KTL-NAL – 2008 Superplayer Interview
originally featured in Arcadia magazine
KTL-NAL: A charismatic scorer who mainly plays Cave STGs, but has also put up arcade high scores in a variety of genres. Known in Virtual Fighter circles by his ring-name “Homestay Akira”, this truly “super” player also boasts an impressive history of FTG tournament victories.
—You hold the world record for Dodonpachi B-Type, but what is it you find so interesting about Dodonpachi?
NAL: It’s really entertaining just shooting down enemies in this game, but it also has a combo system which adds a puzzle element. If you’re playing for score you have to think about the order in which to kill enemies, which I find really fun. I also like that there isn’t much bullet cancelling in Dodonpachi. I’m the old-school, stoic type when it comes to STG.
I also much prefer games where you fly a plane or ship, as opposed to controlling a human character.
—What led you to choose the B-Type as your ship?
NAL: Actually, the first ship I chose was the C-Type. For a long time I was thinking I could get the world record with the C-Type, but someone else beat me to it, and by a lot. That person ended up continuing to improve his record, and while I got close, I couldn’t overtake him. Then for a long time I played other games, and didn’t touch Dodonpachi. One day my friend from Nagoya introduced me to a player named JR, who also happened to be the record holder for Raiden DX and other games. He was a Type-A player and had devised many new routes and patterns. He asked me: “I’m going for the record here, why don’t you join me?” I said yes and chose Type-B, and that was how I got started with that ship.
—How did it feel when you got your first record score with the Type-B?
NAL: The previous record was around 650m, but I knew that a higher score was possible if you made no big mistakes, and kept your maximum bonus going through to the end. But because this game is so difficult, and the pressure was so intense, I just couldn’t put it all together for awhile. When I finally got it I was so overjoyed I yelled out “YOSSHHAA!!” in the room.
—Right now, is there any particular game you want to get a world record on?
NAL: I’m playing God Mode in Mushihimesama Futari Black Label, but I’ve reached a plateau there for the moment, so I’m playing Salamander 2.
—What made you decide to go for Salamander 2, a game that is now almost 12 years old?
NAL: When Salamander 2 first came out, I was going to this game center called Airin Yume Kuukan to play Virtual Fighter 2. While I was there, I occasionally had the chance to see some superplayers working on Salamander 2. It looked really fun to me, and I used to play a few credits now and then, trying to imitate what I saw them doing.
Recently, I learned that someone had finally beat their records, and that was my motivation to start playing Salamander 2 again. I really respected these players, you see, and wanted their scores to live on. Also, for me personally, Salamander 2 was the first STG I tried to play for score, so I have a lot of attachment to it.
—Tell us about how you first got into playing for score.
NAL: When I was a student living in Osaka, a game center called NASA was a 30 minute bike ride from my house. I used to see the name of this place published on the Gamest high score page, and one day, my curiosity piqued, I rode down to check it out. On the high score board of that game center, I saw many games I had played myself, but the scores were higher than anything I had ever imagined possible! Occasionally I’d get a chance to see those players in action at NASA, and it blew my mind. I wanted to try doing that, too.
That’s what I thought then, but because I felt I wasn’t very skilled, I gave up on it pretty quickly… for awhile I practiced Virtual Fighter (Lau) alone, until I was able to beat the CPU using just one move over and over. I noticed that my time was faster than anything I’d seen before, and when I checked the score table in Gamest, it was only a tiny bit faster than what I had done. That was the first time I thought to myself, maybe I can get a world record…?
Airin Yume Kuukan (L) and NASA Playcity (R),
the two game centers where NAL got started.
—Please share your reflections on your career thus far as a top-level scorer.
NAL: High scores… it might be a weird way to say it, but they’re like an addiction. Normally, if you tried something 100 times, and 99 of those times were failures, you’d naturally be frustrated… but since the next credit might hold that success, you can’t help but try again. It’s kind of a mystery to me…!