Koji Igarashi leads a busy life. When he’s not breathing new energy into neglected classic games like Rondo of Blood, he’s touring the world, fedora poised perfectly atop his head somewhere between arch-ironic and humble sincerity, vampire-whip in tow. After helping create one of modern gaming’s undeniable classics, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, he could have thrown in the blood-stained towel and called it a night. Unsatisfied with simply resting on his laurels, he’s plugged ahead, creating a safe-haven for 2D gamers, with his perfected platformers and intricate worlds filled with subterranean cults and blood-sucking mythology. He’s also been hard at work brainstorming ways to execute the game’s leap onto next-gen consoles, while avoiding the pitfalls of Castlevania 64 and the PlayStation 2 iterations.
When I get the opportunity to meet people I admire, I do my best to keep a stoic facade, no matter how much my inner southern belle giggles with excitement. However, when our star photographer Charlie Suh and I ran into Iga-san backstage at the Video Games Live concert, we broke down and had a tiny cry fest. If you’ve ever seen Steel Magnolias then you’ve got a good idea of the histrionics involved. It was shameless. Good news is we managed to squeeze in an interview with the laconic legend. I pulled myself together enough to get some hints for you guys about the upcoming change in the game’s art style, as well as the next evolution in the series.
Grab a tall glass of orange juice and hit the jump to read our miserable pile of secrets.
Destuctoid: Symphony of the Night was successful in reinventing the franchise, and helped propel the Castlevania series forward over the last ten years. Now that a decade has passed since the game was released, do you feel any pressure to once again make drastic changes to the series?
Yes, exactly. It’s been ten years since Symphony of the Night, and it did take the franchise to the next level. And I definitely want to do something . . . I’m working on something to take it another step so that we can make it even bigger.
Where can we expect Castlevania to head over the coming decade?
Castlevania’s become a very popular type of action game in the 2D genre, and I think the next step is I have to do something in 3D where the fans will say “This is a great action game in the 3D sense, too.” So I feel that I’ve accomplished that in 2D, but I want to accomplish that in 3D also. It doesn’t mean I’m actually doing something about it right now, but it’s something I’m thinking a lot about, and it’s something I really want to plan out and do something great. I want to do something huge, so I’m thinking about that right now.
The design of the original Metroid games for the Famicom and Super Famicom was clearly a large influence on the evolution of the Castlevania series. As a game player, how do you personally feel about the direction that Metroid has taken with the Metroid Prime trilogy? Would you have been happier if they stuck to the 2D realm like you’ve mostly done with Castlevania?
I think with Metroid the new direction it has taken is great. I think it’s fabulous. With Castlevania, I want to do something like that. Not exactly what they did, but something that takes it to the next level. So, I haven’t found the right way to do it yet, but it’s something I’m looking for right now.
Since you’re a huge fan of 2D games in general, are there any classic 2D game series from other developers that have been dormant that you would like to see revived?
Oh, let me see. The one I’d probably want to see the most is a game that goes way, way, way back. It’s called Esper Dream. That’s something I’d like to see again. I’d really like to play more from that series.
[NOTE: Esper Dream was an RPG developed by Konami. It just saw its release on the Japanese Virtual Console at the beginning of October. This game has a top-down view, similar to Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past]
Throughout the history of Castlevania, the topic of evil cults often appears in the storylines. After the tragedy involving the Aum Shinrikyo cult in Japan, did you feel any uneasiness proceeding with the cult storylines in Castlevania? You began working on the Castlevania team soon after the gas attack on the Tokyo subway. Did this have any impact on you as you continued to create storylines involving fantastical or cartoonish cults?
When that happened in Japan, it did worry me a lot. It scares me a lot. I don’t think it related to what we did with the games. It’s a real sensitive issue, so obviously, I think about it and worry about it, but the correlation with what we were doing wasn’t strong, so we found it didn’t affect our choices that much.
You recently announced that there’s a new Castlevania under way for the DS. Will this game follow the anime style of Dawn of Sorrow and Portrait of Ruin, or will it be removed from that universe?
I can’t really go into it too deeply, but I’m going to get away a little bit from the anime style. We’ll be doing a press release sometime soon with more information.
Do you feel happy with what you achieved in Portrait of Ruin’s multiplayer functions? Will multiplayer be incorporated into the next DS title?
In the beginning I was a little concerned about the multiplayer aspect of that title, but as it got developed it exceeded my expectations. It was a lot better than I expected. So I’m very happy with it. I can’t comment yet on its inclusion in the next title.
The Castlevania games are known for having great music. You’ve collaborated with Michiru Yamane several times, and Yuzo Koshiro came in recently for Portrait of Rune. After working with him on the most recent DS game, do you have plans for involving Yuzo Koshiro for future titles?
We get along very well. So yes, I’d definitely like to have him do more music for me.
Will Yamane or Koshiro be involved in the score for the upcoming Castlevania movie?
Right now at this point, Konami hasn’t announced anything about the movie. I know there’s a lot of information out there that something’s going to be happening, but nothing has been finalized yet. A lot of things are still being planned out.
Is there anything from the game series that you’d like to see included in the movie?
I definitely want the theme and inspiration for Castlevania to be in the movie. I guess that’s the main thing I want. The people that make the movies are usually the experts, so I’ll be leaving that to them. But in the end I do want the spirit and theme from the game to be acknowledged in the movie.
The Castlevania games have attracted some very dedicated fans, especially Symphony of the Night. There’s one particular fan group called World Beyond Walls. They’ve documented glitches in the game that allow you to walk through walls and explore extra rooms. Have you looked into this community of fans, and what’s you reaction to their devotion to hidden exploits?
Oh, really? I never knew that such a group existed.
Would you ever consider incorporating these types of glitches into a game intentionally to reward those with the diligence to experiment?
The versions I work on, I like to always add a lot of things that you have to search for and collect. You know, runes and things like that. So there are some intentional things I like to do.
In general, the Castlevania series has done an incredible job of keeping fans happy. The release this week of Rondo of Blood for the PSP is something many people have been clamoring for. On the other hand, a lot of fans want to see a Wii game that allows you to directly control the whip using the Wii remote. You’ve mentioned before that you don’t feel using the whip in this fashion would be a wise choice. How do you walk the line between implementing concepts you know are truly best for the game, while incorporating aspects that will keep fans satisfied?
The way we develop the games, myself and the team, is we create games that make us happy, that we like. So it’s not really geared toward this direction or that direction. It’s not just what we feel that fans will like, but it’s what we want out of the game.
If you hadn’t gotten involved in the videogame world, where would you see yourself now? In a parallel dimension where you didn’t create Symphony, one of the most well-respected games of all time, what would you have done with your life instead?
If I hadn’t gone into the videogame industry, my major, what I studied in college, was sound therapy. I studied sound, so if I hadn’t gone into the videogame industry I would have gone into some sort of sound field. I would also have liked to have gotten into the toy industry, or maybe the entertainment and TV industry.