Sunsoft Famicom and NES

Started by dragon1952, June 11, 2014, 08:50:01 am

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Quote from: dragon1952 on June 12, 2014, 03:26:27 pm
That game, "Dynamite Batman" started off as a "tech demo" for the new Sun FME-7 chip, which enabled larger characters made from more and better sprite manipulation. An upgrade so to speak from the then standard "Castlevania" type/sized character which was most common in that era for serious action games.

Hi David,

I was looking at the sprites for Batman in comparison to Castlevania and the difference is huge, are you able to elaborate at all?

I knew the Batman sprite was bigger, but I just did a count - it's 46 pixels tall!  Compare that to Castlevania 3's Belmont sprite, 30 px tall....

Add to that the colouring on Batman's sprite and it appears it was also overlaid with another sprite to achieve the flesh coloured details (like Megaman).

Now I know that the basic machine specs allow for 8x8 sprite tiles, so in the case of a 3-colour + alpha sprite like Belmonts, that would be 4 sprite tiles for a basic walk cycle, unless they used the 16x16 sprites which I suppose they coild have.

TL;DR -   How on earth did the FME-7 chip achieve those kinds of sprites?  What do you think the next step of tech would have been?  I read that WayForward imagined this to be parralax features and multiple layers but that's wholly theoretical and the machine isn't natively capable of that it's all trickery, so I remain unonvinced it would have been parralax. 

The Hellraiser game was experimenting with multiple colours but that was dropped as it needed so many overlaid sprites. 
Do you think it could have simply just been more sprites allowance and graphic memory had the SMD and SNES come along much later?

My for Sale / Trade thread


Hi David!

Do you know any details about Sunsoft losing the license for The Terminator game that became RAF World/Journey to Silius? It was previewed in Nintendo Power as The Terminator, and obviously was changed before release.

Also, do you know why the main character sprite was altered for the US release?

Dire 51

Just thought I'd stop in here for a moment and issue a shameless plug: there's an interview with David in my upcoming book Memoirs of a Virtual Caveman. It's an excellent read, covering everything from his time at Tecmo, to EGM, then to Sunsoft, Capcom and more.

However, there have been a lot of questions asked here that I didn't cover, so I'm hoping to see him stop back in and share some more behind the scenes info with us.


Re: Aero

Aero the Acro-Bat 1 and 2 were released for SNES... did this slip your mind?


Holy smokes that Terminator question is a stonker - surprised nobody asked until now.

I had heard that the sprite was changed for a younger audience and to add better readability of the features etc.
My for Sale / Trade thread

Dire 51

Quote from: L___E___T on July 09, 2014, 02:48:17 am
Holy smokes that Terminator question is a stonker - surprised nobody asked until now.

No one seems to know. David apparently had little involvement in it. As he put it in the interview, "Batman and Journey To Silius were also not my work directly. Those fell under the previous Product Development Director, Jay Moon. He did not contribute to the design, only the localization. I was Mr. Moon's consultant before taking over that position. We both laughed at how Japan R&D changed the character to look like Lucy Ball for the U.S. version."

I also interviewed Jay Moon and asked him what happened, but even he has no idea.

QuoteI had heard that the sprite was changed for a younger audience and to add better readability of the features etc.

It's certainly possible. Here's what Jay had to say about it: "Mr. Yoshida at Sunsoft Japan knew I didn't care much for the game, and changed the character to a guy that looked like Lucille Ball with a blonde perm named Jay McCray, for Journey To Silius. Japan came up with the U.S. name and story line, I thought it was all crap. I think they thought it was funny to give me that awful looking character, however at the end of the day no one was laughing their way to the bank."


Wow, it really does look like Lucy Ball - I find that frankness refreshing as well, it hints at the stress of international business relationships.
My for Sale / Trade thread


Part of the reason I want r/\f world rather than Journey to Silius is because I like the design of the main character more. The helmet and suit is really cool.  8)

Jedi Master Baiter

David, I'm planning on developing a Sunsoft homage game sometime in the near future.

Do you have any recommendations on how I could possibly get Sunsoft's blessing to use the DPCM bass (designed by Naohisa Morota?) used in Journey to Silius, Batman Dynamite, Super Spy Hunter, and others?

I'd hire someone to create original slap bass samples, but... it wouldn't be the same. :'(


I just want to say thank you to you and the whole of Sunsoft, you were great back in the day, Gremlins 2 and Batman are two of the best ever movie-licensed games and Journey to Silius could have been. Blaster Master, Uforia and Gimmick were awesome as well. And the music... Top 5 composers, no question.

Interesting to see people just react with "oh, hello" to a NES-age developer and from a company like Sunsoft too... maybe this kind of visit it common and I've not been browsing this forum enough.

Anyway David and Sunsoft, thank you for the entertainment given!


July 15, 2014, 03:35:26 pm #40 Last Edit: July 15, 2014, 03:46:32 pm by dragon1952

My mind was only on famicom when I posted that comment, and obviously I mis-stated as of course Aero 1 & 2 and also Zero were on the SNES, but the original development was on the Genesis. President Joe Robbins was anxious to show Mr. Nakayama of Sega what it was going to play and look like. Iguana also ran the development and they had already been developing on the Genesis machine so it was natural to start there.

Although some art files were used and sound files as well, all of the coding on the GBA were new, done by the former Iguana guys in the UK then called Atomic Planet.

Post Merge: July 15, 2014, 03:46:32 pm


You asked some great technical questions and I will ponder some decent answers, but it will take sometime. Essentially, the FME chips enabled a great color palette choice and didn't require complex solutions to add more colors. Better sound was also achieved by adding a music synthesizer that played through the fewer channels allocated by the famicom's original audio channel architecture.

If unabated, the next generation of NES/famicom games would have featured more animated backgrounds of more contrasting color choices. The greater main character sprite size and manipulation was a feature of the the improved math processing power the additional chips utilized.


Thank you.

More as I can recall....
Success is where preparation meets opportunity!


Hi, David.
First of all, I want to thank you for all of the stuff you've been telling us. It's great to know the development behind those games.

I wanted to ask, if by any chance you know the real name of Chou Musow? I am in touch with a couple JP Sunsoft staff, but it's hard to get a reply out of them. I know Hiroaki Higashiya went by the name Don Gavacho. Thanks!

On another note, you wouldn't happen to know who composed the NES Xenophobe, would you?


July 17, 2014, 07:39:15 am #42 Last Edit: July 17, 2014, 01:31:49 pm by dragon1952

Most often when the credits roll on a Japanese developed game, all of the names are "pseudo" or nick names, because the head office does not want other studios to steal their staff with better offers, so they can't use their real names. That is also why some programmers will put in secretive Easter eggs that reveal their real names. Not always the case though. I do NOT know who that is without having been in the actual studio in Japan when those games were finished.

Higashiya is a great technologist for Sun Denshi a.k.a. Sunsoft.

Xenophobe was before my time at Sunsoft by a year probably. Even though I probably met and worked with that person, they are not allowed to discuss their previous works as management is only concerned with the NEXT one!

I have started writing a book on my illustrious career that will detail many things yet unsaid and unknown! It is going to be a barn burner! More detail later...
Success is where preparation meets opportunity!


July 17, 2014, 04:33:48 pm #43 Last Edit: July 17, 2014, 05:36:31 pm by Doommaster1994
Thanks for the reply!

I totally understand about using fake names. Or sometimes, they didn't put credits in the game at all. I understand some of their games didn't have credits either because there wasn't enough cartridge space, it was too early in the NES lifecycle (I think that's the reason for Xenophobe), or the people in charge decided against it. Another former Sunsoft composer told me that Naoki Kodaka did Fester's Quest with Naohisa Morota doing the sound, which was pretty interesting. I am wondering if NES Freedom Force was partially developed by Sculptured Software? That game does use real names, but I saw some staff members who I've seen credited in Sculptured games. Or maybe they were just working at Sunsoft at the time the game was made.

Higashiya informed me that he programmed the NES Spy Hunter and Naoki did the music conversion. That's pretty cool!

I don't know if Higashiya's under an NDA or not, but if he is, it would probably be wise of me to stop asking him questions, as I don't want him getting in trouble.


What I wanna know is why Fester's Quest even exists. Why a game based on the Blaster Master top-view engine? Why an Addams Family game? Why have aliens that don't even match Fester on a stylistic level? The whole thing just baffles me.  :P