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A Reminder (or is it a Memorial?) of Gaming's Original Hardcore Developer

Legendary studio Treasure has been eerily silent for the past few years. Even if they're gone, though, they shouldn't be forgotten.

Column by Jeremy Parish, .

Born as a collaboration between talented Konami designers and programmers who longed for more creative freedom, Japan's Treasure team was, in a very real sense, one of Japan's pioneering indie developers.

The Japanese industry had solidified during the latter half of the '80s, shifting from two guys making little PCs games to corporations publishing millions of units for Nintendo's systems. Studios like Chun Soft, which began on the back of a successful magazine write-in game design competition, could never have come into being and found success in the early '90s. Games had grown too large, too expensive, too resource-intensive. (The more things change, eh?)

But Treasure went the other direction, striking out on their own to make their own games... for the most part. They worked with huge partners like Sega and Enix, and about half of their output involved licensed properties. But they always worked on their own terms, to their own satisfaction. There's a sense of integrity to Treasure's work you don't often see in games of that era, and it earned them diehard fans.

I'm writing of Treasure in the past sense because, while the company still exists, its output has slowed to a trickle over the past decade. Hopefully that's simply a case of them seeking new inspiration and taking on new directions. Maybe if enough people listen to this episode, they'll be summoned back into action...

In any case, enjoy this brief — this is a Retronauts Micro episode, after all — trip down memory lane, and cross your fingers for the future.

Download Links

Libsyn (1:38:02 | MP3 Download | SoundCloud

Episode Description

Jeremy takes a look at one of gaming’s great studios, whose work seems to have been largely forgotten in this day and age. Will Treasure rise again, or will their two-decade collection of brilliance stand as their legacy?

The tunes for this episode were culled from Treasure's grand reunion project with Konami, the publisher who gave the team its start: Gradius V for PlayStation 2. If you missed out on it, track it down. Gradius V was a perfect compromise between Treasure's relentless drive for new and complex ideas, and Konami's relentless drive to make money by selling accessible and polished software. Somewhere in the middle was a brilliant shooter full of fresh ideas for an aging series, polished to a mirror sheen. It's a must-play... along with the other games listed below:

Recommended Treasure Games

  • Gunstar Heroes: Treasure built their reputation on this one, and rightly so. No one knew the Genesis could do this. M2 is currently working on a remake of this for Sega's 3DS 3D Classics series, so absolutely grab it when it arrives.
  • Guardian Heroes: This one was Treasure working in the vein of Capcom's Dungeons & Dragons brawlers... except that, not having to worry about arcade constraints, they could afford to go all in on depth and mechanics. Available on XBLA for Xbox 360.
  • Radiant Silvergun: This shoot-em-up became legend for its inaccessibility — released on Saturn too late to get a U.S. release, it was a coveted import for years. It's on XBLA now, though, so you can enjoy its inventive mechanics and insane visuals.
  • Ikaruga: A semi-sequel to Radiant Silvergun, Ikaruga revolved around a color-changing mechanic that pops up in a lot of Treasure games. It, too, can be had on XBLA.
  • Mischief Makers: A true rarity — a 2D platformer on Nintendo 64. Well, really it falls somewhere between a platformer and a brawler. You'll get tired of protagonist Marina shouting "Shake shake!" as she manhandles bad guys, but the game's amusing enough that you won't mind.
  • Astro Boy: Omega Factor: A fantastic shooter/platformer in its own right, this loving tribute to classic manga creator Osamu Tezuka only gets better the more deeply versed you become in his works. It's the ultimate act of fanservice.

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Comments 23

  • Avatar for jeremycarrier12 #1 jeremycarrier12 2 years ago
    Jeremy "I hate Treasure" Parish doing a Treasure episode lol
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  • Avatar for mobichan #2 mobichan 2 years ago
    For me, Treasure kind of stopped making exceptional titles beginning with Gunstar Super Heroes on GBA. Their titles beyond that were mostly rehashes of ideas that were great but didn't need sequels. I know most people think Ikaruga is some crowning achievement, but it was just an expansion of Radiant Silvergun. And personally, I liked RS much more as a shooter. It is funny you bring them up now, because a japanese friend and I were lamenting their apparent silence the other day. All we could scrounge up on the internet was that they did some outsource work recently. I love the Treasure of the 90's and hope someday they return to form.
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  • Avatar for starride #3 starride 2 years ago
    The only Treasure title that I have played was Wario World, which I genuinely enjoyed even though it was criminally short.

    I enjoyed the microgames, though.
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  • Avatar for Radioactivechimp #4 Radioactivechimp 2 years ago
    Dynamite Headdy is another great Treasure game that is often overlooked. It also has one of the best soundtracks on the Sega Genesis.
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  • Avatar for retr0gamer #5 retr0gamer 2 years ago
    I fell in love with Treasure games when I first laid eyes on Gunstar Heroes on Gamesmaster on TV. It looked so good I thought it was a SNES game and it was another reason to be jealous of SNES owners. There was just too much colour to be a Megadrive game (not realising there were far too many sprites for it to be a SNES game). I eventually picked it up since most British magazines were raving about it not knowing that Gunstar Heroes was that game I saw on Gamesmaster.

    Their games haven't always been great but when they are on form like with gunstar, Radiant Silvergun (screw the bullet hell evangelists, this is the finest shooter ever made) and Gradius V, they couldn't be touched. Recent years haven't been so great but the odd classic like Sin and Punishment reminds you of why they are held in such high esteem.
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  • Avatar for chaoticBeat #6 chaoticBeat 2 years ago
    I was just about to download Gradius V on psn. That game was so beautiful, I need to get my twitch skills back. Can you imagine the game they would make if they had the R-Type license?
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  • Avatar for gyp-casino #7 gyp-casino 2 years ago
    Hardcore developer, definitely. For my tastes the games are too complicated. Radiant Silvergun for example gives you about 5 different types of shots, and leveling them requires you to participate in an idiosyncratic scoring system involving the color of the enemies. Shoot-em-up-but-not-the-blue-or-yellow-ones.
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  • Avatar for NateDizzy #8 NateDizzy 2 years ago
    I bought and modded a Saturn for Radiant Silvergun
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  • Avatar for garnsr #9 garnsr 2 years ago
    Going almost five minutes into the episode before mentioning any games, and almost halfway through the whole epilogue before mentioning any Treasure games seemed weird. Interesting episode anyway.
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  • Avatar for KaiserDurdenEX #10 KaiserDurdenEX 2 years ago
    Stretch Panic was the only game that Treasure burned me on. As far as the rest of their work I consider them to have an extremely high batting average. If the package indicates that Treasure developed the game I will buy it blindly. I have grown very fond of the Retronauts podcast since the 2007 1up era, but I believe Treasure deserves more of a spotlight than a "micro" podcast. With that said Jeremy still did an excellent job as always.Edited July 2015 by KaiserDurdenEX
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  • Avatar for LK4O4 #11 LK4O4 2 years ago
    It seems strange for Mischief Makers to be on the list of recommended games over of any of the three Bangai-O titles, but okay, sure. (The Bangai-O games are wonderful.)

    I'm interested to hear Jeremy's take on Treasure, since from what I remember, he hasn't actually enjoyed their games all that much.Edited July 2015 by LK4O4
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  • Avatar for PlatypusPlatoon #12 PlatypusPlatoon 2 years ago
    Astro Boy: Omega Factor was a really underrated yet brilliant gem at the tail end of the GBA cycle. I remember describing it to friends at the time as a cross between Final Fight, Mega Man, and Street Figher. Final Fight, because surprisingly, it starts like a beat-em-up and not a shoot-em-up, where you're pounding on enemies with your fists; Mega Man, because of the powers you acquire, the large and colourful boss characters, and the shooting action; Street Fighter, because of the button inputs you used for specific moves, as well as the combos you could pull off. As someone who'd barely heard of Astro Boy before trying this game out - or really, any Treasure project - the game was so exceptional that I became a fan of both Astro Boy and Treasure since, seeking out collectibles from the anime franchise while hunting down old games from the Treasure library.

    More than any other Treasure game, Astro Boy has tons of charm, in addition to excellent, precise action, satisfying boss fights, and incredibly colourful graphics. I'd daresay that this is Treasure's best game to date.
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  • Avatar for Mikki-Saturn #13 Mikki-Saturn 2 years ago
    Treasure was and remains one of my favorites. Unfortunately, they really struggled to keep up with technology and bring their signature brand of craziness to 3D hardware. Resigned to budget titles, games like the XBLA version of Bangai-O lack a certain jes ne se qua that their older titles had - less like a full game, more like a... well, a rushed out budget title.

    And yet, and yet, Sin and Punishment Star Successor shows that given the chance Treasure can still deliver some truly hardcore thrills. Someone just has to front them the money... and given how poorly that game sold, I'm not sure who will ever do that again.
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  • Avatar for catstronaut #14 catstronaut 2 years ago
    If anybody's looking for a cheap and fun Treasure-like, G.G. Series Assault Buster was just recently released on the 3DS eshop for $2, and it reminds me a lot of a scaled-down Alien Soldier or Bangai-O. Really good for short-burst gaming.

    Treasure never truly hit the mark with me, but I do enjoy Ikaruga, Gunstar Heroes, Gradius V, Alien Soldier, and Guardian Heroes. For me, a lot of their games are just too sterile and overblown (Ikaruga, Silvergun, Gradius V) while others feel a bit sloppy in their chaos (Bangai-O particularly is just a mish-mash that doesn't work).

    They're a great developer, but it really chaps my butts in particular when people act like Ikaruga and Radiant Silvergun are the only good shmups to ever come out. I do really wish Astro Boy would get ported to Virtual Console so I can finally play it, though.
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  • Avatar for Keldorek #15 Keldorek 2 years ago
    @jeremycarrier12 You are kidding me. This comment is beyond absurd. I've read Mr. Parish for years, and he's a consummate Treasure fan.

    Edit: Apologies to@jeremycarrier12 for mouthing off and missing the joke. Please, do carry on.Edited July 2015 by Keldorek
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  • Avatar for GaijinD #16 GaijinD 2 years ago
    It's worth noting that the Yu Yu Hakusho fighter mentioned in the podcast is in many ways a direct antecedent to Guardian Heroes, considering that it was the first time Treasure experimented with multi-plane stages and fighter-like controls. It also had further descendants in the two Bleach games Treasure developed for DS, both of which stand up pretty well on their gameplay even if you're not a fan of the license.
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  • Avatar for SatelliteOfLove #17 SatelliteOfLove 2 years ago


    This is an excuse to post RS music.

    @Keldorek

    Old GAF reference.
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  • Avatar for LBD_Nytetrayn #18 LBD_Nytetrayn 2 years ago
    Throwing out some love for the amusingly-named McDonald's Treasure Land Adventure for Genesis. Not only is it the best game starring a fast food-peddling mascot that you're likely to find (even as Ronald manages to avoid doing just that), but it's just a fun game in its own right.
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  • Avatar for SomeKindaWizard #19 SomeKindaWizard 2 years ago
    Love Treasure!

    I still have my original copy of Gunstar Heroes, but I lost the manual :(

    Astro Boy: Omega Factor totally blew me away when I first played it on release, who doesn't like anal machine guns!?
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  • Avatar for Keldorek #20 Keldorek 2 years ago
    @SatelliteOfLove Thanks for the helping hand. I shouldn't have said anything anyway! Haha...
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  • Avatar for seanmitchell #21 seanmitchell 2 years ago
    Gunstar heroes is in my opinion the best gammon the genesis. I love it so much. The title screen music gives me chills and so many memories
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  • Avatar for Thad #22 Thad 2 years ago
    You know, Gunstar Heroes has been on my "I really should get around to playing this sometime" list for about twenty years. I just bought it as part of a big bundle of Genesis-PC ports on Prime Day; I don't know if the PC versions are any good (I remember playing a PC version of Sonic 3 & Knuckles over a decade ago that was not, but hopefully they've gotten better), but even if it's no good I suppose it means I can emulate the Genesis version guilt-free.
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  • Avatar for hal9k #23 hal9k 2 years ago
    I just got back from vacation and I'm catching up on podcasts, so this is a bit late. Excellent episode, this was an informative look at the history of Treasure. I get the From analogy, but a comparison to Platinum might be more apt. They seem to work in a more similar genre, and Platinum spawned from Capcom in the same way that Treasure spawned from Konami. On the other hand, From began by writing office productivity software, giving them early credibility in a whole different field of Gothic horror and soul-withering frustration.
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