Cave Festival Report
The masters of the shmup bring out their finest for an Akihabara fan event.
I spent a few hours at the Cave Festival in Akihabara's UDX building on Saturday. Cave had much to offer for fans of the shoot-em-up genre.
Among the points of note was a goods booth selling t-shirts, posters, books and other Cave-related product (including a flask labeled "Wyndia's Dark Urine". -- it seemed to be selling briskly). Attendees also had access to iPad, iPhone, arcade and Xbox 360 kiosks demoing the various upcoming titles, including DoDonPachi Resurrection (iPhone, iPad touch and iPad), Guwange (Xbox 360) and a special "Version 1.51" rev of the Resurrection arcade cabinet.
Cave went all out to welcome fans. One wall of the event hall was lined with fan art. Cave staff had their faces painted in an attempt to look like zombies.
Typical of events like these, there were pretty women donning costumes that resemble the characters in Cave's games The audience was almost entirely male, as expected. Most, if not all the females were working for the event in costume.
Of the playable games, I only managed to play DoDonPachi Resurrection's iPhone version demo. It was running on an iPhone 4, so I got a taste of how the vertical shooter runs on the most powerful iPhone hardware released so far. Cave has also said that the 3GS will run the game, but nothing before that is powerful enough to handle it. There was also an iPad version kiosk demoing the game, although as far as I'm aware, the two versions are identical (it's possible the iPad version may have been the iPhone app blown up for the iPad screen, although I couldn't confirm for myself).
Being a bit unfamiliar with the shmup genre, I first opted for the game's iPhone Mode under the assumption that the iPhone's touch screen is probably not the optimal way to play a game that requires a joystick and buttons. From what I could tell, iPhone mode works well for new players to the genre. You place your finger on your ship (you can choose between 3 types that have different attack capabilities) and control it by moving your finger across the screen, avoiding damage by maneuvering between lasers, and forming attack combos with your weapon arsenal. That arsenal includes lasers and bombs which you can acquire during play.
Of course, there is a mothership boss at the end. The levels aren't terribly long and I was able to continue after dying twice, which indicates to me that Cave is attempting to make the game fit the iPhone mold of gaming better; that is, it appears to be good for new players and people using their iPhone to pass the time during a commute. That said, I'm sure vertical shooter fans will enjoy the mode as well, since it's got some new aspects not in the arcade original.
Arcade Mode was also available, and a Cave representative informed me that this mode is closer to the original game. I found this one more difficult, and I died quickly due to my lack of skill. Regardless, both modes were entertaining. The vertical shooter genre is, perhaps surprisingly, a good match for the iPhone's buttonless gaming.
Visually, Dodonpachi Daifukkatsu makes good use of the iPhone's capabilities, and runs very smoothly. I did not notice any slowdown or framerate issues during the hectic gameplay segments. I'm not sure if playing the game on an iPhone 4 and its high resolution retina display screen affects the visuals versus running it on a 3GS or iPod touch with the lower resolution screen, but the visuals were very detailed. Cave didn't provide any headphones with the kiosks, so I can't give much opinion on the sound quality.
Cave held two afternoon stage shows at the event. First was "Wasshoi 5.5 Shuume," a live super play shooting session featuring "Kamiwaza" (Miracle) players KTL-NAL on Mushisama Futari and Oroshi on Death Smiles Mega Black Label. These two are so advanced that Cave was actually selling DVDs showing their play.
The second stage event came after Cave had closed off the demo units. Famitsu.com held a live airing of its Midnight Live 360 webcast. The session was hosted by the usual 360 Saikou! Blog host Jamzy and Famitsu Xbox 360 editor-in-chief Munetatsu Matsui. Joining them was Cave head of development Makoto Asada.
The broadcast was split into multiple segments, starting with the juiciest: a set of announcements about upcoming shooting support from Cave and other parties. We provided a live blog of the proceedings here. Famitsu.com has since delivered a more complete report. To recap our own report and some of the additional details at Famitsu.com, here's some of what was announced:
Radilgy Noah Massive
The first game detailed during the stage was actually not from Cave. Milestone's Yuki Matsuoka appeared to show off Radilgy Neo Massive, a previously announced arcade-to-360 port.
Joining a standard arcade mode, the 360 version features new Classic Mode, Massive Mode and Death Mode options. Massive Mode is a two minute score challenge that some might compare to the classic "Caravan" shooting event. In Death Mode, you're invincible, but the game ends if you let too many enemies flee off the screen (they're actually said to be doing damage to your base).
This retail Xbox 360 shooter will arrive on October 28 at ¥7,140.
Asada took over for this next showcase. Guwange was first announced for Xbox Live Arcade release at February's Xbox 360 Shoooooting Festa shooting event. Here, Asada demonstrated a new Xbox 360 mode that lets you control your ship's "Shikigami" satellite separately. Yes, the game keeps your ship firing automatically when you play this way.
As if controlling two ships doesn't seem wild enough, Asada also showed a sequence depicting a five-way split screen view of the action. No, Guwange doesn't have five player support. Apparently, the five screens show the action at different speeds. You normally play from the left-most screen. The other screens can be used, for instance, to see the state of things when you ship gets blown up. We're going to have to definitely check this system out for ourselves!
Asada said to expect Guwange around September or October, priced at 800 Microsoft Points. Apparently, the only thing holding it back is ratings checks in two or three countries.
The big surprise of the event. Resurrection, known in Japanese as DoDonPachi Daifukkatsu, is the May 2008 arcade sequel to DoDonPachi Daijouou, which hit Xbox 360 through 5pb. with some pretty terrible results. This is the same "Resurrection" whose iPhone port was available for free play. For the Xbox 360 port, Asada showed off a live demonstration, but attendees did not get a try.
The 360 version of Resurrection will feature a switch up to HD visuals along with two arranged modes. One of these has the enemies switch their attack style based off how you play. The other mode is being kept secret for now.
In typical Cave fashion, although Resurrection was just announced, it already has a final release date. Standard and limited versions will be released on November 25, priced at respectively ¥7,140 and ¥9,240. The limited edition includes and arranged soundtrack CD. Both versions include, as a pre-order bonus, a download content card that lets you update the game to the special event-only Version 1.51 version of the arcade game that was on display on the event floor.
Pink Sweets & Muchi Muchi Pork
The other big surprise of the event. Pink Sweets is a vertical scrolling shooting game that first hit arcades in 2006. Muchi Muchi Prok is a vertical scrolling shooter that first hit arcades in 2007. They'll be combined as one for retail Xbox 360 release in Spring 2011.
It's unclear what changes we can expect for the game. Asada said the visuals will remain SD, but also promised arranged modes.
The images you see here are all from the arcade version, but were distributed by Cave to the press.
The other other big surprise of the event. Cave will be porting over its 1998 vertical shooting classic Dangun Feveron to home consoles. Which consoles? That's the big question. While Asada demoed the game live using an Xbox 360 controller, he clarified that the reason the 360 controller was being used is because the game is running on a PC. This didn't stop fans from cheering at the sight of the controller, though! The game will be a download release, Famitsu.com reports, but its release time frame is not set.
The screens you see here are from the arcade version.
While I personally wasn't familiar with much of what was announced, the fans in the audience were clearly happy. I could hear one person behind me express shock, disbelief and excitement at the announcement of the Pink Sweets and Muchi Muchi Pork bundle pack.
Following the announcements, the Midnight Live airing continued to two special segments that surely pleased the fans in attendance. First up came a "day-in-the-life-of" look at Asada's work day. Cameras followed Asada around the Cave office as he worked (actually, as he played Peggle on iPad).
The second event was a mock (?) shooting design meeting. Asada was joined by key staffers from Milestone, Gulti and Triangle Service to discuss planning for a new shooter. They made decisions about scroll type (vertical or horizontal), button count, genre (military or moe), enemy attack style (bullet hell style or not), the need for bombs, and platform (arcade or console).
Visit the Famitsu.com report for the results of the dialogue. We weren't allowed to take pictures during the live recording session, so you'll also need to see Famitsu.com for a close look at all the people.
Overall, the festival seemed like a perfect way to celebrate Cave's games. Even as an outsider to this fandom, I had a good time trying out DoDonPachi Resurrection. There were plenty of interesting things to see, and the announcements were made in an environment that allowed the fans, who had come from all over Japan, to truly enjoy the thrill of having the games in their favorite genre announced right in front of them
It was also notable that many of the announced product was for Xbox 360, which, here in Japan, is considered a platform for more hardcore gamers, so I appreciate Cave reaching out to fans the way it did here. The event signifies that Cave cares for its fans. Being a Cave has its rewards, especially if you also own an Xbox 360.
[Additional reporting by Anoop Gantayat]