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Continuing on with another great Q&A article that me, Arcade Adriano, and ArcadeAttackUK completed, we had the opportunity to talk with fellow Atariage member and Neo-Geo legend in the community, the great NeoGeoCollector. Enjoy this fantastic article fellas. Really amazing answers the kind sir gave.
We’ve had a few superfans on our blog and rightly so. People like Roberth (Jag superfan) and Rob (Moonstone Tavern creator) have given us lots of vital info and support. This guy is no different. We’ve been friends on Twitter for a while but it’s great to finally tap into his NEO-GEO knowledge and quiz him about his collaboration with Bitmap Books. So I present to you Adrian’s chat with NEO-GEO megafan Frazer, aka NeoGeoCollector! You can also have a chat with him on Twitter here.
Can you give our readers a quick background of your gaming history and why gaming is such an important aspect of your life?
My gaming history really started in the late 80’s when my parents bought me a second hand Atari 800XL for Christmas. I’d played games prior to this on the BBC Micro and ZX Spectrum but it was the Atari which was my first system. I was fortunate that the system came with several cartridges, tapes and 5 1/4 inch discs. I was able to immerse myself in games like IK+, Pole Position, Summer Games, Drop Zone and Green Beret. I genuinely spent hours on that machine and I guess it cemented my interested and enjoyment with gaming ever since. Gaming is just a wonderful escape and that’s just as true today as it was back then.
When the 16-bit era arrived I sold on the 800XL and stuck with Atari and bought an Atari STE Turbo Pack. It was around this time we started to see the 16-bit consoles being reviewed in the gaming magazines and being an avid reader of CVG, I was drawn to the early previews of Japanese import machines and particularly the NEO-GEO.
Do you remember the first time you played a NEO-GEO console and were you instantly impressed?
I played a NEO-GEO electrocoin arcade machine before I had the opportunity to play the home system. The first time I actually saw a home system was in a video game store in North West France whilst on holiday. Having read the reviews and seen the graphics, which were in a different league from other machines of the time, I just had to own one.
When did you first get the opportunity to own this powerful beast of a console and do you feel the high price was the main reason the NEO-GEO never truly competed with the likes of the SNES and Mega Drive?
Having set my sights on owning a NEO-GEO it actually took a while to achieve that goal. I was working a summer job and saving every penny towards buying one. I became more and more obsessed about the system and bought pretty much any magazine with a review or preview of SNK games. I even contemplated buying a memory card just to own a piece of this system. The NEO-GEO was significantly more expensive than other consoles of the time but I was really lucky. I’d saved around £200 and my dad spotted a second hand system for sale in the local paper. He picked me up from work and we went to go and see it. My dad didn’t let on till we got there the reason for the diversion but on arrival it was a PAL system with two games and he loaned me the extra £100 that I needed. A NEO-GEO, 2 games, and additional controller and a memory card for £300! I was over the moon.
By comparison a Super Nintendo and Megadrive in the UK were available for around the £120 mark for the console but the games had started to rise in price. New Super Nintendo releases started to hit the £59.99 mark and in the case of Street Fighter 2, this was £64.99 for the UK release (even more on import). The first releases for the NEO-GEO retailed at a whopping £200, but by 1991/early 1992 we saw a reduction in prices which coincided with a price drop in Japan. This saw the original title lineup drop to around £60 per game, rising to £85 for games that were 6 months old. This price point wasn’t too dissimilar from the latest Super Nintendo releases. However, new titles still commanded £120-140 and in the case of Viewpoint a whopping £225. Sadly because of the original price point and the fact that gamers wanted to play new releases not older titles, the cost was just too far out of reach for the vast majority of gamers. As a result the NEO-GEO ended up being a system that most gamers had heard of but few actually experienced.
What was the game that caught your attention during your early years?
Before owning the machine I really wanted NAM-1975 and Baseball Stars from the early titles but in late 91 we saw the release of Robo Army and Fatal Fury and SNK really cranked the games up a notch. Those two games looked streets apart from anything on other home consoles and ended up being the first two games I ever owned as they came with the second hand machine I bought.
At the time when SNK debuted the NEO-GEO AES, what made you say to yourself that the unit had to be in your possession?
For me the early 90’s were the best years in gaming (agreed – Ed), the number of systems coming on to the market was phenomenal, every month there seemed to be something new. When the NEO-GEO appeared on the scene, the initial game reviews were poor. Sadly, many of the magazines of the time couldn’t see beyond the price tag of the software. The sheer fact the system provided the arcade experience at home was however the big draw and it wasn’t long before a second wave of releases started to demonstrate the system’s power and I just had to own one.
We are huge SNK fans here at Arcade Attack and their life as a business has been bumpy to say the least! How did you feel when SNK was close to bankruptcy and did you ever dream they could come back so strong?
No doubt SNK went through a troubled time, filing for bankruptcy and putting its IP up for sale in 2001 was sad to see but the buy-back by Kawasaki through Playmore was a wise move. He certainly saw the value in those assets and so does the current parent company who have gone into overdrive when it comes to licensing and generating revenue from merchandise. Thankfully SNK seem to have retained a focus on gaming as well releasing their back catalog and developing new titles, it’s genuinely good to see SNK doing well again.
Why do think SNK has now become so big again and what are your personal views of their latest titles?
I see the growth of SNK in recent years down to making the best use of their extensive history and IP. In January this year, Hamster Corporation announced that their combined worldwide sales for all the ACA NEO-GEO games exceeded one million. That is absolutely staggering given some of the original NEO-GEO cartridges on the home console had a production run of 500-1000 copies. What was once a niche gaming company is now accessible to many more gamers worldwide. With regards to the latest titles, I must confess my ‘modern’ gaming only extends up to Dreamcast era however the release of the new Samurai Spirits next year on the PS4 has certainly grabbed my attention and I’m looking forward to seeing that in action.
Do you think there is room for a new NEO-GEO console on the market?
I honestly don’t think that’s viable. The whole concept of the NEO-GEO was that it was streets ahead of the competition, it was also about the size of the cartridges, the joypads, the meg count. A new NEO-GEO console would need to replicate that with specs that are far in advance of the competition, meg counts don’t really mean anything and there’s no need to have physical games anymore (sad I know) so I just don’t think it’s realistic.
NEO-GEO: A Visual History is absolutely a thumping good read for veterans and newcomers alike Frazer. You’re assistance with Bitmap Books regarding it was extensive and well thought out. How did this venture come about between you two and how did SNK acknowledge you to participate to make it a reality?
Thank you, I’m glad you liked the Visual History book. A lot of effort went into creating it and it’s exceeded all our expectations. Working with Sam Dyer at Bitmap Books on the visual history was a pleasure. The book came about as a result of purchasing Super Famicom: The Box Art Collection. I really enjoyed that book and thought this is something which could be replicated with the NEO-GEO. I had amassed a complete Japanese NEO-GEO collection by this point so I emailed Sam in June 2016, he got back in touch straight away and it started from there. The initial plan was to replicate the Super Famicom book but then we started to add more content and the scope of the book increased. We also brought on board NEO-GEO fans Massimiliano Macri and Brian Hargrove to the team. At this point having the book officially licensed by SNK seemed the best approach and meant we could have access to their achieves. SNK were very complimentary about the book and described it the perfect portfolio for their gaming history.
What are your top 3 NEO-GEO games of all time and why?
My favourite games on systems shift a lot, ask me again in 12 months and I’ll have probably changed my mind but at present i’d say Metal Slug 3, King of Fighters 98 and Nam 1975. Slug 3 because the level of detail and effort that went into that game is just incredible, all the different routes, the variety of stages. That game pushed the system to its absolute limit and it’s just sheer class from start to finish. There’s just so many fighters to choose from and games like Last Blade, Mark of the Wolves and Samurai Spirits are exceptional but it’s King of Fighters 98 that I often return to. I think its the best of the series and it was the fighting game I really wanted to own back in the day. Finally Nam-1975, the first game on the NEO-GEO, NGH001 would be in my third choice. I think it still plays well to this day and its a good blast as a single player and even better in 2P mode. I suspect it’s partly nostalgia but it’s a classic and will always be a firm favourite of mine.
A number of games were never completed for the NEO-GEO. Which of these titles which were in development would you have loved to see completed?
For a number of reasons some games never made it. I guess some titles just didn’t test well. I’d like to see Fun Fun Brothers, Sunshine (Block Paradise) and especially Last Odyssey for the fact it would have been the only pinball game on the system. Certainly the roms exist for these titles and perhaps one day we’ll see those made available. The one title which we know was started but never completed is Mark of the Wolves 2. I’m sure all NEO-GEO fans would love to see that completed someday.
Have you ever wished to create your own NEO-GEO game, and if so, can you describe your ideas below?
I’ve never really had a desire to create a NEO-GEO game personally but its a shame SNK didn’t develop another driving game. Following Riding Hero and Thrash Rally, the home system only saw Overtop which is a shame. I’d have loved to have seen an Outrun/Chase HQ style racer on the system (so would we! – Ed).
Your NEO-GEO collection is truly amazing. How did you acquire so much retro gaming goodness and how close are you to a complete NEO-GEO set?
’ve sold a couple of NEO-GEO collections in my time. The first in 1994 when I was expecting the CD console to be the nail in the coffin for the cartridge system (how wrong I was…), then again in 2002 when I sold a large English collection to buy an apartment but I held onto to around 15 of my games and then slowly but surely started to buy games back, this time Japanese releases. Most of my current collection was bought in 2005-2007, a few trips to Japan certainly helped and compared to current prices the games weren’t that expensive. That said, I’ve certainly gone without in order to buy games but I think that’s the same for any collector who is keen to acquire games they have been searching for. I completed the full Japanese set in 2008, the last game I needed was Overtop. Since then I’ve been picking up flyers, NEO-GEO club magazines and other SNK collectibles, many of which appear in the NEO-GEO book.
What is the rarest/most expensive game you have for it?
I would say the rarest game in the collection is possibly Chibi Maruko-chan Deluxe Quiz which was a Japanese only release in 1995. It’s exceptionally hard to find given most NEO-GEO owners opted to buy other titles around that time, notably the latest King of Fighters. The most expensive is probably is the original Metal Slug. Whilst not the rarest, the popularity of this game means its always in demand by collectors worldwide.
Apart from the NEO-GEO do you collect for any other consoles and if so, which games and other consoles are close to your heart?
I collect for and play a range of consoles mostly from the 80’s and 90’s. I find the obscure consoles the most interesting, everything from the PC-FX to N64DD. I’ve a fairly substantial FM Towns collection which is probably my second favourite after the NEO-GEO and I’ve recently started to build a Pioneer Laseractive collection. I would say I own around 50 consoles and over 1000 games currently. At some point i’d like to open a retro video game exhibition to display it so I can share it (we’re there! – Ed).
When you think of NEO-GEO, what is the first thing that comes to mind?
I think of an exciting time in the early 90s when a ‘wonder console’ from Japan was going to be released meaning arcade graphics at home! Talking about the NEO-GEO console with friends and boring my parents thoroughly and reading and re-reading game reviews and searching for any news on the console and games. An all too brief period but i’m glad its something I experienced.
Are you working on any projects currently?
I’m supporting a couple of exciting projects at present. I can’t say what those are right now but safe to say that SNK and NEO-GEO fans will have plenty to look forward to in 2019! (better get following him on Twitter then – Ed)
If you could share a few drinks with a video game character who would you choose and why?
Ha good question, well it would be too obvious to pick Terry or Andy Bogard so how about Silver and Brown from Nam 1975, to hear their tales of defeating Dr. R Muckly over a beer or two!
Today, you're are all in for an intriguing treat. I follow an indie game developer by the name ShinuRealArts Games. If you're not familiar of this establishment, they're are making a fun title for steam called, "Wings_Of_Bluestar". It's a horizontal shmup that is scheduled to be released this year for the gaming community to play.
So me and fellow Atariage member, Arcade Adriano from ArcadeAttackUK did a great Q&A article with ShinuArt Games that I believe we will all enjoy seeing and reading. If all goes well, the group says that there's a possibility that this game will be released on the Sega Dreamcast and the Neo-Geo. If becomes a reality, you read it here first on the Neo-Geo thread on Atariage.com. Enjoy.
Pics and videos of the actual game is included as well.
Adrian caught up with Shinu from Shinu Real Arts, the dev team behind the intriguing Wings Of Bluestar. With each demo we are becoming more and more impressed with this project. Please check out the trailer below and more from the man himself. Any developer keen to release his project on the Dreamcast and/or the NeoGeo deserves our full attention! You can catch Shinu and updates on the game mostly on Twitter, but there is also a Facebook page.
Hi Shinu, it’s an honour to feature you and your fine-looking game on Arcade Attack!
The honor is mine. Thanks for having me on Arcade Attack.
Please tell us a little about yourself, and the establishment of Shinu Real Arts.
You are welcome! The Shinu Real Arts name started as a freelance artist, mainly as an illustrator and concept artists. However, I’ve always had the urge to create games one day, which is normal for any gamer who started from a young age.
I also make some short one shot comics, but paused everything since I started working on Wings Of Bluestar.
Before starting work on my actual game, I was part of a local indie studio of 3 people, specialized in mobile games, but we went different paths due to some ideology differences.
What is a typical day like with you and your team at your studio?
Even though I have a day job not related neither to art nor to coding, I’m fortunate that this job is only 21 hours a week and I have plenty of time for game development.
My actual team isn’t local, we are from different countries, 4 people, some I know personally and others from the net.
Everyone takes care of their own tasks and we communicate a lot, mainly via email for data share and detailed stuff, or messenger/WhatsApp for quick texting or voice messages. However, I’m the one assembling everything and putting it into the game, since I do the graphics, coding and sound effects.
Is Wings Of Bluestar the first game you’ve worked on?
No it isn’t, I’ve worked on some games in the past, but never released them due to various reasons.
My first game was a vertical shmup heavily influenced by the Shikigami No Shiro series, but I’ve lost all data and couldn’t continue working on it.
My second big game was planned for mobile, from the time I was part of a local indie studio of 3 people. But again, after finishing almost all assets and base code, I canceled it after the studio was dispatched. It was going to be a top down runner/shmup hybrid where the player controls a buggy tank.
So, Wings Of Bluestar is my 3rd serious and big game. It’s also way better than the first ones since I’ve learned a lot since then.
What kind of game is it and how did it come about?
Wings Of Bluestar is a horizontal shoot’em up. As mentioned above, I’m a fan of the genre and it was just natural for me to develop shmups, because I believe that I have enough knowledge about this type of game. All my previous unreleased games were shmups as well and I wish to specialize in the genre in the future.
The choice of a horizontal shmup over a vertical was actually a technical issue one. Because 2 years ago, I had no clear idea of a simple and easy programming way to switch between the Tate and Yoko modes in a vertical shmup, so I spared myself the trouble and went full horizontal (lol).
What games helped inspire it? I can see some great elements from R-Type and Thunder Force.
The main inspiration for me comes from Blazing Star, my favorite horizontal STG, I’ve put some related Easter eggs in Wings Of Bluestar, fans of the game have already spotted some.
And yeah, R-Type is on the influence list, as well as a lot of other horizontal shmups, like Progear, Pulstar, Hyper Duel, etc.
When I decided to work on a new shmup, I wanted it to have a lot of the main features I like from different favorite games from the genre. And the first thing I had to do were the visuals, which are the first aspect you see in a game. I wanted them to be unique, so I went for a hand painted style, which is actually my strongest asset, since I’m more of the artist than the programmer, so, neither 3D nor pre-rendered assets were used. I even refused to use shaders for long time, until people following the game insisted, so I had to add a few (lol).
The game looks incredible! The colours look so vibrant while the backgrounds and enemies are highly detailed. How much dedication has been put into this game so far and how many more hours to go to finally say it’s complete?
The game has been more than 2 years in development. I’m planning to finish it before late 2019. There’s a chance to release it even earlier, like mid 2019, since it’s around 80% complete for now.
As said before, I’m more of an artist than a programmer, so, I put more effort into the details and into the fundamentals of art, like composition, color theory and render. Add to this that I study a lot of other shoot’em ups by watching gameplay videos (easier to study visuals than actually playing them) and analyzing the design, color schemes, composition etc. And I had some great feedback from the community as well, so, I always work on the visuals when people do tell me something like “the visibility is weak there”, “this element hides something” etc.
Just about every gamer enjoys a good shmup title. We for one at Arcade Attack certainly do. But what you do believe will make Wings Of Bluestar different from the current shooters that others are offering and being conducted in the video game industry?
That’s quite the challenge, seeing all those great shmups being released.
First, I had to make the game up to the level in terms of gameplay. So I’ve made two ships with different controls (a 3rd unlockable ship is in consideration), different weapons and different scoring systems. The game also has a combo system (different for each ship), so hi-scorers can have their fun. add to this a risk system that rewards you with Risk Stars and points when you are too close to enemy bullets. The Risk System is also implemented in the gameplay, since the player needs to carefully use the ship’s powerful weapon and save it for needy situations, since it’s “risky” to venture without it being ready.
However, Wings Of Bluestar has also something different to offer, something that I myself couldn’t find in many shmups I’ve played and which is the main reason people not familiar with the genre don’t see a shmup game worth the full price.
With this, I meant how short in terms of gameplay time shmups are, except for us fans who keep re-playing for hi-scoring and 1CC-ing, non shmup fans won’t play the game that many times.
That’s why I decided to put a lot of content into Wings Of Bluestar, content that you unlock as achievement/trophies, or that you unlock by spending Risk Points that you earn from the game.
The first time I’ve experienced this content unlocking fun was with SoulCalibur on the Dreamcast; I had a ton of fun gathering in-game money and then spending it on unlocking content. So I’ve made sure to put that into Wings Of Bluestar; the game will have a huge gallery, character biography, a shop, a sound test and more stuff to unlock.
Another feature in Wings Of Bluestar is its story mode. While I’m not a huge and dedicated fan, I still like some good visual novels. So I’m planning to make the story mode as a visual novel fragmented between stages, it’ll offer dialogue choices and lead to different endings.
Sounds pretty great! How many levels do you hope to create for Wings Of Bluestar and do you have a personal favourite boss within the game?
First I was planning to make as many stages as I can and offer different paths for the player to choose from. But then I noticed that it’ll take a long time, because the game’s stages are long, on average 5 minutes without boss fight and they are detailed, have progressive and changing scenery and usually change scrolling. So, for a very small indie studio, I can’t afford a lot of stages. That’s why I made a survey on the studio’s Twitter profile and the average result was 7 stages. Right now the game has 6 and I may go to 8 + a secret stage to unlock.
As for the bosses, my favorite one is the fifth one, since it’s so huge and can’t fit in one screen, it’s made of 4 parts and each part fills a whole screen. You move to the next part when you destroy the one above it. But I may like the sixth boss better, it’s still being coded though; it’s a long snake that comes from 7 different spots and the player needs to memorize them, something like that snake boss from R-Type, but more advanced.
Once Wings Of Bluestar is complete. Where can one play this game for them to experience the action and when do you hope to get the game released?
Like every game producer/developer, I wish to release my game on every platform possible, even retro systems. But due to budget and team limitations, the first release will be on Steam, because it’s easier, then on the Switch and PS4 if the game makes enough funds on Steam. After that and if the game is successful, I’ll try my chance porting it to systems like The Vita, the Dreamcast and the NeoGeo. But that requires extra effors since I have to rework the visuals for weaker systems. Add to this that I have no idea on how to code/develop for those older systems, so I’ll need external help if I decided to retro port the game.
If I decide to go retro, my first choice would be the Dreamcast, but the NeoGeo is a possibility too, depending on which one is easier and how much external help I can get.
What are your top 3 favourite video games of all time and why?
Talking shmups, I’d say Blazing Star first; the visuals and sound effects of that game blew my mind back in the days when it came to the local arcade. It also has that 80s anime vibe that I love a lot.
Second is Shikigami No Shiro; once again, I like animes and the game is 100% in the style.
Third place goes for Ikaruga; the 3D visuals and the orchestral music of that game are just phenomenal. Add to this the level design and the original yin-yang gameplay system, that was so great.
However, I’m more of an J-RPG fan and the only reason I’m not making an RPG is that it’s way too much work for me. My favorite all time game is Grandia 2.
As for you and your co-workers, what do we plan on seeing from Shinu Real Arts after Wings Of Bluestar?
I wish that the studio specializes in shmups only, like those great Japanese studios like G-rev or Cave. And I already have a clear idea of the shmups we’re gonna work on after Wings Of Bluestar, it’s a vertical one with tons of RPG elements.
But, and sadly, if the shmup genre is no longer in demand, we’ll move to platformers in the Megaman style, because ,as mentioned earlier, I only make games that I like and am familiar with.
Do you have any advice for those that would like to give for those that plan to start their own indie practice to make titles like what you’re doing now?
Well, this may sound harsh, but they should be aware that making games isn’t easy, both mentally and physically; you’ll spend tons of time on your desk drinking cup after cup of coffee, so, you need to do some sports to counter that. Add to this how the market is more relying on advertising than a good product, which means, even if you release the greatest game ever made, no one will like it if they never have heard of it, and that may have a heavy mental effect on the developer. Some of my indie developer friends already experiencing depression before even releasing their games, by fearing that it’ll fail after all this effort and sacrifice.
Now for something positive. As for developing games, modern software’s made it easy and one doesn’t have to be a great mathematician in order to code, hence, a lot of software doesn’t even require coding, but I highly recommend to learn coding because it offers unlimited possibilities. The only hard things to learn are art and music; those take a lot of time and dedication, but not impossible.
But if you intend to find a team, don’t be the “Idea Guy”, it’s very bad and a real joke (meme) in the indie game development community. You should be able to contribute with a real developing skill, like music, art, coding, sound effects, special effects etc. Otherwise you’ll have to pay your team members with real money, as employees, if you have nothing else to offer.
And once again, advertising and creating a community is as much important as making a good game. So, work on those as early as possible, even from the sketching stage.
Thank you for your time today Shinu, we wish you all the best with the game. One more before you go, if you could share a few drinks with any video game character, who would you choose and why?
This is weird, because this character doesn’t even talk. So, the video game character I’m the most attached to right now and with whom I’ve spent most of my time in a game, is my Skyrim character. I’ve been playing and modding that poor game for years (and still) using the same character, that I now feel so familiar with to the point I want to have a drink with.
Readers, we hope you’ve enjoyed that and as I mentioned before you can catch Shinu on Twitter, and on the game’s Facebook page.
Isn’t it the best time to be a #KOF fan now? Two #NGWT2 stops this weekend, streamed to your computer, console, TV or smartphone! Good luck to all the fighters who will compete this weekend. All eyes on Las Vegas and Malaysia! Stay tuned!#vegascup3#fvcuppic.twitter.com/qIsp55tMTX
We are preparing a booth for the hamster that will be exhibited at the "Toujin Matsuri 2018-19" held on March 23rd and 24th! Many sticks and monitors are used in the trial table! Please try it when you come to our booth!
Saturday, March 23, 10:00 to 20:00, Sunday, March 24th, from 10:00 to 20:00, we will play against the visitors at the Hamster booth, so please join us! Nico is also broadcast in the raw. https://sp.live.nicovideo.jp/watch/lv319129750…
It's very good news !! At TSUTAYA EBISUBASHI's "SNK Limited Shop" in Osaka, the sticker of Kyo and Iori is given to those who have bought over 3,000 yen without tax. The target product is only SNK goods. Please check it#SNK#NEOGEO#TSUTAYApic.twitter.com/XGpq01JFl9
Look at this AMAZING box !! "MVS"(NEO 19) is reproduced perfectly!!Σ('◉⌓◉’) Cute "NEOGEO mark" candies into this box. They are cute with different facial expressions. You can also buy this at Ebisubashi Tsutaya.(˘❥˘) #SNK#NEOGEO#TSUTAYA#戎橋ツタヤpic.twitter.com/lqsfxUyuA5