SEGA Ages devs on how the project came to be, choosing the name, going with Switch, new game features
Posted on May 19, 2018 by Brian(@NE_Brian) in News, Switch, Switch eShop
In a recent issue of Famitsu, one of the first SEGA Ages interviews was published. The magazine caught up with the following team members:
– SEGA Games’ lead producer and director Rieko Kodama
– Supervisor Yosuke Okunari
– Senior producer Kagasei Shimomura
– M2’s Naoki Horii
The interview began with some talk about origins of the project. It started around the beginning of 2016, when they were working on SEGA 3D Fukkoku Archives 3: Final Stage after having released two collections previously. As a successor to the SEGA 3D Revival Project, they recognized the need to put it on home consoles. Even people such as PlatinumGames’ Hideki Kamiya and Masahiro Sakurai of Smash Bros. fame asked them “Why haven’t you done it on home consoles yet?”
However, they had already almost exhausted titles to revive by SEGA 3D Fukkoku Archives 3, and Okunari said “3 would be the final stage.” They were in a standstill for about a whole year since they were contemplating things. For example, there was an idea to feature specific genres like a shooting pack, but from a business perspective it wouldn’t sell as much as Fukkoku Archives 3. Horii and M2 also used to suggest VR games like Space Harrier, but the market for that is still small and it wouldn’t fit the needs of classic game fans either.
Okunari was the one who made the title SEGA 3D Fukkoku Archives 3: Final Stage, but he had his own way of continuing ideas on the 3DS. But after the third release was over, he asked M2, “How much time do you need to finish Virtua Racing on 3DS?” to which the company replied “around two more years,” which was much longer than he thought.
During that standstill, Switch came about, and classic game fans have been picking up the system, so SEGA decided to put its focus there. But as most of the titles had been exhausted by SEGA 3D Fukkoku Archives, Shimomura added Kodama to the team as lead producer and director at beginning of 2017. Shimomura handles the business side while Kodama manages the game content. Kodama would also help determine factors like the title, platform, and new features.
On reviving SEGA Ages as a series name, president Matsubara ordered them to “establish the brand if you want to reboot it anew.” And up until now they used to develop in Japan first then bring it overseas, but this time they want to expand it simultaneously in Japan, North America, and Europe. This is because SEGA 3D Fukkoku Archives was received very well in the west, but was released very late overseas.
When deciding the title name, they held a poll where American and European staff also participated, and the one that received the most votes was SEGA Ages. While the name SEGA Ages has been rather established as a series in Japan, in the west there had been all kinds of titles. So Shimomura wanted the title to be the same worldwide this time. Even M2 and foreign staff quickly understood that SEGA Ages is about a series of the company’s classic game revivals.
Okunari is now working as a supervisor. He used to be the main producer until SEGA 3D Fukkoku Archives, and for the next two years after that – including 3D Bear Knuckle II – he worked in tandem with Shimomura. Although he wanted to stay away from the new projects, Shimomura still had him get involved, because he’s the one person in the company who knows SEGA’s history the most.
On why Switch was chosen, Shimomura first said that they should first do it on a Nintendo platform, and that Switch should be able to inherit the possibility of “Playing classic games with your hand’s grasp” from 3DS.
Last summer, people from SEGA Interactive (which developed and published SEGA’s arcade games) helped picked up source code for the titles. By then, most of the title lineup had been decided.
When considering the era range of represented hardware, they need to think about it from a business time constraint, and the one that’s realistically viable was from the polygon-era hardware.
While development for each title in the past could take years, this time they aimed to create more than 15 titles for this project, with a pace of one title per a few months. Ultimately they came up with 18 titles.
The first five titles announced don’t mean they were also going to be released early. For example, in Thunder Force IV, the player’s unit Styx was also available in SEGA Sega Saturn version of Thunder Force Gold Pack 2, but that was a port rather than emulation, so for this version they’re creating it from scratch again.
The discussion digressed a bit to a wishlist of TechnoSoft titles they would like to see. Horii said Plazma Line, while Okunari mentioned Shin Kyuugyokuden.
Kodama used to work as designer for three of the first five games announced: Alex Kidd, Sonic the Hedgehog, and Phantasy Star. The sideline illustrations in Phantasy Star were done by her.
For Phantasy Star, they added a new mode with lower difficulty. And although the following is not set in stone yet, they want to add a new method to make traversing through 3D dungeons easier.
For Sonic the Hedgehog, they’re adding modes included in past ports such as Ring Keep and Stage Select. But for the first time they’re also adding the ‘mythical’ arcade Mega Play version as well. They also plan to add even more detailed gameplay features.
For Gain Ground, they’re able to output it in the original resolution when playing with the Switch being placed vertically. Gain Ground was the number one most requested non-racing game in the ranking that was published at TGS 2016 (at the Sega SEGA 3D Fukkoku Archives 3: Final Stage event)
Okunari noted that while Gain Ground had been ported to the Mega Drive, PC Engine, and Master System, the original System 24 had higher resolution than any of the aforementioned ones, so they couldn’t make faithful reproductions back then.
Since they don’t have to bother with turning 2D images into 3D as much, what they want to think next is what kind of new features are needed by these games. When making faithful ports for the Wii’s Virtual Console, the fastest pace they could manage for about 2-3 years was one game per week. SEGA and M2 also discussed a lot last year about what kind of new features to add.
In the closing messages, Shimomura was noted as saying that they eventually want to aim to cover “all of SEGA’s titles!”