Dimahoo – 2000 Developer Interview

Dimahoo - 2000 Developer Interview

This colorful Dimahoo interview originally appeared in the Great Mahou Daisakusen OST liner notes. It features commentary from programmer Yuichi Toyama and designer Kenichi Yokoo, as well as composers Kenichi Koyano and Atsuhiro Motoyama. Toyama shares a number of fascinating ideas that ended up getting axed, while the composers talk about their general approach to the music and various technical challenges.

Kenichi Yokoo - Planning/Graphics

Hello, I'm Yokoo and I was responsible for planning and graphics. How are you all enjoying Dimahoo and its novel "elemental change" and "108 items" systems? Has it been "GREAT!" for you…?

You know, at first we were thinking about making Dimahoo a more traditional, normal shooting game with just the elemental affinity system… when I look back on it now, it amazes me how far we ventured from that idea! To be honest, even after we added both systems, right up to the very end, I still kind of thought we would end up axing one. I guess I also wondered if this wasn't all too complicated: would people be able to just ignore these systems and play the game normally?

But as it turned out, I had a different reason to worry: at the AM show, there were people who didn't even use the charge shot at all. And there were ones who died without ever using a bomb. A double "uh oh" moment.

Well, anyway, now that this game is safely across the finish line, how to play it is completely up to you, the players. Just mindless blowing enemies away is fine, aiming for complete item sets is fine, and of course playing for score is fine too. Or perhaps you want to only collect food items and do a "Glutton Run"…? That's fine too!

Come to think of it, back when we were making Mahou Daisakusen (you're changing the subject already?!), it was a very snug, cozy little workplace here. We had just three people, including myself, doing the art, each of us chipping away at the pixel art and slowly filling out the memory. For Dimahoo, we had the full force of a big team of all-stars! And yet with all that power, creating the pixel art was still basically the same small-scale, deliberate process. Not much changed, I guess?

Sketch drawings of Solo-Bang, Chitta, and Grimlin, taken from the Great Mahou Daisakusen OST liner notes.

Design-wise, it's easy for shooting games to turn into a clash of mecha vs mecha, but if you have a concept like we had for Mahou Daisakusen--that is, trying to bring a more organic vibe to the graphics--then pixel art is the best approach! Now that we are living in the era of CG (well, we've been living in it for awhile, to be honest), perhaps this pixel art approach will ironically appear more fresh.

"Will this be our final pixel art game…?!" That feeling of urgency spurred us on throughout the development, so I hope you'll play Dimahoo with the same intensity.

Finally, I'd like to say thank you to all the staff and people involved with this game. If even one person had faltered, it probably wouldn't have been completed. Also, all of you who ran straight to this game when the AM Show opened, and those of you who have spent your coins on Dimahoo at the game center, you have my gratitude. I love you all! kiss

Yuichi Toyama - Programmer

I'm Toyama, the programmer. Computers today are now boasting 1ghz processors, but Dimahoo was made on a trusty 16-megahertz 68000 chip which we pushed and tweaked to its limit. This also made it a very fun development.

Dimahoo was conceived as a tag-team project with Capcom--Mahou Daisakusen on the CPS2! In the planning stage, we experimented with a lot of ideas, including:

  • Spinning the joystick around to charge/add bombs
  • Using Marker Missiles that lock-on to enemies a la 19XX
  • "MY HEART IS SCREWED IN!" was one of the dialogue lines in-between stages
  • Bombs that trail your ship like a tail
  • When your ship is shot down, it turns to bones
  • Pressure-sensitive buttons, compatibility with rotary lever/button control panels
  • Having the heroine say "arigatou!" at the end

…we actually tried all these ideas, but they weren't very well-received, so outside of the "bomb tail" idea, we sadly ended up cutting them all.

In any event, there are many nice shooting games for the CPS2, and of course we didn't want to make an inferior game compared to them. But it went beyond that--in this development our goal was to make the best shooting game on the system. How did we do? Perhaps someday you'll see the Great Mahou Daisakusen characters in the next Marvel vs. fighting game roster...!

The "tail bomb" was the only survivor of the above ideas Yuichi mentions.

Kenichi Koyano - Composer

The sound production for Dimahoo was a joint effort between the Bloody Roar team of myself, Manabu Namiki, and Atsuhiro Motoyama. Manabu Namiki handled creating the actual sounds, operating the equipment, and touching up/refining the songs, while Motoyama and I did the composing.

Before I looked at any video footage, concept art, or character design materials from the development, I had the misfortune of listening to several of Motoyama's completed songs, which he sent me as MP3s. The meticulous quality of their construction goes without saying, but they were also both catchy and clever… when I heard them, I felt a foreboding chill run through me. "Oh uh… how am I going to keep up with this?!" And so my days of groping in the dark began.

In the midst of this, Manabu Namiki, who we'd handed off all the sound production responsibilities to, had a request for the image of the songs: "straight" and "heavy" was what he wanted. It was an intriguing suggestion. However, that style isn't my specialty. Coming after the "Motoyama mp3 incident", this was a further shock to my confidence.

In my usual compositional approach, I put a big emphasis on writing very detailed musical phrases, which I feel lends my songs a unique identity, a personal signature if you will. So for me, I feared that writing a "straight" song, if done poorly, would erase that individual identity. So the whole time, right up to the end, I was very anxious about these songs.

I spent the next several weeks completely absorbed in composition. But when I stepped back and listened to what I'd written, I was pleasantly surprised with the results. Stage 2, 4, 5, the ground boss theme, and the final boss theme--I felt these songs reflected the all-out effort I'd poured into them. On the other hand, in the character select theme and stage clear music, I tried to continue and evoke the sound of the previous Mahou Daisakusen games… how do you like it?

What stands out to me most about this job was the monumental effort Manabu Namiki put forward, and the many technical difficulties he overcame to deliver us an incredible sound. At times he went beyond being a producer and helped with some of the arrangements, too, so I'd like to raise a glass to Namiki for the utmost dedication he showed us.

For everyone who enjoyed Dimahoo in the arcades, I hope listening to this CD allows you to re-live some of that excitement again.

The Great Mahou Daisakusen OST. As with many arcade games of this era, the music has a lot of nice details that would have been lost in the noisy din of a game center.

Atsuhiro Motoyama - Composer

Great Mahou Daisakusen is the third entry in the series. I have a great deal of personal affection for the first game since I wrote the music for it. Before I began composing, for a point of reference I decided to go back and listen to those old songs from Mahou Daisakusen. Have you ever experienced that sensation, where you hear music that you used to listen to over and over, and it magically transports you back to that time? Unfortunately I sort of forgot this was for work and just got lost in the nostalgia!

In Mahou Daisakusen, the approach I took to the songs was "melodious and colorful", but for Dimahoo I wanted to try something different, not over-emphasizing the melodies and instead trying to evoke a sense of atmosphere. The truth is, in my mind at least, by contrasting these two approaches I was kind of exploring the theme of what "BGM" is supposed to be. When a video game composer writes melodic, busy pieces with tons of notes, and lots of progressive, complex chord structures, those songs make a good impression on the listener as songs, and they can also be quite effective in making the stages seem more exciting… but if you make a single misstep in this approach, it's very easy for the BGM to stand out too much (of course, if you can pull it off, the results can be spectacular).

For Dimahoo I tried to do "both" (melody and atmosphere)… but how do you think it turned out?

I was also plagued with technical difficulties this time. The sampler disk drive wouldn't read, my speakers would only play sound through the subwoofer, and even though I sent it in for repairs, as soon as I got it back my DAT deck finally kicked the bucket. But all of that pales in comparison to the most serious breakdown of all: the air conditioner! As someone who's extremely sensitive to the heat (except for 2-3 months, I keep the AC on year-round), this was hell! The sun would gradually heat the room up by midday, and on top of that, there was heat from the three computers and a rack full of music modules… I wasn't going to get through this with some dinky little table fan! The repair guy couldn't come for three days, and during that time I filled a bucket with ice water and put my feet inside while I worked (yes, I really did this). Damn! Now I can't use the damper pedal on my keyboard!

I'm very indebted to Manabu Namiki's assistance with assembling the game music data. The way the music data was handled in Dimahoo was different from what I normally do. Although I endeavored to keep my original data clean and easy to understand, it ended up being idiosyncratic and confusing, and Namiki had to spend many extra overtime hours dealing with it. So I'd like to take this space to express my gratitude to him for cleaning all that up. Thank you!

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1 comment

  1. Very interesting, what game music composers and sound engineers had to go through in the olden days. (^_^)

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