Gradius Gaiden – 1997 Developer Interview
A short interview with Seki Teisaku, director of Gradius Gaiden, is followed by a brief “questionnaire” style survey of the development team. It doesn’t appear that any of the Gradius arcade team worked on Gaiden; at least, none of the participants here list previous Gradius games in their project history. This interview comes from the GSLA, a Japanese archive of interviews from older print sources.
Introduction by director Seki Teisaku
The concept for Gradius Gaiden was, to put it simply, to pursue and refine the gameplay of the Gradius series. We want our games to progress along with the development of new technology and hardware. I think you see this with Solar Assault, but the Gradius series too will probably continue to evolve in the future. But I think the essential fun qualities of the series, like the power-up system, should stay the same. As refining the gameplay was both our concept and goal this time, we decided to call this entry “Gaiden.”1
The game takes place in an era far in the future of the series, but among the developers, we considered it more of a side story. As you can see from the development of the Gradius series heretofore, each game takes place in the same universe. Therefore we made several connections with the Salamander series as well. We also were aware that the Famicom games are straight copies of the arcade games, but the MSX develops an entirely different story.
Previous games had a lot of variation in the Laser, but the Double weapon didn’t evolve that much. So we added new weapons with the idea of strengthening the Double, and diversified the new Double weapons according to the various roles they would fulfill ingame. We also were thinking about 2P simultaneous play, and we thought it would be better to have different kinds of ships rather than just ships with different colors, so we added new ships. The weapons each have 2 levels of power as well. Basically, that came from the desire to create stronger versions of the existing weapons. We also thought it would deepen the strategy by giving more choices to the player.
The basic difference between the 1st and 2nd loops is “fan service.” Its our way of saying thank you for playing the game a lot. We don’t currently have any plans for “Gradius Gaiden 2,” but if the response to this game is good, we’ll have to think about. Please be sure to send Konami your thoughts about our game!
Role: Director, Character Design
Previous Works: Lagrange Point and others.
PSX Strengths/Weaknesses: Easier to develop for than other consoles. I think the hardware limitations don’t influence the gameplay designs.
Favorite Konami STG: Trigon, I think. Gradius is very well done too.
Favorite Gradius Gaiden ship: Jade Knight. Its hypnotizing…
Development Challenges: The planning phase was the hardest.
Role: zako enemies, boss design, enemy placement
Previous Works: Detana Twinbee Yahoo! Deluxe Pack, Gradius Deluxe Pack.
PSX Strengths/Weaknesses: Because of the frame buffer system in the PSX, you have a high degree of freedom for displaying graphics onscreen, allowing you to present a variety of things. But because the backgrounds and everything has to be redrawn on screen, it requires a lot of speed.
Favorite Konami STG: Gradius
Favorite Gradius Gaiden ship: Lord British
Development Challenges: By playing everyday I became too used to the game, and I lost the ability to tell what was difficult and what was easy.
Future of Shooting?: I think both 2D and 3D shooting each have their own distinct appeal, so I think the current style will continue to be around.
Role: Designer. Also helped some with Moai stage and other bosses.
Previous Works: The megadrive version of Animaniacs… but it was only released overseas, so nobody knows it! Mine is a lonely life.
PSX Strengths/Weaknesses: All people have their strengths and weaknesses. And you can say game hardware is the same way. But you know, it isn’t as simple as “strengths==good” and “weaknesses==bad.” The key is to forgive all, and love everything. If you can do this, you may enjoy what is lacking, too. Yes, that is part of being a “professional.” Man, I just got deep there.
Favorite Konami STG: Hmm, I love many games… this is difficult. Only one? Well then, the legless Twinbee. Why? I like what I like. I love radishes and strawberries.
Favorite Gradius Gaiden ship: Since I designed them, they are all like beloved children to me. If I had to say, the ship I like the most in terms of shape is the Lord British. The one that’s most fun to play would be Jade Knight. But the Falchion β weapon effect is also a sight to behold. And for pure aesthetic beauty, nothing matches the Vic Viper’s laser. Ah, I praised them all! Hehe, anyway, I recommend them all.
Future of Shooting?: I don’t know the answer to such difficult questions. Only one thing is certain. The only thing that will never change is that things will keep changing. Hehe.
Role: Programming for stage 4/7 enemies, stage 6 boss, Triple core, Giant Ducker
Previous Works: Detana Twinbee Yahoo! Deluxe Pack, Gradius Deluxe Pack
PSX Strengths/Weaknesses: In the beginning I was a little lost on how to use the Playstation’s unique frame buffer.
Favorite Konami STG: My favorite has got to be Gradius II. I’m not very good, but for some reason it has a strange fascination for me and I can’t stop playing it. Also Xexex. I was very moved by the Princess—err, I mean, the stage 1 background graphics and music.
Favorite Gradius Gaiden ship: I like them all. (laughs) I recommend the Lord British and Jade Knight to people who like weird weapons.
Development Challenges: The refraction effect on the Vic Viper’s laser. Until the middle of the development I couldn’t get it to refract and bend correctly.
Previous Works: PSX/Sega Saturn ports of Snatcher.
PSX Strengths/Weaknesses: The ability to have multiple patterns for the characters. No particular difficulties/weaknesses.
Favorite Konami STG: All of the Gradius series.
Favorite Gradius Gaiden ship: I like the Falchion β for its swept forward wings.
Development Challenges: I ran out of ideas for the zako characters about halfway through.
Role: Programming for zako and bosses
Previous Works: Secret
Favorite Konami STG: I can’t get enough of A-JAX. I was impressed by the cool scenes with the fast rotation/scaling effects and the rousing music.
Favorite Gradius Gaiden ship: I recommend the new Falchion β ship. It excels in both defense and offense, and can be enjoyed by beginners and veterans.
Development Challenges: As one would imagine, the pressure of releasing something that would not disgrace the Gradius name. The pressure was considerable, as this was both part of a series and one of Konami’s flagship titles. Though that fact alone made it all the more worth doing.
Future of Shooting?: Times are changing, and hardware and software are both evolving to 3D, but I think 2D shooters like Gradius will definitely not go away.
PSX Strengths/Weaknesses: We were able to use data compression for Gaiden, and it was a process of trial and error to see how much memory we’d need to layout for sound and other things. So we spent a lot of time with the feedout timing and the data readback.
Favorite Konami STG: Axelay on the SFC. The reason is simple–it was the first STG I oversaw after joining Konami. I did the soundtrack and sound effects for it as well.
Favorite Gradius Gaiden ship: Jade Knight. I like the sound of its laser too.
Development Challenges: I’d been developing for Sega Saturn previously, so when I was suddenly switched to PSX development I didn’t know anything. There were a number of things I wanted to do in the beginning, but I did my best with my limited abilities.
Role: Sound Effects
PSX Strengths/Weaknesses: This was my first game doing SFX for, so I can’t make any comparisons.
Favorite Konami STG: Famicom Gradius.
Favorite Gradius Gaiden ship: I thought the Lord British was easiest to use at first, but when I got used to it, the Falchion β was also fun.
Development Challenges: Making the new sound effects I made match up well with the previous sound effects from the series.
Role: Music Composer
PSX Strengths/Weaknesses: With the PSX you no longer have the constraint of having to worry about sharing channels with fx and music and such, so its you have relatively more freedom when composing. However, to a certain degree I wanted to use the characteristic Gradius sounds, so I struggled to recreate their timbre and tonal quality.
Favorite Konami STG: Gradius Gaiden.
Favorite Gradius Gaiden ship: Jade Knight. The design is cool, and I like the green laser. If you clear the game, you can hear the Jade Knight theme music.
Development Challenges: Making sure not to shatter the “Gradius” image. The theme I had for composing Gradius Gaiden’s music was “newness within nostalgia.” That newness doesn’t mean “new music”… my intention was to bring something new out of the old series.
If you've enjoyed reading this interview and would like to be able to vote each month on what I translate, please consider supporting me on Patreon! I can't do it without your help!
Gaiden means “side story.” As he says, the developers were not necessarily furthering the main story or world of Gradius, but rather wanted to focus on developing different gameplay aspects of the series.↩