The Art of Shūten Complete
This post will contain spoilers! And lots of (hopefuly) pretty pictures.
As I’ve mentioned previously, the first boss I ever designed (Ripper for Super Clew Land) took days to draw. Each individual boss for Shūten only took hours.
For Ripper, I used my Wacom tablet but, since I was without it in Denver, I had to use a different process for these bosses. For most bosses, I would sketch only the left or right side of the boss on paper, take a photo with my iPhone, and mail the image to myself. Then I’d open it in Photoshop, adjust the brightness/contrast then duplicate and flip it horizontally to create a full illustration before scaling to game size.
Inevitably I’d forget some part of the boss or not be happy with some aspect of the original sketch. Instead of starting completely over, I’d draw just that part separately or erase bits of the original and try again, and repeat the process, adding the revision to the original in Photoshop.
The squid was one of the few bosses I drew in its entirety (after trying and being unhappy with the reflection trick).
The wolf came pretty easily. The only part I wasn’t happy with was the ears. Rather than redrawing on paper I managed to correct them directly in pixels.
This one took a couple tries. The first attempt looked like a Chinese festival dragon, a little too comical. The final design heavily references the dragon from Spirited Away. The films of Studio Ghibli have had a strong influence on my designs throughout Retro Game Crunch.
The original top down design perfectly illustrates my patchwork process (reflection, scaling, rotating, etc) but was too visually boring and not very threatening.
The head was way too big in the original sketch. “We’ll fix it in post.” Also, the shell was all done with pixels after a number of failed attempts to sketch it on paper. It still isn’t perfect but I think the shading masks the imperfections pretty well.
The original design for Oni had a ring of skulls which remained a nice-to-have until late in the process. Once implemented, we decided they weren’t necessary. The third eye and snarl were all pixel-only additions and made our sturdy sumo a little more menacing.
I struggled with enemies for longer than I would have liked. I think I overwhelmed myself with the simultaneous goal of breadth and depth. For a while I chased down boring, animal-inspired enemies before honing in on more spiritual and abstract sprites.
Cut enemies (including smaller versions of some final enemies)
Final enemies and palette swaps
I’m most proud of the crowman, drawn completely in pixels with nary a sketch to work from. As with most of the other enemies, I took a lot of inspiration from ancient Japanese scrolls.
I also struggled with this map. A few sketches helped me figure out the basic relative position of things but it was many false pixel starts before I found the loose grid-based approach that became the final design. Then it was about a day of just building up the details and depth that make that final design sing.
Evolution of the map
And there you have it, the Art of Shūten