The Making Of 3D Space Harrier And Sega’s New 3D Classics Series

By Siliconera Staff . November 25, 2013 . 9:00am

Originally posted 12/16/2012 on Impress Watch. Translated by SEGA.

s01

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

We thought “SEGA AGES 2500 Space Harrier II” was the definitive version…?

Alright, let’s start by talking a little about this company called M2. Horii-san, do you mind?

 

Naoki Horii (below NH): Talk to people in the game industry and you’ll find out that everyone was a “gamer kid”. We’re no different ourselves, and our company’s first actual game was a MegaDrive title called Gauntlet[1]. That was a game that you could play with four people, and some friends and I from school and the local arcade got together and built a copy of the game from memory. We remade it exactly as we remembered it, took it to a company called Tengen, and finally got the money we needed to buy the materials we needed. Just like that. So our first game was a highly faithful port of the arcade version. You could call it a ‘copy by eye’ since we remade what we saw. That’s where I started, and here I am twenty years later, happy with what we’ve accomplished.

Yousuke Okunari (below, YO): He just wants to port the game he loved…

NH: Back in those days, arcade games were expensive and you couldn’t just buy them. Not only that but you had to keep feeding 100 yen coins into them. Even if you went and bought a port, it wouldn’t be the same thing. You’d think to yourself “Something’s just different.” We wanted it to play games as close to the original as possible, and eventually we figured we should just do it ourselves.

 

So it all started with Gauntlet.

 

NH: Back then, there wasn’t a good port of Gauntlet, so you couldn’t play with four players at home yet. Everything started once we thought “hey, we probably know this game well enough to build it.”

YO: Then eventually they started working with us (SEGA).

NH: Back in the time of Gunstar Heroes on the Game Gear, there was a SEGA employee named Hiroshi Aso. He approached us and said “Wow, you made Gauntlet, huh? Well how would you like to work on Game Gear? Go ahead and pitch a couple games you’d like to do.” So we suggested a game called Edward Randy[2]. If you think about it, Gunstar Heroes is just an improved version of Edward Randy. So porting that to the Game Gear was our first job with SEGA.

YO: Gunstar Heroes is often regarded as a game that really pulled out all the stops when it comes to the MegaDrive’s capabilities, and trying to port that to the Game Gear was no small task. By the way, the Game Gear version is available in the Gunstar Heroes: Treasure Box, on sale now[3] via PS2 Archives. You have to use a cheat code to play it though… (laughs)

NH: So we had a break from working with SEGA for about 4 years, and then we worked on the Windows version of Sakura Wars. We also helped out a bit on the Dreamcast version as well. The first time I saw the Saturn version, I thought to myself “Oh boy, this game is just massive”, and I definitely remember how much of a rough time we had on that project.

YO: After the Dreamcast version of Sakura Wars, M2 was doing other projects for a while. Then a PS2 action adventure game called Project Altered Beast came along, and internally we had the idea of including the original Altered Beast in the game as a bonus feature. It just happened that M2 was working on a port of the arcade version of Altered Beast at that time.

NH: We were trying to port it by ourselves, you know. I just had a hunch that something like this might come up, so we went ahead and ported it without being asked to. That’s how we got started, right?

YO: Yeah, but the whole “put Altered Beast in Project Altered Beast” thing died on the drawing board. However, the fact that M2 could do ports got shared around internally at SEGA. So for Sega Rally 2006, the idea of putting the original Sega Rally in the game came up, and M2 was basically a silver bullet. Right around that time, AM2[4] was working on a port of Virtua Fighter 2 for SEGA AGES 2500, so we had a ported Model2 engine available. However, there weren’t any production lines open for Sega Rally and AM2 couldn’t get around to it. So then we asked M2 if they wanted to handle it.

NH: That was just learning from imitation, though.

YO: This wound up being M2’s first PS2 job with SEGA. For VF2, AM2 basically used an emulation-style implementation, but the Sega Rally’s arcade board was a later version than VF2, so it wouldn’t run as-is. M2 analyzed the game engine on their own, and rebuilt the game in the process of porting Sega Rally. In the end, it took a while to get Sega Rally 2006 released and it ended up coming out later than Space Harrier. VF2 had been received really well, and we decided to continue the ports this way for the SEGA AGES 2500 games. Right after I’d finished up on Dragon Force, we got the OK to continue on with the series. We were talking to a lot of developers in order to build the next lineup of ports, and that’s when I met them for the first time.

 

Oh really? Wow that’s unexpected.

 

YO: So from there, the idea of porting Altered Beast for SEGA AGES 2500 came up. But just doing an Altered Beast port as a packaged title would be kind of hard sales-wise, so we ended up having M2 port S.D.I & QUARTET[5], although in the end there probably wasn’t much of a sales difference between the two. (laughs) Next we said, “Hey, let’s do Space Harrier. Its hardware is pretty close to SYSTEM 16[6].” From there, we had M2 work on a couple of titles for us. And that’s how SEGA AGES 2500 Space Harrier II was born, which was released on PS2 Archives about 7 years ago.

NH: It still impresses me how much we code in assembly[7] even now. Our staff is really incredible…

YO: They showed me what were basically finished versions of Altered Beast and Shinobi running on SYSTEM 16, and though the sound wasn’t working yet, I figured if it was running this well, they’d have it up and running in no time. Boy was I wrong…

NH: When we tried to accurately reproduce all of SYSTEM 16 on a PS2, we couldn’t get the FM sound sources to fit in. When we thought about where to onload those, we remembered the PS2’s I/O Processor (33MHz) for the PS backwards compatibility feature. So we banged out some assembler code for it and got the FM sound source working. (For details check out Sega Voice Vol.15)

YO: It was Space Harrier’s 20th anniversary at the time, and since it’s a game from 20 years ago, we figured that the PS2 would have no problem running a game like Space Harrier. I mean, it ran on the Dreamcast after all (it was in Shenmue), but that’s just not how it worked out. The ins and outs of emulating things were still being figured out back then. Being new to this, even I thought we could churn out ports pretty quickly, but it turns out that wasn’t really the case.

It turns out that since the hardware is different, it takes quite a lot of machine power to emulate these games. M2 is quite fussy about these kinds of things, and they wanted to really get the controls right from the get-go. In other words, eliminating input lag. Around this time, people were really concerned about this term “input lag”. They’d say “really, the hard part is reducing input lag as much as possible.” Space Harrier is actually one of the easier titles in this sense, but for other games, reducing input lag is a big task and took up a lot of our time.

NH: There are a lot of situations where if we could just slow the processing down by a single frame, everything would be much easier.

YO: Sort of like how when you use a number of polygons at 60 frames per second, and then run the program at 30 frames per second, you can use twice the number of polygons?

NH: Yeah, it’s kind of similar, but with input lag, you have to grind away on a lower program layer. If you can get just 1 more frame worth of time, you can do what you can during that frame, which makes things easier.

YO: Also, while we were trying to port the arcade version of Space Harrier, I thought releasing the port for 2,500 yen ($25) might be a little tricky since a remake already existed. I wanted to have some other versions ported as well, and since M2 had made progress on MegaDrive and Mark III emulation, so we decided to make a bundle. But due to some concern that there’d be some confusion with the remake being released first, we added “II” to the title.

NH: We had this idea that if people thought the game was Space Harrier II from the MegaDrive, they might not pick it up. Actually, I remember Okunari-san saying “If we port this, people will be able to play it not only on the PS2, but on 3 and 4 as well.” Well, now you finally can play it on all versions on the PS3 I guess. (laughs) When the backwards compatibility feature was removed from the PS3, we were a little worried. (laughs) But now we’re in an age where all that work is available for 800 yen (~$8).

YO: The Game Gear version is also in SEGA AGES 2500 Space Harrier II as a hidden feature now, but at the start we had no intention of doing that. Namely because the Game Gear version is a downgraded version of the Master System one, and since it was built for a portable game system, the resolution wasn’t great for playing on a TV screen. Still, M2 said they wanted to include everything they could. However, since the hardware specs for the Master System and Game Gear differ, M2 couldn’t get the Game Gear version working and were about to give up on it. But we got it in at the very end.

NH: 7 years ago, my take on it was: “I don’t want to buy Space Harrier again.” I wanted to make a version that had everything you need. (both laugh) Then later on we wound up developing the Wii and 3D versions. At this point I hope I can just ask for everyone’s forgiveness since I buy them all myself. (both laugh)

YO: Yeah we’d not planned to develop the Game Gear version at the start, but once we got past beta[8] it was like “Game Gear version got in on time! It’s done!” however it really wasn’t on time at all. (laughs) The manual was already done, and the release date was set so we couldn’t advertise it at all. So we wound up making it an unlockable feature and said: “Oh well, you get another game in there, it’s just hidden away.” But as a result, it seems that people thought that every installment of the PS2 SEGA AGES 2500 series had to have some sort of extra game in it.

NH: You were really brave to hear us out there at the very end.

YO: Well, you still send me outrageous requests even now… (both laugh)

NH: Oh I don’t know. I think we’ve gotten better…

YO: That’ll be the day! (laughs) But anyways, this theme of specs changing while M2 builds the ports certainly echoes down the line.

 

So the scene was set by SEGA AGES 2500 Space Harrier II.

 

YO: One of the most last-minute moments we had was with Fantasy Zone Neo Classic in SEGA AGES 2500 Fantasy Zone Complete Collection. Neo Classic was based on a game originally made by Sunsoft, so we had to rush to get a contract in place with them. (laughs)

NH: Oh really?

 

And the mysteries of Space Harrier keep on coming!

 

YO: Back to the subject at hand, Space Harrier was ported to the PS2 with M2’s considerable technical skill and all was grand. For a series based on older game ports, I thought we had a great launch, and we got a lot of feedback.

One instance that particularly surprised me was when we put S.D.I. & Quartet and Space Harrier II out for display at the Tokyo Game Show. Since it was our first time showing off the full version in front of customers, I was at the booth myself. The first people to stop by on the first day were M2’s first SEGA supervisor, Aso-san, who was also the developer for the original arcade version, as well as two developers from ”Game Rotsubo”, who ported Space Harrier for the Super 32x and Sega Saturn.

 

Whoa!

 

YO: I didn’t even have time to be surprised before one of the guys started playing. These guys are legends to me. They brought Space Harrier to the 32X and Sega Saturn, which had had much lower specs than the PS2. These guys played our PS2 version, with eyes as big as dinner plates. I mean, you know these guys LOVE Space Harrier to death, so of course they are going to be interested in people who work on it. So they played up to Stage 7 (Lucasia: where the mammoths come out), and then I heard one go, “Ah!”

s14

The rock bug on the 7th stage, which is faithfully reproduced in 3D Space Harrier.

So I got all nervous, thinking “Oh man, what…” and then asked them about their impressions after they’d finished. They gave it their seal of approval, saying “It’s really well done.” But then they said “There’s one thing. On stage 7, there are these slanting boulders in the background. The issue is with the background horizon…. you see the boulders are supposed to be on the ground, and are only supposed to be displayed below the horizon line, and when Harrier runs on the ground, they’re clipping into the horizon line. If the line goes up, there’s a bug where the color gets a little weird and turns slightly black. That isn’t happening on this PS2 version.”

NH: In this case you’re seeing the correct graphic on the PS2 hardware, but that’s because it differs from the architecture of the original Space Harrier’s hardware.

YO: That’s how the boulders in the first half of the 7 stage display. The original staff said “it’s a bug, but it was pretty how the boulders sort of twinkled.”

 

Huh, how about that.

 

NH: I don’t know if anyone else has pointed that out, but their comment was the first time we’d heard about it.

YO: I think in the end, they were probably the only ones who pointed it out. In any case, being a newbie myself, I wound up thinking the port had a long way to go, and we could do even better. Oh and there was another problem that came up regarding the height of the horizon line. We addressed this with the “Harrier’s moving area” option in 3D Space Harrier.

When the PS2 version was released, we saw comments on the net saying that if the player sits at the highest position on screen, the horizon line’s uppermost position would differ from the arcade board. We thought “Well, we built the game to the exact spec of the original, so why are people seeing differences?” At the time, we had no idea why. That and the sound quality. People said that the sound isn’t the same as the OST CD or the arcade version. Amps and other equipment will make it different from the arcade version at a very basic level anyways, but since M2 wanted to make sure there was no input lag they had to use some of the game’s processing power to eliminate it, and that slightly weakened the sound quality.

NH: From that point on, there were probably some games we worked on where there’s a difference in audio between the game and the Sound Test menus. If you noticed that, let us know. It’s easier to lighten the processor load in a Sound Test menu.

YO: You can hear the difference in the hidden sound mode in PS2’s Fantasy Zone Complete Collection.

NH: Yeah, I seem to recall we did it there.

YO: M2 is getting better at this, and the quality’s also rising since we are devoting more of the console’s processing power to sound emulation.

 

Interesting (laughs). So it sounds like in your experience, the game’s sound quality was limited by the power of the console, to the extent that you were performing calculations internally and then outputting the sound.

 

NH: When using streaming output, you can’t reproduce the behavior where some sounds would disappear due to sound effects being played. It depends on the game, but a lot of people actually like that effect. We wanted to cater to that need. But if streaming is the best option for a particular game, we’ll go with that.

 

You used both approaches in Galaxy Force II, right?

 

YO: Well for that collection, there weren’t that many titles included, so we thought we’d give it a shot. So yes, there’s a streaming version and an internal sound source version. Oh, and an FM Towns[9] version. (laughs)

NH: For the streaming version of Galaxy Force II, we had a guy at Wavemaster record it for us, so it turned out really nicely. At that point we found out that the original PCB version outputs the L/R channels backwards. (laughs) Since the original was backwards and thus ‘correct’, we matched this up with the arcade speaker specs.

 

There’s always something, huh?

 

YO: So anyways, after releasing Space Harrier II on the PS2 in 2005, we decided to release Space Harrier onto the Virtual Console Arcade in 2009. Being blessed with another chance to release the title, we wanted to make sure the Stage 7 bug could be reproduced, as well as put some extra effort into the sound. We also wanted to look into the Analog Stick and Horizon Line problems.

 

So you finally got a chance to poke around this mystery, eh?

 

YO: On SEGA’s side, we have a Space Harrier machine that we keep for cataloguing purposes, so I actually went down and played it in the warehouse. And it’s true; the horizon line in the PS2 version is higher than the arcade version. It was different. On the original machine, the Tomos enemies that appear in the 1st stage are easier to shoot. I wanted to know why the arcade version was so different, so I went into test mode to take a look and noticed that when I pulled on the stick, the analog input wouldn’t max out. Which means that the controls were programmed that way to move the cabinet.

When we made the PS2 version, we did look at the original arcade board, but we didn’t actually look at the full arcade cabinet. That’s why it’s different. So for the Wii Virtual Console Arcade version, we took the arcade control differences into account. The Wii version can be controlled using the nunchuk, after all, so for us, the Wii version was the one we were most satisfied with.

 

So finally that puzzle was solved!

 

YO: But even after implementing the control corrections, we still got comments saying it wasn’t right. Something was still wrong with the horizon line. Now it was too low! We had players saying “You got it right on the PS2 version, so why couldn’t you do the same for the Wii version?” I decided to visit as many arcades that had Space Harrier machines as I could, and studied the various videos that were posted to the net. And there were cabinets where the horizon would rise as high as it did on the PS2 version.

 

So in other words, the PS2 and the Wii versions were both accurate ports?

 

YO: We puzzled over why the horizon line was higher on certain cabinets, and the dev team came to the conclusion that the sticks in the cabinets were probably loose. Our warehouse kit hadn’t really been used all that much, and it also gets maintenance from time to time, so it’s in pretty good condition. But the cabinets at arcades have been out there for over 20 years, and their sticks get worn out. When you fix an arcade stick that’s broken, its throw distance changes, and as a result the player’s movement also changes. When sticks loosen, you can move them further than you previously could, allowing you wider control of Harrier.

So anyone who plays the cabinet nowadays may be using a joystick that’s in poor shape, and they might find that the horizon line is higher than what they remember as the real Space Harrier, and we can’t deny that. Generally speaking, we were left with the conclusion that the Wii version is in line with what the developers imagined at the original release. As a side note, the 32X and Sega Saturn version differ in the same way, with the Saturn version’s horizon line staying low like the Wii version.

 

Sounds like this one wasn’t all that straightforward.

 

YO: That’s why for the 3DS version, we believe we’ve addressed player concerns by putting in 3 levels of movement ranges.

s07_EN s08_EN s09_EN

3D Space Harrier has loads of customizable settings, thanks to M2 and SEGA’s extensive porting experience. Every arcade version player has different memories of the title and care has been taken to replicate that.

What did it mean to add stereoscopic 3D to Space Harrier?

OK Finally we are at the point where we can actually talk about 3D Space Harrier! (laughs)

 

YO: 3 years since we released the Wii version and it’s finally here! (laughs) Sorry for the wait!

NH: Geez, that was a super long leadup! (all laugh)

YO: When the Nintendo 3DS was released, it included Virtual Console on it, which led us to start working on Space Harrier. At the same time, Nintendo indicated to us that they were looking for games that also use 3D. I thought, “Man, I want to do that.” So I went to Horii-san and said “We got to do this 3D thing,” and he burst my bubble saying, “Oh come on, that’s ridiculous! Do you have any idea how much trouble that’d be to do!?” I took a look at the sample 3D version of Xevious provided by Nintendo for reference, and I really wanted to do something similar, but I kept being told that re-making 2D games in 3D was a pretty big effort.

 

Remaking a game originally built in 2D into 3D… tell us about that.

 

YO: If you want an idea of how hard it is, just consider how M2 has been building games. They’ve been using emulator techniques that replicate the hardware since the PS2 days. That’s one way of faithfully reproducing the originals, but the drawback is that it’s really hard to go back and add things to the code. For example, you wouldn’t be able to add in extra bosses, or build new stages.

NH: That’s why you won’t see extra features that were added to console or PC ports of older SEGA arcade games in the SEGA AGES ports. They weren’t in the original game.

YO: Re-making games in 3D is almost impossible for similar reasons. When you take a character sprite that was originally in 2D and bring it into a 3D viewpoint, you have to build the graphic from scratch. So for example, back in the 8-bit era, very large enemies were often displayed as backgrounds. But if you did a simple 3D conversion of an enemy like that, it would end up being on a different plane from the player character and look like it’s out on the horizon. If you want real 3D, then it’s basically the same as rebuilding the game from scratch.

NH: Some things you can change, and some things you can’t. At the time I thought we could probably build a visual copy of the game in 3D, and I wanted to. But cost-wise, there was no way it was going to happen, you know? This was back just before the 3DS release.

YO: But when I asked Horii-san if there wasn’t some way to rebuild the game in 3D, he said “Let’s do it” (both laugh)

 

You guys are crazy! (laughs)

 

NH: Well, if you pick up the 3DS version I’m sure you’ll understand, but you feel like you’re playing the definitive version Space Harrier when it’s in 3D, right? I know we’re already there, but when I played the game, I felt like we had finally arrived in the 21st century, that’s how much of a killer app Space Harrier3D was for me. Once we knew what it was going to look like, it really motivated us when we were working on it. The whole staff put a lot of thought into how we were going to get this into 3D because we knew that if we could get it done, it was going to be really cool.

YO: M2 told me that “This is going to be really hard to develop, so be aware of that,” to which I said “Let’s do it,” and so we did. Now of course, we’re SEGA, so if we’re going to make 3D games, we had to start with a 3D shooter, which of course means Space Harrier. So there we were, working on Space Harrier for the 3rd time.

NH: That’s how we got to 3D Space Harrier. We had to recreate the game world in 3D from the graphical depth of the original arcade cabinet, which wasn’t ever made in 3D. There were people who helped and worked with development who’d never played Space Harrier before, and some told me they couldn’t get good at the game. When I asked them what they have trouble with, they’d say it was hard to tell whether objects were right in front of their character or not.

Once we had the game in 3D, the same people came back and said “OK, now I get it! I can play it now!” Hearing that made me really happy we went through with the project. We started this game because I wanted to do it, so the sales didn’t matter to us, but moments like that really surprised me.

 

So by making the game 3D, it was easier to understand where enemies and objects are placed.

 

YO: For the PS2 version, we included a version of Space Harrier 3D originally released on the Mark III that you could play by putting in a cheat code. That game is much easier to play in 3D. When you can see things in three dimensions, you see where the background stops, and you know what to dodge, so it’s a lot easier that way. When you play the same mode in 2D, it’s really, really hard. On the other hand, one could say that 3D Space Harrier’s difficulty is a lot lower than the arcade original. The stage where you dodge the fast scrolling pillars in particular is a lot easier. Dodging enemy bullets is simpler, and you know how long you can wait before you have to get out of the way.

NH: Being easier to play is certainly one aspect. One thing I also really want people to notice is how much more spacious and expansive the game world feels in 3D. Check out the screen.

 

In 3D, you only have to worry about what’s right in front of you. For 2D games you have to watch the whole screen, so the gameplay definitely changes.

YO: Yes, it’s the same game but different.

NH: There are still a lot of games that we have fun ideas for. For this game in particular though, I want to say that playing with the 3D effect off is out of the question.

YO: It’s the same for movies. If you watch the same movie in 3D and 2D, you certainly watched the same thing. But it’s a totally different experience

 

- When I saw Space Harrier in 3D for the first time, I think it was a modified “3D” version of the X68000[10] release. I think the programmer must have figured out the positions and behavior of the background and sprites to build the 3D. I’m no expert though, so I’m just guessing. Still, for 3D Space Harrier, I imagine M2 had to get in there and actually fiddle with the ROM itself to get the arcade version running. How did you create the 3D effect? You’d need to understand not only the architecture of the original hardware and software, but also understand the structure of the hardware you’re porting to, as well as modifying your emulation engine, right?

 

NH: Yes, that’s right. You have to understand the underlying game before you can add things on top. For this project, we did it all using a method that’s similar to emulation, however strictly speaking, it’s not emulation.

YO: At the core, there’s a program running that’s based on emulation techniques.

NH: Specifically, the code that ran on the arcade CPU, the MC68000, isn’t used in 3D Space Harrier. Replacing that code allowed us to finally get the 3D working.

YO: That’s what we mean when we say this game is the result of all of the hard work and technical skill developed up until now.

NH: Since we could take our time with Space Harrier 3D, we were able to do things like support wide screen.

YO: Wide screen support in this version is a first for any port of Space Harrier. The only other game we’ve done that supported wide screen was the PS2 version of Galaxy Force II.

NH: For game design reasons, Harrier’s movement range is the same as it always was, but it just feels better to play in wide screen.

YO: This is the 3rd Space Harrier I’ve requested from M2, and it might really be the last Space Harrier, or at least the last port. So we wanted to make it the definitive version. When we were interviewed for the PS2 version of Space Harrier II, we said that if you bought the PS2 version, you’d never need another version, but 7 years has passed, and well… turns out there was still a lot of work to be done. (laughs)

NH: I thought about it a lot, and after that the PS2 version was done, I told Okunari-san that I wanted to go and play the arcade kit in storage one more time. So I did, and while I was there, I put up a microphone next to the kit’s motor and recorded the motor sounds.

YO: Wait, you went just to record some sounds? (both laugh)

NH: Yeah, so? (laughs) When you play [3D Space Harrier] in arcade mode[11], you’ll hear sounds we put in, which are me hitting the buttons and the motor running. In that sense, this version’s got some funny quirks to it.

 

Maybe in the future, we’ll have consoles that let you play in 3D, and you can reproduce the whole cabinet and feel of the arcade in your living room…the ideas are endless.

 

NH: Since you can install games to hardware nowadays, something I’ve always wanted to do is take all the sounds from the games you own and recreate the cacophony of lots of attract screens in an arcade. You could make something like a virtual arcade.

 

Recreate the entire atmosphere of the arcade, I see.

 

NH: It’s not in the cards at the moment, but it’s something I’d like to try one day. In any case, there’s tons of stuff I want to do. Like Thunder Blade or something. If there are 2,560,000 people out there who want that, I think SEGA would be happy to let us do that for them.

YO: Let’s consider it if 3D Space Harrier sells that many copies. Heck, 256,000 people would be fine. (both laugh)

 

OK well it looks like our time is about up. Can you guys sum up the key points of Space Harrier 3D for us?

3da1d Moving Cabinet mode faithfully delivers an authentic experience.

s10 s11

You can choose from 4 different display options: 4:3 like the original game, widescreen optimized for the 3DS, full screen, and an arcade cabinet mode that recreates the feel of the original machine.

YO: For Space Harrier 3D, it all comes down to the 3D support we’ve added that took so much effort as we described earlier. And it’s not a copy by eye, it’s based on the original code base, and it plays just the same. It’s also the first time Space Harrier has ever supported wide screen. And there’s also M2’s excellent arcade mode.

NH: I hope people reading this to give that mode a try. It’s fun and brings back a lot of memories.

YO: When that mode first went in, I said to Horii-san, “Since the cabinet’s chair moves with the monitor in the arcade version, the screen shouldn’t actually tilt, right?” Remember?

NH: Yeah yeah, I know. But, we’re talking about nostalgia here, you know? (laughs)

YO: So that part doesn’t quite match up with reality, but it definitely has an “ambiance” and it’s fun. Oh and the arcade kit sound effects are there too.

NH: The arcade cabinet’s motor watches the signals from the original arcade board, so it knows when you’re moving right, or when you’re moving left. The sound effect timing is all the same as the original.

YO: In addition, the background music quality has really improved, and we’ve finally put in an equalizer. We didn’t ask for it but M2 threw that in as an extra. (laughs)

NH: If you play around with the equalizer, you can get pretty close to the original arcade feel. Players can use it to recreate the same environment that they remember.

YO: There are presets too. I hope people give it a try.

NH: Okunari-san might think we had a lot of free time on our hands by including the equalizer. (laughs)

YO: Even just playing it as-is out of the box, I think this port probably has the best sound reproduction than any previous one. This is in large part due to Manabu Namiki’s [12]involvement, right?

NH: Yes, Namiki-san checked the game until the very end. The extra song as well.

YO: Since M2 had hired Namiki-san around that time, he participated in the project as an internal staff member, and he was able to give the game really thorough oversight. The arcade environment sound idea started with him, right?

NH: Yeah, he had a lot to do with that. He’s the one who put out the idea for the arcade kit sounds. The motor and button sounds.

YO: For those sounds, you can’t just put a mic down and record them because there’s all these other loud sounds that get in the way, so we had to turn off all the cabinet’s fans and record the right, front and rear sounds over and over. Then we took the best samples out of those and included them. Same for the button sounds. Typical players might not care about this sort of stuff, but I hope there’s maybe one in a thousand who will really be into it. Every time this game is ported, people tell us “It’s not really Space Harrier without an arcade kit.” That’s totally true. However, since we can’t port the kit itself, we do what we can outside of that and this is how it turns out. So in a certain sense, 3D Space Harrier is our answer to that problem.

 

I see.

 

YO: Also, and this is a sort of down to the nitty gritty, but there was a bug in the PS3 and Wii versions where certain sound effects would play and not stop. It was in the original arcade game, and we’ve made the decision to fix it for this version. Up until now, we’ve prioritized reproducing the original arcade board as faithfully as possible, but now that it supports wide screen and 3D, the 3DS version no longer reproduces the original per se, and it wouldn’t be ideal for a first time player to run into a bug like that. So we fixed it. We also don’t force any sort of slowdown replication on the game. So I think it’s safe to say that this is the perfect version of Space Harrier.

 

From what I’ve seen, I’m certainly hoping that’s the case.

 

YO: Lastly, if you watch the porting staff credits, you can find out all the names of enemies that appear in the game. We often heard from the fans that they wanted to know the enemy names, so M2 put in a little sequence that shows off the original character names. The names come from a 10 year old game called Typing Space Harrier, where you had to type in the character names. Most of the characters besides bosses didn’t have names at the time, so Yu Suzuki named them. So these are official enemy names from the game designer himself. I had no idea about this until the guy who made Typing Space Harrier told me. I think fans of Space Harrier will be really happy about it. I mean, I could just go on and on. (laughs)

 

Thank you so much for all your time!

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


[1] Gauntlet was an action fantasy RPG game released by Atari in 1985. The MegaDrive version was released by Tengen. The MegaDrive version was released in 1993 and was called Gauntlet IV overseas.

[2] Known as The Cliffhanger: Edward Randy overseas. Released only in Japan in 1990 by Data East.

[3] This a reference to Sega Ages Vol. 25: Gunstar Heroes: Treasure Box, a PS2 game only released in Japan.

[4] AM2, short for Amusement Machine R&D Department 2, is one of SEGA’s development teams. They are responsible for many of SEGA’s popular franchises such as Virtua Fighter, Shenmue, Daytona USA, Project DIVA Arcade games.

[5] SDI is a shooting game released in 1987 for Arcade and later the Master System. Quartet is a side scrolling shooter released in 1986 for Arcade and the Master System.

[6] SYSTEM 16 is a 16-bit arcade board released in 1985 that ran games like SDI, as well as Golden Axe, Fantasy Zone and Shinobi. Space Harrier runs on the same board as Hang-On, which is similar to System 16 but with more processing power.

[7] Assembly code is one step above coding directly in machine code. It’s generally considered very difficult to work with.

[8] Beta is a development milestone state that generally indicates the game is functionally complete, but there are bugs and glitches that need to be fixed before the game can be released.

[9] The FM Towns is a PC variant made by Fujitsu that specialized in multimedia applications. Galaxy Force was released on the FM Towns with CD-DA streamed music.

[10] The X68000 was a home computer made by Sharp Corp and released only in Japan in 1987.

[11] 3D Space Harrier features the ability to turn on sounds the arcade machine makes as well as have the screen gyrate as it would if you were playing a real arcade cabinet.

[12] Manabu Namiki is a Japanese video game composer.


Read more stories about & & on Siliconera.

  • malek86

    Even if someone is passionate about the original version, I don’t understand the point of leaving bugs in later ports. Especially something like sounds playing and not stopping, that sounds pretty annoying to have, nostalgia be damned.

  • neo_firenze

    Amazing interview. Anyone who cares about ports of “old” games should take notice of M2, they’re just on a whole other level. Everything they touch is consistently awesome, from the Sega Ages 2500 series games they’ve worked on, to the PS3/PSP Neo Geo Station releases, or their awe inspiring job on the 360 Mushihimesama Futari port for Cave.

    This makes me so excited to finally be getting Space Harrier 3D on US 3DS.

  • GaiunxWolfenX

    i didn’t want to buy 3d space harrier, i had the master system version and i didn’t actually enjoy it (was a kid that hated to lose XD), but am reconsidering just because of this interview, that amount of love and dedication i find it admirable, just because of that i might go back and face those space aliens one more time.

  • 60hz

    awesome interview!

  • Julien_N

    Very interesting interview, thanks for sharing!
    M2′s teams’ dedication and technical skills in emulation are quite impressive, I don’t know if there are other companies like them in the business.

  • Clumsyorchid

    Thanks everyone for taking the time to read through these interviews. My name is Julian, community manager on the 3D Classics here at SEGA.

    Ever since we saw the first updates on 3DS of the 3D Classics we knew we had something very special to share with fans. The level of depth the M2 team has applied to these games is incredible and there’s stuff I’m learning about the games just by reading these interviews. Like the credits update at the end, or recording the actual cabinet sounds, totally blew my mind.

    I really encourage you to share these updates and let people know that the 3D Classics aren’t just simple ports, there’s so much more going on. The developers are keen on your feedback and comments, so don’t hesitate to reply.

    • http://queensblade.net/index.php/characters/cattleya gulabjamuns

      A bit late here, but I had to make a comment XD I’ve been wanting to play a space harrier game ever since I read about it in a magazine when I was a kid, but I never got the chance. Even when I was really into playing PC emulators I somehow skimmed over it. So I was really hoping for this 3DS release to make it out of Japan, and when it got announced I couldn’t wait to play it. Then I got it on day 1 and had a blast, although being really busy I wasn’t able to put as much time as I wanted into it…

      But after reading this interview I got excited to go straight to my 3DS again and turn on the game, and suddenly it was even more amazing than my first experience with it. I realized that I had never gotten such a feel of an arcade game from any handheld game before this. It’s pretty astounding to realize that. It’s something I would never have asked for because I’d have never thought it was possible. I actually think a lot of it has to do with the attention put towards sound.

      I think anyone who downloaded 3D Space Harrier already really ought to read through this interview. I’m gonna feel a lot of appreciation for the amount of work and passion that when into this port every time I turn it on now. I liken these guys to the people who clean up and remaster old silent films. Maybe it’s because I’ve read about how a lot of old games are probably impossible to port to new platforms now because the original code has been lost or something like that, kind of like how a lot of early films can’t be brought back because their original nitrate film was lost or destroyed/damaged (but of course, their case is much worse).

      As for any criticism, the only thing I could say is that it would have been really nice to have online leaderboards, which I find essential for arcade-style score-based games like this these days. Come to think of it though, I don’t think I’ve played any 3DS game that has them, except for the shmup streetpass game in mii plaza that only takes scores from people you streetpass…

      By the way, I like to play the game with 3D off as well as on… I first tried it with it off and with the original aspect ratio to get a more authentic classic feel. It’s certainly more challenging with the 3D off, but when it’s on it’s more comfortable to play… I find both ways be their own experiences and fun in their own ways. It’s just great that the option is there to experience it both ways. When you play it extensively both ways you really realize that it is possible for 3D to have an effect on gameplay.

      I really, really hope that these games sell as well as they deserve to….

  • Clayton

    This is SUCH a great interview. I loved the discussion of all the nitty gritty details of these ports and how much work went into them. I’ve been pumped to grab 3D Space Harrier and several of the other SEGA 3D Classics for awhile because of all of the care and extra features packed into them . SO ready to download Space Harrier on Thursday!! Thanks M2!! :)

  • Crevox

    Treasure
    Gunstar Heroes
    *drool*

  • fool

    This is some absolutely insane stuff! 3D Space Harrier was a “maybe” for me before I read this but it’s a “must buy” now.

  • revenent hell

    I feel like I should buy this for my mom…
    I can still remember the days when she would show me how to do something in the games…..

  • thaKingRocka

    This was a wonderful piece. Thank you.

  • http://www.esterior.net/ Endless History

    Um… if you’re going to lift all of the text from a blog post, you might want to link the blog itself as a source.

    http://blogs.sega.com/2013/11/25/sega-3d-classics-space-harrier-3d-interview-with-developer-m2/

    EDIT:
    From the looks of it, another set of questions weren’t copied over, but still…

    • Clumsyorchid

      This was coordinated with Siliconera, nothing was lifted.

      • http://www.esterior.net/ Endless History

        That’s good to hear. However, there are people on twitter who think otherwise, since neither site mention the other. There might be a need for more transparency on this.

        • Clumsyorchid

          We rolled a follow up article into our post, but Siliconera is posting later. Came down to preference and I think it’s fine, there’s honestly a lot to read through here and I contemplated splitting up as well.

          Please tell people on twitter that this series is coordinated, feel free to reference this post. Siliconera posted 5 hours before the SEGA article hit, as planned. I can ask if they can add a bit of an intro if that makes it a bit clearer to everyone.

          Overall, just really happy with the responses and comments.

  • Göran Isacson

    Holy heck, this interview! I was really amazed by how detailed they would get, then I saw that this is apparently not an interview by Siliconera but by some internal SEGA people. Still, a very impressive (if a bit exhausting) read, one that darn near got me interested in buying this! I’ve always been interested in the mechanics of emulation, and hearing the efforts these guys went to to get these games working flawlessly on these modern systems and how that STILL gave them problems… really shows how amazing programming and game design can be, makes one appreciate that there are games made at all.

  • ddh819

    this also makes me think the galaxy force 3d release will be worth getting

Video game stories from other sites on the web. These links leave Siliconera.

Siliconera Tests
Siliconera Videos

Popular