Image: Irem

Irem should be known to every Time Extension reader - we've certainly covered the company enough. Dating back to the 1970s it has an important legacy, most prominent of which is probably R-Type. If anything, this landmark hori-shmup overshadows the developer's portfolio, since it also gave us arcade classics Moon Patrol, Ninja Spirit, and In the Hunt, among so many others, plus console titles like Gekisha Boy through to Disaster Report. Not to mention Irem inadvertently led to the formation of Nazca Corporation, which developed Metal Slug and became an integral part of SNK and the Neo Geo.

Irem is unequivocally a glorious and significant part of Japan's videogame heritage. So when ININ Games, Tozai Games, and Irem jointly announced the multi-part Irem Collection, we were very excited. For several games in the collection, this is the first time they've been officially available for home use, while for others, it's the first time in physical form.

Afterwards, when the PR rep for the above approached us regarding an interview with multiple Irem staff, you can imagine our enthusiasm. We were presented with a chart of 14 people, along with their roles on various games. Opportunities like this don't come often! The oldest game in the collection, Image Fight, is around 35 years old now; it is anachronistically impossible for the "Young Turks" writing in games media today, many in their early twenties, to have a contextual comprehension of the zeitgeist these games formed in. You had to be there. Irem are masters of the arcade craft, and we suspected others would just rehash the usual formulaic inquiries. So, we made it our mission to ask things no one else would. We're older at Time Extension, but we bring the hardcore questions and a lifetime of expertise.

Colleagues, however, and even the PR team, advised us to temper expectations. It took a few months but fortuitously, we ended up receiving over 3000 words worth of answers from seven of the listed staff, and they are incredible. The gambit of approaching as a cognoscenti impressed them, resulting in sincere replies. Rest assured, we're not wasting a single word.

Respondents were: Kazuma Kujo, Masahiko Ishida, Tomohiko Tanabe, Atsushi Kurooka, Meeher, Mitsuo Kodama, and Yoshinobu Oyama.

So insert seven credits and hold on to your joysticks, because we're about to shake the pillars of heaven.

Meet Our Interviewees

Including questions, there are eight separate voices here, plus side quotes, so we're dividing the feature into headered sections, with introductions, the main topics of conversation, followed by multiple interviewees clearly delineated. Some answers have been reformatted into self-contained essays; keep an eye on the BOLDED NAME preceding each so as not to conflate speakers. We've also tried to standardise the game titles, even though everyone (interviewer included) interchanged the Japanese and English frequently.

We'd actually interviewed Kazuma Kujo before, while in Tokyo, for The Untold History of Japanese Game Developers. Two topics were his being director on In The Hunt and chief planner on Metal Slug; it also led to our Making Of feature. This meeting was the culmination of years of searching for the people behind various Irem and Nazca pseudonyms, such as: Kawai, Meeher, Akio, Susumu, Tomo, Hamachan, et al.

Kujo admitted to knowing these figures, but declined disclosing their identities, speaking only regarding his own: "For several games, I am credited under my nickname. At that time, the vast majority of Japanese companies did not allow you to put your real name in the credits. Certainly for In The Hunt, because I was the director. I'm also in the credits for other games as planner. Tsumi-Nag, Kire-Nag, Tobi_Nag, these are my names! I was quite angry in my 20s; I was frustrated about my shortcomings as a developer. I think that's why I had nicknames like Oni or Kire. Oni is an ogre, or demon. Kire means anger, or it can mean snapping."

Given the endless mysteries when unravelling Japanese staff credits, we asked our PR contact for a photo of each Irem interviewee along with their real name, a brief bio, and what nicknames they used. As we explained, at the time, Irem did not credit staff, and over 30 years later, we still don't know who everyone is. While it wasn't possible to secure photos, we were supplied with full names and portfolios; with the exception of Meeher, who remains an enigma.

Make a mental note of these seven people, because the conversation gets busy later. Afterwards, we'll use just their surnames.

Kazuma KUJO: Chief producer and lead game designer at Granzella Inc.

Working at Irem, Nazca, and Irem Software Engineering, he formed Granzella in 2011. Representative works: Air Duel, In The Hunt, Metal Slug, Disaster Report series, Steambot Chronicles, R-Type Delta, R-Type Final series, R-Type Tactics series. His latest game, R-Type Final 3 Evolved, released in 2023.

Masahiko ISHIDA: Worked at Irem as a sound producer and composer on Image Fight, Mr. Heli, X Multiply, and others. Regarding names, Ishida said: "My nicknames in the staff rolls or score ranking were M.ISHIDA, OH!G.I. and GEEO."

Tomohiko TANABE: Worked as an artist at Irem on titles like Mr. Heli, Image Fight, and Dragon Breed. Regarding names, Tanabe said: "At the time, I was credited as 'NABE'. I'm not involved with game development anymore though."

Atsushi KUROOKA: Worked at Irem as a programmer on Geo Storm / Gun Force II before leaving to join Nazca and work on Metal Slug. Currently works at Platinum Games as an outsourcing manager. Regarding names Kurooka says: "I didn't have a nickname."

MEEHER: Worked as a game designer at Irem on Undercover Cops, Gun Force II, and others, before leaving to join Nazca and work on Metal Slug. Currently working with Kohachi Studio on Jet Finger Black.

Mitsuo KODAMA: Worked as an artist at Irem on Air Duel before leaving to join SNK where he directed The King of the Fighters 94. Enormous portfolio; other titles include Ghost Pilots, Last Resort, Strikers 1945, Tengai, and Sol Divide. Currently runs the games developer K2 Co., which he founded in 2000. Regarding nicknames, Kodama said: "Some of my colleagues called me the 'dark lord of perverts' <laughs>"

Yoshinobu OYAMA: Worked as a game designer at Irem on Image Fight II and R-Type Complete CD. Currently works as a manager and game designer at WitOne. Oyama said his nickname was sometimes "Yamashi".

Continue Systems: Respawn Versus Checkpoint

In action-focused games, not just shmups, there are two styles of continue system. There's the checkpoint system (Japanese: 戻り復活), where dying restarts you at predetermined entry points, either the start of a level or checkpoints within. And there's the respawn system (Japanese: その場復活), where after death you rematerialise on the spot with temporary invincibility. (In our questions, we used the Japanese terms for accuracy.)

Something interesting we noticed is that in the announced Irem Collections, Volume 1 is exclusively checkpoint games: Image Fight, Image Fight II, and X Multiply. Whereas Volume 2 are all respawn games: Air Duel, Gun Force, and Gun Force II. Volume 3, meanwhile, is a mix of both, with Dragon Breed and Mr. Heli using checkpoints, and Mystic Riders allowing respawns.

Given Irem's enormous portfolio of games, it isn't surprising it explored both styles of continue system (in some instances combining them into a single game). Not all the interviewees worked on all the games mentioned above, but they are all veterans from the golden age of arcades, and each would have witnessed both systems when working on their own titles. This is an important and nuanced concept rooted in the heart of game mechanics and ludological study. It is "games design" in its purest form, unencumbered by the methodologies that modern games have since borrowed from other mediums - there is no three-act narrative structure to consider, no requirement for believable characterisation, no lootcrates, no NFTs, no reflection of changing societal norms. To contemplate the continue system is to know raw gameplay itself.

So we asked:

  • What are the benefits and negatives of each?
  • Which do you prefer?
  • How do you balance the difficulty?

KUJO: Games which can be played by two players at the same time used respawn. Single-player games used the checkpoint system. Back then, checkpoints were the go-to system, but for two-player games, even if one player dies, the other could still be playing, so respawning was the only option. However, some games, such as Irem's shooting game Thunder Blaster, had checkpoints in single play, and respawning when there were two players.

OYAMA: Checkpoint systems can be used to boost scores by deliberately killing yourself in the most efficient places for scoring and sacrificing remaining lives for additional points. It's almost like a game of "tsume shogi", where the player is placed in a position where they need to achieve checkmate, but there are very few correct routes to doing this. If the difficulty is too high, the player may not be able to progress.

Respawns allow players to proceed while making mistakes if they have enough leftover lives, so they don't need to think too much about strategy, and are left without a desire to go back once they've finished the game. For arcade players who just want to see the ending, I think this method is the best. It's also a better income earner for a game with co-operative play.

Personally, I prefer checkpoints.

For arcade games, whether using respawning or checkpoints, stages are divided into several sections, within which enemy placement, enemy toughness, attack methods, and so on, are adjusted in order to increase the difficulty as the game progresses, dependent on whether a player is proceeding without dying, or powering up.

For many console games, you can choose Easy, Normal, or Hard at the beginning, and the difficulty level is fixed. Image Fight II for example was fixed.

With checkpoints, recovery is easy because the difficulty is lowered, but you have to thoroughly play-test and adjust that difficulty to make sure revival really is possible.

With respawning, if you die on a boss, the boss' hit points and attacks stay the same and the difficulty level remains high, leaving the player to use their invincibility to point-blank the boss or use bombs to defeat it, which is a tedious process.

MEEHER: The advantage of checkpoints is the developer can decide on when and where enemies appear, to provide an optimally-curated play-experience. In addition, it allows for a more game-like setting and can heighten playability by readjusting power-ups when respawning, and by removing the player's ability to brute force their way through tough spots with temporary invincibility. It gives players a sense of achievement when they go back a little and repeat the same section. The player can get the satisfaction of "solving the puzzle" intended in the game design through observing a pattern to recover from a respawn. The player gets a chance to prepare themselves and their equipment / power-ups etc., and reattempt the challenge even if they fail once. The only way to see the whole game is to finish it, which maintains the interest of players who are particular about finishing games.

The disadvantage of checkpoints is the difficulty in making it compatible with simultaneous multiplayer games; games which use this system are less profitable than those with multiplayer capability. Also the gameplay stops and starts, leading to a drop in player engagement which can lead to a player walking away from the arcade machine. Some players give up if they get stuck at the same point unable to progress after a few tries.

The advantage of respawning is that it works well with simultaneous multiplayer games. Combined with multiplayer, the game can earn several play sessions worth of credits in the equivalent of a single sitting. Players get to see a little further into the game. It's easier to design a game where player excitement and engagement is retained.

The disadvantage of respawning is that it creates unintentionally "rough edges" to the game design, where players can take advantage of invincibility during respawn to brute force their way through the game.

As for my personal preference... There is no one-size-fits-all answer, but for me, the issue is whether the system makes sense in terms of the game design.

As for balancing the difficulty of each system...

Checkpoints: Pay attention to allowing the player to recover comfortably from checkpoints without any of their power-ups / abilities etc. In some cases, enemy placement and difficulty level may change depending on whether the player is at the checkpoint in their initial state or in a powered-up state.

Respawning: As the game continues, even if the player dies with a life remaining, enemy placement and difficulty needs to take this into consideration. Care should be taken to ensure that the moment of respawn is both dynamic and dramatic.

Irem's Distinct Pixel-Art Styles

Glancing around these pages should prove that Irem's pixel artists were some of the best in the industry.

Whether it was the mechanical designs of R-Type, biological horror of X Multiply, or the decayed ruins of the company's various post-apocalyptic games, the visuals were never less than gorgeous. In fact, that post-apocalyptic style is so distinctive Hardcore Gaming 101 dedicated an entire feature to it. These exquisite art styles of Irem remind us of Japanese artist Naoyuki Kato (加藤直之); readers may recognise him as the artist for the Japanese cover of The Guardian Legend. He was also commissioned to produce the cover for computer releases of R-Type!

Given that such skill with low-res pixels has become scarce in today's age of polygons and ultra-high resolutions, we wanted to know about the artists at Irem. Their methods, their tools, their inspirations. We asked if Kato or any other artists influenced them. How did they master those tiny coloured squares of CRT light? The response was heartfelt, even if it did maintain the mystery of staff identities.

TANABE: When I joined Irem, the arcade development division's art team was led by K-san; and there was S-san, Mr. Heli's designer; and O-san, who was responsible for R-Type.

K-san specialized in highly detailed, smooth animation drawn using delicate colours, represented in games like Vigilante.

S-san was good at drawing comical, pop-style characters like Mr. Heli, but also adept at sharp, angular machines like those in Image Fight.

O-san, known as AKIO, was well-known as the artist behind R-Type, but I recall that he only started being able to draw machines like the ones he does now, with that dull glowing look, after he learnt how to create pixel art using a computer. R-Type's art was created by drawing on "pixel-art paper", then converting those pixels into data to be entered into a computer, followed by adjusting the colours of the palette.

Many artists who joined Irem after me were influenced by AKIO, and I think that's where the image of Irem's art comes from when you think of the company.

Sekaikan Discussions

Sekaikan is an interesting Japanese term, usually translated as worldview or sometimes lore. But it's a little more nuanced than that and can include aspects of a game not visible to players; in some ways, it's almost a passive form of storytelling, informing the narrative, visuals, audio, and mechanics of a game. Or even other media, for that matter.

The fictional language in Panzer Dragoon is sekaikan; the regional currencies in Odin Sphere, which affect your buying, is sekaikan; seeing Chun-Li and Guile in Final Fight is sekaikan, revealing they exist in the same universe. The xenomorph skull in the Predator 2 movie is the same, as are Namco's Dig Dug, Baraduke, and Mr Driller connections. It all falls under "sekaikan".

When considering the notion of sekaikan as flexible, multi-faceted, and holistic, it brings up all sorts of fascinating examples in Irem's portfolio, plus plenty of "could it be?" mysteries. It would seem many of Irem's games exist in the universe, and possibly also the same universe as games by other companies.

An obvious one is the criminal D.A.S. organisation, found in Irem's Air Duel, Undercover Cops, In The Hunt, and Gun Force II. As described by the Metal Slug wiki: "The games revolve around a post-apocalyptic Earth caused by D.A.S., the Dark Anarchy Society (Destruction and Satsujin in Japanese), who flooded the planet by melting the ice caps, using the destruction to reign supreme. All four games focus on stopping a subsection of D.A.S. from preventing further harm."

There are other potential examples, though, which are not so overt. So we had to ask: which of Irem's games actually existed in the same universe? How did the staff agree on what would be shared? And if not officially stated, did they believe in their hearts, perhaps secretly, that certain games inhabited the same places? We sent examples that caught our eye, including side-by-side comparison images to make identification easier.

For example there's a battleship in Image Fight which seems to resemble the giant warship in R-Type, almost as if both were made in the same alien factory. Plus, the overhead sunken city in Air Duel looks like it could be the same location as the city from In The Hunt. Not to mention this city in Air Duel also looks a lot like the one in Last Resort by SNK - an enticing possibility given that Mitsuo Kodama did the art for both. In fact, Kodama's art also has some striking similarities to Akira and the art of Katsuhiro Otomo.

We asked Kodama about this specifically, and also if he feels Air Duel and Last Resort exist in the same universe; he confirmed the Otomo influence, though he was cryptic regarding the shared worldview. All of the replies, though, were fascinating and should give you ample material for updating those fan-wikis!

KODAMA: You assume correctly; I am a huge Katsuhiro Otomo fan. I handled the art for the sunken city in Air Duel and I referenced the film Akira. I intended for Air Duel to have an image of decadence and decay, and Last Resort's be more modern.

KUJO: I think R-Type and Image Fight's respective battleships are simply common enemy elements in the two games, rather than something suggesting a common worldview. As for the sunken cities in Air Duel and In The Hunt, I was involved in the development of both games, and can say that their similar appearances are coincidental. The fact the backgrounds look similar is a coincidence resulting from our aspirations during development. With regards to the D.A.S. series, the game creators involved in the projects used that name for the enemy organisation for fun. It's not a corporate or studio strategy, it's just the kindred spirit of fun shared between the people who made those games.

TANABE: Image Fight was a totally separate game in terms of worldview, sharing nothing with other titles apart from Image Fight II. The example shown of the giant battleship from R-Type and the mid-sized battleship from Image Fight is an unrelated coincidence whose colour schemes are similar. In later games like R-Type Final, and so on, the ships from Image Fight and Mr. Heli make appearances, but I'm of the opinion that this is down to fan service, rather than these games sharing a world or setting -of course, the creators of those games may think differently. It's just like in Image Fight II where you can use Mr. Heli and Gen-san as your ship.

MEEHER: The enemy organization known as D.A.S. first appeared in Air Duel and was used numerous times in subsequent games. This was an intentional attempt to add depth to the worlds and stories of Irem's games at the time. As an organization, D.A.S. is huge, with a long history, and thus varies widely from one game to another. One relatively well-known element is that Zan Takahara, one of the main characters in Undercover Cops, and Jin Takahara, the 2P-side captain of In The Hunt, are brothers.

The Role Of Stories In 2D Shmups

Of all the games announced so far, Image Fight II on PC Engine CD-ROM is sort of the odd one out. Sure, it's the sequel to Image Fight in arcades, which had home ports, but it's the only title as yet which was developed specifically for home use. It also places far greater importance on story - not the passive kind of story conveyed via sekaikan, which we've discussed, but a structured narrative with fully voiced cinematics.

Which is interesting, because shmups, as a genre, tend to eschew stories in favour of mechanics. Full disclosure: while your author for this piece will always champion mechanics over story, since games are unique in their interactivity compared to books or film, a good story in a shmup can elevate it to something majestic. Early shmups didn't need them, and it's doubtful the antiquated technology could convey them. But over time, we started to see more emphasis on stories, resulting in a diverse selection of games, from the erotic such as Steam Hearts, to timeless classics like Radiant Silvergun, and in recent years, the experimental like Sine Mora. Not everyone wants a story, though, as evidenced by the popularity of Cave's various danmaku entries.

Fascinated by this genre evolution, Image Fight II presented a great opportunity, since it came out roughly seven months after a similar title, Spriggan Mark 2. Both were 2D shmups for the PC Engine CD-ROM, both were sequels, both had a heavy emphasis on story, including voiced dialogue, and both allowed players to disable the story segments entirely. When interviewing the creator of Spriggan Mark 2, Yuichi Toyama, for The Untold History of Japanese Game Developers, we asked about this.

"My motivation goes back to my love for anime series like Gundam," explained Toyama, "I loved the battle animation in those series, and the prospect of delivering an interactive version is what excites me most about this genre. That's why I wanted characters with backstories. Lots of other shooting-game developers were thinking the same thing; Assault Suit Leynos was another example. At the time, some people felt that animated cutscenes got in the way of a game. So I decided to give the player three options: see everything, just see the text, or see nothing. One of the strengths of games is their interactivity, but one of the downsides is you can't fast forward through the story the way you could with a movie. So I wanted to give as many options to the player as possible in terms of how they experience the game."

Naturally, similar questions were asked of the Irem staff. While the PlayStation and Saturn would both launch on the strength of arcade ports, and arcade games would maintain relevance up to the Dreamcast, these two console shmups in 1992 were perhaps tentatively signposting the gradual shift in attitudes which had begun - not just stories in games, but the growth of consoles over arcades as technology improved and CDs offered cheaper media. Instead of arcades being the lead platform for shmups, unmatched in power, it was now console owners being catered to. Thus, we had to know, what were the views and motivations at Irem when crafting Image Fight II?

TANABE: For an arcade game of the time, Image Fight was instilled with a strong narrative approach, and when it was decided that the second game would be produced on a high-capacity CD-ROM platform, it was a natural progression to push this approach further. With regards to the option to turn the story parts off, this was a pretty common feature of games at the time. I also recall that because the loading speed of the CD-ROM wasn't great the story parts interrupted the tempo of the game. There was the belief there'd probably be players who'd want to skip the sequences after finishing the game once - so that was another reason we added that option. And it's also true that some core players of this genre are against such story elements, so in the end, we left it up to the player's preference.

OYAMA: The option was there because I thought that many people who liked the arcade version of Image Fight would think the story elements, which were a popular part of CD-ROM games at the time, were unnecessary; and also to remove the need to skip the sequences for players who'd already seen them. As a console game, we added a pod-shoot button, saving of high-scores, and a continue function.

X Multiply Discussions

For X Multiply, we only had one staff member available, the composer Masahiko Ishida; he also composed for Image Fight and R-Type II. This means anything unrelated to the audio would only be what he witnessed in the office, working alongside the game's artists, designers, and management.

For anyone who hasn't played it, X Multiply is a masterpiece among 2D hori-shmups. Developed alongside R-Type II, both titles came out in the summer of 1989; in many ways, though, X Multiply is the more interesting of the two. Its biological theme allowed more unusual stages, while its twin-tentacle weapon system offered greater strategy than R-Type's Force pod or Gradius' Option modules. It could act as both a defensive shield and, with a little careful manoeuvring, a weapon that conveyed constant damage. The fact X Multiply didn't become better known is a sad mystery.

Ultimately, we focused on asking Ishida what his strongest memories were at the time, if he had any anecdotes, and how he approached composing music for a game with such a strong biological theme.

ISHIDA: On an entirely personal note, I was working on the sound for X Multiply alongside R-Type II. Both are side-scrolling shooting games with a similar sense of speed, so I wanted to create a marked difference between the two compositions, but I don't think I was entirely successful.

The vague images I had in mind for the games were an organic, pulsating, and dynamic one for X Multiply, and for R-Type II it was inorganic, desolate, and that of moving through decay.

Of course, in creating the music, not to mention the sound effects, for both games, I needed to differentiate the two, but this was far from easy. Some tracks I made for R-Type II seemed a better fit for X Multiply, so I switched them around, and vice versa. Proceeding this way everything went in a very rational way until midway through the two projects.

I wasn't really consciously tackling it from a "biological worldview", I just wanted to interpret the worldview and the sense of speed that I felt from the game, in my own way, and make it as thrilling as possible, but I don't think that I really managed that. I'm sure I could do a better job of it now. <laughs>

I'm really fond of the track for the first stage in X Multiply. It feels like a Power Rangers / sentai-style track, like maybe the Ultra Guard will make an appearance.

Geo Storm / Gun Force II Discussions

Each of the collections announced so far contain at least one timeless classic that justifies the purchase. For our money, this applies especially to Gun Force II. While many describe it as the precursor to Metal Slug, implying that Metal Slug was an evolution and improvement on Gun Force II, we firmly believe that the former is better than the latter. We adore Metal Slug at Time Extension, but hear us out...

Geo Storm / Gun Storm 2
Image: Irem

Gun Force II is fantastic, and actually plays more similarly to Treasure's Gunstar Heroes than it does Metal Slug - there's tremendous kinetic energy and swagger in absolutely everything. Firstly, you duel wield your weapons; there are no grenades, but there's a wide selection of sci-fi weapons which can be paired with a standard machine gun. This pair can be aimed in any direction, including diagonally, which is something Metal Slug doesn't allow. You can also cling to most surfaces: walls, ceilings, fences, vertical chains, horizontal lines, you name it. While hanging from these, you can again aim in any direction.

Metal Slug gave you the eponymous tank to ride, while Gun Force II has a multitude of outlandish vehicles, including a miniature Gundam-style robot in the vertical stage! Each of the game's five stages is crammed with more action than a Schwarzenegger film marathon and is backed by a relentless heavy-metal soundtrack.

Gun Force II should have attained critical acclaim, but problems at Irem meant its potential wasn't reached. The company basically ceased operation. As you'll see below, it technically wasn't even finished, and we're lucky to have received anything at all. Which is why some of the stages seem disjointed and segue together oddly. The first Metal Slug, meanwhile, was completed and received solid home ports and sequels; eventually the series would build the same crazy energy as Gun Force II, but it took a while.

Hopefully, we've made a solid case for Gun Force II. It's also why we dedicated three of our questions to it.

TIME EXTENSION: When released in 1994, arcades were experiencing the winds of change, with new 3D titles. Please share your thoughts on this evolution and the challenges faced.

KUROOKA: As you say, at the time, Sega was releasing Virtua Fighter, but the best that Irem's arcade boards could manage was 2D scaling, with sprites (map chips) still being the main method of visual expression. Having said that, many triple-A titles on high-end consoles are currently using real-world photorealistic visual expressions. However, I don't believe this correlates directly to the gameplay or fun of a game, it's simply that there are increasingly more options available for visual expression.

TIME EXTENSION: Is it true Gun Force II was originally going to allow four simultaneous players?

KUROOKA: I forget, but I think that was the plan. I remember coding the name input for players joining in the middle of the game, at the top of the screen. We called this area, which displayed the scores and everything else, the "cockpit". And I might have made a layout for four players at the time...

MEEHER: Yes. It was mainly designed that way with the overseas market in mind, and the rank promotions between stages were intended to promote competition amongst four players. Unfortunately there were numerous issues, including slowdown and freezes.

TIME EXTENSION: The game is a masterpiece, but we know so little, especially given it was at the end of Irem's first incarnation and the company's final arcade game. Please describe development. Any anecdotes?

KUROOKA: Firstly, it's important to note that Gun Force II was not completed. This is because part way through development, Irem's Osaka development studio was shuttered. So, my strongest memory is that while the other project staff stopped coming into work so they could look for new jobs, I worked with Meeher from the game design department to connect the five stages that were already done, so they looped and the game would at least be in a condition where it could be released. That's why there's no ending.

MEEHER: The voice played when the female prisoners are rescued was the voice of the male sound creator of the game. The 3D logo rising up from the ground on the title screen was first created using 3DCG, which was at the time advanced technology, then rendered as pixel art in the game. Part of the game's scenario / worldview is that the female player character is an artificial human / android named Apple, whose body can be a source of sustenance for humans in times of emergency, and it is theorised that her name comes from the taste.

Closing Thoughts

Finally, we asked our interviewees if they wished to add any comments or closing thoughts.

KUROOKA: There's a lot of ex-Irem staff working in the games industry. Irem left a legacy of masterpieces and I feel both lucky and proud that I was able to begin my career at such a company.

MEEHER: I always kept in mind the word "novelty", rather than simply imitating genres popularised by our competitors, incorporating original ideas into my game development.

And that concludes our roundtable discussion with the Irem seven. Many thanks to Derek Reeve for all his hard work as point of contact on this epic feature (including on weekends!).

John Szczepaniak is an internationally published author who interviews developers and documents the history of games. His latest book, The Untold History of Game Developers: Volume 5, is available on Amazon.

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