e recently spoke with the man behind the latest DS entry in the Castlevania series, Koji “Iga” Igarashi, about a great many things. Namely, why Portrait of Ruin is returning to the DS, what touch screen functions we can expect, if the game will feature co-op wireless online play, and what it would take for Iga to develop a game for Xbox 360.
Game Informer: Why did you decide to pursue another 2-D game after Dawn of Sorrow rather than proceeding down the 3-D path again?
Koji Igarashi: As you know, console game development involves a lot of time. We’ve done the first installment on Nintendo DS, which was quite successful, and we wanted to do something different as a second challenge. So we’re back again with Nintendo DS.
GI: Is Portrait of Ruin going to utilize touch screen functionality like Dawn of Sorrow?
Iga: With the first installment, we did have touch screen features in the game like the magic seals or breaking down the crystal blocks and stuff like that. It was good that we were able to present a DS feature, but there were pros and cons. My concern was over the Castlevania pure action gameplay, which you actually had to stop and let the user use the stylus to do something. So now that it’s approximately two years after the launch of the hardware, I took it easy (laughs). Maybe we don’t have to focus on the touch screen. Unlike previous games, we are less focused on the touch screen. That doesn’t mean we’re ignoring the touch screen. Obviously, we have a map display and all of these menu touch features, so it’s still in there.
GI: So you weren’t necessarily displeased with the way the touch screen stuff worked the first time, but just thought that maybe it didn’t necessarily go along with your vision of how the pure action game should go. Is that right?
Iga: It felt a little uncomfortable after beating a boss to get your stylus out and draw a magic seal. It seems to stop the moment of pure action. Personally speaking, I was playing the game with my finger and not the stylus, and my screen got really messed up.
GI: We’ve been playing the 2-D Castlevania games for 20 years now. What is it about the 2-D side scrolling aspect of not only Castlevania, but games in general, that make that particular genre so enduring and appealing to people after games have been doing it for so long?
Iga: One reason I think people love this franchise, specifically in 2-D, is that we provide a solid game system. Although we’ve been working on 2-D for years, we’ve been thinking about delivering a new game experience. So even if one game is presented out in the market with a sequel, it shows a much different game system that consumers won’t get bored with. That’s why the series has lasted so long, I think.
GI: What direction are you going with the art style for Portrait of Ruin?
Iga: We would like to make the packaging art for Portrait of Ruin more adult-looking than Dawn of Sorrow. The opening movie isn’t complete yet, but we’re definitely going to have a cool movie in the prologue. Once the movie is completed, we’ll use that as a reference for packaging. As a final goal we would like to stay with the anime style, but make it less vivid so that it’s targeting both younger and older audiences.
GI: Will we still be collecting souls in Portrait of Ruin?
Iga: Of course we are very much focused on the collecting items. Although with Portrait of Ruin, it’s more about collecting skills and items. It’s not about collecting souls.
GI: With the two playable characters that you can either swap or use simultaneously in Portrait of Ruin, it seems like it would lend itself well to WiFi co-op play. Any plans for this?
Iga: It’s not confirmed yet because I haven’t started work on it. (laughs) That’s why I can’t confirm. But actually I’m thinking about preparing a special unlockable stage where you can do co-op over WiFi.
GI: Just from my initial play through it seems like it would be a lot of fun to play over Nintendo’s WiFi Connection in the full game.
Iga: Technically speaking, I think we are able to do something like co-op, yes. But I have to make excuses. (laughs) This is our first big challenge over the WiFi Connection, so we’ll do our best.
GI: You’ve been working on the Castlevania franchise for quite some time now, do you have any plans for starting a new franchise on next-gen consoles?
Iga: Actually, I’m confused with all of this next-generation news. I don’t know what to do. I was really leaning toward PS3 in the beginning. But then at the Sony conference they announced the price and I was like, “Mmm, maybe it’s too expensive.”
When it comes to Wii, obviously the controller has a unique feature, but I just can’t come up with a good idea that utilizes it. I mean, clearly you can with a lot of time.
GI: Microsoft has talked a lot about wanting to penetrate the Japanese market. They’ve got Square Enix putting out Final Fantasy XI. They have Mistwalker working on some projects. As a Japanese developer, do you think this will work to draw in the Japanese market?
Iga: I’m not really negative over Microsoft, but for some reason they tend to back off a little when it comes to something really foreign. But if Japanese developers would say they’re working on Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest or Metal Gear maybe, then I guess Japanese consumers would take it seriously and consider purchasing it. There has to be some killer titles to move the consumers into the 360 market. What I’m thinking is if Bill Gates uses his personal money and says, “I have a billion dollars. Why don’t you make a game for me?” Then we would love to work on it. (laughs)