This short but sweet interview with STG superplayer Dame KK covers his experience at the Japanese STG event Wasshoi (now in Europe). Although there is no specific strategic discussions, he ably conveys his passion for STG and scoring.

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originally featured in Arcadia magazine

Dame KK: Has top scores for Gigawing II and Shikigami no Shiro III.1 He has counterstopped Mushihimesama Futari Ultra with Palm. His replay is also famously featured on the official dvd for Mushihimesama Futari.

—Well, let’s jump right in—please tell us about your first world record, and the path you took to get there.

KK: My first world record was Gigawing. At the time, I was playing at a game center in Kashiwa called B-1, and by chance I met and befriended Clover-YMN there. He taught me a lot, and that was my first step towards becoming a good player. I was playing Aisha, and there were about four other top-class scorers using her too. That was my first world record, published in Arcadia—but I got it by the narrowest of margins, and there were many tears along the way.

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Dame KK, superplayer.

—When did you first realize you wanted to go for world record scores?

KK: The first game I got into scoring on was Raiden Fighters 2. I’m from Okinawa, and there was a game center there were all the scoreplayers used to gather called “Game Innaha 2.” It was there that I thought I’d like to try my hand at scoring, too. When I first started aiming for high scores, it was simply because I found the experience of watching my score grow to be fun. Later, rival scorers appeared, and it was even more fun to compete with them for high scores. Of course, that competition continues today.

—Do you have any tricks or techniques for STG games?

KK: I try to create the simplest routes and patterns possible. When I’m going for a clear, or for score, to achieve my goal for any given part I always ask myself: “what is an easy way to do this?” I’m always trying to make things even easier.

—What is the appeal of the STG genre, in your opinion?

KK: I think it’s the fact that with repeated attempts, you will always steadily improve. How can I make this scoring section a little easier? This part is a little difficult, how can I find a safer route out of it? All that trial and error is trackable by watching your score go up, or your progress through the stages. I think that sense of accomplishment you get from reaching a new stage or new high score is the unique appeal of STG.

—What do you think visitors take away from the Wasshoi events?

KK: That STG is not dead! Of course, I do realize that STG is, in fact, in decline. I think part of the reason is that people have lost the sense of what makes these games great.

With replays and videos, its easy for anyone to view the strategies of a skilled player, and from that I think there comes a misunderstanding that “skilled players don’t have to work hard” and “anyone can make a video like this so it would be meaningless for me try.” Ultimately this lowers one’s personal motivation to try and clear or score yourself, and only a very particular class of people are left playing these games. But the truth is, even advanced players make mistakes over and over, and have to struggle through trial and error—real grunt work—in order to clear a game or get a high score.

At Wasshoi, the audience can see those failures, as well as the messy improvisation that’s sometimes required. I hope the appeal of “live and uncut” STG is conveyed to them.

Dame KK playing Futari Ultra.

—When you played Deathsmiles at Wasshoi, why did you choose Follett?

KK: I thought a Follett playthrough would be more helpful for people to see. Deathsmiles is a relatively easy game that is geared for your everyday player, and Follett has some special abilities which make her routes very different from other characters. As such, I wanted to present something that would be really helpful for people watching.

Actually, I was a bit lost on whether to do a replay of Deathsmiles or Mushihimesama Futari Ultra mode. But Futari Ultra is very inaccessible—the opposite of Deathsmiles—so I decided against it. Mushi Futari offers the thrill of very intricate bullet dodging, but Yusemi-SWY and NAL are better than me at that game, anyway.

—KK, what is “scoring” to you?

KK: It’s one of the central strands of my life. I feel like the know-how I’ve acquired through methodically testing new ideas in STG games has carried over into my work and other hobbies. Likewise, what I’ve learned in other areas of my life helps me in scoring. In that synergistic sense, scoring is a barometer for the growth I’ve achieved as a human being, a way for me to mark my progress in life.

—It must be wonderful to have something in your life that you can say that about.

KK: It is. To me, scoring and STG games have endless depth. Taking on new challenges, never giving up, and improving myself until I can break through my walls—that’s what life is all about, isn’t it?