Friday Aug 28, 2015
Welcome back to another round of the Sonic Showdown, folks!
This week, you were faced with a hard choice between the Evil Dr. Eggman and the sweet Amy Rose. By our closest margin yet, Eggman took the win with only an 8% gap! Huge props to fans of both Amy and Eggman for coming out to make the voting so close.
This weekend, and next week, you’re deciding two more heated matches: Blaze the Cat VS. Metal Sonic, and Rouge the Bat VS. Vector the Crocodile!
Who are you voting for in each match-up, and why? Let us know, as you always do, in the comments below! Also, let us know your favorite kind of dessert. Because, you know, desserts are awesome, and we’re hungry.
Have a great weekend, everyone!
Tuesday Aug 25, 2015
Yakuza 5 will be coming out later this year, and we have some more information for those of you eager to jump into the seedy underbelly of Japan!
Let’s start of with stuff you probably know about: The game has five protagonists, and takes place across five major Japanese cities. Important to note – each protagonist engaged with the criminal organization in the past, and are about to get pulled right back into midst of it. But like any good open world game, it’s the little things that matter. So between the story plot, you can occupy your time by relieving stress at the batting center, test your luck and skills at the UFO Catcher (Claw Machine) mini-game! Or if you’re more of a people person, Yakuza 5 also has options for poker, sea fishing, and bowling!
Lesser known about the western release of Yakuza 5 is that includes all the Japanese DLC, including “Another Drama” which is a series of extensive sub-plots that focus on each protagonist. Whether you are training for dance battles, ferrying people around as a taxi driver, or even helping out as a temporary ramen cook, there’s a whole world to explore! Head into CLUB SEGA and play some Virtua Fighter 2 with your friends over PSN. If you prefer to play something more rhythmic, you can check out Taiko no Tatsujin and drum to the beat of some music.
Oh, and not to mention that the battle system and customization system have been enhanced from Yakuza 4, so players can fight with the best of them!
We also have the final installment of the interviews with Yakuza 5’s developers answering the questions fans sent to #Yakuza5PS! Learn more details about the music in Yakuza, the developers’ thoughts on the Western release and the overall themes of the game.
Finally, Yakuza 5 is now available for digital pre-order in America! Every pre-order is 15% off the $39.99 launch price. As an added pre-order bonus, players will also receive aYakuza 5 “Fulfiller of Dreams” static theme for their PlayStation 3.
Friday Aug 21, 2015
Happy Friday, guys and gals!
With the weekend upon us, it’s time to take a quick look at our progress thus far in the Tournament, and open the voting for our newest match-up!
In the first round, Tails defeated Jet with a healthy margin, moving forward to the next match.
Cream the Rabbit fought hard against Silver, but ultimately, it was simply no use – Silver won out and also advanced forward.
And finally, everyone’s favorite friend and compatriot, Big the Cat, went toe to toe with the Chao. In one of our most surprising matches yet, even the support of Froggy wasn’t enough to save him, and the Chao triumphed onto another round.* I cried a little at this one, but they both deserved to win, so at least one strong candidate moves forward to take on Tails soon.
This weekend, you’ll determine another powerful match-up:
– CLICK HERE TO VOTE –
In the other: Amy Rose, a female hedgehog who first appeared in the Classic Sonic games, and has grown much more independent since then. She used to fangirl over Sonic quite a bit, but as the years have gone on, she’s also matured up… mostly. Her trusty hammer is surprisingly strong, and she’s always there to listen when the team needs help.
This one is going to be an interesting vote, and it’s probably bound to get more competitive from here on in! Good luck to both Amy and Dr. Eggman, and to all you readers out there – have a great weekend!
*Please note that Big losing in round 1 has no effect on our plans to release Big’s Big Fishing Adventure 3 on 4/1 of 2016.
Thursday Aug 20, 2015
3D Gunstar Heroes is now available on the eShop in North America and Europe!
– Just getting the game to run is already hard, but there’s new content in there too, right?
NH: Yes, as always, we have included additional content.
YO: There are two additional features in the game. The feature additional feature is two play modes: Standard and Gunslinger. The Standard mode has identical gameplay as the Mega Drive version.
In Gunstar Heroes, you can have two weapon types equipped at any time from a selection of 4 types total, and by combining the two items you can create a new weapon. There are ten of these combinations available, for a total of fourteen weapons with the basic weapons included. When playing the Gunslinger mode, however, you can use every type of weapon from the get-go and swap between the weapons on the fly. Specifically speaking, once you pick up any weapon to fill your second slot, you’ll be able to cycle through the weapons as you wish. You can switch between the fourteen weapon combos according to the situation you’re in by using the L Button and the R Button.
Also, you can select between two characters in Gunstar Heroes, named Red and Blue. They play differently from each other, as Red can fire while running, but Blue must stop to fire but can shoot downward.
There was actually a game that was developed by Treasure after Gunstar Heroes named Alien Soldier, and in this game, you can switch weapons and playstyles during gameplay. We thought that being able to switch between firing while running and having to stop to fire would be beneficial to the players, so we added the option to toggle between the two. Now that a player has access to all the options in their arsenal right at their fingertips to whip out on the fly, we dubbed it “Gunslinger”.
There’s also another game mode you can select called Mega Life. This mode simply doubles your HP from the beginning of the game. The original Mega drive has Easy, Normal, Hard, and Expert difficulties, but if you were a person who never could get a hang of Expert, you can select Mega Life to give yourself a leg up on the difficulty. It also serves as a helper to our fans who perhaps played the game back in their glory days and were able to clear it then, but might have a hard time clearing it now. They can now enjoy their original experience without having to stress about it too much. So there are those two merits.
NH: When you pick Expert Mode, the bosses have newer or different attack patterns. The fact that the bosses had these varied attack patterns was a really neat aspect of the game. If you’ve never played the game on the higher difficulty, please use the try using the Mega Life Mode in Expert Mode.
YO: Back when we were working on the Wii Virtual Console version, some users voiced that this game is too hard to play these days, or that they were able to beat the game back in the day but they just can’t beat the game anymore. If you can’t beat the game, well, that’s sort of on you, but the Mega Drive version of Gunstar Heroes did come out about 20 years ago, and it would be pretty mean if we just left all those people out to dry. We also want people who have never played to give the game a shot, so I hope that people will give all these new modes a chance.
– I recall that Gunstar Heroes was considered to be quite a difficult game when it first came out.
YO: That’s another interesting point, since console games let you choose your own difficulty level. There’s famous weapon combo known as the “Shachou Laser”* in Japan, which fires a homing laser just tracks in and defeats enemies one after another, so the player can focus on avoiding enemy attacks. Using this weapon decreases the difficulty for Gunstar Heroes. When we take a look at the developer interviews, they themselves say that it’s a cheap weapon and that the name actually came from the fact that president at the time would always use it. It really was a savior for many a beginner, most new players would pick it because it was so easy to use.
And so, please please take a step away from the Shachou Laser this time, since this game offers a variety of weapons! I want everyone to understand that. Until now, even when you’re about to pick up weapons, the players were so set on getting the Shachou Laser that if they picked up any other weapon, they would not be able to beat the boss battles. But when you play the game in Gunslinger mode, you can switch to Shachou Laser if you think the other weapons aren’t working out.
* Shachou Laser literally means “President Laser”. It’s the Japanese name given to the weapon created by combining Lightning and Chaser.
– So, the players who used to exclusively use the Shachou Laser back in the day should try to use different weapons in this version.
NH: That, and Shachou Laser it’s actually pretty weak, so on the higher difficulties its effectiveness wanes. I mean, it’d be sort of lame if people could clear it using this weapon. We want people to try going with a different strategy. Blowing through the game like that isn’t fun, you know?
YO: You’re right, Shachou Laser is really made for the normal difficulty. We would like you to try to beat Expert Mode properly.
We would like the players to re-live the enjoyment of using numerous types of weapons by employing the Gunslinger mode, and as well as using Mega Life mode to try clearing Expert difficulty.
– When you’re looking at these aspects, such as game balance, do get a feeling for the genius of Gunstar Heroes’ original developers?
NH: We do. There is this density, this intensity in the game itself, and then you go and talk about it with the original guys, they say it was created by a core team in less than a year. I can’t help but be amazed.
– Before you worked on the title, did you actually visit Treasure, the original developer?
NH: We didn’t go that far, but we happen to have staff at M2 who come from Treasure, so we’ve heard about it. They guy who was originally in charge of the backgrounds happens to be on our team, so when the programmer had just finished with converting the background into 3D, we asked him to take a look at the game. We bugged him about it, like “What do you think about this?” and “How about this spot?”, just really being persistent about it. But he would say, “Guys, that was 20 years ago, I don’t remember any of this!” But for the main parts, he did make some comments that it was different from his original intention, but he also conceded that the whole goal of the 3D Remaster Project is to ensure the players enjoy the game in 3D above all else. Throughout the work, we had a lot of constructive conversation.
– Does that mean the game differs from the original in some ways?
YO: When you look at it from a 2D perspective, there is not a single place that is different.
NH: Well, in a way it’s different, but when I look at it, I wonder myself what a particular background would even look like in 3D, so you can’t really say it’s different or off. What he was saying was that when he drew the backgrounds, he drew them so they’d look good then and didn’t really overthink it too much and was also having to work within the memory laminations of the time.
– So you’re saying that the original developers approve of the work?
NH: I would like them to approve of our work. I don’t think they saw the final version so I can’t say for sure.
YO: Treasure themselves have said that we should do as we wish, as they have faith in us. And so, to live up to their expectations, we have spent every last minute on turning the game into stereoscopic 3D.
– Then, were the extra contents that you told us about for the older generation of players?
NH: Yes, that would be correct.
YO: Well, I think Mega Life is good for people who can’t play the games as well as they used to, as well as people who play more modern games and want to make the game easier for themselves. Gunslinger changes the game a little, so I think it’s more for people who enjoy using a variety of weapons. To reiterate, if you’re the type of player who knows Gunstar Heroes gives you many options, but you still only use Red’s Shachou Laser, which I think is a large number of players, it would be good for you to try out new options. Maybe you’ll find you like Blue’s fixed shots better. Just try a lot of new things when you play, and you might find something new.
As for the weapons, I think a lot of people really did stick to a single weapon, but this time around, I would really like everyone to try out various weapons. Since we’re asking you to play the 3DS version maybe you should just try it with Gunslinger and Mega Life modes on. If possible, I would like everyone give Expert difficulty a shot.
NH: I feel the same. Hard things are hard, after all.
YO: If you haven’t played this game in a while, even if you have both modes on, I think you’ll find even Normal difficult.
– Gunstar Heroes just feels great to play, doesn’t it? Throwing enemies, blowing things up, dashing up, sliding low, tackling the enemies… It’s really fun. But when I played it earlier, I realized that I’d forgotten how to do a lot of things.
NH: Firing weapons, throwing enemies, sending the enemies flying and finishing them off with a body press, and there’s a great deal of strategy involved while all of this is happening, and everyone develops their own strategy on their own terms. But as time passes, you begin to forget your strategies, and it can feel like you aren’t doing so well. But as you play the game, you’ll begin to remember, “Oh, this is what I did back then!” This won’t be happening right when you buy the game; try to clear the game with the Mega Life first to regain your former skills from the Mega Drive days.
YO: I always had bad luck with dice rolls on the 4th stage, in the Dice Palace, and only ever roll 1s, and would have to go back to square one so many times. Game Overs all the time. And so I started from Stage 4 (in Gunstar Heroes, you can pick the order of stages except for the last stage), and then went to Stage 1 after clearing it. I’d not really thought about that strategy in a long, long time.
NH: I’m grateful that you checked the game out so thoroughly.
– Yes, that was true. Since you can choose the order of the stages, you can clear the stages you liked the least first.
YO: During the early stages of development for 3D Gunstar Heroes, Mega Life Mode was not an option, so I would ask myself, “Did I always have this much trouble with Stage 4? I remember how to beat all the bosses to a certain degree, so why all the Game Overs? What the heck? Did I get bad at this game?” But I realized later that I just got bad rolls on that stage.
NH: The die only has 1 through 3, after all.
You can tackle the stages in any order. A viable strategy is to take care of Dice Palace first. If you get bad rolls in Dice Palace, (it’s unfair, but) you can try again.
Please play the game on Expert so you can fight the 5 extra forms of Seven Force!
Seven Force always shows a surprising form each time you see it. Play Expert to make sure you see all the forms!
– So, are there any specific points where you would like the players to pay attention to?
NH: Slicing up the backgrounds for the 3D really creates a sense of space throughout the game, and we encourage everyone to check them out. Also, the boss character Seven Force is now a super cool looking character, so I hope everyone gets a kick out of fighting this boss.
In the beginning, we were actually really concerned about getting the backgrounds and the multi-sprite characters into 3D correctly, but I think they turned out well when we look at them now.
You’ll know what I mean when you see them It’ll surprise you. I think you’ll really understand the meaning behind turning a side-scrolling action game into stereoscopic 3D through playing this game, and I hope you have fun with it.
YO: Multi-sprite characters like Seven Force really leave an impression, and I think a lot of people remember the strategies for these characters being almost puzzle-like, but 3D Gunstar Heroes’ Seven Force just leaves a lasting impression as this big 3D robot.
NH: Adding depth accentuates all the details in the character. It exudes a stronger presence.
YO: Seven Force used to feel like was made of pieces of paper pinned together, but now that it has been converted to 3D, it doesn’t feel like that at all. It makes you wonder what it would look like if you looked at it from a different perspective.
NH: I totally get what you’re saying!
YO: It really looks much more like a mecha now.
NH: Yes, it does. It’s really imposing!
– Then I guess we’ll have to try our best to get to that point.
YO: Yes. The video we released only shows two forms of Seven Force, so please play the game yourself to see its five remaining forms. Every last one of them really looks like a well-developed mecha.
– Well, the mechas are very charming in Gunstar Heroes, after all. Alright, do you have any final comments for the players?
YO: Let’s see. It’s not only restricted to Gunstar Heroes, but I think it’s safe to say we have created the most spacious-feeling game among the titles in the 3D Remaster Project. I hope everyone can really get a since of things really existing in that space.
If I was to give one reason why this game gives off this sense of space, I would have to say that it’s because the player character is small. In other words, because the character is small, you can really see the background. Because you can see so much of the background, you can really see the details put into turning graphics 3D. It’s all thanks to the game’s design that we were able to create that sense of space.
Right before this screenshot, there’s a scene where the enemy robot’s arm comes out from the forest and surprises the player. Stereoscopic makes this scene even that more real.
I think this is because the original Gunstar Heroes is a well-made game, but when you’re walking through the forest at the end of the first stage, those robot hands fly out from the forest and at your character, you can really feel a sense of depth. I mean, you are looking at the same original sprites, but when you look at it with the stereoscopic 3D, you can feel a completely different feeling from the visuals. It’s truly the fruits of dedicated labor put in over the course of this project.
I think those who have played the game previously will appreciate these scenes even more, and didn’t play the game back in the days, I doubt you’ve ever played a game with as much depth as this one.
– So that’s the true value of SEGA 3D Remaster Project, right?
YO: That’s right. That said, I think there will be players who will play the game in 2D anyway.
NH: If you already play with the stereoscopic 3D on, please turn up your 3D dial even further.
I would like to add that although it was a title that needed to be ported, there were many issues to overcome that we kept putting it off. But we can now take pride that we did it using everything we’ve learned, and completed it successfully. I hope you enjoy the result.
– By the way, there’s one more title coming down the road, 3D Sonic the Hedgehog 2. Is Sonic 2 the last title because it was the hardest to develop?
YO: Well, speaking about the next episode, when we were talking making five games in the first batch, considering five Mega Drive titles for stereoscopic 3D, M2 stated that Sonic would be the hardest to port. We figured that if we didn’t make something amazing from the beginning and really knock the fans’ socks off, no one would stick with us, so we talked about porting Sonic first.
So we went and made Sonic, but the bar has just been rising and rising, so it’s like we are bookending the Giga Drive series with Sonic games. It’s because the development was the hardest out of all of them.
NH: I don’t want to spoil everything right now, but you know those scenes that everyone’s wondering about? The Special Stages? That’s what everyone’s going to want to know about.
YO: The Giga Drive arc of the SEGA 3D Remaster Project begins with Sonic and ends with Sonic, so you’ll be able to see the evolution of Sonic.
But still, it’s not that we saved Sonic for last on purpose, but rather, now that the development on Gunstar Heroes is finally over, M2 can focus all of their energy on Sonic 2, which was being developed concurrently. Please stay tuned!
– Thank you very much!
Thursday Aug 20, 2015
It’s time to take on the doomsday robot Golden Silver and save the world as Gunstar Red and Gunstar Blue in 3D Gunstar Heroes. Marking the 15th title in the SEGA 3D Classics series, this remastering of the action side-scroller Gunstar Heroes required all the accumulated skills to convert the SEGA Genesis classic into stereoscopic 3D. The results are remarkable, and you can experience the remastered 3D Gunstar Heroes now available as a digital exclusive on the eShop for 3DS for $5.99.
Gunstar Heroes, developed by Treasure had its debut in 1993. Originally passed over for a 3D release on the Nintendo 3DS due to its technical complexity, the programming wizards at M2 (developer of the other SEGA 3D Classics) reached a level of mastery to be able to recreate the game in stereoscopic 3D. Now Nintendo 3DS players will be able to take control of Gunstar Red and Gunstar Blue to thwart Colonel Red’s plans to revive Golden Silver, the doomsday robot, and save the planet from destruction.
In addition to the stereoscopic 3D conversion, the 3D Gunstar Heroes features both the Japanese and International release versions, different emulation options, and local co-op multiplayer. It also includes several brand new gameplay modes. Mega Life mode doubles a player’s life from the start, making them harder to kill. Mega Shot mode, which unlocks after clearing the game once, makes all gun attacks do double damage. Finally, there’s Gunslinger mode, which allows players to switch weapons on the fly. This mode was inspired by the subsequent Treasure project, Alien Soldier, now incorporated into 3D Gunstar Heroes’ Gunslinger mode, it will allow players to discover brand new combinations of weapons.
Tuesday Aug 18, 2015
Virtual pop idol Hatsune Miku is getting ready to debut on the big stage for the Nintendo 3DS, but you can get an early taste of her moves in the free demo now available in the Americas and Europe on the Nintendo eShop! The demo features two full-length tracks to play through: the fan favorite “Senbozakura” and the Project Mirai exclusive track “LOL -lots of laugh-,” featuring Miku and her friends in their adorable Nendoroid figure style! The full version of the game will launch in stores and digitally on the Nintendo eShop on Sept. 8 in the Americas and Sept. 11 in Europe. Don’t forget, in the Americas, pre-orders and a limited edition of launch copies will come with a one-of-a-kind Hatsune Miku wallet chain and 19 double-sided AR cards!
Here’s a QR code for the American version of the demo (European QR code coming soon!):
For more info, please visit the webpage.
EDIT: Customers who installed the demo in Europe and were only able to play once can now re-install the ’30 time’ version. If you are still only able to play once please contact the Nintendo eShop customer service (eShopService AT nintendo.de) who will be able help.
Tuesday Aug 18, 2015
This is a translated version of the article located here.
3D Gunstar Heroes releases August 20 across North America and Europe!
Left, SEGA Producer Yosuke Okunari; Right, M2 President Naoki Horii
The popular “Gunstar Heroes” arrives at last in stereoscopic 3D
We are now on our 15th title in the SEGA 3D Remaster Project. Can you believe how time flies? And with each release, the know-how and ability of our teams to produce the content becomes greater and greater and we are now happy to deliver 3D Gunstar Heroes straight to your Nintendo 3DS!
Dividing backgrounds to 1,500 pieces to convert them to stereoscopic 3D and overcoming challenges with experience accumulated over years of working on the series.
We paid a visit to Mr. Yosuke Okunari (Left) and Mr. Naoki Horii to speak with them about this title!
– First, please tell us the reason why you selected Gunstar Heroes. It’s my understanding that Gunstar Heroes was, at the time of release, a title that combined all the tricks of the trade when it came to the Mega Drive’s capabilities. Were there any instances that you felt remaking this title would be impossible due to the advanced techniques employed?
Yosuke Okunari (Below YO): When we first began work on the SEGA 3D Remaster Project, we decided to go with a few arcade titles and a few Mega Drive titles. We believed that if we are able to perfectly emulate the console itself, similar to how we worked on the Virtual Console, we wouldn’t run into as many architectural problems and thus development would proceed according to schedule. Out of the eight titles during the first batch, five of the games were Mega Drive titles and the other three were from the arcade. The intention was to ensure we could actually develop (the much harder) three arcade titles. You see, we made the overall schedule easier to manage by buffering things with the Mega Drive games. Since arcade games tend to vary from game to game in the way they interact with the hardware, by adding these predictable Mega Drive games in, we could better handle delays caused by unforeseen issues on the arcade games. I mentioned this in a previous interview as well, but the reason why we picked the titles that have previously been ported to PS2 or Wii was also to mitigate any unexpected issues. But even taking that into consideration, just having these Mega Drive games in the lineup really helped lock in the schedule. That’s why we had those five titles originally. Since we successfully released the ports for the arcade titles during the first batch, we had a better idea of what the schedule would be for subsequent titles, and that gave us lee-way to work on titles we’d never touched before for the second batch, like Out Run. And now here we are releasing three new games for the second batch, games we decided to pass on the first time around for reasons other than hardware. These are titles that M2 actually refused to develop at the time.
Naoki Horii (Below NH): We discussed in our previous article about 3D Streets of Rage 2 as to whether or not we would actually be able to get the backgrounds into 3D or now, and one might expect, there were those who said that Gunstar Heroes’ backgrounds wouldn’t be convertible anyway, so it was removed from the list of porting candidates. For example, the background on the 4th stage is not a true isometric projection, but rather it’s just a simple 45 degree angle line going into the screen, and thus is difficult to put into true stereoscopic 3D.
– I was really surprised that the ground already had depth from the beginning of the first stage.
YO: Actually, there were titles during the first batch that had areas that were expressed in a similar manner, but we were able to hide them. For example, the surface of water in Ecco The Dolphin looks like it falls into the screen, but in the first batch, it was difficult to turn that visual into stereoscopic 3D. So we set it up similar to a wall in a fish tank and had dolphins swim in the area between the water surface and the sky graphic. We did not have the skill back then to create stereoscopic 3D that looked like a lid on the surface. It just wasn’t possible at the time.
NH: Yes, it was impossible. If I were to use a famous example, Street Fighter II has its ground tilted inwards in a similar way.
YO: Gunstar Heroes has its backgrounds drawn using perspective one way or another basically throughout the entire game, and if we tried to split it up like we did in Ecco The Dolphin, the 3D would look pretty lame. On the other hand, all of this is of course a lot of work, but a big part of what we are talking about is the fact that creating really compelling stereoscopic 3D is technically challenging to start with.
– The development for the first batch must have been very difficult. But still, you pressed on, learning new techniques and finally came to grasp solutions to these problems. And now, that’s what has finally led to getting the green light on Gunstar Heroes.
NH: Well, there was a lot of other things that happened as well, but one of the first things that happened was one of our programmers just went ahead and turned a particular multi-jointed character from the game into full 3D on his own. He then sent me a screen shot, and I have to say, it was really well done. Another key thing that happened was that we found a solution for the problem with background at the beginning of Stage 4: all we needed to do was divide it into 1,500 small pieces to create a flawless stereoscopic 3D effect. We knew that as long as we could clear that hurdle, we’d be able to build out the whole game. This is a highly anticipated game, and it’s a title that we very much wanted to port it if it was within out power to do so. And with that, we began development.
YO: Also, being able to release the game worldwide was a really big factor. To be honest, the sales for the Mega Drive titles just don’t generate as much hype in Japan, just like back in the days of the Mega Drive. But overseas, they are really quite popular. When we saw the results for the Remaster Project’s first batch, we decided that if we were to continue international releases from the series, we’d need to continue support of Mega Drive titles. So with that as the backdrop, we increased the development budget even more to cover the costs these extra efforts would require. And so, when we look at the workload for this 3D Gunstar Heroes, it was actually equivalent to the amount of work of three Mega Drive titles from the first batch.
NH: When we actually got to it, some were saying that it was even more than three titles worth of work. I thought that dividing the background into 1,500 pieces would end up being the most time consuming thing, but it turns out that there was a spot that we had to divide the scene up even further, to 2,000 parts. It was an unspeakable amount of work that, something that would take a single programmer nearly 14 months to do.
One of the nostalgic little touches we’ve come to expect. The screen mode toggle is also in the game.
– It seems like it took a lot of effort. And from more than a year ago? But you were already thinking of bringing it to market and that was all part of the plan, right?
YO: Nope. It wasn’t.
– Wait, it wasn’t!? Are you saying that there was a possibility that all this work would be for nothing?
YO: Yes, that would have been the case. I actually didn’t know that M2 was working Gunstar Heroes in the first place. Remember, this project was supposed be done when we finished up the second batch of Japan-targeted titles with Thunder Blade.
When the second batch started, we didn’t know if we’d be able to release the games overseas. However, right when everything was wrapping up, talks began about releasing this second batch internationally.
Back when we were getting this second batch off the ground, we selected titles that would resonate well specifically with the Japanese audience, and we concluded that Mega Drive games wouldn’t be feasible when you considered our budgets and sales figures. We also knew at the time that unless the sales from After Burner II through to Thunder Blade were exceptional domestically, Thunder Blade would be the last title for the project. My one hope was that if the first batch, which was released a year after the fact overseas, really resonated in the markets, we might be able to work on a second batch of Mega Drive titles as well, and M2 was also of the same understanding.
NH: On one side, we were told that we might be able to make more, and other side, we were already making one. We really thought it’d be nice to continue with the Mega Drive titles, but that’s just how development works.
YO: If you read the 3D Streets of Rage interview or the 3D Shinobi III interview, you might be aware of this, but Horii-san has always maintained that the “Giga Drive is amazing”, but that wasn’t only to our readers. That was a bit of an appeal to me that he wanted to continue to release Mega Drive-based titles.
NH: Oh, right, right! I guess I can say it now, but… well, I guess you all know.
YO: At the time, we were putting together the lineup for the second batch, and Horii-san was beating around the bush saying that he wanted some Mega Drive titles in the mix as well.
NH: That’s right. We’d come this far, after all.
– Some things never change. It’s that simple thought of “We want to make this!” is what gets things started. Though since you’re developing things from within the context of a company, there’s always the issue of what you can and cannot release.
YO: Well putting it that way, we were able to continue the development after seeing how things panned out in North America and Europe. It all went according to Horii-san’s plan.
NH: I am very grateful for that!
It’s a really tough job to get Mega Drive games to run on the 3DS! It would normally be impossible!
These guys gave me the in on behind-the-scenes stories as I was playing 3D Gunstar Heroes.
– So, back to the topic of Gunstar Heroes. Am I correct in that there was a great deal of a demand for the title?
YO: Gunstar Heroes has been ported to a variety of game systems to date. The number of times this game has been ported is testament to its popularity, and as far as priorities go, this game was on the top of the list and would have been in the first batch.
NH: Oh yes, absolutely.
YO: It’s just the process of converting a game into stereoscopic 3D is a step above normal porting. Originally, this project stemmed from wanting to make a Mega Drive Virtual Console, but these days just a straight port doesn’t really capture the attention of the 3DS audience. I mean, it’s been a rough time for the Game Gear Virtual Console games [on 3DS], you know. And so Gunstar Heroes was regrettable not chosen for a 3D conversion in the first batch.
– Conversely, because you were able to resolve the technological problems now later on, from the user’s perspective, it means that you were able to deliver a more polished product in the end, right?
NH: You are absolutely correct in saying that the level of polish has gone up. We knew that Gunstar Heroes would look incredible in stereoscopic 3D, but if we ported it during the first batch, I don’t think it would have looked as good as we had envisioned. We were able to make this happen because we brought to bear our technical tricks-of-the-trade learned from titles like previously mentioned Ecco the Dolphin and expanded the abilities of this hardware architecture we call the Giga Drive. We used these techniques for the first time during 3D Shinobi III’s development, the last Mega Drive title in batch one, so if we ported Gunstar Heroes back then, it probably wouldn’t have worked out very well.
YO: We went back and re-ported Space Harrier again for the SEGA 3D Fukkoku Archives* using these now well-aged techniques and you can really tell the difference when you compare games ported early and ones ported later. It’s not common that a consumer gets to experience a situation such as this, so overall, we’re glad that we’re porting this title on the third year of the series.
* SEGA 3D Fukkoku Archives is a Japan-only packaged title that features a collection of previously released SEGA 3D Classics, as well as conversions of the Master System games Space Harrier 3D and Out Run 3D. It also featured an improved version of 3D Space Harrier with more layers of depth.
To be honest, we did try something with Gunstar Heroes on the 3DS about three years ago, where we just had the character floating on top of a flat background, but it wasn’t something at a level you would show people. After that, even when we were picking titles to be included in the series, M2’s opinion was that Gunstar Heroes would have a very hard time meeting the schedule or budget.
NH: I really did believe it was impossible.
YO: What I’m saying is that I think you made the right call at the end of the day.
Of course, you can toggle between the Japanese and International versions of the game.
Some pretty hardcore sound settings.
– So you’re saying that there’s no problem porting the game, but converting the game into stereoscopic 3D is the problem. On top of the backgrounds you mentioned, were the multi-sprite characters also an issue?
YO: In the end it wasn’t a problem, but you shouldn’t forget that getting Mega Drive to run on the 3DS was already hard work. It normally wouldn’t be possible. You can’t just take a Mega Drive emulator for 3DS and simply toss ROM images on it and get them running.
Things just don’t run as easy on 3DS the way they do on Wii, so we figured if we were going to put all the work into getting them to run in the first place, we might bring something new to the table to drive the project forward. That’s how the SEGA 3D Remaster Project began.
NH: So, maybe around 40 frames per second?
YO: The current Gunstar Heroes runs as it does because of the various optimization-like skills and techniques we’ve picked up.
NH: Yes. Things like have a huge impact. If there are places where that kind of work can be done, it’s a huge deal for development.
YO: I mean, when someone asks me whether or not porting is simple, my immediate reaction is “It’s not simple at all!”
NH: Right. It’s not just a question of if it will run on 3DS, but if it’s something we can actually make a product out of.
– It sounds like it’s hard to make code run in a different machine.
NH: Having it run exactly how the original behaved is a very difficult part of the process.
– By the way, how exactly do you divide up the background into 2,000 pieces or 1,500 pieces?
NH: It’s very hard to explain, but in the backgrounds, there are backgrounds that are closer to the screen and backgrounds that are deeper inside the screen. The way we’ve done things up to now is applying 3D to both the foreground and the background. By dividing these backgrounds into very small pieces and setting how deep they will be placed, things become 3D. For each level of depth, we’ve split them up into 8×8 pixel parts, and used that to create the 3D effect.
I’m going to geek out on you for a second, but it’s all about what extensions and additional features were added to the underlying Mega Drive emulator.
YO: Is it something like the “Giga Drive Super GFX”?
NH: Not Super GFX, but I guess it’s more like Revision 2? It’s just the fact that we want to add 3D, but there’s only 64 KB there!
NH: Yes, that’s it. A real Mega Drive cannot access that space beyond the VRAM 64KB, but the TeraDrive* actually has RAM up there, so we just use it as we want. There are a few instances where that memory has been used before [in the history of the platform], but we’re using the excess RAM as a framebuffer for 3D processing.
And so, all this function is doing is sending out images that have been picked up from the original backgrounds and broken into squares. It doesn’t flip images, rotate them, or swap palettes; they are simply for making the stereoscopic 3D look more elegant.
* TeraDrive – A Japan-only DOS-based Mega Drive PC built by IBM that could play Mega Drive games. It was released in 1991.
YO: Originally, the Mega Drive could only handle scrolling two or three layers. The background where the player is moving within was one layer, then another as a static background, and from time to time there’s yet another foreground layer. We then take those multiple layers and repackage them into a stereoscopic 3D experience.
NH: And the hardest part, as I said earlier, was the background in the 4th stage with the angled perspective. It doesn’t converge on a point. The whole thing is diagonal, which makes the 3D conversion process very difficult. We really were at a loss on how to approach this, but I’ve mentioned, we were able to generate the 3D background by splicing everything up.
YO: Was this the same technique that was used for 3D Streets of Rage 2 as well, with its diagonal scrolling sections?
NH: It’s slightly different. Streets of Rage 2’s floors were level, but Gunstar Heroes’ floor was angled too, so we had no choice but to slice up the backgrounds.
– But you said earlier that you render the normal graphics then render them into stereoscopic 3D, which means that it takes twice, or three times the amount of processing, right? I’m surprised you got that running on 3DS.
NH: When you’re in there developing on it, you can really see that Nintendo is giving great consideration to things like power consumption while wringing out every bit of juice they can when they build these things. But the more we work on 3DS, it seems like there’s always room to get a little more out of the hardware. It’s really impressive. We constantly found ourselves saying, “Is this really going to work?” And well, it would!
– But Gunstar Heroes is a compilation of what you’ve learned to this point, right? Everything you’ve learned from developing other titles is in this one game.
NH: Yes. It’s the fruit of all of our knowledge, and our programmers put their soul into it.
YO: Truly. To use a rather mundane example, I would say that 3D Shinobi III and 3D Streets of Rage were Kaio-ken, this project is M2 finally going Super Saiyan.
NH: If we had set this as a goal from the very beginning, I don’t know if we would have made it. But Okunari-san kept coming back saying, “Come on, let’s just get to the next lamppost,” and eventually, we ended up running a full marathon together.
– I suppose that’s what having a passion for game development is?
NH: Of course we’re developing games because that’s what we love to do, and because we’re all like-minded individuals, no matter what comes up, there’s always an idea about how to resolve any problems we run into.
YO: I mean, it’s been four years since we kicked off development on 3D Space Harrier, the first game, after all.
Part 2 of the interview will be coming soon!
Monday Aug 17, 2015
With a pretty amazing response to our initial pairing in the Sonic Showdown, we’ve moved on now to the second and third match-ups! First, ending soon, be sure to vote on your favorite between Silver the Hedgehog and Cream the Rabbit:
And in today’s new match, which has just gone live, we’ll ask you to choose between two other fan favorites: Big the Cat and the Chao!
I’ll be honest: I’m torn on this one. I spent so many hours raising Chao in SA1 and SA2… and then you have Big the Cat, the epitome of character depth, growth, and valiance in a Sonic game.
I saw a few few of you in the comments on the first blog asking: “Why are the Chao on there? Is it strange to rep an entire species?” — to which the response is: If you like the Chao Gardens, or really liked the Chao in general, then vote for them! Or if you happened to like a certain purple feline and his quest to save his frog pal more, please vote for him!
Oh, and I did notice all the fan love for characters like Fang, Wave, Gamma, and others – don’t think they’ve been forgotten or ignored. Thanks for posting your support of them in the comments on the original bracket!
Good luck to our latest competitors, and thanks all for helping determine who our winners will be!
Wednesday Aug 12, 2015
Why hello there, internet!
If there’s one thing we know you all like here on the internet, it’s clickbait and kitten pictures. Sadly, we’re fresh out of the first one, BUT I’m excited to announce that we do have something of slightly more substance for you, instead. Announcing…
The Sonic Showdown Tournament!
In this social experime– er, Fan Tournament, we’ll be asking all of you to vote for your favorite characters in a Tournament Style bracket, helping us to determine which characters (besides Sonic) that you love the most!
Will Tails the Fox cement his place as Player 2? Will Knuckles & Knuckles & Knuckles chuckle his way to victory? We even put Chao on the list, though they’ll have some Big competition in the first round!
Starting today, the first match is live:
Round 1: Tails VS. Jet!
Friday Aug 07, 2015
Back in April, Gio Corsi @ PlayStation visited the SEGA office in Tokyo to interview two of the developers behind the legendary Yakuza series, General Director Toshihiro Nagoshi and Producer Masayoshi Yokoyama.
In the second of three interview videos, Gio goes deeper into the details of Yakuza 5 with two of the developers from the legendary series. Mr. Nagoshi and Mr. Yokoyama discuss more of the themes in the game, the inspiration behind character designs, hostess clubs and more. Watch the video now to find out the answers to the questions fans sent to #Yakuza5PS!
Missed the first interview video? Read about it here!
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