In a recently translated interview on Darius, several of the developers talk about what it took to make a game that was groundbreaking in several aspects, including the use of three screens, subwoofers under the seats, as well as why the bosses are all fish-themed. [Thanks, Shmuplations!]
Here are some highlights:
To start things off, where did the idea for that 3-screen cabinet come from?
Takeki Nakamura, hardware engineer: “We were already familiar with the technique of using mirrors to visually connect two monitors. I believe one of our older games, Wyvern F-O, used this trick. We surmised that it should be possible to do the same thing with three monitors, so we tried it out. That hardware idea really came first. After we did some tests and saw it was indeed feasible to seamlessly link three screens, then we asked ourselves what kind of game would best fit a 3-screen format.”
Akira Fujita, planner: “At first we thought we’d link the monitors in a vertical (tate) orientation, or perhaps turn them on their side and stack them vertically (yokotate). But our eyes are laid out horizontally on our face to begin with, so we thought that vision-wise, a horizontal “cinema-scope”-like arrangement would be more effective.”
Where did the idea for the fish battleships come from?
Fujita: “That was my idea. Before Darius, I had this idea of making a STG where you would fight a battleship at the end of each stage, and once we decided on the 3-screen setup, I suddenly had an additional insight: since mecha/machine designs have already been used a lot in STGs, using fish could be a really interesting way to spice things up…”
Junji Yarita, designer: “I worked as a character designer (bosses and enemies) on Darius. I sketched a number of different mecha-fish designs to see what everyone liked, and we went from there.”
Fujita: “We actually thought up 26 different battleships, and our artists created art and designs for all of them. There was an angelfish design, a moray eel, and some really bizarre crazy ones too. Unfortunately, due to time constraints, we ended up whittling it down to only 11 different battleships for the game.”
I wanted to ask about the sound also… where did the whole “body sonic” idea come from?
Yasuhiko Tanaka, sound designer: “Good question, where did that first come from? It was an idea we’d had for awhile, and we’d been looking for something to use it on. We were planning to add body sonic to the F1 racing game Laser Grand Prix, but we dropped it at the last moment. It was just too costly when you added it all up.
With Darius we had some lofty aspirations, and in the beginning all manner of crazy ideas were floated. The Darius development was different from previous Taito developments, in that we had a lot of youthful energy, and younger people were now in the position of team leaders. I think that went a good way towards our accomplishing what we set out to do.”
With so many different enemies and characters to create, how many people were on the development team?
Tanaka: “It really took a lot of people. A single boss might take us 10 days to create… of all the bosses, I think King Fossil had the most people working on it. However, with so many different people working on a character, it made unifying the designs a lot harder.”
You can read the full interview, as well as another related interview on Darius II, here.
Darius originally released in arcades in 1987.