In the case of this retrospective, the focus will be on the original arcade version due to the plethora of ports released in the years following.
During the mid-80’s, video games began to ripen with several developers experimenting and understanding the essentials in delivering a successful title. From Sega’s Outrun, Taito’s Darius, and Konami’s Salamander, these had been risky games, yet returning with financial and critical success. Additionally, inspiring others to improve and expand upon these titles. Namely, there was one small company establishing this within the Beat em’ up genre, Technos Japan, a company formed by members of Data East (Burger Time, Crude Buster, and Magical Drop series).
After the completion of Renegade (Nekketsu Kōha Kunio-kun in Japan), demand for a follow-up began. Rather than create a direct sequel, series producer Yoshihisa Kishimoto inspired by his love for the films Mad Max, Enter the Dragon, and the anime/manga series Hokuto No Ken (Fist of the North Star) decided to produce a co-op beat em’ up with a more cinematic approach, Double Dragon.
Double Dragon, developed by Technos Japan and published by Taito was released on Arcades in Summer of 1987. The game follows 2 brothers, Billy and Jimmy Lee on a quest to save Billy’s girlfriend Marian from the Black Warriors. The Lee Brothers traverse through 4 levels fighting their way among the toughest of the Black Warriors members, including Williams, Linda, Willy, and Abobo. Personally, the enemies seem inspired by The Warriors though it might be myself thinking this comparison. Likewise, there’s an Easter egg from another game appearing in the first level, the car used in Road Blaster, another title Kishmoto worked on. However, there is a twist in the end of the
game when playing with a friend…
Graphically, there is a fantastic display of colors used to display the detailed sprites. Notably, the backgrounds throughout the game. Particularly, no two backgrounds are the same in comparison to other games. I applaud the efforts Tecnhos placed inside the game. The rich colorful graphics are a testament to why Double Dragon stands above the rest.
However, I met the gameplay with mixed results. Notably, serving as a technological and spiritual successor to Renegade (Nekketsu Kōha Kunio-kun), Double Dragon inherited the former’s button layout, 4-way joystick and simplicity. Furthermore, there are hidden attacks initiated when combining the jump button with either kick or punch button. Additionally, the Lee Brothers move at a quick pace, giving players a rapid advantage in deciding attack moves. Nonetheless, the AI is cruel and merciless. Equally, there is a significant amount of slowdown present throughout the game resulting from the multiple 8-bit microprocessors inside the hardware.
Despite the mixed gameplay, the unfavorable portion of the game stems from the music. To begin with, I agree that the music is memorable, yet during the playthrough I felt as though there was something off about the composition and unbearable for my ears at moments. Yet, there is an arranged soundtrack, which in my opinion is a superior arrangement, with its 80s production, which I grew loving after listening to the tracks repeatedly.
Overall, Double Dragon launched the Golden Age of Beat em’ ups influencing such classics such as Streets of Rage, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Final Fight. Improving on Renegade, DoubleDragon’s enduring legacy is the game’s ability to cooperatively play together.
Additionally, various sequels and spin-offs were released varying with quality from the great Double Dragon II and the ill-fated Double Dragon V.
Recently, a sequel, Double Dragon IV (Based of the NES chronology), which I found personally to be an insult to the DoubleDragon fanbase despite several original members including Kishmoto working on the title. The game serves as a disgraceful example of companies cashing in on people’s nostalgia.
But in the end, even with the multiple issues I may have with the franchise, there is no denying its legacy as a classic. All in all, Double Dragon resides as the one of the greatest beat em’ ups created.
For hardcore Shenmue fans, the day is rapidly approaching when the events of Shenmue occurred. Personally, for me to discuss about Shenmue, it’s important to discuss about Yu Suzuki’s history in game development prior to Shenmue. Because if it weren’t for certain games, Shenmue might not have existed. After all, Shenmue is a melting pot of all his prior experiences put into one enormous game. Taking bits and pieces of those games and combing it into one conglomerate.
Yu Suzuki, the man highly regarded as Sega’s Shigeru Miyamoto is responsible for many Sega classics, including Outrun, Virtua Fighter, and Shenmue. During his first year in 1983, he programmed Champion Boxing released in Arcades and SG-1000 the same year.
The Super Scaler Days
But it wasn’t until 1985 when his career began to kick off. His interest in Motorcycles would pay off in the development of his first arcade hit, Hang-On. Suzuki, a man who combines both a business and creative perspective to games by making them appeal to both the casual and hardcore audiences, by developing a cabinet that would emulate the experience of riding a motorcycle. The game would be the beginning of AM-2’s success. The game also debuted the Super Scaler series, which displayed pseudo-3D graphics which were 2D sprites being scaled.
Furthermore, Yu Suzuki clarifies his intentions on how the Super Scaler games worked, “My designs were always 3D from the beginning. All the calculations in the system were 3D, even from Hang-On. I calculated the position, scale, and zoom rate in 3D and converted it backwards to 2D. So I was always thinking in 3D.” This would foreshadow the trends that were to come.
Following suit, Yu Suzuki returns to the drawing board shifting of reality and taking a sci-fi approach for his next game, Space Harrier. However, the game’s original direction was to use Jump jets, a concept used in a future game. The game takes inspiration from The Neverending Story,Space Cobra, and the artwork of Roger Dean. In addition to be a Super Scaler game, this also introduced the first time that an analog flight stick used for movement which became big in PC gaming.
Next, Outrun, the first driving game debuted almost a year and a half after Space Harrier. Outrun was the accumulation of Cannonball Run using Europe as the main inspiration and a Ferrari Testarossa. The object of the game was simple, driving around 6 gorgeous tracks before time runs out. The game was unique for not only being a super scaler title, but additionally offering a radio station prior to starting the game which was unheard of at the time and its cabinet based off a Testarossa. The game’s legacy is still being seen today as it’s influenced many racing gaming including Gran Turismo, Forza, and Daytona USA.
Then in 1987, After Burner II debuted worldwide. Why talk about the second game rather than the first? Because the first saw release only in japan and the latter worldwide. One way to summarize the game is Top Gun the video game. This game debuts the Sega Board X succeeding in many ways that Hang-On and Outrun Boards could not. A technical milestone debuting with After Burner was the sprite rotation. The game’s premise was to survive 18 stages of enemy fighters and landscape obstacles using your wits, machine guns, or lock-on missiles on your F-14. After BurnerII‘s mechanics would inspire future titles including Star Fox, Panzer Dragoon, and Rez.
Afterwards, taking a break from flight simulators he returned to racing games with Power Drift in 1988. This kart racer that predates Mario Kart has players driving on tracks with many hills and bridges, the camera rotates with the player as they turn corners. This is one of Yu Suzuki’s underrated titles as this don’t not see as many ports in the US but immensely popular in Japan and Europe.
Trending New Nerritories
However, before developing his next arcade hit, he decided to make a short turn into the console gaming scene for a multi genre RPG, Swords of Vermillion on the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive. In this case, Yu Suzuki was the producer of the game and took a different approach than use the traditional RPG formula, foreshadowing one of his future games. There are several different modes in the game, Town mode where the player roams around in your typical RPG fashion, dungeon mode akin to Phantasy Star, Battle View where the player engages in free combat against enemies, and boss mode where the player fights the boss in a side scrolling perspective. The game being a big player in the early days of the Genesis used in the Genesis does what Nintendon’t campaign.
Once Sword of Vermillion finished, Suzuki returned to the arcade scene with G-LOC in the start of the 1990s. In general G-LOC, refers to G-force induced Loss of Consciousness, can be seenas the spiritual sequel to After Burner, using the premise of destroying enemy fighters with a Harrier, the game is famous for using pre-rendered 3D graphics and heavy sprite rotation similar to its spiritual predecessor. The game also featured a cabinet that rotated 360 degrees known as the G-LOC 360.
The Beginning of 3D
In light of Suzuki’s experience in game development, he was also a great hardware engineer. Wanting to enter the realms of 3D, Sega began researching the capabilities of 3D gaming with Namco and Atari already setting foot. Yu Suzuki and AM2 began developing for their own 3D capable arcade of their own. Under those circumstances, teaming up with Fujitsu using their TGP MB86233 DSP developed the Sega Model 1.
Furthermore, with the development of the Model 1 needed some games to coincide with it. In 1992, Virtua Racing debuted to arcades on the Model 1 setting a milestone in 3D gaming for its constant 60 fps, amazing 3D graphics, offer multi-cabinet support to play against others, and multiple camera angles. As Suzuki describes it, it’s a classic F1 racing game which also serves as a predecessor to future racing games to come.
Suddenly, a year has passed and Yu Suzuki has generated another technical marvel, Virtua Fighter. In retrospect, Suzuki wanted to create a fighting game that would beatStreet Fighter II. Rather than using traditional 2D sprites, AM2 decided to go for a 3D approach using several techniques they learned with the Model 1 already, “3D graphics in games were very primitive. You could only make models from triangles, which didn’t even have textures. … There wasn’t the opportunity to make graphics that were really beautiful, and because of that I decided to spend all my efforts to make character movements correct and realistic.” For the most part, Virtua Fighteris the grandfather of 3D fighters due to its almost lifelike movements and building the mold for future 3D fighters including Tekken and Dead or Alive. The game also the inspiration for Sony to move forward with 3D graphics on the PlayStation.
The Model 2 days
Regardless of the success that Sega was having with the Model 1, time was limited before someone could produce a Virtua Fighter/Racing killer. Already having some of the ingredients for their next arcade board, Suzuki teamed up with Lockheed Martin, a company that’s known for making military equipment for space and aerial technology deciding to buy chip using their latest technology to see how they would come into play in video games.
Originally set for the Model 1, adding in the technology from Lockheed cut short but eventually added on to what now be the Sega Model 2. One of Sega’s most popular arcade boards introduced texture mapping, filtering, and anti-aliasing. This was undeniably a powerful graphics card on the market outdoing PC graphics cards until 1998.
Correspondingly, there needed to be games to display the capabilities of the Model 2. Though Daytona USA paved the way for what the Model 2 was capable of, Suzuki’s debut game would not be until 1994 with Virtua Cop. In fact, it was one of the first 3D light gun games released at the time, which advertised as the “world’s first texture mapped, polygon action game.” The game revolutionized the genre with headshots and positioned body targets influencing not only Light games, but First person shooters, particularly Rare’s Goldeneye.
Shortly after Virtua Cop, Suzuki and his team concurrently developed the sequel to their arcade hit, Virtua Fighter for their new arcade board. Virtua Fighter 2 not only improved the mechanics of the game, but as well as the technical aspects of the game, including 60 fps and motion capturing which prior to its release, used primarily in the health care industry. The game was a massive success with ports released on the Saturn, Genesis, and PC that could not even match the graphical capabilities of the arcade version.
Striving Ahead of the Game
Immediately, Sega returned to the drawing boards and preparing for its next arcade. Once more, teaming up with Lockheed and Mitsubishi to create the best 3D graphics on any gaming platform, the Sega Model 3. Despite many delays during development, this was the most powerful gaming system out there! The board was a huge success and releasing more Sega influential arcade hit.
As an Illustration, Virtua Fighter 3 was one of the games that debuted with the Model 3 back in 1996. The game introduces multi-level areas (like DOA 2) and a dodge button, but graphically is where the game shines! The game’s praise focused on graphics that compared to the CGI graphics used at the time.
Where does AM2 go from here?
All things considered, it’s because of the games and hardware that Yu Suzuki worked with is where he could combine all those efforts into one giant masterpiece. Not only that, but because of how capable Suzuki and his team were it was only right to keep pushing the limits of what was possible in the realm of video games. Though AM2 would finally see the true challenge in making video games right after Virtua Fighter 3 where they return to the console gaming market to make one of the most ambitious and influential video games yet…
Cars, one of man’s greatest creation. Some prefer something affordable, accommodate families, or show off stating, “Hey, I received a load of money or just borrowed an unconsidered amount to buy this and now acquired massive debt.” Come on, don’t tell me you’ve never dreamed of owning a luxurious sports car? But have to push that dream aside simply because being an adult means you have a great amount of responsibility in your shoulders.
Can you imagine it, The dream car, your best friend in the passenger seat, and not a single worry in the world? Driving around the world from the comfort of your car. The American pastime seemingly long forgotten.
Luckily, there’s a game that helps remedy this certain itch! 30 years ago, Sega made this dream into a reality. A game that not only inspired people to take a glimpse into the sweet life while raising the standards of driving games. Whether consumers wanted to pass some breezes, splash some waves, or enjoy the magical sound of rain showers. There’s only one way to remove this bothersome itch, Outrun.
Released in 1986 by Sega by the extraordinary talent that is Yu Suzuki and Sega AM2. Previously responsible for Hang-On and Space Harrier a year before. The 3rd game in Super Scaler series, Outrun revolutionized the racing genre since it’s début back in 1986.
Inspired by the film The Cannonball Run, where individuals compete in a cross-country race across the US. Planning to unofficially adapt the film into a game,Suzuki met some unfortunate setbacks as someone ruined the fun and mentioned that the scenery in the USA was dull, which is a clearly deceptive on their part. As a result, focusing his attention to the scenery of Europe. Driving across Europe and recording the scenery during his drive. Thus, serving as inspiration for the world of Outrun. “I started out from Frankfurt, where I hired a rent a car, and I installed a video camera on the car. Driving around Monaco and Monte Carlo, along the mountain roads of Switzerland, stopping in hotels in Milan, Venice, and Rome, collecting data for a fortnight.” Suzuki, a sports car fan, caught glimpse of something over at Monaco, a Ferrari Testarossa. The latest model of the luxury Italian automobiles from Ferrari.
Astonished by this discovery, Yu Suzuki returned to Japan to test the vehicle out himself. According to certain sources, members of AM2 squeezed to a privately owned Testarossa to record and take notes programming every bit of data into the game.
One of Outrun’s attractions was the game’s fantastic soundtrack. Composed by the legend Hiroshi Kawaguchi, the game offered players with 3 different radio stations which was unheard at the time. “Passing Breeze”, the fusion influenced song that’s the overall mood inspires a laid back ride across the world. “Splash Wave”, the popular rock influenced song for those who enjoy extreme speed and a sense of adventure! Finally, “Magical Sound Shower”, the Latin based song for those who want something a little refreshing while driving around.
In addition, Yu Suzuki emphasizes that Outrun is not a racing game, rather a driving game where players simulate experiencing driving a sports car across luscious tracks. Likewise, it’s understandable to refer to it as such. The objective is to drive across 5 different stages before the clock runs out. Yet, the challenge derives from the player’s driving abilities. At the end of each level, the player can turn left or right at the fork. The left side being easier to complete and the latter poses a grander challenge. There are 5 endings to the game depending on where the player travels too. Punishing players that drive recklessly with a quick game over.
Coinciding with other arcade titles, Outrun’s captivation relies on simplistic gameplay. Yet, mastering will take time and money (well back then). Hence, requiring a sheer amount of memorization in order to finish the stages as quickly as possible. Making sure players avoid other drivers along the road and efficiently turning to avoid hitting obstacles.
Alongside other Super Scaler titles, Outrun offered multiple cabinets to differentiate the player’s experience. From the deluxe cabinet based off a Testarossa, moving alongside the player turns. But good luck finding a working one these days! Next, the standard cabinet offers a Ferrari without wheels, and the upright cabinet features a mere steering wheel and shift stick which is possibly what’s left of the working cabinets. I won’t lie, I simply love the time and effort Sega put into designing their cabinets. Further indicating that Sega genuinely cared about the player’s experience making sure they’d return for more.
After all, the game’s success caused Sega to release many home versions. Depending on what the consumer owned, they were either blessed or received some poor excuse of a port. Starting off with some honorable mentions before moving into the highly regarded translations.
First off is the Master System port, a suitable place to start for those looking for an excellent racing game on the Master System. The roads in the game are choppy due to the weaker hardware in comparison to the System 16. Additionally, offering players with an FM-based soundtrack requiring modifications to the Master System.
Next, the PC Engine port is an impressive port considering being on a non-Sega system. Also quite possibly the best 8-bit port out there (16-bit/8-bit who cares it’s personal preference on what the PC engine was) having the full features of the arcade faithfully ported over. One minor issue I have is a humming noise from the engine while driving undoubtedly irritating, but thankfully turning it off remedies this complaint.
Following is the Genesis/Mega Drive version, which for the time was a regarded port. This version offers a new music track exclusive to this version “Step on the Beat”. There are some major issues in this port, including the decision to use a dark color palette, making it seem like the developers did not understand the Genesis/Mega Drive’s architecture or were instead careless enough not to improve this. Besides this also based off the Japanese version, ironically though, the PC engine port features the Overseas layout. How exactly did that happen? Thankfully the color issue improved thanks to Pyron, releasing a patch making the colors brighter hence, bringing this closer to the arcade original. Releasing this to a plethora of platforms, including the Sega Smash Pack for PC, Wii Virtual Console, and Steam.
Moreover,moving into the 128-bit generation, there is a satisfying version included in Shenmue2, Yu Suzuki Game Works, and Outrun 2. At first glance, setting itself off as an excellent translation of the game.Unfortunately, this is not the case as the audio is off due to issues with the emulation. Even more, the Ferrari logo changed into a generic logo due to legal reasons. Other than that, I think this version of the game plays fine. However, if you happen to come across this version go ahead and give this a try if the sound and the minor graphical changes does not bother you.
Finally, the ports released on the Saturn and 3DS among the best, if not, the definitive options to experience Outrun at home or on the go. Beginning with the Saturn version developed by Rutubo Games under the SEGA Ages collection is the definitive home version. Not only is this arcade perfect, the developers went out of their way to make this a fulfilling experience featuring the option to choose between the Japaneseand Overseas layout, a wonderfully arranged soundtrack, and smooth 60 fps mode. Yes, 60 frames per second! Enabling this is pure eye candy. However, the U.S version does not include the arranged soundtrack being packed along with Space Harrier and After Burner II into a single disc.
All things considered, the Saturn port is stunning, at the same time the 3DS version is on par if not, surpassing the Saturn version. Developed by M2 under the 3D Sega Ages collection. Obviously, M2 were not intending to release a cheap port as member regarded this as “the climax of the series”. M2 included a great amount of time and quality into reintroducing Sega’s classics for a new and returning fans alike. Giving players a multitude of options to experience the game in different formats including: 16:9 widescreen, original 4:3, or emulating the deluxe cabinet, rotating screen, noise, and etc. Additionally, the game has a garage mode where players can customize their vehicle to their liking and choosing from the Japanese or Overseas layout like the Saturn port. Returning from the Saturn version is the ability to choose between the original 30 fps or 60 fps. Finally, a highly regarded addition to this version are two NEW songs. “Cruising Line” composed by Manabu Namiki (Battle Garegga, Castlevania Rebirth, and DoDonpachi Daioujou) is my favorite of the new tracks feeling like a follow-up to Passing Breeze and feeling like a scrapped idea from the original release. “Camino a Mi Amor” the other track having Latin influenced setting also sounding reminiscent of other mid-80’s Sega arcade titles including Turbo Outrun, Shinobi, and Thunder Blade. Unfortunately for purists, the Ferrari Testarossa is no longer there since Sega no longer has the license to use Ferrari vehicles at this time.
Equally as important is an unofficial version for the PC, Cannonball, a modest homage to the movie inspiring the game’s conception is essentially an emulator that fixes the bugs from the arcade ROM. Enabling certain features like faster frame rate, scanlines, and Japanese/overseas layout. Though the sound emulation is a little off, a fine choice for those craving to experience Outrun on the PC. By the way, did I mention this is free?
All in All, 30 years later, Outrun is one of the utmost influential racing games of all time. There’s something about its simple yet diverse mechanics. Profound than nearly a majority of the competition at the time. Letting the mind wander off and play pretend. Becoming one of Sega’s more well-known IPs, receiving many spin-offs and sequels throughout the past 30 years, some in particular including Outrunners, Turbo Outrun¸ and Outrun 2. Yet there hasn’t been a new entry in the series in well over a decade. Indeed, a punishable crime for neglecting fans of such an incredible IP! To Yu Suzuki and the wonderful folks over at SEGA AM2, thank you for creating such a wonderful game that has inspired countless memories over the past 30 years.
This year marks the 25th anniversary of Street Fighter II, but also another franchise serving as a spiritual sequel and former rival to Street Fighter, SNK’s Fatal Fury. Developing during the same time as Street Fighter II by former Capcom employees, Takashi Nishiyama and Hiroshi Matsumoto, who produced and directed the original Street Fighter back in 1987.
The Fatal Fury series was one of SNK’s biggest franchise on the Neo Geo which starred the Bogard brothers, Terry and Andy with their friend Joe Higashi on their quest for revenge against Geese Howard, responsible for the death of their adopted father a decade prior. The trio fights their way through the King of Fighters tournament against many opponents, including Duck King, Raiden, Tung Fu Rae, and Billy Kane (a tournament and cast of characters later appearing in SNK’s biggest IP).
Important to realize that releasing this after Street Fighter II it was not well-received. With this in mind, it was attack for being an inferior clone of SF II. When in fact, Fatal Fury is the spiritual successor to Street Fighter incorporating ideas cut from Street Fighter to Fatal Fury. While Street Fighter II, empathized a faster-pace and combo-based fighting system, Fatal Fury was more about timing of special moves.
For instance, one of Fatal Fury’s strengths relies in the storytelling. While SF II did not connect the events of the original. Fatal Fury’s storytelling made players empathized with Terry and Andy’s quest for revenge and connecting audiences to the world of Fatal Fury by releasing a variety of media providing back stories and other details surrounding the game’s lore. By the same token, using cut scenes in-between matches helps narrate the plot.
Furthermore, the game utilizing extensive use of the Neo Geo, the game incorporated lane switching to attract customers. Regardless, the issues stem from crudely implementing this feature. Finally, the game emphasizes playing cooperatively with a friend instead of fighting them one-on-one something Street Fighter would not return to until the Street Fighter Alpha series.
Whereas graphically, the game still holds up well, it’s no Real Bout Special nor Garou but the graphics are average for a 1991 Neo Geo game.Offering a variety of colors, making the game seem lively.
As a matter of fact, refining the controls than the spiritual prequel. The specials are simple to perform yet, improve in future titles.Requiring accurate timing to perform these.
However, the music is a clear victor! As a matter of fact, SNK is noted for fantastic music in their games. Lead composer Toshikazu Tanaka, the man responsible for several tracks mentions, “the game has an impact that sets it apart from other games, creating sounds that will stick in the player’s memory. So with Fatal Fury, I wasn’t aiming merely to surpass Street Fighter II, making sure the quality was a step or two above the competition.” For instance, “Geese ni Kissu/ A Kiss for Geese”, used when fighting the boss Geese Howard is embedded in the SNK lore, rearranging and covering it in future titles Geese Howard appears in.
Of course, Street Fighter II raises the bar for fighting games and improving from the prequel. Hence, giving people the opportunity to show off one’s skill in the game with fast gameplay and a memorable cast of fighters.
A point often overlooked, Fatal Fury is the forgotten step-brother to Street Fighter. Additionally, several elements of each game parallel one another. For instance, Terry and Andy Bogard are improvements of Ryu and Ken. In a general sense, Terry is more fleshed out version of Ryu, whom felt dry with his goal to become a skilled fighter. On the other hand, Terry is just a man who wanted revenge on his adopted father’s killer yet, has a human side that Ryu lacks. As an illustration, Terry is able to bring hope to the people of Southtown, making new friends and rivals, and eventually, a father figure.
Notably, Andy is a detailed Ken Masters. For instance, Andy sees his older brother as his rival and desires to become the stronger of the two. Later on, gaining his own student. To clarify, Andy does not play like a copy of Terry, gaining his own fighting style. Thus, proving his own against the Main character syndrome.
In short, Fatal Fury is still worth a play through. The game not only improves from the original Street Fighter but adds content that shoves the former aside. While Capcom released minor revisions of SF II, SNK would create true sequels that not improved the original, but also changed the formula keeping it relevant in the competitive fighting game market of the 90s. At the same time, SNK paid tribute to the game that started their rise in the industry as Terry returns in King of Fighters XIV featuring an homage to original attire.
Requiring a strong tolerance for early 90’s fighters, but in the end coming with a great reward.