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The company is probably best known for the famous scrolling shooter R-Type and the earliest beat 'em up, Kung-Fu Master . They have been a popular developer in Japan with games like Photoboy for the TurboGrafx-16 and In the Hunt for the Sega Saturn.
Irem was founded in 1974 under the name IPM. Its purpose was to manufacture, sell, and rent arcade hardware cabinets. IPM released its first video arcade games in 1978. In 1979, IPM changed its name to Irem Corporation. Originally an abbreviation for "International Rental Electronics Machines", the meaning of Irem's acronym was changed to "Innovations in Recreational Electronic Media" in the first half of the 1980s.
As Irem entered the 1990s, their logo included a dragonfly because in Japan, dragonflies symbolize "martial success," due to similarity in the sound of the word "dragonfly" and "victory" in Japanese. However, shortly after that, the corporation began to decline. Sales were so poor that in 1994, Irem completely ceased development of video games. The company's original wholesale division, which was in charge of manufacturing and renting/selling arcade cabinets, spun off from Irem to form its own company called Apies (アピエス, Abiesu?); leaving Irem with only the video game division. Then a group of employees, tired of the company's inactivity, left Irem to form their own company under the name Nazca Corporation (creator of the Metal Slug series).
On April 15, 1997, Nanao (now Eizo Nanao) founded Irem Software Engineering Inc. Shortly after in July 1997, Irem Software Engineering took over the development department of Irem Corporation and absorbed it. The publishing department of Irem Corporation, on the other hand, became under the direct control of Nanao who then sold it to none other than Apies in 1998.
Irem now develops and publishes games in Japan exclusively for the PlayStation 2, the PlayStation 3 and the PSP. Overall, the video game development department is the only remnant of the former Irem Corporation which is still associated with the brand. Irem is currently working on Bumpy Trot 2, a sequel to the first Bumpy Trot (or as it's known in the west; Steambot Chronicles).
Irem Software Engineering is headquartered in Hakusan. It is a wholly owned subsdiary of Eizo Nanao Corporation.
Irem released a promotional space in the Asian and Japanese versions of PlayStation Home, the PlayStation 3s online community-based service. The space is called the "Irem Square". This space features various 'Night Stalls' with free items such as a yukata and was released on February 26, 2009 in the Japanese version. Users can also access the game space for Minna de Spelunker from this space. On April 1, 2009, Irem gave away free "Combatant of the Black Irem Brigade" suits in the space that were only available for that day. There is also a store in the space that users can purchase items from Irem. This space was released in the Asian Home on July 16, 2009, but the only way users could access it, at the time, was by riding in the space ship that was accessed at the "Bus Stop" in the Home Square. The ship departed every fifteen minutes and after landing, users got a hat that is modeled after the ship. The space was added to Asia's world map on July 23, 2009. On August 13, 2009, Irem added another space called the "Seaside of Memories", which is a beach resort with three accessible huts. The first hut has a shop for swimsuit apparel and the other two are just for users to sit and chat. This is also the first Home Space to let users go in and under the water and if they stay under the water too long, they get sent back to the entrance of the space. On December 3, 2009, Irem released another space to Japan for their game R-Type Tactics II: Operation Bitter Chocolate called the Sparkling Flash Space, which is based in space and features displays of three R-Type Shooters and a mini-game. During the holiday season in Home, Irem redecorated their spaces for the occasion. Irem redecorated the spaces, except the Sparkling Flash Space, for Christmas from December 17, 2009 until January 7, 2010. They were decorated for the New Year (2010) from January 7, 2010 to January 14, 2010 in Japan and from January 7, 2010 to January 21, 2010 in Asia. There is currently an event going on, in collaboration between Irem, Nippon Ichi Software, and SCE, in Asia called the "Black Irem Brigade". Users must talk to the Prinny in the middle of the Home Square to find participate.
Irem is also known for staging elaborate April Fools jokes, creating web sites that are usually dedicated to promoting something that tends to poke fun at themselves and their games. A listing of these sites are found below and on their main site gallery here.
- April Fools 2000: R-Type Force Sweets
- April Fools 2001: Dokidoki Suikoden Dating Sim
- April Fools 2002: Zettai Zetsumei Toshi Crowbars (with additional colors)
- April Fools 2003: "Real Life" R-9 Unit
- April Fools 2004: Irem Burger
- April Fools 2005: Next generation console "Exidna"
- April Fools 2006: Investigations into the UMA of Hakusan Lake
- April Fools 2007: Opening of IREM Gakuen
- April Fools 2008: IREM Zoo