Tuesday, September 13, 2016

RKS Developer Diary #13 - Game Over, man!

Murder on the Mississippi
(Commodore 64)
Hi, everyone!  It's been too long since my last entry.

By now, it's no big surprise that my personal life gets pretty hectic at times.  Sometimes, it's for the worse (my godmother / great aunt recently passed away, one of my roommates needed to move out because of financial problems, and my schedule at my day job has me working more hours than before).  Sometimes, though, it's for the better (part of my schedule change is because I'm responsible for training a new hire, who -- lucky me! -- is an absolute beauty and a joy to work with).  Still, I continue my work on Rosenkreuzstilette during my off-hours, and my days off allow me to focus and make much quicker progress than the days where I'm forced to juggle my duties.  Playism, WOMI, and Valve are doing their part in preparing RKS for its Steam debut, so my current circumstances thankfully don't have any impact on the original game's official release.

Onto today's developer diary!

I've just completed the Game Over screens for Rosenkreuzstilette Freudenstachel, making this the perfect time to post about the Game Over screens for both games.  I don't want to spoil the surprises in the sequel just yet, so I'll be concentrating on the Game Over references in the original game for the time being.

Without further ado:

Prologue: Murder on the Mississippi

A chronicle of the adventures of Sir Charles Foxworth, Murder on the Mississippi was only released on the MSX2 and the original Famicom in Japan.  In the English-speaking world, the game was only released on the Commodore 64, the Commodore 128, and the Apple II.  In this reference, Lilli plays the part of Sir Foxworth's faithful assistant Regis, mourning Spiritia's untimely death with Regis's signature "if only we could start over, we might be able to catch that villain...".  I made a point of using the iconic font from the original Commodore 64 version to further reinforce the reference for truly old-school players.

Racing Lagoon
Freudia Stage: Racing Lagoon

It feels like only yesterday that Squaresoft was experimenting with every game genre under the sun. Dubbed a "High Speed Driving RPG" by Square, Racing Lagoon was a racing game for the original PlayStation that never saw a release outside of Japan.  The brushwork capital "R" in this reference is an undeniable nod to the game's cover art and title screen.

As I'm pleased to see many of you notice, I pay very close attention to detail in my work; I make a point of using the original fonts in each of the RKS references where I can.  This practice applies not just to the Game Over homages, but to all of the graphics in the series.

Zorne Stage: Super Bomberman Series

In the early '90s, if you had a Super Nintendo, a Super Multitap, a few extra controllers and a copy of Super Bomberman or Super Bomberman 2, you could easily turn a get-together into a gaming party that lasted all night.  It's a shame that only the first two Super Famicom titles were ever released in North America; the games were extremely fun, to say the very least.

Since this Game Over reference didn't contain any English text, no changes needed to be made for the game's official English release.

Trauare Stage: Demon's Crest / Gargoyle's Quest

The winged demon in this Game Over reference is clear nod to the title screen of Demon's Crest for the Super Nintendo (released as Demon's Blazon in Japan).  The incantation, on the other hand, is a nod to Gargoyle's Quest for the original Game Boy.  Both games are entries in the Firebrand trilogy, a series of spinoffs set in Capcom's Ghosts 'n Goblins / Ghouls 'n Ghosts universe.

Although I was quite proud of the cleanup work I did for the fan-translated version of this reference, nothing quite beats having the original Photoshop files to work with.  I experimented with using the original Ghosts 'n Goblins series font for the English version, but the font was too big and weighty to look presentable.  Instead, I opted to use a thinner, lighter font that preserved the feel of the original Japanese version and didn't make the composition heavier than it needed to be.

Luste Stage: The Embodiment of Scarlet Devil / S.T.U.N. Runner

Ah, Touhou Project: the sleeper hit that launched the Japanese indie game craze in addition to creating its own genre of shoot 'em ups.  The sight gag here is pretty self-explanatory to Touhou fans, recreating the cover art for The Embodiment of Scarlet Devil with Luste taking the place of Flandre Scarlet.  Although WOMI claims that the "Insert Coin" text is intended as a reference to S.T.U.N. Runner, I think the text is just a bit too generic to credit to any particular arcade game.  Oh, well...

Unlike the rest of the graphics in the game, this particular reference was drawn by Isemiya instead of WOMI.  Although I don't know the circumstances of their breakup (nor do I intend to ask), I can safely say that WOMI no longer possesses the original source files for this reference.  That being the case, I fine-tuned the version from our fan translation for use in the official release instead of rebuilding the graphic with officially reconstructed materials.  I'm particularly proud of how this one turned out; all of the German and Japanese text is translated and typeset specifically to match the appearance of the Scarlet Devil cover art.  I can safely say that this graphic would look very different if Touhou was given an official physical English release.

Final Fantasy Legend II
(Game Boy)
Grolla Stage: Final Fantasy Legend II

Known as SaGa 2 in Japan, I remember borrowing this Game Boy title from a friend of mine back when I was in high school (I don't think I ever finished it, though...).  This was one of the few Game Over references that I decided to completely rebuild from scratch instead of cleaning up the original Japanese graphics and inserting the English translations.  I'm quite pleased with how it turned out.  For the official release, I decided to expand the reference a bit to further underscore the shout-out and make it more faithful to the source material.

If you're interested, the Nintendo DS remakes of Final Fantasy Legend II and III have been fan-translated into English under the names SaGa 2: Legend of the Relics -Goddesses of Destiny- and SaGa 3: Champions of Time and Space -Shadow or Light- (what a mouthful).  To the looks of it, they're of the same caliber as the 3D Final Fantasy IV remake.  Good stuff.

Sichte Stage: Jojo's Bizarre Adventure

Although I'm not a fan of the Jojo series myself , I have to admit that I enjoyed searching through digital copies of Viz's manga release to pinpoint the exact panel being referenced by this sight gag.  I'm already quite proud of the English rendition I created for our fan translation (rebuilt from scratch, no less).  Even so, the revised version just feels right on so many levels.  I'm kind of amused that Spiritia takes the place of Terrence T. d'Arby, a.k.a. "d'Arby the Player".  In both cases, the player loses the game.

Liebea Stage: The Tower of Druaga

Amusingly enough, my introduction to The Tower of Druaga was its 2008 anime adaptation, The Aegis of Uruk, which lampooned the original arcade game for its obtuse design and frustrating level of difficulty.  I can easily understand why the title is so infamous among old-school gamers.  Like the Super Bomberman reference, this reference contains no text, so no changes were needed to prepare its official English version.

Schwer-Muta Stage: Space Invaders

This arcade classic has since become the face of Tommy Tallarico's Video Games Live tour.  Though the game never really appealed to me, I can't deny its impact on the medium.  For the fan-translated version of this reference, I decided to rebuild the graphic from scratch to correct a minor oversight: the 30-point alien sprite contained two blocks that weren't supposed to be there.  When WOMI passed me his source files of the official release, I made a point of deleting those same blocks to ensure that the alien sprite was perfectly faithful to the arcade original.  If that makes me a hairsplitter, so be it.

Jojo's Bizarre Adventure
(Manga - Viz Media)
Zeppelin Stage I: ActRaiser

Known as Actraiser in Japan (no, I have no clue why they felt they needed to change the capitalization), this Super Nintendo platformer / God-game hybrid was one of the many games I would have passed over if not for the likes of amateur YouTube reviews like Joey DeSena's 16-Bit Gems.  Since the game had an official English release, localizing the Japanese text with an appropriate font was a piece of cake.

In ActRaiser, the player is referred to as "The Master" or "Sir " in the manual and game respectively.  In our fan translation, I had Eins's dialogue match the manual ("Mistress Tia"); for the official release, I decided to follow the game's lead instead ("Lady Tia").  In both cases, I tweaked the frame of the text window a bit to further reinforce the reference.

Zeppelin Stage II: Dragon's Lair

A nod to the NES adaptation of the game rather than the original arcade game.  The Engrish typo in "Closs" in the original reference always bugged me, and I made a point of correcting the typo in our fan translation.  When WOMI provided us with the original layers for this graphic, a sudden burst of inspiration prompted me to rebuild the interface portion of the graphic.  Looking back, I think the Extra Life and Cross Tank icons are just a bit too big, but other than that, I'm satisfied with the results.  I'll probably correct the issue in a post-release update, so there's nothing to worry about.

Zeppelin Stage III: Shadowgate

Like Murder on the Mississippi, Shadowgate is a point-and-click adventure game originally made for Western computers that was later ported to Japanese consoles.  The game was considered quite a success, spawning several sequels and even a Kickstarter-funded remake.  If you've played the visual novel parody Hatoful Boyfriend, you may recognize the title's Bad Ending screen as a bird-themed take on Shadowgate's Game Over screen.

Rosenkreuzstilette's nod to Shadowgate is very true to the original, casting Thanatos Seyfarth in the role of the Grim Reaper.  Observant players may notice how the reference subtly lends you a hand in defeating Thanatos, featuring which weapons are most effective against the wraith in the player's inventory.  For the English versions, I rebuild the graphics from scratch yet again (as you've likely figured out by now, I enjoy doing this for 8-bit and 16-bit titles).  For the official version, I've expanded that list of "Goods" to include all of the weapons effective against Seyfarth (in the off-chance that your Mana supply for his two primary weaknesses is exhausted).

Zoo Ball
(Super Famicom)
Zeppelin Stage IV: Ninja Gaiden

Here, RKS pays tribute to one of the hardest video game series of all time, Ninja Gaiden, with Nightwalker Zeppelin assuming the role of protaognist Ryu Hayabusa before his climactic battle with Jaquio.  It's interesting to note that, from Zeppelin's point of view, his actions are entirely justified (not unlike the General in Megaman X4).  But I digress...

I was on the fence about whether I should localize this reference in the style of the NES original or the Super Nintendo remake; in the end, I decided to stick with the original.  WOMI is smacking himself upside the head over the fact that, if a player is going through the game for the first time and loses all of their lives before reaching the Zeppelin, this reference technically spoils what should be a mid-battle twist.  Oh, well -- those of us familiar with Castlevania saw that twist coming anyway...

Iris Stage I: Zoo Ball

Known as Dolucky no Kusayakiu (Dolucky's Baseball Turf) in Japan, this Coca-Cola-sponsored anthropomorphic baseball title was going to be released in English under the name Zoo Ball.  Unfortunately, this never came to pass; the game was unceremoniously cancelled for reasons unknown.  That's a shame; though I'm not a fan of sports games, I did enjoy my time with the Japanese version of Zoo Ball.

This particular Game Over reference is a nod to the game's training mode.  If your training goes badly and you fail that session's objectives, Dolucky's coach will make a lighthearted jab at you before encouraging you to give it your best shot next time.  For the official English version, I retooled his dialogue to sound more like what a good coach would actually say in real life.

Iris Stage II: The Legend of Zelda - Link's Awakening (DX)

Sitting majestically atop Mount Tamaranch, the Wind Fish's Egg is the reason behind the English name of the level's boss, the Deviled Egg.  Interestingly, this reference is a nod to both incarnations of the Game Boy's first The Legend of Zelda title.  The monochrome palette is a definite callback to the original Game Boy release, while the clouds around the mountain's peak are only found in the Game Boy Color re-release, Link's Awakening DX.

Naturally, nothing special needs to be done to this reference for the English release.

Time Stranger
Iris Stage III: Time Stranger

The video game adaptation of Studio Madhouse's 1986 animated feature, Time Stranger was only released on the Japanese Famicom by Kecmo (the same developer behind the NES version of Shadowgate).  Though no English versions of the film or game were released prior to our original fan translation, I'm pleased to report that several fansub groups have released English translations of the film since that time.

Of all of the localized graphics in our fan translation, the English version of the Time Stranger reference was the one that I was least satisfied with.  I'm very happy to say that, for the official release, this one deserves to be recognized as the Biggest Improvement.  If there's anything I'm not satisfied about with the final version, it's that the variable-width retro-look font I used doesn't lend itself well to maintaining a tidy right margin.  This is a rare instance in which I would have preferred a fixed-width font.

Final Stage: Megaman Zero 2

It just wouldn't be right if a Megaman-style game didn't make at least one of its shout-outs a nod to the Blue Bomber or one of his many spinoffs.  Like the Shadowgate reference, this Game Over homage offers a subtle hint regarding how to take care of Iris (provided you chanced upon the secret treasure of the Black Forest earlier in the game, of course).  Again, I opted to rebuild the graphic from scratch for the English version, and I'm quite pleased with how it turned out.

Aside from these seventeen references, I may or may not have hidden additional references in the game's code.  I cannot elaborate on what I did or where to find them -- it'd spoil the surprise to talk about it before the game's even out.

The next entry will be the last entry focused on the original Rosenkreuzstilette.  After that, the blog will move onto covering Freudenstachel material. Is there anything you'd like to know about the original game before it finally hits Steam and Playism?  If so, leave a comment below and I'll try to include the answers you're looking for in the final installment of the RKS Developer Diary.

See you then!