TGS 2005 - Koji Igarashi

Author: Nick Des Barres

Date: 2005

Source: Play Magazine

Mr. Igarashi, known as IGA in staff rolls, started at Konami in 1991. The first game he worked on was Detana!! Twinbee. He followed up with the huge PC Engine hit Tokimeki Memorial, and has been producing the Castlevania series since the legendary Symphony of the Night in 1997.

Play: Mr. Igarashi, we'd first like to let you know that Dawn of Sorrow received a 9.5 and was our Game of the Month for October.

IGA: Wow! Thank you very much.

Play: How were you able to make a game with such massive volume in a comparatively short amount of time?

IGA: It wasn't easy. First we assembled the core staff from the previous game, Aria of Sorrow, then further bolstered the team with lots of experienced people from Konami TYO. We were also able to bring a lot of sprites in from Symphony and other past games, touch them up and use them on the DS, something that wasn't possible before.

Play: Why the change to a more anime-style look for Dawn of Sorrow?

IGA: A couple reasons. First, Ayami Kojima is brilliant but she's not very fast. [Laughs] Since Curse of Darkness was under development at the same time, I elected to have her concentrate on the PS2 game. Also, even though Aria of Sorrow was very well received, a lot of lesser titles did much better business. I think with Aria we may have missed our target audience a bit. Younger gamers tend not to like Miss Kojima's more aesthetic style so much, so we went with a more general anime look for Dawn.

Play: I think most of our readers will have played Dawn of Sorrow by now (ed. note — and if you haven't, go buy it), so I'll move on to Curse of Darkness. A lot of people who didn't like Lament of Innocence so much feel that Curse finally gets Castlevania in 3D right, but just as many argue the series should stay 2D. What do you think?

IGA: It's the history. [Laughs] When you have a series with so much history in 2D it's tough to break away. Of course it's possible to make great games in 2D, but I also think that it's possible to exhaust that history. As far as 3D goes there's always room for improvement, and we're ready to meet the challenge. With Curse of Darkness, we feel we did everything we could with the current generation of hardware, but there are still things I'm not entirely satisfied with. I'm confident we'll be able to make even more fun innovations in 3D moving into the next generation.

Play: Speaking of fun innovations, we really like the Innocent Devil System. Is it planned as a one-shot or will you bring it back like the Tactical Soul System in Aria and Dawn?

IGA: I'm waiting to hear gamers' reactions first. I'm fond of the system myself and there was a lot more I wanted to do with it, so I guess my answer is, I'd love to revisit it if given the chance. But having said that, I think 3D holds so many more possibilities. I'll give it more thought when we start making the next Castlevania. It's fun to wipe the slate clean and start with an all-new system, but it's just as fun to refine an existing one. But like I say, first I have to hear the reactions.

Play: Every game in the series you've produced since Symphony has had at least one hidden character. Any hints on who it will be for Curse? I'm thinking Trevor, or Isaac...?

IGA: I can't say anything concrete of course, but if you're expecting a cool hidden character I don't think you'll be disappointed. Who it is is still a secret. [Laughs] Speaking of Trevor, he's actually one of your enemies this time. And so is Isaac, so keep thinking. [Laughs]

Play: Are any enhancements planned for the Xbox version?

IGA: Both are coming out at the same time, so there's very little difference between the two versions. The biggest thing is that the Xbox version supports true 5.1 Dolby Digital surround. The PS2 version is Pro Logic II.

Play: I'm wondering how your collaborations with Ayami Kojima and Michiru Yamane work. Do you have lots of instructions, or do you just sort of let them do what they like?

IGA: It's pretty much the same with both of them — first I explain the general world setting and story, then let them do what they please. That's not to say I won't occasionally have changes made, of course. In the case of Miss Kojima, she might call me up wanting a more in-depth explanation of some aspect of a character, so I'll look at her rough sketches and walk her through the details. What we talk about most often is color. First we determine an image color for the character and build details from that. Regarding Miss Yamane... I really just leave everything to her. [Laughs] It's okay to leave geniuses alone, you know what I mean? [Laughs] I only speak up if I really don't like something, which is almost never. Miss Yamane has excellent communication with the rest of the team, too, for example she'll have the staff show her images of the areas, combine it with the story I've written in her head, and compose from that.

Play: I'd like to ask some general series-related questions if I may. Fans love to speculate about just what happened in 1999 when Julius Belmont finally defeated Dracula... Will this event ever be seen in a game?

IGA: Oh, I've got it all planned out. [Laughs] But I'm worried that when and if I make it as a game, it'll be sort of be like Star Wars Episode III, where you knew exactly what was going to happen. [Laughs] But as I say, I have it all thought out, exactly how Julius manages to finish Dracula off forever, so please wait a little bit longer.

Play: The other main mystery in the storyline is whether or not Mathias Cronqvist from Lament of Innocence really is Dracula...

IGA: He is. After the events of Lament, he relocates to Wallachia and eventually becomes known as Dracula.

Play: Is one of the reasons you set Lament of Innocence so early, in the 11th century, to open up an almost 400-year timespan for future Castlevanias between Lament and Castlevania III chronologically?

IGA: Actually... I think the first time the Belmonts and Dracula meet again is in Castlevania III. If I was to set a game during that time period, it would be more about, how did the Belmonts manage to track Matthias for so long? Being a vampire hunter doesn't just mean Dracula, so who else were they hunting? If we were to throw a light on what Dracula was doing during this time period, I think he'd be living pretty peacefully. [Laughs]

Play: I'm sorry if I sound pesky, but is there any chance we'll ever see another 2D Castlevania on a home console?

IGA: It's a really tough question. There's no doubt the market demands mostly 3D games. Speaking personally, I prefer 2D, but... how to realize that in this day and age is difficult. As a company, of course, Konami has to think in terms of products to sell, and if they don't, our development budgets for next time will be cut. [Laughs] So, everyone, please buy Curse of Darkness first! [Laughs] If you want 2D, please tell us. The market has to speak.

Play: I don't think it's nearly as bleak a picture as you're painting... especially in America, where Symphony of the Night is widely regarded as one of the best games ever made.

IGA: I'm certainly not ruling 2D out entirely. I think we made some great games on GBA and DS, but our sales expectations for the portable titles aren't that large. If one of the portable titles were to do huge business, we'd be able to convince people, "this could work on a home console too!" Unfortunately, there are a lot of users who won't even touch a game if it's 2D. I'm aware there are probably just as many, if not more, who would prefer a 2D game, but for most people looking at the market it seems like 2D is supported only by certain hardcore fans.

Play: To wrap up, a question from our Editor in Chief. Do you dream in 2D or 3D?

IGA: I wonder. [Laughs] It seems like I haven't dreamt in quite a while... I wonder why I can't remember any of my dreams lately? I wonder if it means I've lost my innocence. [Laughs] I used to dream a lot about creating stories... I'd say they were 3D. I remember the camera moving around a lot. [Laughs] Yeah, I shoot my dreams like the film director Akio Jissoji. They're definitely 3D. [Laughs]

Play: I see. [Laughs] Finally, if you have a word for your American fans...

IGA: Well, two Castlevanias are coming out this year. Dawn of Sorrow is a classic 2D game, and I think the Tactical Soul System is a lot of fun. Please buy it. [Laughs] Of course you'll want to buy the other game too! [Laughs] Curse of Darkness is our new 3D title, which will let you explore huge areas together with your demon familiar. The first pressing comes with a soundtrack CD composed by Michiru Yamane, who was nominated last year at the GDC Awards in the music category, so please pre-order!