Fabio Capone and Domenico Barba founded NAPS Team 26 years ago and the Italian dev house is best known for Shadow Fighter on the Amiga and their Gekido (PlayStation) games. We sent Adrian to chat with Fabio about past and present.
What are your earliest and fondest memories of gaming while growing up?
Fantasy from SNK, I was amazed by the idea of adventure and discover of new worlds
Can you remember how you came up with the idea behind NAPS Team and is it true that you created one of Italian first ever video game companies?
Well we were both players and ‘1 vs 1 genre’ lovers since ‘The way of the Exploding Fist’, also back then it was the era of Street Fighter 2. No, we weren’t the first team in Italy to developed a game but we were the most successful and for sure today we are the oldest one.
You created NAPS Team alongside Domenico Barba. How did you two meet and what were your initial game ideas and objectives for your company?
Domenico and I had friends in common who put us in touch, we both had the dream to make a videogame, and mainly a 1 Vs 1 Fighting game
How exactly did you first come up with Shadow Fighter and what games and other media helped inspire this classic Amiga title?
We did a couple of other projects before jumping into SF. We weren’t fully satisfied of what we did, so we restarted over and over until I came with the insane idea to develop 7 colour characters. Finally we had the right amount of memory to put a good number of frames and moves. Obviously Street Fighter 2 and SNK titles were a huge influence
Shadow Fighter was really well regarded and respected by critics and fans alike. Why do you think your game made such a big impact on the Amiga, especially when so many beat-em ups had failed in the past?
As I told you above, the chance to put the right amount of animations and frames gave us the opportunity to develop a complex AI and fighting strategies, that was the key.
Do you have a personal favourite and least favourite character within the Shadow Fighter universe?
No doubt, Toshio, Tony, Electra and the most of all Pupazz.
The game box boasted an additional 8 players to come later as an add-on for the original game. Why did we never get to see this add-on released to the public?
Gremlin wasn’t interested anymore in Amiga, and it wasn’t the time where you were able to publish stuff by yourself.
Can you reveal any additional juicy details about some of these 8 unreleased characters and how close were they to being completed?
Many people ask that, at the beginning the range of characters was a lot bigger than 18 characters, so for timing problems we had to cut many of them. I remember the strangest character was a Mech Gundam alike, so crazy right?
Do you still own the graphics and code for these new fighters, and do you think they will ever make it to the public?
Yes we have, but I don’t think they will be ever released.
Was there also an unreleased comic book for Shadow Fighter and if so, can we ever expect to see this released?
Lol, oh no I did that. It was horrible looking at that now, but it tells the story of the Shadow Fighter, how he becomes the Shadow Fighter.
I really would love to see Shadow Fighter remastered or even a new sequel produced, was this ever on the cards, or is this something you may consider in the future?
We always evaluate that, who knows…
Is it true that Shadow from the UK TV show Gladiators almost appeared in Shadow Fighter?
People told me that, I wasn’t aware of this until many years after.
Did you ever look to release Shadow Fighter on any other formats other than the Amiga?
Sure, the idea was to port it on SNES.
Please tell us a bit about your work on the first Gekido title and did your previous work on Shadow Fighter prove to be very useful?
Gekido was our way to say: scrolling beat-em ups weren’t dead at all, just people had no new ideas on the table. In this case SF didn’t helped that much, brawler games require a totally different approach.
What was it like moving away from a 2d fighter to a 3d fighter and how do you personally reflect back on this game?
It was quite hard indeed, tech wasn’t at the best to do that kind of stuff, so it was difficult to reproduce the 2d feel into a 3d environment.
Battle Over the Pacific moved you away from beat-em up titles. How did it feel to get your teeth stuck into a new genre and what was your exact role on this game?
We always loved flight sims since Capcom’s 1942 of F16 Falcon on PC, and our aim was to develop something easy and fun in a 3d world a mix between arcade and simulation.
Rageball looks like a more modern take on the classic Speedball games. Were these games an inspiration for you and how do you personally reflect on this game?
Rollerblade on C64 was our first love and Alita and the Running Man of course. We wanted to create something fun and totally crazy. We had a lot of fun developing Rageball, the idea was to put everything that works without limitation of any kind.
NAPS Team is still going strong today, whereas other game developers have long since closed! What do you think has been your main recipe for success and where do you see your company in the coming years?
I can’t speak for other developers, but for us I think it is just the love and passion in what you do everyday.
Are there any exciting games or projects you and your team are currently working on?
Baldo (pictured above) is our main project right now and we had a huge feedback from people since the Trailer came out, as much as we had with Shadow Fighter and Gekido, and honestly we didn’t expect that much. We just wanted to develop a game that we really would like to play since a long time and no-one ever did.
Have you ever started work on a game that you never released, and if so, which one do you think would have been the most successful?
Baldo the Dark Night on GBA, but who knows maybe in the future we may port to Switch.
If you could share a few drinks with a video game character, who would you choose and why?
Bruce Lee from C64, he was one of the first adventure character in a video game. He will be always my hero.