The People Reviving the Darius Series

Darius Cozmic Collection - Dev Team Shot
Publish Date: 12/06/2018

We’ve interviewed the main staff responsible for the Darius Cozmic Collection at Taito and M2 (who is responsible for the porting). It’s divided up into three topics: We start with the details of planning the collection, move into the fixation on sound, and then end with some features found only in this collection.

Tatsuhito Kasuga (Sound, M2)
Kazuki Kubota (U-Design, M2)
Tetsuya Abe (Main Programmer, M2)
Saoki Kudou (Sound, M2)
Hirotoshi Kobayashi (Producer, Taito)
Yuuichi Toyama (Development, Taito)
Naoki Horii (Producer, M2)
Yukiko Karashima (Director, M2)

Topic 1: The Revival of Darius! M2 Staff Handles the Porting With Their Patented Enthusiasm!

First of all, please tell us some details on the level of planning that went into this collection.

(Toyama) I joined Taito about 1 year ago, but there was talk of reviving Darius before I started with the company. And after looking into different ways that we could revive it, we decided on creating this collection.

How did you go about deciding which titles to include?

(Toyama) At first we were thinking about only using the 9 titles included in the special edition, but at that point we weren’t planning on dividing it into two different editions. So basically we were going to announce it as only a special edition, but then the only version available would be fairly expensive. So thinking that we’d like as many people as possible to play it, we split it up into an easy to obtain standard version that compiles all of the popular arcade versions, and a special version that has everything.

I see. Fans are happy that the collection compiles so many different titles, but I wonder if that’s made things particularly hard for M2…

(Toyama) I’ve also thought that the schedule might be too tight for a single company like M2, but when I asked Mr. Horii about it he told me very reassuringly that “We’d like for you to leave it all to us”.

(Horii) That’s because I was thinking that as a Darius fan, I’d absolutely love to take the opportunity to port those games. I thought that I might get some complaints from the staff for so quickly agreeing to it without thinking about staffing and schedules, but everyone around agreed with my decision because…well, it’s Darius!

It looks like you’ve got an extraordinary enthusiasm for Darius (Laughs). And speaking of the special edition, the bonuses that come it are quite extravagant, aren’t they?

(Toyama) I’d been thinking the whole time that we needed to include a CD. We’re asking two giants of the game music world, and a lineup that I personally dreamed about back when I was a player, to arrange it: Katsuhisa Ishikawa from Zuntata and Yuzo Koshiro.

(Kobayashi) We’re compiling some valuable materials from back when those games were developed as well, such as round-table discussions and interviews with developers. And in addition to the three marquees that we already announced, we’re including a small Sagaia marquee as well. So look forward to that!

Topic 2: In Dire Straits Over the Sound!? Analyzing the Cabinets and Data to Reproduce the Sound of the Era

Darius Cozmic Collection - Dev Team Shot 2I’d like to ask Mr. Kasuga and Mr. Kudou about the troubles they had on the sound end of things.

(Kasuga) The arcade versions are very difficult to deal with.

(Kudou) We have a good track record when it comes to sound emulation on home console hardware, and it’s relatively easy to get up and running. With arcade games on the other hard, they all have their own unique designs, and we’re having a good amount of trouble with Darius’ especially complex configuration.

(Kubota) It’s because a lot of people have a strong emotional attachment to the sound of that first game. Reproducing the sound in a way that fans will accept is a firm requirement for us.

What in particular is complex about the first game?

(Kudou) Normally an arcade game would have a single FM sound chip on board, but Darius has two of them. It also has a PCM sound chip, as well as some proprietary ones. We’ve put a lot of effort into analyzing this complex functionality that results in such a distinct sound.

(Kasuga) I’m primarily in charge of analyzing the software portion, and Mr. Kudou is in charge of analyzing the hardware portion.

From an uninformed point of view, you’d think that you’d just record the arcade music as is. But there’s all sorts of necessary work involved, even though we’re just talking about sound.

(Karashima) Sound takes time: We’re not just recording the arcade soundtrack as is, but rather trying to reproduce the sound from back then in a very real way.

I see. The sound is particularly difficult to deal with in the original game, but what about the others?

(Horii) Darius Gaiden is particularly rough too, isn’t it?

(Kudou) That’s right. The sound chip in Darius Gaiden is an extremely powerful one that apparently is a customized version of a commercially available synthesizer. So it’s not putting sound out through a normal sound chip. It’s capable of putting out quite a bit of reverb, and it requires a lot of power to reproduce that with just a CPU.

(Kasuga) Sound has quite a bit to do with programming, so Mr. Abe is having a tough time as well.

(Abe) It’s true that the sound related programming is particularly tough (Laughs bitterly). In the original Darius for example, it’s became necessary to have a program that processes sound systematically. So I’m implementing that program, as I get opinions and ideas for improvement from Mr. Kaasuga and Mr. Kudou.

(Kasuga) Additionally, there are things that you wouldn’t know unless you examine the original arcade cabinet. For example, the left and right speaker channels are reversed.

I think that the reversal of the left and right sound channels create a feeling of discomfort, but is that something you’ll fix when porting?

(Horii) No, we’re purposefully leaving it as is. It may be better to put the sound back to the normal left and right channels from a composer’s standpoint, but the sound that results from those channels being reversed is the original sound to players who have gotten used to hearing it that way.

Purposefully not fixing things like this in order to emphasize those original feelings really speaks to M2’s hangups, doesn’t it?

(Kubota) We do this a lot in the M2 Shot Triggers series, but we sometimes allow for changing between new and original soundtracks in the options.

Topic 3: Hangups in Reissuing – Fully Loaded With Wonderful Features For Easier Play

Are you including features that are unique to these games?

(Kubota) We picked up a lot of know-how from the M2 Shot Triggers series, so we want to implement some of those systems to the best of our abilities here as well. They’re still in development, but we’re preparing some pretty convenient features. For example, for rapid fire we’re planning on implementing options from 30 shots per second to a much slower 5.

The 5-shot rapid fire feature makes me very happy! I particularly worry about the running out of ammo glitch in the original (Laughs bitterly)

(Abe) That’s right (Laughs bitterly)

(Karashima) I thought just having manual rapid-fire would be fine, but internally the opinion was overwhelming that it should be 5-shots.

(Kubota) A rapid fire feature is a relatively easy thing to implement, so we included it in there right away.

Do you have plans to include any other features, if there are any more that you can talk to us about?

(Kubota) For the games that support two players, we’re putting in a sharing mode. So even if you only have one console and one copy of the game, you can play with two players using the left and right Joy-Cons. And in Darius II and Darius Gaiden we’ve made it so that you can choose which ship to control in the controller settings, even if you’re playing by yourself. That way it’s possible to use Tiat, the 2nd player character.

(Karashima) In the originals you couldn’t do anything with the 2nd player if there was no 1st player, so you weren’t able to play only as Tiat. If you use the sharing mode to play with two players, you can choose Tiat and take Proco along with you for once (Laughs)

I see (Laughs)

(Kobayashi) We’re also including all of the secret codes and tricks from the home console versions, right?

(Kubota) We plan on including the secret codes, but as a Nintendo Switch title it uses a fewer number of buttons in order to increase overall usability. So even if we reproduced the secret codes in their same forms, there wouldn’t be enough buttons for them…It may make fans happier to reproduce them in their original forms, but since we can’t increase the number of buttons used, we’re thinking about a way to be able to enter them more easily.

(Horii) We’d also like to include M2 Gadgets (a feature found in the M2 Shot Triggers that displays useful information on that screen that was not there in the original titles). There are a lot of titles in this collection, so we may run into some limitations there, but we want to try to incorporate some of that information that’s so convenient for players to have.

I’m looking forward to its release! And speaking of looking forward, I’m also waiting to hear about another title apart from this and The Ninja Warriors Once Again…

(Toyama) I’d love to be able to live up to those expectations, but for now I’ll just say I’d love for everyone to pick up this Darius collection, particularly the special edition.