Drillimation Studios (株式会社ドリメーションスタジオ Kabushiki-gaisha Dorimēshon Sutajio ) is a Japanese video game developer and publisher, as well as an animation studio located in Tokyo, Japan. The company specializes in anime and video games, and they also have developed films and computer software. The studio is currently owned by Bandai Namco Holdings, who acquired the studio in 1985. The Walt Disney Company also owns a 15% stake of the company. Their franchises have topped many rankings, and currently competes with Bombtoon Studios.
The studio is famous for the ultra-successful The Drillimation Series anime and game series, with it winning numerous awards for their excellence. Drillimation is also famous for their "bullet hell" shoot-'em-ups, mainly for popularizing the maniac shooter genre in the 1990s, with several notable franchises being Touhou Project and Lucky Star. Several games by Drillimation have won the Game of the Year award while some have been nominated.
Lively beginnings (1958 - 1968)Edit
Drillimation Studios was founded in 1958 by a recent graduate of the Tokyo University named Hiroshi Takajima. In 1961, Drillimation created their mascot character, Susumu Hori, who would then become a worldwide phenomenon in the years that pass. In 1964, Drillimation Studios opened their doors to the public in Creation Universe Tokyo (called Drill Land at that time). As time flew by, Takajima and his staff presented the anime shorts to Toho, the infamous studio for producing the Godzilla film series. Toho found them useful and bought half of Drillimation, making them a second-party studio for Toho. Toho also gave the company an unlimited budget and let them make any anime series they wish.
Toho Era (1969 - 1985)Edit
With the unlimited budget, Drillimation went on to produce their first big hit: the Angry German Kid series. The series was a huge success spanning three years and almost one-third of all children in Japan enjoyed the series. The group would work around 14 hours a day to continue their ongoing success with Space Ninja Team Star Trigon. In 1974, the studio received a request from Hanna-Barbera to create a Drillimation series exclusively for the United States. Takajima packed his bags and headed to Los Angeles, California to talk with Hanna-Barbera founders William Hanna and Joseph Barbera about bringing The Drillimation Series to the United States. The GoGang series was a series to introduce the American children to the world of anime.
While working of Star Trigon, Takajima wanted to do a series based on girl fighters as part of the series. Near the end of Star Trigon's broadcast, Kagami Yoshimizu joined Drillimation, who already drafted part of the concept. Takajima asked Yoshimizu to put the girls in driller suits. This ended up becoming Lucky Star, based on Yoshimizu's concepts. While the studio was working on Magical Girl Team Lucky Star, Lucasfilm and Hanna-Barbera produced the English dubs of Angry German Kid and Space Ninja Team Star Trigon. In 1981, Lucky Star began airing on TV Asahi, and became an instant hit. This led to him working on it for the next six years. Lucky Star was considered the most popular magical girl series in Japan before being beaten out by Sailor Moon in 1993.
Gaming Era (1986 - 1997)Edit
In 1982, when Takajima was taking a break in the United States, he purchased a Commodore 64. With it, he began making simple games featuring Susumu and Konata. In 1985, employees from Namco visited Drillimation Studios, looking for purchase offers. In November 1985, Namco paid a total of $200 million to own 100% of Drillimation, making them a first party studio for Namco. Around that time, Takajima also purchased a Commodore Amiga. This caused Toho to lose the rights to Drillimation properties, but Namco let Drillimation continue producing anime. After the accusation, Namco began reworking Drillimation into a video game developer. At that point, Namco gave Drillimation a choice of any Namco character to implement into The Drillimation Series, and they chose Taizo Hori from Dig Dug.
Shortly after the Namco acquisition, the studio was split into two halves. One half remained at the animation department to work on the Mr. Driller anime, while the other half moved to the new-formed game development department. The first game that Drillimation produced was Mr. Driller using the new Driller Engine game engine in 1986. It was a huge success in Japan and the United States with the impressive anime-style cutscenes and catchy music, prompting Universal Studios to produce an English dub of the Mr. Driller anime series. While Drillimation Studios continued their ongoing success in the Japanese and American arcade markets with Lucky Star and the video game adaptation of the first season of Angry German Kid, the first five games of Amusement Software's Touhou Project also made it into the Driller Engine 1000 series.
When Drillimation upgraded to the Driller Engine 2000 arcade board, they couldn't stop moving on. The first game they developed using the Driller Engine 2000 arcade board was Mr. Driller G. Their next huge success occurred with Super Lucky Star 4. In 1990, Drillimation began working on the fourth game in the Angry German Kid series, as well as the English dub of Magical Girl Team Lucky Star. Unable to continue the Angry German Kid project, the team decided to make a fighting game instead, thus becoming Super Smash Keyboards. Drillimation upped the project by adding features that weren't seen in Street Fighter II, such as brutal finishing moves, digitized voice acting, and lots of sweat.
While they were making their next big hit, Drillimation developed Driller Engine Grand Prix to hold their fans over until the release of Angry Video Game Nerd: The Arcade and Crystal Island in 1994. After receiving the rights to the now-defunct Amusement Software's Touhou Project series in 1989, the next four games in the series would make it into the arcades. Touhou 6: The Embodiment of Scarlet Devil (1992), Touhou 7: Perfect Cherry Blossom (1993), Touhou 8: Imperishable Night (1994), and Touhou 9: The Phantasmagoria of Flower View (1995) all used the same engine as Super Lucky Star 4.
In 1995, Drillimation began working on the third official version of the Driller Engine arcade board: the Driller Engine 3000 board. The game would have the ability to display 3D graphics. Ultimate Super Smash Keyboards 2 was originally intended to be the first game for the new board, but technical problems caused the release of the board to be delayed and Ultimate Super Smash Keyboards 2 was released on the Driller Engine 2000 arcade board instead. After the Nintendo 64 development kits were available to develop the board, Drillimation began development on Mr. Driller Drill Spirits (known as Mr. Driller 64 on the Nintendo 64). The game was finished in the summer of 1996 and the game was released in the winter of 1996 and 1997.
The New Driller Era (1998 - present)Edit
In 1996, Drillimation Studios was brought shocking news as Hiroshi Takajima suffered an issue with a brain tumor. He quickly underwent a successful surgery to remove the tumor. When he reappeared in Nintendo Power interviews later that year, he was noticeably different.
While Drillimation was continuing to crank out new games for the Driller Engine 3000 arcade board such as Lucky Star: Symphony of the Night (known as Lucky Star 64 on the Nintendo 64) and Super Smash Keyboards 3, all of which were released in 1997, Drillimation went on to produce a game originally supposed to be on the Driller Engine 2000 board called To Heart. Originally supposed to be a light-hearted action-adventure game, the game was transformed into a raunchy, vulgar game about a teenage boy with a hangover at the request of Rareware. The critics loved it, but sadly it caused several controversies (see below under Controversies).
In the summer of 1997, Hiroshi Takajima passed away at the age of 61 after having issued with a stroke: the tumor had returned. All attraction at both Creation Universe Tokyo and Anaheim did not operate due to Takajima's death. This ultimately ended the original era with his son Susumu Takajima taking over the company as the present, starting a whole new era. Despite his takeover, many fans started liking him and despite his passion, he can speak excellent English. At that time, Touhou 10: Mountain of Faith was released in August of that year, bringing the Touhou series into 3D with new mechanics and the arrival of Sanae Kochiya.
In 2000, Drillimation released the Driller Engine 4000 board, the fourth version of the Driller Engine series. On of the games that were released using the board that didn't come out in the arcades was Puella Magi Madoka Magica. Originally a run-and-gun shooter called Grief Syndrome for the Driller Engine 3000 board, it later became an action-adventure game on the Driller Engine 4000 board.
- Main Article: List of Drillimation games
Since the Driller Engine 2 Era, games were produced on MS-DOS and Microsoft Windows computers. The updated version of his tracker had twelve channels, with all eight channels coming from the Super Nintendo, with the addition of four FM channels based on any sound chip.
Drillimation's games have topped many rankings across the world, with several of their games receiving critical acclaim. During their growth in the gaming industry, Drillimation has produced ten games that received universal acclaim (Metacritic score of 90% or higher). Some of these include Driller Engine Grand Prix 2x2 (97%), Super Smash Keyboards 8 (96%), To Heart (95%), Touhou 7: Perfect Cherry Blossom (94%), and Super Lucky Star 4 (93%).
Games generally use tracker music for soundtracks, with some or all mainly composed by award-winning composers such as Kinuyo Yamashita, Go Shiina, and Nintendo-composers Koji Kondo and Kenta Nagata for some games. The software mainly used for composing music for Drillimation games was mainly ProTracker when Drillimation was using Amiga computers during the Driller Engine 1 Era. The games mainly used the .mod format for storing music. When the Driller Engine 2 Era hit the shores, Drillimation switched to MS-DOS computers and began using Scream Tracker for remastering the Driller Engine 1 songs in .s3m format. All the Driller Engine 2 songs were composed in Impulse Tracker in .it format. Since the Driller Engine 3 Era, Drillimation has been using OpenMPT for composing game soundtracks. Ian Luck, an engineer at Drillimation Studios California, created the .mo3 format for storing music. The first game to use the .mo3 format for soundtracks was the 1993 game Seihou 3: Pennant Purple Dragon on the Super Nintendo, the last game published under the Amusement Software name.
Art and AnimationEdit
The art style used for The Drillimation Series was inspired by American cartoons such as Mickey Mouse and Tom and Jerry with an anime theme to it. The founder and the main animators for the anime took art-focused classes in high school, as well as college.
Up until the early 1990s, Drillimation mainly relied on pen and ink for the animation, with Drillimation working 14 hours a day animating the anime. It takes one to three weeks to produce an episode of the anime. During the 1990s, Drillimation began using Alias PowerAnimator on Silicon Graphics machines to animate the anime, as well as designing the character models in Driller Engine games. In 2000, Drillimation began using Maya to animate the anime, with production rates only taking 3 - 7 days.
The Drillimation Series spans a variety of themes. According to an interview with GameInformer, Susumu Takajima stated, "Drillimation came up with a new theme for each anime". Themes of romance were common in the anime, duos such as Susumu Hori and Konata Izumi, as well as Wataru Hoshi and Miyuki Takara, became a few of Drillimation's signature couples within the anime. Drillimation also explored the genre of gross-out humor when making the Angry Video Game Nerd series.
- Hiroshi Takajima, founder and director of several Drillimation games and anime
- Susumu Takajima, current president of the company, as well as the director of several games by Drillimation
- Hideaki Hatta, animator for several episodes of Space Ninja Team Star Trigon
- Mikihiro Iwata, animator for several episodes of Magical Girl Team Lucky Star and Mr. Driller
Controversies and criticismEdit
- Main Article: List of acquisitions by Drillimation Studios
During their period of growth in the gaming industry, Drillimation was often criticized by people in Japan and others around the globe for buying out smaller development studios, doujin groups, and animation studios, mainly for their intellectual property assets, and then producing drastically changed versions of their games. For example, Seymour Games' Patry series was developed under their ownership after the acquisition, with the result being sub-par than to the rest of the series starting with Patry: Smash It!.
At one point, Drillimation was criticized for trying to acquire Alexonia-based Tenma Games in 2002 but ended up getting only 25% of the stake. The stake was sold back to Tenma Animation in 2010. Drillimation also faced criticism for attempting to buy the rights to the Klonoa franchise to reboot it, but failed to do so.
In 1997 and 2004, Drillimation released two games of the To Heart anthology for the Nintendo 64 and Xbox consoles, with production assisted by Rareware. During those times, there were numerous reports of teens engaging in the activities featured in both games. Nintendo and Microsoft have filed lawsuits to Drillimation for the controversies.
- Main Article: Drillimation Studios v. Servpro
In March 2001, Drillimation released the third game in the Driller Engine Grand Prix series in the arcades. Shortly after the arcade release, defective power transformers caused fires at more than 100 arcade locations. As a result, Servpro sued Drillimation for arson and had to pay more than $3 million to Servpro in recovery charges.
Nintendo sent a cease and desist letter to Drillimation to stop producing Driller Engine Grand Prix 3 machines, which resulted in the arcade version being a commercial failure. During the shutdown, Drillimation sues the original manufacturer of the power transformer and hires a new company that supplied in better power transformers.
Touhou Gensou Rondo: Bullet Ballet and vote manipulation on SteamEdit
In 2006, Drillimation released the first game Touhou Gensou Rondo: Bullet Ballet as part of the Play, Doujin! program on Steam and consoles. It was also a launch title for the Nintendo Wii in all regions. The game was poorly received and drew a great deal of mixed to negative reception due to a long tutorial, bland backgrounds, and a "completely dead" online multiplayer mode, causing this to be ranked as one of the worst video games of all time. Critics noted an in-game prompt stated "Five-star ratings will help us give you free updates!", suggesting Drillimation would stop giving them new content if the game did not get enough high ratings. This led to widespread criticism of Drillimation manipulating the game's score on storefronts.
Drillimation Studios CEO Susumu Takajima apologized for this in an article in The Sydney Morning Herald, regarding this to be a shame for the gaming industry. Nonetheless, the game was also featured in an episode of Angry Video Game Nerd.
Later that year, Drillimation released another game from the program named Touhou Gensou Wanderer, which received better reviews, with it being mixed but not perfect. The main criticism was being similar to the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon series of games.
- Main Article: Dixon High School v. Drillimation Studios
In 2009, the FBI accused Drillimation Studios of abusing the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) in order to remove criticism by forcing YouTube to remove many videos that contain Drillimation content. As a result, Drillimation has persistently blocked/muted videos with Content ID matches or takedown notices, as well as rejecting disputes for Content ID claims, even though many of them were covered by fair use. This caused so much anger and frustration to many YouTubers, one of the videos they took off was a group of high school students at Dixon High School in Holly Ridge, North Carolina doing a cover of the song Take It for a Sailor Uniform from Magical Girl Team Lucky Star. In the same year, Drillimation was accused of abusing the DMCA to indiscriminately remove videos related to Lucky Star, and most notably a 1-minute home video which a child played Super Lucky Star 4 on a Nintendo Wii. Drillimation eventually retracted many of their claims and responded to many counter-notifications they received after being challenged by their competitor, Bombtoon Studios. The copyright manager for the Japan facility was fired and Drillimation hired a new copyright manager who had a better understanding of fair use.
In 2012, a small group of Team Crimson hackers hacked the Drillimation Studios YouTube channel in an attempt to ruin the 2012 Double Dash Classic tournament. Specifically, the hackers muted the audio track during the Minecraftian national anthem, Notch Save The Prince.
Nihon Ad SystemsEdit
In 2011, Drillimation Studios published a special Yu-Gi-Oh video on YouTube featuring Susumu Hori and Keel Sark dueling. Shortly after the publication, Nihon Ad Systems filed a copyright complaint to YouTube, which caused the video to become blocked worldwide, even though Drillimation had the rights from Konami to do so. Drillimation Studios filed a lawsuit to NAS, who apologized and retracted the claim.
In 2011, Drillimation released Super Smash Keyboards 8 for the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii, as well as PC and Mac computers. The game became a smash hit and was the fourth best-selling Drillimation game of all time. However, the flesh pits version of Tsukasa triggered controversy over her appearance. The costume is unlockable in Story Mode where Shinkuns strip Tsukasa completely nude and later appears at Cinemassacre offices, where she puts on linen bandages to avoid being detected by the public. Later in the cutscene, Tsukasa lies on the couch while speaking with Mike Matei, who then goes on to draw her like that. However, Matei is caught by Miki, Tsukasa's mother, who shreds up the drawing. Susumu Takajima said this about the cutscene:
- The ESRB is an organization that game companies have a relationship with. Directors and producers gun the ESRB and talk about the ratings they want for their games. This happened in Super Smash Keyboards 8, and I told the ESRB that the game's budget was so expensive and that we invested more than $20 million into it. We didn't want to lose that money, so we asked them to give us that Teen rating. However, our developers had some Mature-rated material in that game and I had to keep changing stuff. They were able to negotiate and give us that Teen rating to make that money back and of course, it would end up being the #4 most popular Drillimation game of all time behind Touhou 7: Perfect Cherry Blossom and beating To Heart, which attracted a similar audience. There were reports of children aged 7 - 10 years of age buying a copy of the game, and a lot of parents bought the game for their kids around that age group. Parents and children who were aged 10 - 12 years were shocked when they found out there was that "ecchi" scene, and I mean nudity. There was a background noise with two teenagers who had oral sex, and there was profanity throughout the entire game. And what I mean by the game's Teen rating, a lot of that stuff wasn't appropriate for children under 13.
Drillimation Studios AmericaEdit
Drillimation operates two subsidiaries in the United States: Drillimation Studios California, which was established in 1975 and located in Anaheim, California, and Drillimation Studios Florida, which was established in 2001 and located in Orlando, Florida.
The first American subsidiary of Drillmation Studios was formed in 1975 to assist in the production of the GoGang anime. In 1986, they began localizing and releasing Drillmation games in North America for NES, as well as their respective arcade versions. They also asked Box Office, Inc. to port these budget PC titles into the NES, all using Driller Engine 1, these included The $100,000 Pyramid and High Rollers. However European game developer Virgin Mastertronic was later asked by the company to bring Virgin's PC games to the NES which included Shōgun before many of the staff left to form Virgin Games' North American arm. In 1990, the company became Namco Hometek, Inc. and published more titles for other consoles. Any Drillimation games released during the Driller Engine 2 Era and beyond were published under the Namco/Drillimation branding.
The company also holds four subsidiaries. They include:
- Shaft, established in 1975 and purchased in 2011
- Kyoto Animation, established in 1981 and purchased in 2006
- Seven Arcs, established in 2002 and purchased in 2005
- A-1 Pictures, established in 2005 and purchased in 2012
Other things by DrillimationEdit
Studios founded by former Drillimation EmployeesEdit
- Shaft, studio founded by former Drillimation animator Hiroshi Wakao
- Kyoto Animation, studio founded by former Drillimation animator Hideaki Hatta
- AlphaDream, studio founded by former Drillimation programmer Tetsuo Mizuno
- PopCap Games, studio founded by former Drillimation Studios California programmers John Vechey, Brian Fiete, and Jason Kapalka
|The Drillimation Series by Drillimation Studios and Bandai Namco Holdings|
|Franchises||Angry German Kid • Angry Video Game Nerd • Chuhou Joutai • Driller Engine Grand Prix • HotShots Party1 • Killer Minecraft • Lucky Star • Mr. Driller • Patry1 • Star Trigon • Super Smash Keyboards • Touhou Project|
|Developers||Edret Games • Seymour Games • Team Shanghai Alice • Twilight Frontier|
|Former/Defunct||Amusement Software • Tenma Games|