Dodonpachi Saidoujou X360 Interview
Featured in Famitsu 3/14/2013
With Tsuneki Ikeda and Makoto Asada of Cave
—So, how far along is SDOJ now?
Asada: About 70% complete. Of the remaining 30% of the work, most of it involves the “New X360 Mode” with Saya. That timing is partly due to the fact that we’ve added another mode to the game. We previously announced the three Arcade, Novice, and New X360 modes, and now we’ve added a retuning of the original Arcade mode, “Version 1.5.”
—I’m surprised to hear of a new mode this late in the process!
Asada: We’ve been having test players and super players work with us, and around the beginning of March they asked us about things they were disastisfied with in the original SDOJ, and whether we couldn’t come up with some ideas to improve it and make the game more fun. So we started thinking and in fact came up with a ton of ideas (laughs). Once we got approval from staff, and our programmer Ichimura said the changes were possible to implement, we hurriedly went about adding the mode. Version 1.5 is already completely done now.
<changes in the new 1.5 mode>
* Collecting stars no longer resets the HIT counter increase interval of the laser
* Using laser while hypering now raises the combo gauge
* In normal (non-hyper) mode, the rate at which the HIT counter increases from using laser is now quicker
* Adjusted the numerical values of various things when hypering (details below):
-the GP bonus multiplier for each hyper level
-the points for firing for each hyper level
-the duration of a hyper for each hyper level
-the number of score items that appear for each hyper level
-the ratio of increase of the HIT counter while lasering for each hyper level
* Adjusted various parameters for score items (details below):
-the amount added to the HIT counter when collecting a score item
-the amount added to the score when collecting a score item
-the amount added to the GPS when collecting a score item
* All score items that appear when performing a level 6 and above hyper are now large type
* Adjusted the score for individual enemies, and the number of score items that appear when they’re killed
* Adjusted the amount of hyper gauge you get from picking up a bee item
* Adjusted the amount the combo gauge increases for each ship when an enemy is destroyed
* Adjusted the conditions in which score items appear during boss fights
* Increased the interstage Clear Results “No Miss” score bonus
* Adjusted the max bomb bonus
* The score items that appear from bullet cancelling when the hyper gauge is filled during a hyper have been increased from small to large
* The hyper gauge increase multiplier from collecting score items is now revised as the rank changes
—By the way, in a previous interview in September Ikeda said he wouldn’t be participating in this project, but what led him to get involved?
Asada: Considering the higher priority projects Ikeda had to work on, it was looking pretty difficult for him to join the SDOJ X360 project. In the end though, we were able to have those obstacles removed. A company is a hierarchical structure after all, so if you just press on the higher-ups… (laughs) Well, actually there’s only one person at Cave higher than Ikeda, and that’s the President. So yeah, Ikeda’s participation was achieved through some political bargaining.
Ikeda: Yeah, that’s how it was. (laughs)
Asada: You know, the President of Cave gets angry a lot, and Ikeda is always the one he gets angry at, while I’m usually the one getting praised. So it all balances out. (laughs) If I say something it gets praised, but if Ikeda says the same thing he gets yelled at for it. (laughs)
Ikeda: If I say nothing I get yelled at, and if I speak I get yelled at too. What am I supposed to do?! (laughs)
Asada: I think this will be our last game for the current generation of hardware, so personally I really wanted Ikeda to participate. But the time at which he’s joined us is very out-of-sync with the rest of the project, so its caused some delays.
—Please tell us about the “New X360 Mode.”
Ikeda: The only thing Asada told us was to make the gameplay more casual, so I figured that if we were going to do this we should go for a feel distinct from an arcade game. After a lot of thinking about how to make a simplified structure for the game, we settled on a game that revolves around managing a gauge on the bottom of the screen.
—I see. Did it go smoothly, deciding on this system?
Ikeda: No, it was quite complicated. The genesis of the idea actually came from the test players Asada mentioned a moment ago. We used their idea as a base and built on it.
—What were some of the previous ideas you had considered?
Ikeda: The New X360 Mode was originally going to be done by Ichimura, and I think he had plans for a time attack style mode. I also wanted to retain some part of his ideas when I took over, but there were too many problems, and I didn’t like the result very much. (laughs) So changing this and that, we’ve arrived at the gauge system we have today.
—Was Ichimura’s idea like a racing game, where you compete for the best clear time…?
Ikeda: I wouldn’t say a race; it was more like something resembling “caravan shooting,” where you extended and replenished your time as you played. However, since Saidaioujou was originally a game about how far you can get without dying, it just didn’t seem to match very well. I still tried all different ways to integrate the idea, but I just couldn’t figure it out. The game would reach “time over” and you’d suddenly just die… “huh, what just happened?” (laughs)
—It sounds like it would be jarring. (laughs)
Ikeda: There were too many problems with it that I couldn’t fix, so we completely redesigned everything. The place where it showed your time, we ended up switching out with the gauge.
—Regarding the dialogue in this mode, is it mostly exchanges between Saya and the Operator?
Ikeda: Yeah. The conversations unfold between the operator in the control room and Saya. The previous Dodonpachi games have all had stories and worlds too, but a lot was left to the player’s imagination. Since we’ve depicted all that more clearly this time, I’m both excited and worried at how it will be received. We won’t really know if it was a success or failure until it goes on sale, but I’m glad we were able to challenge ourselves like this. Depending on how its received, it may have a big influence the development of our STG games in the next hardware generation.
—It seems like there’s always dialogue throughout the game?
Asada: Yeah, I don’t think there are many moments of silence. The arcade version of Saidaioujou was also said to be a game with a lot of dialogue, but the two aren’t really comparable; there’s way more dialogue here. Instead it might even feel a little weird when there’s suddenly a moment of silence here.
<New X360 Mode System Impressions>
During the interview Ikeda mentioned that the New X360 Mode was a “gauge management game.” After the interview he let us play it for a bit and see what he meant by that. Here I will try and explain the New X360 Mode system in concrete terms while offering my impressions of the gameplay generally.
First, as mentioned, the only playable character is Saya. Like Arcade mode, there are Shot, Laser, and Expert options, which equate to the difficulty of a novice, normal, and second loop, respectively. Different from the arcade mode is the big gauge displayed at the bottom of the screen. This gauge can be considered your life, and when it reaches zero the game is over. In other words, it isn’t a system based on lives and extends, but on a life bar.
When you get hit, the gauge decreases by a set amount and an auto-bomb is released. If you don’t have enough gauge left to release an autobomb when you get hit, you instead die and its game over. Also, if you press shot and laser at the same time, you fire both simultaneously in a special weapon called “ShotLaser.” As you might expect, its very strong, and the gauge decreases as you use it. Its a double edged sword, since using it too much will mean you won’t have enough gauge for an autobomb. There is only one way to refill the gauge, and that’s through collecting star items during a hyper. Hypers are much easier to fill than in the arcade version.
Outside the main game window, Saya and the Operator talk incessantly. The animation is lip-synced, they wink, and their expressions change throughout the game. They continue talking after the boss is defeated, and even during the results screen, but this can be skipped with a button press. There isn’t much of a chance to watch them while you’re playing, so I think it would be fun to watch your replays and focus on what they’re doing. The remainder of the screen is adorned with futuristic monitors, showing things like 3D modeling and the name of the midboss. Its incorporated very effectively into the game’s presentation.
For this test play I chose the novice shot option and made it to the 4th stage on my first try. I’m told there’s still details to adjust and work out, and it sounds like what I played today will be significantly harder in the final version.
—As for the shop mode, it seems it allows you to purchase a special option menu?
Asada: It allows you to buy equipment for your ship. The ships have equipment slots, and you can put special things there, like equipment that makes your hitbox smaller, or one that makes your ship collect score items onscreen automatically. You can also unlock things like wallpapers and a sound and voice test mode.
—Can you acquire currency for the shop by playing any of the modes?
Asada: Yes. Regardless of which mode you play, each time you play you’ll get currency. Of the different modes, you’ll receive the most currency if you play in the online “team battle” mode. You don’t have to be a great player to participate, so please try it out. Connected to the arcade mode, we’ve also added “missions” that teach you STG techniques to help you enjoy playing Saidaioujou; there’s 50 videos we’ve prepared to illustrate the different techniques, too.
—With guidance like that, it should change how accessible STGs have been.
Asada: Once you learn to score in a Cave STG, your enjoyment of our games really changes. But reaching that point really takes a long time, I think. So in that sense, we wanted people who haven’t played our arcade versions much before to have a chance to experience that feeling and the appeal of Saidaioujou.
—I believe you have some new information about the Super Limited Edition package as well?
Asada: We previously announced that the Super Limited Edition would have the arrange CD, the OST cd, and an art book along with it. We’ve now added three sheets of special stickers. You can put them wherever you’d like, on your X360 or notebook, for instance. We’ve also added a plastic sheet, in the traditional arcade marquee design, showing the basic instructions for the game. Finally, we’ve added the theme song single CD by Hirano Aya.
—You’ve gone from 3 items to 6… magnificent!
Asada: We wanted to add whatever we could for this edition, and these 6 items is what we’ve got so far.
—You’re also hosting a pre-sale event on May 5th. Could you tell us what that’s about?
Asada: The big thing is that it will be combined with the STG event Wasshoi. We’ll have an X360 hooked up inside a cabinet. Showcasing a game like this that we haven’t finished yet is a very unusual thing for us, but when we announced the X360 version of Saidaioujou, something seemed lacking and we wanted to do more. We’ll be doing some stage events too… one of them will feature me and Ikeda, so the two of us have got to start planning something interesting for that.
—It sounds exciting.
Asada: There will also be a booth where guests can get their pictures taken with the Saidaioujou characters using the Kinect for Windows and their cell phones. Those who reserve their tickets will also receive an A1 size poster. We had two kinds at Osaka, but there will be three kinds at Tokyo and you can choose which you want among the three.
—You’ve prepared a lot, it should be a fun event.
Asada: Its been a really long time since our last event, and I hope to see all the people who had come to our previous events again. Our staff here at Cave is mostly the same too. Also, I personally have an announcement I’ll be making. I imagine it will be surprising to everyone, but I think it will open the door to new possibilities…
—What could it be? I’m curious. I’m looking forward to that day then. Finally, please give a message to your fans.
Asada: Looking back at our X360 games from Deathsmiles on, I think we’ve really been lucky to be allowed to follow our dreams on this console. I think this will be our last game for the current hardware generation, but in various ways Saidaioujou has been prepared as the gateway to our next move. We want people’s honest and frank opinions, so after you’ve played it, please share them us. Thank you!
Ikeda: Regarding the New X360 Mode… if I’m to speak my mind, I wish we had had a little more time to work on it. We’re still working on it, but for most of our X360 arrange modes we’ve been given about one month to finish them, and we usually end up going a couple weeks overschedule. With that pattern almost always being the case, we’ve never had enough time. In that sense this is nothing new, and within the limited time we’ve been given we’ll do everything we can to deliver a quality game. The fact that we’ve been able to put out a super limited edition, which, moreover, many people have reserved, is all thanks to the existence of our fans who played the arcade version of Saidaioujou. We will give it our all to make sure that we release a satisfying game for those people. Please look forward to it!