Tony Gonzalez worked at Romstar and SNK of America.
GDRI: What was your official position at Romstar?
TG: Official position would be repair technician and also manager of the home game division when it was formed. Still got some biz cards around somewhere on that. Did quite a few more things all around, wore many hats. We all did.
GDRI: How did you end up at Romstar? Why did you leave?
TG: I ended up at Romstar, was in the area job interviewing, had talked with Romstar before on game repair. Had dropped in, told them about me job hunting (was looking into gas pump computer repair at the time), stuck around a week and loved it. Ended up staying there six years. I still consider it my favorite job. Had left because the company was forced to move up north and I planted deep roots, so I did not move with the company. It later went to Chicago and reformed into the Capcom Pinball division.
GDRI: How much input did Romstar have in the development of the games it distributed/published, if any? Do you know anything about the outside companies involved with developing these games?
TG: Almost all the games were developed in Japan. We did design an arcade computer board system in-house to release games on. It was developed by Mike Hughes, the man who designed the original Taito board system used in Qix. This one was 286-based and called Tera 2. I went up north a week to learn the program and design on it. I gave the general sound system concepts, which were stereo YM2203s and D/A channels.
- GDRI: To clarify, did you "learn THE program" as in an actual application or "learn TO program?"
- TG: Learning TO program the new game system, specifically. I used Borland's Turbo C and was helping develop the software library and had a nice self-test suite built up. Still only have a printout of the self-test itself. I hope to use the same basic framework for an upcoming cheapie game system of my own design with hardware lessons learned over the years.
I think Seta/Visco did our NES development. I had a hand in a lot of it. All the text in Cowboy Kid I wrote as well as the manual. An earlier attempt on bringing in an outside programmer friend with me ended up being the base design concepts for Magic Darts.
- GDRI: Was there a relationship between the two [Seta/Visco]?
- TG: I believe they were one and the same company all around, Visco possibly being a subset of Seta. If you had a Visco game, it was labeled as Seta hardware chips and board to begin with (One of the most famous early Seta games sold under the Taito name was Gladiator, FYI.).
One American arcade game which didn't see release was Skeet Shot. It was developed by a lady up north who is related to the most famous amusement park and cartoon family in the world, as well as beared the family name.
Had the company [Romstar] stayed two or three years longer in SoCal, I think there would have been more in-house game product designed.
For the input in general, we tested on locations and got changes needed to bring up earnings. Sometimes you could get an incredible dog. I still have a one-of-a-kind arcade game in one of my sheds on the farm. Two TVs, separate control design. It was way too difficult and earned something like three dollars a week.
For outside development, we had Taito, Capcom, SNK, and smaller companies send us product. Some smaller companies we tested included Dynax, Face, Sun-A, as well as a bunch under the Taito umbrella such as Seta, Visco, Kyugo, Kaneko, Technos, and others. Some interesting product all around at times!
GDRI: Do you know if Mentrix Software was part of Romstar?
TG: Never heard of Mentrix. Sorry.
GDRI: Do you know anything about Air Hawk (or Airhawk or AirHawk) for the NES (unreleased)? 
TG: Had never heard of Airhawk, either.
GDRI: I was just wondering if maybe Mentrix was just a Romstar label for Genesis games. I noticed a couple Romstar people, Rene Lopez and Darryl Williams, mentioned in the credits, all the Mentrix games were from Visco, and Mentrix's address points to a condo in Torrance two miles away from Romstar.
TG: I just don't recall any games under that name, though. Ah, Genesis licensing. That then was never in the Romstar plant as there was never any Genesis nor games that I knew of. The address would have probably been Ann Hirakawa, who worked with us. I think her name would be mentioned in there.
GDRI: Ah, I see her credited as an assistant director on a couple of these games.
TG: Kewlsome. Some games I recall off-hand translating with her, notwithstanding the NES game carts, would be Earth Joker and Galmedes, both made by Visco but using an in-house Taito board rather than Seta hardware.
TG: Torpedo Range was indeed Seta and never released by us.
GDRI: What did you do at SNK?
TG: At SNK, I did the same [as at Romstar]: repair of arcade games, some location work, had some fun on development projects such as a steering wheel assembly for the Neo Geo driving games as well as creating a ticket redemption computer for the Neo Geo. Both of those made it to trade shows but were never officially released. One final project involved revamping a crane computer to make it California legal (crane law has a four-way joystick and a drop button to make it legal for use).
Thanks to Mr. Gonzalez for his time.
Interview conducted by CRV via e-mail in November 2009.