Assault Suits Valken – 1993 Developer Interviews

Assault Suits Valken – 1993 Developer Interviews

This is a collection of two short Assault Suits Valken interviews: the first from the 10/92 issue of Hippon Super, and the second from the 5/93 issue of Famicon Tsuushin. They make a nice companion to the other Valken interview hosted at shmuplations. I’ve also added the liner notes of composer Masanao Akahori, a translation of the official Assault Suits “technical readout,” and a selection of concept art.

Hideo Suzuki – Main Director
Kou Satou – Designer
Keisuke Tadakuma – Graphics

—What was your original concept for Assault Suits Valken?

Suzuki: We simply wanted to create our own world, populate it with characters, and then let their different dramas play out.

—Does that explain the emphasis on realism in Valken, then?

Suzuki: Yes. We wanted both the controls and the world to more realistic to players, so nothing would seem incongruent or out-of-place. The controls in Valken are a little different from other games, but our hope is that players will enjoy the learning process as they get better at piloting their mech.

Tadakuma: In terms of realism, there’s also enemy mechs with the same design as yours, and their camouflage changes depending on the environment they appear in. It’s a near-future setting.

—Was Assault Suits Valken influenced by any other media/series?

Suzuki: Gundam, of course, and Votoms. We love the originals—the serious, hard stuff.

Tadakuma: To be honest, my attitude while designing Valken was casuals be damned. (laughs) As for influences, I never referred to any other visuals specifically, when doing my work. Any influence that comes out must have been unconsciously added.

Hideo Suzuki and Keisuke Tadakuma.

Satou: When we made Assault Suits Valken, we didn’t base the game directly off anything, but the entire development staff was the same generation that grew up with Gundam, Votoms, and mecha stuff like that. We thought that something with a solid, fleshed out world and backstory like Gundam would surely make for an interesting game. In fact, we created a really detailed world for Valken, only a part of which appears in the game for players to experience. I think the richness of the world alone is enough to draw people into the game. We have a lot of confidence in it.

—Are there any secrets you can tell us about Valken, as the developers?

Satou: A number of strategy guides for Valken have come out now, and all of them write that the Punch is useless. Actually, though, we designed the Punch to be more useful than the Missile. I want people to get better acquainted with its strengths. (laughs)

—Satou, how did you become a game designer?

Satou: When I was a student I was really into the PC versions of Wizardry and The Black Onyx, that kind of stuff. As I played these games I started to think it would be fun to try my own hand at making something others would enjoy. And if I was going to have a career doing that it would have to be games, so I resolved to join the game industry. That was my start.

Assault Suits Valken concept art. Unfortunately, the text is too small to read.

—Is there anything in particular you’re striving to convey, when you develop a game?

Satou: Well, here’s an example. Action games nowadays have become very complicated. In the course of reaching this level of complexity, I think they’ve managed to incorporate the best parts of other genres. As an analogy, look at Dragon Quest, which is an RPG, but has incorporated elements of adventure and puzzle games as well. I’d like to make another action game that’s like that.

—With that said, what kind of game(s) are you thinking of making in the future?

Satou: Well, this is just an example, but Star Fox with its multiple pilots aiding you, in a sense, is a multiplayer game. I’d like to expand on that intriguing element of Star Fox and make a true cooperative multiplayer action game. Of course, then you’ve got a problem with needing two screens.

—Please tell us your “top 3” games.

Satou: Gradius, Dragon Spirit, and Metal Hawk are my three favorite STG games (in that order). If we’re talking consoles, I also love rpgs like Dragon Quest.

—Do you have any thoughts on the game industry today?

Satou: Lately I’ve wondered if players aren’t starting to get bored of games. I think what’s needed now for us designers is to re-examine the fundamentals: why do we have video game consoles? why are we making video games? why do people play games? Or to put it another way, we need to cut the ties with the past so that we can forge new bonds. I think the time for that is drawing near.

Kou Satou in his workspace at NCS.
Masanao Akahori – 1992 Composer Commentary

from the Assault Suits Valken Arranged OST liner notes

It feels like “game music” has become established as a genre of its own recently. By the same token, however, I also worry that “game music” has become too independent and separate from the actual games themselves; as background music to games, something is off.

My goal, then, for Assault Suits Valken was music that would mesh more deeply with the world and help support the story.

In almost every STG and action game, the music changes with each stage. But for Valken I wanted to place more importance on the story, so I devised a method of changing songs that depended on the progression of events instead.

As the graphics appeared on the screen before me, I thought of how all these buildings and environments in Valken have their own mood and atmosphere—and likewise, they have their own music… I just had to find it! Letting it all wash over me naturally, my image for the music of Valken gradually took shape.

As for the the specific things I paid attention to while composing, since Valken had a very tough, hardcore image, I didn’t want to write music that was too delicate or dainty, as it would be drowned out. On the other hand, if I made the music too forceful and strong it would be annoying, and compete with the game itself. So I tried to strike a balance between those extremes, while also expressing the futility and tragedy of war. When everything was finished and put together I was surprised at how well it matched the game.

Masanao Akahori.

For the arranged versions on this cd, I used the data from the original soundtrack and changed the instruments and sounds. I think it’s quite listenable this way. With these versions I broke free of the mold they had been in, and tried to go for a more “adult” sound.

In any event, since I originally composed these as “background music” for a game, as independent pieces of music they might be a little lacking… if they bring the game back to mind for you, though, I’m happy.

By the way… war is something nobody wants, but if war actually broke out, would you go to the frontline as a soldier? I know I would run straight away…

Assault Suits Technical Readout

Grand Pacific ASS-117A “Valken”

Total Height: 19.6 ft (5.96 meters)
Weight, unequipped: 9,834.13 pounds (4.465 tons)
Weight, equipped: (standard armament, pilot included) 10,960 pounds (5.24 tons)
Maximum Power Output: 9.4 MW/hr
Maximum Speed: (with 1G gravity and cryer wheels deployed) 33 mph

Armor Plating, composite alloy
Chest, frontal: 3.15 inches
Chest, rear: 2.4 inches
Shoulders: 2.98 inches
Forearms, rear: 1.6 inches
Shins, frontal: 3.62 inches

Propulsion System: Diplos Corp. ASJ-411 Mineral Ore-Powered Engine

Sensor Array
Laser Ranger Module x1 (Head)
TV Scanner x1 (Head)
Infrared Monitor x1 (Head)
Standing Yaw Indicator x1 (Head)
External Contact Sensors (Shoulder, Legs, Feet, Torso)
Balance Sensors (Upper Arms, Shins x2, Feet, Lower Torso)
Touch Sensors (Fingers)
Radar (Air), Zarz Corp. RSA-34 (Head)
Radar (Ground), Zarz Corp. RGA-128 (Chest)
Thermal Scanner x1 (Head)

Weapons Control System: Detroitic Corp WG-V308C Module (hardwired to both radar units)
Weapons, fixed: HN-21 Explosive Cartridge System Hard Knuckle

Standard Equipment
Cryer Wheels x2 (for high speed movement; attached at ankles)
Ramjet Engine x1 (Rear Torso)
PCM Antenna (Frame)
ECM Antenna (Frame)
Searchlight (Lower Torso)
Periscope (Upper Torso)
Shoulder Armor (each Shoulder)

Eject System: RTB Corp. GRU-96 (emergency inflatable-style ejection seat)

More concept art for Assault Suits Valken. This image,
in particular, recalls the old FASA Battletech mech readouts
Assault Suits Valken enemy concept art.
Concept art for the ASV weaponry.

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