Long before Spike had the rights to the Fire Pro Wrestling series, some of Spike’s former members developed the series for its previous home company, Human Entertainment. In addition to Fire Pro, a lot of their library consisted of other sports titles such as Final Match Tennis, Super Formation Soccer, and Human Grand Prix. However, they also attempted other genres such as Survivor Horror with its Clock Tower games. While Clock Tower did get a release in the West on the PlayStation One, it was actually the second game in the series since the first game was only in Japan for the Super Famicom. However, both the original Super Famicom game and its sequel are still remembered by hardcore gaming enthusiasts for being one of the scariest games ever made. So, how did they manage to stay in business for 17 years? What happened to their properties when they went bankrupt at the start of the millennium? Read today’s Editorial Tuesday to find out.
Human Entertainment was founded in May 1983 by Choshiro Suzuki (unfortunately, any information in regards to Suzuki’s background happens to be unavailable in English and Japanese). At first, they were TRY (with each letter to be read individually), but wouldn’t adopt the Human name until 1986. At the time the company was founded, it had up to seven employees and they initially started out making games for the Famicom, or the Nintendo Entertainment System. Throughout most of the eighties, Human Entertainment served more as an outsource/contracting company for other developers. They got their first contract with Nintendo, who gave them the task of making 1986’s Nazo no Murasame Jo, or The Mysterious Murasame Castle for the Famicom Disk System. While it was largely a Japan exclusive for nearly 30 years, it didn’t get an official international release until 2014 for the 3DS Virtual Console. The game received modest reviews and was a good start to help Human Entertainment get their foot in the door. Later on in 1986, they released Puroresu (or Pro Wrestling) for the Famicom Disk System, and as we all know, it was a wrestling series that made them a household name.
In addition to working with Nintendo, they also got contracting work from Bandai. In addition to making an official wrestling game for Nintendo, they made a Kinnikuman wrestling game for the Famicom Disk System in 1987. Shortly after, they also made an SD Gundam game and a game based on Kamen Rider Black RX (both for the Famicom Disk System) as the decade progressed.
Fire Pro Wrestling
Although the West didn’t get a Fire Pro Wrestling game until the PS2, the franchise has been around in Japan since June 1989, debuting on the PC Engine, or the Turbo Grafx-16 in North America. As to how Fire Pro Wrestling came about is a unique story, and it relates to the fact that Human Entertainment had experience with making Puroresu. Considering the progress in technology, Masato Masuda, one of the co-creators, wanted to do certain things that weren’t previously possible to make a game more accurate to professional wrestling, when the games were then striking oriented.
For example, they wanted to introduce tie-ups, takedowns, and submissions, which weren’t featured in Puroresu, and they wanted to introduce a unique move system that emphasized on actual grappling techniques by introducing a timing system to pull off a certain move. Plus, they wanted to add other novelties such as a stamina system, all which are in use to this day with its latest release, World. Though Fire Pro is famous for having hardcore matches that aren’t possible outside of Japan, the first game was just a standard wrestling game featuring singles or tag. For its second edition, it introduced lumberjack matches where if you go outside the ring, it will force you back in.
As the series and technology progressed, it slowly started to introduce the famous and well-received create-a-wrestler mode, the critical hits, the various match modes, six man tag matches, hardcore matches that put the old ECW to shame, a UFC octagon for MMA, and exploding ring matches. While its most recent edition, Fire Pro Wrestling World for the PS4 has wrestlers from New Japan, in its prior installments, they modified the selected wrestlers to strongly resemble some real life wrestlers from around the world such as Hulk Hogan, Antonio Inoki, Jushin Liger, Tiger Mask, Terry Funk, The Road Warriors, The Rock, Ultimo Dragon, and so on and with different names. Just change the names to their actual ones in the edit mode and you practically have them.
As for Masato Masuda, he passed away in March 2014 at the age of 48. As for Masuda’s background, he enjoyed independently studying computer programming in his teenage years and after high school, he got a job with Human while it was still TRY to help get ready for his qualifications. He would continue to be a mainstay in the company throughout its run, and would also serve as an official instructor for its game designing course.
Human Creative School
In 1990, Human actually created what is believed to the world’s first game creator school, the Human Creative School, which was attached to the company’s headquarters in Kichijoji, in the Western part of Tokyo. As development projects, the company assigned its students to make some games. Some games their students contributed to were Egypt, a puzzle game for the Famicom; Dragon Eyes, a simulation game for the Super Famicom; Septentrion, an action adventure game for the Super Famicom; and The Fireman, an action game for the Super Famicom. In 1999, they even opened their own correspondence school, which didn’t last.
Closing and Former Members New Endeavors
As to why their correspondence courses didn’t last long, Human Entertainment filed for bankruptcy due to an overwhelming debt close to 4 billion yen in November 1999. Many of Human’s former staff would make their own companies, or join new ones. Most notably with Spike, which would later merge with Chunsoft to become Spike Chunsoft. Prior to Human Entertainment’s former staff joining Spike, Spike largely sold VHS and DVDs, and with video game staff in the mix, they expanded to video games. Not only did they continue the Fire Pro Wrestling series, you may also be familiar with their other hits such as the Dragon Ball Z Budokai and the Kenka Bancho series’. Then in 2012, Spike merged with Chunsoft, the subcontracting company who you may know for making the Dragon Quest games for Square Enix.
Other former staff members created their own companies around the same time such as Nude Maker, Sandlot, and Grasshopper Manufacture. As strange as a name Nude Maker is, you probably recognize them as the makers of Steel Battalion and Infinite Space. For Sandlot, they are most famous for the Chikyuu Boueigun, or the Earth Defense Force series. For Grasshopper Manufacturer, they serve mostly as a contracting company for other studios, just like how Human was as TRY. Their breakout hit was Killer 7, and would later gain fame with No More Heroes.
A Human Legacy
As we shared before, Human’s legacy goes far beyond Fire Pro Wrestling, which many wrestling fans and gamers consider to be the best wrestling gaming series in history. Though Konami popularized rhythm games with Dance Dance Revolution, Human Entertainment actually created Dance Aerobics for the NES, a dancing game that used the Power Pad. While it is unarguable that Dance Dance Revolution did help make the genre a staple in the 2000’s, we can’t deny that Human Entertainment were the originators with Dance Aerobics. Their Final Match Tennis series, which also originated on the PC Engine, has also been excellently received for being an excellent representation to the sport. Super Formation Soccer, or just Super Soccer in the West (with the label having a goalie that resembles Donald Trump), was a launch title in Europe due to the sports popularity there as football.
In addition to Clock Tower, Human continued to explore the survivor horror genre with Twilight Syndrome, which got its own movie series in its native Japan. By taking place inside of a high school, players can play as a trio of three schoolgirls who want to know whether or not their school is haunted. Due to its then groundbreaking elements such as 3D sound and its graphics, it became a big hit in its native Japan, and a must have for import enthusiasts.
Though Human is gone, they are certainly not forgotten. As we have shared, many of their older titles have moved on to other companies its former employees instantly started. Twilight Syndrome had a great run on the PlayStation, but later got a new installment on the DS in 2008. Clock Tower’s rights would be bought by Sunsoft, and they developed a third installment for the PS2. The game had moderate reviews and it wasn’t much of a seller, and the series has been buried since.
Due to lack of profits, Human went into the red by the end of the nineties. By 1998, they pulled out of the arcade business and by the following year, they just pulled out of gaming altogether but still kept their school open. In 2000, they were officially declared bankrupt. As for their school, it was bought by another company and changed its name to the Professo Creative School in 2001, stopped taking new students in 2002, and finally closed in March of 2003.
As for Fire Pro, Human’s groundbreaking hit, there were actually times they said it was the end of the series. Even for some of its earlier titles, they were considered the last such as Super Fire Pro Wrestling 3 Final bout for the Super Famicom. There was once a time when people thought that Fire Pro Returns for the PS2 was going to be the final game but it came back to the Xbox 360 in 2012. Many fans thoughts the arcade-like nature of the game was not an accurate representation of the game’s legacy and wanted something that represented the real Fire Pro. Then 5 years later, fans got that with World and it’s considered the best installment yet. While the Human name is gone, at least they’re still with us in spirit with their franchises still living on.