The Portable Whipmaster: The Koji Igarashi Interview
It's becoming a spring ritual. Every year, Konami hosts a springtime gaming event, and Konami's Koji Igarashi dons his famous hat, uncoils his whip, and announces his next Castlevania project. While many were expecting to get some news on his often rumored Wii project, he instead officially debuted his next Nintendo DS title: Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia. We get the lowdown on his latest DS venture, question him about the Wii, and find out what he would like to see hardware- and feature-wise with the successor to the Nintendo DS.
Crispy Gamer: When I interviewed you back at Leipzig, you let this new title slip. How does it feel to finally get to announce it publically?
Koji Igarashi: I feel like finally I got to announce it. Now I need to think about what I'm going to do next. [laughs]
Crispy Gamer: Actually, that brings me to my next question. There's a rumor going around that you don't just have one Castlevania title in development, but that there's a second one for the Wii?
Igarashi: That's top secret!
Crispy Gamer: That's top secret. That's still a very good answer. [smiles]
Igarashi: In regards to that, today we announced the DS version, but there's something else that we definitely want to announce in the near future. Until then, be excited about the DS!
Crispy Gamer: Why did you decide to switch it up and go with a female lead character?
Igarashi: I think that is the most frequently asked question I get these days. I guess there is a stigma that female characters get killed off easily or quickly. To be honest, it was a reaction to fans; they are the ones who have been requesting a female lead.
Another reason is that we came up with the storyline first and I felt that a female character fit with the storyline a lot better than a male character. The third reason is that I really liked the rendering that the artist did of a female character and decided to go with it.
Crispy Gamer: Who's the artist? Are you sticking with the usual suspects for art and music?
Igarashi: For character design we used someone who's up-and-coming and very young and becoming very popular named Masaki. In regards to music, I'm sure you heard a very familiar sound in the trailer, but Michiru Yamane did a lot of the music.
Crispy Gamer: So you're breaking off from the normal character artist you've used in the past -- why did you decide to go into a new direction with the art style?
Igarashi: With the last two iterations on the DS I went with more of an anime-style approach, but the fans weren't too enthusiastic about it, so this time around I wanted to do something more appealing to the fans of the franchise. In regards to anime it was a little easier to do trailers and animated cut scenes with the new illustration style and things like that.
Crispy Gamer: How'd you like how The Dracula X Chronicles and the retooled Rondo of Blood turned out? Would you like to do another PSP game?
Igarashi: To be honest, I really liked Dracula X and Rondo of Blood. I thought it was a great game and it did really well. In regards to sales throughout the United States, I was satisfied, but I wasn't jumping up and down with joy. I'm not sure if that's a reflection of how the PSP is selling versus the DS, but either way the sales were not where I hoped they would be. But I still feel it's a great game, so if you haven't gotten it already, go get it. [laughs]
Crispy Gamer: So with this new game are you using the microphone or touch-screen at all?
Igarashi: I know fans loved those applications and so I apologize in advance, but for this game we will not be using the touch-screen or microphone very much. I feel the touch-screen gets in the way of the actual gameplay. It's not an action game if you have to use the touch-screen too much. As for the mic -- I don't think our development team even considers the mic. They're more focused in finding a new attack system. And one more thing, and this is probably more of a Japan thing, but if you've seen someone using the mic on the train -- it's kind of embarrassing. And if you do it at home in front of your family, they'll think you're crazy. [laughs]
Crispy Gamer: This year at E3, people think a Nintendo DS 2 will be unveiled. Some would say you've done some of your best work for the DS. If you could have a DS 2, what would you like to see it do feature-wise?
Igarashi: For me it isn't so much a question of features with the DS 2. It's more important to me that the retail price for the games gets lower.
Crispy Gamer: You think $35 ? well I guess in Japan, it's like 4,000 yen. [US $40]
Igarashi: Games now are about 4,800 yen or about $48. That's a big issue that we're facing right now.
Crispy Gamer: But DS sales are so high.
Igarashi: Because the MSRP is so low, we can't really put that much into development because with the return on investment, it's risky.
Crispy Gamer: I understand the logistics of how much Nintendo charges for the DS cart hardware and things, and that's a whole separate issue entirely. [laughs] However, what about the hardware specifically would you like to change?
Igarashi: Well it keeps going back to this, every time you add more features, the costs just go up again. [laughs]
But I guess if I could make a change I would want more RAM, so that we can actually have demos and things like that at Nintendo DS Download Stations. One thing I cannot do right now at the Wi-Fi stations is have a trailer for download because of size limitations. The actual RAM on the DS is very limited, so we can't really download a level or whatnot. I am looking forward to the DS 2.
Crispy Gamer: Do you think we're going to see it at E3 this year?
Igarashi: Probably not at E3, but in the near future.