The Last Ninja Crew

(sorted by name)


Tim Best (died in 2008)
LN 1-3 additional design (logic and mazes) and instructions
Reyn Ouwehand
LN 3+Remix music
Mark Cale
LN 1-3 concept and principle design
Dan Phillips
LN3 intro
Ben Daglish (Facebook)
LN 1 music
Hugh Riley
LN 1+2 sprite and background graphics and additional design
Matt Gray
LN 2 music, returned 20 years later from virtually nowhere to remix his own music. Check: Facebook, Twitter & Soundcloud!
Here's some info on his post-C64 career
Stan Schembri
LN3 programming and additional design
John Kemp
LN 3 intro
Mark Snowball
LN 1+2 data entry
Anthony Lees
LN 1 music
John Twiddy
LN 1+2 programming and additional design
Robin Levy
LN 3 graphics, intro and additional design
Arthur Van Jole
LN 3 level 2 additional graphics
Steinar Lund
LN 1 Cover

Mike Clarke
LN 2 Amiga music

Pictures!

Group shots from Games-X
In the photo on the left it is Robin Levy who is wearing the ninja suit. Top row left to right are Mark Cale, Phil Thornton, Stan Schembri, John Kemp and Adrian Cale. At the bottom left to right: a receptionist, Abi Wallace and Dan Phillips. In the Scalextric room the guys are (left to right) Dan Phillips, Stan Schembri, John Kemp, Adrian Cale and Phil Thornton. The two guy in the big photo are Robin Levy (in the ninja suit) defending himself against Mark Cale. Special thanks to Dan Phillips for sending the article to Ali Pouladi!

Group Shot (Dan Phillips, some girl, some guy, Dave Colclough, Adrian Cale, Phil Thornton and John Kemp)
Group Shot (John Kemp, Robin Levy, Dan Phillips)
Group Shot (Mev Dinc, Mark Cale, Hugh Riley and John Twiddy)
Group Shot (Paul Docherty, Stan Schembri and Mark Cale)

Adrian Cale
Ben Daglish (at the Back in Time Live concert 2002)
Dan Phillips
Mark Cale (2007 - he's the guy on the left9
Reyn Ouwehand
Robin Levy
Stan Schembri
Steinar Lund

Here are two interviews from Retro Gamer (Oct 2005) with John Twiddy and Mark Cale!
(typed in by ōystein Lende Olsen - thanks a lot for that!)

John Twiddy

Retro Gamer : Did the isometric viewpoint cause you any programming problems?

JT : Yes, it did. In the early days of computing you became used to doing everything in X and Y, then suddenly there was height to think about with jumping and stuff. But it wasn't that difficult because the viewpoint is essentially 2D - it's a cheat, really.

RG : The combat was very simple but it worked well. Did you ever think of changing it, or adding elements to it?

JT : What happened was that we produced loads and loads of different animations with lots of different weapons, then found we couldn't actually fit them all into the Commodore 64. So what we ended up doing was trying to create a sort of subset of all of the animations to give a reasonable number of moves with a reasonable number of weapons.

RG : We seem to remember an early Last Ninja screen in a magazine which showed different weapons...

JT : That's right, though I think that was probably mocked up (laughs).

RG : Many people remember the horribly difficult jumping sections, like crossing the stepping stones right at the start. Can we blame you for that?

JT : (laughs) Yes, I suppose you can. I have to admit that Mark always kept complaining that it was too pixel perfect, and the reality was that I found it quite easy to finish the game, but I thought you had to make it reasonably challenging. So I have to admit I was the one responsible for making it so precise. I thought it looked really naff to be standing in mid-air, not on a stone, and so I thought it would be more realistic to have you fall in. I gladly accept now that the jumping sections were too tough, because when I went back and tried it again years later I found it impossible!

RG : The game was very difficult throughout. Was this a conscious design decision, or did it just work out like that?

JT : Because the graphics took up a lot of memory, we were very concerned that we didn't have quite enough screens - it varied between 16 and 25 on each level. So we wanted to make certain that it took a fair amount of time to get through the individual screens.

RG : Following the success of the first game, how did you approach the sequel?

JT : Each time you have to make it bigger and better and more sophisticated. Thankfully Mark suggested the modern setting, there was only a certain amount you could do with ornamental gardens and stuff like that. So once we took it to New York it gave us quite a bit of variety.

RG : The original appeared on the C64 and a couple of other platforms, whereas the sequel cropped up on just about every format going. Was it difficult to manage all the ports?

JT : With Ninja 2, Mev Dinc was working on the Spectrum version at the same time as I was working on the C64 version, so there was a certain amount of discussion about ideas for the game. Atari ST and Amiga versions were done as well, and we were sort of involved in those too - supplying source code and things like that - but in reality they were done by other programmers. Co-ordinating it was difficult, because in those days the code was very different. It's not like you were writing it in C.

RG : Can you recall what happened to the versions of The Last Ninja for the Spectrum, Amstrad and Atari 800 that were advertised but never released?

JT : I can't exactly remember. I know several versions were started but I don't think they ever got anywhere. They weren't cancelled as such, but maybe they were too challenging for the programmers.

RG : The Last Ninja is widely regarded as one of the best C64 games ever. Do you stil feel proud to be part of that?

JT : I do, actually. Obviously at the time I was very proud of it, and I've been amazed by just how much of a name it made. When I look back at it, having played it on an emulator, I'm not quite sure why it was so spectacularly received. I don't know. I guess all the right elements came together at the time.


Mark Cale

Retro Gamer : You've credited as a designer on the original Last Ninja. Presumably you came up with the characters and the back story, as well as the visual style and gameplay..

MC : Basically, the whole idea - the whole concept - was mine. The vision of The Last Ninja as an isometric adventure was something I was very passionate about. Obviously, the machines back then weren't powerful enough to create fully 3D games, so an isometric viewpoint seemed to be the right solution to move away from the standard side-scrolling platfom games. We wanted to do something a little bit different, something that would really capture the imagination. And there really is no better subject matter than the idea of controlling a ninja, a spiritual warrior.

RG : So the plan was always to fuse together different gaming elements?

MC : Absolutely. We wanted to combine an arcade experience with adventure elements. So it wasn't like Double Dragon, where you just go punch, kick, move, punch, move... The whole idea was to solve a series of simple but realistic adventure puzzles. What we were essentially trying to do was take the square cursor blob from Adventure on the Atari 2600 and turn it into a fully interactive 3D adventure.

RG : Although you were the boss of System 3, would you say you were pretty hands-on?

MC : Hands-on then, hands-on now. Pretty much all content goes through me. I'm a very passionate gamer myself, and I've always looked at everything from the view of a consumer.

RG : Ben Daglish and Anthony Lees' music for the game is great. Were they given any pointers or were they just told it was a ninja game and went off and wrote the music?

MC : We gave all the musicians a feel as to what we wanted. We had some pieces we felt were appropriate and gave these to the various musicians as a guideline.

RG : There's a rumour you offered Ben Daglish a Mercedes as payment instead of cash. Is that true?

MC : No, that's full of shit. As far as I'm concerned, Ben Daglish is a very talented musician, and it's a shame he didn't go much further with his music past the Amiga. I think a lot of people live in the past, with all the myths and the mysteries, and they come up with a lot of stories. Ben was a very small part of the overall project, and it's a shame people have to go around and spread stories and rumours and bullshit.

RG : Did the content cause any problems? Back in the 80s, ninja was like a dirty word, and nunchukas were cut out of films. Were there any problems like that?

MC : We had no issues like that at all with the game's content. The only real problem we had was with Ninja 2, where we gave away shuriken stars in a limited edition box set, with a mask - unfortunately the shuriken ended up a little bit harder than we wanted, and some of the stores refused to stock it. If you look at it today, Health and Safety certainly wouldn't allow us to do what we did back then.

RG : What was the idea behind the special box sets?

MC : As lots of people were waiting for Last Ninja 2, we decided to do two packs - the standard pack and a limited edition pack. And it was just like in Japan, with people queuing up arond the block to try to buy a copy before the shops opened. We still have the photographs.

TG : Last Ninja 2 was a massive success then, but there must have been pressure to try to top the original. Is this what made you choose to open things up with a modern city setting?

MC : We always thought we had a great game on our hands, but we never dreamed that the original game would be as successful as it was. The game was number one all over the world, and at the time caused a huge stir for what was a cottage industry. For the sequel, we wanted to place a spin on things so it wasn't just the same as what had gone before. That's why we decided to shift the setting to New York, a typical metropolitan hustle bustle-type city. It provided us with a different graphical style and feel to the game.

RG : Last Ninja 3 featured a different development team. Was this a conscious decision to shake things up a bit?

MC : No, it wasn't. At that time, John Twiddy had left System 3 and formed his own company with Mev Dinc, which he consequently left to rejoin System 3. He provided technical support for Last Ninja 3, but by no means do we feel that Ninja 3 was the best of the series.

RG : What do you feel went wrong with Last Ninja 3?

MC : When working with such talented people as John Twiddy and Hugh Riley, there was a always a certain amount of magic and things just flowed. With some other developers, they were always trying to escape the nemesis of the past. I think the programmers on Ninja 3 were always trying to outdo John Twiddy, rather than make a great game. It wasn't as good as it should have been.

RG : How did sales of the sequels compare to the original game?

MC : The original Last Ninja sold a huge amount of units - I think it reached 4 million on the C64. Ninja 2 came out right at the point when C64 was at its most successful in terms of sales and sold 5,5 million copies. If you take that into account, it's estimated that around 20 million C64s were sold, so one in four C64 owners bought the game. That was quite an arcievement. Some people argue that Ninja 2 was the best of the three games, and I tend to agree with that. When the third one came out, the Amiga had really taken off and we didn't do so well. We sold about 3 million of that one.

RG : Tell us about the new mobile version. Is it a remake?

MC : It will be a remake of the originals, but obviously we're looking to improve the graphics. There's a lot more we can do with a mobile than we did back then.

RG : And what's happening with the fourth Last Ninja game? Is it still in development?

MC : We've scrapped the fourth game. I felt it wasn't representative of the market. For Last Ninja 4, I think you need to do something that recreates the kind of "wow" factor of the original game, and in my mind it wasn't good enough to wear that badge - so why cash in on a great name? We may as well leave it as it is.

RG : Will there ever be a fourth game?

MC : There will definately be a fourth game. It'll either be a retro version with updated graphics but wih the same gameplay, or something that's going to be an epic, like a Final Fantasy game but with a more arcade feel. What would your readers expect from Last Ninja 4? I'd be interested to know that, because sometimes you can't recreate the past.

I got a chance to exchange some eMails with Hugh Riley and asked him dry:

What made Ninja different was that the sprites were hi-res and they used multicolour backgrounds.
Hugh drew the background stuff using a Wigmore mouse and the multi-colour drawing package that came with it. He doesn't know anybody else who used it but it was superb.
John Twiddy wrote an editor (he called it the integrator) that let Hugh pick up the individual background elements like trees and bushes and drop them into place on screen. It also worked out the best colour combination for each element when they overlaid each other. John then designated which pixels were foreground and cut those bits out of the ninja sprite as it went past..

Hugh did the sprites with a joystick using someone elses in house program that was doing the rounds (can't remember what it was called). He had trouble getting the run to look half right. (too few pixels/not enough frames/ bad angle). The sprites were unusual too being hi-res/single colour. The ninja body was 2 sprites. He laid another sprite over for the face and hands and a 4th was the weapon. Most of the other characters used the ninja base sprite with a different overlay (to save memory as usual.)

When he came onto Ninja 1 it was being programmed for System 3 by a subsidiary of Andromeda in Hungary (Caesar the Cat? now there's going back!). Bob Stevenson had done some mock up screens for the adverts then left. Hugh spent 3 weekends in Budapest (still behind the iron curtain) where it became apparent that their programmers were having difficulties. They were programming in forth (used for washing machines) so back in London John Twiddy was brought in to rewrite the code and we worked together in Mark Cale's (Mr System 3) front room and various other places. By the time they finished Twiddy reckoned there was only one byte left in the machine which explains the crappy ending. Paul Docherty (Dokk) did the eyes (from the magazine advert).


The System 3 booth at the European Computer Trade Show 1991.

John Twiddy and Hugh Riley stayed with System 3 until they had done Ninja 2 (using the same techniques) then left with Mev Dinc (spectrum LN2 programmer) and Phil Harrison to form Vivid Image. (games only - Hammerfist, Time machine, First Samurai)
He was asked to do Ninja 3 but went to work with Probe instead.

(sound of years passing.....................)

Since then he's done dozens of different projects on most machines and moved around a lot but some of his original ninja work disks are in England somewhere. For the last year (97) he's been in the US with Bethesda Softworks doing 3d character animation on Redguard (PC). Which just happens to be a puzzle solving arcade adventure with swords. Except this time you are a swashbuckler. It's looking pretty good now so hopefully it will be a classic.

Oh, he thinks the music for LN1 was excellent. It really set the mood.

Update:

Hugh was working on Unreal 2 at Legend Entertaiment but afterwards Legend Entertainment was shut down. Too bad, they were my all-time favourite gaming company. Check out Gateway or Eric the Unready...
Even better, try getting a copy of the Lost Adventures of Legend CD.

I also eMailed with Ben Daglish:

Me: First, I have a little Last Ninja webpage.
Ben: Nice - I saw.

How do you feel towards the LN2 music and why did you stop after LN1 ?

I can't recall ever hearing it. I wasn't asked to do LN2 - I think I was too expensive :)

Did you play the game before creating the music ?

Nope, not beforehand - was just given level names.

And what did you think of the game itself ? Ever played it through ?

Not to the end - I was never into beat-em-ups...

What _were_ your favourite 8-bit games ? What do you play these days ? (if you can find the time)

My all time favourite C64 game was 'Master of the Lamps'. These days I play little other than card games - Freecell, Bridge etc. I like the LucasArts point-n-clicks - Day of the Tentacle, Sam & Max etc. though.

Do you have some anecdotes / facts from your LN-music creating time ?

Can't really remember much about it - I got the phone call from Mark asking me to write some level tunes - I wrote the music, went down there to meet Archer Maclean (? I think it was Arch that put the driver in.....), got offered Mark Cale's slightly-dodgy-import-status left-hand-drive BMW, said "no thanks, I'll have the cash please" and that was that.

Looks like you _were_ expensive! :']

Naaahh - the car was only worth a couple of grand - I think I charged about £200 per tune.

How was Anthony Lees to work with ?

Only met the guy once - on that one day - he said 'hi' - I said 'hi' - that was about it.

How did you agree to who does what ?

We'd each written a few tunes - I think we said something like 'flip you for loaders / level music....' :)

Did you & Anthony strictly did the tunes by yourselves ?

Yeah - we were working separately - I didn't even know he'd done any music I think.

Some Ben Daglish shrines on the web you can point me to ? =]

Can't remember the URLS - Shark's got one up - do a search for me on the web - thats how I found it...:)

What technical stuff did you use to create your music ? Did you have any special inspirations for LN1 or did it just come out of you ?

It just comes - that's how music works.

(And now Last Ninja 4 is coming - still no System 3 website...)

LOL

Oh, please ask Mark to let you write the theme for LN4.

Yeahh - right!

Btw, where do you live now - UK ?

Yup - rural Derbyshire.

I'm so confused. Is it Ben or Benn now? I've seen both a numerous times.

Ben is my real name....Benn was a nick from Compuserve days - the double letter was all the rage...Ratt, Bogg etc. etc.

Oh, you don't happen to have Anthony Lees' eMail address, do you...?

Sorry.

Thanks, Ben!

And Jan Zottmann picked Anthony Lees:

Jan:

Since I am a very big fan of the C64 classic "The Last Ninja" by System 3, I just wanted to ask you some questions on your fantastic compositions featured in this game:

1 - Do you remember which was the first tune you wrote for LN?
2 - Which of your LN tracks is your personal favourite?
3 - What do you think about the ingame-music by Benn Daglish?
4 - Did you ever listen to the scores of the "Last Ninja"-sequels? If yes, how did you like them?
5 - Where did you get your inspiration for the LN tunes?
6 - What are you doing now? Are you still composing? Any CDs released? Do you have a homepage with more information on you?
7 - Do you have anything to do with the new LN4?

http://come.to/lastninja
Would you allow me to publish our little interview on this page?
You should check it out, cause this is a really cool LN page!!!! :-)

Finally, let me thank you for some of the greatest game music we ever
had the pleasure to listen to... it will always be part of our past!!!


Tony Lees:

First off, let me say thanks for getting in touch. I'm always flattered (and a little surprised) to still receive mail about The Last Ninja - although I recognise that it struck a bit of a chord in the games world at the time.

By the way, it's only recently that I've established contact on e-mail and I'd be happy to help out with any other queries you or anyone else may have about my C64 stuff - so publish this if you want, including my e-mail address: TLees44252~AT~AOL.COM

OK, here goes with the answers. I'll take them in order, and answer to the best of my abilities.

1, 2 : I did six tunes for LN, the first of which was the one involving the creepy jungle music (....which was and still is my favourite) - the inspiration is hard to nail down, but it was probably the film 'Apocalypse Now' - very dense, troubled and scary moods were evoked.

3, 4, 5. I spoke to Benn (Daglish) a few times while System 3 were writing it, and heard some of the stuff he was writing. I liked it enormously, and he had a far better musical education than I did. I seem to recall he was a percussionist for some classical orchestra in Sheffield (UK) at the time - he raved about Neilsen's 5th symphony as I recall, so the pedigree is obviously much better than mine....

I wrote my own fledgling music player for LN, which was first used for an entry for a competition in Zzap64 - to write music for a theoretical game called Mindsmere - I won the competition, and the rest is history (ha!) - Julian Rignall (then staff writer) put my name around, and I was contacted eventually by Mark Cale of System 3 to do some work for them.

The problem with the player was that I was such a poor programmer (that later changed) that it took up about 20% of the total raster time available for each frame, and as games became more processor-intensive, it no longer looked a good proposition for up-and-coming games. Benn's player was much more efficient.

I did listen to the music from LN2 (for which I submitted several tunes to system 3) - and they are ok, but very different. You must remember that I received no payment for the work I did on LN (OK, I was young and naive) - so there was little incentive to pursue the matter further.

6. I'm now a part time employee of HM Government in the UK and in my spare time I compose a bit of choral music and write some too. None of it has (yet) been recorded, but we all live in hope, eh?

As yet no homepage, but that may be set to change in the future. I have plans to make the original source code of my player (and subsequent ones I wrote and used) available for more general release.

7. LN4 - no connection - I didn't even know it existed. If Mark Cale wants to pay me....

Hey, did you hear this ? :)

Reyn Ouwehand sent some interesting memories about his time at System 3:

"Ok, this is all I can remember...

"First time I went to System 3 was with Laurens van der Donk and Mario van Zeist (both from Boys without Brains). Laurens did the programming for Flimbo's Quest.. I did 2 tunes for Flimbo's Quest for Laurens because he wasn't fond of the title-tune from JB (which I think was a great tune, but..) Mark Cale wanted to meet me and I was introduced by Laurens. I met Mark Cale and Adrian Cale (his brother). I can't remember meeting anyone else there except for the reception girl (which were always good looking afaic remember). System 3 was situated in an office-building with some other company's in Pinner/London. It was on the first floor and was pretty big. Some little rooms where Mark Cale and Adrian were situated with some empty rooms and one big room, where some arcade's were situated, a SEGA and a big racing track (it was set up for inspiration for Vendetta I believe). Nothing special happened that time and I got payed for FQ. Probably underpayed, but I was only 16 years old back then and not a real businessman yet.

"I don't know exact how much times I went to System 3, but it was pretty often. They let a lot of people come over to System 3. Bussiness went very well I think when I worked for them. And Amsterdam -> Heathrow is about 45 min by plane. Although the first time with Laurens and Mario I went by boat.
"After FQ, I was asked to make the music for Last Ninja Remix for C64. I made the music with the editor of Falco Paul (20CC), who lived in Leiden which is pretty near from where I lived then. He also fixed a lot of sounds and for some other games that included sound fx he also made the fx. Making good sounds wasn't my speciality. System 3 were very satisfied with the music and it got some great ratings in the magazines and then they asked me to do the music for Last Ninja 3.
"So I talked to Stan Schembri (who programmed the game) about the themes of the levels and about how much memory I could use and got started. When I was about finished I went to System 3 again and let them hear the tunes. When I got there all the empty rooms were filled with guys who were programming and drawing the game. Here I met Stan in person and the guys from Cyberdine Systems (Robin Levy and Dan Phillips). Stan was still programming on the game and Robin and Dan where busy on the intro of LN3. I also got a room and started to make the end-sequence tune and made the thundersounds for the intro of LN3. I made the intro tune at home, but it was not intended to be a tune for the intro, but for a level tune. I almost threw it away 'cause I thought it wasn't 'chinese' enough. But (I think it was) Stan loved it for the tune. I also initiated an intro sequence which should be repeated in all the games to come, to make a sort of lead which can be recognized. Well, they found the idea cool and it was used in LN3, but hasn't been done since.. :) .. (it's the 2 chord jingle before the intro of LN3 with the System 3 logo).
"System 3 had also rented (or bought) a house where everybody of the team spent the nights. At that time I stayed there with Robin and Dan at the house (maybe more.. can't remember..)..

"After some days Stan, Dokk and me went to Liverpool to visit the programmers of LN3 for the Amiga. Later back at home I did some tunes for LN3 Amiga, but they were never used. I can't remember either whether Dokk was traveling with us or if he lived there in Liverpool. But I was thrilled to meet him, I still think he is one of the best C64-artists ever.
"We went by car and when we got to Liverpool I was amazed how a distorted city it was. A lot of buildings were collapsed and it was one big mess. We went to a big deserted industrial place and walked into a building. We walked to the cellar and there were some guys programming on Amiga's. All the walls were made of concrete and only some posters of games were on the wall. If I had to be there for more than one day, I would have gone mad..
"We talked a little and later that evening we went to a pub. I don't like that english beer, so I drank cider. Which had more alcohol that I thought. All the pubs close at 23.00 so after that we went to an 'illegal' place, where you could continue drinking. Stan was feeding Dokk and me with drinks on and on and we got really, really drunk. I never in my whole life got so drunk as that night. I made a lot of mess there.. not only in the toilet.. But Dokk was maybe more drunk than me, we had to drag him into the cab. I was pretty messed up when I woke up in the hotel next morning.
"Next day we had to go again, 'cause I had a plane to catch. First we went to the Amiga guys again, but left for Heathrow much too late so we had to drive like hell to make it in time. Stan drove really fast! I got on the airport 1 minute before my plane left, so of course I couldn't check in. I had to wait all night for a plane to Rotterdam, which had major delay.

"After I finished the LN3 music my interest in C64 music sort of flew away.. I studied on the conservatory in Rotterdam and wanted to make 'real' music. I finally did some music for Laurens van der Donk for his game SuperTrucker and I did the music for a game from System 3 called Deadlock, which the guys from Cyberdine Systems were gonna make. The game was never finished and some of the tunes were used for the cardridge version of Myth. That was the last thing I did for the C64...."

"That's about it...

Cheers,

Reyn Ouwehand."

Thanks, Reyn!

Mike Clarke - LN2 music man:

"Hi. Just to correct some info on your Amiga LN2 review:

"LN2 was not ported and enhanced to the Amiga by Activision. I have no idea where somebody would get this info. [wrong entry removed - Kai]

"It was converted by Consult Software in Birkenhead. It was a direct port from the ST with no enhancements - the reason being that System 3 wouldn't pay them any more for an Amiga enhanced version so there was no point in them putting in the extra effort. I can't remember the name of the programmer, but it was only one guy. If I remember rightly, System 3 only supplied them with maps of the game so any other info had to be gained from playing the C64 one.

"The music doesn't contain anything new (besides the loading tune), apart from an extra voice on one of the tracks.. Everything was converted by me using Noisetracker and sitting there with a tape recording of the 64 music. I did it in 5 days in their office when I was still at school during a half-term holiday. I got paid £40 per track if your interested. Well, it was a lot for a school kid back then anyway. All of the instruments were sampled from a Roland MT-100 sequencer/sound module which I borrowed from school, but the samples are quite low quality because every track had to be under 40k.

"There you go....if you have any questions just ask."

[Of course I took him up on that offer!]

Me: Say...are the LN2 mods I have on the site in their original, untainted (and complete!) form ? Do you still have your tunes..?

Mike: I'm just giving them a go now. They sound okay so far. Actually, if you got them from the Blue9 modules collection then they're definitely okay because I sent them there! :)

Ever played LN2 and the other parts ?

Er...oh yes. All I ever used to do was play on my Commodore 64. When I got my Amiga, all I used to do was play my Amiga. I'd come home from school, go straight upstairs to my room and play games - until I got Soundtracker and then just started doing music all the time (I have almost every tune I did apart from the first four and they are absolutely terrible! :). The guy from Consult Software phoned me up out of the blue (he'd heard some music I gave to someone at a computer club) and asked, "Would you like to do the music for Last Ninja 2". Well the answer was a bit obvious. I've never played Last Ninja 3 though. I had my Amiga by the time it was released.

Did you play the game before creating the music ?

See above. Oh those hours of frustration getting over the rivers in Last Ninja. It wasn't so much creating as converting anyway so playing the game wouldn't have been a requirement. I went through the tape of the music and chose what I thought were the best ones, so the Amiga tracks are a mixture of the the C64 loading tunes and in-game tunes. I wanted to do perfect copies of the originals, but that was impossible with the memory restrictions and Noisetracker wasn't really designed for it. A few months later, I got a copy of Future Composer which could do proper C64 sounds, so I was annoyed I found it too late. On Noisetracker, I drew waveforms I've got the original C64 Last Ninja 2 in my Mum's loft - the one with the Mask and Shuriken in it. Weird thing is, I've got no idea how I got it! I never bought it, that's for certain.

What did you think of the game itself ?

Which one, the Amiga one or C64 one? The C64 one was/is as we all know an absolute classic. The Amiga one was okay, I was expecting it to be amazing, but being an Amiga advocate I thought it was as good as I could have expected seeing as it was a direct port from the ST. Actually, when the Amiga first came out, Commodore User (I think) had a pull-out section every month about the Amiga, with screenshots and stuff. One of the games in there was Last Ninja, and looked like it was what eventually came to be Ninja Remix. I'll see if I can find the screenshots. I remember that the text about it said it was going to have multiple baddies on screen, and that was what the screenshots showed. So anyway, I thought Last Ninja 2 was going to be as good as those screenshots were, but it wasn't really to be.

What _were_ your favourite games then ?

Good question. I don't know really. It was February 1990. If you can tell me some games that were around then I'll be able to tell you. I can't remember right now.

And what do you play these days ?

Almost nothing at all actually. I just don't play games. I don't have time to be honest, and when I do play stuff, I usually play for about 10 minutes and think "What am I playing this for?". But there are some exceptions.....All incarnations of Carmageddon are the greatest games ever. And I sat here for 3 days solid and completed the amazing Half-Life (and then Opposing Force when it came out which was good but a bit short). Oh, and the excellent Foundation on the Amiga recently held my attention to the detriment of my work because it eats up hours at a time.

Got more anecdotes / facts from your LN-music creating time ?

Erm....I don't know what would be interesting. Not a lot I suppose. I was going to use the money I made from it to pay to go to space-school, which I think was a 4 week course to learn about about space and stuff. I found out about it at school - I think I was the only person interested. You had to do a big essay to gain entry though and I couldn't be bothered. It was also the first time I actually bought something "just because I had the money on me", which was good. It was a Cruiser Joystick which cost £16, and I still have right here and is in perfect condition after 10 years of battering.

One of the MDs at Consult Software (Dave something) wanted me to help program some game stuff for them as well, but my programming was just not good enough at the time, and that's what I had to tell him.

At that time, Consult Software was also converting some Disney games so I did music for those as well. I had to do Amiga, ST and Spectrum versions. That was the only time I ever did music for anything other than the Amiga (besides doing Playstation and PC stuff years later of course). I also did the music on Little Puff for the Amiga which Consult Software wrote for Codemasters. I got £20, but it only took me half an hour! :) But the music got credited to Lyndon Sharp who worked at Codemasters at the time and did the ST music. I was not happy and sent a letter to Codemasters complaining. :)

I had to do sound effects for LN2 as well. I had no idea how to go about it so I went to see the drama teacher from school because I knew he had sound effect tapes. That was the only time I ever phoned up a teacher's house and the only time a teacher came to my house. It was a weird experience. :) I think most of punching sounds were done by my mouth. Actually, I can't remember if they even used them at all.

Oh yes, I never even got a copy of the game. How crap is that? I'm not even sure if Consult Software themselves got any copies of the game.


Curiosities I can put on the Archives...?

No, nothing really. I did do a few different intro tunes. The two MDs wanted (for some reason) the intro music to be a medley of the ingame music. So I did that and it was absolutely awful. I did another tune which wasn't so bad, but the one that went on was the best one and fit with the game best. And then you can only hear it for about 10 seconds anyway! They're on a disk somewhere, but I don't know where.

Did you hear of Last Ninja 4 ? What's your opinion ?

To be honest, I think they've missed the boat a bit. Last Ninja 4 should have appeared 2 or 3 years ago. Of course, I hope it is good, but I have no opinion until I see it. I've been in the games industry long enough to not believe anything until I see it and play it.

Thanks for any answers ;)

No problem.
Mike Clarke Music - +44 (151) 639-7581
mikec~AT~popstar.com
http://www.fromwithin.com/
[Thanks Mike!]

When asked, Stan Schembri told me some interesting things!

These days I work for Xyratex in the South of England, we are the world leaders in fibre channel, ssa and mpeg technologies. We design and provide both RAID storage, testers and analysers for the world market.

I am currently involved as a UNIX specialist working on projects for SGI and IBM, although these are confidential. I am also a MSCE and program mainly in C and VB.

LN3 was written using a popular development environment at the time. It was called PDS (programmers Development System) and ran on a 12 MHz 286 PC! All the source code was written and compiled (remarkably quickly!) on the PC and then dumped to the CBM64 via a cable to the expansion bus on the back. The CBM side of things was a cartridge running the upload/download code.

The game was developed over a long period of time with the main story board coming from Tim Best and then a whole host of little ideas from everyone involved in the project. I suppose you could say it evolved rather than was developed.

I have lost all the source code etc. from all my games, it's a pity I would have liked to have kept them for nostalgic reasons.

I don't really have time to play games any more although the guys who work with me seem to. I did play LN1 and LN2 before I wrote Vendetta and enjoyed them.

I'm afraid I currently have no plans to return to the gaming world. I worked in the industry for a good many years, most of them I'm glad to say happy. However what once started as a lucrative hobby became a monster. When the financial crash of the late eighties hit the UK, it turned an industry which I loved into a back stabbing, money grabbing, nightmare.

I really enjoy my current job, I have worked with IBM and XYRATEX for the last nine years and the opertunity to always be at the cutting edge of technology and write the code that drives it, gives me as much pleasure as writing my first games at Palace Software.

I'm surprised and flattered that there is still so much interest in the games I wrote, it was certainly an important part of my life and I wouldn't change anything. The people within the industry that worked with were fantastic, John Twiddy Mev Dinc, Tim Best are just the begining of a very long list! You never know all this enthusiasm might push me enough to consider a quiet return to the scene!


Thanks Stan!

To hear some words from Tim Best, go to the LN4 section!


Archives established in 1997, url: lastninja.c64.org
C64 page :: heechee.net :: eMail