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How A Love For Mega Man And Oldschool Games Led To Azure Striker Gunvolt


Last weekend, Inti Creates CEO Takuya Aizu was at PAX Prime to conduct a panel on Azure Striker Gunvolt and Mighty No. 9, along with Comcept’s Keiji Inafune. Prior to the panel, Siliconera had a chance to catch up with Aizu and ask him a few quick questions about Gunvolt, now that the game is out.


Since we’ve already covered everything there possibly is to cover about Gunvolt’s basic features, I wanted this to be more of a casual interview that focused on Inti Creates themselves, and how they feel now that the game is out.


Azure Striker Gunvolt is finally out. What was it like, self-publishing your first game? What were some of the challenges you faced and what were the things you learnt, publishing a game in the digital space?


Takuya Aizu, CEO: For our first self-published title, honestly, it was a lot of hard work, and we had a lot of problems we didn’t foresee. As a developer you’re used to merely developing the title; however, when you have to self-publish you have to do things like PR, marketing, actually selling the title; that’s a component of standard production that you never would’ve been involved with as an outsourced developer.


Getting to see that side of the business and getting to see just how hard it is [to self-publish] was a fantastic project for us, because we realized that, as a developer, it’s not as simple as just finishing the game. When you’re publishing the title, you have to do a lot of these extra things that take a lot of time, and now I have a much better appreciation for that side of the business.


Gunvolt is an ambitious game. I’d almost call it the equivalent of a 2D character-action game, where the goal is not to try and survive but to play repeatedly, to experiment, and play stylishly. You have so many different systems running in tandem. It’s a game where you customize your character and challenge yourself, rather than the game itself challenging you. There aren’t a lot of platformers like that at the moment, so there will be people that just don’t get what the game is trying to do. Is that something that was intentional?


A lot of people on the staff at Inti Creates are huge Mega Man fans, and they’re the sort of hardcore Mega Man fans that would go through and beat the game using only the Mega Buster. Those sort of people naturally want to challenge themselves. Even if the game will only require you to use the Mega Buster, they would of their own accord do that to challenge themselves. Right from day one, Gunvolt was designed to be a game that challenged themselves more than the game leading them along, so that was in the core design of the title, and even more so in the core DNA of the Inti Creates system.


Obviously, you don’t want to leave your standard gamers behind—you want to make sure everybody can enjoy the game in some way shape or form—and so we have included different systems or upgrades in the game, one of them being Prevasion, which allows you to take no damage from certain attacks, and so even if you’re not a core gamer, you can come in and play this game and still clear it. It really should appeal to everyone organically based on what their natural play style is.


Now that the game is out, would you have done anything differently in terms of the things that ended up in the final design? Features that didn’t make it into the final game, or replacing certain features or bosses with others and so on?  [Note: I was not asking Aizu about the cut dialogue from the U.S. version of the game, which is why he doesn’t mention it.]


When we were initially planning the game out, we did have other features and other weapons that we had in mind for inclusion in the title, and we actually built the schedule around making sure we’d be able to complete all those. However, game development is a very organic thing, and you end up chasing where you find the magic, and so we ended up focusing on things that were getting better and better and played better and better.


Adding more and more polish, because that’s what a creator wants to do: to make something the best that it can be. That being said, sometimes this means that time and energy get put into some features and siphoned from others, and you reach certain points where you say, ‘you know what, they’re not going to be at the level that they need to be to match the quality of the other features we are working on,’ so we had to ultimately cut those.


That being said, looking back on the production as a whole and where we are today, I can say that it’s a very well balanced game. It’s got a lot to it. Do I feel regret for certain items or features not being put into the game? No, because it’s a totally complete package.


Love and Destroy. We enjoyed the first one, can we ever expect to see a second and, if you could, what would you want to add to it?


[Laughs] Love and Destroy is Sony Computer Entertainment’s IP, so whether or not there’s a sequel is largely determined by them. However, I mean, we’d love to talk to them about it in the future if the opportunity ever arises.


Gunvolt has a lot of interesting characters, and while it seems like a game that can be easily enjoyed by children, there are a lot of mature themes that tip a hat towards adults as well. Do you think bridging the gap between children and adults is an important part of Gunvolt?


Obviously, Tsuda-san [the director of the game] personally loves those sort of old-school classic games. He himself is more of a pure-heart and he remembers those games from his childhood memories, and always wanted to create a title that could make all gamers feel that magic that you feel when you’re at that age playing games. Especially for that target audience that’s maybe between 12 and 14, because you still have that innocence of a child, but you’re slowly becoming an adult and starting to look at life a little more seriously.


Finding that sweet spot was what he really wanted to do as a creator, and this game allowed him to do that. I think that, in the future, he’ll be developing more games like this. Adults are our second sub-category when it comes to audience—these are people in their 20s or 30s and 40s. It’s also important to recapture the magic of games they played growing up. Even though we made a game for that 12 to 14-year-old audience, we still feel we made a title that still appeals to a much older group of individuals who can, through Gunvolt, enjoy a bit of that inner child.


Gunvolt’s finished—it’s out, it’s selling, so what are Tsuda-san and the rest of the team working on now?


Aizu: Now, we’re focusing on the European version, since it’s not complete yet. As for what comes after… that’s yet to be determined.


You’ve talked about making a sequel to Gunvolt. Does Inti Creates have any ideas on the table yet?


Obviously, as a developer, we put our heart and soul into Gunvolt, and so the idea of doing a sequel is exciting—but that’s a kind of high-level feeling we have right now.


In terms of ideas or core concepts we’d like to include in a potential sequel, we haven’t thought that far or deep yet. The cold, hard reality is, the key things that are going to determine whether there’s a sequel or not is how Gunvolt does in terms of sales and how active and loud the fans are about there being a sequel. If those two things are in place? Sure! We’d love to do it!

Ishaan Sahdev
Ishaan specializes in game design/sales analysis. He's the former managing editor of Siliconera and wrote the book "The Legend of Zelda - A Complete Development History". He also used to moonlight as a professional manga editor. These days, his day job has nothing to do with games, but the two inform each other nonetheless.