Unseen News

Overstorm [GBA – Cancelled]

Overstorm is a cancelled action / platform game created by Quantized Bit for Game Boy Advance. It was shown publicly only once in a 2003 gaming convention. However, in 2014, the developers decided to give away an alpha build of the game, featuring five different levels, in a Indiestand game sale of their last product, Volt:

Beat the average to get the bonus content, which is: 5-levels alpha-stage Overstorm game (our older, never released GBA project) – you can play it in any GBA emulator in a fullscreen mode!

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The Untold History of Japanese Video Game Developers book

The Untold History of Japanese Game Developers Book Gold Cover

Over the last few years, publications and books such as Retro Gamer Magazine and Atari Inc. tried to recount in detail the history of western video games. However, due to language and cultural differences, the origins of the Japanese gaming industry, if we exclude Pixel’n love books, most of which remain nonetheless available only in French, are still poorly documented.

Then again nothing seems to be impossible anymore in our crowdfunding age, and consequently, thanks to a Kickstarter campaign, even a freelance journalist like John Szczepaniak, already a contributor of various magazines and websites among which the excellent Hardcore Gaming 101, had the chance to go in Japan to interview mostly unknown programmers, game designers, illustrators and musicians, active in that extraordinary video games period that were the eighties and  the nineties. The result is the first volume of The Untold History of Japanese Game Developers.

The Untold History of Japanese Video Game Developers book

From the very beginning it is evident that one of the big draws of the book are exclusive info about Japanese home computers from the eighties, platforms virtually unknown in the west but that were the first training ground for many newcomers in the gaming industry, who, economic and technical limitations notwithstanding, went to release many innovative or socially relevant games.

A very creative era, therefore, where even small software houses could create groundbreaking experiences such as Manbiki Shounen, the first stealth game (released November 1979) according to John Szczepaniak, or became the subject of parliamentary discussion with 177, a trashy eroge in which the goal was to chase and then rape a young woman .

This rough yet fascinating world is unfortunately on the verge of disappearance due to the extreme rarity of some titles and the fragility of the medium, typically floppy disks or tapes, on which they were originally published.

That’s why we find in the book an interview with the curator of the Game Preservation Society, an organization dedicated to catalogue and preserve, both in their original format and by making a digital copy, all the Japanese games released in the period that goes from the seventies to the nineties. Unfortunately, many old titles are already lost forever because nobody thought to archive them at the time.

The Untold History of Japanese Video Game Developers book

Doujin Games and Visual Novels are two other topics that historically had little coverage in the west, although in recent times, thanks to the advent of digital stores, the number of these games available in English is growing. Valuable from this point of view are thus the long conversation with ZUN, the creator of Touhou, an incredibly successful indie franchise, as well as the interview with Ryukishi07, who introduces us to the narrative techniques of Higurashi, a celebrated series of visual novels mostly known in the west for the eponymous anime.

This doesn’t mean that we can’t find in The Untold History of Japanese Videogames Developers new facts about more popular videogames. Suikoden fans, for example, will certainly appreciate the interview with the director of the first three chapters of the series, Yoshitaka Murayama, while SEGA long-time supporters can look forward to an in-depth overview of Yuzo Koshiro’s old works.

John Szczepaniak: Describe when and how you joined Konami.

Yoshitaka Murayama: I joined Konami as a new graduate in 1992 in the role of programmer. In my second year after joining the department, I was in was put in charge of creating games for Konami’s game machine and that’s when I got involved in game design. Since it was an extremely secret project inside of Konami, there were very few people involved. So even though I was close to being a new recruit, I was expected to play a very large role. The plan at first was for Konami’s game machine to be a console type and it was suggested that it have a card reader function to allow players to exchange data. The plan changed midway from a console type to a portable type game machine, and it was going to have 3D (polygon) functionality that was not common at the time.

More interestingly for Unseen64, John Szczepaniak also asked, when he could, about beta and unreleased games. This is just a incomplete list of what he discovered, confirmed or got further info in the book:

  • The Saturn version of Grandstream Saga;
  • A sketch of Soul Blazer 2;
  • Ys 3 wasn’t originally an Ys game;
  • The unreleased Namco console;
  • Bounty Arms, a cancelled Playstation game;
  • A photo of an unreleased game made by Yuzo Koshiro, Variant 7;
  • Amazing Island, a gamecube title originally started on saturn and later moved to dreamcast;
  • Street Fighter NES;
  • Unreleased Negcon Games;
  • Chulip original version;

Soul-Blader-2-concept

With 36 interviewees and more than 500 pages, The Untold History of Japanese Video Game Developers is a book full of previously unknown and interesting info for fans of retrogaming and obscure japanese developers. We are happy that many info on cancelled projects and facts about the development of some of our favorite games were preserved in this book, huge props to John for his work! If you don’t like to read, you can also check The Untold History of Japanese Video Game Developers DVD ;)

You can buy The Untold History of Japanese Video Game Developers in paperback and digital from (they will be on-sale untill the end of  December 2014):

  • Amazon.com: Paperback Silver (35.99$), Paperback Gold (44.99$) and Kindle digital (12.45$)
  • Amazon.co.uk: Paperback Silver (19.28£), Paperback Gold (26.33£) and Kindle Digital (9.31£)
  • Amazon.it: Paperback Silver (25.18 euro), Paperback Gold (31.70 euro) and Kindle Digital (9.99 euro)
  • Also available on all other Amazon sites. Please search for them directly!

Some video-reviews of The Untold History of Japanese Video Game Developers from Youtube:

 

Lufia & The Fortress of Doom [Genesis / Megadrive – Cancelled]

Lufia and the Fortress of Doom is a rpg developed by Neverland and released by Taito for SNES in 1993. A (north-american only?) port for Sega Genesis was supposed to be released in 1994, but it got delayed and Taito America eventually closed down in 1995.

However, in 2014, the western programmer that worked on the port leaked a tech demo, featuring just the title screen and a testing dungeon, of the Genesis version of Lufia on the internet. According to him, he had just six months to finish the project:

Well, one of the reasons it was cancelled was because they told me to complete the port in 6 months.. there was no way in hell I could have done it since all the original SNES code was fucking indecipherable and the Japan programmers weren’t any help..

For more informations check the original opa-ages topic.

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The Untold History of Japanese Game Developers DVD

The Untold History of Japanese Game Developers DVD

While he was in Japan to interview some legendary gaming developers for his “The Untold History of Japanese Game Developers” book, John Szczepaniak also recorded many hours of footage about those meetings and his visits to some interesting japanese places related to videogames. Some of those recordings have been released in a 4-hours-long double DVD titled “The Untold History of Japanese Game Developers DVD”, in a limited edition of 500 copies, an interesting item dedicated to gaming collectors and fans of japanese developers, especially those from the early ‘80 and ‘90 (screenshots below from Retro Type).

The-Untold-History-of-Japanese-Game-Developers-DVD-japan

Along with some intriguing chats on old-school / obscure videogames in Japan and their preservation, visits to Akihabara and popular japanese gaming shops, an interview with one the best game designers that almost no one knows (Yoshiro Kimura), a quick look at the Tokyo Game Show and other more or less compelling materials, John was able to gather some exclusive info about various unreleased games and undeveloped pitch that remained unknown until now.  Here are some personal highlights:

An interview with Kouichi Yotsui (Background Artist and Game designer at Capcom for such classics as Ghouls ‘n Ghosts and Strider) and Roy Ozaki (Producer at Mitchell Corporation ) that show some design docs for unreleased games that were pitched in the ‘90 to Enix and Capcom.

The-Untold-History-of-Japanese-Game-Developers-DVD-games

An interview with Yukata Isokawa (creator of Pitman and Namco’s NeGcon controller) with some talks about an unreleased Namco Golf game planned for the original playstation, that would have used the NeGcon controller like a Wiimote.

An interview with Yūichi Toyama (Capcom, Sega, Technosoft, Sting) with some memories about Grand Slam, a cancelled action game inspired by Area 88 manga and Choplifter.

A visit to Keigo Matsubara’s HUGE gaming magazine / book preservation archive (check his website, in japanese). You could try to contact him if you have any questions about old japanese gaming magazines!

The-Untold-History-of-Japanese-Game-Developers-DVD-magazines

A visits to the Preservation Society, a group that tries to repair and save games that could be lost, especially old cartridges and games developed for old PCs that are not available anymore or not emulated. They even show a short game created by Hudson Design School as a test for internal use only.

An interview with Masatoshi Mitori, Masaki Higuchi and other developers talking about an unreleased game they worked on.

A quick look at the first MSX hardware prototype.

An interview with Yuzo Koshiro (music composer that worked on such classics as Streets of Rage, Ys, ActRaiser, Shinobi and much more) and his memories about the cancelled Street of Rage 4 that was pitched for the Dreamcast.

The-Untold-History-of-Japanese-Game-Developers-DVD-koshiro

While the audio and video quality are not the best (unfortunately the tripod for the camera used during the trip was broken before even being used), and some of the chapters could be of no interest for someone (there are some parts in which designers talk about their development hardware in japanese software houses in the early ‘90 and try to drawn them on a whiteboard) all those memories about previously unknown lost videogames and from the golden age of japanese gaming made me to love what i saw in this DVD.

Most of the topics discussed in the videos are just a taste of the full interviews and articles that you can read in “The Untold History of Japanese Game Developer” book, but if you are interested to see some of the creators of your favorite games from when you were a kid in the ‘80 and are fascinated by nerdy / otaku japanese lifestyle, you can buy “The Untold History of Japanese Game Developers DVD” from Hardcore Gaming 101 and it will go on sale (-10£ less) for Black Friday on the 28th of November!

 

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