Dodonpachi – 1998 Developer Interview

Dodonpachi – 1998 Developer Interview

This interview with Dodonpachi creators Tsuneki Ikeda, Satoshi Kouyama, and Takashi Ichimura was published in the liner notes of the Dodonpachi / Esprade cd, released in 1998. Although the creation of DDP has been well covered elsewhere, this interview is unique for being conducted by the superplayer ZBL-NAI. It contains some nice notes about the devs' favorite STGs and the design of Hibachi.

Interviewer Profile: ZBL-NAI

Known among his friends as “Master Naitou”, his no-miss clear of Hibachi gives us a glimpse of his transdimensional shooting technique. He currently holds the top score in over 30 games. “My favorite STGs are Same! Same! Same!, Tatsujin Ou, and Battle Garegga. One very memorable experience I had with the DDP soundtrack was when I was on the verge of breaking my hi score at Hibachi and I died… the boss music then left a strong impression on me. As of this October, I’m aiming for a score of 730m. It looks like my love affair with DDP will continue for awhile yet!”

—What is the maximum number of bullets Dodonpachi can display on-screen?

Ichimura: 245. The campaign version, by the way, can put out 315.

—Do you think a 2-loop no bomb, no miss clear is humanly possible?

Ikeda: Theoretically it is possible, but I’ll just leave it at “theoretically.”

—What do you think about safe spots?

Ikeda: Generally, I don’t like them, and I do my best to find and remove them. If you’re struggling with a tough pattern and the solution turns out to be staying in a safespot, then I personally think that’s not very satisfying. I believe it's possible for safespots to be used interestingly, and they do have the merit of being easily understandable solutions (though there are certainly some that aren’t). However, I think that getting out of a difficult situation in a STG should take an appropriate degree of effort and technique.

—And of course, even if you’re in a tight spot, real men don’t bomb?

Ikeda: Bombs were added as an emergency feature, but… even with a full bomb stock and 0 lives, a real man won’t even have his finger anywhere near the B button.

—Of the many different STGs released in the past, which ones do you as developers have the most fondness for, and why?

Ikeda: For me, definitely Salamander. I love the different elements that keep evolving with each loop. Especially when you reach loop 5 and above, when I first saw it I was shocked at how many bullets there were!

Kouyama: I love Gradius.

Ichimura: For me, R-TYPE. When this game was released, I was a high school student working a part-time at a bookstore. When I’d go out and fill orders for the store, I’d always stop by the game center hoping to see the huge battleship in stage 3.

Gradius, Salamander, and R-Type. Interestingly, all horizontal shmups.

—Are there any interesting bugs or episodes that took place during development (can be outside of the game too)?

Kouyama: Our development office was located on the third floor of a certain building, and shortly after we started development some kind of shady business moved into the floor directly below us. Each morning, as I climbed the stairs to our office, I’d see old women gathered in the stairwell, standing around waiting for their door to open (and the number of women increased every day!). During the day we’d hear clapping, applause, and cries of “Waaa!!” coming from beneath us. Then one day, they suddenly disappeared. The door to their office was damaged, and it looked like someone had tried to pry it open with a crowbar. The truth of it all is shrouded in mystery, even today.

—How do you go about checking for bugs and playtesting?

Kouyama: At first it's done in parallel with the rest of the development, by the programmers themselves who test for bugs and adjust the difficulty as they go. Then, 2 to 3 weeks before the master app is due, we use that time to playtest extensively and debug.

—Regarding the erratic left and right movements of the first boss and saishuu kichiku heiki,1 is there a pattern to this? Speaking from my experience, it seemed random.

Ikeda: That’s right, it's random.

—Can the tail of the saishuu kichiku heiki be destroyed? If so, will Hibachi who is inside also be destroyed?

Ikeda: It can’t be destroyed.

—The 2-1 midboss’ roulette bullet pattern, the 2-3 midboss’ pattern, and the 2-3 boss’ blue bullet pattern… are these all random too?

Ikeda: That’s right, they’re random.

—I’ve heard a rumor that you can destroy Hibachi’s barrier, is that true? I’ve never experienced it myself.

Ikeda: This is the first time I’ve heard of that. It shouldn’t be possible…

Lego Hibachi.

—When you designed Hibachi, how many bombs and lives did you intend that players would need to defeat it?

Ikeda: The concept for Hibachi was to test the very limits of the human ability to dodge bullets, so we didn’t really think about a specific number of bombs or lives… it was more like, can this be done on one credit? And during our final stage of fine-tuning Dodonpachi we determined it was possible, and that’s the difficulty we left it at.

—In the 2nd loop of Donpachi there are suicide bullets, but in Dodonpachi the second loop contains twice as many bullets. It was a little shocking the first time I saw it. Why didn’t you go with suicide bullets for Dodonpachi?

Ikeda: There are four reasons. First, Dodonpachi is a game of intense, fast-paced shooting and dodging, and that pacing was very important to us. We determined that having to wait and stagger your shooting because of the danger of suicide bullets didn’t fit the flow of the game. Second, it would make chaning too difficult in the 2nd loop. Third, suicide bullets were already being used by a lot of other games at the time. And fourth, I was tired of suicide bullets themselves and the way they make you play.

—Finally, is it true you’re going to make a sequel?

Ikeda: I can’t say it won’t happen, but right now we don’t have any plans or intentions to do so.

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  1. This is the official name of the huge mechanical bee you fight just before Hibachi.

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