Talking preservation and Assault Suit Valken with Masanori Yagi from M2

Polishing up an old mecha

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With the impending release of Rainmaker Productions’ port of Assault Suit Valken: Declassified, I got the opportunity to talk with the development director of the project, Masanori Yagi, at the legendary developer M2. M2 has been in the porting business since 1993’s Gauntlet IV for the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive. Since then it has grown to be one of the most respected developers for porting games to new hardware.

Rainmaker Productions approached M2 to port Assault Suit Valken to modern consoles with the purpose of providing a version that was re-translated and uncensored. In 1993, The North American version was published by Konami for the SNES as Cybernator. While the game itself was largely unchanged, character portraits were removed, text was cut, and a rather grisly ending scene was omitted entirely.

Assault Suit Valken Declassified M2 Interview
Screenshot by Destructoid

Sick days

As the development director, Yagi-san describes that “My main duty is to set the direction of the game, create the specifications and then manage the development team to bring the game to completion based on these specifications.” He notes that this includes collecting information on the original game, consulting with the creative director at Rainmaker, Ollie Barder, and “examining additional elements for playing the game on modern consoles.”

However, he also notes “I fell ill in the middle of development this time, so I had to leave the practical side of things to another member of the team who came in to help me and kept an eye on the situation. We believe that we have created a product that can satisfy our users, and this is entirely due to the efforts of Rainmaker Productions and our development staff. On the other hand, if there are any shortcomings, it will be entirely my fault.”


Assault Suit Valken Declassified Explosion M2 Interview
Screenshot by Destructoid

Accumulated experience

M2 is considered to be the leading authority on emulation and console porting. Over its history, it has notably worked with Sega and Konami to bring their games to the modern era. Compilations like the Castlevania Anniversary Collection and even the Sega Genesis and Turbografx-16 mini consoles were handled by them.

When asked about why they’re so well respected, Yagi-san said, “I would say that the various experiences we have accumulated so far are the most important. Emulation requires the accumulation of information about the original platform. The knowledge we have accumulated through a significant amount of experience and research to date has been put to good use in this work and will also be the foundation for the future.”

While emulation has come a long way in providing software platforms for old hardware, M2 still strives to present the games it ports right down to the warts and eccentricities that a lot of people might not even notice. Part of this is because M2 does its best to incorporate people who worked on the original projects. “It is also important to enlist the help of people who are familiar with each game title. It is preferable to have someone on the development staff who is familiar with the game, but we often invite top players of the game to play the game before it is completed and point out in detail the differences with the original game.”

He went on to add, “But in the end, I think it all comes down to having a love for the game and not sparing any effort to convey that love.”

Assault Suit Valken Declassified Dropping colony
Screenshot by Destructoid

Over-seas influence

Rainmaker Productions approached M2 to handle the port of Assault Suit Valken. Here in North America, it is a bit of a niche title that was influential enough to inspire Metal Warriors but largely forgotten about today. According to Yagi-san, that wasn’t the case in Japan where it was much more popular.

“This game has established a reputation as a masterpiece of mecha action games from the time of its release and remains extremely popular to this day. Aside from the high level of action in the game, it is also an essential title for gamers who are fans of mecha animation in particular, due to the many respects it pays to classic mecha animation. I was just such a user myself (laughs).”

Assault Suit Valken Declassified Versis Landing
Screenshot by Destructoid

Porting for preservation

As high-profile digital marketplaces go offline and it becomes more difficult to play even the most influential games of yesteryear, game preservation has become an important topic of discussion. I’ve previously and repeatedly stated that I think every game, regardless of how bad or culturally insignificant they are, should be available for purchase and play at any time. However, I wondered what a port developer might think about the topic.

“I believe that each work, not just games, has a different value depending on the recipient,” Yagi-san imparted. “From that point of view, I would say that every game is worth porting. However, it is also true that there are various restrictions when it comes to actual porting. Therefore, it is inevitable that priority is given to works that are recognized by many people as valuable or epoch-making. In this context, we are always looking for opportunities to offer as diverse a range of games as possible in modern consoles.”

I pushed a little more and brought up console backward compatibility. Considering hardware maintaining its ability to play existing games would make port developers like M2 less necessary, I was curious to see what the response would be. I’m heartened to say that Yagi-san considers it ideal.

“Backward compatibility is a very important factor, from the standpoint that every game has some value, as mentioned above,” he said. “Ideally, the accumulated gaming culture should not become a thing of the past, but be maintained in a form that can always be played.”

Flashlight in darkness M2 Interview
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Tried and true

As I mentioned earlier, M2 is well respected when it comes to porting games to new hardware. Even competitors like Digital Eclipse consider them to be the gold standard. As Masanori Yagi has outlined, this comes from having a great deal of respect and familiarity with the medium. More than just being satisfied that a game runs in some state on modern hardware, they go the extra mile in ensuring that it behaves exactly as expected, warts and all. Then, time permitting, they usually stack a few twists on top of that.

M2’s tale is the stuff of game developer legend. Like many games, I often breathe a sigh of relief whenever I learn that they’re behind a particular port or collection. They always deliver, and Assault Suit Valken Declassified has proven to be no exception. I’m hoping this is not the last time that M2 and Rainmaker Productions will team up to bring us the definitive version of some classic titles.

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Zoey Handley
Staff Writer - Zoey is a gaming gadabout. She got her start blogging with the community in 2018 and hit the front page soon after. Normally found exploring indie experiments and retro libraries, she does her best to remain chronically uncool.