Modern games based on the recognized technical limits of the vintage system are not uncommon. However, it takes some courage to not only emulate last year’s classic look and feel, but also to create games for systems that go far beyond prime. Such efforts occur in the indie and homebrewing sectors, but it is unheard of for large companies to undertake this type of development. Nintendo, Square Enix, or SNK may be happy to re-release the back catalog in a variety of physical or digital formats. There is little chance of going back to the old development kit.
Join M2, a fascinating publisher and developer in Tennodai, near Tokyo. Primarily known for converting classic games to the latest hardware. M2 is constantly making extra efforts to provide products that not only perfectly represent the original games, but improve them in many ways. Of course, it’s always an option. M2, as we’ve seen in the past, is a company that plunges into the technological depths of vintage hardware. In one of the early Sega Ages projects, the PlayStation 2 Fantasy Zone, the team programmed the master’s port. Sega System 16 System-only fantasy zone for arcade boards 2. The Summer 2020 Namcot Collection helped create an impressive NES transformation for the Gaplus and Pac-Man Championship Editions.
These projects now feel like a dress rehearsal for M2’s masterpiece, GG Aleste 3. This is a brand new entry into the venerable Aleste series of Sega Game Gear. Okay. That game gear. A handheld that drains the battery of a dim screen, surprised by the neat library of games, which took over Nintendo’s Game Boy in the early 90’s. GG Aleste 3 is part of the Aleste collection released for Switch and PS4 in Japan last December and is not yet planned for release in the West. The collection consists of Aleste’s amazing port on the Master System, released as a Power Strike in the West, its PAL-only sequel Power Strike 2, two Game Gear episodes GG Arresta and GG Arresta 2. The latter was also renamed to Power West Strike 2 to make things even more complicated.
The original game is gracefully outdated and fun in itself, but it’s the new GG Aleste 3 that quickly caught the attention of players. And, of course, the GG Aleste 3 is both technically and mechanically amazing. Instead of including a little bonus game, a small team of experienced people created a full-fledged sequel. With countless enemies, giant bosses, beautiful pixel graphics, and seven stages filled with a wonderfully balanced difficulty curve, GG Aleste 3 has become one of the best shooters in recent memory. .. With 160×144 resolution in Game Gear, the look of the GG Aleste 3 is reminiscent of modern indie games on platforms like the Pico-8, but with some sophistication like the best products of the 90’s. ..
It’s an epic journey down a memorable path for a crowd of old school shooters. Early levels feel like a classic arrester, but later on you’ll try to put a true barrage on the screen to raise your territory. Players can appreciate the frequent bouts of slowdown (which can optionally be deactivated) and give a great break in the intensity. No exaggeration. The GG Aleste 3 alone is well worth the price of the Aleste Collection, but with the package with the other four, often very expensive 8-bit shooters, the Aleste Collection feels like a theft. But as interesting as the game itself is its creation.
Manabu Namiki, a veteran game composer who has resumed great shooters such as Battle Garegga and Deathsmiles, was the director, game designer, and composer of GG Aleste 3. He recalls the early stages of the project as follows: “Initially, Mr. Horii, the CEO of M2, told me that he wanted to be the sound creator of GG Aleste 3, but when I tried to get more details from him, who would lead the project, who would do the project? It turned out that it wasn’t even decided. Not to mention the plan, not to mention what the game would look like. In short, everything was blank. “
He was immediately intrigued by the possibility of working on a truly new game of Game Gear. “At that time, I was working on another project as a sound director, but this project had a problem with the planning / supervision layer and it wasn’t clear where I was heading. I’ve been stuck for a long time. I couldn’t achieve anything assigned to the project and got stuck. It was quite frustrating for me. Due to lack of proper planning / supervision, I created a shooting game with a whole new game gear. It’s a shame that very crazy ideas follow the same path, so I went ahead and volunteered to be that director. “
Meanwhile, the difficult programming task was to Takashi Yamashita, who was a programmer for legendary shooters such as Super Star Soldier and Star Parodier, and was in the name of FAW Lab, a true veteran of the 8-bit era. It was handed over. He explains: “I’m actively developing games for classic hardware as a personal project and uploading those video clips to the YouTube channel. I also do the Mark3 / Master System, so it was my daily work. For. “But that didn’t apply to the other members of the team. “I ended up working as a team this time, so I created the tools and laid out the specs to make them easier for other members to understand.”
In contrast to modern game development, 8-bit games are created with much less comfortable tools, but as Takashi Yamashita explains, current technology has proven to be a huge boon. “For the process, we did cross-development using an assembly and an emulator. It has debugging capabilities. We write code, test it in the emulator, and use a flash cartridge each time we reach a set goal. I tested it on real hardware. The biggest difference is that I can now use the emulator without any problems. It has a lot of debugging features so I don’t have to rely too much on the ICE and the emulator. There are fewer steps to run code in, but running code on real hardware has become much easier these days, thanks to flash cartridges, and we also have code. The PC that develops has much better specs than the ones of the 90’s. It assembles the code so fast that you can’t take a break while building the binary. “
Modern technology has made development faster and more comfortable, but GG Aleste 3 has never been impossible about 30 years ago. “I don’t think all the techniques used in this development were already widely used in the 90’s. I did anything that deserved to be called a trick. It presents the game in a modern way. It’s like using all the known technologies to do this, “explains Takashi Yamashita. Still, as Manabu Namiki points out, games benefit from knowledge of modern trends and shooting genres. “In the design of the GG Aleste 3, we wanted to follow in the footsteps of GG Aleste and GG Aleste II and pay full respect to the heritage. I tried to reflect the evolution of the genre in GG Aleste 3. I made it on that course as long as I thought it was appropriate. “
Now to clarify things; there are no new game gear cartridges actually available and probably not. This game is exclusively for the Arresta Collection and the very limited White Game Gear Micro Console sold in the Special Edition of the Collection. Still, the game runs on the right hardware. The obvious limitations of older hardware could be painfully obvious, but the team took these steps. Takashi Yamashita looks back as follows. “I want to increase the processing power in all scenes where frame skipping in the game is common. I realized that I still have it because it happens more often than GGAleste and GGAleste 2. There is a lot to learn. ”
Manabu Namiki said, “Some of the ideas I had when I made the original plan turned out to be infeasible due to hardware limitations and had to be discarded, for example. , There is a nuclear missile in the background of WAVE5. I couldn’t see it because it was hidden behind the missile, but I had to give up because of the limited display priority. However, it is infeasible. You can’t make a good game by moaning and blaming the hardware for every idea that turns out to be. It started with standing firmly and doing what seems achievable. At the same time, I was always looking for a way to do what seemed impossible (called “tonchi” in Japan). “
There is another example of GG Aleste 3 following in the footsteps of its predecessor. After Elinor and Alice Wizun, a female pilot called Luna Wizun will board the cockpit this time. So is there any relationship between these characters and the game? Manabu Namiki wants to leave that to the player himself. “I’ll leave it to your guess about your relationship with Elinor or Alice. I want you to use your imagination to fill in the blanks and have fun, but don’t do that. Too many that may be limited. I want to give you the answer. ”
Still, he has a glimpse of the underside of Luluna’s creation. “Because both former GG Alestidae pilots were female and named Wizun, it was decided early on to do the same, but the actual name was undecided at that stage and simply gave her. Called Wizun or Miss Wizun, I asked Kisai Takayama to design the character and secretly started making a stock of names when I got the first draft. After that, I worked on the inside story of the game and wrote it. In between developments, prologues and epilogues were created. In the end, a clearer image was obtained, with the result being Lluna.
It was Luna’s affection for Pudding, one of these typical little pieces of information often asked about Japanese action game heroes, that had to ask Namiki to shed more light. After all, this is a little joke by Manabu Namiki. “Takumi Yamashita, who programmed GG Aleste 2, was crazy about Glico’s Putchin Pudding (a famous Japanese supermarket dessert brand) at the time.” Apart from all the glorious 8-bit actions on the screen, Manabu Namiki It’s such a little thing that Takashi Yamashita, and the rest of the team, show the love and dedication they put into this epic little shooter.
Thanks to Ken Senda for helping me make this article happen.