So then continuing on with how you decided what games would be featured... How was it decided that you hooked up with Naxat, for developing the other Caravan games? It wasn't always Hudson.
TM: Naxat? Star Force, Star Soldier, Hector... Final Soldier... Oh, yes, yes, yes. In the year before, as the Caravan ended, we began to think about what the next Caravan game would be. In '92, the reality was that the CD-ROM game Tengai Makyou II was going to be developed. We didn't have enough programmer manpower within Hudson. That's why we had to ask somebody else to do the project.
That makes sense. With the HD Bomberman [Hi-Ten Bomberman] that was playable in one of these Caravan events, it was really kind of groundbreaking, because there wasn't any real HD technology at that time, and also it was 10-player. Can you go a little bit into the origin of that?
TM: Back then in Japan, there was a national TV company called NHK. They were trying to push HDTV, so with that overall flow, Hudson was thinking, "Okay, if TV gets that good, the program itself needs to be that good as well."
Also, the screen ratio was going to be 16:9, so that's why 10-player was possible, because you have more characters lined up versus 4:3. They didn't have the graphic board to support that back then, so they had to manually put one together one.
And that became the Iron Man board, correct?
TM: Tetsujin, yeah. It was only used internally. How could you know all this? (laughter)
Just to clarify because some people have been confused, even though Hi-Ten Bomberman was created on the Tetsujin board, it was never intended for PC-FX, correct? Even though the PC-FX was based on the Tetsujin board.
TM: The PC-FX was based on the Tetsujin board but it wasn't quite the same. The graphics weren't in HD because we didn't use the HD graphics board. The FX was not in our vision when we first developed that game. We developed it simply for use in HD.
What was the aim of the PC-FX console? It seems to me that NEC had very specific ideas about what kind of games could be on it, because there were only gal-get (visual novel/dating sim) titles and other similar games on it for quite some time. Can you talk some about the genesis of the project between NEC and Hudson?
TM: Their goal was to create a game with everything on the screen moving, rather than playing a basically still action game with just the characters moving around. The CPU ability back then was not that good. We did research into how to make graphics that were more motion-oriented, so FX was the answer.
Did NEC have specific types of genres that it wanted on there? It seemed like it was very much going in the full-motion video direction, rather than proper games like the PC Engine had, and it was a lot of dating sims and things like that. Was that done purposefully, or was that just who ended up developing for it?
TM: NEC didn't do anything to set the genre direction that the software was made in. Their concern was purely technical. Software-wise, Hudson was the one thinking about that and setting the direction. When you're talking about "NEC", there's a distinction. NEC Home Electronics itself just worked on the hardware. The software division that worked on games was known as NEC Avenue. When you're talking about NEC, the hardware and software divisions have to be understood.
So why did Hudson decide to go for FMV-type stuff in that era, after other consoles had already failed at doing that?
TM: I really think it's because we wanted to see how far we could go to challenge that.
There weren't very many titles released throughout the system's lifetime, and only toward the end did actual action games start to come to the console. What was the thinking within Hudson at the time this transition was happening?
We're talking between '95 and '96. Hudson was already doing stuff on the Saturn and PlayStation, but it still had its own system, which was very much not succeeding -- I'm talking about the PC-FX. The PC Engine was still doing okay.
TM: The PC Engine was 16-bit. At the time the PlayStation came out, suddenly CG and 3D polygon graphics could be used. Sega and Sony had come out with products at around the same level, and NEC wasn't doing very well, and was ready to withdraw, because the console wasn't strong enough, so that was their turning point as well. Because that was the era of console change.
Yeah. I was just wondering about the targeting of that console. It seemed to not be focusing on actual action games anymore, which the PC Engine was, but the FX was not. Specifically, I'm wondering why they chose this different direction.
TM: At the beginning of the PC Engine era, we wanted to show what the PC Engine could do, like large characters in China Warrior, rather than a little Mario jumping around. That was very surprising at the start. During the FX era, we wanted to show even smoother and more beautiful characters, which could move better, which could not be done in the PC Engine era.
Overall, action games were losing popularity and the shooting games had really fallen down. RPGs, with a lot of story content, were on the rise. That's why Hudson, as a software development house, just followed the trend.
It's pretty much all about business. At the time when PlayStation came out with Final Fantasy, it became that some genres just didn't sell. There was nothing to be done about that. For people who grew up in the shooting and action game era, when they saw Final Fantasy and its excellent graphics, they said "Role playing games are amazing!"
The popularity started to take off from there. As they get older, they couldn't move as fast as before, but an RPG, no matter how old you are, you still can finish the game. The whole thing was shifting that way. People were concentrating on those games. That's why the direction was changing.
Think of it like a pyramid. The top of the pyramid is the core gamers, and the rest is the casual gamers. Look at the shooting game era. The core gamers want better graphics, better performance, and better everything, so those developers are looking at these people and ignoring the larger, casual gamers. I think that's probably why we then realized that those things were not really getting more popular anymore, because it's just a small group of people, so they had to make a shift.