Toaplan STG Chronicle – 2012 Developer Interviews

Toaplan STG Chronicle – 2012 Developer Interviews

This lengthy interview with Tatsuya Uemura and Masahiro Yuge was conducted for the Toaplan Shooting Chronicle music collection, which contains all of the music they worked on. Along with the STG Gameside interviews, this comprises an exhaustive look at Toaplan's early shmup development. After reading this, be sure to check out the companion Q&A for more game-specific info!

—I thought I’d start by asking you what games are the most memorable for you, or left the deepest impression. By that I mean, are there games you have fond memories of, or ones that you would say “this is Toaplan’s most representative work” ?

Yuge: Each one has a special place in my heart. One cherished memory I have is of the location test for our first game, Tiger Heli. I decided to visit the game center where the test was to see how much income it had taken, and whether it looked like it would sell. It turned out it had earned a lot! That was my first time experiencing the elation of a commercially successful game, and I was on cloud nine. I was practically skipping on the way home.

Uemura: Was that at Midori game center?

Yuge: Yeah, it was. Midori in Meguro. After that we always did our location tests there. I remember one day the joystick on one of the machines broke. At the time the speed of the ships in our games was very slow, so someone probably got a little overenthusiastic trying to move it. I remember thinking “They like it so much they broke it!” (laughs)

Yuge (L) and Uemura (R)

—Being your first Toaplan release, I can imagine it was all the more memorable. How about you, Uemura?

Uemura: Let me see… the period from Tiger Heli, Hishouzame, and to Kyuukyoku Tiger was very fun. That period was the most fun as a developer, but for me personally, Hellfire was extremely difficult to make, so maybe that one. I had never done a horizontal STG, and I didn’t like them either. I was told to “make it like Gradius,” and I’ll never forget how much we struggled trying this and that. So I guess if I had to say what was the most memorable, it’d have to be Hellfire, sadly.

—Aside from STG, were any of Toaplan’s other games really well received by the company? I don’t mean in a sales sense, but rather games everyone at the company was really excited about.

Uemura: Teki Paki, maybe? (laughs)

—Really?! (laughs)

Uemura: Everyone was playing it. At Ogikubo (where our main office was located) they had a showroom, and they set Teki Paki up there. Someone was always playing on that machine.

Yuge: That’s right. Too bad we weren’t collecting 100 yen coins from it. (laugh)

—We didn’t include Teki Paki on this cd, so its a bit of a tangent, but the character (block) at the time of the location test was a sphere, but it got changed into a square stone when the game was released. What was the company’s reaction to such a fundamental change to the game?

Yuge: I think during the location test that block character was just a dummy placeholder. We had already talked about changing it into a square.

—After I saw Teki Paki at the location test, I was telling everyone “Finally! Toaplan’s going to cover the screen in bullets!”1 (laughs) When I saw the finished game later I was surprised. I felt I had experienced firsthand the fact that Toaplan’s games could really change a lot during development. Now I’d like to ask some questions about the time period leading up to Toaplan’s formation. I understand that Orca was the predecessor company, and that Orca’s staff became Toaplan’s staff. I’ve heard Orca changed its name a lot, but is there a connection there with the formation of Toaplan?

Uemura: They did change their name a lot, didn’t they.

Yuge: They did, but there’s no connection to Toaplan. Toaplan was not the successor company of Orca; it was a separate company to begin with, Toa Kikaku.

Teki Paki, forgotten gem?

—What was the point at which Orca ended and Toaplan began?

Uemura: I think the last incarnation of Orca was Crux. Gyrodine (Taito, 1984) was probably the final game.

—Orca just kept changing. Can you tell me a little bit about Vastar (Sesame Japan, 1983)?

Uemura: Vastar says Sesame Japan, but it was actually developed by Orca. Sesame Japan was another incarnation of Orca. (laughs)

—How was it with Repluse (KYUGO 1985), which you were also involved in, Uemura? During this era of arcade games, debuts by new game developers weren’t uncommon, and there were also a lot of developers that operated under the shadow of distribution companies. It can be a very difficult era to understand.

Uemura: Repulse was a Crux game, but in the middle of developing it the company dissolved. After that, the remaining members finished it anyway. We were surprised to see it selling later, and wondered if Crux had actually dissolved or not? But they had, legally at least.

—It seems Repulse is the point which really delineates the change from Crux to Toaplan.

Uemura: Toaplan had already been founded while we were working on Repulse. Kiyomoto, who had worked at Orca, managed to lure away Ohta, Nozawa, and Takano to join Toaplan, and Yuge and myself joined then too, I believe.

Yuge: I was already working at another company at the point. Kiyomoto called me, and I wanted to work at Toaplan too, so I moved.

Uemura: Toaplan began with only three people. When they asked me to join, I was still working on Repulse, so I asked them if they could wait till I had finished it. My first work for Toapan, as I’ve mentioned before, was doing music for Performan. I started that after Repulse was finished, but I didn’t have time to do the data programming for it, so Yuge did that for me. It was then, after Repulse was all done, that I joined Toaplan, along with Kawaguchi who did the art for Horror Story. Yuge had already joined Toaplan, and so it was right around finishing Performan that the early Toaplan team was fully assembled.

Yuge: Yeah, and it was right at that point where you had your bike crash, right Uemura? That was why I took over the Performan music from you. I remember continuing your work on those songs. (laughs)

Uemura: Is that right? Ah, I remember now… yeah, I think that’s how it was. (laughs)

—By Tiger Heli, then, you had all of Toaplan’s basic members together.

Uemura: Yes, though we didn’t have any idea that we would end up being a STG development team.

—That reminds me, in a Toaplan special feature in an old issue Gamest magazine, they said Toaplan’s debut game was Tiger Heli. They left Performan out, didn’t they? In those early days a lot of developers published under pseudonyms, so maybe it was hard to know it was a Toaplan game, if it wasn’t announced to the public.

Uemura: That was a contract issue. Data East told us we couldn’t put our name on our games. It was awhile before they gave us permission.

Masahiro Yuge

—But if you compared the actual Performan PCB to Tiger Heli, you could see they were the same. That’s how I figured they were probably developed by the same company.

Uemura: That’s right. Though I don’t really know why Data East was so deadset against us using our own company name…

—For those early titles like Tiger Heli where the distributor put their name on the finished product, did they also pay for the development costs? To have a contract clause that says you can’t put your own name on the game, it seems you must have had a strong, hierarchical relationship.

Uemura: No, they only handled the distribution. We used our own money for the development. The naming restriction was an arrangement that came only afterward, in the distribution contract.

Yuge: They only handled that business side.

—Do you know why a contract like that was made? Was it simply a request from the distributor?

Uemura: Well, I think it was just a matter of the respective strength of each company. Even if we didn’t like it, we weren’t really in a position to throw our weight around.”

—Is that why you never revealed the things you wrote in the name entry for your early games, like the address of Toaplan’s office? It seems there weren’t many restrictions like the “production standards” we have today.

Uemura: Yeah, mainly no one was checking things like that. With contracts and records too, it was a very haphazard, carefree time. We never recorded any trademarks or anything either.

Toaplan’s offices: Shinjuku-ku, Shinjuku Sanchome TOA

Yuge: Yeah, we didn’t do things like that. Everything felt very loose and relaxed.

—Since Taito distributed many of these games, and put their logo on the finished product, you’d think they’d do some basic quality checks?

Yuge: There were none. They didn’t do bug checks either.

Uemura: That’s just how it was back then.

Yuge: Its hard to imagine now, isn’t it.

—You developed your games independently and then contracted out the sales and distribution, but how did that work? Did you wait till a game was mostly finished, and then bring it to the distributor? Or did you bring them to the office and show them your various games in development, like making a sales pitch?

Yuge: There were cases of both. We’d tell them we’re developing STGs right now, and ask them if they’d like to come see them.

Uemura: After awhile our relationship with Taito became fixed to a degree, so it became more like that. There was a time when having Taito handle the distribution was pretty much a known premise of the development.

Yuge: It was pretty normal stuff. Someone from Taito would show up one day, we’d take them out to dinner, and so forth.

—Speaking of the office, what were the actual working conditions during developent? Can you give us a typical example for a game, like how the team was composed, the development schedule, etc?

Yuge: Kyuukyoku Tiger was done by 5 people. Uemura and I handled the programming and sound, and we had 3 designers as well.

—At the time you would take roughly half a year to finish a game, right? And the last step was having the designers draw the flyer and promotional art.

Yuge: That’s right. Our target was to finish in half a year. It got extended a bit sometimes if we found bugs.

—Toaplan’s later games had larger development teams, right? For Dogyuun and such.

Uemura: Dogyuun was programmed by me and Ishikawa alone, I think? Were there others? We had new hires working on it as part of their training, so I can’t clearly remember the exact number of people on the staff.

Same! Same! Same! concept art

—So Toaplan’s basic style for development teams was to have the same person do programming, planning, and sound?

Uemura: That’s right. We’d generally have 2-3 programmers and 2-3 designers, then we might add other people individually, even in the latter half of development. I think we added a couple more designers to Dogyuun.

—Your development teams would have a half year to complete the game, then.

Uemura: I think that pattern of spending half a year was only up to Kyuukyoku Tiger. Dogyuun took longer that. How long was Tatsujin Ou…?

Yuge: It took a long time, I think?

Uemura: Balancing the difficulty started to get more and more difficult, and players were getting better and better. After the location tests we’d spend a lot of time upping the difficulty.

—From the sidelines, I get the impression that Hellfire and Zero Wing took a long time doing those kinds of adjustments. You said it was your first horizontal STG, so I could see how it would be a struggle, not having the necessary know-how for that style.

Yuge: That is true, but we also struggled with difficulty adjustments for our vertical games as well. With Tatsjuin, for example, we wanted the player to feel like he was a “tatsujin” [[expert]] when he played, and getting the difficulty balanced to that end was very challenging.

—When you look at Toaplan’s latter days as a whole, what was it like for the different development teams?

Yuge: By the end we had around 50 people working there, so there were a lot of teams at that point.

—You started with arcade development, but was there ever a team dedicated to console development?

Yuge: No, there wasn’t.

—After development teams would get formed, starting with the initial planning, how would projects get started? Did you consult with everyone in their area of expertise?

Yuge: Yes, we did follow the “right person for the right place” style of planning. When doing sequels to our vertical STGs, we found it more efficient to use the same people, and they’d be able to bring their ideas and knowledge to the table.

—Please tell us what your initial planning and design documents were like.

Yuge: Originally, we didn’t make any. Kyuukyoku Tiger was the first game that actually had planning documents. We’d usually just write down the ideas for the game, in text, on a single A4 sheet of paper. We’d read it out at a meeting and say “This is what we want to make. Is it ok?”… and that was it. (laughs)

Uemura: Normally planning documents are made by the developers to get permission from the company to make the game, right? But we didn’t have to do that. We simply made we wanted ourselves, so there was no need to present anything beforehand. The people selling our games wouldn’t sell them until we were done, so their opinions didn’t factor in. It was a good time. (laughs)

Yuge: Though we did have a development planning group, or was it just a general planning group...?

Uemura: There was a department with that name, but I don’t think they did any planning. (laughs) Up to the end, it was just all of us submitting our various ideas. It was kind of like a competition.

Yuge: More than planning docs, we’d usually bring some prototype of the game, I believe.

Uemura: There was never any systematic, organized method for it. It was always totally disorganized. (laughs)

Yuge: It was all left up to the individuals. (laughs)

Daisenpu map concept art.

—If thats the case, I wonder what will become of all these paper documents you’ve given me! The oldest I have here is Slap Fight, and it looks like there are some original planning documents here.2

Yuge: That was added after development, as a postscript. We made those because we needed some written records, for posterity.

—There’s other papers here which have stories for the games written up, but were these also done after development was over? The instruction sheets that came with the PCBs also have the stories written there.

Uemura: The stories were written after the fact, for the most part. (laughs)

Yuge: (looking over the materials) Yeah, these were all done afterwards. (laughs)

—Of the materials we’ve collected for this CD-ROM, it looks like we don’t have everything, but only a certain portion of it?

Uemura: The only illustrations and such that remain are ones we used for magazine interviews, for games that were commercially successful. And the only music transcriptions we have are the ones we wrote for the liner notes.

—I’m guessing those were used for advertising in Gamest? What about “Bee Maga” (computer BASIC magazine)

Uemura: Yeah, almost all for Gamest. We did advertise in “Bee Maga” as well, and also “Beep! Megadrive” magazine. But the vast majority of it was for Gamest.

Slap Fight development materials / concept art.

—But Toaplan’s later games do tell a story in their attract sequences. Outzone and Dogyuun, for instance. At what point in the development were their stories decided?

Uemura: I think it was done when we programmed the attract modes. For games without attract sequences, we’d create the story when we were making the instructions for the PCB.

—If you didn’t decide the world and the rules of the game in detail beforehand, and the programmers were working on their own individual stages, didn’t people end up doing a lot of redundant or unneccessary work?

Yuge: No, because the way we developed was different from other companies. We always knew what each of us was working on because the teams were small and we were seeing it all come together in real time.

Uemura: I think Outzone and Fixeight had their worlds fleshed out in advance. Especially with Fixeight, though we didn’t work on it, the weapons had to match the personalities and backgrounds of the characters, so the story of the game was inseparable from the beginning.

—Back then, words like “system design” and “level design” didn’t yet exist, but how did you handle those elements? Did you figure out the game system in detail first, then work on enemy placement; or did you only have a rough idea of the game system before starting?

Yuge: We worked on both simultaneously. We never even really thought of dividing it up like that. Of course the game system was roughed in first, but so were the enemies and your ship’s weapons as well. It wasn’t that we thought consistency and balance would lead to an interesting game… it was more like we were trying to discover those moments in the game that make you go “yes! this is cool!” Once we found that, we’d expand upon it and refine it.

Uemura: One of the first things we’d set, naturally, was the player ship system. We’d rough it in first, make adjustments to our liking, and then start building everything around that, like the way enemies move.

—I would think that working on both enemies and the ship system at the same time would mean that if a problem arises, it would be difficult to tell where it comes from. But I remember that during the location tests for Zero Wing, I noticed one day that the laser didn’t penetrate every enemy as normal anymore. I remember being surprised, “wow, even this far into the development, and they’re still tuning the system.”

Yuge: We were able to do that precisely because we worked on them together. By “together” I mean, the same person was working on both enemies and ship systems. If we had divided it among two people, things would have gotten disconnected.

—I’m surprised you had the extra time, given how many things you juggling.

Uemura: I don’t think our system would work in a game company today. But we had a small staff, and a development model that allowed us to finish games in a short period, so we had extra time for experimentation.

Tatsuya Uemura.

—Do you think the high degree of polish in your games was a result of that experimentation?

Uemura: I think so, definitely. At the time we knew other game companies would do their planning beforehand and separately, but we thought “our games are interesting because we DON’T do that.” We prided ourselves on our way.

Yuge: I agree.

—When it came to finalizing the game, who ultimately made the decisions? Who decided how far to go?

Yuge: There wasn’t really any one person who had such powers. (laughs) We worked on it until everyone thought it was done.

—Weren’t you worried about deadlines, or not having the program code done in time for the ROM production?

Uemura: We didn’t have deadlines. (laughs)

Yuge: We didn’t have deadlines, but we kept to our original development schedule, more or less. You can’t run a company otherwise, of course.

—Were there ever any financial circumstances that influenced your deadlines? Like trying to finish something in time for the fiscal year?

Yuge: Not really.

Uemura: For better or for worse, we were really a “development-centric” company. Everyone, including management, really showed the developers a lot of consideration.

Yuge: And being that we were developing for the arcades, we were able to adjust and change things up to the last moment.

An interview with Yuge and Uemura.

—I imagine not having to be told what to do by the distribution companies helped, as well?

Yuge: Yeah, they almost never did that.

Uemura: And when one of us objected to their requests, we just didn’t do it. (laughs)

—With so much control over everything, what aspect of development took the most time?

Yuge: Adjusting the difficulty, definitely.

—Were those adjustments influenced by the results of the location tests?

Yuge: At times, yes. Having to satisfy both the users who will play your game and the arcade operators who have economic interests was definitely the hardest part.

Uemura: Yeah, that dilemma often came up. We were told to make our games so that “One credit for 3 minutes”, but we said you can’t make an interesting game like that.

—When a new game is finished and reaches us, the first thing that catches our eye is the title. When you talk about Toaplan’s games, I think you can’t avoid mentioning their titles. “Tiger Heli” is pretty conventional, but I think “Hishouzame” was a turning point.

Yuge: Yeah, when we saw the design for the Hishouzame title logo, we were like, “this is awesome!” It has a lot of impact when it appears on screen.

—You also used “same” (shark) in place of “tiger” for Same! Same! Same! Where did that come from?

Yuge: Its actually quite simple. “Tiger” sounds strong, and so we said, what other animal sounds strong? And we chose the shark. (laughs)

—Its a fish, though. (laughs)

Yuge: We only cared that it sounded tough. When we showed the finished logo to Iwabuchi, he said “aa, cool!”

—English titles were so popular in the 80s, but Toaplan kept putting out Japanese titles like “Hishouzame” and “Kyuukyoku Tiger.” Were you concerned at all about using kanji in your STG titles?

Uemura: We didn’t do it because we felt “we have to use kanji!” or anything like that. We didn’t think that way. Though later everyone said to us “Toaplan, they always use kanji.”

—I think you were known for making titles that sounded cool, but in Japanese. Was there a person at Toaplan who was mainly responsible for that?

Yuge: No, I think our games just acquired that flavor naturally. When we first presented the title Kyuukyoku Tiger, the president rejected it. “What the hell is that?” was his reaction. (laughs) We explained to him that “Ultimate means you pilot a ship with firepower thats never been seen before in a STG, so its the ‘ultimate’ tiger.”

—For your later titles, you didn’t just use kanji, but made words with their own unique feel, like “Dogyuun!” Those ones had a different kind of image, but still made us go “cool!” Was someone at Toaplan instructing you to make titles like that?

Uemura: No, no one was. Other than Dogyuun, I think all of our later titles were more conventional though. Ah, there was Batsugun too. By the way, I’m the one who suggested the title Dogyuun, and I’m also the one who approved it. (laughs)

Dogyuun PUNCH!

—By the way, one thing I’m curious about is titles that got changed during development. In these materials you gave us, I see a logo for “Captain Lancer” as a prior name for Hellfire. I’m guessing there must have been a discussion about changing the name at some point?

Uemura: Yeah, why did it become Hellfire, I wonder? I don’t remember being told to change it, but we may have been asked to.

—I heard V-V also had its title changed in the middle of development. I remember it was something like “Bakuretsu Wing”? [[Exploding Wing]]

Yuge: It was something like that…

Uemura: I think that was just a provisional draft title we had at the start. It was normal for us to do that, and change the title to something more final late.

—Though with Hishouzame, you were saying that title was decided early on.

Uemura: If it was good to begin with, we went with it.

—Was there any person at Toaplan who came up with a lot of your titles, or always had interesting ideas?

Uemura: No, usually we’d just gather all the interesting ideas we’d all come up with and have someone choose from among them.

—Finally, I’d like to move our conversation toward the main purpose of this CD box set, Toaplan’s music. I think the multiple roles filled by the developers, of planning/programming/sound, is one of Toaplan’s characteristic features. With so many different tasks to complete, at what point in the development did you do the sound?

Yuge: It depended on the particular game, but sound was something we couldn’t really do at the same time as everything else. When you’re really involved in the programming, you can’t just switch over to sound. You couldn’t just do a little bit, then work on something else.

Uemura: Our early prototypes didn’t have sound added, and they were really uninteresting. (laughs)

Yuge: We’ll never show those to anyone. (laughs)

—When you’re in the middle of developing, and you’ve been adjusting the system and the enemies, playing the game over and over… do you ever get ideas for music during that time?

Uemura: In my case, I worked on the music after that work was done. Even though I try to think of ideas while we’re programming the game, I always get distracted. I wrote all my music at the very end, though I’d write one or two songs earlier, for the location test.

—When you did the data programming for the music, you never had problems getting the stage progression and your music to sync up precisely?

Uemura: I didn’t write my music to be synced up so precisely. Getting the right feel was more important for me. Depending on the placement of certain enemies, though, I would try to get the chorus or hook of the song to generally align with the stage progression.

—When I hear that, I think of the stage 5 of Hishouzame. If you don’t get past that hard part in the port, you don’t get to hear that glittering chorus. Yuge, since you wrote your music earlier in the development, were you more conscious of syncing up with the stages?

Yuge: That was my intention when I made my music.

Dogyuun concept art.

—And for Uemura’s opposite approach, I imagine there are also ways to get your music to match up to the already finished stages.

Uemura: Well, in the end, because we used checkpoints when you die, I always thought it was kind of meaningless even if you did sync everything up precisely.

—Hearing all this, I really feel like I appreciate the difference between your two approaches to STG music.

Yuge: If there’s 5 stages in a game, you want the music to bring out each stage’s personality and character. It was easiest to make the music with that image of the stage in mind. There were also times when I’d write a certain melody or rhythm, and then program the enemies to move according to it.

—Regarding the actual way you made the music, you touched on it a bit earlier, but my impression is of Uemura playing guitar, and Yuge on piano. Did you actually compose with those instruments?

Yuge: Yeah, and I also wrote on guitar sometimes. My music didn’t start out sequenced; I wrote out rough versions of almost all the music on sheet paper first. After that I would continue putting it together in front of the computer.

Uemura: I didn’t write my music out, but played everything by ear. The music transcriptions in the CDs were done later, for those CDs. After I had come up with the music in my head, I’d sit in front of the keyboard and look for sounds while I programmed the data in. I was never able to sight read, so it would have been pointless for me to write the music out first.

—For the actual sound chips on the PCBs, although the technology kept improving, I got the impression from your music that you kept updating the sound drivers you used to emulate the new features available. Was someone working on that?

Yuge: That would be me. It was the same sound driver I wrote from my z80 days. Once we were able to use FM sound, our freedom for music composition really went up, and I made the sound drivers more complex in turn.

—There’s one thing I’ve always wondered about with your sound drivers. Why, for each sound, did you prepare a separate “cancel” or “pause” sound–that is, a silence?

Yuge: I made those to free up the sound channels. Its for important sounds that need to interrupt the music, like sound effects.

—Was it intentional, to keep the bass sounds untouched, but have the sound effects share the channels of the melodies, so that the composition itself would seem to change while playing?

Yuge: No, we weren’t thinking that deeply about it. We just wanted a way to stop the sounds as simply as possible, which from a programming perspective would free up resources with the main CPU.

Uemura: The sound driver wasn’t geared towards musicians, it was completely geared toward our work as programmers.

Notes for the Tatsujin backstory.

—At the start of the interview I asked which of the games you developed did you feel were most representative, or particularly memorable. Likewise, as composers, what music have you created that left a deep impression on you, or that you’d particularly like people to hear?

Yuge: Stage 4 of Tatsujin Ou.

Uemura: My favorite? Hmmm…

Yuge: I can tell you what I think Uemura’s most representative work is.

Uemura: Which? TSUGARU? (laughs)

Yuge: Yeah, that’s the one. Its the best. (laughs)

—I actually thought that since you decided to remix “Dogyuun Magic,” you’d say that was your favorite.

Uemura: Ah, well I did that arrange version just because it was the first track. You liked Dogyuun’s soundtrack? I like the stage 3 music.

—There’s often a slight difference between what the composer likes and what the player likes. With Tatsujin Ou, for instance, I’ve heard there were many players who practiced to get to stage 5, just to hear the music for that stage.

Yuge: Generally speaking, the things you love aren’t recognized by others. (laughs)

—A moment ago Yuge gave his favorite Uemura track, but Uemura, what do you think Yuge’s best tracks are?

Uemura: (laughs) Well… Kyuukyoku Tiger’s first stage has a strong band feel to it, which matches my interests, so naturally I like that one. I like stage 3 also. Stage 5 has a different atmosphere, and I know many people who like that one. I like the band feel in stages 1 and 3 though.

—I have to wrap things up soon, but I’d like to say that even today, you can see the influence of Toaplan STG in modern STGs. What do you think of the legacy you’ve left, looking back?

Uemura: I don’t think we made that big of an impact…

—No, you really did! Looking at various STGs today, there are numerous gameplay elements that reflect Toaplan’s ideas.

Uemura: We always say that our games were made to be fun and exhilirating. I think you can see that in the way we programmed our bomb system. But I think that element of STGs, I mean simple exhiliration, really hasn’t been carried on.

—I think there are probably many players today who play your games just for that feeling. Do you have any message for those players today?

Uemura: We are simply very grateful. We’re unbelievably lucky as developers, to have been able to do the things we wanted, and have people enjoy them so long after. I think its usually the reverse, that as time goes on, you see how stale and uninspired your work was. So to see there’s a space where people are talking about our games even today, is practically unbelievable for me. I can really only express my gratefulness. Thank you very much.

Yuge: I feel exactly the same way, and it really makes me happy. At the time we had no idea our games would turn out like this, we were just doing what we loved. I’m happy we were able to do that, and to the people who still remember our work today, I bow my head in thanks.

Yuge and Uemura pose with the Gamest Toaplan special.

—I think its really us as fans who can never express our thanks to you enough. Even though our grades suffered and we used all our allowance up on your games. (laughs) We were in love with these worlds, and you let us enter them. Thank you very much. Finally, as my last question, what was “Toaplan” to each of you?

Uemura: What was Toaplan to me… what was it indeed?

Yuge: It was my second youth.

Uemura: Maybe so, it was truly a fun time in my life, working there.

Yuge: The other employees all the say the same thing, about how fun it was then. It was a rare thing for a game development company, I think.

Uemura: I can’t really express in words what Toaplan was to me, though.

Yuge: It has a special place in our memory.

Uemura: Definitely… perhaps thats why my old mind can’t find the right words. (laughs)

Yuge: Those 10 years were a time of great upheaval and change for us. Starting from nothing, we steadily brought more and more titles out, and then right at our zenith, it all fell apart, like a stone you’ve pushed atop a hill. I have so many memories of it all.

—That sense of vigor and growth is really reflected in Toaplan’s games, even in the titles. I think you succeeded in sharing that high tension feeling of “full speed ahead” with us. Thank you so much for sharing your memories and stories today.

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!

  1. The “bullets” comment is something of a play on words. He uses the katakana of “tama”, meaning not a conventional ball/sphere, but any ball/sphere object like a bullet. The joke, of course, comes from the fact that early Toaplan STGs had low (but fast) bullet counts.

  2. This question is referring to bonus written materials that were included on the same cd-rom this pdf interview is included on. The interviewers were given access to a box of handmade binders, which contained a variety of written materials, illustrations, etc for each game. Those were then digitally scanned for this boxset.


  1. I wanted to say thank you so much for the hard work you did with these Toaplan interviews. They’re still a fun read! Just curious but do you plan to translate the other 2 Toaplan articles you have lined up? Those being a 2002 interview with both Uemura and Yuge, as well as the liner notes by Batsugun composer Yoshitatsu Sakai. Knowing the HUGE backlog you have, i don’t think i’ll see those translated anytime soon but it would be really cool to see what Sakai thought of his work. Anyways, keep the great translation work you’re doing 🙂

    1. Thank you! Those Toaplan interviews were some of our earliest translations, in fact, almost 10 years ago now. I’m looking forward to the new Toaplan “ALL YOUR BASE” kickstarter interviews myself. As for the other two interviews in our archive… ultimately the direction I take through the backlog is determined by the patron voting, but I’d like to translate them. The 2002 piece is from a book and nicely detailed. The Yoshiatsu Sakai piece is much shorter and those are sometimes hard to fit into our update schedule, but hopefully we can knock it off the list soon.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *