Shin’en Multimedia might not be a name you’ve heard of, but there’s a good chance that you have heard its work - because in its eight years of business the company has delivered audio middleware and created soundtracks for over 250 handheld games.
Founded in 1999 by Manfred Linzner and Bernhard Wodok, the company started with a contract from Core Design to produce the soundtrack for the Game Boy Color version of Tomb Raider. “In those days there were no outsourcing companies available for Game Boy music, so we had an excellent position in the market,” says Linzer.
This lead the team into developing GBC games themselves, then progressing onto the Game Boy Advance and eventually the Nintendo DS. Recently, the company announced that it was to start development for the Wii, the first time they’ve developed a home console game.
Shin’en prides itself on working on both original and licenced properties. “Nanostray was our first Nintendo DS title, and for a non-licensed game it was very successful. We’ve also worked on many excellent licenced games such as Pet Alien and Maya the Bee.”
The team are quite eager to mention that they don’t give original IP any special preference, however, saying: “It doesn’t matter if we are developing our own brand or a licenced title – all titles get the same attention and have a dedicated and experienced team behind them.”
Moving to the DS gave Shin’en a great chance to write a new game engine, which debuted in the shoot-em-up Nanostray. “The DS is powerful enough to be 100 per cent script or data driven,” the team explains. “Pet Alien, our latest title, can use the parts of the engine developed for Nanostray 2 to do produce special effects, while benefiting from the optimisations to keep the frame-rate at a constant 60 frames per second.”
Looking at Shin’en’s softography shows a company mostly focused on children’s games, a situation that the team is more than happy with. Despite the perceived ‘coolness’ in working on adult-aimed titles, the company has no desire to create violent games, enjoying the process of working on titles for younger audiences.
It’s the success of the Wii within these broad demographics that’s caused Shin’en to become a licenced Wii developer. “With the success of the Wii and Nintendo DS with consumers, we’ll be broadening our line-up to deliver innovative content for these new target groups.”
But at the same time as developing games for the successive handheld generations, Shin’en has been developing audio middleware to provide high quality audio with low ram usage and processor power – two areas important on low-spec handhelds.
“Our GAX Gameboy Advance audio system was for a long time unrivalled. Only at the very end of the GBA lifecycle were other companies able to utilise GBA audio as we had done for years previously.”
In its time, Shinen has developed audio engines and provided soundtracks for games on the Gameboy Color, Gameboy Advance, N-Gage and DS, bringing the company to boast that it is the largest audio outsourcing company specialised on handhelds – a position many larger, higher-profile companies surely envy.