Dodonpachi Daioujou Superplayer Roundtable
This interview coincided with the then-impending release of Arika’s 2003 port of Dodonpachi Daioujou for the PS2. Arika was known for high quality ports, a tradition sadly not carried over by 5pb who handled the flawed X360 port of DOJ. An earlier portion of this interview discussing the challenges of porting DOJ has been omitted; what remains is a candid look at what it takes to be a STG superplayer, or “scorer” as they are called in Japanese.
Ichiro Mihara - Arika VP
Clover-TAC - Superplayer
LAOS - Superplayer
KTL-NAL - Superplayer
—How much do you actually play Dodonpachi Daioujou at Arika?
TAC: From the moment we get to work until closing…
Mihara: From about 10 to 6, pretty much the whole time. Of course there are breaks for lunch and such.
—So during that time you’re staring at the monitor all day, checking each other’s performance, then putting up scores?
TAC: I wouldn’t quite say “all day”… (laughs)
—Don’t STGs require a lot more concentration than games in other genres? It doesn’t seem possible to me to stay focused that long. How is it for you guys?
Mihara: Osada is really amazing. Once he goes into his room, he doesn’t come out.
—Eh? They each have their own private rooms? What are they doing in there… (laughs)
Mihara: No, no, I didn’t mean it that way. (laughs) We can see what they’re doing from the image on the screen. When I see that he’s died, in the next instant he’s started over again. He doesn’t take many breaks.
—Is it like, you don’t want to end on a bad note?
LAOS: Yeah. Its always like that though. (laughs) On my days off at the game center I play the same way.
—Everyday… does it feel like work?
LAOS: It is work, but its also the game I most want to be playing right now. So yeah, its like, I’m not complaining if I get paid for finishing this game. (laughs)
—That’s true. (laughs) Normally… or should I say, now, what kind of other games are you playing concurrently?
TAC: Right now…
—I think I know what NAL will say. (laughs)
LAOS: I’m playing Ketsui on and off, but basically I’m only focusing on Daioujou, for now.
—I heard you came to Tokyo to play it. When I saw your name in a book I was interested to see what kind of person you were. (laughs)
LAOS: I’m just a normal guy. (laughs)
Mihara: TAC, are you playing Daioujou mostly, and some Ketsui on the side?
TAC: Ah.. I do want to play Ketsui, but I don’t really have time for it now. (laughs)
—Please give us some tips on how to become better at STGs!
NAL: Well… the main thing, as you might have guessed, is to practice…
—How many hours and how many credits in a day?
NAL: The more the better, of course. Also you have to memorize the location of enemies and what attacks they do and so forth. As much as possible, you should not be dodging bullets. These are “bullet dodging” games, but you should avoid dodging as much as you can. In short, you shouldn’t be trying to pass through the space between the bullets, but rather going around them and avoiding them entirely.
—Sounds difficult. (laughs)
Mihara: That’s deep. (laugh)
—Uh… please explain it more simply!
NAL: The simple version, as I said, is just to practice.
LAOS / TAC: Its exactly as he says.
NAL: Your opponent in a STG is the computer, so in that respect its like a puzzle. So you should memorize it piece by piece… its like you’re clearing one step at a time.
—So we should use the practice/simulations modes, then?
NAL: Yeah, if you practice each stage, you’ll naturally get better.
LAOS: In the end its all about the time you put in.
TAC: The master speaks. (laughs)
LAOS: I mean, I first started playing STGs before I started elementary school, or somewhere around then. Its been so long I can’t clearly remember when I first started.
LAOS: Galaxian was the first game I really got into. And I played games before that, but I don’t remember what they were.
—Its like you were born shooting, you know?
LAOS: I think it was my neighbor, an older kid, who took me to the game centers. I think that was how I got into it. After that, whenever I had free time I played nothing but STGs. I didn’t play fighting games or anything else at all. Just STGs, 24/7. So I think that’s how I got to be good. So yeah, if you don’t put time into it, you won’t get better. Its all up to the effort you put in.
—Effort, I see…
LAOS: That’s right.
—What direction should that effort take? Simply making time and playing?
NAL: You should be fine as long as you think about each credit you play.
LAOS: Yeah. So you can clear Daioujou, I think, if you work hard at it. Maybe it will take 6 months or a year. (laughs)
—Practice, practice everyday!
LAOS: That’s right. Just play Daioujou whenever you have free time. (laughs) If you do that you should be able to clear it.
—In a year?!
LAOS: Yes, definitely. Even for me, when I first reached Hibachi, I laughed and said to my friend, “There’s no way I can clear this!” But after working at it for 3 months, I managed to clear it. So yeah, just know that if you don’t play a lot and keep practicing, you won’t get better at STG. (laughs)
—There aren’t any secret training techniques? (laughs)
TAC: (laughs) I don’t think of these games as “shooting games”… like NAL said, I think they are closest to puzzle games. As a general rule, you’re basically always thinking “if this bullet pattern comes, I dodge it like this!” I imagine for people who play versus fighting games its similar, too. Well, actually I don’t play fighting games so I don’t know, but. (laughs) Also, I agree with what our Master said earlier: “don’t try to dodge the bullets.” (laughs)
—Man, that is deep. “Dodge without dodging.”
TAC: Good players don’t do a lot of dodging. It might look like they are, though.
—That’s because dodging bullets means you’re in a dangerous situation, right?
TAC: That’s right. There’s been times when I’ve seen someone doing some amazing dodges, and from my perspective I think, “Ah, this person isn’t very good.” (laughs)
—I see. But aren’t there times when “playing wild” like that feels good?
TAC: Yeah, that’s true. There’s times when you have to just let go.
Mihara: I saw that on Hibachi. (laughs)
TAC: Yeah! (laughs) You know, I’m thinking about the game even when I’m not playing. If you learn to think about enemy placement in your head, then you can strategize on your own, “maybe I should move here when this happens” and so on.
TAC: Yeah, its neccessary. As for how to direct your efforts, its important to do things on your own, but you should also watch other players. When I didn’t have money I would just watch other players all day. If you just play, I don’t think you’ll get better. Well, you may, but it will definitely take a lot longer.
—So, think while you play.
TAC: That’s right.
—Ah, LAOS said a moment ago that Galaxian was the first STG he really got into. What was everyone’s first STG, or first STG you fell in love with? Or your favorite game, or game you have really fond memories of.
NAL: Well, I started STG with the Super Famicom. I played “Dezaemon” on it a lot, the one where you can make your own games.
TAC: I made games in Dezaemon too!!
TAC: I really love it. (laughs)
NAL: You can make your own STG with it, and make the kind of game you’ve wanted… there’s a lot it can do. Also, I didn’t have much money for the game center as a kid, so I spent a lot of time at home. You can really pass the time making a game with it. As for the first STG I got into at the game center…the first one I was conscious of scoring on was Battle Garegga.
NAL: That was about 7 years ago.
—I see. LAOS, how about you?
LAOS: The games that are most memorable to me and closest to my heart are, of course, the ones I played as a kid. Galaga, Gaplus… um, Pacland…
Mihara: That isn’t a STG. (laughs)
LAOS: I said I played “almost” all STG. (laughs)
—It sounds like you were a “Namukko”?1
LAOS: Yeah… back then there were a lot of Namco games, after all. There are hardly any arcade games nowadays that I’m excited about.
—And there haven’t been many titles released in the first place, either.
LAOS: Yeah, there’s few games now where I think, “I’m glad I played that.” Its sad, but for interesting games, I have to play older ones.
—I see. And TAC?
TAC: Ah. Actually, back in the day I didn’t go to the game center at all. I didn’t go until I was in high school. At home, I have memories of playing when I was in pre-school… games like Gradius. I also played Formation Z (laughs), stuff like that. Then in high school I went to a game center a lot where there were many skilled players. I’d watch them and try to imitate them. At that time I learned about Gamest magazine… my first thought was “I see high scores here, but how in the world did they get so high?” (laughs) So yeah, I learned to get good at the games we’ve been talking about, but the STG I have a lot of memories of and attachment to is Dezaemon. (laughs)
—Really, is that so?
TAC: I still play and write games for it now!
TAC: I have a passion for Dezaemon. (laughs) I think if you use Dezaemon you get a very deep understanding of how STGs are constructed. Things like “in a 3-way spread, how would you handle that?”
Mihara: 2 of the 5 people who can clear Daioujou use Dezaemon!
—A shocking fact! (laughs)
TAC: Dezaemon is on the Famicom, Super Famicom, and Sega Saturn. Ah, I think there’s one for the Playstation as well. I’ve used them all except the Playstation version.
—Which is the best one? (laughs)
TAC: Ah… the Saturn version. Its really good. (laughs) It feels like you can do anything with it.
Mihara: So Dezaemon is the STG you’re most crazy about?
TAC: Well, the games I make in Dezaemon. (laughs)
—Whaaatttt. Have you let anyone play these games you’ve made?
TAC: Yeah. My friends have composed music for them too.
—Wow! Very professional!
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This is a cute combination of “Namco” and “ko” (child), meaning “Namco Kid”–a kid who played a lot of Namco’s games↩