Taito Minestones
Image: Hamster / Taito

When it became clear that the Nintendo Switch would not be launching with a 'Virtual Console' section for retro titles, Hamster Corporation's Arcade Archives range became incredibly important for those who love classic gaming.

Arcade Archives was there from day one, and has also expanded its range of classic games to the PlayStation 4. The range now encompasses games from Nintendo, Namco, Taito and many other notable arcade companies – and it shows absolutely no signs of slowing down.

We were lucky enough to sit down with Satoshi Hamada, President of Hamster Corporation, to discuss where Arcade Archives has been, and where it's headed in the future.

Time Extension: What would you say makes Hamster so special when compared to other companies operating in the retro gaming sector of the market?

Satoshi Hamada: 22 arcade game developers have their titles in Arcade Archives, and I think that lineup of truly fascinating titles is what sets us apart.

How do you go about choosing the titles you release in your range? Do IP owners come to you, or is it the other way around?

It goes both ways: sometimes we're asked, and other times we make the request. We try to have a well-balanced lineup, including both well-known and minor titles, because different titles are special to different people. The memorable titles are the ones which we poured our time into when we were young, meaning they're different for everyone. We believe that Arcade Archives is about not being limited to the well-known titles that are always ported, but also shining a light on minor titles, too.

What has it been like working with companies like Taito, Namco and Nintendo?

It's like a dream. To be able to bring back games which I was crazy about playing as a child, and to be able to work with the companies which made them? It's just like a dream.

Every day is busy, and weeks or months can go by in a flash, but I enjoy my work very much.
If I had a time machine, I'd like to go back and boast to my younger self about what I'm doing now.

Could you describe for us the process of adapting a classic title for release as part of your Arcade Archives range?

Once the title is decided on, we first prepare the (arcade) board and thoroughly research and verify the original game. We're looking at what kind of game it is, what specifications it has, and what features too. We then proceed with development.

After porting the game, we compare it to the original board and carefully verify it, checking to see if it works the same way as on the arcade original, whether the same strategies can be used, etc.

Since we release a title every week, some people may think that we're developing one title a week, but the development cycle for a single title is lengthy. Some take more than a year. We develop multiple titles in parallel and release one a week.

Arcade Archives
Hamster has continued to release Arcade Archives games on a regular basis over the past few years — Image: Hamster

We've been releasing titles weekly since March 3rd, 2017, when the Nintendo Switch was launched, and we are still going strong. We've even been recognized by Guinness World Records for releasing games on a weekly basis for over 6 years!

We started this to bring joy to players every week, but at first, I didn't think we'd be able to continue for such a long time. Of course, our team will continue to work together to deliver more titles every week.

How big is the team at Hamster, and which department would you say has the largest responsibility?

There are over 50 people involved in Arcade Archives, if you count development and QA. Development is divided into teams, and they all do important work, but the Sapporo (in Hokkaido) team is especially important. The former Hudson Soft engineers there are working on the game engine for Arcade Archives. They're a very highly skilled team.

Recently, you've moved into adapting licensed properties, such as Mazinger Z. Are there plans to bring any more licensed coin-ops to the series in the future?

I would love to release more licensed titles. Mazinger Z was made possible thanks to Bandai Namco Entertainment's untiring cooperation. It was like a childhood dream come true to be able to release Mazinger Z, a show I loved as a kid.

I will continue to do my best to release more games in the future.

Are there any titles you'd love to bring to the range, but haven't been able to?

There's a lot. In total, there are 800 games we want to release on Arcade Archives, and currently, we only have about 370, so we're not even halfway there. We're still working hard!

Hamster has released some amazing arcade titles from the '80s and '90s, but do you plan to push into more recent games at any point? Perhaps some of the 3D coin-ops of the late '90s and early 2000s?

Of course. Currently, we have 1 title from the 1970s, 220 from the 1980s, 137 from the 1990s, and 12 from the 2000s. I want to release more from the '00s, but I also want to release more from the '70s and '80s, too. There’re so many things I want to do, but I will fulfil my dreams one by one.

We'd like to thank the teams at TAITO, ININ and PR Hound's Derek Reeve for making this interview possible.