Dodonpachi Saidaioujou Developer Interview
Ikeda (IKD) – The man responsible for bringing Cave STG to the world. After getting the SDOJ project off the ground, he mainly worked as a producer on it. His favorite ship, throughout the whole DDP series, is the Type A.
Koizumi Daisuke – Worked on Akai Katana and Dodonpachi Maximum. For SDOJ, he was in charge of the game system and balancing the difficulty. His favorite ship during test plays was the Type C.
Interview conducted June 2012 by Arcadia, at Cave Co. Headquarters
—Could you tell us first the details of how the SDOJ development got started?
Ikeda: Since DOJ we’ve been saying “this is the last one,” but certain circumstances intervened and here we are… (laughs) Releasing a new arcade game in the arcade market today is, to be frank, extremely difficult. So we felt that, given the market today, if we were going to take a shot at it then the Donpachi series was the only logical choice. We started the project quite awhile ago, around March of last year. With some of our previous games, like Akai Katana and Deathsmiles II, the development period was very short and we didn’t have a lot of extra time to balance or fine-tune them. We received complaints from some of the players too… “what happened here?” This time we had the Donpachi brand to consider, so we asked management for more time for development.
—Koizumi, when did you join the SDOJ development?
Koizumi: I joined in December. Before that I had been working on Dodonpachi Maximum, and when that ended I joined the SDOJ team. This was my first time working on an arcade Donpachi game.
—Did you feel a lot of pressure then?
Koizumi: Yeah. Daifukkatsu was built around a unique bullet cancelling system, but this time Ikeda told us he wanted to make a game where you could experience the simple joy of shooting and dodging. I remember really struggling with how to make it “simple but interesting.”
—Was that idea to simplify the gameplay something you had in mind from the outset?
Ikeda: Regarding bullet cancelling, we decided to not do anything too extreme this time. We wanted the game to be as simple as possible, with all the strategy revolving around simple dodging and shooting. We started planning things along those lines, but for a long time we just couldn’t get anywhere, or tie things up into a solid system. Then Koizumi finished working on DDP Maximum and joined us. All I told him was our basic ideas and asked him to create a system around it… come to think of it, it was a pretty horrible way to pass the baton. (laughs)
—And that’s where the idea to continue in the footsteps of DOJ came from?
Daioujou, the inspiration for SDOJ.
Koizumi: Our concept for the game was “Daioujou for 2012.” Of all Cave’s games, many people have played DOJ, and I think its a title we’re somewhat known for. I wanted to take the strengths of that game and update it for the playstyle of today’s world… I mean things like making the status of the rank and such, which you couldn’t see before, transparent to the player. In that sense I think its an evolution of the simple Donpachi gameplay.
—SDOJ also prominently features the human characters… was this something you planned from the outset?
Ikeda: Our idea for the presentation this time was “let’s make it as straightforward as possible!” At Cave, you see, we have a habit of making things a little weird… “straight is boring.” (laughs) But for SDOJ we decided to make it as straightforward and simple as possible. I think we all felt that if this was going to be our final game at Cave, we wanted to do something straightforward and badass like that. On that note we invited the voice actors into the team and endeavored to make the characters accessible too. Still, our character designer Nagi Ryou grumbled that “Cave’s ideas are anything but simple!” (laughs)
—How did the players and arcade operators respond to the location tests?
Ikeda: Honestly, it was a really positive response and we were very relieved. For me personally, I can sum it up in one word: happiness. When I saw all the excited people at the location test, I felt once again that “ahh, arcades are great!” (laugh) I don’t mean to naysay the online experience, but I think when people gather in-person around an arcade screen like that its the best. Actually, we had a lot of resistance during the creation of SDOJ. There was criticism during the earlier in-company testing phase as well. I was very anxious about the location test, wondering what we would do if the public didn’t like it. So when the response turned out to be favorable, I was really happy.
—After SDOJ was released, we heard people complain that the later stages were too hard. Was this spike in difficulty something you planned?
Ikeda: I’ll let Koizumi speak to the details here, but for my part, I can say that for DOJ, I told our developers to make it challenging. With Daifukkatsu the player could alter the system, and it was more accessible in that regard. But for SDOJ I wanted it to be a real challenge, something that would give players a lot of replay value. So its true that I told Koizumi to err on the side of making it more difficult. (laughs)
Koizumi: The difficulty of our recent games has been set very high, but I think the hypers are easier to refill in SDOJ compared with DOJ, and you also have the auto-bomb option, so although its difficult, we tried to make it a game that you could progressively improve at, bit by bit. Hypers come about twice as fast, so the pace of the game should feel faster. And its quite common to die and come back with a hyper, so we aimed for a balance that would make the player feel “if I had done just a little better in that spot, I could have made it!”
—Regarding the customary hidden boss Hibachi, what was the idea behind adding her to SDOJ?
Ikeda: Well, at this point in the series its pretty much a given that we have to add Hibachi. (laughs)
Koizumi: But we did fret a lot over whether to add Hibachi for Shot, Laser, or Expert mode.
Ikeda: There were many heated discussions about that.
Koizumi: Some people said Hibachi should only appear in Expert mode, but in the end we felt that allowing players to face the TLB in any mode would prevent players from feeling like the Shot or Laser modes were in some way inferior, and would encourage people to play in each mode to the end.
—It seems like Hibachi’s patterns are all very familiar variations on the previous Dodonpachi series’ TLBs?
Koizumi: We based her attacks on previous patterns from the DDP series, so it will doubtlessly appear that way to certain players. Though I think players who see her for the first time and hang out at the bottom of the screen will be surprised when they get killed. (laughs) Then there’s the final hakkyou pattern. That’s an homage to Dodonpachi, but with the fugusashi bullets 1 going in each direction and the ability to use your hyper laser, I think it will be a new experience for players.
—Well, that’s all the time we have today, but please give a final message to our readers and your fans.
Koizumi: Following in the footsteps of the Dodonpachi brand, I think Saidaioujou, as the name suggests, will prove to be game you can play for a long time to come: please enjoy the ultimate “peaceful death”! 2
Ikeda: There have been trials and tribulations with this project from day one, but seeing as this was our chance to develop an arcade shooting game again, almost our entire development team worked together on it. And thanks to that collective goodwill we were able to bring SDOJ into the world. Koizumi really worked hard in fine-tuning the game, and because of his efforts I think we have a worthy game that will live up to the Dodonpachi series’ legacy. With SDOJ we tried to make a game that returns to the basics of the pure joys of STG, and my hope is that it will provide a truly lengthy and fulfilling experience for players.