Something About Japan: Cave’s new philosophy, plus the eastern press on Halo 4, GTA V and Curiosity

Dodonpachi Maximum

It’s been a turbulent week in Japan. Prime Minister Noda dissolved the lower house of parliament, the Diet, raising the possibility of yet another new leader. The day before, the perpetrator of a hacking incident that lead to the arrest of several innocent men revealed himself in the manner of a Hollywood villain. In an email sent to the lawyers involved, he wrote: “It looks like I’ve lost this game,” and attached a picture of an anime doll in a noose fashioned from a computer cable.

Speaking of games, I work as an editor and translator at Frognation, a company that localises Japanese games into English. Every Monday, I’ll bring you a look at the past week’s Japanese gaming news. All so you don’t have to learn the language – or endure the gaudy mess of text, colour and shame that is Japanese web design. This week, we’ll look at the increasing prevalence of western games and tastes in Japan, starting with a company working in that most Japanese of genres, the bullet hell shooter: Cave.

Dodonpachi Maximum, a Windows Phone exclusive until its recent iOS release, is the first bullet hell shooter built ground up for mobile devices. In an interview with Famitsu, the developers discuss their progressive approach to difficulty adjustment, with producer and director Hiroyuki Kimura saying this about the game’s Easy mode: “Rather than simply decrease the number of bullets, the main adjustments made were to make enemy bullets more easily distinguishable, and make clear the paths to avoid bullet barrages.”

The aim, it seems, is to teach players the skills necessary to succeed on the harder difficulties, rather than just simplifying the experience. Interestingly for a genre whose fanbase is so firmly rooted in the arcades of the east, the adjustments also incorporated feedback from abroad. “The opinion emerged from overseas players that the enemy bullets were too various in type and colour, making it difficult to understand the action on screen,” Kimura says. “To address this, we reduced the number of colours, and made sure enemy bullets only came in two varieties: pointed, and round. Now they’re much easier to spot, and practically scream, ‘These are enemy bullets!’ at the player.”

So, is this a new business model for Cave, following its recent financial woes? “It all depends on sales,” Kimura admits. “We’d like to do more original titles. While Dodonpachi Maximum was a completely new project, it took a lot of resources to make.

“Our current intent is to make our works familiar to overseas players. We’d like people to play Dodonpachi Maximum and then perhaps move onto Dodonpachi Resurrection if they’re curious. We’d like to do a completely original title next, though.”

Halo 4 review

Halo 4's graphics "are superb...a great leap in fidelity." It sold 40,000 copies in its first week on Japanese shelves

In the exciting world of sales figures, Animal Crossing: New Leaf tops the charts with ease, with over 600,000 copies sold in its first week, while Halo 4 makes its debut at number 3 with just under 40,000 units sold. While still far behind homegrown efforts in terms of sales figures, its position suggests interest in western gaming seems to be growing in Japan, though is yet to fully cross into the mainstream. Famitsu gave the game 36 out of 40, while Impress Watch – which doesn’t give review scores – praised developer 343 Industries’ technical achievement.

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