Touhou Genso Rondo: Bullet Ballet Interview – Director Yuro Kyoya Talks Danmaku, Localization, and Development
After Anime Expo 2016, I was given the opportunity to meet up with Touhou Genso Rondo: Bullet Ballet Director Yuro Kyoya.
NIS America will be publishing the fan-made Touhou game in the West for PlayStation 4 and releasing it on September 6 in North America and September 9 in Europe.
We met at a tea shop in San Fransisco. Kyoya-san had spent the previous five days in Los Angeles attending Anime Expo, and was nearing the end of his trip to America. It was evident that he cares a lot about his game, but he seems to care more about providing a great experience to fans and gamers.
NIS America assisted with the translation of questions and answers.
Azario Lopez: What introduced you to the Touhou project community?
Yuro Kyoya: I originally played a fan-made Touhou game, and then played an original game. I thought it was very unique and fun world.
A: When did you become interested in developing video games?
YK: I have always wanted to develop games. So in college I created a club focused on creating video games. In this club we made about ten games.
A: What influences the genre of games you choose to create?
YK: I choose the genre that I like at the time and create that. Japan has always been a very RPG heavy country, but I’ve never really liked RPGs. So I try to focus on games where you’re always moving and in action.
A: Did ever think that your game will be localized in the West?
YK: When I was making the game I had no idea this would happen.
A: So as you go on to create future games, will you keep the West in mind during development?
YK: I will, but it will also depend on how well Genso Rondo does in the West.
A: Where did the idea of combining the bullet hell genre with a fighting mechanic come from?
YK: There have been games in the past that have used this style of gameplay, but I noticed that there hasn’t been one developed in quite a long time. So I wanted to make a game like this with my own hands, and more importantly make it awesome.
A: During development, what steps did you take to create the best version of the game?
YK: The game originally was released on PC and that took about nine months. After that, I got user feedback that allowed me to re-balance everything over nine more months. For the PlayStation 4 version, I hired expert players that played the PC version to balance the game even more. In terms of balance and gameplay, I fell like I’ve done a good job in making this game.
A: What role did you play during the localization of Bullet Ballet?
YK: So when it comes to actually putting the English text in the game, I am the main programer, so I’m the one who put the text into the game.
A: Did you feel that the translation and localization of Bullet Ballet accurately told your story?
YK: Originally, the first translation and localization came from my team. We then sent it to NIS America for proof reading. I feel very confident that the story is being told in a way that I want it to be told.
A: Do you feel an emotional connection to the characters you chose to be playable in the game?
YK: All the characters in the game are characters that I like. Although, these characters aren’t my characters so it’s hard to say that I’m completely connected to them, but they are characters that I like.
A: Do you think you’d have it in you to kill off one of the characters?
YK: If I did, then Zun-san would kill me.
A: So did seeing all the Touhou fans at Anime Expo give you motivation to continue your work with Touhou Project games?
YK: Anime Expo was much bigger than I expected. I knew Zun-san was going to be very popular at the show, but fans started coming up to me and with gifts and comments, and that was a huge motivation booster. A story that still resonates with me is: We held a Genso Rondo tournament on the show floor at Anime Expo, and I got to play a match with the champion and I lost.
A: For a gamer that is new to the Bullet Ballet IP, what would you like them to pay attention to in their first couple of hours of gameplay?
YK: The first thing I’d like people to see and what I pay attention to during development is even for a very new player they’ll be able to create a very beautiful danmaku on the screen. The controls are very simple and that simplicity allows every match to look very beautiful. Beyond that, they can dive deeper into the mechanics and master the range of these skills.
A: How do you feel about adding DLC characters to the game?
YK: So the US version will come with two new characters, if they are well received, I could see more characters being added.
A: So after your visit to Anime Expo, do you see a difference between Japanese gamers and American gamers?
YK: In Japan, when someone picks up a fighting game like this one, if their friends aren’t playing it, then they wont. From there it could spiral into more and more people not playing the game. What I saw at Anime Expo was users picking up and playing the game with random people and reacting to the game differently than someone in Japan would.
A: Did you create this game to be easily accessible for new users, while creating a product that can be mastered with a range of play styles for tournament style gameplay?
YK: Brand new players will be able to pick up the game and make it look really cool, but there is no way a brand new player could beat a more seasoned player. I feel that games nowadays are played and you don’t understand how you lost, this game makes it easy to visualize why you are taking this much damage and lost. With that players can correct mistakes over time and get better.
A: Did you hit any road blocks during development of Bullet Ballet?
YK: More than I expected. To balance out the game, there were a lot the systems. That was very difficult and probably the biggest hurdle.
A: Is there anything you’d like to tell those new to Bullet Ballet, and also maybe something to tell current fans?
YK: Compared to the PC version, this version has been completely redone, so players who have played the game before will get a fresh new experience. I feel like this game gives users a good experience, so to new users, I hope they look forward to it.