Wild Guns is a 1994 Super Famicom gun-shooting action game developed by Natsume. It’s somewhat osbcure, but deserves to be better known in the SFC canon. In this short interview creator Shunichi Taniguchi talks about his design ideas and the inspirations behind the game.

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2013 Wild Guns Developer Interview

Featured in STG Gameside #8

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Wild Guns, SFC cover.

—To start things off, tell us how the Wild Guns development got started.

Shunichi Taniguchi: While we were waiting for our next subcontracted work to begin, our boss told us to develop a new game with two conditions: quickly and cheaply. I believe from the initial planning to the finished app it took us about five months. I’m sorry the answer is so boring!

—Can you tell us who the staff were for the Wild Guns development?

Taniguchi: I did the game design and the graphics. Toshiyasu Miyabe did the programming, and Hiroyuki Iwatsuki did the sound. We three did the main work, and we also had two people helping as sub-staff. All three of us still work together at Natsume today, and we recently made the Xbox Live Arcade game Omega Five.

—By 1994, the next generation of console hardware had already been released. Wild Guns is often spoke of as a masterpiece of the late-era Super Famicom, but why did you select this platform for the game?

Taniguchi: We had worked together as the same team on the SFC game Ninja Warriors Again,” so the Super Famicom was a natural choice. We still thought it was the golden age of the SFC; we really didn’t think it was the “end of the system” at all.

—Gun shooting games that you play with a controller, not a lightgun, are very rare. Can you tell us about any difficulties you had designing such a system?

Taniguchi: In our pre-release test version, you could only move the gunsight up and down; the lateral movement was done by moving the character left and right. As you can imagine it turned out to be very difficult to play, and we ended up switching to more standard controls. Also, the artificial 3D depth of the screen made it hard to determine the precise location of enemy bullets, so we added the “lookout!” popup to help the cursor better stand out.

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Stage 1-2 concept art vs. finished design.

—Do you have any interesting stories or anecdotes about designing the protagonists Clint and Annie? Also, were they modeled after anyone in real life?

Taniguchi: We wanted them to be dressed in the emblematic clothing of the Western—the cowboy hat and dress, for instance—but they weren’t modeled after anyone in particular. They also had different names at first, but our American office suggested the names Clint and Annie to us. We also couldn’t decide whether Annie should wear tight jeans or a dress, but jeans would have overlapped with Clint’s design, so that was a strike against them. In the end we chose the dress for her because it was easier to animate her movement that way.

—What games influenced Wild Guns?

Taniguchi: We used a variety of gun shooting games as a reference. In particular, we took a lot from the arcade game Dynamite Duke and Blood Bros. And although we weren’t conscious of this at the time, various characters appear in Wild Guns that look exactly the same as characters from those two games… it’s a little embarrassing to see that now. (laughs) Also, the “science fiction western” setting for Wild Guns was largely inspired by the manga Cobra.

—What aspects of Wild Guns did you pay special attention to during the development?

Taniguchi: We made sure there were lots of breakable objects in the backgrounds. Also, there were a lot of inorganic mecha enemies, so for variety, we tried our best to make the human enemies seem kind of dumb and bumbling.

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Concept art for Clint and Annie.

—Yeah, Wild Guns is one of those games where you just want to shoot everywhere and see what you can break. (laughs) By the way, what was your overall game design concept for Wild Guns?

Taniguchi: Well, the genre was to be gun shooting, but we wanted to add action game mechanics: jumping, pistol whipping, and throwing a net were some of the ideas we included. Also, since gun shooting games are typically based around an aiming mechanic, your targets can get quite small, so we made efforts to make the enemies as visually large as possible. Finally, I personally really love 2P cooperative games, so I wanted Wild Guns to be a game that would be fun to play (and easier) with another player.

—Yes, Wild Guns is exceptionally fun with a friend. Do you have any other interesting stories from the development that you’d like to share?

Taniguchi: Sure. At the time we didn’t haven’t any budget for voice actors, so Iwatsuki, the sound programmer, suggested we use my voice for Clint. We recorded it in the bathroom of the Natsume office. Also, the screen-shaking, shimmering mirage-like effect that happens during large explosions was something Miyabe came up with after watching Robocop 3.

—Wow, I didn’t know you did Clint’s voice! Wild Guns is one of the SFC classics that hasn’t been re-released yet on the Virtual Console or similar platform, but is that something you would like to see?

Taniguchi: Actually, Natsume was moving to get them re-released on the Virtual Console platform when the Wii first came out, but unfortunately it hasn’t been realized yet.

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Stage 1 concept art vs. finished design. The staging became
more open horizontally, probably to make the action clearer.

—I’ll pray it happens soon! Since Wild Guns was completed in so short a time, do you have any regrets about it, or things you’d like to change?

Taniguchi: This is something Miyabe was saying, but I know he wanted to implement a scoring system that would add longevity to the game. Unfortunately, due to the infinite patterns that would have broken the scoring, it couldn’t be added.

—Please give a final message to all the fans who still adore Wild Guns today!

Taniguchi: When I look back at Wild Guns now, all I see are places for improvement. But it was a game we were allowed to make just as we saw fit, so it’s very memorable to me because of that. I’m grateful to everyone who played the game then, and to the people who still remember it today!