We talk to Sega's Yosuke Okunari and Sam Mullen about the development process of the Sega 3D Classics, the future of the series, and what Nintendo classics they would want to 3D-ify.
The 3D Classics series continues today with 3D Streets of Rage 2 and to celebrate, we talked to Sega Producer Yosuke Okunari and Localization Producer Sam Mullen about the process of bringing Streets of Rage 2 to life on the 3DS. We also asked the duo about their favorite characters, what Nintendo classics they'd like to make 3D Classics of, and if future games might use the power of the New 3DS.
Nintendo World Report (NWR): Like previous Genesis/Megadrive conversions, M2 is adding new modes of play. Can you describe the new Quartet and Knockdown modes?
Sam Mullen (SM): You're correct that they are called Quartet and Knockdown Mode in the Japanese version, but in the English version we changed it up a little bit and called them "Rage Relay" and "Casual Mode."
Rage Relay mode is basically a tag-team style tap-out/tap-in mode where you first choose an order for the four characters, and every time you lose a life, the next character in your chosen order comes out rather than the same character simply reviving. The concept behind this mode was based on the idea that most people just play the same character over and over. And even though you can actually change your character on Continue, most people don't. This mode cycles through the characters for you and lets you experience characters that you normally wouldn't play. And that's the thing about this game: All the characters feel really different. Some players don't realize that because they always stick to that one character they originally choose.
Casual Mode is exactly what it advertises. It lets you blow through the game really easily, which is great for short, low stress play sessions. It's a little different from the 1st game's "Fists of Death" Mode. In Fists of Death, you'd defeat enemies with just a single blow. But Streets of Rage 2 was all about the combos! If you kill guys with a single hit, you can't enjoy those awesome combo strings. This mode lets you have the best of both worlds: Killer combos with casual coolness.
NWR: Were there any features you wanted to add to the game but couldn't?
Yosuke Okunari (YO): While we were developing the game, there weren't any features we particularly felt were missing, actually. But after we finished the game, we actually had a chance to talk to Ancient themselves, the game's original developer, and they told us that they had wanted to put more effort into the two-player versus mode, but they just ran out of time. It turns out that Shiva (Mr. X's right hand man at the end of the game) even has versus mode specific motions implemented in the game. So if we had more time and budget, I'd like to work with Ancient to build out VS mode into what they originally intended.
NWR: I've heard Streets of Rage 2 will feature the most accurate Genesis sound emulation out of all the currently released 3D Classics. Did Sega/M2 consult with the game's original composer Yuzo Koshiro at all?
YO: We didn't receive any advice from him during development, but after we finished, he was very very happy about what we had done. This is the third time M2 has ported Streets of Rage 2, with the first two being Wii and Xbox 360, but the very well-known Manabu Namiki was part of the team this time around, and his impact cannot be understated. He worked with the main programmer, tuning everything up to the very end to bring the most out of not only the Mega Drive hardware emulation, but of the 3DS itself, to create an unparalleled level of authentic sound reproduction.
NWR: The game supports multiplayer via wireless, but only if both 3DS owners own a copy. Are there technical reasons that prevent single card multiplayer?
SM: Without getting too deep into the technical aspects, adding download multiplayer wasn't within scope. It's not as simple as it would immediately seem.
NWR: You've already announced that Gunstar Heroes and Sonic the Hedgehog 2 will be following the release of Streets of Rage 2. Will both those games maintain their original multiplayer modes in some form?
SM: Yes, those two games will support two-player in just the same way the past Giga Drive games have, including Streets of Rage 2. We understand that these are basically expected at this point.
YO: In addition, for Gunstar Heroes, originally if you wanted to use Blue you had to use the 2P controller, but we've made it so you can do that without having to play Local Player. And for Sonic 2, you can even have 2P control Tails in single-player mode in addition to the normal VS mode.
NWR: In an interview with Famitsu, Sega's Yosuke Okunari revealed that Streets of Rage 2 was only added to the second wave of 3D Classics after roping in a Sega of America producer. Was it an easy decision adding Streets of Rage 2 to the lineup?
SM: Actually, there wasn't much roping in involved. I always wanted to do this game since the first wave. It's just we needed all the pistons and stars to line up the right way. And Okunari-san and M2 of course wanted to [make] Streets of Rage 2 from the very beginning as well. We actually planned on doing SoR2 in the first batch, completely skipping SoR1. But at the time, M2 just had doubts about their ability to do the game justice.
YO: Yes. Streets of Rage 2 has many areas that use pseudo-3D representations, such as the area in the first stage where you walk diagonally downward. Back in the first batch, we didn't have the skills and know-how about 3D conversions to confidently say we could execute on this. But after the first batch was done, our programmer got a prototype running that demonstrated it could be done. We just needed the opportunity to make it happen. We talk about it a little in our Game Watch interview.
SM: So when we decided to go ahead and release the until-then Japan-only arcade titles that comprised the second batch of games, we felt this would be an opportunity to tack on a couple of Genesis games as well, since we knew those would resonate very well with the Western market. With the technical ability honed over a span of 13 titles at this point, we were able to bring titles that were originally considered too difficult to do: Streets of Rage 2, Gunstar Heroes, and Sonic The Hedgehog 2.
NWR: When creating the 3D version of a classic sprite-based game, how much of the work is emulation-based and how much of the work is re-creating the game anew on the 3DS?
YO: For Genesis games, we've had an emulation system for quite some time now. We then take this core system, and optimize by removing parts that a particular title doesn't need or use. As far as 're-creation' for these titles go, the main bulk of the work involves converting graphics into 3D and building out support for additional features that a game may have. For arcade titles however, there's a lot of work that goes into building individual parts that might be new or unique to that game, and those games often already have data that originally represents 3D locations (like where the cars are in Out Run), so a lot more work goes into the actual emulation itself.
NWR: Has M2 considered using the improved processor of the New 3DS for future 3D Classics?
YO: If the uptake for New 3DS is very strong, I would really like to give it a shot, yes. We currently have no plans for additional SEGA 3D Classics, though. But we are keeping a close eye on how they are doing in the marketplace.
NWR: Which playable character do you recommend for someone who's never played the game before?
YO: If you are going to play a normal game just like the original Genesis version, Axel is built for a very well-rounded straight forward experience. So I think beginners should get Axel and learn how to use his Grand Upper. It's the fastest way to get into the game. But if you are going to be playing Casual Mode, it brings down the hurdle a bit for the other characters. What I would like to see is more people end up settling on using Max in normal mode, because he is the strongest of all the characters.
NWR: If you could turn one classic Nintendo game into a 3D Classic, what would it be and why?
YO: Everyone member of the development team is going to have a different answer for this one, so I can only really speak for myself. If we are talking about Nintendo games, Super Mario and Zelda have already seen 3D conversions that keep the feel of the original game, so if those classics were converted, I don't think anyone would be all that impressed, honestly. So if I had to choose, I would pick something that hasn't seen a 3D version, like the arcade version of Punch-Out! That'd be fun. It'd be neat to see how they represented the player character in 3D. I'd also like to see the original arcade version of Donkey Kong with some over the top 3D effects based on all the technical skills we've learned so far.
SM: Speaking for myself, it's not going back quite that far, but I think Super Metroid would look incredible with a 3D conversion. That game had a lot of places where you'd move between what felt like narrow spaces to big open spaces, with lots of Mode 7 scaling in and out of the screen. You'll know what I mean when you get 3D Gunstar Heroes, but take a look at Seven Force's 3D work, and then think about how the humanoid form of Mother Brain would look. It'd be absolute bananas.