[In this interview, we catch up with Taito designer Reisuke Ishida to discuss the critically acclaimed new iPhone iteration of Space Invaders.]
Taito's 30th anniversary celebration of marquee title Space Invaders
was remarkable not only for its scope, but the pop culture renaissance it has birthed (see our continuing coverage of all things Invaders
) for the once-stagnant franchise.
Not merely a testament to stylish marketing, Space Invaders
' resurgence can be attributed to a string of quirky reboots, particularly the brilliant Space Invaders Extreme
and its sequel for the Nintendo DS, along with the less successful but equally charming WiiWare title Space Invaders Get Even
Flying somewhat under the radar then, Space Invaders Infinity Gene
was recently released on the iPhone, a retooled version of last year's Japanese-only cell phone game. Primarily the work of one man, Reisuke Ishida, Infinity Gene
might be the best of the new wave, its sleek graphics, Zuntata-designed sound and evolutionary bent not only pushing Space Invaders
forward, but shooters as a whole on the iPhone.
Interested in the evolution of Space Invaders
, we snagged a brief Q&A with Ishida in which he spoke about the thrill of helming a Space Invaders
project and his love for techno music.
Can you talk a bit about your work prior to Infinity Gene?
My major projects have been: Trance Pinball
(a pinball game for mobile phones), Spica Adventure
(an arcade-style action game for mobile phones), Nijiiro Ensoku
(an action RPG for mobile phones) and Elimination
(a Flash-based action game).
My debut game was Trance Pinball
, and while it’s not quite as geometrical in appearance as Space Invaders Infinity Gene
, I think it shares a similar feel. Trance Pinball
combines pinball with club DJing elements. The pinball table acts like a DJ’s turntable, and as the game progresses more and more sounds are mixed in.
and Nijiiro Ensoku
have a very cheerful, cute aesthetic, but if there’s one element tying all my games together it’s the inclusion of club music, techno in particular.
Despite being a take on a flagship title, Infinity Gene seems to be a very personal project.
Yes, working on the game was incredibly fulfilling for me. Even within Taito I’m known as a huge Space Invaders
fan, and when I was asked to design a new Space Invaders
game as a part of last year’s 30th anniversary celebration I accepted the project with absolutely no hesitation.
The original Space Invaders
was truly a revolutionary game, one that launched the shooter genre. In fact, the Space Invaders
characters themselves are some of the most recognized icons in gaming as a whole.
Even so, as a thirty-year-old game, I suspect that many in the younger generation don’t know much about the game. (Although, to tell the truth, I'm too young to have experienced the original Space Invaders
boom first-hand, either.)
I wanted to introduce Space Invaders
to these younger gamers, and decided a good way to go about it would be to create a single game that traced the entire evolution of the shooter genre, from the original Space Invaders up to the latest advancements in the genre.
As Space Invaders Infinity Gene
evolves through play, a number of the original arcade game’s notable characteristics and limitations (for example, horizontal movement) are overturned. I was fully aware that some longtime fans might be skeptical of the changes, but I went through with them anyway. However, I’m confident that those who play through the game will recognize that, far from an attempt to break down Space Invaders
, the game was born out of tremendous respect for the original.
You've said it's meant to chart the evolution of the [shooter] genre since Space Invaders. The comparisons to Rez are frequent as the similarities are most distinctive -- the linear aesthetic, propulsive electronic soundtrack, etc -- but what are some other shooters that very directly influenced the game?
Space Invaders Infinity Gene
was influenced by every
shooting game. I’ve loved the genre ever since I was a little kid, and I’ve played almost every shooter ever released.
I’m not particularly good at them, though.
What about the difficulties of developing a shooter for the iPhone? It's something that arguably hadn't been done properly up until Infinity Gene.
I think every developer is struggling with the same issues. Primary among them is how to handle the controls without physical buttons. This problem certainly isn’t limited to the shooter genre, but it’s vital that players have full control over their ship/character. Developers can come up with all sorts of interesting enemies and stages, but if the controls are weak players are unable to cope with the in-game challenges, and the game tends to fail.
We arrived at the system used in Space Invaders Infinity Gene
after exhaustive experiments with a variety of control schemes.
Have you been pleased with the game's reception so far?
I was confident about the quality of the game’s content, but I wasn’t sure if the retro-futuristic concept and minimalist design would be accepted and appreciated by the gaming public. As I mentioned earlier, I was also concerned that some would feel that Infinity Gene
had strayed too far from the original, that it was no longer a Space Invaders
It appears those fears were exaggerated, however. Seeing how positively the game has been received by gamers from around the world has been incredibly gratifying and moving. I’m overjoyed, pure and simple!
As Apple doesn't allow you to "directly interact" with your music library, what data do you use to generate the music stages?
I’ll leave that a secret, as revealing the inner workings spoils some of the fun. Try a wide variety of songs and enjoy the unpredictable results!
Any tracks you'd recommend?
I like songs by Underworld, especially “Pearl’s Girl.”
My preference is partly because I’m a huge Underworld fan, but I also think that their cool, speedy feel meshes perfectly with the game.
Where do the Space Invaders have left to go now that they've "evolved"?
With Space Invaders Infinity Gene
we’ve turned some of the fans’ Space Invaders
expectations on their head, in a good way. With future releases we hope to continue to honor and preserve the original Space Invaders
while not being slavishly bound by it. I’m confident we’ll be able to deliver fresh and exciting Space Invaders