Sunday, July 23, 2017

RKSF Developer Diary #1 - Recycle Cycle

There's no point in denying it:
the RKSF Title Screen is much cooler.
Hello, everyone!

It's been a long haul, and I know that many among you have been waiting for years to catch a glimpse of the English version of Rosenkreuzstilette Freudenstachel.  Well, wait no more: it's time for the first installment of the RKSF Developer Diary!

Before we dive into what's changed between the original Rosenkreuzstilette and its sequel, I figured it'd be appropriate to have a look at what's stayed the same between the two games.  By that, I mean what changes we made for the English version of Rosenkreuzstilette that we were able to carry over to Freudenstachel.

As many of you are no doubt aware, eight of the ten first-generation Megaman titles use the same assets and sprites with nearly imperceptible differences in the game's mechanics and physics.  It should come as no surprise that Rosenkreuzstilette follows suit, preserving what worked in the original while subtly changing what didn't.  As we'll see in future entries, some elements that Freudenstachel borrows from the classic Blue Bomber have been used to create something completely different.

I'm getting ahead of myself, though.  Let's start at the beginning.

I couldn't tell you if this was a screenshot
from Rosenkreuzstilette or Freudenstachel...
Surprising absolutely no one, the [erka:es] logo and bonus scenario overlay haven't changed a bit from the original game.  Exciting stuff, I'm sure.  RKSF's file structure contains an entire directory of files lifted straight from the original RKS.  Rather than straight-up copy the files from the original English release of RKS, I decided to take the opportunity to make some stealthy touch-ups to these graphics and export them to both the launch build of Freudenstachel and Version 2.10a of Rosenkreuzstilette.  When the update goes live for RKS, don't be surprised if some things feel just a little bit different that you remember them.  For the most part, it's nothing worth spotlighting here.  I doubt anyone would really notice that a handful of elements on the Status Subscreen were nudged over by a few pixels, for example.

The more things change,
the more they stay the same.
Once the opening text crawl fades in, I'm sure many among you may be experiencing a bit of déjà-vu.  Don't worry: it's not just your imagination.  The text may be a different color and set over a moonlit castle instead of a twilit cathedral, but first couple of lines of text in Freudenstachel are word-for-word identical to their counterparts in the prequel.  This repetition was done specifically to allow people who hadn't played the original Rosenkreuzstilette to bring themselves up to speed without wasting any time on lengthy exposition dumps.  The rest of the text crawl recaps what has happened since the events of the first game in the same vein as Megaman X2.  One of the most common complaints about the opening cutscene in the first RKS was that the expository banter between Spiritia and Lilli was sooo looong.  While Freudenstachel begins on a similar note, there's a sense of urgency to its plot that forces the characters to get a move on and not waste time mincing words.

Of course, there have always been a few characters in the RKS universe that don't particularly pay attention to the grand scheme of things.  Their interactions with the rest of the cast remain as amusing as ever.

As you can see in the screenshots at the top of this post, the changes I made to Rosenkreuzstilette's Title Screen have been carried over to Freudenstachel's.  In other words, choosing the default "Game Start" options begin a new game at the very beginning of Story Mode instead of at the Stage Select Screen in Arcade Mode.  This time around, if you're playing through Story Mode and wish to skip text that you've already read through, you can press the Status button to skip the remainder of that scene instead of hammering the Confirm button or holding the Cancel button.

No silhouettes or frames this time around;
other than that, they're pretty much the same.
The Options and Controls Menus are pretty much what you'd expect them to be; I covered our tweaks to them in detail in RKS Developer Diary #2Freudenstachel's Options Menus follow its predecessor's in every respect save for one:

When I was working on Freudenstachel's Options Menus, I did so without really consulting their counterparts in the original Rosenkreuzstilette.  It didn't occur to me at the time to carry the frames and silhouettes that I'd added to the Grollschwert incarnation of these graphics over to the sequel.  The Options Menus for both the Freudenstachel and Weißsilber scenarios are almost identical to their respective Title Screens, so I never noticed that something might be missing until I started compiling screenshots for this blog post.

That's a lot of blue...
Still, even without these touches, the menus look great.  If Freudenstachel ends up requiring an update later down the line, I might take the opportunity to add the shadows and borders back in.  As it stands, though, I'm perfectly fine with the game shipping with the menus in their current state.

There isn't really much to say about the presentation of the Status Subscreen that I haven't already said in RKS Developer Diary #6.  In the Japanese version of Rosenkreuzstilette, the rollover graphic for each ability featured the name of each ability in German as well as its meaning in Japanese.  For the English versions of the game, we replaced the Japanese translations with their English equivalents.  In Freudenstachel, the rollover graphics don't feature Japanese translations of each ability's name; instead, they spell out the name of each ability in katakana to help Japanese natives pronounce them all properly.  This information isn't all that useful to English-speaking players; after all, the majority of us can't read katakana, and we have Freudia's sound clips to clarify how each name is supposed to be pronounced.  So, for the sake of consistency with the original Rosenkreuzstilette, we decided to replace the katakana renderings with the English renditions of each name.  Before you ask: yes, we will be exploring these in detail in a future developer diary entry.

Decisions, decisions...
If only there were a book that
claimed to hold all the answers...
You may recall from RKS Developer Diary #4 that RKS's Stage Select screen features a handful of verses from Christianity's Holy Bible.  These verses return in the sequel, both on the original Rosenkreuzstilette version of the Stage Select Screen as well as the Schwarzkreuz incarnation that is unlocked after all eight main stages have been completed.  The very same Bible verses appear yet again during the battle with the Homunculi, adorning the background of every single room during the boss rush.  It's like the Bible is following you around every time you need to make a decision...

Naturally, we made a point of touching-up the German and integrating our English localization as seamlessly as possible.

Yep, empty passwords work
the way they're supposed to.
To wrap things up for this inaugural entry, let's have a quick look at the game's system strings.  You may recall that, whenever you get a Game Over, complete a stage, or hit the Pause button to save a replay, some rather tidy English text appears in both the English and Japanese versions of the game prompting you to make a decision.  In the original Rosenkreuzstilette, this text was written in Bookman Old Style in black text with a white outline; in Freudenstachel, the same text appears in Times New Roman in white with a pale blue outline.  In the spirit of Megaman, we felt it would be more appropriate to maintain the same style of presentation between entries while giving each entry just a bit of its own identity.  So, we decided to use Bookman Old Style throughout (it's the same font as the Stage Select Screen, after all) while retaining the original colors from the Japanese versions.  We applied this same philosophy to the boss introductions and the ending credits.

Well, that's all for now.  I have a vague idea of what I'll shine a spotlight on next time, but, if there's anything in particular that you'd like to see, be sure to ask for it in the comments below!

See you next time!