While they may not be as well recognized as Cave, G.rev is one of the main shooter developers in Japan. Border Down, Wartech: Senko no Ronde, Under Defeat, and Strania: The Stella Machina are some of G.rev’s titles. Most recently, G.rev released Kokuga, their second self-published game in the West after Strania, for Nintendo 3DS. CEO Hiroyuki Maruyama spoke to Siliconera about Kokuga and G.rev’s other shmups.
Kokuga is a game that is designed for players to enjoy casually. How do you design a shooter so they are easier to get into and for a smaller screen?
Hiroyuki Maruyama, CEO: Current shooters require a lot of information – data, calculations, etc. – so attempting to simply miniaturize a regular shooter to fit it into a smaller device is quite difficult. In regards to Kokuga, it was not our intent to create a “current” shooter, so we did not have the problems related to trying to shrink one. We were more conscious of creating a video game in the thread of old-school classics – that actually made it easier to build the game for a portable console.
I noticed Kokuga has a card based system for power ups. Was this added because card games are quite popular in Japan?
Actually, I get the impression that a key element of the popularity of card games in Japan is the ability to trade cards. If we wanted to target that market, we would have added that ability in Kokuga. A more important reason we chose the card based system is that we felt that it worked well with the 3DS’ touch panel.
A couple of Japanese publishers are bringing games overseas like Agatsuma Entertainment too. What are the difficulties you faced when releasing a game from an ocean away?
Up until now, for all of our international releases, we have licensed out the game to a local publisher. However, with Kokuga, we were able to release the game ourselves with the G.rev label. For companies like us that only have a presence in Japan, releasing games abroad on our own was extremely difficult, if not impossible. The advent of being able to sell your game as a downloadable title has removed that roadblock.
It terms of the difficulties we’ve faced, we had issues with the localization process and local laws and regulations. But despite that, we were somehow able to release the game.
More of G.rev’s games have been coming overseas. Last year, we got Under Defeat HD which was a helicopter shooter. Why did you pick World War II as the setting where you play as the Empire, which seems to imply you’re part of the Axis side?
Well, I won’t comment on whether or not Under Defeat is set in World War II [laughs], but you’ll notice that all of the player’s aircrafts as well as the enemy vehicles have been named in a specific motif. In addition, things that do not appear in actual gameplay, such as a gun that one of the characters carries, has also been selected and given a very detailed setting. Frankly, the staff that made the game filled it with things they simply like, so the game is, to a large degree, painted with their preferences. I could go on with this explanation, but it would take a long time so I’ll stop here [laughs].
Another G.rev game that was released in the States is Mamorukun Curse! Where did the idea for this title come from?
Yeah, one of the first things we decided on early in the planning stage was not to do a mecha-based shooter. At that point, G.rev and Gulti, which did the developing, both had done a lot of shooters in which the player used a mecha of some sort. So we felt that we would challenge ourselves since it was a nice opportunity in working on a game together.
It was from there that I started to think up of the game plans. I had already had an idea of using the Noroi system, so I fleshed that out, then added the Japanese-motif fantasy setting. Next, I decided on making it a scrollable shooter, the type that had not been released in the previous few years. So those two concepts were determined early in the process.
How did Wartech: Senko no Ronde do overseas? I remember when it came out it was kind of like a surprise, Ubisoft just dropped the game on store shelves, which was unfortunate.
The sales numbers were pretty decent. It was unfortunate, however, that we never received feedback on how international gamers perceived the game and its unusual game system.
In regards to what Ubisoft may or may not have done in terms of marketing, Senko no Ronde is not the type of game that can guarantee sales. So to some degree, it cannot be helped if the marketing may have been limited. However, having had that experience in the past, we were able to decide on doing the international release of Kokuga ourselves. At least, you can say it was a learning experience.
Gunhound EX looks neat! How did this project start since it was originally a PC game? Will we get a chance to play it overseas?
The project started as the game’s developers, Dracue Co., Ltd., had mentioned on the net that they needed help as their publisher had gone bankrupt. One of our programmers, who had just happened to have been playing the original, saw the post and said that it would be a shame to see the project shut down at that stage. So, I got in touch with Dracue and our work on the project took off.
Unfortunately, an international release of the PSP version does not measure up well when considering costs and projected sales, so it probably will not happen. However, we will not write off any future possibilities completely, if, for example, it is ported to a different platform. In order for that to happen, we would need to see strong support from gamers.