Febri/Double Dealing Character interview with ZUN

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Double Dealing Character

Touhou Project 14th Edition
Touhou Kishinjou (Eastern Shining Needle Castle)
Double Dealing Character

Launch Commemorative

(取材・文・お酌 編集部)

Double Dealing Character is the latest entry in the Touhou Project series,
released two years after its predecessor, Ten Desires.
With his latest appearance at Tokyo Game Show 2013, ZUN has become increasingly active recently.
Recently, we've been able to grab him with some drinks and spoke with him about various topics.

(Interview/Text/Refreshments: Editorial Department)


The latest entry in the series
"Thoughts on the Game"



This entry is a change of pace from your last few releases. Did you have any trouble deciding what direction to take?



No, I sometimes worry about "to make it or not to make it" even before that. But one I decide to work on something, there's no hesitation in me. This time, the biggest question I had was whether or not to increase the screen resolution.



What does that mean?



To start off, would it be necessary?. Will it guarantee any enjoyment? It may not work on a PC that has been operating until that point. Perhaps if I were to increase the resolution, then the game might end up being boring. I decided to change the resolution of the player character without touching anything else. Otherwise, dodging attacks would be difficult.



Your main three works preceding Double Dealing Character focused on themes of "faith". How have things changed since then?



Many things have happened, but the basic rule of thumb has been, "don't do anything novel or unconventional".



The danmaku of the 5th stage boss is unconventional enough (controls are reversed from left to right and top to bottom)...



That sort of thing is only possible if it's only one boss doing something eccentric. That wasn't what I meant, however, I meant not changing the game's atmosphere in its entirety, or making a system nobody can understand. I can't tell you how many times I've thought about a future where that'd be required.



Among doujinshi software producers, you, Mr. ZUN, are by far the most dedicated to entertaining others.



When it comes to commerce, though, it's not necessarily important to entertain, is it? There are many methods today where you'd frustrate the player, and present a glimpse of the solution just when they're about to lose their patience. But in doujin games, that kind of thing is meaningless. I once read a philosophy book which stated that, "the best sort of feeling is a lifetime of pain", but there is a limit to how much of said pain one can accumulate.



That seems to be a common theme in art. Going from suffering to rapture, for example.



Many people would think that there's a taste of honey waiting for them. But you never know if you're guaranteed to get it after enduring hardship, do you?






If you ask me, the most fun part of a game is clearing it. I've played quite a lot of social network games in the last two years, but none of them have what I would call "clear" conditions. The only reason players have for quitting a game once they've started playing it is that they get bored. Aside from the service ending or something. But if you do that over and over again, the game will no longer have a condition that can be called "satisfying". So you keep repeating the feelings of unsatisfaction, of being bored and then moving on to the next thing. After playing such games for more than a year, I decided to make "Double Dealing Character", which is the essence of what I believe a game should be like.



Oh, and so the balanced configuration is to use bombs to get through the stage, and then just be patient and somehow beat the boss in the boss fight...



No, no, most of the game is already spent being patient (haha). Clearing the game is the only path to pleasure, and you need to have the skill to get there. That's why I've kept it as simple as possible this time. There were many different systems in place before I arrived at the current format. But none of them felt right, and since it was a shoot-em-up to begin with, there was no point in having fun tinkering with the details, especially since it wasn't my job to do so. I have to do what only I can do.



I see.



The game is simple, enjoyable, and finishes up with a quick ending. Therefore, the ending is very important. The game has a goal, and once that goal is achieved, many people would stop playing. But the reason they stop playing such games is not because they're bored, but because they've completed the game. You finish the game feeling that you've completed it, you're satisfied with it and found it interesting, and you can go on to the next game, right? If the only reason to stop playing a game, no matter how it ends, is because "I'm bored", then you probably don't want to play the game anymore. That's why I make the kinds of games I'd consider interesting.


The theme is:
Returning to origin and two-facedness



In many ways, this year's game was a return to basics, so the game had to be presented in a simple way, and for that reason the content had to be simple as well. Incidentally, you can't return to your roots if you give the game a retro feel. A common mistake in returning to basics is to inadvertently include "the good old days" into the mix, and so the game ends up simply being dated. The purpose of this game is to move forward in a new direction.



There was a topic surrounding Embodiment of Scarlet Devil where there were only western youkai appearing in that game, despite it being called "Touhou" (Eastern). And even this time, a mermaid appeared, while wearing a kappougi?



This main focus this occasion was "youkai". However, when I try to make something relating to youkai, I tend to get stuck in the same pattern...Maybe it's because I was influenced by Shigeru Mizuki? In most cases, I end up going for a nature-worshipping approach. That's why I went with a "youkai = tsukumogami" portrayal, like in the Night Parade Picture Scroll. When that picture scroll was created, the word "youkai" probably didn't exist yet. By the Edo period, various things were taken from the picture scroll and named accordingly. Also, it's a "despite the fact that there's no sea in Gensokyo"-type story. That's why she's called "wakasagi". (haha)



"Wakasagihime" is very likely to be a real name, isn't it?



After some thought, I'm glad it didn't seem likely.



The stage 2 boss, Sekibanki, is a hitouban...rokurokubi or dullahan. Her flying head makes a vivid impression.



There are two kinds of rokurokubi: those that can extend their necks and those whose heads can fly. However, I thought it'd be a bit creepy if I drew the neck-stretching kind.



If she had an extended neck, there'd be more places to fire bullets at.



It seemed like fun in terms of pixel art, but it'd be difficult to portray in the standing art, so I made her head fly.



Kagerou Imaizumi is a wolf-man...Or rather, a "wolf-woman". A very major youkai, but she only appears as a stage 3 boss.



Her character is used as as the leading role in various games, but she has a quiet nature. As with her, I wanted to create a youkai with a dual nature this time. The same is true for the youkai past the third stage, the tsukumogami. And then there's the amanojaku, who turns things over.



Personally, I thought that duality seemed to be a theme that came up later.



Indeed, seeing characters with two sides to them is something that happens a bit later. Initially, I was thinking of a system where the main character would have two attack patterns, and the player could switch between them during the game. But that would not be a return to basics.



Certainly (haha).



Besides, I didn't think it'd be interesting to do so, so I kept the duality themes to the story and left it out of the gameplay.


ちなみに3面までのキャラの衣装に法則性はありますか? 影狼のスカートは花札っぽいので、他も揃えたかな、と思ったのですが。

By the way, is there any regularity for the character outfits up to stage 3? Kagerou's skirt looks like a hanafuda card, so I was wondering if you had arranged any others as well.



I don't think so (haha), just the third stage.



So it's a one-off thing? Hanafuda are cards, so they're able to be turned over, and since the theme of this year's work is "overturning society", I thought you might've adopted that kind of motif.



Overturning society is part of the theme, yes. Designing a wolfman is harder now than ever. Giving her a hairy appearance post-transformation is the correct thing to do, but that'd be too revealing, so I gave her a long skirt to keep the exposure to a minimum. I also considered what would make for a good design. Hanafuda are a good material to use when trying to create a flamboyant Japanese style. They're full of showiness, though.



Still, the development up to the third stage this time is quite a far cry from the second half.



It had nothing to do with the story at all (haha). I think you'd hardly be able to tell what would happen just by playing the demo. Although, the tsukumogami are there as tools for the main heroines, I suppose.



"Perhaps the boss has two different attack patterns?!", I was bracing myself for that.



I thought about making two different attack patterns for all the bosses, but it would just be labor intensive and not all that interesting. It'd just be a lot of work for both the creator and the person learning the danmaku patterns.


Overturning society and tsukumogami



Shooting games are based on assumptions on the player's end, so you wanted to show the possibility of turning that on its head...Or so I thought.



It's simpler than that. The characters in the games I've made thus far became increasingly stronger and more powerful. Since their strength kept getting inflated, I had to hold that in check somehow. So, if I were to make a new character, it'd be one who aimed to surpass the strong. Society cannot be turned over without starting some sort of revolution.



Come to think of it, the analogy that led me to the Hanafuda stuff earlier is because of the "revolution" in the card game "Daifugou".



Of course, I was partly inspired by the "Daifugou" "revolution", but if I incorporated playing cards into the outfit design, it would be too fancy. Or more specifically, "Alice".



So it was to take a break from the charming characters you've had in the past, and also from the recent theme of faith. But I get the impression that "overthrowing the strong" is not the primary theme here.



The primary theme is, sure enough, "duality of nature". I gathered up all sorts of materials related to the dual nature of youkai. I didn't intend for an inchling to be a boss, either, I just thought it would be interesting to have a combination of an inchling and a giant child. But that didn't make the character appealing enough, so I decided to have the famous inchling character Issun-Boushi play a part.



The amanojaku Seija is in an extremely good position, but as a character, she doesn't feel like a boss, does she?



The Amanojaku is a good character, but the appeal comes from her not being a boss or a protagonist. The biggest problem with Seija's design is that she's turned backwards while also facing forwards. What would someone trying to create derivative works do in terms of the front?



If you insist on that, then give me a rough sketch of the design and I'll publish it!



There was another design proposal for the amanojaku, which was to have her be upside-down. But I thought that'd be out of the question (haha).



Issun-Boshi, in the original story, is also less of a hero and more of a schemer, right?


あまりよくないヤツですよね。でも、それ以上に僕の中では打ち出の小づちが面白くてね。本当に唐突に出てきて、一寸法師は大きくなるけど、あれはどう考えても、人間を大きくするための道具じゃないでしょう? あれは一体何なんだろうと考えると、ものすごくネタが膨らむし楽しかった。

He's not exactly a good guy, is he? But to me, the Miracle Mallet is even more interesting than that. Issun Boshi uses it to make himself bigger, but for all intents and purposes, the mallet is not a tool to make someone bigger, now is it? It was fun to think about just what the heck that thing was, and to expand on its story.



Indeed, it's an abrupt magic item, yeah?



The Miracle Mallet in the Issun-Boshi story is quite a creepy thing. It appears out of nowhere, Issun-Boshi makes himself larger, and they lived happily ever after. But what happened after that?! (haha) I really don't know what to make of it, but it really is an oni's item.



The original Issun-Boshi was born from ordinary people, he just didn't grow up to be large. He isn't really from a race of inchlings, right?



The story there is that of a tribe of inchlings who descended from Sukuna-Hikona.



Sukuna-Hikona is part of the set with Ookuninushi, isn't he? A combination of a giant and an inchling. Is that also why there was a "Attack on Dwarf" reference in the danmaku...?



Right, so I really wanted to have a giant person for the duality thing. I can come up with a lot of flashier danmaku with a giant person. But the problem is that you can't cover one up, story-wise. And I've already done a Daidarabochi story in "Touhou Hisoutensoku". What a difficult character to use...



By the way, I would like to ask, since the boss of the story was Issun-Boshi, does that make EX stage boss, Raiko Horikawa, a taiko tsukumogami relating to a thunder god?



No, that part is completely separate from the main story, and an Extra is an Extra. I thought of several patterns for what to do with the Ex stage, but the storyline is that the tsukumogami will eventually return to being ordinary tools. Then, it would be a pity for them to have appeared. That's why I had someone show up in the Ex stage who was thinking of a way for the tsukumogami to live, so that they'd be able to exist long into the future. I thought it'd be good to have a character from among the tsukumogami to think of such things, but it was towards the end of the development process that I thought about making her a taiko.



Is that so? I guessed that there may have been a trend of folklore from Sukuna-Hikona ("Nihon Ryouiki") to Sugawara no Michizane ("Kitano Tenjin Engi Emaki"), which led me to speculate that she may have become a thunder god.



Indeed, Sugawara no Michizane rose to the top, was ousted, and then restored to power, so there is a sense of overthrowing the strong. But still, that doesn't matter, since I'm thinking of it in terms of tools and instruments. I decided to choose from the many Japanese instruments that appear in Night Parade Picture Scroll. The stage 4 bosses, Benben and Yatsuhashi, the biwa and the koto, are always together in the Night Parade Picture Scroll, so I hope you will enjoy imagining why those two appear in this entry. And the Japanese instrument that is still played the most is the taiko. I thought about how to incorporate the taiko into her design, and the result was a drum set, which turned out to be a very modern design (haha).



I was surprised, though, when they suddenly started talking about the Outside World.



I went with the Outside World because I wanted an external method of becoming tsukumogami that didn't rely on the Miracle Mallet.



Carrying on with your gentle view of the world as always.



I don't like violent stories, you see.



You're denying the very foundation of shoot-em-ups?!



It's easy to forget that danmaku in Touhou is "pretend play" (haha). There are ways to develop a story, like killing someone to make someone else develop, or to make things more exciting, but I can't do that. So the narrative isn't progressing, it just remains the way it is now, with some changes. I haven't progressed to the next step. But if I try to take the story to the next level, that could involve the whole of Gensokyo. Then it would be a story about whether or not each character would be able to cope with that change, but that would just be exhausting.



That development would constitute a style in which Gensokyo would vanish (haha).



It's all based on the "end of the world" premise, isn't it? Of course, if someone into that kind of thing were to write a story, it could be an explosively interesting work. But I guess it isn't possible for me. That being said, I hope that Febri readers will continue to enjoy "Wild and Horned Hermit".


Reimu Hakurei


The main heroine, a shrine maiden.
Was shocked when she saw her purification rod acting on its own.




Stage 1 Boss,
mermaid youkai.




Stage 2 Boss, rokurokubi.
Can make her head fly.


Kagerou Imaizumi


Stage 3 Boss.
A werewolf concerned about getting hairy.


Benben Tsukumo


Stage 4 Boss.
Tsukumogami of an aged biwa.


Yatsuhashi Tsukumo


Stage 4 Boss.
Tsukumogami of an aged koto.


Seija Kijin


Stage 5 Boss. Amanojaku.
The one who tempted Shinmyoumaru.


Shinmyoumaru Sukuna


Stage 6 Boss.
Descendant of Issun-boushi.


Raiko Horikawa


Stage EX Boss.
Tsukumogami of a Taiko drum.