Cave STG – 15th Anniversary Interview

Cave STG – 15th Anniversary Interview

This interview first appeared in the March 2010 edition of Arcadia magazine. While the machinations of Cave have been covered exhaustively on shmuplations, this interview still manages to have some new, meaty conversation about the design of Dodonpachi,, and Ikeda’s early days at Toaplan. Be sure to check out the short game-by-game commentary from Ikeda at the end!

Tsuneki Ikeda – Director/Designer

—To start things off, Ikeda, how does it feel looking back on these 15 years with Cave?

Ikeda: It feels both really short and really long at the same. I have personally made nothing but STGs since I started my career. Sometimes it feels like, damn, am I really still doing this…? I haven’t progressed at all! (laughs)

—And yet, having made STGs for 15 years, does it ever surprise that you’ve still got new ideas, and still have the energy to make these games?

Ikeda: Each time I make a game, there always ends up being some things I wish we could have added or done differently. In the beginning, I started off wanting to make STGs simply because I loved them. After that, I kept trying to come up with new formats for the genre. The bare rules for STGs may be simple, but I think you want to have a certain level of theoretical or conceptual grounding if you’re going to make a good game.

The players, also, have been steadily improving over the years. Right now I’m trying to figure out ways to get more new players into the genre in a smooth, natural way. I think foreign console games have been especially good at doing that, and I’d like to try and emulate their methods for STG games if I can.

One of my recent worries has been feeling like we’re in a bit of a rut, design-wise—that in trying to make our games interesting, we always end up heading toward the same goal.

Tsuneki Ikeda (2010)

It’s like we start out consciously trying to make something different, and at some point I look up and realize, “wait, here we are again!” (laughs)

—Personally, I feel like the games Cave put out around the time of Ketsui each had a lot of individuality.

Ikeda: It’s something you’re not very conscious of, as a creator. My games and Yagawa’s games, for example, naturally have very different sensibilities, but it wasn’t like we intentionally set out to do that. I try to have a different concept for each game, but all the games I make somehow resemble each other. In one sense, avoiding that is one of the reasons I have Yagawa make games.

I’ve never really liked doing “sequels”. Using the same game system just seems lazy to me—something about it makes me feel guilty… of course, that’s never the intention! What we always ask ourselves when we make a sequel is, “What should we leave in, what should we change, how can we (in a good way) betray the player’s expectations?” If you don’t do that, then you’re simply giving them more of what they already know, and to my thinking, there’s no reason to make a game like that.

—Compared with when you began making STGs, the technical specs for PCBs—but also the power of expression available to you as a developer—have both really come a long way.

Ikeda: The difference in hardware is really night and day. It’s kind of funny, but there’s all kinds of different hardware out in the world now, with lots of different and powerful functionality… but for Cave, it was around Mushihimesama that we were finally able to use transparencies, and everyone was like “yes!” (laughs) Recently we also began working with the Xbox 360, and it’s like, “What, rotation and scaling?! We can do anything now!” (laughs)

—Cave mainly uses their in-house developed PCBs, but has exposure to other hardware helped increase your know-how?

Ikeda: Seeing really advanced hardware, it always makes me think “well, there’s no way this is happening for us.” (laughs) As for our games, up to Guwange we used Atlus’ pcbs, and with Progear it was Capcom’s. After that, for Dodonpachi Daioujou, Ketsui, and Espgaluda, the PCBs specs were very difficult to work with. These three titles really leveled up our programmers. (laughs) It caused us to re-evaluate the way we had been doing things, because that was no longer going to work with this hardware. The programming know-how we acquired then is still paying dividends today. If you want to get your skills up, there’s no better way than working with inferior hardware. (laughs)

—With resolution, too, arcade games in general are in the middle of a hardware evolution right now.

Ikeda: That’s true. We’ve been asked by our distributors to develop something higher than 15KHz resolution, but when we do, the arcades turn around and ask us “what, why isn’t it 15KHz?” (laughs) Arcades that are thriving still have a lot of 15Khz cabinets. As a genre, STGs run on comparatively older cabinets, and often the arcade owners put them all in the same section. So arcade owners are like, “what, a 31khz STG game? Sorry, we have other games using those cabinets.” (laughs)

—Next up, I’d like to ask about those games you’ve made that are especially memorable to you.

Ikeda: Hmmm… the one that left the biggest impression on me, as you can probably guess, was Dodonpachi. Of all the games I’ve made so far, it’s the one where I was most allowed to make it according to my vision. In that era, arcade games still had a lot of vitality, and the development schedule was less strict, and we were able to make lots of tweaks and adjustments to get things just right. It’s the game where I can say I made exactly what I set out to. However, as it neared completion, I started to think about it more objectively, and worried, “There’s a chance this might be hated by everyone…” At the time, I don’t think any game put out that many bullets. (laughs)

It’s heartening to know that the game Ikeda was most free in designing was also one of the most influential STG games ever made.

—Yeah, to the people who experienced Dodonpachi when it first came out, the bullet count must have seemed weird to them. (laughs)

Ikeda: I think that was the typical response. (laughs) But while they were making it, the programmers told me “hey, this is really cool!”, and that made me believe there was an audience out there for it. I also felt sure myself that it was an interesting evolution, and if Dodonpachi was a failure, then it would have meant my entire “schema” for games was off. If that happened, I told myself I would quit making games and leave the industry. In that sense, I feel like Dodonpachi kind of saved me.

—You’re the person you are now because of Dodonpachi, in other words.

Ikeda: Yeah. If it had been hated, then it would have meant that what I liked in games, and what players liked, was fundamentally different… but that wasn’t the case, and on that point too, Dodonpachi was a very memorable, positive experience for me.

—Are there other games like this for you?

Ikeda: Many games were physically demanding, exhausting affairs. One that was exhausting in the emotional sense was Guwange. Up to then, we’d been carrying on the Toaplan lineage—games that had extremely simply basic rules. At the time I wanted to make something in a new format, and that challenge turned out to be Guwange.

However, making Guwange showed me just how incredibly difficult it is to make something new, and it also served as a stark reminder for how much we’d been relying on the format of the previous generation of STG creators. I became keenly aware of my own inadequacy as a game designer. The whole development really stressed me out to no end. Ultimately, we were only able to very slightly change the existing STG mold… it wasn’t what we originally wanted to do, but I wasn’t capable of anything more. I’m not saying that out of humility either: it felt like I had hit the limit of my own abilities. (laughs)

—I see, and that’s why it was so memorable.

Ikeda: Yeah. Anyway, it was very hard on me during Guwange’s development. “What should I do? Is this ok?”—I felt that question coming up everywhere I turned. When you work from a pre-existing template, you can get hints from the games that have come before. But with something completely new, there’s no point of reference, and you have no choice but to imagine everything yourself. That leaves you with a repeated process of trial and error, and if those experiments aren’t successful, then by and by you end up falling back on the old ways…

So I have all the more respect now for games that do something entirely new. It made me appreciate the accomplishment of Street Fighter II again. (laughs) With Guwange, I don’t really have regrets. But I nearly had a nervous breakdown because the constant, unremitting challenge just went on for too long. (laughs)

Considering how different Guwange already feels from other STGs, it’s interesting to contemplate what other new ideas and mechanics Ikeda might have been planning to include…

—Next I’d like to talk about the balance in your games. When people think of an Ikeda game, one thing that comes to mind is how expertly balanced they are. What are your thoughts on that?

Ikeda: Well, I’m not really sure what specific aspects you’re referring to when you say “expertly balanced”… (laughs)

—For example, let’s take a game that’s you put out for location testing at an arcade, a month before the official release. After the test, with only two weeks to go before release, the content ends up getting drastically changed. How do you manage to make such adjustments in a short time?

Ikeda: Probably, those parts you refer to as “drastically changed” are really just placeholders, or parts of the game we hadn’t created anything for yet. There are many things we probably should have done in the beginning, but because other tasks took priority, we end up scrambling to add the polishing and “flavoring” at the very end… Even in location tests, some of those aesthetic elements are slapped together, and as a result, we often hear players say “what the hell is this…?” But hey, if we’re both in agreement there, it’s not a big deal (laughs), and so our usual workflow is to tune everything up after the location test, taking into account both the player’s and programmer’s opinions.

—Does the balancing tend to come late in the development process then, as a matter of course?

Ikeda: Yeah. Even when you have a really fun concept figured out at an early stage, that final balancing is critical. And to a certain extent, we can’t afford to ignore players’ complaints and criticisms, so everything has to be consolidated and adjusted at the end. More subtly, we also have to consider what players are really trying to tell us by their comments, so the final phase of a development is just a whirlwind of adjustments, but I don’t see how it could be any different.

—As players we get a lot of chance to see the game in-development at trade shows, special events, location tests, and so forth. And I feel that the games really do become more and more interesting as time goes on. I don’t mean that as mere flattery. (laughs)

Ikeda: Thank you. I think our ability to make good games really does have a lot to do with how we listen to players during our development process.

—Do the various “black label” games begin life as responses to player feedback, then?

Ikeda: It depends on the title. For Dodonpachi Daioujou, that was definitely a big factor. The deadlines were so strict on that game, we pleaded for just one more week, and they gave us 3 days. In those three days we had to finalize the unfinished parts and do the balancing all in one go, and while I do think it was the best we could do at that time… when we came back to it after taking a break for a few days, and played it again, I realized “ah, the balance is a little too harsh…” And we heard the same from the players and arcades, many of who sent us angry comments “What the hell is with this difficulty?!” (laughs)

After reflecting on what balance we were originally aiming for with DDP:DOJ, we thought about what adjustments and corrections we could make. At the same time, the topic of an overseas release for DOJ came up, and we resolved to release an overseas version with a better balance. So it was a long and winding road, but that’s how the Black Label came about for DOJ.

—Interesting, I didn’t know that.

Ikeda: At the time I would work on Ketsui up to 6PM, and from 6PM I worked on DDP:DOJ Black Label. It was what you call “extracurricular activities”. (laughs)

—Next, I’d like to ask about one of Cave’s most prominent features: the world, settings, and characters of your games. Who takes the lead on creating those?

Ikeda: For the overall world, we usually look at trends and the state of the game market as our starting point. From that, and the requests and info we glean from our sales partners, we first put forward a few potential ideas for the setting. Those ideas are brought into focus by myself, the President of Cave, and others, and then handed to a designer to flesh out. Basically the details are left up to the designer, while the broad strokes are decided by the higher-ups.

—I believe you may not have been involved in it, but I thought Dangun Feveron was a really weird one.

Ikeda: It was also a very difficult title for us. (laughs) I was working on at the time, so I only get involved with Dangun Feveron a little bit, towards the end. At first, the team was making a normal mecha STG, but the stats from the location tests weren’t that encouraging, and the team realized they had to do something. After many meetings, the idea that emerged was “Disco Fever! That’ll be cool!” Everyone just went with it. I admit my memory is very hazy on all this though. (laughs)

—I remember it was very puzzling to the strategy guide writers from Gamest magazine, too. (laughs)

Ikeda: I think the gameplay system for Dangun Feveron changed 5 or 6 times during the development. There was a period when the discomen you now collect as items were things you shot at instead. (laughs)

—You mentioned a moment ago. Was the apocalyptic, dystopian setting of that game influenced at all by the zeitgeist of the time, in 1998?

Ikeda: Midway through the development of Dodonpachi, Junya Inoue joined Cave. He only had a small part in its development, but later, in typical Inoue fashion, he was critical of the setting of Dodonpachi. “This colorful world of mechas is ridiculous!” (laughs) For our next game, Inoue was assigned as the graphic leader, and he said “Since I’m doing this game, I want there to be characters. Enough with the fighter jets!” So he created humanoid player characters, and a STG that took place in a more realistic world: the battles take place in schools, streets, etc. He wanted it to feel like a world people actually inhabited, I believe.

Junya Inoue’s unique and tasteful character designs helped broaden the curb appeal of Cave’s notoriously difficult games. While Cave eventually had to resort to the shameless pursuit of Lolibucks, the designs for and Guwange in particular have a seriousness to them that is refreshing.

—Guwange also has a strong Inoue flavor.

Ikeda: Yeah. That was Inoue’s specialty, that distinct Japanese fantasy style, and he really threw himself into that devleopment. The graphics for Guwange were created ahead of everything else, and I remember looking over at his completed work, going “Damn, it’s so good!” while we struggled and struggled on the game design side. (laughs)

— and Guwange retained many traces of the old Toaplan style, but and Guwange definitely represent a pivot away from that, towards a new atmosphere.

Ikeda: We started using more pre-rendered graphics around that time, and less purely pixel-drawn work. The person who worked on Dodonpachi was one of the top designers from Toaplan. From onwards, we changed designers.

—By the way, were there ever alternative titles for any of Cave’s games?

Ikeda: Hmmm… well, for, in the beginning Inoue was really pushing for it to be called “Espdrive”, but we couldn’t obtain the rights for that name. Espgaluda also had it’s spelling changed for the same fear of copyright infringement.

For Dangun Feveron, one of the early contenders was “Beat Attack”, but when we added the fever system, “Fever SOS” and “Baro Fever” were also suggested—I remember going, what the hell is “baro”…?

For Progear no Arashi (Storm of Progear), the title we wanted at first was “Progear no Niwa” (Garden of Progear), but Capcom said it was “too highbrow.” (laughs)

Pink Sweets was a hard one. At first it was “Pink Ponchifoo”.1 but after one week everyone agreed that might be overdoing it, and we ended up with Pink Sweets. For Muchi Muchi Pork, since the theme was to have muchi muchi (pudgy/chubby) visuals, I proposed we call it Pucchin Pork, for that sausage connotation, but those middle three letters made that a little too risque… so we settled on Muchi Muchi Pork.2

Deathsmiles was originally titled “Essential Smiles” in Inoue’s planning docs, but when I showed that to management, they balked at the “shampoo”-like sound of it, and changed it to Deathsmiles on their own. As you can imagine, Inoue was very angry. (laughs)

—Along with their world and settings, Cave STGs are also known for their unique and interesting characters. I think the most popular of all must be Colonel Schwarlitz Longhener. (laughs) How was he created?

Ikeda: Well, it was part of the same shift I described above. When Inoue joined us during Dodonpachi, the only work left to be done on the game was the the ship select, opening demo, last boss, and ending. (laughs) He asked me, “Could I put a colonel or something like that at the end?”, and he created both his design and the text.3

—Oh, I didn’t realize that was also Inoue’s creation.

Ikeda: Yeah. Also, you know in the first loop ending (when you’ve qualified for the 2nd loop), that line at the end of Colonel Longhener’s speech, “” ? I programmed in the pauses that punctuate each consonant there, and when Inoue saw that, he glared at me in disgust.4 “Why did you do that?! Don’t make it into some gag!” (laughs) But no matter how I read it, that was the image it gave me.

—What about “shinu ga yoi” (prepare to die)?

Ikeda: That was Inoue’s line too, of course.

—Be it gameplay or setting, no matter how you look at it, Dodonpachi sure was a weird game (in a good way!). Next, I’d like to ask about “danmaku” STG. In recent years, we’ve seen a number of danmaku games from other developers, and there’s a sense that it’s now become a subgenre itself. As a pillar of the danmaku style, I wondered if we could hear a word from you about that.

Ikeda: With regard to the large amount of enemy bullets… I’ve already said this in various interviews before, but when I played Salamander, I recognized that difficulty notwithstanding, the enjoyment and exhilaration the player feels had a lot to do with how the bullets were fired, and how the bullet patterns looked. That got me thinking: “In that case, if I devise new bullet patterns, could I make a game that would be appealing even to someone bad at bullet dodging like me?” Destroying enemies is one of the main reasons people love this genre, and if I added more interesting bullet patterns, I thought, I’d add another layer of interest that would serve to lower the gate and bring in even more players.

I had been thinking those things for a long time, but when I joined Toaplan and created V.V, the people in the company were asking me why there were so many bullets! I had actually wanted to have even more, but they said it was already too much.

It was Battle Garegga that put an end to those miserable days for me. I took Battle Garegga to mean “You were ahead of the crowd, Ikeda! Do what you want now!”, and from there I started to design things as I saw fit.

—I think another hallmark of the danmaku genre is the tiny hitbox on the player ship.

Ikeda: That is another thing that goes back to the V.V era. At that time, for training purposes they gave new recruits a sample game to work with, that had the basic STG elements included: scrolling background, player ship, ability to shoot bullets, etc. Using that as a base, we added various elements, but in that sample program the hitbox for the player ship was tiny. (laughs) The senior programmer who made the sample program probably didn’t do that deliberately. And we didn’t really notice it as we pushed ahead making our game.

From time to time, the senior programmer would come into our room to play our game and check our progress, and he would say “The bullet dodging is really fun in this game!” He told us “Oh, it’s because of the small hitbox! The feeling that you can dodge anything is really nice.” Those words spurred us on, and convinced me this format could work.

And so you can see that influence in our work today. The enemies that fire lots of bullets and the small hitbox that makes it hard to die—both synergize to multiply the thrill of dodging.

An image of sadness: the post-DDP life for Tsuneki Ikeda.

—It’s interesting to hear the origin of that mechanic. It sounds like a combination of your particular interests, but also a bit of good luck.

Ikeda: For the player hitbox, yes, what the senior programmer at Toaplan did was huge. When he told us stuff like, “This game is even better than Tatsujin Ou!”, we were beaming with pride—it really egged us on.

—With older STGs, the hitbox was usually the same size of the sprite. You kind of created a new style of STG, where the player can get “hit” by a bullet but not die.

Ikeda: There was a lot of debate about that then.

—Going back to the danmaku genre for a moment, with regard to the difficulty of Cave STGs, how do you set the limit? For how hard it is to clear, and so forth.

Ikeda: It’s pretty simple to check our theories during the development, which we always do. The problem, however, is whether human beings can actually dodge this stuff when it’s all moving at 60 frames per second. For final bosses, whose difficulty is supposed to be their appeal, I think it’s a problem if you can just dodge it easily. Strong bosses should be intimidating. On the other hand, it can’t be impossible to dodge.

So how do we figure it all out? We ask ourselves to what extent the bullet pattern in question can be visually understood. Then we ask how long it can be endured, and to what extent the pattern inspires in the player that feeling of “I think I can dodge this, I think I can figure it out…” It’s just that process, repeated again and again. (laughs)

—So it’s just trial and error, until you get it where it feels right?

Ikeda: Yeah. Once it feels like, “ok, this feels doable”, then we call over some of our employees who are really good at STG and have them try it out. If we can get their reaction from “this feels impossible” to “Ok, I can see a glimmer of how I could do this”, then we’re generally good. Half of it, therefore, is impressions and intuitions—feelings. The hardest part of difficulty balancing, I think, is always that part. For the normal difficulty balancing, I can mostly handle that part with my basic skills.

—Everytime I see Hibachi’s bullet patterns, it’s like “how is this even possible…?” But in the end, the players persevere and are able to clear it. I think that’s a really amazing achievement of game balancing.

Ikeda: When we made Hibachi, I actually thought it might be impossible. Until the clear was achieved, I was actually very worried. At the time, even the STG lovers at Cave—when they played Dodonpachi, they kept saying “That is WAY too much!” But I wanted the difficulty of the final boss of Dodonpachi to give even advanced players a fight that would test their skills to the utmost. No easy parts, if you weren’t gritting your teeth to the end of that fight, it would be meaningless. I wanted people to look at Hibachi and laugh, to be like “This is ridiculous!” Without that it wouldn’t have had the same impact.

—The idea of the final boss putting up a barrier when you bombed was another… revolutionary idea. (laughs) You could say that Hibachi directly overturned a lot of ideas about the way final bosses were supposed to be.

Ikeda: That was something one of my senior colleagues at Toaplan used to joke about. “Hey, wouldn’t it be funny if, when you used a bomb on the last boss, he put up a barrier? Hahaha…” I would joke back, “Hah, that would be going too far!” but secretly I was thinking to myself: this is a great idea. When the time came for Dodonpachi, I thought with Hibachi, it’s now or never! And it became a basic feature of all our final bosses after that.

—Finally, I’d like to ask about your and Cave’s future plans. Will you keep making STGs?

Ikeda: I’d like to continue for as long as we can. But the market has become exceedingly tough, and there’s a chance that no matter how much I might want to, the company will say no. From the corporation’s perspective, the health of the business is everything, so there’s not much that can be done about that. But I’m a person who grew up with the arcade culture, so I want to do all I can to keep releasing new titles.

—Outside of the arcade, do you have plans for other releases?

Ikeda: I touched on this a little in the beginning of our talk, but I’m always looking for new ways to convey interesting ideas. For example, I think the young people today who might be interested in STGs are not as “hard up” for games as my generation was in our youth. We’re surrounded by games everywhere now, and there are lots you can play for free, too. I think that places a greater burden on us as creators to discover ways to capture the attention and interest of those new players. If we don’t, I feel there might not be any STGs in the future.

We’re currently searching for a game that grabs you on your very first encounter, and after just 1 or 2 plays gets you going “This part is really cool, this is fun.” When you play something entirely new, the manual isn’t of much help, is it? You just want to play it! That’s where the opportunity lies to grab their hearts. I think arcade games have long grappled with that question—of how to convey something interesting in a really short space of time—and if we can create something that fully utilizes that expertise, then STGs will be saved. (laughs)

—Thank you so much for your generous time today. I hope we have a chance to do this again at your 20th anniversary. (laughs)

Ikeda: Thank you, and my apologies for being long-winded. 20th anniversary eh…? Definitely, if I’m still alive then. (laughs)

Game-by-Game Ikeda Commentary

Donpachi (1995) – Partly because of it being our fledgling title, I remember there was some conflict over how “Toaplan-ish” it should be. Of course, when I was at Toaplan I had worked on games like V.V and Batsugun—two very un-Toaplan games. (laughs)

Dodonpachi (1997) – Battle Garegga had taken the STG scene by storm, and I took that as my cue to start making the game I had always wanted to make. I remember people at Cave saying there were too many tanks!

Uopoko (1998) – This was made single-handedly by one of my former senior colleagues at Toaplan… I had almost no part in it. It was kind of like I looked up one day, and it was done. (laughs) (1998) – Given the world of, I wanted to have really twisting, elaborate bullet patterns like Ketsui… because of our schedule, we settled for more standard danmaku patterns. It’s a game I have some regrets about.

Dangun Feveron (1998) – The blueprint for this game underwent multiple revisions, finally arriving at a gameplay centered around high-speed bullets. I didn’t have much input on this game either; my colleague was in charge of it.

Guwange (1999) – This one is very memorable for me; we had a lot of enthusiasm for the challenge we set ourself, to create something totally new. This turned out to be a bit too lofty a goal though… I was reminded of the painful truth of my own inadequacy, and the superiority of my forebears.

Progear (2001) – This was originally going to be a vertical shooter, but during our presentation pitch, one of the higher-ups said “It should be horizontal”, and that was that. I remember Inoue came back from the meeting and said, “It’s a hori now!” (laughs)

Dodonpachi Daioujou (2002) – The pcb hardware for this game caused us no end of trouble. It was so bad that almost none of the techniques we had learned up to then worked. (laughs) Our skills doubled after this game, and we’re still using what we learned in Dodonpachi Daioujou today.

Dodonpachi Daioujou Black Label (2002) – I worked on this myself in my spare time, adjusting the parts that I wasn’t satisifed with. It was something of an apology to players of the original. In that sense, I guess this game was fan service, right? (laughs)

Ketsui (2003) – “Linear motion” for the bullet patterns was an iron law for us when making Dodonpachi, but on Daioujou, our programmer Ishimura had started to complain. (laughs) For Ketsui we brought his taste to the fore, and created a game where the bullet patterns and enemies had no such boundaries.

Espgaluda (2003) – Shikigami no Shiro hit the arcades, and operators were once again requesting STGs with human characters. If we were going to do that, we wanted to try adding something new to the mix, and Espgaluda was the result.

Mushihimesama (2004) – We were a bit naive about the challenge of creating three separate modes in one game, and it nearly killed us. It was way more work than usual, but the incredible visual power of the new PCBs delighted us, so psychologically, at least, we were in very high spirits. (laughs)

Ibara (2005) – If I’m being totally honest, I asked Yagawa to make a game just like Battle Garegga. (laughs) However, we weren’t able to realize the destructive scenery system in the way we had conceptualized in the beginning, and it was a very difficult development.

Mushihimetama (2005) – This was also made by the Uo Poko guy, right under my nose. (laughs) Our first location tests actually used the name “Mushi Poko”, but we ended up changing it because there weren’t a lot of people who knew the Uo Poko game. (laughs)

Espgaluda II (2005) – I had been wanting to make a sequel for Espgaluda for awhile, and thankfully we were able to realize it at a good time. We were aiming to have Seseri in the game from the start of the development, but the attention Madara received was a bit unexpected. (laughs)

Pink Sweets (2006) – Unlike Ibara, this one started with zero input or requests from me, and was a 100% Yagawa-led title. The result is a game that clearly shows the Yagawa style, I think.

Ibara Kuro (2006) – The programmer in charge of the Ibara console port also came up with the “Cave-style” Arrange mode idea, and I thought it was very well done. Ibara Kuro was our attempt to take that idea and translate it into an arcade game, with various refinements.

Mushihimesama Futari (2006) – This was another one where I joined the team at the end, intending only to work on the Ultra mode… but when I got down to it, there was a ton of things that concerned me. It really burned me out, but in the end we were able to release an updated version 1.5.

Muchi Muchi Pork! (2007) – This was originally going to be a normal STG, but once we started working on the enemy mechas… it turned into this. (laughs) Muchi Muchi Pork was a joint effort between Yagawa and me: I drafted the basic gameplay system, and I entrusted the balancing and fine-tuning to Yagawa.

Deathsmiles (2007) – Deathsmiles has a lot of Ishimura’s personality. Throughout the development, we were searching for a way to make the visuals more appealing without raising the difficulty, and we only came up with the idea of suicide bullets in Death mode being cancellable (by your option) at the very end, 2 days before the deadline. (laughs)

Dodonpachi Daifukkatsu (2008) – This was a difficult development. The hyper system gave us trouble right up to the deadline. We received a lot of encouragement with Version 1.5, but it seems the autobomb might have been a mistake…

Deathsmiles Mega Black Label (2008) – As I talked with Inoue, the scale of the ideas we wanted to add kept getting bigger and bigger. (laughs) “Ok, let’s call it ‘MEGA’ then!”

Deathsmiles II (2009) – Changing our development environment from 2D to 3D brought its own set of challenges. The character roster was just as we planned it, but I think it was kind of unfair to Rosa and Follette players.

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  1. I’m not actually sure what this means—I think it’s means Pink Parfait, or Pink Cocktail, but I can’t verify that.

  2. The middle letters referred to here are “chinpo”, which means penis. The word “pucchin”, by the way, is an onomatopoeia that describes the way food (like a cooked sausage) slides out of a greased pan. It’s often associated with pudding, for the way a pudding plops and slides out of the cup.

  3. This is an interesting comment, as the shadowy figure at the end of Donpachi is usually said to be Colonel Longhener too. That may have just been a retcon, of course.

  4. “yoroshiku” is the final line in the first loop ending, and was loosely translated in the English version as “welcome to hell.” In Japanese, when you pause and enunciate the consonants of a word individually, it can add a light, melodramatic, sometimes feminine touch that makes it a little comical/corny. Although not really captured by the English translation, it’s sort of the difference between saying “Welcome” to someone in a normal tone of voice, and “Wellllcooommmeeee” like Count Dracula.

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