Tuesday Oct 06, 2015
3D Sonic the Hedgehog 2 comes out on the Nintendo eShop for the 3DS this Thursday!
This is a translation of an edited version of the article located here:
We are back with the final game in the second batch of the SEGA 3D Classics series, and the finale for the SEGA 3D Remaster Project. Sonic The Hedgehog 2 was originally created by none other than Yuji Naka for the SEGA Mega Drive back in 1992. Major enhancements such as the helical loops brought both new graphics and an edge to the gameplay, resulting in a huge hit. Aside from the new stereoscopic 3D, 3D Sonic The Hedgehog 2 packs in Ring Keeper Mode and Stage Select, allowing players to take a more relaxed and enjoying approach the original game. We once again have brought the last and final (?!) special interview with SEGA Games Producer, Yosuke Okunari, and M2 President, Naoki Horii, to speak about the game and close out the series for us.
Is Overwhelming Manpower Enough? Not Only Are There A Ton Of Stages, But They’re Huge!
– It seems like the base porting was a hassle in itself, but what would you say was the most difficult aspect with 3D Sonic The Hedgehog 2? Was this an overall difficult port?
Yosuke Okunari (below YO): As I mentioned in the previous interviews, Streets of Rage 2, Gunstar Heroes, and Sonic 2 were all Mega Drive titles that we wanted to include for Batch 1, but we held off on them because M2 considered them to be technically challenging at the time.
Commemorating the 16th title of SEGA 3D Classics project is Sonic The Hedgehog 2.
Out of the three titles, Sonic 2 looked as if it would have the most technical issues during development, so we’ve decided to have it as the bookend of the series. If you just casually think about it, you might make the mistake that converting Sonic 2 would a simple task, considering Sonic The Hedgehog has already been worked on. However, there were several new hurdles we had to overcome for Sonic 2.
First off, there is a monumental increase in volume. There’s not much of a difference based on the number of stages, but there are nearly double the amount in terms of zone variety. Sonic 1 consisted of six zones, with three acts per zone, totaling to about nineteen levels plus special stages. Sonic 2 consists of eleven zones, with two acts up to Zone 7 and only Zone 8 having three acts. There are also Sky Chase, Wing Fortress, and Death Egg, which all totals up to twenty stages. On top of all of that, we needed to turn the special stage into 3D, so there were lots of hurdles to overcome.
– So considering the amount that needed to be addressed, you guys were in a tough spot.
YO: Well, it’s not like we actually measured them out, but I’m sure the lengths of each stage in Sonic 2 are much longer than those of Sonic 1, so that adds more to our workload. However, if volume was the only issue, we could’ve solved things as long as we had time, like Gunstar Heroes. In this case though, we had two more issues.
The Special Stages… This is where Sonic runs through this half-pipe tube. As much we wanted to make it happen, we were skeptical whether we can turn the graphics for this into stereoscopic 3D.
– Sounds like the most easy to envision, yet complicated issue.
YO: Lastly, the Versus Mode. Not many may remember, this game used to have a Versus Mode, where the screen gets split into two with a top half and bottom half. This system is what we could call a display of Naka-san’s true prowess, as it was elaborately designed and utilized interlacing. We were unsure how to replicate this on the Nintendo 3DS. Plus, the 3DS has a liquid crystal display, which doesn’t use interlacing at all.
Around four years ago when these series were originally established, we had agreed that overcoming these hurdles was “impossible,” and thus only converted Sonic 1. However, after three years of accumulated techniques, M2 was able to take on the challenges of converting Sonic 2.
– Regarding the first issue, so you’re saying that despite the larger volume, the past strategies would’ve sufficed if it were for the normal stages only.
Naoki Horii (NH below): Yes, to a certain extent. However, the maps are bigger in all four directions compared to Sonic 1, so the resources needing work are an order of magnitude larger.
YO: Not only the map sizes, but the stage gimmicks had some enhancements in the Sonic 2 as well. For example, while Sonic 1 incorporated the loop-the-loops where Sonic runs up and flips 360 degrees, Sonic 2 includes spiral paths and other elaborate actions. Turning those into 3D is another hurdle to jump.
– The majority of Sonic 1 was a one-way progression, but Sonic 2 had players going all over the place. Was that another feature that made it difficult to convert? Considering the conversion for Gunstar Heroes took roughly one and a half years, would you say the same time would be needed for this title?
NH: Before we even got to batch two’s Mega Drive games, Okunari-san had stated that he wanted to see these titles in the line-up if it ever happened, so they’ve been on our radar for a while. However, we didn’t officially start the development until we finalized the plan.
YO: They needed to research in order to overcome the technical hurdles of Sonic 2.
– So the development process kicked off once your conversion techniques seemed sufficient enough to fix the second and third issues? However, the sheer volume of it all was still a challenge.
YO: With Streets of Rage 2, we weren’t sure if we could render it at 60 frames a second, and if we could apply stereoscopic 3D to scenes that had an angled view. However, the work on Gunstar Heroes and Sonic 2 was predicated upon the work on Streets of Rage 2. A spring board if you will. So whatever issues we had with Streets of Rage 2 weren’t anything major for Sonic 2. Therefore, it was assumed that we could achieve at least 60 FPS for co-op play and find ways to convert all the visual tricks into proper 3D.
With Gunstar Heroes, with time we managed to solve all of the issues that arose in Streets of Rage 2 one way or another. The scroll speed for Gunstar Heroes isn’t too fast, and the maps are pretty standard sizes. Although we needed to implement the ins-and-outs of each bosses, we were able to get through all of it thanks to M2.
With Sonic 2, however, the map sizes are huge compared to the two, and consisted of many parts where we questioned the 3D stereoscopic compatibility, so the difficulty was on another level. The development scale for Sonic 2 was by far the largest in the series.
– In other words, you’re saying the man-hour cost was monumental.
NH: We had assumed that as a rough estimate, we would only need three people; a programmer converting the entire game, a programmer dealing with the special stages, and another one developing the Versus Mode. As a result, our budget shot up as well.
– Up until now, was one programmer in charge developing one title?
NH: There’d be one main guy, sometimes with a few assistants, but never an instance where everyone puts in equal amount of work into a title. For Sonic 2’s case, we completely separated the production process of the main game and special stage.
– So everyone specialized at what they did.
The Special Stage: Pre-rendered Image Copied With The Naked Eye!?
Okunari-san’s overseas version teaser poster. We had them take the same pose as in the poster.
– I understand that the normal stages were a challenge in terms of volume, but I assume the special stages were a challenge development wise.
YO: The deciding factor for starting this project depended on whether or not it was even possible to convert these special stages. We were still in the development stage of SEGA 3D Fukkoku Archives when we wanted to start this project. We knew it would be hard, but we really wanted to make it work, so we kept bouncing technical ideas off each other to find the most feasible method.
While discussing with M2, one method we both agreed that we didn’t want to employ was the way the mobile version of Sonic 2 does it. That version doesn’t use emulation and is a totally different approach than we use. That version actually uses polygons to render out the Special Stages and it would have turned out to be a completely different product.
If we were talking about an HD version and making a totally different game, then it would’ve been acceptable, but this project was anchored around this “Remastering” concept. It needed to be authentic. We wanted it so if we turn off the 3D stereoscopic switch, it would look exactly the same as seen on a Mega Drive screen. We could have taken the way the mobile version of Sonic 2 does it and converted that, but we requested M2 to find another way.
– And despite that, you had prospects of success.
NH: To tell you the truth, not really. We simply had two methods, and would’ve been happy if one of them worked out.
First method was similar to what we did for the Fukkoku Archives version of Space Harrier, where we would cut up the bonus stage, stack five to seven layers together, and add depth, and hope it would turn out alright. After giving it a try, it somewhat looked how it should, but was still lacking something. At that point, we contemplated whether we want to continue with this method or not, and ended up going with the second method.
Applying 3D stereoscopic to this already looks complicated, but here you see a time-consuming method where they take pre-rendered graphics, adjust each segment, and apply Z depth.
NH: Sonic 2’s Special Stages were actually created out of pre-rendered polygons, and then video of that was compressed and halved both vertically and horizontally, then dropped into the game cartridge. We took that pre-rendered video, reverted it back to its original polygon state, remade our own version of it, then when back and assigned depth on a pixel-by-pixel basis. Therefore, we had to analyze and pull out the data needed to create the bonus stage for Sonic 2. Although these are pre-rendered images, SEGA’s development team would fix some of them up to enhance the looks. However, those sections would look unnatural with the polygons we created, so then we had to tweak the polygon render and create a course that matched the original images, and that’s how we got it running without issue on 3DS.
I can say this only because I didn’t work on it, but if the one in charge of it was here right now, I’m sure there’d be many comments like, “I wonder why we even thought of doing that method?” or, “How could you give me such an annoying task!”
– Was it the programmer in charge of the special stage who suggested this idea?
NH: No, it was suggested by someone else, who said it would be the best way to make it look clean. The one in charge started on it saying he’s got the time, so he continued to adjust it from beginning to end. Since his seat was right near the entrance of our company, we’d see the same course from Sonic 2 on the display as we got to work. It may have seemed like there was no work being done, but he was going against an enormous amount of data.
– Must’ve been really tough for the guy.
NH: As for graphics, we based everything on the Mega Drive while programming in the Z axis. Movements such as collision detection are same as the original game, since the polygon graphics we recreated only functions to attach the 3D information onto the original images.
YO: Therefore, it’s very unlikely for the difficulty level to increase for playing the Special Stage.
– So on the program side of things, it’s the same.
– So you guys created built our some polygon images, rendered out those images to create a graphics, just to create the same visuals as the original?
NH: Yes, we were able to create a 3D version of the Special Stage by sort of eyeing the original images and creating polygon equivalents.
– Props to you guys for doing such a thing!
YO: Thanks to our efforts, we were able to bring out the true 3D effect to life, as you can see.
Another Obstacle: Versus Mode = Lost Hope
This pair comes up with the craziest solutions. This release is another example of their success.
With Gunstar Heroes and Streets of Rage 2 scheduled to release in the summer, we couldn’t allow only Sonic 2 to be released in the winter, so we agreed to drop the Versus Mode.
However, not too long after the project started, M2 told us, “It seems doable, so can we try and include it,” to which I responded, “Of course, as long as you can stay within schedule. We leave this matter to you.”
NH: I knew they wouldn’t say no to efforts enhancing the game.
– On the other hand, was it something you really though was technically possible, even when you were told that you didn’t have to go that far?
NH: I knew that it would’ve been possible from a technical standpoint, but I feared I wouldn’t be able to finish it on time. Therefore, knowing that I didn’t have to do it sort of took the pressure off the team. If we absolutely had to make it, it would’ve been a challenge and stressful to complete.
Another reason is that we didn’t want to not include it at this point in the SEGA 3D Remaster Project. Considering Sonic 2 was the last of the project, I really wanted to include all elements of the game.
Since Versus mode will require double the information, even a non-techie can see how hard it might be to apply 3D stereoscopic. The two screens are blended as they’re displayed.
YO: I was told by M2 that the Versus Mode was unique in from a technical point of view. I wasn’t a part of SEGA back when Sonic 2 was released, and I remember how clear the resolution was when I played the game at home. I was in total disbelief that something this amazing could be done on the Mega Drive.
Since that was the case, I was not surprised to hear that replicating the Versus Mode onto the 3DS was going to be complicated. Plus, while it was essential for Streets of Rage 2 and Gunstar Heroes to be multiplayer games, Sonic 2 was mainly a single player game, so I felt it was more acceptable if we couldn’t do the Versus Mode.
NH: I told a few of my ideas to Okunari-san. The Versus Mode is displayed by having two compressed screens for the top and bottom, but we figured it would be easier to display 1P and 2P separately. In the end, we decided to leave the two compressed screens as is, because players won’t be able to strategize without seeing the opponent. In terms of programming for Sonic 2, we struggled to lower the load for two screens.
– I can see how that’s an issue. It’s displaying double the usual load, after all.
-Were you guys able to solve the issue by simply finding savings elsewhere?
NH: Hmm. Actually I wonder how they pulled it off myself (laughs).
YO: Some of the zones had been cut out from the Versus Mode most likely to accommodate two player, hence the limited zone selection.
NH: I’d have to agree on that.
YO: Our main concerns then were along the lines of, “Does our Mega Drive emulator, the Giga Drive, have enough capacity to handle it?” or, “Perhaps it’ll end up looking like it’s running at 30 FPS?” It’s crazy how Sonic 2’s two-player mode runs at 60 FPS, considering we thought 60 FPS would be impossible for Streets of Rage 2.
NH: Although they’re two compressed screens, there’s no difference in line counts, since interlacing still requires you to draw the screen once per frame. We redraw 224 lines, which becomes 1 frame of 448 lines, but and this doesn’t change for 3DS. For the actual 3DS graphics, all we do is compress the vertical aspect, and blend together the front and back images. We only change up how we render for two player.
YO: Sonic 2 includes some amazing techniques that hadn’t been implemented in earlier Mega Drive titles. Since it’s a later gen Mega Drive title, it didn’t has as much of a wow factor, but thanks to M2 analysis, we were able to shed light on the excellent features that this game has to offer.
NH: We discovered a lot about them while dissecting it…
YO: Even as an emulator, the Giga Drive doesn’t have all the same capabilities and features that the Mega Drive had, so when you have to use parts we usually don’t and speed them up, well, converting a game that uses everything of the Mega Drive is the most difficult.
Various gimmicks can be found in Sonic 2. Enhancing the different functions seemed to be a high technical hurdle to overcome.
YO: For example, Sonic 2 uses the Mega Drive’s transparency feature. Oh and how they display water.
NH: I agree. Sonic 2 includes numerous stages where the water level rises up and down and uses some kind of Z-version parallax scrolling where the colors change whenever the raster switches. We didn’t really look into it, but I believe Sonic 2 is able to use 61 different colors for the water level change. The Mega Drive as a whole has 64 colors, and it changes colors with every increase and decrease. You can really see they put a lot of effort into making this, like hiding the noise that occurs during color changes by displaying many sprites. But no one has to worry about this kind thing these days.
YO: Yeah, but you don’t need those sorts of skills anymore, either. It’s a lost art. Since this project focused heavily on replicating the Mega Drive experience, our biggest bottleneck was to match every little details like they were in the original game because we won’t let ourselves do things that the original Mega Drive wouldn’t do. If this was a simple remake, the Special Stage could’ve been reproduced with actual polygons instead of pre-rendering, and we could have probably had a high framerate that would have been more or less like the original.
-This is all because the concept of this project is about ‘remastering’, correct?
NH: Back then, there were many who would develop these kinds of technical improvements, but the general focus has shifted. Things change completely based on differences between using a frame buffer or a line buffer. And if I can say it this way, some people just had a knack for it.
– So you can say Sonic 2 is a compilation of all these advancements.
YO: We were able to make Sonic 2 happen BECAUSE it was the 16th title in the lineup.
New Ring Keeper Mode – Only Lose Half Your Rings!
-Now I’d like to ask about the new additional content added into Sonic 2.
YO: So as you know we always try to include two new additional things that weren’t in the original, but this time one of those is the Stage Select being a normally accessible feature. This is just to lower the hurdle for getting at the stages later in the game for those who have played the game before.
Stage Select is right there, ready to go. Players can start from later stages.
And the main focal point is the Ring Keeper Mode. I feel like there were many people who couldn’t clear Sonic 2 back then. The last boss battles against Mecha Sonic and Eggman Robot were so difficult, that even I, as a heavy gamer back then, lost to them countless times. Thus, instead of recreating an unbeatable game, we wanted to offer a more fun, casual game play, which was possible through Ring Keeper mode.
Although Sonic loses all his rings upon receiving damage, the fact that he only needs one ring to survive is what keeps Sonic games from getting too hard. We lowered that hurdle even more by introducing Ring Keeper mode, which cuts down the ring drop down to only half. So for example, if you had 50 rings, normally you’d lose them all, but now you only drop 25 of them.
Sonic’s rings get scattered upon receiving damage, but Ring Keeper mode cuts down that effect to half. Essentially, players are safe until they’re down to just one ring.
– So they’re safe until they’re down to one ring.
YO: That’s correct. It’ll keep cutting down to half, until players reach one ring and it drops to zero. You tend to pick up more rings as you progress, so the difficulty is much lower. Another important thing to note is that Sonic will have ten rings when the game starts, so going against a boss shouldn’t be too bad even if you have to get hit a couple of times.
– You’re right. It was pretty difficult when restarting right before boss battles.
YO: Therefore, I feel like those who couldn’t reach the end of the game should be able to make it all the way by using Ring Keeper mode.
– Would you say you can beat Sonic 2 and help on the 3DS?
YO: Impossible! I was never that good anyway. (laughs). That’s not going happen on Normal mode.
– Well the point of SEGA 3D Classics is also to let those people who never experienced and beat the game originally to come back and experience it anew.
YO: Indeed. One of our focuses is to have people never got to beat the game before to beat it this time. The controllers are a bit different, so the gameplay isn’t exactly the same, but people should be able to gradually progress by saving frequently.
– Any lasts words to people looking to play 3D Sonic 2?
YO: I’d say Sonic 2 was the most popular game sold worldwide on the Mega Drive, so it’s a chance for people to play the Mega Drive game that had the biggest worldwide impact, on the 3DS. I personally think Sonic 2 is THE Mega Drive game. An “I am Mega Drive, hear me roar!” sort of thing. I’m happy we could end the SEGA 3D Remaster Project with this one, as the 16th title of the project (this is because the Mega Drive focused heavily on “16-BIT”). The three titles we brought back this time are what we believe are most memorable when you look back at the Mega Drive hardware, so we hope that you enjoy what we have to offer.
NH: I agree with him that having Sonic 2 as our 16th title is significant. Sonic 2 has various stage pieces that the stereoscopic 3D enhances visually, so please enjoy.
Also, it would be great if you could even slightly appreciate the staff who worked on the Special Stage as you play this. I’m more than positive there will be no more instances where someone copies a pre-rendering by eye!
YO: You’ll be able to see the stereoscopic 3D trailer on the Nintendo eShop, so please feel free to check it out if you’re interested after watching this interview.
One Can Only Wish… AC Version Virtual Racing Conversion
Thanks to all staff for working hard. It’d be nice if the arcade version of Virtual Racing can be brought back too though…
YO: I’m sure many from my generation will consider the 1980’s as the era of video games, with numerous SEGA games released for arcades and Mega Drives. This project was the perfect chance for us to convert the games from that era, one by one putting our full effort behind it, so I’m very thankful for the experience and it will honestly be a happy memory I take forward with me for a long time.
The line-up consisted of the top titles in terms of popularity… I was a bit skeptical if Thunder Blade really belonged in the top 16, but I’m happy that we got to re-release all of those titles in the 2010s, and I hope they go on to be one of the most beloved series on the 3DS.
NH: I’ve been involved on projects where we bring back really old games for people to play again for quite some time, but these classics for the 3DS have been the easiest to work on because you really get to wow the players with the 3D on these. I usually have a difficult time coming up with ideas so people would want to replay these old games, but the stereoscopic 3D aspect of 3DS was impactful enough to get the crowd going. I’m deeply moved by the fact that my 3DS has become, you could say, a SEGA Console in its own way. I mean, it’s got Thunder Blade running on it! It’s a SEGA Console!
– Is there a title you wish you could have converted?
YO: That would have to be the arcade version of Virtual Racing for me. It hasn’t ever been faithfully ported. There’re four ports to date: Mega Drive, 32X, SEGA Saturn, and Playstation, but none of them stayed true to the original.
The Mega Drive and 32X versions were amazing at the time, but I wish more attention went to Virtual Racing rather than Virtual Fighter. I wasn’t too impressed with Winning Run (racing game developed by Namco at the time), which was released earlier, but Virtual Racing really caught my attention. The 30 FPS framerate gave it a smoother effect compared to other games like Hard Driving and Winning Run.
There was also a Grand Prix mode, where people could play 15 rounds for 200 yen when popularity started to die. I remember having so much fun playing with three other people and figuring out when to replace the worn out tires at the pits. I do feel that I want to re-experience that some day. Many have told me that there’s no reason to bring it back when there’s so many amazing racing games out there, but I’ve got a lot of great memories associated with that game, so I’d love to bring it back if I had the chance.
NH: I got to say, I agree. I’d say Virtual Racing since I like to work on those primitive era games.
– Despite this maybe being the end of the SEGA 3D Remaster Project, I really hope you can make those happen.
YO: Seriously! But I wonder how many of these “final episode” interviews we’ve had regarding this project. Back during Batch 1’s 3D Streets of Rage episode, I was the one who suggested to put “Farewell!” as the title! I thought that was going to be be the end of the interviews.
NH: I was very surprised that time when I heard we’re continuing this project.
YO: The title we really thought was the end of the series is 3D Thunder Blade, and these interview were supposed to end there as well. But then, we decided to release a packaged version of it, so we embarrassingly came back for bonus interview. That’s when we announced it to be our last, once again, yet continued the series until now.
I’ve been porting older games with M2 for ten years now. The reason we were able to bring such quality classics back is M2’s continued loyalty to SEGA. What started only as a standard conversion, has lead us to go above and beyond, such as adding “HAYA OH” as 3D Space Harrier’s final boss or adding extra modes. This is all thanks to our loyal customers and their constant support as well. I feel blessed to have such amazing customers.
-Thank you very much.
Okunari-san’s unopened Sonic The Hedgehog 2 package. Why the overseas version…? Regardless, oh, the nostalgia!
Friday Sep 25, 2015
Alright, it’s finally time to get back to the Sonic Showdown!
Thanks again for waiting so patiently as we got here – things have been amazingly busy here at SEGA the last couple weeks, but it’s all for good things to come in the future. I’m excited to show you what we’re up to someday, but for now, secrecy (and a slight desire to remain employed until certain things are accomplished) mandate that my lips are sealed. All in time.
So, as we move into the last two matches of the first rounds, we’ve a couple big hitters arriving to mix things up!
First, brace yourself for the edge (ow) as the world’s darkest hedgehog looks to find that darn fourth Chaos Emerald within the world of Sonic Boom – off of boomerang-wielding, conspiracy-theorist jungle badger, no less! It’s Shadow VS. Sticks in today’s first match-up!
Next, the world’s Echidna with the fewest chuckles faces off against a member of his own original team – the silent and skilled ninja Espio, of the Chaotix! Will Knuckles (& Knuckles) take the victory, or will Espio prove his worth?
Please note that I’m updating the timer on this poll, so the polls will end automatically in just under one week, even if the numbers are close! Be sure to vote now and spread the word, and may the best characters win!
Once this round is done, next week we move on to the quarterfinals! Good luck to all of our competitors in the last two initial rounds – let us know who you’re voting for in the comments below!
Monday Sep 14, 2015
Alright, classy people – today we’ve got some news for you. Some of you might initially see it as a negative, but I’m here to tell you why it’s a good thing.
The team at SEGA has decided to delay the release date of Sonic Boom: Fire & Ice, which we announced for Nintendo 3DS earlier this year. In order to make sure the game has the time and polish needed, we’re moving it out into 2016. No exact window from us, just yet – it’ll be ready when it’s ready!
In the grand scheme of things, while the downside is that you won’t be playing the game this year, the upside is that what you’ll play next year, and what fans will continue to play for years after they pick up the game, will be a stronger, more enjoyable experience.
We think that’s important, not just for this one game, but for all future Sonic titles.
Questions? Comments? Favorite desserts? We welcome them all in the comments, and we’ll have more news on Sonic Boom: Fire & Ice as we move towards next year!
Friday Sep 11, 2015
Sorry, I know it’s been a while since the last posting! Life here at SEGA is picking up pace and we’re getting super busy with plans for the future. While a lot of that will be cool stuff to share with you all someday, it also means that I’ve had a little less time to post here. Thanks for your patience, and if any of you are near the Los Angeles area and might be interested in an internship at SEGA on the Community front, stay tuned… (I’m hoping!)
So, the last two match-ups were absolutely insane. Rouge and Vector bounced back and forth, trading the lead, but in the end, Vector came out on top, scoring a point for the Chaotix, and moving on to the next round.
Meanwhile, Metal Sonic and Blaze had our closest match yet, with over 37,000 votes flooding in, and they split opinions in the fanbase to an almost perfect 50% per side!
So, let’s get into the nitty gritty on the Metal Sonic VS. Blaze match. Here’s a quick snapshot from the statistics page with exact votes:
As you can see, it was Blaze who ultimately won the fight, edging over Metal Sonic by only roughly 300 votes. Talk about a close match!
Starting next week, we’ll have the two newest match-ups available here to vote on: Sticks VS. Shadow, and Knuckles VS. Espio!
In the meantime, I’ve been reading a lot of your comments across the blogs and various forums, and wanted to add a few notes about the Showdown and what it means for the future:
– Though the Sonic Showdown is primarily for fun, it’s also a great insight into which side characters are most popular among the fanbase.
Hopefully this answers a few questions, but as always, let me know here if you’ve got anything else you’d like to find out about, and if I can answer, I will!
Have an awesome weekend everyone, a big shout-out to all the voters who made the Metal VS Blaze match so close, and we’ll see you next week as we wrap up the last two rounds of the first pairings, and move onto Semi-finals!
Friday Sep 04, 2015
Hey everyone! Welcome back for another closer look at Hatsune Miku: Project Mirai DX for Nintendo 3DS. Since 2007, Hatsune Miku’s content creators have released hundreds of thousands of songs, videos, and artworks. With Project Mirai DX, you can join in the community by creating your own Dances and Tunes!
Start off by heading over to the Dance Studio, an easy-to-use custom dance creator where you can have the characters dance to any song in the game. Dances are created by slotting Dance Cards into open boxes along the film ribbon. You have a choice of Basic Dance Moves, Kool Moves to add a little flare, Cute Moves to melt your audience’s hearts, Active Moves to keep the energy up, P. Video Moves unique to their specific songs, and Finish Moves when you need to strike a pose at just the right time.
The Dance Studio features two Modes: Simple and Advanced. In Simple Mode, you can drop in your Dance Cards as you listen to the music using the +Control Pad and the A/B/X/Y buttons. So easy!
In Advanced Mode, you can make finer touches to your dances created in Simple Mode or start a new song from scratch. Navigate to any block in the song and set your desired Dance Card for that section. It takes a bit more work than Simple Mode but is well worth the extra time if you’re all about finesse and polish. Once you are done with your Dance, you can share it with others around you via StreetPass.
While at the Dance Studio, you can also view your own dances and dances received from others. Choose your stage and take a seat in the director’s chair as you choose the camera angles on the fly. You can even leave it up to the crew and kick back with an Auto feature.
Now that you have your Dance created, another cool function to try out is making your own Tune. You can freely play one of seven different instrument types, from vocals to 8-Bit.
You can also use Create Tune to compose and save up to four measures of music that you can share with others nearby via StreetPass. If you ever decide to redo your Tune, you can keep everyone updated with SpotPass. So convenient!
Speaking of StreetPass, you can share your world with others around you with by creating your own personalized Profile Card. Start off by selecting one of forty-five possible poses for your partner.
Once you have the right pose, it’s off to decide your Tagline and a freeform Personal Greeting. Taglines are comprised of both a front and back, allowing you to find the perfect combination to describe yourself. As you play through Project Mirai DX, trying on new costume modules and completing your Stamp Collection will unlock new taglines. Next, you can select a design and backdrop. Designs are generally based off of songs from the game though there are a few other themes as well!
Your backdrop is a holographic overlay that adds that last bit of pizazz to your Player Card. Also, if you tilt your Nintendo 3DS, it will cause the backdrop to give off a little shimmer. Just like the taglines, playing through more of Project Mirai DX will unlock more design and backdrop options.
Once you have completed your Profile Card, you can choose which stickers you would like to add. Each sticker will activate your ability to share your customized Dance, Tune and random comments from your videos, so feel free to share as much or as little of your world as you want! Within the setting menu, you can set whether you would like your Profile Card shared to others via StreetPass or not. You can also continue to share and receive Profile cards updates through SpotPass!
If you’re the type that digs mini-games, Sega puzzle classic Puyo Puyo returns in the super cute, Puyo Puyo 39! In this game, you can play either the CPU or a friend over local wireless play, all while jamming out to the Project Mirai DX soundtrack. Build up your skills enough and you could unlock something special in the game.
While in Hang Out mode, you can challenge your partner to a game of Mikuversi, a DELUXE version of the board game classic. Your partner will learn the game along with you, so stay on guard. The better you get, the better they get as well! Play enough matches and you might have quite the rival on your hands.
Hatsune Miku: Project Mirai DX comes out next week in the Americas and Europe!
Find out more on the new website!
Check out the reviews for the game:
God is a Geek: 8/10
Digitally Downloaded: 5/5
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.
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