TGS 2006: At the End With Koji Igarashi
Date: 24 September 2006 (Updated 30 June 2016)
We speak with the producer of Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin about finishing the second DS bloodfest.
The Castlevania has found just the right pumping vein to suck in the GBA and now DS platforms. While newer 3D platforms have made it difficult to retain the classic feel and balance of this whip-cracking legend, these handheld platforms have offered producers a canvas to paint 2D masterpieces upon. And with Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin, the team has found new ways to utilize the Nintendo DS's unque features for what could turn out to be the series' best entry yet.
Castlevania producer Koji Igarashi (more familiarly known as just Iga) and his team have been working hard to put the finishing touches on this difficult but defining project. We spoke to Iga on the TGS floor as he took a rare break from working hard on the game as it is worked through its final stages.
IGN: The main question we were interested in is, nearing the end for your second Castlevania for the Nintendo DS, what have you learned in making a game for the system this time?
IGA: Compared to the first game attempt, Dawn of Sorrow on the Nintendo DS, we did our best to show visually what we wanted to with that game, but with this being our second attempt, we upgraded and added to the graphics, trying to show as many characters and visuals on the screen as we could.
One new challenge for us was the WiFi Connection gameplay. That was totally new for us. We've suffered a lot throughout this game's development! You can also see enhancements in the sound department, with the voices, now you can hear so many more sound effects and voices in the game. For the first time ever, on Nintendo DS, we've done English language voice-over.
IGN: That's great. Of course, many gamers would actually prefer having the option for both...
IGA: Well, you will be able to do that. If you enter a hidden a hidden command at the game start, you should see an option that allows you to hear English or Japanese voices.
IGN: That'll certainly be great for us who play it twice through!
IGA: I hope so.
IGN: Can you talk more about the WiFi and wireless modes, what players can expect from these modes?
IGA: Over wireless, we have two modes. One is Co-Op and one is Shop Mode. Talking about Co-Op, we have designed one course for WiFi online, and three sets for regular wireless play. It's like one of those versus modes that we had in Dawn of Sorrow, but in this Co-Op mode, what we have is that you will play together to time attack and hopefully get the better bonus items. With the Shop Mode, you will first have to get eight items in the main game before you can access it. From there, you can open a shop. What's good about the shop over WiFi or wireless is that it is a shop, but the purchaser will only duplicate items, not take yours away. The purchaser will get a "20% discount" on the items in his main mode shop. On the other hand, the shop owner gets 50% profit back, and so the business. By doing lots of purchasing, you get extra points through getting items over WiFi or Wireless to help you access rare items in the main game shop.
IGN: Why was it so important to your team to take on this challenge, to design so many modes and to design for online in this specific game?
IGA: Now that Nintendo has launched a very solid Infrastructure mode on the Nintendo DS, we wanted to give it a try, to work hand and see what we could do with this ability. We've seen a lot of games with online systems, and we feel there's no way we can avoid that part in making games with mass appeal without it. We wanted to make sure that it works, and we wanted to prepare for future Castlevania games — this was one of the test cases that we wanted to do.
IGN: The story in this version of Castlevania seems to particularly resonate since it's closer to modern times and also since it opens up beyond the castle for areas never seen in Castlevania. How has working with this specific time period inspired the team in the graphics and music and themes?
IGA: Well, the main design theme is still gothic. We have Dracula, so it needs to be about Dracula. But the development team has worked on many, many Castlevania games, and have mostly worked with indoors maps. Our team was about to get bored with the map creation and stage design. From the gamer's point of view, it's always great within the castle, but gamers might feel the same. So we decided to try outdoor stages, and that's how we came up with the Misty Town and other outdoor areas. In Portrait of Ruin, there are all of these paintings that allow the player to access a variety of outside areas.
Choosing the hero really directed the production, because we have a little bit of a time restriction in the storyline. With the Belmonts, we decided that the Belmont's whip was the ultimate one, and so at some point, the whip becomes too powerful and legendary to use for the player. So that is why we decided to go with the Morris family. We decided to go with Jonathan Morris, and from that we decided that having a game set right before World War II was the right decision for the story and for the Morris family to appear in the game.
IGN: It seems like Portrait of Ruin uses the Nintendo DS in a very "Castlevania" way, always with action, action, action. It allows strategic gameplay and new play abilities by using the touchscreen that work well with the Castlevania formula. Has this inspired you for creating future games on the Nintendo DS?
IGA: Ha! I have no plans for a third Castlevania on Nintendo DS at this time, one at a time please! But... you know, we've never used the Microphone system, that's what's left, isn't it? Maybe I'll think about it if we work on a third DS game. But then again, voice detection, where gamers pronounce the words, it's very difficult — sometimes it doesn't recognize the voice right. So, I will have to think about how I use voice if I decide to do that.
IGN: This game... not that it "maxes out" the Nintendo DS, but it feels very right, very natural to the system. In maturing this gameplay concept, has it inspired you to look at other game platforms out there and see what you can do different with them?
IGA: Well, this is our second game on the DS, and we hope that this one is very successful — the first one did well and was well received, and we have high hopes for this sequel doing much better. I would still like to seek for another Nintendo DS project if the market is there. But then again, we're now facing the next-generation of platforms, and obviously this is something that we need to do, that we need to work at. I'm currently brainstorming what should be done and what we will do with the next generation.
IGN: Do you actually have anything planned or scheduled next, or do you get to take a break?
IGA: I want to take some days off so much... but I wonder if the company will allow me! Of course, I am producer, I'm upper management, so I can't take any days off. Our team has been working so hard on this game, over the past month especially, having no weekends or holidays, working 24/7 on it. I want my team members to take a month off when this is done, they deserve it for all this hard work.