Space Invaders was one of the games that started the "vertical shooting" genre. For a while, both vertical and horizontal shooters were popular, but these days, in arcades, it's nearly all vertical shooters, like from Cave and so on. Darius is a horizontal-scroll series. How can you sort of modernize Darius for modern shooting audience that appreciates the bullet-hell of modern games?
HA: Hmm, that's another tough one! It's certainly the case that the vertical configuration is sort of the "default" platform for shooters these days; I can't deny that. But I do think that there are some aspects of horizontal shooters that you really can't express in vertical form.
For example, in a vertical shooter all you can see in the background is the flat ground, but in a horizontal game you have the ground, the sky, and everything in between -- it feels more like a complete world when you look at it.
Another merit is that it offers you more ability to really detail the characters, how they move, and so forth. That's what I think, anyway. I'm not saying that one type is better than the other, but I think choosing the right method of expression for each game world is important.
My personal feeling is that the horizontal genre was more popular in home consoles because you couldn't have the tate (or vertical) screen of the arcade at home. However, shooting games have drifted away from consoles for a long time, so perhaps that's why vertical took over.
HA: That's another factor of it, too, I think.
As you said, the backgrounds for vertical shooters are the same. In combination with that, you have these curtain-fire bullet patterns, which is more popular now. Do you feel like you can lure fans of that experience to this, or will shooting fans go for it either way?
HA: In that aspect, yeah, it's really not an issue of vertical versus horizontal right now. The in thing these days, no doubt, is the bullet-hell approach to shooters, like what you see from Cave and a lot of very popular doujin [indie] developers. That's the sort of fashion you see in the genre these days; it's a trend that goes beyond the question of whether that's the most fun type of shooter or not.
It's difficult for a human being to discern between "left" and "right" in minuscule intervals of time. As a result, it's surprisingly a lot more difficult for humans to perceive something moving right-to-left than if it were moving top-to-bottom. Vertical shooters don't fire shots at you top-to-bottom all the time, of course, but when it comes to visually scanning your surroundings, it's a lot easier to do that in a vertical shooter. The fact that you don't see bullet-hell as much in horizontal shooters is all the fault of us humans. (laughs)
And certainly, there are gamers out there who see bullet-hell as a lot of fun, but there's an even larger audience who looks at that and says "There's no way I can play this; it's too much." I think there's an audience -- and not a small one, either -- who would like to get into shooters but are scared off by how they are today.
Shooters are a niche now, like you said, but they weren't for most of their history. I think one reason it became a niche is they became too difficult for most people. Darius, though, is a series with some history to it, and I think it can attract people who have drifted away from the genre for a while.
And if we want people like that to enjoy this new Darius, we can't have hundreds of bullets onscreen -- we need something they can look at and say "I think I can do this"; we need something that looks interesting to the eye. That's what we're aiming for, and I think that's really the mission we're tasked with for this project.