Capcom and the CPS-1 – Developer Interviews
This Capcom arcade special begins with a 1989 developer interview centering around rising star designer Noritaka Funamizu’s latest CPS-1 efforts. In addition, I’ve included a special feature from 1991, in which various Capcom luminaries reminisce on their arcade games of the last decade. Finally, I've interspersed a selection of images from the Capcom Illustrations Gamest Mook, complete with commentary from artists Akiman, Kinu Nishimura, and Shohei Okano.
A Short Message from Capcom President Kenzo Tsujimoto
The new CP System arcade boards are very important to Capcom in two regards. First, they have much more memory than our previous hardware. Game developers will have free reign to explore new, exciting design ideas and take advantage of the latest technological developments. The CP System has upped the level of our developers already.
The second big thing is copy protection. Illegal bootlegs have been a huge problem for us overseas; I believe the CP System is the only pcb hardware today that cannot be copied.
The boards contain various copy protection methods, and their advanced hardware should make it difficult for bootleggers seeking to create knockoffs with today’s components. Bootlegs don’t only hurt us; they’re also a nuisance for our customers who think they’re getting a genuine board. We see copy protection as one of the main achievements of the CP System.
With the CPS-1, we’ve developed sufficient hardware to render visuals close to anime and actual photographs. Accordingly, we’re looking to expand our licensing agreements too. Games, after all, will never progress if we keep using the same simplistic graphics.
Capcom and the CPS-1
Noritaka Funamizu – Designer
Yoshiki Okamoto – Designer/Director/Producer
—Funamizu, what games have you made at Capcom so far?
Funamizu: My newest game is Area 88 (UN Squadron), but I’ve been involved in a number of projects before that. I joined Capcom around the time Exed Exes was being released. I helped out on Gun.Smoke, and did a little bit of planning on Side Arms. After that, I also did planning for 1943 and Forgotten Worlds.
Then I did the game design for Tenchi wo Kurau, and after that was finished I worked on Area 88. I’m very thankful that Tenchi wo Kurau seems to have been well-received by players.
Okamoto: He also helped on the Famicom port of Tenchi wo Kurau. He’s Capcom’s Great Young Hope! We’ve got to get all the work we can out of him before his health fails. (laughs)
—Area 88 is a horizontal STG, and a very orthodox one at that. It reminded me of 1943 a bit.
Funamizu: That makes sense, since 1943 and Area 88 were both designed by the same teams. I think the bullets and ship speed are a little too fast in both games, though. You need some finely honed senses to dodge in them.
Okamoto: We had so much screen space to work with, I kind of wish we had done a little more with it.
Funamizu: We’ve done a number of horizontal STGs at Capcom now, but in all of them your player character has been very tall (vertically). Forgotten Worlds and Side Arms are both like that. It makes dodging much more difficult. For Area 88, your ship is viewed in profile (horizontally), which makes the game closer to your traditional hori STG.
In Forgotten Worlds you had those satellites which could block bullets, so I think we achieved what we wanted there, but we still received some criticism about how difficult it was to dodge. We’ve tried to address that criticism with Area 88 by giving you a normal ship; we wanted to make a game that would be easier for the general public to enjoy.
Okamoto: Yeah, as much as we can, we always try to remove the parts from our games that players have complained about. On the one hand, we want to make intense, deep games; on the other hand, we try not to have parts in our games that are annoying to players. It’s not just players either: we have to make sure our games satisfy arcade operators and shop owners, too.
—Area 88 is your 6th game for the CPS-1 system. These CPS-1 games are really coming along now!
Okamoto: Thank you. With Area 88, we’ve gotten very comfortable with the new CPS-1 hardware, and we’re able to be more efficient with our developments now—the first CPS-1 game, Forgotten Worlds, gave us a lot of troubles.
Okamoto: We wanted something visually stunning for Forgotten Worlds, something that squeezed every drop out of the CPS-1. However, as the development progressed, we realized we didn’t have enough enemy characters finished, so we had to re-use some assets from Side Arms and 1943 to make it in time. It was rough.
Funamizu: Each character has their own movement, but it’s drawing their different attack patterns that’s really time-consuming. Even little sprites take a long time, if they have a lot of patterns.
Okamoto: When we were first developing Forgotten Worlds, before the CPS-1 boards we had to use this huge PCB to hold all the data on these larger ROM chips (over 10 of them). It was pretty unwieldy… if something broke on it, you had no idea where it was, and you often had to tap on it to get it to work.
—Speaking of Forgotten Worlds, our fellow editor GOD Suzuki recorded the playthrough for the recent Capcom Game Syndrome strategy video.
Funamizu: Oh, is that so? I just watched that video yesterday. It made me real nostalgic!
—In Forgotten Worlds there’s a gold bonus after you clear the game, which makes me think you designed it with score runs in mind.
Funamizu: I remember seeing strategy articles in Gamest like “Reaching 8,000,000 in Forgotten Worlds!” I was amazed that anyone could get a score that high.
—The Capcom Game Syndrome video also includes replays for Daimakaimura (Ghouls and Ghosts) and Strider.
Funamizu: What has the response been like to Strider, by the way? I thought the fact that Strider is very linear might be a problem.
—I think players who get into characters love the character of Strider, and the crazy, “out-there” stages you go through. I think the average player may find the stage terrain a little hard to understand and navigate, though.
Okamoto: Yeah, we were concerned about that: the fact that the routes through the stages are so linear, yet the terrain makes it difficult to know where to go sometimes. There’s a number of things we’d probably do differently now, like the section with the moving platforms on the warship in stage 3.
—Capcom also released Tenchi wo Kurau recently, too.
Funamizu: I designed Tenchi wo Kurau so that there’d be a certain degree of randomness in things, such as the way bosses move. I wanted it to be a game where you couldn’t just strictly memorize everything.
Okamoto: How did players react to the 3 planes of movement? At the beginning of the development, we thought about having 5 planes, or 2 planes, but 3 seemed like the right number. One thing I think we messed up on was the way you ride the horses… your sprite is too tall, and I think some players might get confused, visually, about which plane they’re on.
—The sprites in Tenchi wo Kurau are exquisitely drawn.
Funamizu: The most numerous enemies are those little footsoldiers. We had one of our graphic designers with a lot of experience draw them, while our newer designers worked on the larger Generals.
—Yeah, those little footsoldiers look really lively and animated.
Okamoto: I think the designers had a very hard time making their movements look good, because they’re so small.
—By the way, can you tell us if there will be a Tenchi wo Kurau 2?
Okamoto: We hint at that in the ending, yeah. But the truth is we haven’t given it much thought yet, so I can’t answer that just yet.
Funamizu: I hear it’s been really popular in Taiwan and Hong Kong. That makes sense, as the setting is China.
Okamoto: If we do make a sequel, I’d like it to feature The Battle of Red Cliffs, and the defeat of Cao Cao by the armies of Liu Bei.
Funamizu: If we do that we can include the Sun Quan and the other White Tiger Generals that we couldn’t include in the this game. Of course, we’d need to make sure everything matches up with the story of the original manga, so a proper sequel might take some time.
—That sounds awesome. Please make a sequel! With the recent releases of Tenchi wo Kurau, Area 88, and Willow, you’ve been doing a lot of games with source material from comics and movies. Why is that?
Okamoto: One reason is that, when we make games that feature our own original characters, they tend to be too niche and oriented toward the hardcore… their appeal can be difficult for the everyday person to understand. As much as possible, we want our games to be easy for people to get into. It’s a business problem.
Another reason is that we want to expand the abilities of our planners and designers, and working with someone else’s source material affords a good opportunity for that: “how would you turn this movie into a game?” However, this doesn’t mean we’re going to stop doing our own original games.
Also, basing games on source material from movies or comics allows players to more readily connect to the games on an emotional level. If I use Funamizu’s face in a game, even if it’s really well drawn, people will just think of it as an example of good graphics; however, if you see Willow’s face you’ll think “oh, it’s Willow, from that movie! How cute!” (laughs)
—Willow and Tenchi wo Kurau are very well-known right now, but the Area 88 comic is a little older. Why did you choose to make a game based on it?
Okamoto: We had originally planned to release Area 88 in 1988, but the development was late, so… (laughs) We botched that one!
Funamizu: We wanted to do another horizontal STG, but we had already used the 1940s war setting with the 1942 and 1943. We were looking for something with a modern war setting and a good story, and Area 88 fit the bill.
Okamoto: It was something we had all read a lot ourselves, too.
—It might not be something kids today know very well, though. Nevertheless, on the feedback cards at the last Osaka arcade game show, a lot of people said they liked the characters.
Funamizu: That makes me happy to hear.
Okamoto: We try to listen to what players are saying. And when I see everyone enjoying it at the game center, it makes me want to play it too!
Funamizu: I too spent a lot of time at the location tests standing behind players and watching them play. The scariest thing I saw was a player walking away after losing a life, just abandoning the credit. I was shocked: did they really think the game was that boring…?
Okamoto: I play Area 88 at the game center sometimes, and one day I was playing it when this middle-aged guy comes up to me. “This is a great game,” he says. “I’ve been totally hooked on it.” He was giving me advice too, “Oh, you should use this weapon here.” I thought about telling him, “I made this game, you know!” but I decided not to and just nodded my head: “Oh, I see, thanks for the tip.” I ended up buying the weapon, but I think I could have made it without it… (everyone laughs)
—Finally, I’d like to ask: what do you strive for, as a Capcom game designer?
Funamizu: As a designer/planner, I think you have to have the outlook and sensibilities of the average player. You’ve got to be thinking about what they would find fun.
Okamoto: The CP System is an extremely important business strategy to Capcom: we’ve gambled everything on it. But thanks to that, we’ve now got a very reliable, easy base to develop for. From Forgotten Worlds to our newest game Area 88, taken in total, I think we’re batting above .300 with the CPS-1. And with a high batting average comes a chance for home runs… we’re going to keep aiming to be the “Cromartie” of video games!
Capcom: The Early Years, 1984 to 1990
At first, this was supposed to be a cute, two-player cooperative action game… somewhere along the way it changed to a STG. However, it ended up being one of my favorite games, and because we made it with abandon—with no concern for the market—I’ve got a certain attachment to it. Those were the days of youth. (Yoshiki Okamoto)
This is one I’m proud of, as it shows how far we had come with 16×16 sprites. In terms of hardware power the arcade boards of that time were about on par with the Famicom, what with 4-color enemies and 16×16 character sprites. When you think about it another way, few of today’s Famicom games have as much personality as the characters Higemaru and Momotaro. Hm… I think there’s still possibilities to be explored on the Famicom! (grins) (Tokuro Fujiwara)
Our main goal with this development was to make a STG that people would have an easy time getting into. That’s why we came up with the idea of a World War 2 setting. Also, starting with 1942, we began to take the Western market into account when developing our games. That was also why the player ship is an American P-38—we had our eyes on the American market. (Yoshiki Okamoto)
This development started out with a concept similar to Son Son: a two-player simultaneous STG, with POW blocks that could turn all the enemies into fruits for points. At first you could cancel enemy bullets by shooting them, but that idea got updated into the “crash button” that cancels all bullets on-screen. This was the first appearance of the “megacrash” that would appear in successive Capcom games. (Yoshiki Okamoto)
Makaimura (Ghosts and Goblins)
In the beginning I just wanted to make a “demon” themed game. But that alone wouldn’t have been very interesting, and if the game turned out poorly it would amount to little more than the equivalent of a cheap horror flick. So I thought I’d try adding some humor somewhere instead. That’s why all the enemies became kind of cute, I think. I wanted to express that feeling in the title too, which is why I added “mura” (village) to “Makai” (demon world).
Normally you start developing a game by conceiving the player character first; in this game, because the setting was a “demon world,” I first thought of a single enemy who would represent that theme: the Red Arremer, who was based on an orthodox, Western-style demon motif. Therefore, in a sense, you could say that Red Arremer is the real protagonist of Makaimura! (Tokuro Fujiwara)
This was the first game I made when I joined Capcom, and being my first game, I hit the wall pretty quickly. There was one stage that gave me a ton of problems, and I remember getting its music stuck in my head over and over, even when I tried to sleep.
The character that gave me the most trouble was the final boss, the sword king Achilles. I put so much time into him, trying to make him strong.
There’s one other memory I have of Trojan. On the day of the deadline, I was riding my bike down the expressway to deliver the the character/sprite ROMs, but I accidentally dropped the ROM chips and they were scattered across the road. I realized it right away and stopped my bike, but this was a very busy road, and right before my eyes I watched all those chips get crushed to pieces. It was a cruel scene. Now I can laugh about it, but at the time my heart was sunk. (Yoichi Egawa)
This was the first game I made. I didn’t know left from right, and relied on everyone else’s help. Side Arms also gave us Mobi-chan. In order to create the planning documents, I had to draw many pictures of the Mobile Suit armor, but I couldn’t realistically draw them in perfect detail everytime, so I sketched Mobi-chan as a visual shorthand. (Noritaka Funamizu)
We originally wanted the robot that appears in stage 3 (we called him the “God Warrior“) to come back in the final stage, swinging his arm around and firing lasers at you. Unfortunately we didn’t get it put together and up on the screen until the morning of the deadline, and we realized he needed some tuning that we didn’t have time for, so we scrapped him. Only a few people on the staff ever saw that scene… he lived for a scant few hours. There were actually a lot of other graphical assets we tried out but ultimately didn’t use in the game—they were included on the ROM, but listing them all would take forever, so I’ll stop here. (Hisashi Yamamoto)
On this game we worked into the early dawn everyday, making a bed out of our chairs. It was very trying, but the result was a big hit, so it was all for the best. This game also gave us “megacrash.” It was supposed to be a “crash” (bullet cancel) even more amazing than the one in Exed Exes. I noticed recently that another company has quietly adopted and started using the term. That makes me happy. (laughs) (Noritaka Funamizu)
Daimakaimura (Ghouls and Ghosts)
Daimakaimura was conceived of as a pure sequel to the first game. It was also the second CPS1 game, so naturally the pressure and the expectations were both riding high. In the early planning stages we talked about taking the art direction in a darker, more splatter-horror direction, but in the end the game turned out as you see it today.
Also, we originally had a far grander design in mind for Daimakaimura. After the second stage, each stage would have branching A and B routes, and you’d get to choose your path after every stage. Then on the second loop you’d be forced to play the stages you didn’t choose the first time around. Unfortunately, we ran out of memory and time so those extra stages had to be cut.
However, even though we shelved those stages, the alternate stage 2 (the water stage) was secretly resurrected and used in the Super Famicom Choumakaimura as the second half of stage 2. (Tokuro Fujiwara)
Our early designs called for 9 different player ships; your pilot would be able to buy different ships at the shop in midgame. The protagonist of the original Area 88 manga buys and trades different planes, and we really liked the idea. Unfortunately, this too was abandoned due to memory limitations. (Takashi Shouno)
Adventure Quiz Capcom World
When we first started writing the planning docs for this game, there were no “quiz” games in the arcades, and we were worried about what kind of game this should be. Our early idea was to reward the player with medals for answering questions correctly, but somewhere along the way we resolved to try and create a brand new style of quiz game. There were some concerns at Capcom, “is this going to sell?”, but at the time I was young and cocksure, so I ignored them and forged ahead with the location test. It ended up selling double what we had expected, and my chronic ulcers of stress disappeared at once. I’m really happy that this game helped established the quiz genre.
During the development my brain was filled up with trivia, such that no matter what I saw or heard, I always thought “I can make a question out of that!” Even today my lovely brain is completely inundated with useless knowledge. Muwahahahaha… oof. (KIN)
“Let’s do it! Let’s make Street Fighter part 2!” That’s how this development started, but for some reason we suddenly changed course midway. What in the world would Street Fighter II have been like, if we’d made it then…? By the way, there’s a lot of people who think Final Fight was a huge game that took up a lot of memory, but it actually was only half that of Forgotten Worlds! (Akira Nishitani)
In the beginning of the development, you could have two allies with you. Also, even though the stages are short in this game, there’s over 50 of them, and placing all the enemies was therefore very hard. Going one stage at a time, I’d place the enemies, play the stage, and fix the parts I didn’t like, repeating this pattern many times. I think I was tinkering with it up to the very end, three hours before it was due.
Which reminds me, the location of the hidden doors was something that was added later, and even I can’t tell you where they all are. Some of them I didn’t realize were there until I saw them in game magazine guides! (KAGEOME)
Street Fighter II
CPU speed, hardware limitations, memory… these problems plague any development. And yet, when designing a game, if you yield to those excuses at the design stage of a game, your ideas will wither and atrophy.
Our attitude, instead, was: “If someone thinks of a good idea, let’s do whatever we can to try and make it work.” We first wrote down everything we wanted to do, then removed the things that seemed completely impossible, and went about looking for a way to realize the remaining ideas (even if they had only a small chance of success). That was how we designed Street Fighter II, but the flipside of this approach was that we had set ourselves up with a huge burden to actually complete everything.
I want to bring that positive, optimistic attitude to my future developments at Capcom too, though saying that feels a bit like tying my own noose! (Akira Nishitani)
We were looking around for some good source material for what was to be Capcom’s first 4-player game when we found Captain Commando. He had originally been a kind of mascot character for Capcom USA. However, his image was that of a contemporary astronaut, and since it didn’t seem like that kind of character could survive in a beat-em-up game, we changed him into some kind of “ultimate astronaut” (?!) character.
We created an original story, which doesn’t really feel very American either. We added our own new characters too, Jenetii (Mack the Knife), Shou (Ginzu the Ninja), and Hoover (Baby Head). With all these additions, the only thing “American” about it ended up being the title Captain Commando. (Junichi Ohno)
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