One of 2019’s surprises was finding out Taito’s Groove Coaster: Wai Wai Party wouldn’t be a Japan-only release. Instead, the rhythm game appeared on the Nintendo Switch eShop worldwide and gave people another well-rounded option for their libraries. Siliconera caught up with Groove Coaster: Wai Wai Party Producer Takuma Hanagata to talk about this release, its songs, and its heavy Vtuber influence. In addition, he talks about his time working on the Japanese Half-Life 2 arcade game, Half-Life 2: Survivor.
Siliconera: How did Taito come to the decision to release Groove Coaster: Wai Wai Party worldwide?
Takuma Hanagata: We’ve had a lot of players requesting a console version of the Groove Coaster series on Twitter and Facebook and as the smartphone, arcade and Steam versions were all released internationally, we had an international release in our sights when we began planning for the Nintendo Switch version.
What made you decide to make VTubers so prominently featured in Groove Coaster: Wai Wai Party, and how did you decide which ones would appear?
Hanagata: When we were thinking about what songs to include in a console version, many of the players we anticipated coming on board would also be enjoying their music via YouTube and other similar services. The reason we decided to feature Vtubers was that they’re active online, and their viewers are into popular YouTube music genres, like vocaloid, making them an excellent fit for Groove Coaster.
As for who we picked, we focused on Vtubers with an affinity with the game: those who could sing or enjoyed rhythm games.
Licensing issues can sometimes be a problem with rhythm games. Did any alterations have to be made or circumstances considered with Groove Coaster: Wai Wai Party, given its worldwide release?
Hanagata: We planned for a worldwide release from day one, so we approached all the licensing arrangements with this in mind, so the game is the same in all regions.
What led to Undertale songs appearing in Groove Coaster, and how did you pick which tracks would appear?
Hanagata: We received a lot of requests on Twitter etc from fans of the arcade and smartphone versions wanting us to include it, but popularity alone wasn’t the reason we considered adding Undertale; it was because the tracks lend themselves well to a rhythm game. The track choices were influenced by whether we believed we could make a compelling stage from them or not.
Which Groove Coaster: Wai Wai Party tracks were you most excited about getting into the game and why?
Hanagata: “Groove Loop,” the game’s theme tune. It was composed by fan-favourite DECO*27 and we got popular Vtubers Mirai Akari, Dennoushoujo Siro and Mito Tsukino to sing it. The song came really brought out all the artists’ talents and matched the game’s concept of friends getting together and having fun (Wai Wai Party literally means to party together boisterously).
What kind of balancing and testing process did you have to go through to ensure Groove Coaster: Wai Wai Party’s active control option would be as accurate as possible?
Hanagata: The game didn’t work using the standard control method’s scores with active controls, so we went through and re-scored all the songs to work with both input methods. I think we managed to discover a good balance where you can enjoy songs whichever one you prefer.
How did you come up with the idea for Groove Coaster: Wai Wai Party’s multiplayer mode?
Hanagata: With a rhythm game, when you’re only competing on score, it’s not easy for a beginner to beat a more skilled player so you end up limiting people’s enjoyment. With the Nintendo Switch version, we envisaged players of various skill levels playing together and having fun, and the multiplayer mode was born from that thinking.
Groove Coaster: Wai Wai Party already has Dempagumi, Touhou Project, Undertale, and Vocaloid add-on packs. What would be your ideal crossover music pack for the game?
Hanagata: Ideal crossover contents would have music which is a good match for the game, can be enjoyed by existing players, but also draw new users in. I think we’ve achieved this with our DLC this time round.
Groove Coaster games tend to have extensive libraries and receive a substantial amount of support. How long would you like to support Groove Coaster: Wai Wai Party and what sorts of track packs would you like to see come to it?
Hanagata: I want the players to be able to enjoy as many tracks as possible, so I’d like to support it as long as we can. I’d like to release DLC covering original material and different genres.
How has Groove Coaster evolved as a series in your time with Taito, and what would you like to do with it next?
Hanagata: We’ve progressed from touch panels on smartphones, buttons for the arcade, keyboards on PC and gamepads for consoles. We’ve also covered both single and multi-player, in line with the game’s platform. Going forward, I’d like to maintain our core concept of an exhilarating ride through a musical world while offering new gameplay.
Groove Coaster aside, you worked on the Half-Life 2: Survivor arcade adaptation. How did Taito get involved with the project and what was your goal with the version?
Hanagata: At the time, Half-Life was a world-wide hit, but hadn’t really made an impact in Japan, so we developed the arcade version with the aim of showing Japanese players how much fun it was.
What did you find most intriguing or liberating about being able to work on a Half-Life arcade game?
Hanagata: There were three modes included in the arcade version: Story, Mission and Versus, and I was really intrigued to learn that Versus was the most popular. As this mode was not related to the scenario, although we included many of the elements of the original game, we were given relatively free-reign with the game rules and systems.
How do you feel about the recent Half-Life: Alyx announcement?
Hanagata: I’m thrilled about it. I look forward to seeing how the story develops, but also how the gameplay has matured in VR.
If you’d like to learn more about Taito and its plans, check out Siliconera’s interview with Executive Officer and Senior GM Hiroshi Uemura.