Once again, apologies for the delay with the latest update. The dev team is working hard on the game and hasn’t quite been ready to provide an update, but expect one soon with more details of development progress and the upcoming beta testing phase.
In the meantime, here is an interview with two of the Yatagarasu dev team members by 4Gamer.com.
* 4Gamer.net is one of Japan’s biggest and highly-respected video gaming websites. In addition to mainstream gaming in Japan, they also support PC gaming, overseas games, and indie games with their coverage.
4Gamer spoke with two of the creators of the indie fighting game Yatagarasu, which successfully crowdfunded development of a new version and has an arcade version in the works.
Written by: Hameko.
The fighting game Yatagarasu 4.3 by development team PDW:HOTAPEN was on show at the Indie Games Festa 2013 area of the 2013 Tokyo Game Show. First released in in 2008, Yatagarasu’s characteristics were a simple game system and finely-created 2D graphics reminiscent of the Neo Geo era. 4Gamer covered the game our Sept 2011 ‘Indie Games Room’, so it may be familiar to some readers.
Recently, funding was raised via the crowdfunding site Indiegogo to create a new version, ‘Yatagarasu Attack on Cataclysm’ The campaign greatly exceeding its target of $68,000, ended with $118,243. This marked the first time that crowdfunding was used to fund a domestic fighting game, and a version is planned for Taitio’s NESiCAxLive arcade system. Fighting game fans have plenty of reasons to be paying attention to Yatagarasu right now.
At TGS, 4Gamer had the opportunity to interview Shiza, Yatagarasu’s project manager of development, and its game play designer Umezono. Check out the interview below for some very interesting points including the objectives behind Yatagarasu, future development plans, crowdfunding for indie developers, and more.
How Yatagarasu Was Born and the Attraction of Lo-res
4Gamer: Hello. First, tell us about how Yatagarasu first came about.
Shiza: It began with the main development team, myself and Umezono and our designer Kotani*, starting to make the fighting game that we wanted to play. That was about 6 years ago now.
* Kotani:Tomoyuki is a game designer whose previous work includes designs The King of Fighters series, Mushihime-sama, Ibara, and Pink Sweets. He is responsible for Yatagarasu’s character design and graphics.
4Gamer: What type of fighting game did you personally want to create, Shiza?
Shiza: Kotani and I wanted to make a fighting game with lo-res pixel art, but there was no way a game like that could be approved in a normal game company. That being the case, we thought the only option was to make it ourselves.
4Gamer: And what was it you were wanting from your ideal fighting game, Umezono?
Umezono: Well, you know how you can’t play fighting games today if you can’t do combos?
4Gamer: There is definitely a trend for combo mastery to be the first step in getting to grips with games.
Umezono: There are different types of fighting game play skills, such as being good at reading the opponent, or counter-attacking. These days, you can’t win if you fall short in any area. I wanted to make a fighting game that you can still be good at, even if you only have one area that’s your particular strength.
4Gamer: So that’s why Yatagarasu came to have its simple and classical play feel. But Yatagarasu also has parries like Street Fighter III series. Why did you include these in the game?
Umezono: My being a SFIII 3rd player was a big factor, but our aim was to give players a chance to instantly turn the tables and to deepen the reading game. Parries are an excellent way to counter consistent behavior by the opponent.
4Gamer: But don’t high level defense systems like parries make games harder?
Umezono: Yes, they do, so we made Yatagarasu’s parrying button-based. This means you can try to parry while blocking, so even beginners can try it.
4Gamer: I see. Shiza, you said that you wanted to create a fighting game with lo-res art, but what exactly is attractive about lo-res?
Shiza: How can I put this… it’s calming to look at… don’t you think? You know, I didn’t know it would be so difficult to explain the attraction of lo-res pixel art until we started working on Yatagarasu.
4Gamer: No, I get what you mean (laughs). Take the early King of Fighters games – somehow you really get a sense of the graphics being artisan work.
Umezono: The old KOF series had strict memory limitations and the number of frames available for animation was fairy restricted. Because of this, the designers had to come up with creative tricks and these are really very cool.
Shiza: The most impressive moves are based on those creative tricks. Modern games have high resolution and smooth animation, but that doesn’t necessarily make them memorable.
Umezono: Of course, modern hi-res graphics are beautiful, but lo-res makes some things possible that are hard to pull off with modern graphics.
4Gamer: So it’s like the Japanese ‘limited animation’ method. One example from my experience would be in Kyo Kusanagi’s Geshiki Goufu You (forward + weak kick). It has only a few frames, but it’s a really very cool move. On the other hand, his Hachijuhachishiki (down forward + strong kick) looks floppy. I was super-impressed by the visual dynamics at the time.
Umezono: Another good example is Makoto in SF III 3rd. She actually has huge hands. They’re a bit weird if you look at them closely, but she really has impact when she moves.
4Gamer: Absolutely. I seem to recall her hands are bigger than her head when she does her personal action.
Shiza: Those types of deformation are easy to pull off with less precise pixel art. Having said that, neither of us are designers, so really it’s Kotani’s preferences that count.
Umezono: Designers are awesome! That’s what it comes down to (laughs).
Shiza: Well, that’s the idea. We developed Yatagarasu trying to reflect as much as possible of our individual tastes.
The Future of Indie Games and Crowdfunding
4Gamer: The new version, Yatagarasu Attack on Cataclysm, became quite well-known in the fighting game scene because of its crowdfunding campaign, and a NESiCAxLive version is also planned. Can you tell us about that?
Shiza: It started with the UK publisher Nyu Media who localize and sell Japanese games overseas. They suggested using crowdfunding to fund the localization, and we thought if we’re going to use crowdfunding, it would be much more interesting to kickstart a new version altogether. We ended up expanding the scope in various ways and then going for it.
4Gamer: The stretch goal setting in Yatagarasu’s crowdfunding campaign was very well done. The way the perks were split into tiers, for example.
Umezono: We came up with those together with Nyu Media, but the Skullgirls campaign was very good reference. The cost of adding even one new character to a fighting game is huge, so it was a good decision to split the funding into levels rather than setting it as the final target.
Shiza: We also explained in detail how we’d use the funding. I think that kind of transparency is important, especially in Japan were there wasn’t much precedent for crowdfunding.
4Gamer: That’s certainly makes sense. So what were the take-outs for you from the crowdfunding campaign?
Shiza: The best point was being able to hear directly from our supporters. Of course, we’re grateful for the funding, but as developers we’re very grateful to hear the voices of the gamers who play and support our game.
Umezono: In terms of the reaction to the campaign, we received lots of photos and feedback from overseas events. We were happy to see more overseas players than we could have imagined enjoying this classical style of game.
Shiza: Plus, there were about 3,500 contributors to the Yatagarasu campaign, which means there will be at least 3,500 people playing our game when it releases. This is a huge motivator for us as a development team.
4Gamer: Do you foresee crowdfunding becoming a big trend in indie game development?
Shiza: Not really. I can’t see it becoming popular with regards to Japan’s doujin game development. Lack of money isn’t an issue for most doujin circles, it’s lack of time. But I do think crowdfunding has merit with regards to building communication with the players, as I mentioned.
4Gamer: I see.
Shiza: Many doujin developers have a policy of not spending money to make their games. That’s fantastic, of course, but there are cases like ours where using crowdfunding actually makes a project possible.
Umezono: Actually completing the game is a priority both doujin and commercial developers. Sometimes funding can be a hurdle to attaining that goal, and in those cases crowdfunding can be a powerful resource.
4Gamer: Yatagarasu’s successful campaign is highly significant as the vanguard to future Japanese crowdfunding. Switching topics, how is the NESiCAxLive version related to the crowdfunding campaign?
Umezono: It’s not. The NESiCAxLive version was initiated by Taito and is unrelated to the crowdfunding campaign. We’d like to release it with all three new characters, so it’ll come out sometime after the PC version of Yatagarasu Attack on Cataclysm.
4Gamer: What are the concepts of the 3 new characters?
Umezono: The present version of Yatagarasu has only 8 characters, so we’d like to make something that lives up to requests we’ve had for other types of characters. We’ll announce more detailed information pretty soon, so please expect an update shortly.
4Gamer: Understood. Speaking of Yatagarasu, its characteristic dynamic commentary system made a big impression. Will this be included in the NESiCAxLive version?
Umezono: Good question. We don’t know yet (laughs). That’s just us having a bit of fun… I think we’ve able to get away with it because we’re part of the doujin scene, but we’d like to include it. The new version will feature EVO commentators James Chen and UltraDavid.
Shiza: We watched EVO 2013 thinking ‘Wow, these guys will be commentating in Yatagarasu…’ (laughs). It was very emotional for us.
4Gamer: I see. As an arcade game fan, I’m looking forward to it. So, do you have a final message for our readers?
Umezono: Thank you everyone for your generous support of our crowdfunding campaign.
Shiza: We’ll continue to make fun games, so please enjoy playing them.
4Gamer: Thank you very much for your time today.