Salamander – 1997 Developer Commentary

Salamander – 1997 Developer Commentary

These amusing messages from the Salamander and Life Force developers were found as bonus files on the Sega Saturn and PSX “Salamander Deluxe Pack” released in 1997. I was alerted to their existence by some helpful people at the Gradius Gamestone forums. I’m not 100% clear whether the Konami staff here worked on the Deluxe Pack ports or the original titles themselves, but it appears to be mostly the former. 

H. Ueda - Programmer

Hello everyone. Are you enjoying the Salamander Deluxe Pack? Well, following from Gradius and Parodius, here we are at Salamander’s 10th Anniversary (technically its a little past, but). Its also 10 years since I joined Konami. Time passes so quickly…

Actually, to tell the truth, I don’t have many memories of playing Salamander at the game center when it was released. I think I was studying for my company entrance exam or something like that? However, I do remember the time I first saw Salamander at a game center in Shinkyougoku, and the impression it left on me. The fangs coming out of those pink walls. The scorching flames. And graphics that I would call the exact opposite of Gradius’ mysterious, somber atmosphere… I couldn’t believe my eyes.

By the way, the pink anti-aircraft fire that comes up at you in the last stage… did you know it appears in many other Konami games, like Flak Attack and Axelay? Why, you ask? Well, for some strange reason the President of Konami really loves this attack, and when he sees a stage with a city background, without fail he always says “Lets try putting that pink Salamander attack in there.” (laughs) Whatever caused our President to became so enamored of this attack continues to be shrouded in mystery…

2013, year of the snake.

Akind.Takaki - Programmer

Hello everyone. I’m Takaki, the daydreaming programmer.

Salamander… this game left the deepest impression on me of any game. Back when I was still in high school, game centers were thought of as places for delinquents, so I was forbidden from going there when I was school. It was a sad time. One day, the local game center I sometimes visited with my game-loving friends installed Salamander. I played it and became more obsessed than I could have ever imagined.

I believe on that day I made it to stage 4… but in doing so, I had spent all my spare money. The next day I’d receive my allowance was a ways off, and so, unable to resist the desire to see the later stages, I used my lunch money to get in at least a credit a day on Salamander. When I finally cleared the first loop I was overjoyed. I called my friend over and cleared it in front of him, too.

I also really loved the music for Salamander. I loved it so much I brought a tape recorder with me and recorded it. Of course, because it was at the game center there was a ton of noise, but I still listened to it over and over.

A year later I heard about a game called Life Force, and of course I wanted to try it out. However, not a single game center in my city had it, but I heard that a game center about 30 minutes away by bike had it. And so I rode there every day to play it.

I have many other stories to tell about Life Force and Salamander… too many, really, and it would take all day to tell them. So I’ll stop here. Until we meet again, at the next Konami game release… (what could it be?)

How most Japanese players would have experienced Salamander in 1986.

Aki - Programmer

Hello! I’m Aki, and I worked as a programmer on Salamander.

After finishing Sexy Parodius, we started working on Salamander. Two people had left since Sexy Parodius, leaving us with a staff of only 6 (designers and programmers). It didn’t look like anyone else would be joining us. I remember thinking, could we really do this with just the six of us? We were trembling. (laughs) But before I knew it, the project was complete and the time to write this postscript had come.

Back in the day a CD was released with the OSTs for Gradius and Gradius II, but I couldn’t afford it with my allowance. When I finally saved up enough money to buy it, it was already out of print. (tears) And the Gradius Deluxe Pack, my last hope, turned out to not have a sound mode… a real shame. (Please reprint the original CDs!) So I was really strident in my request for a sound test mode in Salamander.

As for my memories of this development, first, there’s the stage 4 boss entrance. Of all my work it took the longest, so when I finished it I let out a great cry of “Yossha!” (this is embarassing).

Also, the Salamander pcb didn’t have a test mode for debugging (where you could make yourself invincible, for instance). So in order to check if everything was arcade-accurate, when it came time to check the later loops I had to practice enough to be able to get there on my own. Thanks to that practice, I can now get much further in Salamander than I could when it came out.

Planet Ratis, the popular stage 3 bgm.

We were also able to explain certain things in the instruction booklet this time that were unknown to arcade players, like the fact that 4 force fields can be equipped (though its too bad they’re so fragile and aren’t very useful).

My favorite character is definitely Tetran (and programming the way his arms moved for this port was a very poignant experience for me!). Tetran’s tentacles in Salamander, Gradius II, and Salamander 2 all have subtle differences, but they’re all very cool. I hope we see Tetran again in future sequels. The fact that he dies so quickly in the opening movie was very sad to me. (tears)

I didn’t own the pcbs for Life Force and Salamander, and I was thinking I’d someday buy them. But now that the Deluxe Pack is out I don’t think I’ll need to. This is what makes me most happy (the price of the pcb will probably go down now, definitely…)

Shuutaro - Programmer

Thinking back to ten years ago when I was playing Salamander on my MSX, I had no idea I would one day be working on the port of Salamander (to say nothing of Salamander 2!).

I played the MSX Salamander a lot back then, but when I recently tried playing again I got quickly destroyed. “Have my skills really fallen so far…?”, I thought to myself. I reached deep back, trying to remember all my tricks, but I only managed to clear it a handful of times… after countless tries. Moreover, I hadn’t cleared Gradius 2 either, so I couldn’t see the true ending for Salamander.1 Damn! I was still far off. In any event, I’ve set myself the goal of clearing 3 loops in Salamander

Another thing you have to talk about with Salamander is how good the OST is. I don’t think there’s ever been a game in all of STG’s history that has so many classic songs in one place. It seems the most popular track is stage 3’s “Planet Ratis”, but my personal favorite is “Fly High” from stage 2… the beginning section especially. That melody feels like you’re flying and it always gets stuck in my head.

A cool MSX mockup of Salamander 2.

Mariko - Designer

When Salamander came out, it was still a time when teachers would patrol the game centers for delinquent youths… so I guess I was something of a delinquent in elementary school. (laughs) One day at the game center, I saw Salamander there. “Eh? This game looks cool…” When I put in my 100 yen coin, a screeching sound blasted forth: “Chararirariran~!”2 For some reason the Salamander cab had the volume up insanely high…

I remember how it would speak everytime you picked up a powerup, and with everyone watching me, I turned red with embarassment. Of course I died stupidly and only made it to the Volcano stage. I was blown away by the flame stage and the music. Anyway, since I get too embarassed for the game center (laughs), I bought the PC Engine version and, happily, I managed to clear it.

And here I am now, working at Konami… on the Salamander Deluxe Pack?! I got to see the rare Salamander pcb, which is apparently the only one Konami has (though I have to say we handled it pretty casually!). I watched a superplay video to get ideas too. Ah, and I also watched that Salamander anime, but I remember it was really weird. I got to meet the original Salamander staff too.

Anyway, I mainly worked on the character art and designs for Salamander 2. The enormity of the color pallette and the complex animation gave me trouble, as did the Golem boss and the asteroids. I also put a lot of love into the smaller enemies. Designing them was a battle in 16×16.3 I hope you get a chance to look at them too.

The tragic end of most Vic Vipers.

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  1. From the Salamander wiki: “The game also made use of “Konami Combos” where if certain Konami games were inserted into the second slot, extra effects will happen. One needed to have Nemesis 2 in Slot 2 and get all of the Predictions and the item called Crystal Breeze in order to get the true ending.”

  2. This is the Japanese phonetics for the sound a Konami game of that era makes when a coin is inserted.

  3. Presumably, the size of the sprites she was working with.

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