These Makaimura (Ghosts and Goblins) interviews come from two separate sources: a 2005 interview for Gokumakaimura, and a 1991 interview for the two shorter excerpts. Together they offer a rare insight into the concept and design of the Makaimura series, with some musings by Fujiwara on action games generally at the end.

This interview was 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.

Fujiwara interview @glitterberri

Makaimura Series – Interview Collection

with series creator Tokurou Fujiwara

Makaimura

In the beginning I just wanted to make a “demon” themed game. But that alone wouldn’t have been very interesting, and if the game turned out poorly it would amount to little more than the equivalent of a cheap horror flick. So I thought I’d try adding some humor somewhere instead. That’s why all the enemies became kind of cute, I think. I wanted to express that feeling in the title too, which is why I added “mura” (village) to “Makai” (demon world).

Normally you start developing a game by conceiving the player character first; in this game, because the setting was a “demon world,” I first thought of a single enemy who would represent that theme: the Red Arremer, who was based on an orthodox, Western-style demon motif. Therefore, in a sense, you could say that Red Arremer is the real protagonist of Makaimura!

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It didn’t take long for the “real” protagonist of
Makaimura to be starring in his own games.

Daimakaimura

Daimakaimura was conceived of as a pure sequel to the first game. It was also the second CPS1 game, so naturally the pressure and the expectations were both riding high. In the early planning stages we talked about taking the art direction in a darker, more splatter-horror direction, but in the end the game turned out as you see it today.

Also, we originally had a far grander design in mind for Daimakaimura. After the second stage, each stage would have branching A and B routes, and you’d get to choose your path after every stage. Then on the second loop you’d be forced to play the stages you didn’t choose the first time around. Unfortunately, we ran out of memory and time so those extra stages had to be cut.

However, even though we shelved those stages, the alternate stage 2 (the water stage) was secretly resurrected and used in the Super Famicom Choumakaimura as the second half of stage 2.

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The difficult sea section of stage 2 of Choumakaimura (Super Ghouls and Ghosts)
was meant to be featured as one of the branching levels in Daimakaimura.

Gokumakaimura – 2005 Developer Interview

I had quit Capcom when they approached me about a Makaimura sequel, so it was quite a surprise. I hadn’t been thinking about Makaimura at all. One side of me was very happy, but I was also apprehensive. The PSP was new hardware, and I didn’t know much about it. Developing on the PSP was fun though. There’s a different quality you can explore with a game that’s portable, and the PSP’s large screen and powerful graphics capabilities are wonderful for a handheld machine.

There haven’t been any examples of this genre of action game recently, so I think Gokumakaimura will actually feel fresh and new to players today. I do hope that if enough people play this game, then players’ attitude toward this kind of action game will change.

I think kids today, especially, don’t know about Makaimura. The gamers who once called themselves ardent fans of the series are now in their 30s and 40s, and I think at some point many of them stopped playing and grew distant from games. So I’d like really like those people to try Gokumakaimura.

After Makaimura came “Dai”makaimura, then “Chou”makaimura. We didn’t use traditional numbering for those sequels. After dai (大) and chou (超), I wanted something that expressed “ultimate” (究極的な), so goku (極) seemed like a good fit. Of course some might interpret it as the ultimate mistake. (laughs)

This time I wanted to do a “pure” sequel, but I wanted to power-up the content too and add a bunch of different elements. The previous games in the series pretty much required you to play through them in one go, but this time we designed the stages with branching paths so they could be replayed and cleared many times in different ways. Basically, we designed the game to be more casual and easy to enjoy. Giving people that freedom to play as they see fit was a key part of our design.

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Tokuro Fujiwara as Tomba,
another of his action games creations.

To a certain extent, Gokumakaimura is a memorizer. It may be difficult in the beginning, but action games are such that the more you play them the better you get, and they also become more fun and interesting as you progress. I think that’s one of the strong points about this genre. Many people who are bad at action games quit too soon, before they get a chance to improve and realize that. If they worked at it just a little more, I think they would break through and see a depth and fun they hadn’t realized was there.

It’s not easy to set the right difficulty. And there’s probably some players out there who, from the get-go, have already decided that “action games are too hard for me.” But with Makaimura especially, we try to design it so that with every step you take there’s something new and unexpected to discover. We want the player to be having as much fun as possible! Of course, you will die. (laughs) But in action games, isn’t dying part of the fun? In an action game, it’s all those deaths that make the eventual clear that much sweeter! If the deaths are too unreasonable then it’s not fun; as developers striking that balance is very difficult—but also where all the fun lies.

My main target for Gokumakaimura was both new players and those who are experienced with the series; however, I was especially conscious of those Makaimura veterns during the development. I didn’t want to let them down with a game that would make them say “this isn’t Makaimura!” A big premise for me was a game that veterans would play and be reminded of the older games: “yup, this is a great series.” And of course I want new players to find it genuinely fun, too.