Demon’s Crest – 1994 Developer Interview

Demon's Crest – 1994 Developer Interview

This short interview with Demon’s Crest creators Tokuro Fujiwara and Masahiko Kurokawa first appeared in the November 1994 edition of Famicon Tsuushin. It mainly covers the creation of the Red Arremer character and the challenges of trying to hybridize action and adventure gameplay. Fujiwara’s remarks about new possibilities for the action genre foreshadow his subsequent move to Whoopee Camp and the development of Tomba series.

Tokuro Fujiwara – Producer
Masahiko Kurokawa – Director

—How did the Demon’s Crest development get started?

Fujiwara: The Red Arremer character originally came from the world of Makaimura (NA: Ghosts ‘n Goblins), as a kind of “rival” to the player. At some point we realized that this character had made a real impact on players, and we started to think it could be interesting if we allowed players to control his diverse moveset. On top of that, Red Arremer is a demon, not a human, so we thought that would let us to present something unique to players. The game we created from this initial idea was the Game Boy title “Red Arremer” (NA: Gargoyle’s Quest).

Initially we wanted to make sure we didn’t overshadow Makaimura, so we decided the Game Boy would be best for a first outing. Then, once that game was well-received, we wanted to try doing a full-color attempt, which became Red Arremer II for the Famicom. But the Famicom presented us with more technical challenges than the Game Boy, so we decided we'd try giving the concept a new coat of paint with the Super Famicom, changing the character’s previous cartoon-y, anime look to something darker and more realistic. That’s how Demon's Crest came about.

Tokuro Fujiwara, producer

—And that about-turn, from cutesy to realistic, is also reflected in the change of title, from “Red Arremer” to “Demon’s Crest.”

Fujiwara: That’s right. We especially wanted to emphasize that this was not a sequel to the Famicom game, but a complete re-envisioning for the Super Famicom.

—Besides the character himself, the world of Demon’s Crest is also much more realistic. In a sense you’ve succeeded in evoking the harder, horror side of the Makaimura games.

Fujiwara: In Makaimura, the image is “humans vs. demons”, with the human as the hero. However, in Demon’s Crest, Red Arremer is a demon, so there’s a certain element of evil or amoralism at play. We tried to capture that slightly unsettling, frightening atmosphere of the demonic in the graphics and overall presentation.

—By the way, I heard a rumor that the Red Arremer character was actually modeled after an employee at Capcom… is that true?

Fujiwara: Well, Red Arremer was created for the original Makaimura, but actually, the idea of the character came before we had any notion of what the gameplay would be. We had this demon character first, and in trying to think of who might be a good opponent for him, we came up with the idea of Arthur, the human hero.

More generally, we knew we wanted to make a game that really put monsters, ghosts, and demons in the spotlight—hence the Makaimura title, of course. That’s how we first came up with Red Arremer, by trying to think specifically of a “demon”-type character. When it came time to name that character, something about him reminded us of one of our employees (programmer Toshio Arima), so we chose a similar-sounding name.

—In terms of genres, Demon’s Blaze mixes up action and adventure. Why did you go for this combination?

Fujiwara: The development of Demon’s Blaze began with a number of different themes—I’m not sure exactly how to describe it, but we wanted to challenge ourselves, to try something adventerous and new. Makaimura, for instance, was a very pure action game. Then the Game Boy version of Red Arremer introduced a map navigation element, and added new control techniques. This time, with Demon’s Blaze, we wanted to preserve the action, but simultaneously increase the strategy elements of the game. We wanted to make a game where as the player progresses, he also needs to be thinking about the order in which he’s doing things and the world around him.

For example, let’s say that on your first playthrough, you only reached stage IV. But on your 2nd or 3rd playthroughs, you might test out some of the suspicions you had about this or that stage feature, and by doing so, it may lead to a new discovery that causes the game to unfold differently. In some instances it’s a whole a new stage, and in others a new item to use. As new stages and items become available, the player must master new techniques, and in doing so he will get better at the underlying action component of the game while also always needing to think strategically about items he’s using. And the ending also will change depending on what the player does.

Illustrations for Red Arremer (“Firebrand” in the US). Fujiwara said he made the designer re-draw him many times until finding an image that fit the new darker, “realistic” aesthetic of Demon’s Crest.

Demon’s Blaze, then, wasn’t designed as a pure action game; we instead tried to infuse an element of purpose and meaning to the action. We wanted to expand the typical conventions of the action genre, wherein you normally just defeat enemies–>move forward–>defeat enemies–>move forward.

There is another reason for doing Demon’s Blaze this way: when we started the development, the next-gen 32-bit consoles had just come out, and I had hoped Demon’s Blaze would serve as the launching-off point for me to explore new possibilities for the action genre in future games.

—I imagine that with popular, hit series like Makaimura and Street Fighter, there’s an expectation that new games won’t radically change the existing gameplay. On the other hand, if you make a brand new, non-sequel title, you’re more free to be adventerous, but there’s also the risk it won’t sell. You mentioned that “challenging yourself” was a theme of this development, and now that the game is out, do you feel like you took a big risk?

Fujiwara: Hmm… well, even if you do try to introduce a new gameplay idea, you also still need to improve other aspects of the game (like graphics), because you always need to make sure you’ve included enough elements that will get people interested. For example, you can correctly recognize that what people love about a game like Street Fighter II is the versus fighting, but if you release a similar game (even one at the same level of production) without adding anything new, there’s a good chance players will reject it. To avoid that you have to improve on and evolve different aspects of the original game you’re imitating.

In that regard, we’ve spent a lot of time on Demon’s Crest. I will admit, though, that it was a relatively easy development for us, because we had that foundation of the Red Arremer character from the Game Boy and Famicom versions to iterate on.

—Any tips or tricks, or advice for players who get stuck? When I played the first time, I made it to stage IV and then got that ending. On my second playthrough I made it to stage VI, but didn’t know what to do after that and ended the game there. I couldn’t find all the items and gave up, I’m afraid.

Fujiwara: That’s actually fine, and is the experience we intended players to have. If a player gets that far and is satisfied, that is of course fine too, but if you feel something is missing or not quite right—for those players, we want them to give it another go. Plus you’ll probably have gotten better at the action in the meantime. Using your newfound skills, you’ll probably make some new discoveries.

Masahiko Kurokawa

Kurokawa: If you’re going for a total clear, there are definitely some tough spots. But I think if you take time to enjoy the story and world as you go through it, you’ll easily grasp your character’s abilities.

Once you can fly, you’ll probably want to go back and explore all those areas you couldn’t reach before, right? We wanted players to take their time and explore the world each time they get a new ability.

Fujiwara: In most action games, when the player gets used to the gameplay, it’s usually easy to clear the game. In Demon’s Crest, however, that “ease” you acquire as you make progress is directly tied into new interests and things to explore.

Kurokawa: It will take all your focus and ability to beat this game the first time. But once you can read the patterns, that frees up some mental space on your next playthrough to do things like fly to new areas. It lets you focus more on enjoying the exploration, which is what we wanted.

—For players to enjoy discovering things on their own.

Fujiwara: That’s right. Demon’s Crest offers an experience that is tuned to both “action” and “thoughtful” gameplay. When you first buy it, play it for a full week without thinking too hard, and just enjoy the experience.

—Finally, what kind of games would you like to make in the future?

Fujiwara: As you can probably guess, I’d like to make a game that stays fun no matter how many times you re-play it. Replayability is the key—something you want to play more and more, and won’t get bored of. My dream is to make a game you buy one time and then want to play for life.

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