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An Interview With Koji Igarashi, Project Lead on Bloodstained

An Interview With Koji Igarashi, Project Lead on Bloodstained - Article

by Evan Norris , posted on 10 October 2017 / 4,196 Views

At this year's New York Comic Con, I was lucky enough to chat with gaming icon Koji Igarashi. Known primarily for his work on Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, Igarashi spent 24 years at Konami, from 1990 to 2014, where he directed, wrote, or produced over a dozen Castlevania titles. His name is synonymous with the backtracking sub-genre Metroidvania (or Igavania, named after him) which he helped to codify. He was present at the Jacob Javits Center last week to preside over a demo of his newest game, Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night. This marked the first time a hands-on demo was available to the general public.

Begun as a Kickstarter campaign, Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night is now planned for several platforms, including Windows, Linux, OSX, PS4, PS Vita, Nintendo Switch, and Xbox One. It's developed by ArtPlay, Inc. and will be published by 505 Games. It's due out in 2018. 

Bloodstained whip

Evan Norris:
You started your Kickstarter for Bloodstained with a relatively modest goal of $500,000. You ended up with $5.5 million, and 64,000 backers. What does that level of support and enthusiasm mean to you?

Koji Igarashi:
What I thought about this Kickstarter was that when it was successful I had more confidence. In Japan right now mobile and social games are very popular and trending, and a lot of gaming companies sort of shifted — and even the fans shifted — to mobile games. So when I found out so many people are backing this project, which is a traditional game, I felt a lot more confident that people still want to play console games.

Evan Norris:
How has fan feedback affected the Kickstarter campaign, and affected the game?

Koji Igarashi:
Even before the previous games I've worked on, such as Castlevania games, we've heard a lot of fans say "we want this in the game" or "we really like this part of the game." But with Kickstarter, this is all coming simultaneously with the development of the game. Whenever we take in an opinion or a criticism, we only implement it into the game when I feel it's necessary for the game. If I don't feel the same way as this person criticizing my game does, then I won't implement it. Only the ones we agree on will be changed in the game.

Bloodstained Miriam

Evan Norris:
Fans expectations have been very high, and fans can be very fickle. We've seen Kickstarters like Shovel Knight that were hugely successful. We've seen others like Yooka-Laylee that some fans were unhappy with. How do you manage those expectations? What lessons have you learned from other Kickstarters attempting to revive an iconic genre?

Koji Igarashi:
Yes, we've seen a lot of these Kickstarter projects that were able to answer fans' requests and expectations. But at the same time, what we can do is limited. We can't answer everybody's expectations. Even if we try to, or even if we look at other games and say "we have to incorporate this" it might end up the same result. This time, it started out with a Kickstarter project that's based on fans' nostalgia. Even if we try to reproduce that it might end up not meeting up with expectations. That's why we're only going to do the best we can with what we feel is enjoyable as a game.

Evan Norris:
Over the last seven years there have been a lot of Igavanias or Metroidvanias that have popped up: Guacamelee!, Teslagrad, Axiom Verge, etc. Have you played many of these? Do you have a favorite?

Koji Igarashi:
I've played several games that have that same Metroidvania feel, and one of the titles that comes to mind is La-Mulana. That's a very difficult game, but I really enjoyed it.

Bloodstained fight

Evan Norris:
In the same vein, what makes Bloodstained unique in this landscape of a lot of independent developers pushing out games like La-Mulana or Guacamelee! or Ori and the Blind Forest? What makes Bloodstained special?

Koji Igarashi:
There will be a lot of new features and things that are new, but at the same time this is a project that started out as a Kickstarter. What we want to do is have players relive that nostalgia. When [fans] hold a controller it will feel just like games I worked on previously. Fans will say "oh, this is a new game from Igarashi" and this is what I wanted to focus on first. In general, it would feel very similar to the older games. We want them to play it and feel that it's similar to the old style but also it's a new setting, new concept.

Evan Norris: 
One last question: is this your dream project? Or is this a way to revisit an older success? Is there something on the horizon — a genre or property that you want to explore even more than this, in the future?

Koji Igarashi:
Bloodstained is kind of both. We want to relive that nostalgic moment. My game has that base of a side-scrolling, exploration-based game. I want to make that genre a base for the upcoming games that I make. But also, I want to expand the series, and maybe even do another game that's similar in the genre but also a little bit different from Bloodstained

But if I were to create this game that I really want to make I know, for a fact, that it wouldn't sell. But I'd like to make that before I die.

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Dravenet7 (on 10 October 2017)

It's amazing that you were able to reach out to him! I'm looking forward to this game with cautious optimism.

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Xeon (on 10 October 2017)

Symphony of the night is still my favorite game. Too bad what happened to that series but I hope bloodstained can capture some of that magic. Great interview!

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TruckOSaurus (on 11 October 2017)

Nice interview! It's cool that you got to speak to the man himself! Although, I'm sad you didn't ask for a release date ;-)

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OTBWY (on 10 October 2017)

I still have zero faith in this game. Too many kickstarter failures.

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Machina (on 10 October 2017)

That last paragraph though.

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