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Tsuneki Ikeda interview in N-Pro DDP: DOJ BL DVD booklet (2007)

Translated by adversity / April 5, 2009

Interview with Tsuneki Ikeda, Development Department Chief
(On creating Dodonpachi: Daioujou and Daioujou Black Label)

Q: First I'd like to ask you about the development concept you had for Dodonpachi: Daioujou Black Label.
A: Originally, our concept was to find out what an "ideal, fixed version of Dodonpachi: Daioujou (hereafter Daioujou) would look like". There were some issues with the game that started to bother me after we put it out. We had also gotten complaints and requests from users and operators at the time which included some balance adjustment and improvements that I hadn't thought of, so I started working on it half on my own with the idea of an "ideal version" of Dodonpachi: Daioujou which would take those issues into account as well as the changes I was aiming for. Right at the same time, we had been approached to produce an overseas version of the game (named "Dodonpachi III"), so I decided to include all these changes I had started to make in the overseas version. You could call this overseas version of the game a prototype for the Black Label. Afterwards, when I'd found some free time as we were developing Ketsui, I had an idea for a prize for one of the Arcadia score trials. I decided that we should use the game to give away prizes to the winner of the contest, and the game we produced for that contest was the Dodonpachi: Daioujou Score Trial version. While we were programming it, I just sort of imagined that "the kind of players that would win this contest would definitely want a regular version to explore", and so I decided to put both the initial program and the black version program onto the board. Now I was thinking this would be the final version, but after working out some finer points and polishing it until I was satisfied, I showed it to the higher-ups to propose distributing it and they told me "we should sell this thing!", and here we are. Oh, we were talking about the concept, huh? Well basically I was just making it because I wanted to.

Q: Why did you decide to name the game "Daioujou" ("peaceful death")?
A: Personally I'm no fan of sequels, and I wanted to end Dodonpachi with this game. Now, if I'm going to kill it, I want to do so with my own hands (laughs), and I put that in with: "go die a peaceful death" (daioujou suru ga yoi).

Q: What class of users were you imagining as your main target for the game?
A: Well, for Black Label it was basically those users who said "personally, Dodonpachi: Daioujou's flavor was a little hard on me". For that reason, users who liked the initial version may have found that Black Label is a bit lacking.

Q: Was there anything that was really hard about creating Dodonpachi: Daioujou and Daioujou Black Label?
A: While we were making Dodonpachi: Daioujou, we had neither time nor people. Our hardware had also changed and this gave us a very thin development environment, so in many ways we were struggling. In fact it got to the point where the amount of problems we had while developing Progear seemed inconsequential (laughs). In terms of the hardware, our machine's graphical power was pretty poor for the previous installment, Dodonpachi, and so this led to many days of questioning myself: "If I really can't surpass the previous game, why am I working on this one?" We also had Treasure unveiling Ikaruga at the same time, and so in addition to that question I was also struggling with the dilemma of "I know that we can't do better than Ikaruga, so why are we making a game for the same platform, and of the same genre?" I really worried about this. But finally, I resolved it by rephrasing the problem: "The hardware's graphical power is not going to improve no matter how much I struggle with it, and I'm never going to be a genius that can make a game like Ikaruga, so worrying about it is just a waste..." (laughs). Making Black Label was in a certain way meant to give me a higher sense of personal satisfaction, and I've got really great memories of putting it together.

[On the game's setting]

Q: The game is full of a certain "Chinese atmosphere" such as the characters' names as well as the background of the first stage; tell us about your decision to go with this design.
A: I'd like to hand this question to Daioujou's chief designer Mr. Wakabayashi. Go ahead.

"Hi there. This is "Dyne Iguse" Wakabashi. In a word, we wanted to express a certain sense of chaos in the game. Dodonpachi is known for all these jumbled up danmakus and artificial mechs. Although we were making a new series, this did not change. So we looked and it said "how can we give it something new?", and we started with the calligraphy of the title, which gives this new Dodonpachi some color. Yes, we wanted to sum up the game in its kanji. The fact that the enemies' names are all in kanji is new too, right? By throwing "chaos" into those elements of the game which fill the screen with color, i.e. the bullets, enemies, explosions, setting, enemy names as well as the title calligraphy, we were able to give the game a beautiful sense of unity despite the fact that these elements do not all come together in one neat package. Now hold on. Some people would probably notice that the ship names and element dolls have katakana names. No, no look! Those names are there to emphasize the sense of opposition between the heroes and the enemies, so these are actually English names."

Q: Three element dolls appear in the game, namely Shotia, Leinyan and Exy, but which one is your favorite?
A: I like Exy. Her shot and laser are powered up right? And personally I don't need bombs. We're talking about her specs right?

[About the game system]

Q: In Dodonpachi: Daioujou Black Label, it feels like the rank just keeps climbing. Is there a limit to the rank?
A: Yes of course.

[On the future of the series]

Q: Are you planning to make another sequel to the Dodonpachi series?
A: At the moment not particularly...

[About this superplay DVD]

Q: Did you have the feeling that you would see scores exceeding three billion? Tell us your reaction to this score.
A: Of course I never imagined a score like this. I can only react with "wow, I think that's an incredible score!" But I myself understand that when it comes to score, once you see it, and hear about it, you can't really express the process behind getting to that score with such boring words. So if anything I'll just stick with "Incredible!"

[Other questions about Mr. Ikeda's games]

Q: The systems change with every game you put out. How do you come up with these systems?
A: We take into account the current situation and trends in the market, then try to imagine the system from the visual image we have come up with for the game, and then determine an overall direction for the game we have to make. At that point we determine the framework for the system which matches this direction and begin creating the game's basic underpinnings. However, in some cases we find while building the game that the direction and system that it should follow do not match up, or that they do match, but when we actually play the game it's not any fun, and we really struggle with that.

Q: After you put out Dodonpachi, your games have had the 'danmaku' image strongly associated with them. Could you give us your thoughts on that and if you have plans to change that?
A: Personally, I'm not really insisting "hey, let's use danmaku!" For a little bit, I was really trying to get away from danmaku and there was even a period where I tried to stop using them. However, this led me to understand again the advantages that the danmaku model has. Now of course there are disadvantages to danmaku, and over the years I've searched for something that gets rid of these disadvantages while keeping what danmaku offers. If I can find that something, my games will probably change in that direction.

Q: I was reading some older interviews you had done, and you had brought up Konami's famous Salamander. Could you tell us your reasons for talking about that game and what inspiration it gave you?
A: At the time the game was visually lacking in graphics, sound and whatnot, but although it seemed at first glance they were following in Gradius's mechanics footsteps, actually they had made many changes. For example, they had these really impressive sequences, like when these abominable monsters, the Eye and the Big Core appear at the end of the game. But really what attracted my interest were the mechanics in the second loop. The maps would change depending on whether the loop number was odd or even, and the bullet-firing enemies would change according to how many loops you'd done, and I remember thinking "this game is amazing, they've gone into such detail for parts of the game people may never even see". Another thing about Salamander that was really incredible was what I saw as the inverse relationship between its visuals and its difficulty. In Salamander, at certain points enemies will fire a ton of bullets at you, and even though it was difficult to dodge these bullets it was also a lot of fun to do so. The "emotional flow" of the game would go from that stress which came with the tough bullet dodging to the release when you didn't actually hit a bullet and that in turn connected to the game's fun factor. And it really surprised me that you could have a lot of fun in the more or less non-stressful parts of the game. At the time I hated dodging bullets, so I definitely can't forget that feeling of fun I got from dodging them in Salamander. This led me to think that maybe you could program the game in a way that people who hate dodging could get into how fun it is, or in other words we could lower the threshold on bullet dodging. I think this connects to how the danmaku genre developed.

Q: Of all the games that you have worked on, which one is your favorite and why?
A: You know I'd have to say Dodonpachi. I think that of all the games I've worked on, I had the most time to do adjustments on Dodonpachi and in terms of the game balance it is far and away nearly the best I could have done at the time. To put it another way, if all the work I'd put into the game had been ignored by players, I think I would have had to wash myself of the whole industry.

Q: Of all the games that you have worked on, what is your favorite "character" (humans, ships, enemies, anything) and why?
A: Hmm, that's a tough question. All of the characters in the games I've worked on have been memorable, but if I had to pick one I guess... Seseri? She's a character that I like for a variety of reasons, but in particular from how we designed her when she re-appears in the fifth stage of the game, and the way (you could say) we went overboard with the character designs in Espgaluda II. On the production side of things, she's the only boss in Galuda II that I was in charge of, so I really put a lot of energy into her. But I put too much energy into her and wound up giving the attack patterns of two bosses, which we had never done before so we had to change the specs to give her the two patterns and allow for a split in conditions that allow players to access the second pattern. Then later Mr. Ichimura gets mad at me saying: "Seseri's pretty tough, maybe even tougher than the last boss? What's the point of my last boss here? Is Seseri so important to you? 'Leave Seseri to me...' you say, think about the rest of the bosses!"

[In conclusion...]

Q: Lastly, please say something to people playing Dodonpachi: Daioujou Black Label and Dodonpachi: Daioujou.
A: Something brief? Well then... "dying is good" (shinu ga yoi).