After writing the Gunstar Heroes review, I remembered I had an old scan from Game Fan magazine – September 1993, and an interview with Treasure. It’s interesting from the point of view of what drives the company, and how they’ve continued to produce original pieces of work for the last 18 years.
I’ve typed up the interview – and corrected the terrible grammar – for your reading pleasure…
Many of you will soon find out how incredible Treasure is, when you play Gunstar Heroes. This dedicated new company shows a commitment to quality unlike any other we have known. What Game Fan wants to its readers is like what Treasure wants to be to game players. They are committed to doing what they believe you want, not what the big corporations want, which is why they left Konami. I am sure that after you read this interview you will firmly believe that there is at least one company with YOUR best interests in mind, and that the future for Sega owners is extremely bright!
This interview was held at Treasure with the president, Mr. Masato Maegawa, and was conducted by Kei Kuboki and photographed by Takahiro Yagi, our two most treasured Japanese correspondents.
Q: When did you start Treasure?
A: We officially started the company on June 19 1992.
Q: What was th reason for starting your own company?
A: I have dreamt of owning my own company since I was young, then after spending four years at Konami I knew this industry was where I belonged, so I decided to start my own development house.
Q: Where did you get the name Treasure?
A: (Laughing) We want to be a treasure to this industry!
Q: How big is your staff?
A: So far 18 people.
Q: Out of that 18, how many are programmers?
A: Almost everyone here is a programmer.
Q: What are their backgrounds?
A: Almost everyone is from Konami, their previous titles include; Qix, Bucky O’Hare, and The Simpsons for arcade, Castlevania 4, Contra 3 and Axelay for the Super Famicom.
Q: What are their average ages?
A: Our youngest is 19 and our oldest is 37, average is about 27.
Q: What made you decide to leave Konami?
A: Basically, Konami is a huge company, so you cannot create games freely. Konami’s big titles are TMNT, Castlevania etc.. I just couldn’t stand making more sequels, but in order to drive sales sequels must always be made. When I presented my idea for Gunstar Heroes they said, “no, it will not sell”. You see, they only want the sure thing because they are such a high profile company.
Q: So have you been able to develop games unrestricted, no that you have Treasure?
A: Not 100% because we are now working for Sega, also a huge company, but we do have much more freedom and can do pretty much anything we want, within reason of course.
Q: Konami is a big 3rd party for Nintendo, so why are you now making games for Sega?
A: I’ve always been fascinated with hardware. People are constantly comparing Mega Drive to SNES, saying that the SNES has more colors etc…
But the Mega Drive has a 68000 processor, which is very easy for programmers to work with. I was a programmer for years, making games for the SNES, and I can tell you, the hardware is a pain in the butt. If consumers look at a still shot, they may think the SNES is better, but actually, if you tried to put Gunstar Heroes onto the SNES there would be no way. See those bosses? On the SNES they would slow down, that movement requries sooo much computation. It could only be done on the Sega hardware.
Q: How many colors do you have on screen in Gunstar?
A: Actually there are 64, but we can make it look like much more by adding shadow and lighting effects etc.… When you look at Sonic or Gunstar you would think that they display more than 64 colors, but they don’t, we just make it look like more. In my opinion the colour looks as good as the SNES. We can also make it appear that 3 to 4 screens are present, although you can supposedly only display two (background and foreground) at once, as I said the hardware is very easy to work with. All things considered, the 68000 is a very good CPU allowing room for experimentation while the SNES hardware limits you to their design standards. Scaling and rotation can be implemented in the Sega software, forget it on the SNES.
Q: Do you have any plans for CD-ROM?
A: Right now there aren’t that many systems out there, but we are interested in this new hardware. There are no plans now, but perhaps in a year. But then again, 32-bit is on the way…
Q: Actually, that was my next question. Talk of Sega’s 32-bit Saturn project is all over our offices, what have you heard?
A: All I can say is that it’s coming next year and I am looking forward to it. I am more interested in developing 32-bit than CD-ROM.
Q: Since we’re on the subject of 32-bit, how about 3DO, will you be developing games for it?
A: So far we have no plans, at this time we do not have enough employees to start on a new format. We just finished our first Sega title and we have a lot of ideas left over. You see, if you instantly follow new hardware, a games substance will be neglected. For instand, 32-bit will have incredible graphics and fluid full motion etc…, this has nothing to do with game substance, it is only cosmetics. We will take 160bit Sega to its limits, than[then?] pursue 32-bit.
Q: Do you consider the US market when you decide on a project?
A: Of course! Sega is bigger in the US than in Japan, so we absolutely consider it.
Q: How long did it take to develop Gunstar Heroes?
A: We had the idea, then waited three months for our development system. From that point it took seven months.
Q: Were all 18 staff members involved?
A: No not everyone, we divided into two teams, one for Gunstar and one for our McDonald’s game. At that time we had 12 people so six went to each; two designers, two programmers and two sound people. We worked with a vengeance!
Q: Gunstar is 8meg, did you compress it?
A: Yes, a lot. It is actually over 16meg, play to the end and you’ll see what I mean.
Q: How is the game going over in Japan?
A: Great! As an original game we rank 4th in the major Japanese magazines as the most wanted game, behind Street Fighter 2, Shining Force 2 and Virtua Racing.
Q: If you were to rate this game, what would you give it?
A: There are things we have left over, so I would say 80%. If I give it 100% that would mean we could never top it, but we can!
Q: Are you thinking about a sequel?
A: I wouldn’t say no, but not really.
Q: Your next release is McDonalds [Treasure Land]. Why did you pick this character?
A: We didn’t, it’s for Sega.
Q: How is it?
A: I think it’s excellent.
Q: OK, last two questions. Is there any comment you would like to make about this industry?
A: Yes, lately all I see are sequels, or translations of popular arcade games. It is really sad. Consumers are in pursuit of quality and original game designs, but not many third parties are doing them.
We are going to develop original games only! To sum it up, we present ourselves a challenge to do new things in the action platofm category. We would like to be the company that makes the Sega Genesis and Mega Drive number one. We will think of what would be most fun, and then develop it.
Q: Any word for the US consumer?
A: We’ll be making studpendous games like Gunstar Heroes, sp please take care of Treasure!
Game Fan: Thank you very much for everything and good luck!