Ghouls ‘n Ghosts – 1988 Developer Interview
In this interview, conducted at the 1988 AM Show arcade trade event, Makaimura / Ghosts’n Goblins creator Tokuro Fujiwara and greenhorn Hiroshi Yamamoto discuss the making of Daimakaimura / Ghouls’n Ghosts, the impending sequel to Capcom’s 1985 smash hit arcade game, and how both an influx of new blood and new arcade hardware allowed the team to more fully realize the concepts established in the original game.
Tokurou Fujiwara – Designer
Hiroshi Yamamoto – Designer
—To begin, please tell us how the Daimakaimura development got started.
Fujiwara: I’ve been wanting to make this game for a very long time. Then when the CP System PCBs came out, it felt like the timing was finally right.
The CPS boards have a lot of memory, but the plans we drew up for Daimakaimura called for a game even larger than that. There was so much stuff in there—twice as much as what’s been added to the game right now. Even when it’s completed, I think it will only be about half of what we originally planned. And still, compared with the original Makaimura (Ghosts and Goblins) it’s a massive increase in content.
—Yamamoto, in what ways were you involved in the planning?
Yamamoto: I wasn’t involved in the very beginning phase. I joined about 3 months after the planning started. A bunch of people joined the development to help out then. I mainly worked on the enemy and player settings, and I also adjusted the overall game balance.
Almost none of the ideas were purely mine, however—there was always input from the other developers who had created the original Makaimura. It was more like I helped out in a variety of places, than created things purely on my own.
—Had you played the original game?
Yamamoto: I didn’t play it when it was new, no. When I joined Capcom, people kind of scolded me for that: “What?! How the hell do you join this company without knowing about Makaimura?!” So right away I went and tried it out, and to my delight, it was amazing. I got totally sucked in. It was difficult to be sure, but I can now manage a 2-loop clear.
Fujiwara: At our offices, we have our older games set up around the building. It’s not super organized or anything, but the original cabinets are there for anyone to play. It’s old hardware though, so they get buggy or break down from time to time.
—I remember how strong the Red Arremer enemy was from the first game.
Fujiwara: He was designed to be difficult—I wanted to make him more difficult than a boss, even. His movement and attack patterns are deceptive, right? We made him do the opposite of what the normal player would expect him to do.
—The version of Daimakaimura you showed today at the AM Show featured a lone Red Arremer in the first stage. He was alone, and the sprite itself wasn’t that big, but he seemed to be posturing there as if to say “Take your best shot.”
Fujiwara: If we included more than that, people would probably get mad, and say it was too hard.
—It’s scary when he runs at you!
Yamamoto: Myself included, most of the developers of Daimakaimura were not the people who made the original. We were mostly huge fans who played the hell out of it—and we all suffered at the hands of Red Arremer.
Fujiwara: Most of the staff changed from the first game. In that sense, I think it would be right to be say that in this sequel, the fans themselves have become the developers.
Yamamoto: The goal was to take those places we saw for improvement as players—”oh, this would have been better if it had been done like this”—while at the same time not straying too far from the original setting of the first game.
—Can you tell us about the world of Makaimura? What kind of place is it?
Fujiwara: The setting is Europe, but I would say it draws inspiration more from the world of the Bible than from traditional mythologies.
—Is that where the name Makaimura comes from, then?
Fujiwara: Yeah. It was kind of a joke at first. “Makai” (Demon World) was cool on its own, and adding “Mura” (Village) lent it a more European atmosphere. I think it also conveys the notion that while this game contains monsters, they are more comical than dreadful and terrifying.
And the “Dai” (big) in Daimakaimura, of course, is meant to show that this game isn’t a “part 2″—it’s rather a bigger iteration of the original idea.
—What do you feel is the appeal of Daimakaimura?
Yamamoto: That’s a good question. I think for both the original game, and for Daimakaimura, the appeal of the sprite art is a huge part of it. I didn’t create these characters, but I could feel the passion and spirit of the creators in them. You can tell they spent a lot of time working them over, going at it very seriously, not stopping until they had something that they were satisfied with themselves.
Another big thing is the fact that you won’t get bored quickly playing Daimakaimura. The enemy attacks are neither completely deterministic nor completely random. Then there are the 6 different weapons. With both short and long range weapons, the gameplay experience changes significantly depending on which you pick up. The magic is the same way. There’s magic that fires diagonally, in a cross, and some that has a limited duration of effect. While each one is powerful and unique, I think on average they’re all effective, and none are useless.
Fujiwara: We’ve put a ton of emphasis and effort into the sprite art for Daimakaimura. We’ve strived to make even the simple movement patterns visually interesting. Even if the programming itself describes a straightforward motion, we try to make that sprite art and animation lively and varied, with more personality than the simplistic programming might suggest. For example, normally an enemy that just flies straight at you would be pretty easy to handle, but by creating the right sprite for it, we can make it *feel* hard in the player’s mind.
—I do find all the characters and sprites in Daimakaimura very charming, but were they based on any specific underlying myths?
Fujiwara: We have a lot of different books with pictures of spirits and demons in them, so we do use stuff like that as reference materials, yes. Those books only contain static images, though, so we still need to imagine and create the way this particular monster moves, attacks, etc.
Be it a Grim Reaper or a Dragon or whatever, sometimes you realize certain creatures can’t move as sprites the way you want them to. So there are two kinds of creatures then: those that were based on something existing, and those we had to create from whole cloth. We use both in Daimakaimura.
—Was Red Arremer based on anything?
Fujiwara: Not directly, no. We pull from a variety of sources and inspirations for the artwork though, so in a way, you could say he’s based on all of it synthesized together. First we get a broad picture in our minds—”ah hah, so this is what demons look like…”—and to that we add the lighter Makaimura touch.
Compared with the original Makaimura, what has been more difficult this time has been contending with all the new Famicom RPGs and the like, more and more of which have been featuring western style demons. You see something cool and think, “oh, that would make a nice character”—only to find out that it’s already been featured in some other game. That happens a lot now. When Makaimura came out, almost no one had seen creatures like this, and they felt very fresh and new.
—It’s crazy how quickly video games have taken off in these last three years.
Fujiwara: I know. For us it’s led to a number of monsters we’ve had to cut, and overall, it’s constrained what’s available for us to use. Today you can see zombies in games everywhere, but when Makaimura came out, there wasn’t a single game that featured zombies.
—Yeah, I remember how taken aback I was the first time I saw the zombies rise up and shamble forth from their graves in Makaimura. I knew I had to play that.
Fujiwara: We were talking about adding a unicorn to Daimakaimura, but they’re so common in Famicom and arcade games now, it doesn’t feel special. So we dropped the idea.
—There’s unique characters like the “pig men” in Daimakaimura, but where did the idea for that vomiting attack come from?
Fujiwara: You could tell it was vomit? That’s good—the player has to be able to know what he’s seeing, so we tried to make the animation easy to understand. He tilts his head up, sort of swallows a bit, and his cheeks swell up… in any other game I think something silly like that would tend to destroy the atmosphere. That grotesque-but-lighthearted feeling is something you can only get from Makaimura, I think.
The way you use the demonic statues’ tongues to walk on in stage 3—there’s no ground there, you have to use their tongues to traverse the stage—that’s also very characteristic of the Makaimura style. There aren’t many limits to what we can do with this game, our creativity pretty much has free reign.
—In the version of Daimakaimura you exhibited today at the AM Show, it looked like the very last stage wasn’t complete yet. How’s it going?
Fujiwara: It’s going to be fierce. Graphically, it will be quite impressive too, unlike the slightly underwhelming Daimaou1 from the previous game.
—When the game starts there’s a cutscene that shows the Princess getting killed… did she die?
Fujiwara: Yes. At that moment, at least. But as for the ending… well, I’ll let you see for yourself. Anyway, please look forward to the final boss, we’re putting our all into him. The game is almost complete—we’re in the final laps now!
Yamamoto: I’m confident we’ll be able to present a finished game to players that will not disappoint them, both in terms of the difficulty level and the later stages.
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The final boss from the original Makaimura and a recurring series boss. He’s most commonly known as “Astaroth” nowadays but has gone by a handful of other names in both English and Japanese; this Legends of Localization article covers his names and the general usage of the term “daimaou” in some detail.↩