Tecmo Theater Titles

Started by Jedi Master Baiter, August 01, 2020, 08:30:14 am

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Jedi Master Baiter

I noticed that Tecmo put "Tecmo Theater Vol.5" on Ninja Ryukenden III:

https://page.auctions.yahoo.co.jp/jp/auction/q374417765

So, what are the other titles in this category? I assume Captain Tsubasa is one of them. Can we get a comprehensive list?


Vol.5: Ninja Ryukenden III

UglyJoe

August 01, 2020, 10:22:53 am #1 Last Edit: August 01, 2020, 10:35:23 am by UglyJoe
Neat, I never noticed that labeling.

It looks like the older ones mention the "Tecmo Theater" stuff on the manual cover but not the box.

Vol 1: Captain Tsubasa
Vol 2: Ninja Ryukenden
Vol 3: Ninja Ryukenden II
Vol 4: Captain Tsubasa II
Vol 5: Ninja Ryukenden III
Vol 6: ???
Vol 7: Radia Senki: Reimei-hen

Not sure if there are more.

Ghegs

Vol. 6 is Kyatto Ninden Teyandee, which is a rather obvious choice. It only says that on the game's manual cover, and it's in Japanese, so it's not as apparent as with Ryukenden III.
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Jedi Master Baiter

Cool! Can we incorporate this info into our game lists somehow?

UglyJoe

Quote from: Ghegs on August 01, 2020, 11:56:21 amVol. 6 is Kyatto Ninden Teyandee, which is a rather obvious choice. It only says that on the game's manual cover, and it's in Japanese, so it's not as apparent as with Ryukenden III.

Aaaah, dunno how I missed it.  It made the most sense chronologically (and also has lots of cutscenes), but I totally spaced on the katakana.

Quote from: Jedi Master Baiter on August 01, 2020, 01:04:09 pmCool! Can we incorporate this info into our game lists somehow?

If I (or anyone else) can dig up the history on the series then I could make a new page about it.

I can add notes to the individual game pages for the time being, though.

Jedi Master Baiter

Here's an interview from the booklet of Ninja Gaiden The Definitive Soundtrack Vol.1 with some of the staff that kind of skirts around that matter, but I didn't really read it:

Spoiler
Roundtable Interview

Thank you everyone for taking time out of your busy schedules to be here. Today, I'd like to take the opportunity thanks to the original Ninja Gaiden series soundtrack release to ask all of you about the games and their music. To begin, please tell us about your roles in regards to the Ninja Gaiden series.

Hideo Yoshizawa: I was the director and producer of Ninja Gaiden ("NG") and Ninja Gaiden II ("NGII") for the Nintendo Entertainment System ("NES"). I also produced Ninja Gaiden III ("NGIII").

Masato Kato: I did the graphic design and part of the planning for the NES version of NG, while for NGII I was the director of the Cinema Display scenes and direction, and for NGIII I supervised the art and directed the game stages.

Takashi Yamashita: I was the programmer for the Cinema Display scenes in the NES version of NG.

Keiji Yamagishi: I composed the music and sound effects, as well as created the sound drivers for the NES version of NG. I then created the sound drivers for NGII, and for NGIII I created both the sound drivers and music data.

Ryuichi Nitta: I composed the music for the arcade version of NG, the composition and arrangements for the music in NG on NES, as well as the music and sound effects for NGII.

Kaori Nakabai: I did the composition and arrangements of the music in NGIII.

--

Can you tell us how the Ninja Gaiden games came to be?

Yoshizawa: One day, the President [of Tecmo] called me. "Ninjas are booming in America right now, so go and make a game with ninjas in it! Make a game with a lot of quick, loud sounds," he ferociously said to me. At that very moment, I imagined a ninja jumping from wall to wall making banging sounds with his footsteps. I also ended up ordering a copy of a ninja magazine, but upon reading, I realized that Americans have this image of ninjas as wielders of magic who are experts at Kung Fu. I also saw advertisements for ninja goods, such as throwing stars (shuriken) and sickles with chains. While looking at these materials, I also visualized a ninja jumping between the walls of adjacent buildings, scaling them all the way up to the rooftops.
How did you come up with the name "Ninja Gaiden"?

Note: Ninja Gaiden is known as "Ninja Ryukenden" in Japan - literally "the Dragon Sword of the Ninja." The interview, conducted in Japanese, discusses how the different Japanese and North American names for the Ninja Gaiden series were decided. "Gaiden" is a Japanese word roughly meaning "Side Story" in English.

Yoshizawa: After the project got off the ground, we received word that Namco was also going to release a ninja game. That game ended up being Cyber Ninja, and it was supposed to feature movie scenes. When we heard this news, the team's spirits were lifted as we were determined not to let Namco beat us! The President told us at this time to provide the first pieces of information to Famitsu Weekly, who ended up writing an article about the game. That's when the President suggested the name Ninja Gaiden.

Yamagishi: So the original name was actually Ninja Gaiden? I didn't know that.

Yoshizawa: That's the case, yes. But we then wondered, how can there be "side story" when there isn't even a main story? But that's what the President asked for, and he wasn't going to change his mind even if we mentioned that to him, so that was the named used in the published Famitsu article. That morning, the President called me on the phone and said, "I saw the name in printed letters, but its impact is lacking. Think of an alternative! I'm going over there [the development team's building] right now, so think of something by the time I arrive!"

Uh oh! The President would arrive in 10 minutes or so. At that instant, the Kanji (Chinese character) for "ryu" (龍 - "dragon") popped into my head. And since the President needed the name to have impact, I thought a name with a lot of kanji was a good idea. I told the staff right away, "We should have the game feature a setting in which the protagonist confronts a mysterious organization using the power of the dragon sword (龍剣 - ryuken)... wait, the protagonist's name is Ryu! Ryu Hayabusa, who has traveled to America to avenge the murder of his father! How does that sound? Maybe we should call the game Ninja Ryukenden?" And then the President arrived just as I said those words.

"So Yoshizawa, have you thought of a name?" he asked. I told him what I had come up with. "That sounds good. Let's go with that!" And so it was decided, and that's why the name changed. It's a name that was hastily thought of, but even after I calmed down and thought about it carefully, I think it ended up being a pretty cool name. I then came up with the story involving the Dragon Sword and the evil demon, Jashin, as well as the mysterious organization and the CIA.

For the release in North America, we went with the title "NINJA外伝" and wrote out "GAIDEN" in English below the kanji. This was also the President's idea. He said, "Americans love kanji!" (laughs)

The arcade and NES versions feature completely different worlds. Were they supposed to be separate products from the very beginning? Were you even aware of the arcade version at the time?

Yoshizawa: Ninja Gaiden is indeed available for the arcade, but it's a completely different game. This game was supervised by H. Iijima, who created Rygar. The arcade version used a unique controller featuring an arcade stick with a ball on top of it and buttons you pressed with your thumb. At that time, if a game used a unique controller, then you would have to sell a concrete panel for each copy, allowing the company to set a higher price for the game; it would also be easily noticeable at an arcade center. This was a game in which you can dangle from walls, decapitate enemies and then throw their heads away. The game's world also parodied the ninja, which befit Iijima's explosive imagery! During the intermissions, a ninja would be shown doing things like reading a newspaper inside a sushi bar or rowing a canoe from America to Japan. The content blew me away.

Nitta: The arcade version team members were more individualistic. We were happy to create a setting that was that eccentric.

Yoshizawa: When I told Iijima I wanted the NES version to feature a cool protagonist like Ryu Hayabusa with a more serious story, he simply agreed with the idea. No one else in the company said anything, either. We had a lot of freedom in creating games the way we wanted to. Everyone was able to make what they wanted. Development was therefore able to proceed smoothly without any outside interference.

Did Iijima handle the music settings for the arcade version?

Nitta: No, I think it was Saito that handled the sound. All instructions came from him as well. He took care of every aspect of the game, including sound design.

Yamagishi: I think the direction of the music turned out to be quite something, since it reflected the interests of Iijima and the development team! (laughs)

Yoshizawa: But the world of the game was separate, and the gameplay was orthodox action, so I think the music Saito made was the right fit.

Nitta: Back then, Saito worked vigorously to utilize the dual-operator FM Sound Chip to see how far he could go with the music, doing everything from producing the sound driver to implementing the audio data into the game.

Yamagishi: That's impressive. The sound I could hear from the room next door was game music, or rather computer music that challenged the technological limits of the time. There were a wide variety of melodies, ranging from rock and dance beats to classical, and he was able to throw in and produce jazz bass and drum solos as well. As a new employee at the time, all I could do was admire his output. We didn't even use MIDI data back then. At Tecmo, all sound data, whether for business or consumer use, was hexadecimal. The prolonged sounds, intervals and other elements could be converted into hexadecimal data. And then the drum solo data could be created from there. I don't think young sound creators of today could visualize exactly what this is.

Nitta: The fact Saito was able to take on various genres is a testament to the power of the FM Chip, and I think he was saying that the drum solos were made using sampled audio from testing out the ADPCM Audio Chip.

Yamagishi: Definitely the mark of a scientific mindset! Saito was a passionate hard rock musician, but I don't believe he was actually trying to express those feelings in the game itself.

Nitta: Yes, I don't believe he did. I think that was a result of thinking about the players at that time. He's the kind of person whose number one priority is to embrace something without his own ego getting in the way.

Yamagishi: There are many people who like BABYMETAL (Japanese metal idol band) today, so all the songs could be hard rock and no one would have any issues with that.

In the arcade version, there was a voice saying "NINJA RYUKENDEN" embedded into the Sound Clear tracks that play in between stages. Was this Saito's idea?

Nitta: No, I think this was the only thing Iijima actually requested himself. At that time, it was still rare for arcade cabinets to emit voiceovers, so it had quite an impact.

Yoshizawa: The scenes with the ninja reading the newspaper in the sushi bar or rowing the canoe from America to Japan remain firmly in my memories.

Yamagishi: The guy who handled the CGs was the one who came and recorded the voiceovers. If that were today, then we would definitely hire voice actors for such a task. However, back then, DIY was such a prominent part of the production process. That was fun in and of itself.

Nitta: Now that you mention it, the sound of the character getting hit was recorded from someone slapping a plastic bag with raw meat in it. The development had instances like that as well.

Yamagishi: Is that so? They even did the work that foley artists are hired to do. Definitely the mark of Saito.

Taking the discussion back to the NES version, Kato, at what point did you become involved in the production of the NES version?

Kato: I think it was after Yoshizawa had solidified the entire concept of the game. I began by doing the background graphics, and after that I was in charge of creating the character sprites. Creating the backgrounds in the NES version required quite a unique technique, so I remember it being particularly challenging.

What surprised me about NG is that Yoshizawa and Yaegashi, the main programmer, often clashed during the planning meetings. I figured that a game can't be made unless the designer and programmer fight with each other. That said, I realized later that this only happened during Ninja Gaiden's development. (laughs)

Yoshizawa: There was that as well. (nervous laugh)

How did the sound development for Ninja Gaiden get started?

Yamagishi: I joined Tecmo and went through training on the job, and afterwards I was told I would be supervising the sound for Ninja Gaiden. However, the game's development ran into some delays, so I also ended up working on other games, including Star Force for NES, and Tsuppari Oozumo and Captain Tsubasa on the Nintendo Family Computer ("FC" - the Japanese version of the NES), among others. During this time, Yaegashi, the programmer, demanded that I create a sound driver that could produce a drum sound using the audio sampling capabilities of the NES. I believe that was how I became involved with Ninja Gaiden.

The use of drum sounds in the NES version of Ninja Gaiden was revolutionary. Other companies also began to use sampled audio in their games, but Tecmo's drum sound at that time was quite vivid and impactful. Yamagishi, it's said that you did this because Yaegashi told you to do so, but how much involvement did Yoshizawa have in this process?

Yoshizawa: Yaegashi was a person who worshipped Konami, so I believe he said he wanted to compete with them head on. I was always saying how I didn't want Konami's programming or Capcom's graphics to be better than ours. I think I felt the same way in terms of the audio as well.

Yamagishi: Yaegashi would explain to us how wonderful Konami's sound was over and over and over again. (laughs)

This question might sound a bit technical, but the NES's audio sampling used a custom delta modulation method. How did you create the sampling data?

Yamagishi: Back then, comparatively cheap samplers such as AKAI's S900 and Ensoniq's Mirage were finally made available, so this was a time when their use as instruments was growing. However, Tecmo's sound team did not have samplers, so we couldn't use the data from AKAI as is. Therefore, I made a request to the head of the division that specialized in designing professional game boards. I asked him to make me a board specifically for audio sampling. It was different from a sampler in that it was simply designed to express recorded data in hexadecimals. It had no editing capabilities whatsoever; I was editing the hexadecimals directly. Where was the top of the waveform? Where did it end? To a certain extent, I needed to make some guesses and then cut the data. This wasn't exactly a user-friendly approach, but in exchange, the tones sounded quite good. The low pitch had a subtle power to it. The drums in NG would not have been possible without that audio sampling board. I'm truly grateful to the head of the hardware division for listening and fulfilling the sound team's request.

At the same time, by dissecting the sampled audio material, I was editing the audio produced by the KORG DDD-5 drum machine. I also tried the YAMAHA RX, but the KORG produced a deeper sound, so I went with that.

However, I was the only one who used this audio sampling board. From NGII onward, AKAI's sampling data could be converted to work on the NES. Nitta can talk more about this later on.

What was the first song composed for Ninja Gaiden?

Yamagishi: As I mentioned earlier, I was busy composing music for other games at the same time. In actuality, the very first song finished for the game was composed by Nitta. This was the first song used  in Stage 1-1. I was the one who created the data itself, so the arrangement might be quite different from the original, but it was a pretty cool song with complex sequences mixed with speedy elements. By matching the track with the drum sounds from recently-created sound drivers, I think the final product ended up being great.

Nitta: Since I had just joined the company at the time, I think I was in the middle of my training when Yamagishi asked me to create something because I had the time to do so. I created three songs, of which one was selected and used for Stage 1-1. This was the first song I made at Tecmo, so I worked very hard on it.
How was the responsibility of composing for Ninja Gaiden divided up?

Yamagishi: There actually wasn't an allocation of responsibilities. Basically, Nitta assisted me by composing the songs I couldn't do myself because I was occupied with other projects. I think he made a total of four songs.

Nitta: I think you're right.

Which song is your favorite?

Yamagishi: "The Amazing Ryu" has enjoyed a higher level of popularity since the beginning, but I personally like "Melancholy Destiny." I knew Yoshizawa liked U2, so I wanted to create a beautiful melody by putting a delay on the dotted eighth note like what U2's guitarist, The Edge, was known to do. I think I was able to achieve that with this song, but unfortunately there wasn't much response to it. However, I do know that there are many others who have tried to imitate this approach, but haven't been successful in doing so. This song features two tracks whose delay parts have been integrated together to form the melody.
At the beginning of the game's development, Yoshizawa already had the complete concept nailed down for the game's music. The storyboard visuals were made specifically for the Cinema Display scenes, but at that time, had you already imagined the direction the sound effects and music would take? Also, the game features eye catches like those seen in anime TV shows; was that your idea as well?

Yoshizawa: When thinking about the story and stages, I thought about the passage of time and how the feelings of the protagonist (the player) would flow. NG begins in a high-rise building neighborhood in the evening, and then has the character being captured in a bar. The next morning, the character breaks out of prison, and passes through a lake and a snow-covered mountain before escaping the jungle, by which the time is already early evening. And then, at the end of a long battle, the demon god is slain and the ending features the rising sun. That is why I was very particular about the colors of the sky and other elements. Like movie scenes, I thought carefully about the music and sound effects and how they should be implemented into the game. Ryu accepts his fate and rashly presses forward, and because the game is filled with a sense of urgency, I wanted the game's background music to embrace those feelings. This is why I like NG's background music: it contains elements of urgency while featuring a sense of sorrow.

Yamagishi: Yoshizawa's storyboards were great. It was easy to imagine what you wanted. You also improved further by the end of development.

Yoshizawa: The eye catches were made to look like anime TV shows before the commercial would play. I wanted to change up the game-like stages. This ended up being effective in how the progression of the story was told while also improving its tempo.

Kato: It was easy to watch the Cinema Display scenes because they had the same direction as the anime and special effects programs I used to watch as a kid.

Yamagishi: I remember the composition process well because I thought making music for anime-like eye catches was so much fun. Personally, I really like the music of these eye catches.

Yoshizawa, you like music, especially British rock. Did this have any influence on how you wanted the music to be composed?

Yoshizawa: Back then, I was a fan of Neo Acoustic (a Japanese music genre derived from post-punk), so I listened to Aztec Camera, Orange Juice, The Pale Fountains and others.

Yamagishi: Yoshizawa knew quite a lot about these genres. I was surprised at how close someone else with very similar music tastes was! We've both gone to U2 and Echo & the Bunnymen concerts together.

Yoshizawa: That's right. However, I separated game music from the music I liked because the music, first and foremost, needed to fit the game. Otherwise, it would be meaningless. When deciding on a song, I had many songs created so I could listen to them, and at that time I chose the songs that went well with the image of the Cinema Displays I had in my head. I don't think my personal interests played a vital role. Rather, because Yamagishi and I liked the same kinds of music, we shared the same senses regarding certain things, such as which parts should have a sense of sorrow.

Yoshizawa: Yamagishi is knowledgeable about music, so his explanations were easy to understand. Therefore, composing for the game was easy and fun. I think Yoshizawa and Kato's love of music had a tremendous impact on the sound of Ninja Gaiden.

Going back to the discussion about the game, it is believed that Ninja Gaiden's graphics and sound were beyond that of the average NES game. Is this something you envisioned from the beginning?

Yoshizawa: I love movies and anime, so I have a very deep interest in how visuals are shown. I always wanted to make a game that incorporated a story and visual expression into it. Therefore, I was very focused on the visualization of nature and the direction of the intermissions. I decided to call them "Cinema Display." Most games back then had simple and laughable stories, like the king commanding the protagonist to defeat the bad guy. I thought that movies don't have those kinds of plots. Movies contained plots in which the protagonist accepts his fate, gets involved in some kind of incident, tries to protect those around him by fighting, and eventually defeating some bad guy to save the world. I wanted the game to have that same kind of story.

Also, during those days, the direction of the intermissions in most films would feature one still picture slide. For video games, the story felt like an extra or an afterthought. But I wanted to harness the capabilities of the Famicom and see if anyone could utilize cinematography and direction similar to movies in a game.
I assisted in the development of Captain Tsubasa by proposing several ideas and helping out with the story parts, giving me an opportunity to experiment. I did a little bit of studying on the hardware's special features and the programming system. I thought by creating the art in a certain manner and using a certain type of programming system, it would produce the desired result. When I showed the staff, they were in awe. Their interested response made me all the more passionate.

Yamagishi: The Cinema Display scenes were an innovation. I felt that the game's direction had gone one step above. While I was also in charge of Captain Tsubasa, it was Ninja Gaiden that was the more cinematic of the two.

Yoshizawa: The Cinema Display scenes used up a drastic amount of the ROM data. In order to efficiently utilize the available storage space, we had to go through the process of resizing the data. The scenes were horizontal like Cinemascope. When showing the top of the face, we turned the eyes and mouth into sprites, drastically reducing the amount of data used. The top also had impact, so even when those images were featured in magazines as tiny screenshots, they would still stand out. This in turn allowed the pixel characters to have both a sharp look in the eyes and lip-synching. We were able to kill three or four birds with one stone.
And by utilizing bust shots, we were able to scroll the sprites, and move them up or down in order to have moving elements even if they are off-screen (such as running). Also, by adjusting the background scroll and the speed, we were able to achieve cinematography-like effects.

Yamashita: Thanks to you all, the programmers were able to do the unimaginable. Even though we were all new employees, we made something that went beyond everything else the NES offered at the time.

Yoshizawa: Indeed. Thanks to Yamashita, we were able to achieve various scenes for the game. And although we put in so much effort into the story and movie scenes, what we were most careful about is that this was still a video game we were making. Regardless of what else a game has, a game is a game. It's not a movie. Placing so much emphasis on the Cinema Display scenes was a challenge because we were focusing on something that should not have been as important. It is absolutely important to connect with the feelings of the player.

Roundtable discussion to be continued in Generation Series 003: Ninja Gaiden Vol. 2...
[close]

portnoyd

Wow, that answered that question quick! Nice job all.