June 17, 2008 12:00 PM | Simon Carless
[Considering the GameSetWatch Comic was just last week poking fun at Castlevania, thought it might be neat to reprint Christian Nutt's brand new Gamasutra interview with whip-totin' franchise overseer IGA - the Konami is designer enigmatic, wacky, but still actually likeable! We claim! Also, there's an N+ plug in here, hee. Onward.]
Veteran publisher Konami recently announced Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia, the third Nintendo DS title in the twenty-year-running action platformer series.
Following the announcement, Gamasutra sat down with series producer Koji Igarashi, who is well known to fans by his nickname IGA and who has a tendency to appear in public somewhat theatrically wearing a cowboy hat and wielding a whip.
Igarashi, who has shepherded the popular series for the past few years, touched on his outspoken passion for the 2D format, his thoughts on experimenting with the Castlevania formula, his love of Bionic Commando, and why he harbors a fear of fans yelling at him.
Obviously, you're keeping the 2D fight alive on 2D with the Nintendo DS. You said last year you're the last hope for 2D games at Konami. Tell me how that's going.
Koji Igarashi: I did that speech over a year ago, and I'm glad that 2D is still somewhat alive. It's been fun.
More than one developer that I've talked to has said that they found your speech was inspirational.
KI: I'm glad.
Did you play N+ for Xbox Live Arcade?
KI: No, I have not.
You should check that out. It's a 2D ninja action game, and I think the creators like your stuff too.
KI: I will definitely try it.
You've talked about experimenting with the series and figuring out where it's going. Are you still trying to figure out more ways the series can evolve, or are you sticking with the DS for now?
KI: This time, I announced a DS title, but I definitely want to grow the franchise. It's something I'm really focused on. You guys will probably be hearing something from me.
When I spoke to you at GameStop Expo, you talked about how linear gameplay in the PSP version [Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles] was kind of an experiment, to see if users would accept it. Did you get any feedback?
KI: I was fairly satisfied, but the PSP install base in the U.S. isn't very strong, so it wasn't a very strong step. I was satisfied. It's not something that I can jump up and down and enjoy like I do with the DS titles.
I still believe that type of game is great, and I'm still a big fan of the PSP and thought it was a great game.
What kind of feedback did you get from fans on the linear game?
KI: I didn't get too much feedback, but there were some fans who came back and said, "Oh, this is great. This is nostalgic of previous Castlevania games." That was great to hear.
We've got the 25th anniversary of the series coming up soon. Do you have any plans for when that rolls around?
KI: We're really focusing on getting this game the best I can. Before you mentioned 25 year coming up, it really didn't pop into my head. And right now, when you mentioned it, I thought of it, and I realized yeah, I've got to think of something. (laughter)
It looks like you did incorporate some feedback from the fans, like getting rid of the anime-style art and moving to an illustrated style. Castlevania is a very fan-based series. It really has passionate fans. Is that the most important audience for Castlevania?
KI: To be honest, who I listen to the most is myself. Not to sound arrogant or anything like that, but the reason why I listen to myself is because I think really deep and hard, and I feel that if I can't tell it to myself, I can't tell it to the fans.
And yeah, I definitely do listen to the fans. I don't want to release something that's boring and not fun. It's just for the fans. They wanted it. If one of my games flops, I want to basically be able to say, "Sorry. That's my fault." I don't want to say, "I wanted so badly for it to do well."
Speaking of fans, it's becoming more and more important to have community elements, like a website, forums, podcasts. Have you thought about doing any of that stuff for your fanbase?
KI: Yeah, that's definitely something I want to do, but I'm a little scared that if I do something like that, fans will always be yelling at me and things like that.
But yeah, it's definitely very important to do that kind of thing. I do see the web address, and I'm trying to fill it with fan content. [IGA points at the whip he brought as a prop.] If I whipped that around... I can't whip it around. I would, but I don't want to get arrested.
I don't know if you're familiar with Capcom's Bionic Commando. It was very popular in America for the NES, but not in Japan, so they revived it recently, and they're making a 360/PS3 version. I bring this up because they're developing it in a Western, not Japanese, studio. But the producer is working out of Japan, and I was wondering if you thought this was a potential solution to such development issues.
KI: I believe it's called something different...
Yeah, Hitler no Fukkatsu: Top Secret.
KI: To be honest, I didn't know it wasn't very popular in Japan. I loved that game, and thought it was popular in Japan. I don't think whether it matters whether the game was developed in Japan or the United States.
There's fans that love it and think it's a great game. I think it will be fine. I think that something cool developed in Japan where it's like, "It was popular in America, and I don't know why it's popular," I don't think it will succeed.
Have you considered working with foreign development teams, or do you want to keep everything developed internally at Konami?
KI: It doesn't really matter where the game is developed. I want to be involved in it. I want to know what's going on. If we did decide to develop it in the U.S., I guess I'd have to move here.
Not fly very often?
KI: Yeah. I guess I'd have to stay here.