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Night Striker Strikes Nightly on Mega CD

by CRV (talk) | Originally posted June 3, 2022

When it comes to games that were clearly inspired by Space Harrier, Taito's Night Striker stands head and shoulders above the rest. The cyberpunk setting, great music, and fast action come together to create an arcade game experience with that unique Taito flair.

Someone at Taito must have thought enough of the Mega CD to commission a version of Night Striker for it. That may have been a mistake, because it looks like an extremely pixelated mess.

Personally, I find the Mega CD version to still be enjoyable and very playable despite its looks. But that playability obviously came at a great technical cost.

Kenji Kaido, director of the original arcade version, supervised the Mega CD version, the only home version on which he did so. He said on Twitter that "the contractor seemed to have decided that if they reduce the resolution, they could reproduce the game and maintain the sense of speed."

Kaido also recalled "that the contractor in charge of porting the game worked on it with great enthusiasm." They did not have the source code, however, as was so often the case back then, and so they had to disassemble and analyze the arcade ROMs.

It was Aisystem Tokyo that was responsible for porting Night Striker to the Mega CD. They also developed the Mega CD version of The Ninja Warriors, the Saturn version of Darius Gaiden, and the PlayStation version of G Darius. I'd really like to see a postmortem on the development of Mega CD Night Striker if they can actually find anybody who worked on it.


Nintendo and Iwasaki: Acknowledgment

by CRV (talk) | Originally posted May 30, 2022

Iwasaki logo

Satoru Okada is the former Nintendo engineer who had a hand in many products including Game & Watch, Game Boy, Game Boy Advance, and Nintendo DS. In 2022, he was interviewed by in a two-part feature that chronicles his extensive career.

After Game & Watch, Okada worked on the Donkey Kong Junior arcade game. He refers to Donkey Kong Junior as a "cleanup" of the first Donkey Kong, which had a lot of inventory left over despite selling well.

To make Donkey Kong Junior, Nintendo would essentially have to recycle the boards and code from Donkey Kong. Unfortunately, they did not have access to the source code to the original game because it was programmed by an outside company, Ikegami Tsushinki (Ikegami). This left Okada in a tough spot: "I didn't know anything about video game programming, so I thought, 'How did they make this?' So I asked three excellent programmers from Iwasaki Giken Kogyo to come and work on it, and we spent the entire Golden Week holiday working on it in Nintendo's offices." And thus they reverse engineered Donkey Kong.

Iwasaki Giken Kogyo (Iwasaki) is a company featured on this site that would continue to have a relationship with Nintendo after the release of Donkey Kong Junior. A footnote in the article explains what Iwasaki was; no new information is given. It is unknown if the writers actually confirmed any of it with Okada or if they just got it off the Internet. For example, they mention that employees of Iwasaki became independent and established Intelligent Systems, the longtime ally of Nintendo behind many of its games and development tools.

"I didn't know anything about the source code, so I used the programming data as is," Okada went on to say. "[Ikegami's] name, the name of the person in charge, and the outside telephone number were included. I could have figured it out by converting it to text and outputting it, but I didn't do that." This would come back to bite Nintendo, as Ikegami would sue for copyright infringement.

But the point of this post is not to talk about that lawsuit; it is to note that this may be the first public acknowledgment of Iwasaki by someone from Nintendo, though Okada has not worked there since 2012. I get the impression the relationship between Iwasaki and Nintendo did not end amicably.

The only reference to Iwasaki I have seen from Nintendo (outside of official documents such as copyright registrations and court cases) is in a 2007 Nintendo Online Magazine report on Intelligent Systems. It contains a list of games by the company, which mentions that the earliest games were "developed by the organization that was the predecessor of" Intelligent Systems.

Post updated May 31, 2022

The EX Stands for Savings

by CRV (talk) | Originally posted February 19, 2022

You can say what you want about Konami today, but the Contra franchise has been mistreated for years. After successful outings on the 8- and 16-bit systems, the games were largely hit-or-miss. There was no equivalent of Metal Gear Solid or Symphony of the Night to take the series to the next level.

While it is a decent game, Contra Advance: The Alien Wars EX (Contra: Hard Spirits in Japan) definitely falls into the "miss" category. I'm not sure why this happened, but the Game Boy Advance became a sort of dumping ground for Super NES ports. I don't ever recall anybody claiming these were better than the original versions, but Contra Advance seems particularly lacking.

The graphics have taken a hit — they look very washed out — as has the sound. You can only carry one weapon, and you have no bombs. The overhead stages from Contra III are gone, too, replaced with stages from Contra: Hard Corps. I would think the GBA could handle those, but I guess not.

Some Japanese sites will tell you the prolific Tose was the developer of Contra Advance, but an examination of the credits reveals a more complicated situation. The director and one of the assistant directors appear to be from Tose, but the other assistant director/game designer was the president and CEO of Cing, the company behind cult favorites like Hotel Dusk: Room 215. One of the programmers was on Cing's board of directors. At least four of the staff members (including the aforementioned assistant director and programmer) previously worked at Riverhillsoft, where Cing's founders came from. Finally, the game came out in 2002, three years after Cing was started; I think that's enough to firmly establish Cing's involvement.

Then what's the connection between Tose and Cing? It's simple, but little known: Cing was once a subsidiary of Tose. Mind you, the earliest mention of this I could find in a Tose annual corporate report is from 2006.

Tose's 2009 annual report notes when this all came to an end: "CING, INC. is no longer considered a subsidiary, since the Company no longer maintains a management relationship in terms of determining CING, INC. corporate policies." (Tose's Tadashi Nishi had served as Cing's chairman.) Cing went bankrupt in 2010.


Post updated November 14, 2022

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