Saturday, December 11, 2010

Dezaemon Plus / Dezaemon+ on PSN デザエモン+

Recently released on the US PSN, this PS1 shmup creator allows you to create (almost) any kind of 2D you can imagine. There’s also a really handy guide to get you started.
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I want to apologise for using camera shots – while most other PS1 game saves can be taken from a PS3 and converted using MemcardRex 1.4, to work on emulators such as epsxe, for some reason Dezaemon’s won’t convert properly. The emulator recognises it, but when I tried to load the save data in the game’s ISO running on epsxe, it freezes. So I’m afraid you’ll either need it on PS3, or be able to place the data onto an actual PS1 memory card and run it on the actual hardware.
If anyone can fix this problem, so the save works on my PC, please let me know, since I’d like to take screens of my game for the upcoming HG101 article on the Dezaemon series. I’ve included an MCR file in the ZIP, so maybe someone else can get it loaded.

DOWNLOAD MY PRE-MADE GAME HERE.

As for Dezaemon Plus itself, it’s more of an update to the SNES iteration, rather than a full blown sequel. Several of the competition games bundled with Dezaemon appear to have actually been made using the SNES original. Although not as advanced as the later Saturn sequel (Dezaemon 2), this PS1 release is still pretty versatile, and a lot of fun. If you’ve ever used Mario Paint, all the tools will seem familiar. Released by Monkey Paw Games in its original Japanese form, they did go to the effort to post an instruction manual.guide on their website. After removing the superfluous stuff it prints off on about 6 pages of A4 paper.


TOOLS
The real flaw to Dezaemon is that it doesn’t support horizontal shmup creation by default, only vertical. Upon hearing this I immediately decided: I’m going to make a hori shmup using this vertical shmup creator! And I did, or at least the illusion of one.

The game allows for designing the graphics for all backgrounds, bullets, explosions, enemies, main craft, and power-ups. Basically everything. You can set where enemies appear, how they appear, the movement pattern they use (from 20), what kind of bullet patterns they fire (again, 20), the speed at which they move and fire, what they fire, and there’s also a neat special effect option where you can have them rotating, shrinking or expanding at different speeds. This is great if you want a tiny ship to balloon in size. Ships can be on the ground (background) or in the air (foreground), invincible or harmless, whatever you choose. You can also compose all the music.

The clever thing is, you can also make enemies spawn other enemies, which if you use a little ingenuity with, you can create ever more elaborate attack patters – hell, you could probably rig up a crude danmaku shooter if you wanted. You can even make your spawning enemies invisible and harmless, thereby making enemies spawn from them in creative places. Success lies in your imagination and using the tools in inventive ways, which is how I made a hori shooter. You get out what you put in, and while there are 10 pre-made shooters on the disc, the most fun will be found in creation.

Another slight gripe I have, is that while the game is supposed to support the PS1 mouse, I can’t get my PS3 to do this. Plugging a USB mouse in works for the dashboard, and I can even select Dezaemon from the menu, but once the game loads in PS1 mode the mouse stops working. I tried switching controllers via the Home button menu, to no avail. Does anyone have a solution for this? Do I needed a dedicated PS3 mouse? A PS1-to-USB adapter an original PS1 mouse? If you know, please let us know. Using a D-pad works, but it’s obviously slower.



HORI
My shmup, which is only one level long, with a tech demo second level, is called Hori. The first level took me 4 hours to put together, the demo second level about an hour (you can access it via the edit menu).

To achieve the illusion of horizontal movement I went with a blank background so you don’t see the scrolling. Then I placed a series of invisible enemies along the far right hand side of the screen, moving down and firing horizontally tiny white star bullets. Because they’re on the far right, you shouldn’t notice that they’re firing in two horizontal directions – instead it gives the illusion of a star field. I also placed a few enemies firing fireballs. I used the graphics editor to rotate an pre-made enemy, making them appear hori, and I did the same with the main ship and the boss. So all in all it gives the impressions of flying along. You need to avoid stars and fireballs, kill enemies and then the boss. Simple.

The only thing I couldn’t find a solution for was your gun. They all fire vertically. So to alleviate this I set the default weapon to the homing laser, so as long as there’s enemies on screen it shouldn’t break the illusion. There’s only two homing weapons in the game and you can’t edit weapons, besides changing their appearance. This is a set-back which I don’t think has a solution. Meaning I can’t quite see R-Type being remade anytime soon.


Stage 2
After a night’s sleep I had the idea to set clouds as harmless enemies, spawning from a line of invisible enemies along the right side. I tweaked the movement and firing speed of the spawners so they fired only at the bottom of the screen. Then I had the enemies which they spawned undergo enlargement and flying horizontally. There’s only about 3 horizontal flight patterns for enemies, and none of them fly precisely straight, so it took a while to get a seamless run of clouds. I could have tweaked them further and made them go in a wavy pattern. Next I set some cloud enemies to spawn on their own near the top and, here’s the clever bit, had them spawn further clouds of their own which homed in on the player. Since most players hang by the left side of the screen, this would most of the time create the illusion of harmless clouds floating to the left. I tweaked the speed for everything then decided to make the main cloud spawners invisible – feel free to bring them back. There’s two different waves if you play the demo of level 2, and I think it looks awesome. Obviously further tweaking regarding enlargement, speed and wave pattern would produce more varied and cooler results. I didn’t finish this level, but I really think I’m on to a winner here.
This proves that it is possible to fake a hori shooter in Dezaemon Plus. You could have the top spawns being clouds, and the bottom being tree tops. Or you could set a green background, and have it like the ship is flying underneath a forest canopy with trees and leaves at the top and bottom. Or under the sea, and fish are swimming past in the background, while at the bottom bright coral is hurtling past. Enemies can spawn as normal, and most players won’t notice the deception – apart from of course the limited weaponry which always fires vertically.
One idea I had was you could have a tree tops scrolling below, and a static sky background above these. Except at one point a missile (which has been drawn into the background), will scroll downwards on the otherwise blue background, and you can time it so that as it disappears at the bottom of the screen, all the tree tops turn into giant animated flames, implying a megaton explosion. Or you could have the static colours slowly go from one hue to the next, so from night time to a slow dawn and then noon. As long as it remains relatively blank, apart from objects which are falling, you can give the impression of horizontal movement.
Of course, all this is void should Monkey Paw Games release Dezaemon Kids, which can create dedicated hori shooters.

If you’ve any interest in shmups, this is a versatile and enjoyable creation kit. Just make sure you’ve got an imagination and enjoy thinking outside the box. If people start creating their own, it has the potential for limitless replay value. When Dezaemon Kids was released on PS1, it had had a second disc which contained 100 shooters all created using Dezaemon Plus, and some of them are absolutely incredible.

Here’s a screen from each of the 9 competition winners which had their game included with Dezaemon Plus alongside the default Daioh game.












4 comments:

  1. Nnice article, Sketcz! I used to play this all the time on ZSNES, I might have to look into this...

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  2. I was waiting for this article. Tried the prog long ago and had fun with it, but when downloading it from PSN, I wasn't too satisfied with its many restrictions. I will now buy the Saturn sequel, which allows for more creative freedom.

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  3. Yeah, check out some videos of the Saturn game. Some guy made a tank maze game, which just goes to show how crazy versatile the system is. You need a memory cartridge though to save projects - it's essential.

    Here's a database of Saturn Dez games:
    http://www.satakore.com/sega-saturn-complete-dezaemon2,,1,,0.html

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  4. Even better, I have the Saturn floppy drive, which is supported directly by Deza 2 ;-).

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