This short interview with the V-V team is notable for two things: its one of the few known interviews with the later Toaplan developers, and it has young Tsuneki Ikeda of Cave. In a comment about increasing (and slowing down) the bullets, he predicts the direction of the modern danmaku Cave would develop.

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.

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1993 V-V Toaplan Interview

(Publication Unknown)

Iwabuchi Koetsu (Planning and Public Relations Manager)
Ikeda Tsuneki (V-V Development Staff)
Yamaguchi Mikio (V-V Development Staff)
Iwakura Seiji (V-V Development Staff)

Toaplan Shooting

Iwabuchi: Our first STG title was Tiger Heli, 8 years ago. After that we released Slap Fight, Hishouzame, Kyuukyoku Tiger, Tatsujin, Hellfire, Zero Wing, and Daisenpu. And Outzone, though you don’t fly a ship in that. In the last year we’ve released Fixeight, Dogyuun, and Tatsujin Ou.

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V-V Megadrive flyer.

I think a feature of our earlys STGs was the bomb. Now bombs are very common, so we’re always thinking of how we can make new, different bombs. For V-V, we felt that conventional bombs have become kind of boring, so we tried to do something different with the ship’s normal weapons.

Our developers play the games as they work on them. We give them free reign and I think sometimes our games have ended up very difficult as a result. Its also happened that we tell them its too difficult, but when they go back and make it easier, now its too easy! (laughs) Lately this has become a really difficult aspect of STG design for us. We’ve even heard people say that they can’t get past the first stage of our games. We’re going to try adjusting things for our next title to be easier, so that the difficulty ramps up more smoothly.

We’ve been doing vertical STG for a long time now, and there are still new things we want to do with the vertical format. Its not just because vertical STGs are popular right now… actually, they’re easier for us to make. I don’t think we’re going to stop anytime soon though. I think we’ll continue to try new things and listen to our fans who play and buy our games. Our younger developers right now are really passionate about this, far more than myself, and I think this is what they want to do with their lives. People talk about 3D and virtual reality games, but the vertical STG will never die.

Difficulties with Console Ports

Iwabuchi: Our company also does ports for the Megadrive, and we’ve recieved a lot of feedback about those. Depending on the port, some people have told us they love that its arcade-perfect, while others have said its no good at all, and we should add something original if we’re going to make a console version. Trying to please everyone in this regard is very difficult. It hasn’t been that long since we’ve released our Megadrive games, but I guess we thought that people would be satisfied if we just let them experience our arcade games at home. And we didn’t have any time to add new content. So I think in the future, it won’t do to just port our hit STG titles over and expect people to be satisfied playing a game that’s just like the arcade version. We have to think how we can build something new from our existing material. For example, if we make a Super Famicom game, its not enough just to add a bonus stage for the SFC. The SFC has its own special abilities and characteristics we’ll need to exploit. If game companies don’t use the console’s hardware to its fullest, I don’t think the people who buy the game will be satisfied. So if we continue to make console ports, those are the things I’d like to keep in mind.

Our new releases are V-V for the arcade, and “Slap Fight MD” for Megadrive, released through Tengen. Our developers have also been saying they want to try developing for the SFC, but at the moment we don’t have any plans for that.

Differences from previous Toaplan STG?

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An example of the increased
bullet count mentioned by Ikeda.

Iwabuchi: V-V isn’t a sequel to Slap Fight, but the system resembles it. It uses a gauge system, not individual items, for power-ups. You can choose your weapons and power-up as you see fit.

Ikeda: It has autofire. (laughs) Also, until now Toaplan STGs have had fast enemy bullets, but this time we slowed down the bullet speed but increased the onscreen bullet count. So you can enjoy the thrill of dodging and the sensaton of rapid fire.

Iwakura: V-V is a little different from the previous Toaplan style STG. There’s the gauge system, for one. Also, we tried to give the enemies a distinct personality for each stage. I think thats something different not only for Toaplan’s previous games, but other companies as well. Finally, I think we did a good job balancing the game for both beginners and hardcore STG enthusiasts.

Development Challenges

Ikeda: Is was my first game, so it was nothing but hardship for me. (laughs) For our games, we all contribute to the initial game design plans, and there was a lot of fighting about that. It was tough in the beginning, not knowing who would back down. I think adjusting the difficulty for the location test was also very hard.

Iwakura: For the programming, I didn’t know what was possible or how to do it, and things I thought would work turned out not to work. It was a series of trial and error. But it was also very memorable.

Yamaguchi: Today’s games are quite flashy and impressive, so I struggled to create things that would be up to par. Since it was our first game, it was a lot of experimentation and learning.

Looking Ahead

Iwabuchi: We plan to continue to release arcade STG games that both preserve Toaplan’s signature style while also bringing something new to the genre. For both new and old players, I think the way people enjoy STGs is changing. We want to pursue those changes, and while we don’t intend to stick only to vertical shooting, we want to continue making truly fun games that can fairly be called top tier STG. I’m not sure what our ports will look like in the future, but we will continue to make STGs in this game industry, and will undoubtedly be porting more of our games. Thank you for your continuing support of Toaplan.