The Story of Inti Creates and Their Rise in the West
Inti Creates might be a small publisher, but they have a large history. As they increase their presence in the west, it's time to understand their roots.
When gamers hear the name “Inti Creates,” it’s often followed by memories of playing the Mega Man Zero series. The developer excels in delivering some of the best 2D action-platformers on the market, and this has been a goal set out by the company since they opened their doors in 1996.
Following the developer’s inception, gamers were treated to many notable action platformers, such as the Mega Man Zero series and some of its later titles like Mega Man 9 and 10. 2002’s Mega Man Zero for Game Boy Advance would be the first game from the developer’s portfolio to be localized in the west: it was well-received by gamers which allowed the company to develop the series up until Mega Man Zero 4 in 2005.
In 2013, it was be announced that Inti Creates would assist with the development of Keiji Inafune’s Mighty No. 9. Despite a successful (and record-breaking) Kickstarter campaign, Mighty No. 9 would enter development hell and turn out to not be what fans had hoped for – a true spiritual successor to the beloved Mega Man series. Following Mighty No. 9’s launch in 2016, the game received low review scores and criticism from fans for a variety of issues.
Although each of these titles made their mark in the west – most receiving high praise – it wouldn’t be until 2014 that Inti Creates would truly stand out in the crowd of developers with the release of Azure Striker Gunvolt.
Azure Striker Gunvolt was first announced in the beginning of 2014 during BitSummit for the Nintendo 3DS. The title would be introduced as an action-platformer where players would be able to tag enemies and destroy them by using Gunvolt’s homing attacks. The gameplay would be similar to Mega Man Zero, but would utilize Gunvolt’s large array of weapons: furthermore, getting through each level would rely heavily on the player’s skill and technique.
Azure Striker Gunvolt was released as a 3DS eShop-exclusive that would later be ported to the PC, with a Nintendo Switch version on the way. Main protagonist Gunvolt struck all the right chords with western gamers; in a conversation with DualShockers during GDC 2016, Inti Creates’ President & CEO Takuya Aizu commented about the developer’s character designs by saying, “We want younger audiences to see these characters and think, ‘Man, that is really cool!’ Such as when you relate to characters in anime and attempt to be like the character.”
Gunvolt’s popularity would grant the series a sequel, Azure Striker Gunvolt 2, as well as an anime adaptation, exclusive to the Nintendo 3DS eShop. In support of their western fans, Inti Creates would partner up with Yacht Club Games to release the Azure Striker Gunvolt: Striker Pack in the west, a physical release of both titles on the 3DS.
Although Gunvolt is quite popular among its fans, Inti Creates shocked the gaming community in 2016 with the release of another one of their IP, Gal*Gun: Double Peace, on the PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, and PC. Gal*Gun: Double Peace is a rail-shooter where players assume the role of an unpopular student, Houdai Kudoki, who has been shot by cupid’s arrow and must now find his true love by the day’s end, or suffer to be alone for the rest of his life.
It should be said that the premise of the game does not do the gameplay justice. The game is played in the first-person perspective, where players must shoot approaching love-stricken female students with a pheromone shot that induces euphoria, and subdues them long enough to get by. The game features many scenes for mature audiences, including scenes of girls in nothing but their underwear, bondage, and a mode where it’s possible to see through girls’ clothing.
Following Gal*Gun: Double Peace‘s announcement, many gamers would inquire if it would be censored in the west due to its content. However, PR for publisher PQube Peter Fury threw water on the flames with a simple tweet saying,”We fully intend for Gal*Gun to be entirely intact from the Japanese version. No censoring here!” This would prove to be true when the game launched in the west in 2016 and western gamers were able to enjoy the same content that was released in the east.
Gal*Gun’s concept was originally pitched by the game’s director and illustrator Masokito Ito. As a fan of the House of the Dead franchise, Ito-san wanted to create a rail-shooter but instead of zombies, they would use girls. Although the development team didn’t know what to make of the idea, Inti Creates’ VP was all for it. Gal*Gun was released in 2011 on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 in Japan, and would also utilize the PS3’s Move Controllers.
The success of Gal*Gun: Double Peace would allow the company to host their own panel during Anime Expo 2016 where they were able to meet with fans and talk about how western demand for the game influenced the company to localize it. It’s been almost a year since that panel and in that time, Inti Creates has teamed up with Sunsoft to release Blaster Master Zero on the Nintendo Switch and Nintendo 3DS.
Blaster Master Zero was originally planned to only be released on the 3DS, but after hearing about the Nintendo Switch, Inti Creates wanted to get the game onto the new Nintendo console. Blaster Master Zero is a remaster of the original Blaster Master released in 1988 on the NES; the remastered version would update many of the levels and mechanics from the original, while also giving the game a proper storyline.
Inti Creates planned for Blaster Master Zero to be full of fan service, not only for the series’ established fanbase, but for their fans as well. Following the game’s release, they have not only added an increased difficulty option, but also launched two new playable DLC characters: Gunvolt (Azure Striker Gunvolt) and Ekoro (Gal*Gun: Double Peace). Each new character adds an alternate way of approaching the game’s campaign, giving players a reason to replay the retro style platformer.
In terms of Inti Creates’ presence in the west, it’s uncommon for a small Japanese developer to be so adamant about sharing news and updates with western fans. In 2017 alone, Inti Creates has appeared at GDC and E3, with plans to have a presence at TooManyGames, Anime Expo, and PAX West.
During a conversation with DualShockers at E3 2017, we asked Aizu-san why the company is doubling down on western gamers and appearing at all these conventions. He replied:
“We do a lot of events in Japan too, we make 2D action games and we have a lot of people that love those kinds of games in Japan. However, in terms of numbers, we have even more fans of this genre in the west. Since we’re doing so many events in Japan, TGS and BitSummit to name a few, we want to keep things fair for all our fans and keep that balance of attending events in Japan and showing our face in North America as much as possible.”
We followed up by asking what convinced Aizu-san that Inti Creates would benefit from a higher western presence, which he responded by saying:
“If you could pinpoint a moment in time where we added this focus, it would be right before the Mighty No. 9 Kickstarter launched in 2013. I attended PAX Prime (now called PAX West) and made my way to the Indie Mega Booth area. I saw many indie games that reminded me of these old-school, classic Japanese-style 2D action games. I saw not only the developers happy about creating these games, but also players enjoying their time playing them. I thought to myself, ‘Man, there are so many people here that love these kind of games and love making these kind of games. This is what Inti Creates is all about and I wanted to be a part of this world too.’ From that point on I wanted to incorporate our games to fans outside of Japan.”
For more than 20 years now, Inti Creates has been a company focused on delivering games they want to create. They have kept their focus on creating some of the most beloved 2D action-platformers released, while using their talents to assist with other games such as Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse and, more recently, the upcoming Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night from legendary Castlevania developer Koji Igarashi.
The company has a long history that the current and new generation of gamers should be aware of, but with the developer appearing at many eastern and western events, it’ll be difficult for all gamers to avoid the Inti Creates hype train for years to come.
I would like to personally thank Inti Creates as a whole, as well as Inti Creates’ President & CEO Takuya Aizu and Associate Producer and International Affairs Coordinator Matt Papa, for meeting with me on many occasions to assist in telling this story.