Short Cuts – Assorted Developer Interviews 1990-1996
selected from BEEP, Famicom Tsuushin, and similar magazines
Crusader of Centy – 1994 Developer Interview
originally featured in BEEP Megadrive
Yayoi Onda – Planner/Producer
Our basic plan for Crusader of Centy was to make an action RPG that was easy to play. The animal option system was another idea we had at the beginning of the development, and that kind of became the core around which we constructed much of the game’s world. We tried to make them feel like real contributing allies during your battles, rather than just “animals”. Despite being an action RPG there’s no experience; instead, we tried to give players a sense of progression by having your character learn new action abilities as they develop, like the jump and sword-throw.
I wrote the story myself, and because I don’t like tearjerkers, instead I added a lot of twists and surprises. I think I went a little too far in some places though, which caused the dialogue to get a bit lengthy… (laughs)
Please explore every nook and cranny of Crusader of Centy and take your time to fully enjoy the story!
Crusader of Centy features a cameo from a certain “gallant” blue mammal; to quote the hedgehog himself, “don’t mess or you’ll get burned.”
Yukihiko Tani – Main Programmer
We had a lot of different ideas for this game, and I wanted to make sure we didn’t have to cut any of them because of the programming. To that end, I pushed myself further than I ever have.
In any event, I hope players notice all the little details in things like the footprints, the fireplaces, and the buckets. The character also has 8-way movement, so we’ve carefully prepared 8 different animation patterns for each action. There should be something new to do in every map, and exploring them fully is definitely one of the appeals of Crusader of Centy. There’s lots of different animal combinations too, so please find all the best killer combos!
Toshio Yamamoto – Character and Graphic Designer
Crusader of Centy was challenging for me because it had a completely different art style from Ranger X. We also wrote the story for Ranger X after the fact, while this time, the story came first, and I had to design the characters to match it. That took more work than I expected.
I also did some research on how to best use the color palette, to create something colorful that wouldn’t feel inferior to the Super Famicom. The maps were the most difficult part for me. We modeled all the terrain in pixel form, then had to figure out the hit detection layer. It felt like solving a puzzle.
The action RPG, which is quite popular right now, makes for very different style game from Ranger X. I hope players enjoy it, as well as the unique atmosphere.
From left to right: Yukihiko “bugtaro” Tani, Yayoi Onda, Toshio Yamamoto.
Soul Blazer – 1992 Developer Interview
originally featured in the 2/92 edition of Hippon Super
Tomoyoshi Miyazaki – Scenario Writer
Masaya Hashimoto – Programmer
Yukihide Takekawa – Composer
—When I played Actraiser, I could really feel the spirit of the human townspeople. The other characters were harder to connect with, though. Were you aiming for a more expansive world with Soul Blazer?
Miyazaki: Yes, we were. We tried to change the perspective a bit.
—The way the buildings are built by rescuing souls is one of the most interesting parts of the game.
Hashimoto: By restoring the towns piece by piece, it gives the player a sense of progress and fulfillment, while also serving as a good way to structure and pace the information we reveal. This way we could avoid flooding the player with exposition.
—The gameplay system is very approachable too.
Hashimoto: That was actually our number one priority in developing Soul Blazer. We made it so you wouldn’t need to read the instruction booklet to play. (laughs)
From the game’s ending, Japanese vs. overseas renditions of Lisa. Can you guess which is which?
—”The game HAS to have this!” —was there anything like that in the development of Soul Blazer?
Miyazaki: On the story side, I wanted to mix and present two different perspectives: the way human beeings see objects, and the way objects see human beings. By the end of the game, my hope is that the player will experience a change of perspective in their own views.
—What kind of people do you want to play Soul Blazer?
Hashimoto: Normal people. I’d like people who have had no interest in games up to now to give it a try. Of course, we also want existing game fans to play too.
—What are the songs like for Soul Blazer?
Takekawa: It’s got an RPG feel, and I also tried to imagine a classical orchestra when I wrote it. The programmers had a very specific image of things which they shared with me as well.
—Did you do the actual music programming yourself too?
Takekawa: That was my initial intention, but the development tools proved too difficult for me. We had a limited time to get everything done so ultimately I left that work up to the specialists. The hard work of the music programmers, though, was definitely a huge part of us achieving a good sound.
—Do you play games at home, Takekawa?
Takekawa: Yeah, I was the one who got the Famicom for our house. Lately my kids are a lot better than me though. I like the music in Super Mario Bros. I think those latin-feel songs are very fitting for game music.
—Do you plan to compose more game music after Soul Blazer?
Takekawa: I’d like to! Game music is fun because it’s so very different from other genres. It’s different from music for anime, and different than film music. I feel like RPG music, in particular, is practically its own genre.
—Finally, please tell us what your favorite track in Soul Blazer is.
Takekawa: I’m very proud of the ending, koibito no inai yoru. We recorded a vocal version for the Soul Blazer OST CD as well. Also, maybe the scientist laboratory theme. I’m really fond of that one too.
Quintet’s Masaya Hashimoto and Tomoyoshi Miyazaki.
Final Fantasy III – 1990 Developer Interview
with director Hironobu Sakaguchi
The way it works at Square is, for the stories (we call it the “adventure” part of the game), all that work is done by a completely different team from the group that does the battles. Towards the end of the development, both teams are mixed together to finish the game.
I’m the head of the “adventure” team. We don’t start out with a master plan for the setting/world of the game—those details get filled in as we go. “A world matched to a story”… I think that fittingly describes the Final Fantasy series.
One of the appeals of a game with job classes, I think, is that after you’ve beat it, you’ll want to replay it with new classes. But I also think it’s annoying to have to restart the entire game just to experience a different class. To that end, we came up with the idea of being able to change your class whenever and wherever you want, and enjoy characters with a variety of abilities. It’s kind of like the Thunderbirds show, you know? The way the Thunderbird 2 could swap out different pods, housing vehicles with different abilities. It’s just like that.
We don’t try to force Final Fantasy to appeal to the mainstream. It may be because of the number of hardcore nerds we have on our team, but our target demographic is kids around high school age. We want to keep making games that we ourselves would really want to play. One opinion you hear a lot about RPGs, is “if there aren’t distinct roles/classes, it’s not an RPG”. And it’s true that many of our staff love those tabletop games like D&D, and some of them feel that way themselves. We do not adhere to that when we make our games, though. I don’t think we should be bound by stodgy rules or definitions, of any kind. If something feels fun and natural to play, then it’s good by me.
Normally, the Famicom can hold 256 different map tiles. In FF3, we use all that space for the overworld terrain. Other companies will usually allocate 128 for terrain data, and reserve the remaining for UI windows—that way you can open up windows on the field map. In FF3, we couldn’t do that. That’s why we came up with the convention where doors are opened by walking into them (instead of having a “DOOR” command as in earlier RPGs).
Yoshitaka Amano’s original, radically different concept art for the beloved chocobo.
As for warp magic that would let you move between towns… it would definitely be convenient. But if players use it too much, they’ll never get familiar with the terrain or map. With the Final Fantasy series, we want both the story and the terrain of the world to remain in players’ memories. So our solution was to include the airship vehicle. Flying around like that feels great anyway, so players won’t be bothered by the lack of a proper warp spell, I think.
Players always love finding treasures and items, so we try to dole them out to players in a way that feels rewarding. For example, there might be a treasure in a location that 80% of players will probably find, but we try to place them in such a way that it creates the illusion in players of “Wow, I was the only one who found this!”
In terms of the gameplay systems, I want FFIV to be a completely different game. That’s one of the staples of the Final Fantasy series, that we change things up every game. FFIII’s job system was popular, but that doesn’t mean we want to make a sequel that upgrades that with like 50 jobs or something. We don’t like doing “upgrade version” style sequels. Our staff would become completely bored if we had to work like that.
The “Final Fantasy” title is a general title for this world that is more-or-less united by things like the crystals and the shared items and magic. That’s why we don’t mind changing up the game systems every time. Sequels that only change the story and nothing else are boring, right? I hope players will enjoy experiencing a new Final Fantasy world each game.
King Colossus – 1992 Developer Interview
originally featured in BEEP Megadrive magazine
Makoto Ogino – Director/Original Story Writer
—I understand you served as producer for King Colossus. To start things off, please tell us about the game.
Ogino: The world of this game is all about rushing headlong into danger. The theme I wanted to convey was “man must fight, and win, to live.” It’s a simple, but also a very deep game.
—What genre would you call King Colossus?
Ogino: It’s an RPG with strong action elements. We also mixed some puzzles in there. For example, some of the rooms have traps and obstacles scattered about that you’ll have to navigate. I thought it would be cool to have a room where blocks fall from the top of the screen, Columns-style, and their formation changes when you punch them.
—Can you go into more detail about your role in the development?
Ogino: I was responsible for almost all the characters, and I also oversaw the progress of the development. As for the monsters, I didn’t draw any of them myself, but I came up with a lot of different ideas for them.
Makoto Ogino (1959-2019), director of King Colossus and mangaka known for his work on Kujaku-oh (Peacock King).
—What kind of players are you hoping to target with King Colossus?
Ogino: Players who are already good at games should be able to steadily proceed through it without too much trouble, while newcomers, if they grind a little for experience, should be able to clear it too. It will be playable for all ages.
—The 4Mbit memory limit seems very tight, but has it proved restrictive so far?
Ogino: Yeah, it can be. But the thing I’m most afraid of, actually, is if we go too deep on the sprites and animation and end up neglecting the story. If we cut back too much there, then the game will end up being boring: fight, defeat enemies—ok you’re done.
—It looks like there’s a real wealth of weapons to choose from in King Colossus. How’s that going so far?
Ogino: In this game, you don’t buy weapons with money. You can borrow some from the arena, but otherwise you find them all on your own. You get new weapons with every new arena and scene, clearing out each area, a bit like a strategy game. That said, I don’t want the game to feel like your usual, standard action game.
—Do you play a lot of video games yourself?
Ogino: Space Invaders-type games were really popular right when I entered college. I thought I might try them, but the turth is, at that time I was actually more addicted to pachinko, which I played everyday. When it comes to pachinko, I know everything about it, including all the different types of machines.
—Do you still play pachinko today then?
Ogino: No, I got bored of it about 4 years ago. To fill that void I immediately took up video games. That means I’ve only been playing games for 4 or 5 years now. I’ve received a number of consoles from people I know in the industry, though. That was how I got a Megadrive too. However, while there’s an abundance of difficult games, I started looking to see if there were any easier, simple games… and as I was researching that, Brainbusters approached me and we began talking about making a Megadrive game together.
—I’ve also heard that you like arcade PCBs, is that true?
Ogino: Yeah, there was a period where I was super into game centers, and I bought PCBs to play at home too. There’s a certain sense of danger and a thrill you get from game centers that I love. You don’t get that from computer games.
—Which pcbs do you own?
Ogino: I mainly played Toaplan’s Wardner no Mori. Other than that, it was a lot of STG games. Recently I’ve been thinking about picking up some mahjonng games.
—What kind of console games do you enjoy?
Ogino: I remember when I played The Legend of Zelda, it held a strange fascination for me. I loved it. I had never cared for games before then. Personally, I’ve always wondered why no game has come out like it since. It confirms for me that it’s good when games have a simple system like Zelda. It’s got a lot of depth. I want King Colossus to be like that too.
—How does making games compare to making manga?
Ogino: There’s a number of similarities. I can’t program or do other technical work, but I think the planning aspect of game development is extremely interesting. The manga world has been experiencing something similar, where more people are starting to become more interested in the world of a particular work, rather than allegiance to a specific author as it used to be. As long as it’s the same world, fans don’t mind if it’s someone else besides the original creator. Right now I’m having a lot of fun working together with developers from Sega to realize the “game world” I’m trying to achieve.
—What do you think about video games themselves?
Ogino: I think games are the best suited medium for letting us live out our dreams and fantasies. Games like Famista Baseball, where you get to take the mound as a pitcher and rescue your team from a pinch! I want more silly games like that, which put you in crazy situations. I don’t think it’s a good thing that adults get as obsessed about Dragon Quest as kids do though. I’d rather adults went for something less straightforward, and more humorous.
—Please give a final word to our readers.
Ogino: King Colossus will be a “socialist revolution” for video games. Those games which have become too difficult and can only appeal to a special class of players—cast them aside, and once more, let us return video games to the people! I call it the video game “french revolution”…!
A cleaner look at the art used on the back cover of King Colossus’ box.
Cool Boarders – 1996 Developer Interview
taken from the GSLA archive
Masaya Kobayashi – Director (and sole snowboarder on the team)
Kimiaki Kurashima – Planner
Kobayashi: I love snowboarding, and wanted to make a game based on the sport, so I went and drew up the initial plans. That was how the development got started. Compared with car racing where you just, well, race… in snowboarding you can jump and soar through the air, and I thought a racing game that included those elements could be really interesting.
Kurashima: When we got the basic sliding mechanics down, I remember thinking “Ok, now I’m seeing it, we’ve got something here.” There were a lot of directions we could have gone in, for a snowboarding game. But in the end what we tried to capture, and pursue, was that basic thrill of sliding on a snowboard. The only snowboarder on staff, though, is Kobayashi…
Kobayashi: That’s true, but everyone skis. On both skis and a snowboard you’re doing the same basic thing, which is gliding along a snowy surface, and I think we’ve captured that sensation in Cool Boarders.
Kurashima: Yeah, though people who don’t snowboard probably won’t fully get what you’re talking about, I mean, the whole sensation of it. There’s only one cure for that: you should go and try out snowboarding for yourself. (laughs)
For the sense of speed, we did use other racing games as a reference. We wanted it to be distinct from car racing games though, so it wouldn’t feel like a cheap knockoff.
Cool Boarders gameplay in HD.
Kobayashi: It’s distinct from skiing as well: if you just swapped out the player character for a skiing character, it wouldn’t suddenly become a skiing game. (laughs)
One thing I realized while making Cool Boarders is how quickly tricks go out-of-style. Initially we put in a certain grab move, and when I later showed that to a friend, he said “Oh, no one does grabs like that anymore.” So we went back and re-did the animation.
The spins, too, originally we had them going clockwise, but then I was told “counter-clockwise is what’s in now”, so we had the programmer change that too. (laughs)
Kurashima: Cool Boarders is a racing game, and the thing with a snowboard racing game is that you can see the human character. In car racing, the graphics model for the car doesn’t change that much when you turn the wheel, for instance. But a human character has to reflect that movement on-screen. On a straight, monotonous course, he’ll mostly just stand there and won’t really move much. That’s why we had the course designers include tricky routes with lots of curves… the advanced courses, at least, are like that, but yeah, that was something we were very conscious of in our designs. In the future, I’d like to try making a snowboarding game with multi-person races.
Emerald Dragon – 1995 Developer Interview
originally featured in Dengeki Super Famicom magazine
Akihiro Kimura – Designer/Illustrator
—First off, how do you feel about Emerald Dragon as a game.
Kimura: Honestly, it feels like it’s been a really long relationship. It’s been 5 or 6 years since we created the original computer version, and when we made this game it was with a very small team—we weren’t even an official company then! It sold WAY above our expectations, and has been a part of our lives ever since.
—Did you always want to be an illustrator?
Kimura: No, I was originally a pixel artist. When I was in high school I submitted some of my CG work to a PC magazine, and after that I got a part time job in the editor department, which was how I initially got my start. At that magazine job, they were also making their own computer game, and helping them out was my first game work. Atsushi Ii, who wrote the original story for Emerald Dragon, also worked there as a part-timer alongside me then. But doing real illustration work, that’s something I only started in the last 2 or 3 years.
—Is your work influenced by anime?
Kimura: I like anime and I’ve watched a lot of it, but I’ve never actually worked in the industry. There’s a lot of games now today, especially CD-ROM titles, that have anime-style movies and cutscenes, and I’ve certainly studied and learned from them in my own way. I’m actually going to be working on character design for an OVA in the future.
—Who are your favorite illustrators?
Kimura: Michitaka Kikuchi (pen name: Kia Asamiya). Nowadays he seems to mainly be doing CG work, but in the past, I used the same art materials as him to draw. Actually, come to think of it, I also work on a MAC now. But I’m still into traditional penwork, and I keep trying to improve my skills there.
—The atmosphere of your drawings now feels a lot different from your earlier work.
Kimura: With Emerald Dragon, I’ve consciously tried to change my style up for its different incarnations. Partly, I think, it’s just that I’ve improved somewhat, but when you consider the length of time we’ve been working on Emerald Dragon, naturally I’ve wanted to try different things out to keep myself from getting bored. The light novel illustrations I did were especially different. But for this SFC version, to make sure the overall image of the game remained unified, I didn’t change things too much from the PC.
—Please say a final word to readers about the SFC version of Emerald Dragon.
Kimura: I’ve been told the SFC version is very different from the other console versions, so please look forward to it. Since Emerald Dragon has such a long history, though, I encourage you to try out those other, older versions after you’ve finished the SFC game. Please experience all the different Emerald Dragons.
—Thank you for your time today.
Kimura: “The original Emerald Dragon is now an older game. At that time, game protagonists were mostly seen as avatars or stand-ins for the player, so designers didn’t try to give them a lot of personality. As such, I drew Atrushan without many distinctive features, as a gentle, determined, normal boy. It’s my straight, unvarnished image of a shounen, I suppose.”
Kimura: “Bad guys are hard to draw. The basic approach is to include details like an angry furrowed brow, a crooked smile, or black circles under the eyes. However, in Ostracon’s case, he was supposed to look handsome on top of being bad, so I tried to make sure I didn’t overdo it lest I mess up that image.”
Kimura: “Like Atrushan, I drew Tamryn as your stereotypical ‘heroine’ figure. She’s cute, strong-willed, with a hidden strength within her… but that’s all combined with a certain weakness that’s meant to make the main character want to defend and protect her. I tried to avoid any extremity in her design.”
Kimura: “You can probably tell, but yeah, I put more effort into drawing the female characters. It’s more fun too. I focus a lot on the eyes and their expression, but other than that, there’s not much else I pay specific attention to. I don’t have any particular preferences for hair length either, but I also don’t get many chances to draw long hair, so between Tamryn and Pharna, Pharna was more fun to draw.”