An Inside Look at Konami’s Nintendo Games

Posted By at 8:48 AM on Wednesday August 15, 2012


It’s 2003 and Kazuhiro Aoyama, a former Konami programmer, discusses several of the company’s famous NES titles from an insider’s point of view. His statements were retrieved from Game Staff List Association Japan, a Japanese website that, among other things, aims to summarize, transcribe, and categorize interviews with video game developers. Click on each game’s title for more information!

Track & Field

Konami’s first NES title. Staff from every department were called together to participate in its development, upon which the future of the company rested. Headed up by Hashimoto, Track & Field was a well-done game that boasted features such as split screen scrolling (rare for the system at the time) and licensed prizes.


Originally developed as a regular NES cartridge, it became Konami’s first Disk System release when it was switched to the system mid-development. It was later ported to other systems like the Super Nintendo, Game Boy, and even saw an arcade release. Its themes are firmly grounded in the horror genre, so it may yet progress further. The core of the action comes from the feeling of exhilaration you get from defeating enemies with your whip. The game’s planning is based around a very simple goal, something along the same lines as defeating evil and saving a princess.


When you think “space shooter”, you think Gradius. But it’s not only a shooter, players also have to think about controlling their ships. I think that the fun of the game stemmed from not being able to screw up even once and having to go through a stage multiple times to learn its layout.

Gradius II

Umezaki was the one in charge of Gradius II. The games he made were always very polished. Gradius II had one programmer, one designer, and one sound person. Even from an outside perspective, I couldn’t help but be impressed!

Ganbare Goemon: A Tricky Journey

Konami’s first MegaROM title (MSX cartridges). At first, it was only Hashimoto and two designers working on the game, but eventually they decided “This is no good. We have no idea when we’ll be able to finish,” and added two others to the team, which grew to 6 people. Included were Umezaki, new to NES programming, me, still an active programmer today, and another designer. I doubt new gamers will know what a MegaROM is, but their memory capacity made them equivalent to 64 copies of Super Mario Bros. It was the first time I’d ever gotten the feeling that no matter how hard I worked, the game would never be finished. *laughing* This Goemon title marked the first time we’d shipped more than 500,000 copies, and, more than 10 years later, the Goemon franchise has become a series.

Ganbare Goemon: Gaiden

Both now and in the past, with most games comprised of gameplay aspects like action and shooting, making an RPG requires more of a time investment. We wanted to try and make one anyway, though. Dragon Quest represents the fantasy genre, and Gaiden was something we came up with as our one shot at competing by creating a Japanese-style RPG. We were able to start out right away due to a talented person who was interested in scenario-writing joining the company halfway through. The game was completed in a very short amount of time. Our speed received commendations from within the company, but I definitely felt like we could’ve used a little more time.


The game was originally an arcade port and, as an arcade income tester, it did reasonably well for its time. I did the planning for the arcade version as well. I never imagined that I’d be doing a version for the NES, but when it came time to decide what platform to develop for next, I settled on the Nintendo. I immediately applied for a planning position, but my initial application was rejected. The department head at the time was then kind enough to negotiate with the current CEO, and we were finally able to start development. In the end, it became a big hit, riding the Nintendo boom and going on to sell 1,000,000 copies. The only thing is that during the final portion of development, time grew precious, and there were times when I didn’t bathe for days. As a result, my athlete’s foot deteriorated and I had to take 3 days off. *laughing* We then went on to release 3 different Twinbees on the Nintendo, returning to the arcade with the Twinbee sequel Bells & Whistles. A Twinbee action game was developed for the Super Nintendo, and we were even able to do a character compilation game (Konami Wai Wai World, mentioned below). It really makes me appreciate how far we’ve come.

Konami Wai Wai World

I’d wanted to do an action-based character compilation game for a long time. Twinbee, Castlevania’s Simon, Gradius, etc. It was the first time we developers decided to attempt to do the one thing we really hated and have several players.

Getsu Fuuma Den

I can only admit this now, but Getsu Fuuma Den was conceptualized after I saw an arcade game with a similar concept and began idly wondering how it would work on out the Nintendo. In actuality, once we’d started making it, it turned out to be really tough. Vertical and horizontal scrolling, 3D… there were days when I wouldn’t even be able to leave work and go home.

Antarctic Adventure

It’s generally the section chiefs at a company that create the players’ actions in addition to helping out the rest of the staff. In today’s game companies, it’s natural for managers to be involved with game development, but at the time, that sort of thing was rare, and employee moral was high as a result.


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2 Responses

  1. Ana says:

    I love Goemon=)0

  2. […] GlitterBerri (2012). An Inside Look at Konami’s Nintendo Games […]

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