While working on our book about lost video games, we were able to interview many developers who worked on cancelled projects, but we had to cut some of these interviews from the book because of the 480 pages limit. As promised, we are going to publish all the missing articles directly in our website, and the following interview is one of these! During his career Domenico Barba has worked at the Italian gaming studio NAPS Team on such lost games as Green Beret / Rush’n Attack (GBC), Dark Night and many lost chapters in the Gekido series.
Unseen64: To start this interview, we would like to ask you to introduce yourself to our readers: we’d love to know more about your career in the gaming industry and what you are working on today.
Domenico: Is it possible to tell 20 years of history in less than 20 lines? :) The passion for the world of video games has brought Naps Team together. We did not know each other before, I was looking for a graphic designer for a fighting game (a horrible thing made on Amiga) and different people suggested me someone called Fabio Capone who had fun doing animations and characters with Deluxe Paint. :) Well we were able to meet, under a newsstand, exchanging two diskettes, without cops in hot pursuit. :) Today we are still here and we have the same passion of that time, even after almost 45 games made and many more to make. At the moment we are finishing working on Iron Wings, a huge project for an arcade flight game set in the second World War.
Unseen64:What are some of your favorite video games? Have you been playing anything lately?
Domenico: In the last year, unfortunately no, I’m fully focused on the development of Iron Wings, but I always keep my eyes on many new games and I’m very impressed, both by AAA masterpieces and clever indie productions.
Unseen64: Did you know Unseen64 before this interview? What do you think of our “mission” to create an online archive to remember those video games we’ll never play?
Domenico: To tell the truth yes, but without being able to follow your updates, the mission is praiseworthy and it is great that there can be a memory of unexpressed creativity, with really beautiful games that sometimes fail to see the light of day for the most different reasons. I’d love to sabotage your mission and release Gekido: The Dark Angel one day :)
Unseen64: Which difficulties did an Italian game development studio find in a market lead by English, American and Japanese studios? Are there more opportunities today thanks to digital distribution on PC and Smartphone?
Domenico: There are huge difficulties, but they are mainly related to the Italian territory and absurd management difficulties, instead digital distribution is undeniably a great opportunity.
Unseen64: Gekido is one of your most popular series, of which the first episode was released in 2000 for Playstation: do you remember how development started, how long did it take to complete, and if the final game is what you originally had in mind or if you had to cut something?
Domenico: Gekido had a somewhat troubled genesis, it was born from the skeleton of a 2D fighting game for PC, then turned into a 2.5D one and finally became fully 3D. A lot was cut, but also a lot was added, such as the “arena mode”, and different gameplay modes were conceived in the wake of enthusiasm that the game was receiving in the internal circuit of testers, publishers, etc.
Unseen64: How did you manage to involve important names like Fatboy Slim for the music and Marvel comic artist Joe Mad for the character design in the development of the first Gekido?
Domenico: Everything was thanks to Travis Ryan of Gremlin and Daniel Matray of Infogrames (Atari), they were able to find the best artistic talents that could have been greatly related to Gekido.
Unseen64: Besides the cancelled Gekido: The Dark Angel for PSP (of which there will be a dedicated article in this book) two other episodes of Gekido were in development but never released: Gekido for GameBoy Color and Gekido for N-Gage. What happened to these games and how much was done before the cancellation?
Domenico: More or less the same unfortunate “misalignment of planets” that happened with Dark Angel, it is not uncommon to come across sudden changes in the market or in adverse and catastrophic predictions of analysts that suggest to not continue working on a game, and you are the best witnesses and guardians of these unrealized projects, right? :)
Unseen64: Over the years there have been many different rumors about a new episode of Gekido in development, is there any chance to see this series again in the future?
Domenico: Absolutely yes! :)
Unseen64: Shadow Fighter is another of your most beloved games, Italian and foreign magazines published great reviews for it, CU Amiga gave it 93%, Amiga Computing 91% and so on: how did you feel at the time to receive all these positive comments on one of your first games and did the reviews help to bring a good number of sales?
Domenico: Shadow Fighter was a huge success in sales, luckily for our publisher Gremlin. It was a success beyond every expectations, we were just enthusiasts who certainly did not have a professional approach to the gaming industry at the time.
Unseen64: Another interesting lost game once in development at Naps Team was Dark Night for GBA. Graphically it was truly spectacular considering the console: do you remember how the gameplay was meant to be and why you had to stop working on the project?
Domenico: When Dark Night was canned it was still in beta, and it’s gameplay was similar to Zelda. :) The reasons why it was cancelled is the same unfortunate “misalignment of planets” that i told before, we propose to change our spaceship the next year. :)
Unseen64: Have you worked on other games that have never been published, of which you can speak?
Domenico: Not that I remember, although after several years and difficulties, we always managed to revive ideas that we thought were good, those for which we can still enjoy ourselves as players, and we will continue to do so.
Unseen64: Have you ever worked on some games for Atari Jaguar / Lynx / Panther or the legendary Konix Multisystem?
Unseen64: As most of the Unseen64 Staff is also italian, we just LOVE to eat good food. :) What is your favorite food ever? Any secret recipe that you would like to share with us?
Domenico: Unusual question, but tasty. :) Well, being a Sicilian I do not really know where to start, for sure I’m more a good food lover than a good cook, in a ratio of 100 to 1. I would say I love everything that contains eggplant in the recipe, from “pasta alla norma”, eggplant “parmigiana” … i’ll stop here, following on Dark Knight, where there was a huge purple boss named “Milinchan”. :)
Unseen64: Well, that was the last question, thanks again for your time Domenico!