Mushihimesama HD – 2012 Developer Interview
Mushihimesama is a vertical shmup for the X360 released in 2012 by Cave. It is a graphical remaster of the 2004 arcade game Mushihimesama, and also includes Mushihimesama 1.5 as DLC, previously available only as a limited-run (and expensive) pcb. This Famitsu interview with producers Tsuneki Ikeda and Makoto Asada covers the remastering process, new modes, and the character and world design of the original.
—Before we talk about the X360 version, I’d like to go back to the original arcade release of Mushihimesama. What was the concept behind Mushihimesama (2004)?
Asada: I wasn’t at Cave yet when they were developing Mushihimesama.
Ikeda: Back then, well… the hardware we had been using before Mushihimesama wasn’t that powerful, so we were talking about making some new PCB hardware. Then we asked, what should we make as our first shooting game on this new hardware? Everything we had put out as Cave before that had been a danmaku game, but I was thinking Toaplan this time… I thought there was a need in the market for something with simpler patterns and fewer bullets–a stoic shooting game. So we started making Mushihimesama as a return to our roots.
—How did you come up with the unique fantasy world of Mushihimesama?
Ikeda: Actually, at first we were planning to make something ultra-realistic, a “tanks and helicopters only!” kind of world. But around that time we got news that a new Raiden game would be coming out. We eventually decided that would be a tough act to follow, so we decided on a completely opposite, fantastic world for the game. (laughs). When graphics leader Wakabayashi told me “since its not going to be military themed, think of something else”, I brought in some fantasy style storyboards and we went with that.
—Were the players at the time surprised that you had chosen a fantasy theme?
Ikeda: No one was like, “WHAT?!”. But people did seem puzzled by the title. (laughs) At the location tests many people told us “so you’ve finally got your hardware sorted out.” (laughs)
—By the way, the heroine Reco… she’s not wearing anything down there, is she?
—Really! That’s part of the official canon?
Asada: You mean when she can just go to the bathroom anywhere like that?!
Ikeda: How she uses the toilet isn’t set in the official canon, but physically speaking, that’s how it would be.
—Ah, is that so! …well, um, getting back on point, please tell use some of the features of Mushihimesama.
Ikeda: I said it earlier, but, the concept was “how can we make a simple shooting game.” We wondered how a game like Toaplan’s Kyuukyoku Tiger with fewer, high speed bullets would be received in 2004, but we tried to add a modern touch to it as well. We made something we felt could compete for players’ interest, but of course we had some anxiety and decided that in addition to the stoic “Original” mode we would add a “Maniac” mode with more bullets. (laughs) As a result it was well received by the players and we were relieved.
—At the time, which was more popular among players, Original or Maniac?
Ikeda: At the location test Original mode was more popular. It seemed many people saw the word “Maniac” and thought the game would be as hard as that word suggested. After it was release, they were both about equally popular.
—At the time of release, the super difficult “Ultra” mode had to be unlocked, right?
Ikeda: Yes. It was designed to be unlocked afterwards.
Asada: Why did you hide it?
Ikeda: I think we wanted it to be a surprise. At a game center, there’s a tendency for games to start losing players about three months after their release. So we thought that if, three months later, some new feature was unlocked, it would bring people back. On top of that, we thought it would be cool to have something open up like that which would challenge players who have already gotten used to the game and cleared it… “You’re not done yet, bring it on!!”
—You added it to exceed what players had already achieved?
Ikeda: Yes. That way it would get unlocked first at successful game centers, and it would spread by word of mouth that way. Of course, we also faxed a sheet with instructions on how to unlock it to all the game centers.
Asada: Doing it like that, wasn’t there a possibility that a store that didn’t get the fax would never have Ultra mode unlocked?
Ikeda: We had that concern, so we made the unlocking method available to the public as well.
Asada: That was new, letting the players do it.
Ikeda: All of Cave’s games are this way. (laughs) It would be a problem for players if they couldn’t unlock it, you know?
—And now Mushihimesama has been upgraded with HD graphics, and comes out for the X360 on 5/24/2012.
Asada: We struggled with whether to port Ibara or Mushihimesama.
—Asada, I understand you worked on the X360 port?
Asada: That’s right. Though at the beginning, I was busy working on Instant Brain. After the dust had settled on that project, I thought, alright, time to get started on Mushihimesama… but when I confirmed where the development was at, I thought it had a long way to go and I was really scrambling when it began. (laughs) But when I fully got into it, it actually went smoother than any project I’ve ever worked on.
Ikeda: Yeah, it went without a hitch.
—Do you think its because you’ve had so much experience doing ports before this?
Asada: That’s part of it, but because everything moved forward individually without problems we were able to proceed smoothly.
—In addition to the three modes found in the original arcade version, as a first print bonus, “Mushihimesama ver. 1.5” mode will be available as DLC. Would you like to comment on each different mode?
Asada: First, there’s the “X360 mode,” which is an HD enhanced version that uses the arcade version as its base, with the same slowdown.
—The same slowdown?
Asada: If it weren’t, you wouldn’t be able to dodge the bullets. (laughs) Everything was done according to the arcade version.
—Next is the Novice Mode, and this is aimed at beginners?
Asada: People have always asked us why we haven’t include beginner modes in our games. In the Deathsmiles arcade version, you could select a difficulty level from 1 to 3, but while you were playing you couldn’t continue to select level 1, meaning many people couldn’t clear it. So for the X360 version we made it possible to select Level 1 difficulty for each stage, and we did hear people say “now I can clear it!”
From that point on, in order to allow those people who had gotten into shooting games through Deathsmiles to clear our other games, we added Novice modes. And you know, a 1CC is part of the fun, isn’t it? So we thought we’d allow beginners to experience that with Novice mode first, after which they could check out the other modes and see what hell looks like… (laughs)
—(laughs) Please tell us about the “arrange” mode for Mushihimesama.
Asada: This is a slightly improved version of the arrange mode released for the PS2 version of Mushihimesama. That version got a good reception, so we wondered how we could develop it, and made several adjustments. We also remade some of the songs in the Arrange version, so people can enjoy those too.
—For people who played the PS2 Arrange version, it sounds like it will be a different experience.
Asada: We think so. When we were adjusting the Arrange mode, we had several skilled players test it, and we asked them what parts they thought were too easy, and accordingly made those parts more difficult… though not to the point it can’t be cleared, I think. If you can’t clear this, you should probably quit playing shooting games! (laughs)
Ikeda: No, no, don’t say that! (laughs) Save that kind of talk for Novice mode! (laughs)
—Maybe saying “you should quit” is a little much (laughs). Finally, regarding the first press bonus “Mushihimesama ver 1.5” mode, I understand this is something Ikeda was working on originally?
Asada: Last year we sold the PCB of Mushihimesama 1.5 at the online Cave shop for a limited time of 2 days. We sold it for game centers, really, but we thought there were many who probably didn’t get to play it, so we decided to add it to the X360 port. In the beginning, though, Ikeda wasn’t too keen about adding it…
Ikeda: I thought it would be unfair to people who had bought the PCB. Of course, I’m happy that many will be able to play it, but…
Asada: But before he got the greenlight from Asada, our programmer Ichimura decided on his own to port the code for Mushihimesama 1.5. (laughs) Then it was like, well, it works, so we might as well include it. (laughs)
Ikeda: It doesn’t make sense to me why someone working at Cave, with access to these games already, would decide to port the code. (laughs)
Asada: There were many people who couldn’t play Mushihimesama 1.5, and the music was composed by Ryu Umemoto, who passed away last year, and we really wanted people to hear his music. Now that I think of it, the X360 version of Mushihimesama has three soundtrack versions included… that’s amazing.
—What are the changes made in Mushihimesama ver. 1.5?
Ikeda: Although we made Mushihimesama to be a return to our roots, when we looked back on it, we had this feeling, “why are there so few enemies?” That was our goal at the time, of course. So for Mushihimesama 1.5 we changed the number of enemies and their placement, and added a different scoring mechanic. You could say this is the “modern Cave” version.
—Which mode do each of you personally prefer?
Asada: I like Arrange mode. It has a “whatever you do, you’ll make it” level of difficulty and is fun to play. When I played the X360’s Ultra mode I thought, “Who made this?!” (laughs) Could they even clear the first stage?
Ikeda: Ah, I wonder…
Asada: Personally, I was barely able to clear the first stage. You know, at the vendor meetings when we asked them to play the Ultra stage, wasn’t it embarassing? I’m sure they thought “what the hell is this…” (laughs)
Ikeda: There’s no one at Cave who can clear Ultra. Of course, theoretically speaking, we made it so it was possible to clear. At the time we made it the thinking was, “It won’t be fun if the difficulty gradually ramps up in a half-ass way.” It had to be so hard all you could do was laugh, like “you need to die after 5 seconds of starting” level hard.
—Ikeda, what mode do you like best?
Ikeda: As you might expect, I like the most recently made Mushihimesama ver 1.5.
Asada: But you looked pissed off while you were making it.
Ikeda: Nah, that’s the face I make when I’m having fun. (laughs)
—(laughs) By the way, is this the last retail X360 game you plan to release…?
Asada: As far as retail packaged releases go, I think this may be the last. After this, starting with smart phones, we’re going to be thinking about development for other platforms… that’s how things feel, at least.
—Last month, Dodonpachi Saidaioujou came out.
Asada: I was only involved in sound for that. And even then, all I did was ask Manabu Namiki to compose it…
Ikeda: For Dodonpachi Saidaioujou’s sound, we couldn’t think of anyone but Namiki, who has worked on many of the games in the Donpachi series.
—How has the response from players been to Saidaioujou?
Ikeda: Its been much higher than we expected. To be honest, we had some anxiety during the location tests, but since its release its gotten very high marks. We’re very happy.
Ikeda: For a time, there was a danger it wouldn’t get finished. I’m relieved it we made it.
Asada: Ah, should we be saying that? (laughs)
Ikeda: Now that its been safely released, I don’t think it matters. (laughs)
—There was really that much of a danger?
Asada: We were able to safely overcome it… but this will probably be the last pcb hardware arcade game we release.
Ikeda: We don’t have any more easily available arcade hardware parts. Though, that doesn’t mean we will just stop making arcade games.
—Is there a possibility you’ll release games through something like NESiCA?
Ikeda: Well, we’re looking into that, but I can’t say anything concrete now.
—Where do you think Cave will go from here?
Asada: For me, I’ve been mainly focusing on the X360, but now I think we’re going to expand our horizons a bit.
—Do you have any concrete plans yet?
Asada: Personally, I’m thinking about a number of things. We’ll soon be announcing some mobile phone related news. Please look forward to it.
—Ikeda, what are your plans for Cave?
Ikeda: Everyone at our company is thinking that rather than games you enjoy alone, we need to get involved with games that you play with someone else. I think we will start to make games that are different in form from what we’ve done, but we still want them to touch the hearts of our players.”
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