This week’s Famitsu was all about shoot ‘em ups and Ikaruga in particular, in commemoration of its re-release on PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch. There was also a feature on Ikaruga’s biggest fan Yoko Taro, also known for his games like NieR: Automata, where he talked about how the game has influenced his work.
Here are the highlights:
Famitsu: What do you like about Ikaruga?
Yoko Taro, superfan: “First, I’d like to talk about how the music synchronizes with what is happening on the screen. Iuchi-san, the planner and director of Ikaruga, was also in charge of making the music. Thanks to this, the stage progress matches the music as well. That is one part of what makes Ikaruga amazing. Stage 2’s music starts off with a sense of speed to go along with the opening scene, but as the screen starts scrolling slower, the song goes slower as well. How they mixed music and the sequences together was really groundbreaking, and it left such an impact on me that I stole it for the Nier series.
Famitsu: Has Ikaruga influenced your work in any way?
Yoko Taro: “It doesn’t stop at just an influence! In Drakengard, you have magic and non-magic missiles that couldn’t shoot each other down. That is basically Ikaruga. Also, the enemy bullets in the NieR series was also very much influenced by the game. Actually, please write that I stole it, okay? In bold.”
Famitsu: Let’s leave it at a homage.
Yoko Taro: “Leaving aside my joke… Speaking seriously, Ikaruga influenced how I synchronize the game sequences with the music. Combining the two in a way that appeals to people’s hearts is a task that’s quite difficult. This sort of technique has been a hurdle for developers to overcome since the early days of gaming history, and I think Ikaruga is the first game to actually do it. Because, up until then, BGMs were only split by different scenes in each stage. In that regard, I believe Ikaruga was a game-changer in gaming history.”
Famitsu: And you’re saying that’s how the sequences in NieR: Automata came to be.
Yoko Taro: “Hmm, I don’t think so. It did have an influence, but I don’t think it was as successful as in Ikaruga. You see, we forced in transformation gimmicks to bosses, and while music rises to fit the moment, that’s just a scripted event, as the developers don’t know when the player will beat the enemy.
In another scene in NieR: Automata, the boss movements match the rhythm of the music, but that was just forcing it so that the movements would follow the length of the music, and not something the players could control in an interactive manner. If it were done properly, the music would increase in fervor when you do massive damage, or something like that where you feel the game via the music. That’s incredibly hard for the creator to control, and something that’s always troubling. But it’s because it’s done so well in Ikaruga that it shines so brightly.”
NieR: Automata is available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. Ikaruga was recently released for PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch.