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How do you go about reinventing a classic to make it interesting for new audiences? Taito has been making new versions of Space Invaders for many years, but they haven't been very successful or interesting until Extreme and Infinity Gene, which both do a great job of taking what's good about Space Invaders and making it new. How do you start that process?
HA: Well, the thing about all the Space Invaders remakes we've released is that all of them have been made by different people. I think part of the reason Extreme worked was because it was the first time I ever really examined Space Invaders at all -- it wasn't my second or third go-around with the concept, in other words.
If you ask me why Extreme is the way it is, about two years ago -- was it two? It was the 25th-anniversary year for Space Invaders -- I went to London on a business trip and we had sort of an industry cocktail party there with the media.
I realized there that people in London saw Space Invaders a lot differently than hardcore gamers in Japan did. It was sort of a fashionable thing.
It was at that point where I figured that if I ever got to make Space Invaders, I really wanted to make the game itself cool and fashionable, something where the sound and visuals really keep you excited. I also realized that the pixelly invaders you fight are one reason why it seemed so cool to these people.
That was the seed for the idea. Also, I like pinball a lot, and another idea I had was to create a shooter that replicated the things that made pinball exciting. That was the process behind the start of Extreme.
Which areas would you say are influenced by pinball?
HA: Well, for example, the way you get bonuses for shooting sets of themed invaders. Space Invaders is a simple shooting gallery at its core, but if you shoot down similar types of invaders together, you start different bonus things. I was inspired by the rules of pinball in that way while developing the gameplay process.
Space Invaders Extreme
When you're doing a remake, how do you decide what you should keep and what you should get rid of? What needs to be changed to make it more modern?
HA: I never really actively consider that question, but it really depends on the game itself. I start by thinking about what I like about Space Invaders, or what I like about Darius with this project, and I make my decisions about gameplay based off of that.
It depends on who's doing the deciding. I feel like there's that process with everyone who does a remake; it's just that some are successful and some aren't. I guess I'm trying to find the hidden reason why at least Space Invaders -- and I guess Exit, which is sort of a reinvention of Elevator Action -- why yours have been somewhat successful. Maybe it's just design sense.
HA: Part of it might be that, like I said earlier, I got my start making arcade games. That's sort of my base, what I built upon in my career. In my games, if I press the Start button, I want to be in the game immediately; I don't want any useless cutscenes. I worry about things like response times to button presses, things that were treated a lot more seriously back during my arcade projects.
That sort of know-how is hard to acquire unless you raised it by developing arcade games; I think that may be one of the hidden factors behind any success these games have had.