Originally posted August 7th, 2013 on Impress Watch. Siliconera is coordinating with SEGA to share these in-depth interviews about classic games like Streets of Rage and the Sega MegaDrive. Translated by SEGA. Edited by Siliconera.
Pictured: Yousuke Okunari, Producer, SEGA CS3 (left), Naoki Horii, President, M2 (right)
|Streets of Rage Primer|
Originally released in Japan on August 2, 1991 with an overseas release shortly after, Streets of Rage is a side-scrolling beat’em up game where you choose from one of three ex-police force characters: Axel, Blaze, or Adam, and fight through eight stages against armies of syndicate thugs, using your bare fists or weapons you pick up along the way. Streets of Rage is known as Bare Knuckle in Japan.
The game quickly earned popularity for its co-op play, where players can perform team attacks, as well as instant special moves that call in the firepower of your former police comrades.
After being ported to the Game Gear, Streets of Rage was featured in the Mega-CD SEGA CLASSIC ARCADE COLLECTION, which also included the international version. It was subsequently ported to Wii Virtual Console, and most recently, to the Xbox 360 as part of SEGA Vintage Collection 3’s Streets of Rage Collection, which included all three titles from the series.
Streets of Rage was followed by two sequels, Streets of Rage 2 and 3, which benefited from a larger ROM size, bigger characters, and more animations.
Left: Choose from characters Adam, Axel, and Blaze. From II on, Adam is either kidnapped or otherwise occupied, and thus not available as a playable character. Right: The game supports 2P Co-op play. Other “rival” titles at the time were unable to do this, so it was a point of pride for MegaDrive fans.
“Then, as he was explaining that they still hadn’t tested everything out yet, I cut through the hemming and hawing, and green-lit the project.”
Hi guys. Can we hear a little bit about what led you to select Streets of Rage to follow 3D Shinobi III in the line-up? Why not release Streets of Rage 2 and 3, for instance?
Naoki Horii (below, NH): Because we’re going to release 2 next! (everyone laughs) That is, if Okunari-san here will let us…
Genre-wise though, this is the first remake of a beat’em up on the Gigadrive.
Yousuke Okunari (Below, YO): When we were selecting titles for the GigaDrive, all four titles prior to Shinobi III were what you could call “2D side scrolling platformers”, but of course there were other genres out there that we wanted to do. When I sat down with the development schedule though, I was pretty sure that any genres outside of platforming would take too long.
So I knew there would be risk associated with including anything other than a side scrolling action game in the 3D Remaster Series, but I really wanted to do a beat’em up. SEGA has a history of making beat’em ups with games like Golden Axe and Streets of Rage, and I really wanted to bring that heritage into 3D. We just had to somehow do that within the confines of the schedule… More important than that though, M2 actually told me at the beginning that “an action side-scroller won’t work in 3D!”
NH: There are a lot of strange perspectives baked into the backgrounds in those games. Take the diagonal scrolling parts for instance.
YO: If we tried to use the GigaDrive techniques we’d developed with earlier games, like those from 3D Sonic, all the characters would wind up floating on top of the backgrounds. While side-scrolling action games look like they have depth, the actual gameplay is completely 2D, and everything else is just a matter of placing graphics with a faux 3D perspective. That’s what you have to bring into stereoscopic 3D, and it wasn’t possible within the existing GigaDrive concept. So this wasn’t just going to be a matter of displaying existing MegaDrive backgrounds in 3D, like we’d done with other games. We came to the conclusion that our existing approach wasn’t going to work for a side-scroller.
That said, I still wanted to remake the Golden Axe or Streets of Rage series in 3D. I saw this as essentially intertwined with the future of the 3D Remaster Project, so I kept coming back to M2 with the idea. I’d say: “Hey, we can at least do one beat ‘em up, right?” and he’d tell me: “Side-scrolling beat’em ups have graphics with weird faux perspectives that you can’t just carry over into 3D. The normal approach doesn’t work.” After a bit, he came back and said, “Now the first Streets of Rage doesn’t have any paths that go up or down the screen, there’s just one path forward. We could probably make that one work.” That’s how I persuaded him to work on it… Then, as he was explaining that they still hadn’t tested everything out yet, I cut through the hemming and hawing and green-lit the project. (laughs)
Seems like there’s always some kind of reckless story around these ports, but this one sounds like you’ve stepped it up a level. (laughs)
NH: Yes indeed.
YO: M2 had already turned the project down once, so….
NH: Well, we were still testing out code at the point when we had to decide on the lineup titles… so it’s partly our fault for being slow.
You’re right though. The very first Streets of Rage was basically a single-route game. Most people don’t realize that unlike previous 2D side-scrollers, this game had a perspective that ostensibly looked down on your character and the floor, while letting you move in all directions. Objects and enemies were drawn in the same way… Those objects and enemies don’t have 3D handling; they’re just pretending to be 3D. Given how characters are standing on the floor, if the angle changes, all of that magic will disappear. That must be the hardest part of porting a beat’em up like this.
NH: That’s right, that’s right. If we were just talking about a 2D side-scroller, that’s fine, but when the game scrolls diagonally, that’s a new set of problems.
With so many visual tricks used to create the illusion of depth in the original, I guess the challenge becomes how to bring them into 3D. Off the top of your head, you might think you could just give the backgrounds depth, push them back into screen and problem solved, right? That’s just what I imagine, I don’t really know how you’d deal with it.
NH: The developers at the time had to take what were ostensibly 3D scenes and flatten them into 2D, and use perspective to somehow keep them visually believable.
Whereas you guys have to convert a faux 3D image into a real 3D image… I can see how that wouldn’t really work.
YO: I actually have an early test version of the game right here on hand, so you can what we’re talking about. (brings out a 3DS) Check out the 3D.
Oooh, OK. So this is what the default 3D approach looks like.
YO: At first, you’re like “Seems legit! This is pretty cool!” But as you keep playing, you’ll come across places in the game which were drawn at the time with a specific background perspective, and didn’t take into account vanishing points etc. That’s why M2 felt that remaking the game in 3D would be impossible.
YO: What you wind up with are characters floating above the background. …Next let’s show you the finalized version that we remade after observing these issues.
(While playing) Yeah, it’s completely different. Wow, this is impressive. When you move from the background to the front of the screen, you get a real 3D perspective.
NH: Even though the actual character’s size doesn’t change, right? Which is important in terms of the game system.
For sure. Wow, this is cool. I never really noticed it in 2D, but my punches really hit hard now. That’s a big difference. Just walking around next to this phone booth is impressing me.
NH: I’m sure that line would be music to the ears of the person who drew it (laughs)
OK, playing this, I’m seeing how hard it must have been to port a beat’em up into 3D.
NH: Still, there are going to be a lot of people who want this or that game in 3D. Galaxy Force remade in 3D was a beautiful sight, but this is great in its own way. If anything, I’d really like to spend some time and go to town on a game like this.
Just seeing the street signs in 3D is really cool. You don’t so much feel it when your character and enemies are far away from each other, but once an enemy closes in and line up on your axis, and then you smack him, the 3D is really crisp. You can tell if he’s on a different level than you as he approaches. It’s something that’s easier to understand when you play it, I suppose.
YO: Knowing that this was going to be the title we’d struggle the most with amongst the GigaDrive games, I chose to move its development to the rear of the release schedule. In our previous interview about Shinobi III, I mentioned how that game could be thought of as a culmination of everything we’d done up until then, and that to finish it, we had to grind through a lot of tedious work. Streets of Rage is a dimension beyond Shinobi III, because we are remaking in 3D what were originally 2D images drawn to look 3D. Since both titles were developed concurrently, some of the discoveries we made with this game were brought over to Shinobi III, such as that game’s final stage or the stage start screen. Giving these parts of the game authentic 3D depth brought another dimension to them.
And now the bar has been raised again.
YO: That’s why I chose Streets of Rage as the one beat’em up game to green light: it’s one of the most straightforward side-scrollers we had available. In a sense it was an experiment, but now that I know it was a hugely successful one, I think it’d be great if we could follow up on it. At least I hope we can… M2 might be sick of it all by now though. (laughs)
NH: Although it was really a tough project, once we had assigned depth to each raster line of the floor, we were able to see what specs we needed for the floor. We then positioned objects and enemies along those raster lines, and all of a sudden it felt like you couldn’t ever miss with your punches.
YO: Since the 3D actually affects how the game feels, it’s completely different from the type of faux 3D that we have in, say, 3D Altered Beast’s cave stage or the depth we created for 3D Ecco.
NH: We assigned position data to the same floor we’d assigned depth to. Then as the characters moved, we matched them to the position data, and essentially merged the character and the floor. And all of a sudden…
That sounds like some really impressive tech.
NH: Once the depth information was assigned, all of a sudden we had a space, or box, built within the screen. It actually surprised me. This was our fifth Megadrive title, but in terms of gameplay it wound up being quite different from the others. All the other games had some really impressive visuals, but you never miss a punch with 3D Streets of Rage, and that feels awesome.
YO: In the other 3D Remaster games, the player character always moved on a single line. But in a beat’em up, your character can move freely from right in front of you to the rear of the screen. Enemies and objects too also have depth data associated with them. If you look back on gaming history and how action games have evolved, first they just had a single static screen, then they evolved into scrolling screens. Next we saw action games focused on jumping, which replicated gravity within their mechanics, and then the sort of faux 3D beat’em up sub-genre you see with Streets of Rage was born.
So that means that the evolution from 2D side-scrollers to “belt floor” beat’em up games was actually an evolution towards 3D, so to speak. It might not be obvious to someone who hasn’t followed or isn’t aware of the evolution of action games, so some people might not get what I’m saying. But you’ve played a bunch of action games, don’t you see a big difference there?
What was once beautiful faux 3D becomes an albatross when you put it in real 3D.
YO: Indeed. If only the games were just made in 3D first, everything would be fine.
And that’s why it made sense to remake arcade games which moved “into” the screen in 3D. However when it came to remaking Megadrive titles in 3D, you weren’t going to get away without doing a “belt floor” beat’em up game.
NH: I think the result is worth the work we put into it, and I hope people who play it will appreciate what we’ve accomplished as well.
You can’t really get that across from just a screenshot.
YO: This is a game that we were able to do because we had the experience of the previous four titles. Of course we had an idea of what we wanted to do at the beginning, but unless you actually build it and see it working, you can’t fully appreciate what the game’s going to be like, you know? Once we got to work though, the game looked great.
NH: Really though, besides Streets of Rage, I really hope a lot of people will give all of the 3D MegaDrive remakes a try. I think the quality will surprise you.
This came up when we were talking about Shinobi III, but is this title also compatible with the Gigadrive v2.0?
NH: Yes. Although there’s still room for growth there.
“If Shinobi III was the sum of everything we’ve accomplished so far, Streets of Rage is the next dimension.”
YO: Just like the other games, there were a few interesting stories around the process of getting the game into 3D. For starters, stage 3. If you play it in 3D on the 3DS, then you might not notice anything, but this is actually the first stage to be different in the GigaDrive version compared to the MegaDrive version.
NH: Yeah, the ocean’s draw priority is different.
YO: In the original version, the wave animations for the ocean are in the screen’s foreground, so they cover the player’s feet when they step in the water. When we dropped that straight into 3D, it looked off. The perspective was broken, and the waves looked like they were just popping up and down perpendicular to the ground. (laughs) Since we were remaking the game based around the 3D view, M2 went in and changed the waves’ sprite priorities. As a result, the animation is the same, but they’ve added perspective to it. Accordingly when you play the game in 2D, the draw priorities will differ from the original MegaDrive version.
Stage 3. The graphics of the waves at the player’s feet differ from the original.
NH: If only we had Z-buffers, then each pixel had its own depth information (when drawing objects in 3D computer graphics, typically every pixel on a surface has depth coordinates associated with it, so you can calculate how deep objects are relative to each other by pixel).
The Elevator scene. Note the perspective of the elevator compared to the building in the background.
A special attack. Your ex-coworkers come to your aid with a surface-to-air surprise.
That would earn you another dimension, wouldn’t it?
YO: Now, even though I’d agreed that we could get SoR 1 into 3D, there was one spot that I knew they’d have trouble with and that was Stage 7. Stage 7 is an elevator scene, and it’s a good example of something that was beyond what M2 had worked on up until that point.
NH: Take your pick: the perspective on the elevator, the background…I mean, just look at it…we did everything we could.
YO: … Well, since you managed to remake Stage 7 in 3D, I think that means you can almost do anything… (laughs)
NH: Yeah, but still…
YO: Up until the end this didn’t look right, and we really struggled with it. Well, M2 did, that is.
Of course, the original development team would have had no idea when they were making the game that someone would wind up creating a 3D version.
YO: The same is true for Sonic and Shinobi III, too.
NH: Notice how as the elevator goes up, right around the middle of the ascent, the background perspective changes out of nowhere…
And hey, as you throw enemies out of the elevator, you can sort of see the little visual tricks they used to make this part look 3D. (laughs)
YO: Still, I think that in the end, we got the 3D on this stage to where it needed to be.
Yeah, there’s nothing “off” about it at all. It’s great. (laughs) And intriguing. When you’re moving up, you can see the little trick in there with the positioning of the wall on the left… This must have been very hard to remake in 3D. Things developers never would have given a second thought to back then wind up creating serious challenges for you guys.
YO: Yeah, the difference in the perspective of the left wall and the carriage looked strange when we put it into 3D.
I just tried the special attack too, and it looks like you got the Stage 7 version into 3D as well. (laughs)
YO: Yes, of course! Including things like that tempted us to tinker even more with other stages. For instance, Stage 5’s background was originally a single graphic…
Nice, even the background shown through the boat windows is properly 3D. I love it. When you dive this deep, it makes me wonder if you guys are OK with just $6 for this game.
NH: At the end of the day though, it’s still only the first Streets of Rage.
Stage 5. The parts you see through the windows are all rendered in 3D.
This really works within the GigaDrive v2.0? Processing costs, and all?
NH: We did what we could to make it work…so yes.
YO: I want to point out one last place we had a hard time with, even though there were a ton of them. On Stage 6 where the pressing machine is, there was a perspective here that just didn’t work in 3D. This was a toughie.
NH: That graphic had a lot of conflicting elements. When we first started on the project, there were a lot of spots that we knew how to approach in 3D, and as we worked on it, new ideas on how to do this or that better kept coming up. Okunari-san would give us feedback on a daily basis on our new versions as well, offering suggestions and advice. He had some really good ideas that escaped us at first.
The press machine on Stage 6. There’s something about the perspective here…
Every time I hear these stories, it surprises me how far overboard Okunari-san’s demands goes…
NH: Those unreasonable demands can be fun. If only we had an unlimited amount of time….
YO: If we had an unlimited amount of time, M2 would go bankrupt. (laughs)
NH: Ah maybe… Ok, what if we had unlimited money as well! (laughs)
Still though, it seems like the pace at which you’ve release these GigaDrive titles is pretty quick.
NH: Well, since the hardware they’re based on doesn’t really change, anything related to the controls etc. won’t either.
YO: M2 had built the GigaDrive architecture, which they could apply to multiple titles, and they focused a lot on its 3D functionality.
NH: Since we’ve allocated engineers to the 3D tech, we were able to work on several games at the same time. The folks adding the 3D have developed their own habits and “styles” for implementing 3D, which has been interesting to watch.
And this isn’t just regular 3D compatibility; it also works for this side-scrolling beat ‘em up.
YO: Laying out the initial groundwork was the hardest part; everything was a slog until M2 built the GigaDrive. Getting the MegaDrive to run emulated on 3DS was the first hurdle, and once that was done, they had a platform from which to build the GigaDrive which was its own challenge. They then had an environment where an artist or programmer adding 3D could do so according to their own personal style… Since the titles overlapped, they were able to work more efficiently and cut down on the really laborious parts of the process.
It sounds something you’d need a smart approach for.
NH: There’s a lot of ‘smarts’ being used in Streets of Rage.
YO: Up until Shinobi III, the focus for getting the 3D working was on the technical aspects of background scrolling. With Streets of Rage, pretty much everything was similar to what we did with the trees and construction signs in 3D Sonic, except that games had themselves evolved, and things that were drawn in faux “3D” for Streets of Rage pretty much had to be brought into real stereoscopic 3D in the remake. At first, you can only faintly imagine what the end product of that looks like, but what it takes to actually get there is mostly a thankless job.
Having scrolling in 3D across multiple background layers is certainly the easiest way for people to communicate the 3D effect to people. But for Streets of Rage, all the original graphics have some kind of perspective applied to them, which can tempt you to try and actually make them 3D. But when you start down that road…
NH: There were also reasons back in the MegaDrive days that developers had to try to save on memory usage. So even if you had to break the perspective a bit, the graphic was fine as long as it looked like what it was supposed to be. There’s a lot of that going on in Streets of Rage, which was hard to deal with.
You pop up the backgrounds in 3D, but then they conflict with how the characters are positioned. Fixing that contradiction must be a tedious process.
How do I put this… Take monster movies for instance, where you’re like “wait is that a miniature building they’re using in the close-ups? The perspective is all off… but, meh, I guess it looks good!” However, when you see the same model in 3D, all of a sudden it looks totally off. What you guys are doing is basically fixing all the perspective problems with a miniature model by hand…
NH: That’s a good example.
YO: If Shinobi III was the sum of everything we’ve accomplished so far, Streets of Rage is the next dimension.
The only catch in “Fists of Death” Mode: No one-hit kills off a single throw!
Alright, shifting gears a bit. Similar to previous GigaDrive titles, I’m assuming both the Japanese and international versions are available in the 3DS version?
You can switch between the International and Japanese versions in 3D Streets of Rage.
In the two player mode on the lower screen, Adam appears to be missing…
Classic mode, which recreates the early 90s feeling of playing on a CRT TV screen.
YO: Yes, all the standard features of GigaDrive titles are included, so you can play the JP version if you want. And thanks to the features we included with 3D Altered Beast, the game supports local 2P co-op as well.
NH: Another small little bonus: the music that’s played when you select the icon on the Home screen? That’s a Manabu Namiki arrangement of Koshiro-san’s original Streets of Rage track. Well, not quite an arrangement, he just tweaked the track length so it loops properly. (laughs)
YO: Yeah, tracks for the Home screen have to be a certain length, you know. Previously, we’ve always had to pick a very short song or some kind of sound effect to go there, but we couldn’t find anything that worked for Streets of Rage. We tried a lot of stuff, but in the end this is what worked best. It’s kind of like when they make a short version of an anime theme song just for TV.
So it’s basically a jingle.
NH: Hey look at that, when you’re playing 2P co-op, Adam isn’t on the bottom screen. He also doesn’t make an appearance in II or III… Coincidence?!
YO: We’ve also added something we call “Fists of Death” mode to Streets of Rage 3D. It’s a really simple and satisfying version of the game, where you get to knock out any enemy with a single punch. It’s the easiest way to get through every stage. You can also crank up the difficulty to “Hardest” and try it that way.
NH: “Hardest” is fun because you’re always in danger of dying, but you have to mow through piles of enemies. If you screw up, it’s game over. So you can raise the difficulty to get a real challenge, or lower it with Fists of Death just to have something to play around with.
The thing is though, creating the Fists of Death mode wasn’t actually that easy… When you get knocked out, notice how the ground around you vibrates a bit when you revive. This effect damages all characters on screen, and in early versions of “Fists of Death,” that was enough to wipe out all the enemies around you. So we had to go in and tweak the original programming to account for it, and in that process there was even a point where enemies would be knocked out by simply touching your character. Like you’re surrounded by a cloud of poison or something.
YO: Also, since the damage for throwing enemies is calculated slightly different from normal damage, we made it so you can’t defeat enemies with a single throw. Besides that, there are certain characters who crouch when you go to punch them, and they were tricky to deal with. M2 had to tweak each enemy so they’d actually keel over after one hit.
NH: At first we were like: “One-hit kill mode? Yeah we’ll have it ready in no time”…
But it’s always something, you know?
Still, you didn’t include Fists of Death because you thought it’d be easy to add, right?
NH: It seemed like it’d be a fun way to play, and we thought it wouldn’t take too much time to implement… It was a matter of combining what we knew we could do, and what we thought would be fun. Of course it’s still a blast to wail on enemies in the regular mode as well.
YO: We had a similar mode in the Golden Axe Collection for SEGA AGES ONLINE (Sega Vintage Collection).
Sounds like you had to strike a balance around the game design between good ideas and efficiency.
NH: There were also situations in Fists of Death mode where you’d defeat enemies before the enemy appearance table was set to bring out the next wave, so sometimes enemies wouldn’t even appear. Even when you want to make the game easier, you really get put through the grinder, and this time was no exception. (laughs) We had to put a lot of work into the enemy generation code.
The programming required is more involved, the characters are bigger, and you’ve got a lot going on in the backgrounds.
YO: When you put it that way, I think M2 are really the only ones who can really understand what that generation of developers had to go through. (laughs)
NH: Definitely. This is the kind of work where you have to track someone else’s footsteps, and get better every time at guessing what kind of challenges they endured on their journey.
Sounds like you’re treading some murky waters. (laughs)
YO: In any case, “Fists of Death” turns out to be a really fun, satisfying new mode. Everyone should give it a shot. We also enabled the cheat code from the original to let you use the stage select and raise your life settings as well.
YO: Oh, and you know the back attack you could do in the original by pressing B and C at the same time? We’ve assigned that to the R button, so it’s easier to do.
Round one of the 3D Remaster Project, finished!
At the end of the day, despite the games’ schedules overlapping, you guys never caught a break when creating these ports. (laughs)
NH: I guess not. But when you come this far…
I guess the games that I’d want to do in the future, or games that we’ll probably get requests for, would probably be Gunstar Heroes or Landstalker. Though I think they’d be at least twice as hard as anything we’ve done up until now.
Incidentally, you previously mentioned that Streets of Rage was chosen to be your last title. Does that mean this project is finished?
YO: Yes, this brings the 3D Remaster Project to a close.
NH: Wait, really!?
YO: “Their battle has only begun.”
NH: I feel like you’re cutting us off here.
YO: “Look forward to the next episode from the team at M2!”
NH: Damn it! Then we might just have to order another season… that’ll ultimately be canceled…1
1. Translator’s note: This is a play on a common technique used for ending a serialized manga. When a comic loses popularity, they are often ended in rather sudden ways and perhaps halfway through a particular story arc. Instead of just ending the story, they often include text on the last panel that implies the story continued on even afterwards. Okunari-san is mimicking a typical copy pattern in those situations.
YO: In any case, it’s the end of the first batch. We’re going back to the kitchen for awhile.
NH: … I don’t know if I can handle much more of this. Another 50 week sprint? A whole other year…
So you’re saying that this is the end point for the titles you’d originally planned.
YO: Correct. The 3D Remaster Project started out as a project for the new 3DS hardware, where we’d have Virtual Console titles coming out along with “something new” the side. Something that wasn’t just a single game, that could become a series. We got started without knowing if we could even get the games we selected into 3D, so we had to stock the series with enough titles to ensure that it was going to be worth all the effort. Those were the 8 titles we’ve released, and they took two years. It was a long road, but I think we can draw the curtain on this installment.
3D Remaster Project Lineup (Click names for interviews)
I’m a little scared to ask, but… What do you mean by the end of this series, and “going back to the kitchen”?
YO: Whether we can continue this project or not is really up to its reception by the fans. I emphasized this when we were discussing 3D Space Harrier, but it’s the truth. Thankfully, due to the support we’ve received in the 6 months after we released 3D Space Harrier in Japan, in other words the number of people who picked up the games, it looks like we’ll be able to carry on with the series.
NH: Wow! Are you sure that’s OK to say?
YO: The first batch is done, but for a second one, we need some time. For the Japanese market, we will be back with a second batch. For overseas folks, whether it gets localized or not will depend on the success of the first series. But the range of what we can actually do with a second batch of remakes is also dependent on the same factors.
NH: Now hold on. Are you saying that if people out there buy stacks and stacks of these remakes, I might be able to do Thunder Blade?
YO: … …
NH: Still no comment I see. I’d held off about Thunder Blade all day, so you were probably thinking I wasn’t going to bring it up again.
YO: Let’s just set aside whether or not Thunder Blade is a game that people want.
NH: In 3D, I know it will be awesome.
NH: Saeki-san, you laugh, but it would really bowl you over.
… Personally I’d definitely like to see it in 3D.
YO: We’ll be back.
NH: Yes we will.
YO: But first, we need to look at how Shinobi III and Streets of Rage fare in Japan and overseas. We’re in the kitchen, so just give us some time. Ultimately, whether we can exceed what we‘ve done in our first batch of games comes down to our fans. So I hope the first 8 titles are enough to earn their support.
NH: Yes, I hope so too. Until we can move onto the next series, I want to take this time to thank everyone. To the folks who were really impressed with 3D Space Harrier, thank you. I hope we can impress you again in the future.
What a wrap up. Man, these interviews have been really exciting, so I’d really look forward to a second batch. It might be a bit late to ask this, but how has the reaction been to the project so far compared to your expectations for it?
YO: In terms of 3D Space Harrier, when the 3DS was announced, I knew I wanted to see it in 3D, and I think for SEGA fans and other people as well, this was a game people wanted to see in 3D. I’ve thought that ever since the 3DS launched, and I think M2 probably feels the same.
NH: For sure.
YO: I imagine the fans probably thought that if SEGA was going to put something out in 3D, it’d have to be Space Harrier. So in that sense, once Space Harrier was released, I feel we’d dished out something good enough to make you say, “Man, Space Harrier is still totally awesome.”
Fans have also been sending us a lot of different game names that they want to see ported, and we’ve been able to deliver some of those, some of which we didn’t think we could manage originally. Putting these games into authentic 3D was a first for us, but something we were able to do with the new direction 3DS was taking us in. There were a lot of challenges along the way, but we’ve also had a lot of fun that we never expected, as we’ve catalogued in these interviews. I hope everybody can find something to appreciate in each of the remakes.
For example, the gyro controls in 3D Super Hang-on, which is something that has nothing to do with the 3D, I think was implemented really well. Or like in 3D Streets of Rage, things that you thought would look one way in real 3D, have a little twist to them and give you a nice surprise.
For 3D Space Harrier, some parts went as expected, but beyond that I think I can say that we were able to enjoy the journey as much as the players can enjoy the fruits of it. If we had just dropped in extra features and 3D compatibility, folded our arms, called it a day and it meant nothing to anybody else, there would’ve been no point. Maybe the same feature works well with another game. Or maybe there are more discoveries to be made in the next batch of games. Either way we do think that players have enjoyed what we’ve done so far and it’s up to us to keep that going. Getting feedback directly from the fans helps us keep thinking about how to approach ports in the future.
NH: I think we’re going to see a big response to the 3D remakes, and that will be enough to let us put out Thunder Blade. My main task is thinking about what I want to work on after we wrap up Thunder Blade.
NH: Well, that goes without saying.
Of course it does. (laughs)
YO: Wait, does that mean you managed to get those 250,000 signatures I told you to gather?
NH: Well, not signatures, per say. More like, you know, “smoke signals”, or vibes if you will. We both know it’s going to sell like crazy.
NH: Though I guess depending on cloud cover, it can be tough to see smoke signals.
(laughs) Personally, Thunder Blade is one of those titles I wanted to see from the get go. I think it’d be great if future releases prompted people to revisit and revaluate games like Thunderblade, and up-ended expectations of classic titles.
NH: That’s the kind of potential I think Thunder Blade has.
YO: I realized this when we were working on 3D Space Harrier, but there are basically two main reasons that this project was so well received by fans. One is playing games in 3D. The second is the addition of new features. When I say ‘addition’, I don’t mean remaking the game into something completely different. It could be something like putting HAYA OH into the arcade version of Space Harrier, putting the Spin Dash in Sonic, or adding the Moving Cabinet modes to the arcade ports. We’re always trying to come up with just one more little bonus that we can drop in. Something that hasn’t been done yet. Since we’ve been able to deliver on that, I think the 3D Remaster Series distinguishes itself from what we put out on Virtual Console up until now.
Of course we also want to enable people to play their favorite games from yesteryear unchanged on modern hardware, so we’ll continue to support Virtual Console. But I want to do something beyond what we’ve already done in the second batch.
NH: We’ve got a lot of good ideas, and we’ve already got some impressive graphics in the works. Get hype.
Over the course of these interviews, I think once you actually sit down with the games, the entire context you guys have been describing becomes that much clearer. I definitely look forward to seeing what else this project can give birth to.
YO: Perhaps an odd example, but it’s sort of like when they put out the first season of a TV anime and have to decide a half year later whether to follow up with a 2nd season, do a couple of OVAs, or just go ahead and order a movie version.
NH: If we did a ‘movie version’ of this project, what would that be like? Like using an Oculus Rift hooked up to a console or something?
YO: Hahaha, is that how you imagine it? (laughs) Well, the way forward again depends on how the games are received. At some point, we might come to the conclusion that the world just doesn’t need any more GigaDrive games. But in the end we hope everyone enjoys the games we’ve been able to bring out so far, and hopefully the ones we can bring out in the future.
Thank you so much for your time, gentlemen! I look forward to your future work!
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