The secrets of Ikaruga and its developer, Treasure
"What test players have found difficult about Ikaruga, by the way, is not that it requires amazing reflexes for bullet dodging. They find it difficult because of the polarity system, which means you have to use your head."
- Treasure CEO Masato Maegawa
A newly translated and very candid 2001 interview with Treasure CEO Masato Maegawa reveals interesting facts about what's arguably the company's most popular game, Ikaruga. It was never expected to be a hit, but Maegawa pushed the company to make it on a slight budget and to aim at an interesting, unique game design -- both with the aim of making a success of the title.
"Take Ikaruga, on the other hand. We know there’s players who would say, 'I don’t want to play a STG where I have to use my head and figure out puzzles to advance.' I personally don’t think that having thoughtful mechanics makes the game any less fun, though," Maegawa said. "STG," here, is an old-school Japanese abbreviation for "shooting game" -- what we'd usually call a "shmup," these days.
"But because Ikaruga is a type of game that hasn’t been seen before, many people called it 'difficult.' ... But with a game like Ikaruga that requires thinking and strategy to clear, if we make it too easy then it defeats the whole purpose of it being a fun puzzle to solve."
"When we make a game like that, we don’t use very much money for advertising either. We try to make our gameplay concept as solid as possible, and communicate that to players, the players who 'get us.'"
When Gamasutra last caught up with Maegawa in 2009, he told us a bit about Ikaruga's development too, saying that "Once we had the prototype for the idea running on the PC, it didn't change much at all after that." That interview is available to read here.
You can, of course, read the full, newly translated interview with Maegawa quoted above over at Shmuplations, a repository of all-new translations of classic interviews with Japanese developers.