Chippoke Ralph is a 2D platformer released for the Playstation in 1999. This interview with some of the main developers at New Corp. goes over their design ideas for the game and thoughts about platforming and 2D games generally.

New Corp, also responsible for Boxer’s Road, was originally formed by a young group of friends (average age ~20) from the game center community in Kashiwazaki. This arcade background comes through in their comments here on game development.

These interviews were found at the GSLA, a Japanese a website that, among other things, preserves game developer interviews from older, now-defunct print sources. The GSLA often redacts the original interviewer questions, so the text ends up reading more like a narrative than an interview.

Chippoke Ralph review

Chippoke Ralph no Daibouken Developer Interview

Narushima Yasuyuki – President
Yamaki Katsuyoshi – Producer
Aoyagi Ryuta – Game Design and Main Graphics

Design Concept and Influences

Aoyagi: Our main concept for Chippoke Ralph was “create a solid, proper action platformer.” The development began in 1991. At that time platformers were already waning in popularity, but it was for that reason that we wanted to take on the challenge of making a good platformer. We were very passionate about making a game that had all the strengths of 2D action game. Of course there are many different kinds of action games, but the system for Chippoke Ralph came from us gathering together all the best parts of those various action styles, those parts that make you go “wow, this is fun.”

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Aoyagi Ryuta, Designer.

Many different games influenced us. Wonder Boy is very close in look and feel, with the jump inertia and other things being similar. The sword came from Rastan Saga. Also, we were extremely influenced by Quartet. On the surface it probably doesn’t look like it, but we had Quartet’s speedy pacing and the beauty of its patterns in mind when we made Chippoke Ralph.

Regarding Chippoke Ralph’s difficulty… I feel that there’s something about action games which draws a selective audience. If you make the mistake of making it too easy and casual, then the very fun of playing a severe, difficult game will be lost. We wanted players to experience that exhiliration from overcoming an incredible challenge, and we weren’t going to back down on that design.

Yamaki: It’s easy enough to make a platformer, but making one that is really interesting and fun is actually very hard. You have to get that difficulty and game balance just right, down to the little details. We paid a lot of attention to making sure the game had a smooth progression: it starts off at an easy level anyone can handle, then as you play you gradually learn new techniques and raise your overall skills, and reaching the end requires using all the knowledge and techniques you’ve acquired along the way.

The Appeal of 2D

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Yamaki Katsuyoshi, Producer.

Yamaki: I think that for a given game style, there’s an ideal way to express that, so I don’t seen any need to try and add 3D elements to a game that should be in 2D. There’s also a special kind of charm and fun that can only be experienced in 2D. For example, that pixel perfect placement that 2D games sometimes require. We wanted a game that would bring out those unique strengths of 2D.

Aoyagi: Unfortunately, many people today see a 2D game and immediately think it’s old and outdated just because it’s 2D. But making a 2D game requires its own craft and skill, and it is time-consuming. It’s practically an art unto itself now. But people don’t understand that… “why didn’t you make it 3D? 2D is so cheap.” It’s sad.

The thing that took the most time in Chippoke Ralph is actually the pixel art. If we were a normal company we’d have more manpower, but there aren’t many of us at New, and it was very arduous. I even thought at some points that a company as small as us wouldn’t be able to pull it off. So in that sense, Chippoke Ralph is quite an accomplishment for us.

Scoring and Gameplay

Yamaki: Scoring is, in a sense, the foundation of all games. That satisfying feeling you get as you gradually get a higher and higher score hasn’t changed since the beginning of video games. Lately there’s been less and less arcade games that are about scoring, so we really wanted to include it in Chippoke Ralph. After you clear it the first time, you can enjoy playing it again and again for higher scores. 1

Aoyagi: To me, what makes a game is its gameplay. The expressive potential of games is expanding, and developers are all pursuing different ends now, and I thnk that is a good thing as far as it goes. But there’s something important that I don’t want them to forget as they make their games. And that is this: games are fun because they are games. It’s a battle of wits, a push and pull between the player and the software… or in other words, gameplay. Personally I think this element of games must be included. Of course I think exploration type games are fine, but if everyone starts pulling in that direction, I think it’s dangerous for gaming, you know? In that sense too, Chippoke Ralph is meant to be provocative and get people thinking about what a game is.

New Corp’s Development Philosophy

Aoyagi: If we were a normal company, we probably wouldn’t have been able to spend so much time working on a single game as we did with Chippoke Ralph. We owe that to Narushima, our very generous President.

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Narushima Yasuyuki, President.

Narushima: If we just wanted to make the same games as every other company, well, we wouldn’t have needed to start New. We’d all just be working at those other companies. But since we went to the trouble of starting out own business, we had to do something with our own unique flavor. Aoyagi said I was generous, but the truth is, if you’re going to do something unique, it’s only natural that you need to be lenient.

Why didn’t we just make Boxer’s Road 2? Well, it’s because we were making Chippoke Ralph. So many people from other developer companies asked us that. “Why don’t you put out a sequel? You’re making a business mistake!” and so on. Today many games take millions of dollars to produce. But that also means that you can’t make challenging games because they need to sell well, and whether you like it or not, you’re going to end up making sequel after sequel and just going for what sells. And I think this will cause the possibilities and variety of games to be narrowed, not broadened.

Honestly, I haven’t focused much on business strategies. We’ve only got one development team anyway, so it wouldn’t be very meaningful. It’s more important to me to make a good, appealing game. I’d rather leave business to the administrators, and let the game creators work in ease. My ideal development would be one that balances the interests of both business and craft, while also being a unique game.