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Interview with BC Rearmed Director, Part 2Vote Now!

Gearoid Reidy, Saturday 26-01-2008, 14:40:23

Part 2 of our interview with the Director of Bionic Commando Rearmed (and the Sound Director of Bionic Commando), Simon Viklund.

You can read Part 1 of the interview here.

Q: Who is your favorite game creator?

Keiji Inafune, on the sole basis that he created Mega Man. The first three Mega Man games are just flawless. Of course Shigeru Miyamoto needs to be mentioned as well - I played Super Mario Bros. 3 a lot, but the fact is that I never played Zelda 1 or 2 that much back in the day. To me, Miyamoto's genius has become apparent to me much later, as the Mario and Zelda franchises evolved. Today, I buy and play and games - for consoles or handhelds - that spring from these franchises.

Q: How do you find time to balance both of your roles in the BC project?

I alone was responsible for the sound design in the prototype of Bionic Commando that secured the full production of the title, but once Rearmed started rolling I hand-picked two new sound designer recruits for next-gen Bionic Commando to allow me to fully focus on Rearmed. Initially, I made sure I was available to show them the ropes of the tools and steer them in the right general direction as far as Grin's sound philosophy goes, but they quickly became independent and now they only rarely come and ask me for my input in certain issues. They do an excellent job, which is good because Rearmed is currently taking all my time. When Rearmed is released I will go back to next-gen Bionic Commando and once again be more hands-on when it comes to the sound design of that game.

Q: Some people say 2D is dead. After spending time remaking a 2D classic do you think that 2D is no longer important?

Showing a third dimension demands more from the hardware, but does that mean that we should drop the concept of 2D games once the hardware can handle more than that? I say no. These days I'm having more fun playing Mega Man ZX and Zelda: The Phantom Hourglass than I have with most "next-gen" games, and I thank higher powers that the DS can't handle 3D very well or the situation most certainly would have been different.

I think that 3D is overrated because most gamers fail to realize that 3D games are still 2D games only prettier. Metroid Prime: Corruption with its point-and-shoot aim system is basically a beautiful shooting gallery - most of the action can still be interpreted as a 2D plane where faraway targets are really just small targets. That being said, I'm not one of those people who thinks we should stop making 3D games and go back to 2D completely. I just think that a 2D game can still be just as fun as a 3D game - another dimension is never an insurance of a good gaming experience.

Q: Remakes are something we're starting to see more and more of in the games industry, for example Square Enix's Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest remakes on DS. Do you think this is a good trend for the games industry?

The game medium is so young that I have a hard time understanding why we need to start looking back like this already, but then on second thought I realize that the games industry has evolved so quickly that we are now at the point where gamers expect more evolution than the industry can provide - so we look back because nostalgia can fill that void. Games get prettier every year, but the basic concepts and mechanics of games are still evolving very very slowly. Wolfenstein and Doom revolutionized the industry, and gave birth to the FPS genre. Nothing much happened within that genre (ten weapons, red, blue and yellow key card, stupid AI) until 1998 when Half Life was released: The pacing, story telling and general atmosphere of that game was really something new. Half Life 2? Still the same game, only prettier - and if I may say so quite overrated.

I think many of us who grew up in the toddler age of gaming are becoming frustrated with the superficial aspect of the industry, where many games seem to sell on graphics alone. We remember a time when games couldn't survive on pretty graphics because graphics simply couldn't be pretty - a time when gameplay was king. These old games are worth revisiting, these are the games we want to show our children, and these are the games that game creators of today need to be reminded of - which is why I indeed think that this is a good trend for the industry.

Q: If you could remake any old Capcom game in 2D, what game would that be?

Simon: Oh, I'd love to do Mega Man 2 or 3, but with that package comes even more of the nostalgia aspect than what we've had to deal with in Rearmed. There are just so many fans that one could possibly piss off when revisiting these games that the task becomes almost too intimidating. Another one of my Capcom favorites - one that would be a "safer" choice - is Gun Smoke. I think it's a tie between these. Mega Man 2 or 3 would be the greatest honor but the hardest to get right, while I think Gun Smoke would allow more creative freedom. Tough choice.

Q: What is your favorite piece of non-Bionic Commando games music? Are there any game music composers you particularly respect?

Hands-down the music of Mega Man 2 and 3 - and if I had to pick one song that would be Magnet Man from MM3. No, Metal Man from MM2. No, Crash Man. No, Dr Wily's first level. Ugh, don't force me to rank my loved ones, haha. I used to put my cassette recorder in front of the TV to record the music off of these games so I could listen to it even when I wasn't playing. What I said about old games not being able to survive on pretty graphics and gameplay being king - the same goes for the music in these old games. Without the ability to imitate real instruments or process effects, the scores of these games had to survive purely on great melodies and harmonies. Melody was king. The untrained ear would dismiss these tunes as "beep sounds", but these are the works of geniuses! Once you start dissecting the music you can tell they are really talented composers - these old tunes are complicated musical scores!

Also, the attitude and feeling these guys could convey through four channels (shared with the sound effects of the game, I might add) of assorted beep and white noise sounds alone is simply amazing, and something that many composers today - me included - can only dream of. Capcom games in general had great music - Gun Smoke and Bionic Commando of course come to mind. Konami was another company that has many titles with great music - for example the Castlevania games and Life Force. Koji Kondo's work is of course legendary, that goes without saying.

Q: Why did you decide to choose a techno style of music for the game?

Simon: If you take the music of the original game and listen to it as a part of a context - the military concept - you realize right away that the drum beat is supposed to be a military snare drum and that the melodies are supposed to be played by symphonic instruments. This is how the music has been interpreted in the next-gen Bionic Commando, but for Rearmed we wanted to treat the music in another way. With the original music being made up of beep sounds and white noise "drums", techno is really the musical genre that is closest to the original if you listen to the music purely on a mix/production level. I listen a lot to bands such as Crystal Method myself so I brought that influence into it - and it fits perfectly with the feeling of the game.

I think the next-gen Bionic Commando and Rearmed scores complement each other and are both faithful to the original tunes, providing their own unique interpretation and homage to the musical heritage of Bionic Commando. Then of course there's always the original tunes that one can still listen to if neither orchestral music nor electronica gets your juices flowing.

Q: Who would win in a battle between Nathan "R.A.D." Spencer and Megaman?

That depends on if Mega Man only has the mega buster or if he is allowed to use the Elec Man upgrade. Everybody knows that whatever you put in front of the Elec Beam is smeared across the walls in an instant. No offence Spencer, but in spite of your pendant, bullet proof vest and helmet, you would still have nothing on that.

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