Interview: Akihiro Takanami/Hiroaki Fujimoto of h.a.n.d. and System Vision

I don’t know why, but I’ve always been strangely fascinated by Ragnagard. It feels like such an anomaly in the Neo Geo’s massive library of fighting games on numerous levels: the CG visuals, the slow-feeling gameplay, the focus on aerial combos. It’s the sort of game that I’ve felt a compulsion to research, to figure out just how it came into being.

I’m the sort of person who will delve into weird internet rabbit holes over the course of researching stuff and pursuing information, and sometimes that yields incredibly interesting results. One day, when I was out looking for things related to Ragnagard on Japanese sites, I came across a page that had a gorgeous illustration of the game’s main female lead, Benten. But that’s not all that was there: alongside it were numerous anecdotes written by someone who was clearly heavily involved in the game’s development. It turned out this site was run by one Powerudon, an accomplished artist in the game industry who had been one of the driving forces behind Ragnagard’s development.

Looking around his site yielded more interesting tidbits of info, particularly related to a Super Famicom fighting game called The Battle Master. It hadn’t hit me that this and Ragnagard were done by the same developer, as they have a dramatically different feel, but Powerudon had laid out a lot of details about the mechanics and development of these titles on their site — alongside some incredible artwork

I knew I had to talk with Powerudon. One of the reasons I created gaming.moe is to preserve elements of gaming history that might otherwise be lost to time, particularly the words and memories of the people behind games both well-known and obscure. I reached out to Powerudon for an interview, and he agreed, so I emailed him a batch of questions.

A while later, he sent me a massive text file containing replies to all of the questions I had sent. I had asked him to go into as much detail as possible, and he did just that — for which I’m extremely grateful, because he has some really interesting anecdotes and thoughts on game development. So sit back, grab a drink, and enjoy a lengthy interview about System Vision, Battle Master, Ragnagard, and the tumultuous environment of game development in the early/mid-90s.

Special thanks to Tom James and Jason Moses for translation assistance!

Continue reading

Interview: Taka Maekawa of Natsume-Atari

It’s undeniable that there’s been renewed interest in certain retro genres as of late, but there’s one old-school arcade genre that rarely sees any modern-day love: the third-person crosshair shooter. The likes of Cabal, Blood Brothers, and NAM-1975 simply aren’t being made anymore in any format, and that’s extremely unfortunate.

So when Natsume announced that Wild Guns – a SNES game that served as both a loving tribute to the genre and one of its last great examples in the past few decades – was getting a revised an enhanced PS4 reissue as Wild Guns Reloaded… well, I knew that Gaming.moe would have to do something involving the game. This site is built on love for classic gaming genres and underappreciated gaming gems, after all! Even more exciting was the news that original development staff from Natsume-Atari was working on the game. Not only were they going to adapt the game for a new platform, but they planned to add all-new levels and characters as well! My hype was officially through the roof, and I doggedly pursued the chance to interview the game’s creators for a rare look into the creation of a true modern retro revival.

Thanks to the help of Mika and other great folks over at Natsume, we were able to arrange a discussion with Mr. Taka Maekawa, the game’s producer over at Natsume-Atari in Osaka. Please enjoy this exclusive interview about the creation of Wild Guns Reloaded — which, by the way, is now available on PSN and in a limited physical release!

Continue reading

Interview: Suda51 of Grasshopper Manufacture

I’ve interviewed a lot of folks over the course of running this here website, but I feel like this man probably needs very little in the way of introduction. Goichi Suda (known as Suda51 – it’s Japanese goroawase, y’see) is an interesting, free-spirited, and somewhat enigmatic individual whose games are delightfully eclectic, mixing Eastern and Western humor, visual styles, and character tropes to create titles that are truly unlike anything else out there.

I had the opportunity to sit down with Suda51 at PAX West this year to talk a bit about The Silver Case, a remake of Grasshopper Manufacture’s very first game that will be launching on Steam next week. I wanted to dig a bit into his development background and how the game came to be — we’ve always had a bit more of a historically-minded slant on this site, and with this game being an important part of Suda51’s history, it only seemed fitting to focus heavily on that. We also go a bit into his wild No More Heroes design sessions and his modern development philosophy.

Continue reading

Interview: Tetsuya Mizuguchi of Enhance Games

Tetsuya Mizuguchi was, at one point, known as a wunderkind for making great arcade racing games (and later Saturn ports of said racing games) before transitioning into a developer at the forefront of the intersection between music and games with titles like Space Channel 5, Lumines, and Rez. These days, he’s got a new company – Enhance Games – and is currently working on Rez Infinite, a re-imagining of perhaps his most beloved title for the PlayStation VR platform.

I had the opportunity to sit down with Mizuguchi at this year’s Game Developers Conference, not long after he gave his postmortem presentation on the production of Rez. Without further ado, let’s chat with Tetsuya Mizuguchi!

Continue reading

Interview: Manami Matsumae, former Capcom and current freelance composer at BraveWave Music

I went to MAGfest in the DC metro area again this year, after having a lot of fun last year and putting on a really cool panel. Besides doing another panel (which will be up shortly, with notes), I also had the opportunity to partake in some of the musical festivities – it is the Music and Gaming Festival, after all!

Above: Manami Matsumae plays the keyboard in a live performance of Mighty No. 9 songs at MAGfest 16.

Among the performers at the show was Manami Matsumae, a storied game composer currently working with BraveWave. She’s perhaps best known for her work on the original Rockman/Megaman. Her body of work encompasses many more great tunes, however, including several of Capcom’s early-90s arcade classics. She graciously took some time out of her busy schedule to chat with us during the event, and the result was some very cool anecdotes about working on the Capcom sound team during the great Japanese video game boom of the 80s and early 90s.

Read on for the details, and remember – it’s thanks to the support of readers like you that I’m able to travel and conduct cool interviews like these!

Continue reading

Interview: the minds behind Mario and Luigi: Paper Jam, Akira Otani and Shunsuke Kobayashi

It’s weird to think that Mario, one of the most influential and important action game series ever, not only has an RPG spinoff, but has multiple such spinoffs. The original Super Mario RPG felt like a unique, one-off affair back in its time, but the groundwork laid by that title has since spawned the Paper Mario and Mario and Luigi series. After years of doing their separate takes on the Mario universe – and producing some all-time classics in the process – the two series recently crossed over in the 3DS game Mario and Luigi: Paper Jam. (Can we stop and ruminate on the sheer brilliance of that title for a bit? It works beautifully on so many levels.)

I had the opportunity to talk with Mr. Akira Otani of Nintendo and Mr. Shunsuke Kobayashi of Mario and Luigi series developer Alphadream about the creation of this 2D/3D adventure. Read on for some fun little tidbits about what went on behind the scenes of this game’s creation!

Please note that since this was an email-based interview, it’s a bit shorter and doesn’t have quite the same back-and-forth as the interviews I do in person or over voice/IM. There will also be minor spoilers for events about halfway through the plot. Please be aware, and I hope you enjoy it!

Continue reading

Interview: Kenichi Iwao, Scenario Writer/Planner/Director for Capcom, Square-Enix, DeNA, and Oriflamme

Sometimes, a personality associated with a famous game is so visible and so spoken-about that we ascribe all elements of a game’s creation to them, rather than recognizing the true team efforts that many of these titles are. Such is the case with the original Resident Evil/Biohazard – you’ll often hear Shinji Mikami given full credit for the title, when in truth, Biohazard wouldn’t have taken the industry by storm if it wasn’t for the entire team who made it a revolutionary horror experience. Kenichi Iwao is one such individual: his scenario and storywriting for Biohazard set the stage for two decades of sequels, offshoots, and lore to follow. It’s not his only claim to fame in the business, either: Iwao has worked on many beloved titles like Demon’s Crest, Einhander, and Parasite Eve II. He also carefully created the sprawling worlds and stories of the Final Fantasy XI and XIV MMOs. It’s an honor to have to opportunity to interview one of these great unsung heroes of the game industry.

We had a unique opportunity to sit down with Iwao and discuss his lengthy career in the video game industry, and he surprised us with some of his answers to our questions. What do Steve Jackson and MSX games have to do with Biohazard? Read on to find out!

Special thanks to Alex Aniel of Brave Wave Music for assisting with this interview.

Continue reading

Interview: Tatsuro Iwamoto, Ace Attorney Art Director

When your games are as heavily character-driven as visual novels are, having memorable character design is an absolute necessity. One of the best examples is the Ace Attorney series, which has delighted players worldwide with its engaging, distinctive casts of characters. The man behind many of character designs in the earlier Ace Attorney titles was one Tatsuro Iwamoto.

Iwatamoto is now freelance, doing jobs like creating the hunky dudes for Comcept/Idea Factory’s otome game Sweet Fuse (published abroad by Aksys Games) and, most recently, the character designs for the upcoming Monster Strike anime adaptation.1 Though he’s branching out quite a bit, it’s still Ace Attorney that is his most prolific work to this date. I had an opportunity a while back at Japan Expo USA 2013 for a short chat with Iwamoto about his time with Capcom and his work on Ace Attorney in particular. Read on to learn more about some of Capcom’s most endearing characters… and maybe some Michael Douglas movies, too.

Continue reading

  1. Those Capcom ties must be pretty strong.

Interview: Hisayoshi Ogura of Ogura Hisayoshi Ongaseisakushow and Taito/ZUNTATA

(日本語版はここです。) La traduction française est ici.

One of the biggest names in classic game music – and one that persists to this day – is Taito’s house band/music production arm, Zuntata. Among the many storied composers who have worked for Zuntata over the decades is Hisayoshi Ogura, known to fans of the group as OGR. Ogura and his avant-garde game music was crucial in establishing Zuntata as one of the pioneers of arcade sound design with soundtracks like the Darius series, Ninja Warriors, The Legend of Kage, and Galactic Storm.

I’ve been a huge fan of Ogura’s work for a very long time, and I’m elated to finally have the opportunity to talk with him about his amazing body of work and present it to readers. Ogura’s compositions don’t get quite as much admiration in North America as they do in Japan and Europe, and I hope by bringing awareness to his work through this interview that more people will listen to his amazing classic game music. (To that end, I’ve included links to iTunes and Amazon music stores in places to help facilitate the acquisition of soundtracks he’s worked on!)

Very special thanks to Zekuu for helping to arrange this interview, along with Jason Moses and Feelwright and Co. for helping with translation/editing.

Continue reading