I said it in my look at the first North American 3DS ‘Classics’: adding 3D to some of these classic titles is going to be very difficult if you’re trying to add something useful to the game. Now the 3D in Excitebike, and as I’ve read in Xevious, doesn’t change the game to a massive degree, but it does add enough to the game that it’s fun, especially if you were a fan of the game in years gone by. The nostalgia added to the ‘cool’ factor made it worth a purchase and some retro/future fun. Given the fact that there have only been 2 released, I had assumed that there was either an incredibly small team working on it, or it was quite a late idea. Speaking in the latest ‘Iwata Asks’, where Nintendo boss Iwata does long-form interviews with various developers, it was revealed they actually started a couple years ago.
“Yeah. We started toward the end of 2009, so we’ve been working on it for a while.” said Nakano, leader of the 3D Classics team
And the first game, motivated in large part because they wanted to see the ship floating above the ground, was the scrolling shooter Xevious. But, it wasn’t nearly as easy as they had assumed.
“In the original version, the game unfolds on a flat surface. The moment we made Solvalou float in midair, all sorts of discrepancies arose.
For example, when an enemy on the ground fired at Solvalou in the original, everything was on the same plane, so it didn’t seem unusual if the bomb appeared at the same altitude as Solvalou the moment it was fired and then hit Solvalou right away.
But with the Nintendo 3DS system, Solvalou is floating in midair. If the bomb suddenly appears – zhing! – at the same altitude as Solvalou… We were like, “Huh? Something doesn’t feel right!” (laughs) Everything was off!” he said
“The actual game was made in 2D, so the bombs strike Solvalou the moment they’re fired. But for the Nintendo 3DS system, we had to create an interval between when they are fired and when they strike. There were all kinds of discrepancies like that. It was a big challenge making something that would satisfy fans of the original and provide a fresh surprise on the Nintendo 3DS system.”
So it wasn’t that easy. Turns out they did on the order of 20 times the work that a normal port would have taken. Akira (another developer) actually redid the graphics and coding from scratch, for an old NES game! But of course, that wasn’t all. What about a game like Tennis for the NES that used forced perspective and clever programming to imitated a 3D environment?
The tennis court originally in the background had perspective, so I thought we could simply shift it to 3D. But we had originally created that screen to have a three-dimensional effect in 2D, so in real 3D imaging, it wasn’t very surprising. I thought, “That’s totally normal!
And a programming problem arose after changing the collision detection for the ball and racket from a plane to a 3D field. It took as much work as making a tennis game from scratch. If there would be the surprise of seeing it become 3D, we might want to make it, but we had to conclude that the resultant value would not be worth our hard work, so we scrapped it.”
Thinking about it in hindsight, it makes perfect sense. They did their best to trick out minds into thinking we were looking at 3D, and the way it worked causes real problems when you try and translate it into 3 dimensions. I had hoped that they were much more clever than I was, and that we would be seeing quite a large line of 3D Classics, because of how impressed I was with Excitebike. Turns out we’re getting 6. That’s it. Not that I blame them, but you’d have thought they would have seen it coming, no?