from the Official US Playstation Magazine, Issue 55
Thanks to John Calano for typing this article up and posting it to the TTA-Fanfic Mailing List. Go visit his page at http://www.fortunecity.com/westwood/wax/329/
Mention the name Treasure to any hardcore gamer and it's likely that his or her eyes will suddenly widen with eager interest. You see, Treasure is a small Japanese developer that has continually produced some of gaming's most unique and addictive titles, yet for some reason or another those games have rarely achieved much commercial success. Whether it's the fact the many of its games feature extremely unconventional designs, or that these titles have often been poorly promited here, Treasure just hasn't been able to enjoy the widespread acclaim that it really deserves.
But that's all likely to change soon. For the first time ever in the company's history, Treasure is working on a game based on a commercial liable franchise: Warner Bros.'s Tiny Toons. And considering that the popular cable network Nickelodeon recently picked up the show and is putting a major push behind it (with even a rumored new episode in the works), the timing couldn't be better. With its new title Tiny Toon Adventures: Defenders of the Loonyverse, Treasure may finally be catapulted into the mainstream spotlight. But not that it would much care.
You see, Treasure doesn't particularly want attention. Even though it's Shinkuku, Tokyo, offices house some of the finest programming talent around, you'll never see its developers grabbing the spotlight as you would with, say, Sega's Yu Suzuki or Konami's Hideo Kojima. They just don't about it. Making good games - and more important, games that they think are cool - are what's foremost on their minds.
"But then why do a game based on Tiny Toons?" you might ask. Simple. Treasure loves Tiny Toons. In fact, some of the Treasure staff actually worked on Konami's Tiny Toons titles for the Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo back in the day. "The topic of Treasure creating a Tiny Toons Adventures game just kind of popped up when we were discussing potential future projects," says producer Dan Jevons of Conspiracy Entertainment, which had previously worked with Treasure on localizing Stretch Panic. "They liked the show, we had the license, and they had a great came concept that perfectly fit the license." So in the winter of 2000, Treasure started work on Defenders of the Loonyverse.
From day one, the main objective was to come up with something that was all about pure and simple fun - you know, along the lines of a Bomberman or the Gamecube's Super Smash Bros. Simple, yet addictive gameplay was key. Interestingly, Treasure used a PS one game that it previously created but was never released in the U.S. as a model for Defenders of the Loonyverse. "The control and basic gameplay are an evolution of Rakugaki Showtime," says Jevons. "Combat is achieved mostly through the mechanic of throwing objects at each other, though there are a few projectile weapons and melee attacks too." The gameplay, though, is straightforward thanks to the use of auto-lock and homing functions. "It's a 3D game, but Treasure has kept the feeling of 2D control." Jevons enthuses.
Treasure also wanted four-player support right from the start. "Three's company, but four's a party," says Jevons. In addition to arena-style modes where four players can battle it out, Treasure added a story mode that allows four buddies to cooperate simultaneously, battling enemies and bosses in huge environments.
But besides the fun gameplay, one of the biggest feats of Defenders of the Loonyverse is just how well Treasure has managed to capture the look and feel of the animated show. "Treasure actually didn't want to go for the cel-shaded look, and that was fine with us," Jevons admits. "They are using some subtle directional shading on the characters to create the game's unique style. It's simple but very effective." Unfortunately, the early shots of the game here don't show off how it looks in its most current state - and they certainly can't demonstrate how greatly animated the characters are. It literally looks like an interactive cartoon.
Treasure has also done an admirable job of re-creating the animated show's sly wittiness. Just like on TV, many of the jokes are clearly aimed toward the older folks, not just the kids. The story is actually a parody of a number of different popular fantasy, sci-fi, war and action movies. Montana's Drizzle Trooper henchmen, for example, all look like super-deformed Stormtroopers, and as you progress through the game you'll run across all sorts of other references to other movies, including Saving Private Ryan, The Mummy and Indiana Jones.
But as with any game that's based on a popular license, there's always that worry of putting too much pressure on the developer to adhere to strict guidelines for using the source material. That wasn't the case here. "Believe it or not, our contacts at Warner Bros. are also big Treasure fans," Jevons reveals. "They, like us, trusted Treasure enough to let them create the game they wanted to create." And from what we've seen so far, it really does look like Treasure is doing what it does best: making a fun game. But this time, with popular characters.
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