Mushihimesama – Developer Interviews
with Tsuneki Ikeda, Manabu Namiki, and Toshiaki Tomizawa
Tsuneki Ikeda – Director
Our development concept for Mushihimesama was an extremely simple, easy to understand STG. That’s why we gave it a fairly orthodox system (compared with Cave’s other games). Regarding difficulty, the Original mode is designed for the general player, and Maniac mode is for hardcore players. With those two difficulty levels, it’s a game that’s easy for both veterans and beginners to enjoy.
A very old picture of Ikeda, listing his accomplishments as V-V and Batsugun.
We decided at the very beginning that the protagonist for our new STG would be a young girl, and we titled the game “Mushihimesama” so players would see the focus on characters. That’s why we decided to do away with the ship-select screen that you normally see in Cave games, again to highlight the characters. For people who really love STGs, they probably don’t care about that stuff (laughs), but I think it’s necessary in order to appeal to those who aren’t very interested in the genre to begin with.
If you think the character looks cool, perhaps you’ll try the game at least once… for many people, characters are the way they get into a game. And hopefully once they experience STGs firsthand, they’ll become new fans.
Of course, this is a game developed for people who like STGs first and foremost, but if we make a game that is too narrowly focused on their desires, it makes it extremely hard to bring in new players to the genre. That would only result, ultimately, in the shrinking of the genre as a whole. As game developers, I believe we have a responsibility to design games that are also easy for new players to get into.
“Dodge enemy bullets and shoot them down”—that’s a basic rule for STG games, so I think the important point for us at Cave is how to include something else which distinguishes our game from others. We always come up with a number of fresh, interesting ideas, but if those ideas stray too far from that basic foundation of STG as described above, then audiences will fail to recognize the game as a STG.
On the other hand, if we create a game that too closely resembles what has come before and is just a knock-off, then we lose that way too. Finding that “seasoning”—the new mechanic that will make your game unique—is always the hardest thing for us. I can’t really explain it any further in words though… it’s the kind of thing a player feels when he plays the game. It’s my hope that players will notice the differences when they play.
The fundamental reason people love STG games is the fun of dodging bullets, and the thrill and exhiliration of shooting down enemies in the sky. I think it’s ultimately a very sensory experience. To put it another way, no matter what cool system or mechanics you come up with, if those fundamental pillars are lacking, then the game won’t be seen as fun. At Cave we place a big emphasis on getting the “dodging” and “shooting” parts to feel visceral and engaging.
The general reputation for STGs is that they are for hardcore players only. Partly to reform that image, we’ve attempted to make a simpler game with Mushihimesama. We knew this would be a controversial move for some, but I hope players will enjoy the pure STG experience it represents. If you’ve never had the chance to play a STG game before, I really want you to try it—I hope it will be a proper introduction to the joy and fun of this genre.
Mushihimesama – 2009 Composer Interview
with Manabu Namiki, originally featured at ga-core.net
—Your music for Mushihimesama felt more calm and relaxing to me compared with your previous STG scores.
Namiki: Yeah, definitely. Mushihimesama features a fantastic, charming world of natural beauty… I mean, the player ship is a rhinoceros beetle that the Princess rides on, and the enemies are all insects… it’s a totally unique world, right? That’s why when I got news about this work and the kind of game Mushihimesama was going to be, I thought to myself, “Finally! The project I’ve been waiting for!”
—So you were wanting to write music for a fantastic world—the kind of world that you could only imagine in a game?
Namiki: To my thinking, in the past, games depicted a more interesting variety of worlds and settings. Things today feel comparatively cliche’d and narrow to me. The reason why, I think, is that as the technology of video games progressed, everyone jumped on the “realism!” bandwagon. But I think the danger with going too far in that direction is that no matter what you’re trying to depict—characters, battle, fantasy worlds—if the operative goal is realism, it tends to make everything look unimaginative and boring. On that point, I think the games in the past displayed a lot more creativity precisely because they weren’t able to be realistic. I’m just not into this constant drive towards realism—I think it makes games boring.
—If games go too far into realism, they might end up becoming little more than simulations.
Namiki: Well, for war simulators, sports games, and stuff like that, I think that’s an appropriate direction. But if games only try to be realistic, then they end up feeling like a cheap imitation of of reality. As someone who’s been involved in game development, this is something I’ve been fearing for a long time now.
That’s why when I heard about Mushihimesama it was like, Yes! Now here is something I can really get into! When I got down to composing the music, my idea was to create something that didn’t sound like another “Namiki” score, something that didn’t rely on my usual tricks and tropes. Using folk-style percussion, the shakuhachi, and sounds that evoked the Andean quena flute, I tried to create a musical world for Mushihimesama that sounded like no other. So even though you can call it a “STG soundtrack”, it’s completely different from the mechanical, SF-themed music you usually find in a STG. I included a degree of poppiness in some of the songs too, and some have what you could call a “Japanese” feel. I was trying to write melodies that would move pull on listeners’ heartstrings.
—That makes sense! And we can definitely feel that passion in your songs.
Namiki: For me personally, in Mushihimesama it feels like I’ve finally been able to express something close to the breadth of imagination found in older games. However, now that it’s out there, a number of reviews have directly compared it to Dragon Spirit and Space Harrier, but I think it’s a little different. That creativity was there in those days to be sure, but I wasn’t trying to specifically emulate Dragon Spirit or Space Harrier. It’s funny, with Mushihimesama I originally set out to make something new and expansive in scope, yet it got received in such a narrow way by some.
—Right. You weren’t trying to ape the classics of the past; you simply wanted to make video game music in the same open, creative atmosphere as it used to be. There are definitely those critics who only see video game music in a very narrow box, though—as “game music”.
Namiki: Yeah. Honestly, I wish they could be a little more open-minded about it. I think it would allow them to enjoy both games and music a lot more.
Mushihimetama – 2005 Developer Interview
with Toshiaki Tomizawa
Among the STG crowd, Mushihimesama has received a degree of recognition, and so we’re developing Mushihimetama to help deepen that appreciation. If we released another STG right away, it would overlap with Mushihimesama. We chose a different genre because we wanted to attact a different group of players; and when we asked ourselves what genre would appeal to the widest audience, the only one that made sense was the puzzle genre. Since both children and adults enjoy puzzle games, we decided not to include any complicated gameplay mechanics in Mushihimetama, and keep it simple.
We recently released a soundtrack for Mushihimesama, but it sold out very quickly. It came bundled with a figure, which people seemed to really like. We even re-released it, but it sold out again very quick. Our thinking at Cave now is that we should continue to appeal to the public by creating interesting characters in our STG games; if the characters have cool backstories, it may lead to new players getting on-board. In that sense, it’s ok with us if people only know about Cave via our character figures or soundtracks… as long as they come out to the game centers!
Reco brought to life.
I think much of the success of Mushihimesama can be attributed to the way we split the modes up, with Maniac for hardcore players, and Original for beginners. Also, until now, if you wanted to see an amazing superplay of the 2nd loop, you had to stand there behind a player and wait while he finished the entire first loop. With Mushihimesama’s Ultra mode, you can now start at that difficulty right away, so there’s more chances for bystanders to see advanced players, which I think will stir their interest.
This year will actually be our first time having a Cave booth at the AM Show. We’ve borrowed space in the past for our individual games, but this will be the first space dedicated to our company.
Of course we’ll be displaying Mushihimetama, and there are plans to show a number of other exciting things! Mushihimetama is a game that proudly displays Reco in all her glory–if you’re a Reco fan, you won’t want to miss it!