and after that the PS2 version was done, I told Okunari-san that I wanted to go and play the arcade kit in storage one more time. So I did, and while I was there, I put up a microphone next to the kit’s motor and recorded the motor sounds.
YO: Wait, you went just to record some sounds? (both laugh)
NH: Yeah, so? (laughs) When you play [3D Space Harrier] in arcade mode, you’ll hear sounds we put in, which are me hitting the buttons and the motor running. In that sense, this version’s got some funny quirks to it.
 The X68000 was a home computer made by Sharp Corp and released only in Japan in 1987.
 3D Space Harrier features the ability to turn on sounds the arcade machine makes as well as have the screen gyrate as it would if you were playing a real arcade cabinet.
- Maybe in the future, we’ll have consoles that let you play in 3D, and you can reproduce the whole cabinet and feel of the arcade in your living room…the ideas are endless.
NH: Since you can install games to hardware nowadays, something I’ve always wanted to do is take all the sounds from the games you own and recreate the cacophony of lots of attract screens in an arcade. You could make something like a virtual arcade.
- Recreate the entire atmosphere of the arcade, I see.
NH: It’s not in the cards at the moment, but it’s something I’d like to try one day. In any case, there’s tons of stuff I want to do. Like Thunder Blade or something. If there are 2,560,000 people out there who want that, I think SEGA would be happy to let us do that for them.
YO: Let’s consider it if 3D Space Harrier sells that many copies. Heck, 256,000 people would be fine. (both laugh)
- OK well it looks like our time is about up. Can you guys sum up the key points of Space Harrier 3D for us?
You can choose from 4 different display options: 4:3 like the original game, widescreen optimized for the 3DS, full screen, and an arcade cabinet mode that recreates the feel of the original machine.
YO: For Space Harrier 3D, it all comes down to the 3D support we’ve added that took so much effort as we described earlier. And it’s not a copy by eye, it’s based on the original code base, and it plays just the same. It’s also the first time Space Harrier has ever supported wide screen. And there’s also M2’s excellent arcade mode.
NH: I hope people reading this to give that mode a try. It’s fun and brings back a lot of memories.
YO: When that mode first went in, I said to Horii-san, “Since the cabinet’s chair moves with the monitor in the arcade version, the screen shouldn’t actually tilt, right?” Remember?
NH: Yeah yeah, I know. But, we’re talking about nostalgia here, you know? (laughs)
YO: So that part doesn’t quite match up with reality, but it definitely has an “ambiance” and it’s fun. Oh and the arcade kit sound effects are there too.
NH: The arcade cabinet’s motor watches the signals from the original arcade board, so it knows when you’re moving right, or when you’re moving left. The sound effect timing is all the same as the original.
YO: In addition, the background music quality has really improved, and we’ve finally put in an equalizer. We didn’t ask for it but M2 threw that in as an extra. (laughs)
NH: If you play around with the equalizer, you can get pretty close to the original arcade feel. Players can use it to recreate the same environment that they remember.
YO: There are presets too. I hope people give it a try.
NH: Okunari-san might think we had a lot of free time on our hands by including the equalizer. (laughs)
YO: Even just playing it as-is out of the box, I think this port probably has the best sound reproduction than any previous one. This is in large part due to Manabu Namiki’s involvement, right?
NH: Yes, Namiki-san checked the game until the very end. The extra song as well.
YO: Since M2 had hired Namiki-san around that time, he participated in the project as an internal staff member, and he was able to give the game really thorough oversight. The arcade environment sound idea started with him, right?
NH: Yeah, he had a lot to do with that. He’s the one who put out the idea for the arcade kit sounds. The motor and button sounds.
YO: For those sounds, you can’t just put a mic down and record them because there’s all these other loud sounds that get in the way, so we had to turn off all the cabinet’s fans and record the right, front and rear sounds over and over. Then we took the best samples out of those and included them. Same for the button sounds. Typical players might not care about this sort of stuff, but I hope there’s maybe one in a thousand who will really be into it. Every time this game is ported, people tell us “It’s not really Space Harrier without an arcade kit.” That’s totally true. However, since we can’t port the kit itself, we do what we can outside of that and this is how it turns out. So in a certain sense, 3D Space Harrier is our answer to that problem.
 Manabu Namiki is a Japanese video game composer.
- I see.
YO: Also, and this is a sort of down to the nitty gritty, but there was a bug in the PS3 and Wii versions where certain sound effects would play and not stop. It was in the original arcade game, and we’ve made the decision to fix it for this version. Up until now, we’ve prioritized reproducing the original arcade board as faithfully as possible, but now that it supports wide screen and 3D, the 3DS version no longer reproduces the original per se, and it wouldn’t be ideal for a first time player to run into a bug like that. So we fixed it. We also don’t force any sort of slowdown replication on the game. So I think it’s safe to say that this is the perfect version of Space Harrier.
- From what I’ve seen, I’m certainly hoping that’s the case.
YO: Lastly, if you watch the porting staff credits, you can find out all the names of enemies that appear in the game. We often heard from the fans that they wanted to know the enemy names, so M2 put in a little sequence that shows off the original character names. The names come from a 10 year old game called Typing Space Harrier, where you had to type in the character names. Most of the characters besides bosses didn’t have names at the time, so Yu Suzuki named them. So these are official enemy names from the game designer himself. I had no idea about this until the guy who made Typing Space Harrier told me. I think fans of Space Harrier will be really happy about it. I mean, I could just go on and on. (laughs)
- Alright, sounds like there’s still more to talk about.
Naoki Horii (below, NH): You know, for the Space Harrier arcade machine on the menu screen, what I really wanted to do was use the AR feature to put a Space Harrier machine in my room.
Yousuke Okunari (below, YO): We totally ran out of time for that one… (laughs)You know, when we were making the arcade machine’s model on the menu screen, we didn’t have any pictures of the cabinet from all three sides (front, back, side). I think we had the design layout for it, and pictures from certain sides only, but we didn’t have one from the front. However, awhile back, Dreamcast Magazine made a papercraft version of the cabinet, and wanted to put a picture of it in Space Harrier II’s manual for PS2. They had lent us some photos they were using to make the papercraft, which came in very handy. Thanks Umeda-san! (laughs)
… However, there’s actually a difference between the papercraft cabinet and the model in-game. Can you guess what it is? It might be hard because it’s spinning around.
- Hmm, I don’t know…
YO: See here on the back of the seat, there’s a little portion that looks like an exhaust pipe. On the machine in the warehouse that they photographed for the papercraft, it’s white. But on an actual arcade machine, there’s a light there which flashes red. It seems that the machine we keep in the warehouse is one of the first models, a prototype or a preproduction model, or something, but anyways there’s a light in the middle. Also, the one in the warehouse doesn’t have the gameplay instruction plate under the monitor. M2 noticed that later on and drew one up for us.
Other than the papercraft one, there was a toy version of the Space Harrier arcade cabinet built for UFO Catchers as well, and that one has the white portion as well. We went out to some modern arcades and took pictures, and when you compare them, you can see the difference. I also asked M2 to redo the cabinet on the title screen once as well. You can’t really tell by looking at two dimensional photos, but once it was put into 3D, the differences in the molding were pretty apparent.
 Often called ‘claw crane’ games in the West.
- So you had to make some more changes. You guys really get deep into the details. (laughs)
YO: Maybe we should talk about the controls too? The slide pad controls are similar to the arcade in the sense that once you let go of the slide pad, the stick goes back to neutral. But if you’re using a d-pad, it’s more console-like because when you let go, Harrier will stay in the same position. This has always been the case with previous ports. For people who played in the arcade, they’ll be used to having the stick return to neutral, but that’s not the case for console players. Oh and also, for this version, we’ve added touch screen support.
- I really appreciated having the slide pad and d-pad controls active at the same time, and being able to switch between them on the fly. Rapid fire is included as well, and playing on the touch screen is easier than one might expect.
The arcade version of HAYO OH, unleashed at last!?
- … What?
NH: We’ve added the final boss from the Mark III version of Space Harrier, HAYA OH, in true arcade style. You can call it a reward for players that push the game really hard. HAYA OH’s music is played through the arcade sound generator as well. I hope it’s a nice surprise when you run into him in game.
- Oh! Was that the ‘extra song’ that you referred to in our previous article?
NH: Yes, we were checking that track up until the very end.
YO: It doesn’t come out quite as crazy as the original… But you know, it seemed like there was some rule about the Space Harrier ports where HAYA OH would never be included in the arcade modes. M2 and myself really wanted to do something about that. At first we thought we couldn’t. But then we said, “let’s make it happen.”
NH: You know, if we hadn’t put HAYO OH in, we might have been able to get this game out last year… Just kidding. (both laugh) Anyways, he’s in there.
YO: This is what you get when you grumble about things for a straight year.
NH: We built HAYO OH per the original arcade programming. We basically went in and fiddled with the programs for SQUILLA and GODARNI and were able to get HAYA OH working. I think it’s pretty impressive if you consider that HAYA OH is working on top of the original program. Like, this would probably actually work on the original arcade board. That’s the level at which we built it.
YO: Did Mr. Namiki do the song arrangement?
NH: The main programmer, Akira Saito, made the arrangement, and then Mr. Namiki came in and advised on specific parts of the track. If you know their work and give it a listen, I think you’ll be able to hear the synergy between them.
 SQUILLA and GODARNI are the 1st and 3rd stage bosses, respectively.
 Mr. Saito is a programmer at M2, who was in the past was involved in creating sound drivers for the X68000.
- Sounds like a team-up that’ll make a lot of people happy.
YO: For the 3DS port, we’ve made changes to the game specs from the PS2 and Wii Virtual Console versions. We wanted to keep some of the gameplay tension, so we got rid of unlimited continues. So to get HAYO OH to appear, you need to get all the way to stage 18, starting from stage 1. You can change the number of lives and difficulty any way you want and use all 3 continues, but that’s the underlying condition.
We also put in a stage select for stages you’ve already cleared. So if you start on Stage 18 and beat VALDA without dying, you’ll fight HAYO OH.
If you can beat him, a menu item labeled “special” will show up. You can turn this off to prevent HAYA OH from appearing when you fulfill his requirements. Also, this options lifts the usual 3 continue limit and you’ll have unlimited continues. So it’s a bit more arcade-like that way.
- Sounds like something I can look forward to. So is the “SEGA 3D Remake Project” going to keep going?
YO: Well a lot of that will depend on how 3D Space Harrier does, but since we think it turned out great in 3D, we’re going to continue development along this line. Lots of people are guessing which games we might do next, and we want to make some of those titles happen. But there are going to be some titles that make people say: “What? You’re going to remake that in 3D?” I’m looking forward to seeing the reaction.
That said, as I mentioned early, actually remaking games in 3D is very work-intensive and difficult compared to putting games out on the Virtual Console. It’s similar to when we were originally porting things to PS2. It’s the same with porting Game Gear titles to Virtual Console, but the amount of games we can keep putting out depends on how fans react. Personally I keep we can just keep going and going.
We started developing the SEGA 3D Remake Project at the same time as the 3DS Virtual Console. Game Gear got started in March of this year , and there’s been over 10 titles that have gone up for it on Virtual Console. We want to keep working next year to get games out for the Virtual Console and the SEGA 3D Remake Project.
NH: Going forward, I want to put a lot of polish into the 3D, and take our time releasing whichever ones seem profitable. I want to take the games that people think would be fun to play in 3D, build them well and get them out in the wild. I hope everyone will support us.
 2012 was the date of this article, so March 2012 for the Japanese Game Gear Virtual Console.
- From here on out, do you expect the 3D remake work to get more efficient as you continue to release more of these games?
NH: Since we’ve built a shared architecture that’s the basis for our ports, we expect things to pick up. It also depends on the pros and cons of the particular game we are working on.
YO: Yeah, there are titles that people think would be absolutely amazing in 3D, but if you ported them, the graphics would look totally wrong in 3D. So to get a game like that into 3D, you’d be better off building it from scratch off a visual reference. So then the next question is what’s the most efficient way to do that. In any case, there are some follow-up games that I really want to get out, so the series won’t end with Space Harrier.
NH: There could be a game that has a ton of fan support, for which we’ll forego the shared architecture and spend the extra time remaking it on its own.
- If that happens, it might be hard to put a price on it, don’t you think?
YO: Well, Space Harrier is Space Harrier, so we wouldn’t be able to justify a significant price difference from what we already have on Virtual Console. We’ve heard a lot of people wonder how many times they can actually buy Space Harrier, but this time the game is in 3D, which really showcases how different it is from previous ports. We hope everyone gives it a shot.
YO: Thank you for your support!
- Thank you very much as well!
Copyright ©2013 Impress Watch Corporation, an Impress Group company. All rights reserved.
SEARCH BY GAME
|No public Twitter messages.|
VIEW THE GALLERIES