Behind the Story

12/26/2021
DODONPACHI DAI-OU-JOU
:: 怒首領蜂大往生
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  • fufufu
  • Why do I play (shoot-‘em-ups)? It’s a philosophy. I don't know why I do it.
  • // Chapter 1
  • “I thought, ‘Wow, this is really cool.’ I wanted to try it myself. That was the beginning. I heard people are divided into two groups: those who see the game and think it's impossible, and those who see it and want to mimic the player they’re watching. A lot of people say that (laughs).”

    When he was in high school, a game-obsessed friend of his told him about the home console version of DoDonPachi DaiOuJou. They watched some videos on the game’s official website and pack-in DVD. That was how fufufu began playing shoot-‘em-ups; “superplay” footage was his gateway to the genre. Oddly enough, this was the same catalyst as that of his opponent, SPS. There are two types of people in the world. Those who play shoot-‘em-ups, and those who don’t. These men are the former.

    Having only played the Famicom [NES] version of Gradius, fufufu had no preconceived notions about the genre. He “happened to be a fan of the music from Ketsui (Ketsui: Kizuna Jigoku Tachi),” and that led him to start playing it on occasion. Compared to the tremendous dedication to the genre he would show later, he was still just playing around at this point. There was no deeper connection.

    Before coming to Tokyo, the primary focus of fufufu’s attention at the arcades of Tohoku were rhythm games. He was hooked on beatmania IIDX.

    “I played a lot of rhythm games. I guess I worked pretty hard at it. In terms of my ability to simply clear hard songs and not going by score, I think I was probably the best in my prefecture.” He says the game was “too weird” at the high level to brag about very much, but he could at least let other fanatics know he was into it.

    When fufufu moved to Tokyo for college and settled in Tachikawa, he chose "Tachikawa Oslo No. 2" as his home arcade, where he enjoyed his life as a rhythm gamer.

    “The first place I checked out was (Tachikawa Oslo) No. 5, but that was a well known spot, and therefore crowded. Nowadays I think every place charges the same price, but back then No. 5 was inexpensive and had good settings. Meanwhile No. 2 was still an unknown hole-in-the-wall kind of place, and it had the same settings.”

    To a college student, nice arcades with low prices and good settings are precious, but this was also the most popular game of its time. He couldn’t just play as much as he wanted.

    “I don’t remember it very clearly, but I think I was kind of getting the urge to play (something new). I remembered that there were video games at No. 2. When I looked around, I found a lot of arcade cabinets in the back, including Ketsui, which I used to play.

    Until then, Oslo No. 2 had merely been a spot for fufufu to play his rhythm games and quickly take his leave. He had no eyes for other games. He hadn’t touched a shoot-‘em-up in about a year, but little by little he began trying them out, to kill time while waiting for his turn on the rhythm games.

    “When you’re new to a genre, it’s very stimulating. That was certainly part of it… I’d try them each out one by one while also continuing to play Ketsui. Cave made a lot of games that end after a single loop, so I’d try one out here and there while also working towards clearing Ketsui.”

    By then, shoot-‘em-ups were already a genre where you couldn’t take new releases for granted. But there was no shortage of great, famous, and satisfying titles still set up at arcades. Oslo No. 2 was particularly well known for its shoot-‘em-up selection.

    “A little after clearing Ketsui, I started playing a lot of Mushihimesama Futari. In terms of clearing the game, it’s at least as hard as DaiOuJou, if not harder. I played it for a long time… Next thing I knew, I was spending more time on shooters than on rhythm games.
  • // Chapter 2
  • fufufu had begun to take a serious interest in shooters. It was a natural progression, then, that he would eventually land on DoDonPachi DaiOuJou, a game he had pondered playing in the past.

    “It took me about eight months before I could clear the game… I went there every day that I could. I’m pretty sure about that. I also pretty much never slept on practicing at home. At the arcade, there were restrictions on the game’s second loop depending on how many lives you had left.”

    He spent his days immersed in DaiOuJou both at the arcade and at home, referencing other people’s gameplay videos while making his own improvements through trial and error. In this way, he went on playing the game in solitude.

    “I think it was unquestionably more fun to play on a cabinet at the arcade. I think I was eager to get my personal best score up there.”

    The difficulty is staggering. Considering the cost of playing and the effort it takes to commute to the arcade, it would make sense to only play the home console version until reaching a certain skill level. But no matter how well made, the home version is strictly for practice. To score attackers like fufufu, the “real” version found only in arcades is something else entirely.

    This is probably not just a matter of differing hardware. It’s not as if placing an arcade cabinet in your house would make all the difference. It’s about the actual space of the arcade setting.

    For fufufu, who’s the type of person to plug away at a game in solitude, it was good timing.

    “Luckily, when I was frequenting to Oslo No. 2, there weren’t a lot of people playing shooters.”

    Oslo Tachikawa No. 2 was considered hallowed ground for shooting games. Even there, shooting games had become the exclusive domain of fanatics. But because of this, he was able to "sneak in at the right time and take up occupancy.”

    “I guess the staff were probably thinking, ‘He’s playing Cave shooters now?’ (laughs)”

    After a while, fufufu's visits to the arcade became more social. As he continued to play in silence, some like-minded people began to come up to him and say hello. As the number of familiar faces gradually increased, he began to punch the control panel or shout whenever he made a frustrating mistake.

    “Of course it’s considered unacceptable behavior, as a rule of etiquette. When I was on my own, I think I was somewhat nervous. I think I loosened up once I started meeting people.”

    It was nothing to compliment, but it did go to show just how much Oslo No. 2 had become a place where he could relax. It wasn’t just about exchanging information on techniques or competing for scores with other players; these were friends with whom he’d find himself gathered around a restaurant table, shooting the breeze. Shoot-‘em-ups were the catalyst for social networking.
  • // Chapter 3
  • “I simply like the feeling of high speed.”

    For fufufu, the fun of shooting games lies in the sense of speed. “I don't think there are many people who don't enjoy getting into a rhythm," he says, which is exactly why he enjoyed playing beatmania IIDX.

    "Mushihimesama Futari Ver. 1.5 Ultra Mode" is still really fun to play. It's extremely difficult, and even if you mess up, the difficulty level doesn't change that much. It stays difficult, so it never slows down.”

    The more you progress without making mistakes, the higher the difficulty level rises; the more mistakes you make, the lower the difficulty level becomes. This is a common way for shoot-‘em-ups to balance their difficulty. It’s a way to provide some relief to the player, but the downside is that lower difficulty means a reduced sense of speed.

    "Even in games that I used to think had a good tempo, as my skill increased, the fast-paced gameplay started to look slow. The fun started to wear off.” He became accustomed to the stimulus until he lost any sense of enjoyment. A speed addict, or worse, a “junkie.”

    “…so I guess the games that aren’t fun for me are ones with a sense of speed that’s below my threshold. I complain about DaiOuJou’s difficulty all the time, but honestly, if it were any easier that would be a problem too (laughs).”

    DoDonPachi DaiOuJou is one of the most extreme shooting games of all time. How much practice and time would it take to be able to get any amount of enjoyment out of its difficulty? It's a daunting thought.

    The fact that there are so many factors to consider when it comes to scoring is also an essential element for fufufu.

    “I like to have a lot of elements to think about in terms of the scoring system. This might disgust some people, but that's why I have no interest in the old style of games where they just added up how many points you got for killing enemy ships.”

    To figure out the title-specific scoring system and seek out the optimal route. Is there a path no one else has thought of? Isn’t this other method also viable? Like a mountain climber searching for an unknown route, you have to think it through and carve out a path no one has ever imagined. This process is one of the most exciting aspects of shooters for fufufu.

    Gan: “What’s amazing about fufufu is that he calculates theoretical point values incredibly quickly. Plus he has the ability to connect them. He comes up with new ideas on his own. He’s also startlingly quick at switching play styles, throwing out everything he’s done before.”

    The above quote comes from Gan, a shoot-‘em-up player familiar with both fufufu and SPS. He appears in the Kemonomichi 4 promotional trailers. According to him, fufufu’s high score in Mushihimesama Futari Ver1.5 Ultra Mode is legendary. The game’s score counter maxes out at 3,999,999,999 points (four billion minus one). The existing high score at the time was a bit over 3,600,000,000 points, and fufufu was the first to max out the counter. It was a score “the development team hadn’t anticipated.”

    Gan: “With that game, no one had any goal in sight. The game is brutal. fufufu isn’t one to hide, so he immediately released the video and shocked the top players, and that was the end of the high score war.”

    In the early days of 2012’s DoDonPachi SaiDaiOuJou, he once again discovered unexpected scoring potential. He was able to hammer out a score of 200 billion points, far in excess of the going theoretical maximum of 30 billion.

    Gan and SPS are the same age. fufufu is a generation younger. There are many capable players in the same age group as him at around thirty-five years old, but among them, fufufu is “on another level.”

    Gan: “In the generation below me and SPS, there is no one who can beat him in terms of creativity. There are lots of skilled kids out there, but he always breaks away from the flock right at the start. Even Yusemi in his prime would have had to bow down to him. The only thing is, he gets bored easily. He’ll go, ‘Okay, I’m done.’ (laughs).” When he gets an idea, he acts immediately, but if he gets bored he quickly moves on.

    “There are so many games where anyone can just watch an uploaded gameplay video and copy what that player does.” fufufu explains that he doesn’t like games with no thrill of strategy, but if you can land a high score simply by knowing a strategy, that’s no better. Games where anyone can do the same thing by simply memorizing the patterns. He doesn’t see the draw in games that don’t challenge your ability to improvise. This is one of the reasons he’s not shy about releasing his own gameplay videos.

    “I didn’t want my scores to be topped by someone who can’t improvise. Thus, I never wanted to hide my own gameplay methods.”

    He shows his entire hand. Despite possessing an exemplary ability to construct patterns and ideas for high scores, he doesn’t seem to lean on them. Go ahead and copy him, if you can. fufufu’s strong self-esteem comes through here.
  • // Chapter 4
  • Kemonomichi 4 will include a side-by-side competition between fufufu and SPS. The standard rule for high score submissions is to “compete for score while prioritizing survival.”

    “This competition isn’t about score. Frankly, whoever clears the game will win, but…”
    DoDonPachi DaiOuJou is a game that both fufufu and SPS have less than a fifty percent chance of clearing in a single try. Neither player has a high chance of clearing the game. Thus, it is an entirely rational determination that victory will be all but guaranteed if one of the players manages to clear it.

    “The going strategy for Hibachi’s final form is to spend your own lives, use the invincibility period during respawns to stick closely to the boss, and repeat.”

    Hibachi ranks among the most powerful bosses in shooter history. They say it takes “dumb luck to survive for longer than five seconds.” Given this intense difficulty, it’s no wonder the common strategy is what it is. This also means that the number of lives a player has remaining when the fight starts has a direct impact on their chances of successfully clearing the game.

    “If you have three lives left, you can use a pattern where you don’t have to dodge at all. But I don’t do that… I mean, it’s just no fun (laughs).”

    A major competition like this, and he’s thinking about “fun”? There must be more to this than it sounds.

    “Of course I’m going to prioritize clearing the game, but well, I have to draw a line. There are certain things I definitely want to pull off. One of those is in the Hibachi fight (laughs). For what it’s worth, even the pattern where you kill him by burning three lives has its downsides. If you mess up once, you lose almost a hundred percent of your resources.”

    Even the “no dodging” pattern isn’t infallible. If you fail, you can’t recover. On the other hand, you also can’t clear the encounter with only two lives to burn.

    “If you want to beat him within two mistakes, you have to avoid one of Hibachi’s attacks. Back when I was going for the high score, I was able to avoid about eighty percent of them. Considering my successful evasion rate, it gave me a higher chance of clearing the encounter than when I was using the ‘spend three lives’ pattern. When I weighed that against my own skill level the benefits of doing it this way were definitely greater.”

    It’s a way of playing only he can pull off. If he doesn’t try it now, all his hard work up to now would have been meaningless. The pride he takes in his craft is clear to see.

    “Of course, on the day of the event I might freak out and get hit. There’s no telling what state I’ll be in that day (laughs).

    “When it comes to DaiOujou, it’s really the game itself you have to beat. It comes down to how far DaiOuJou will forgive me for my past transgressions (laughs).”

    This is a title where fufufu still makes mistakes against early bosses. His feeling that luck is also important may be quite natural. He laughs at his weakness in this regard, saying that his "poor daily routine" is to blame. When it comes to shooting games, fufufu is honest and doesn’t mince words. He is sincere about shooting games, and when he speaks his mind honestly, some people may feel provoked or criticized.

    These seem to be the daily “transgressions” he speaks of. There’s no telling how much "forgiveness" he'll get on the day of the showdown, but if it's any reflection of how serious his devotion is, it shouldn't be surprising if DaiOuJou shows him a bit of mercy.
  • // Chapter 5
  • “…You’re better off not playing it. If you have something else you like doing, I’d definitely tell you to do that instead. If you think about it, it’s really not fun (laughs).”

    A hard game to recommend. fufufu unreservedly explains that this is what the shoot-‘em-up genre is all about. You have few like-minded peers and no public attention, yet the difficulty is staggering. Monetization is a pipe dream. In the first place, there hasn't been a new title released in arcades to attract players for a long time. It’s a genre with little reason to pursue other than simply for enjoyment’s sake. In that sense, today's shoot-‘em-up players may be the “ultimate amateurs.” But the shmup scene is one only amateurs could have created. The general assumption is that the skill level of professionals is higher than that of amateurs. The monetized professional environment attracts talent, and competition raises the overall skill floor for that genre. In order to survive the fierce competition, you have to keep yourself up to date, whether you like it or not. This is plain to see in the unprecedented skill level of modern esports fighting games.

    But while event organizer Umehara has a positive view of the pro environment for helping improve his own skill level, he says the following.

    Umehara: “You’ve got to stream, and whenever there’s a tournament you’ve got to shift your focus the challenge at hand. It’s definitely something to be grateful for, and I am, but it’s not a lifestyle where you can focus singularly on being strong. There are times when I feel that dilemma.”

    When it comes to mastering the art, amateurs have their own strengths. And considering one of the missions of Kemonomichi is to see these people break through to the next level, the choice of the shooting game genre is a good one.

    Umehara: “In a way, I feel like it’s a chance for people in a similar situation to the one I was in. In my day, Daisuke Matsuzaka got a lot of attention and he was the same age as me. Even within the fighting game scene, Virtua Fighter was more well received during its boom. I wasn’t the type of person to let it bring me down, but that’s not to say it didn’t bother me that my game was treated differently. So these people (shoot-‘em-up players) who have kept going in that environment are sure to be incredibly passionate. I sympathize with and respect that.”

    Shooters also hold appeal as a spectator event. Umehara sees great potential there.

    Umehara: “Usually they auto-scroll, right? So even if you just sit there, the enemies keep coming at you. I thought it would be a little boring to show a score attack in a game with manual scrolling. As far as single-player games go, I think this is the most entertaining genre to watch.”

    Intercepting the enemy with your finely honed skills as they stream in and attack, whether you like it or not. It creates a sense of tension and exhilaration. The fact that this makes for great entertainment, not only for the players but also for viewers, is something that was already proven with Battle Garegga at Kemonomichi 3. A DoDonPachi DaiOuJou face-off between two great amateurs is sure to be a valuable viewing experience.
  • // Chapter 6
  • “Why do I play (shoot-‘em-ups)? It’s a philosophy. I don't know why I do it. Honestly…I think it's just that I didn't know any other fun games when I first started playing them (laughs).”

    fufufu seems to be trying to figure that out himself. “I was just a stupid kid who didn’t know any other entertainment,” he adds with a grin. What a remark. It's a terrible thing to be told. I couldn't help but laugh as I listened.

    But no one who seriously felt that way would have come this far. This is the kind of talk reserved for those who have made it to a lofty realm out of reach for most. The tone of fufufu's voice is light, as if he is mocking himself. There is no hint of regret. He laughs and says acceptingly, "It is what it is.” This is his way of expressing himself.

    “Ow-ow-ow, ow-ow-ow, you’re so cruel. What did I ever do to you? Is it so wrong to have fallen for you?”

    *From Mount Kachi-Kachi, Osamu Dazai, Aozora Bunko

    He fell in love with the worst of the worst. But is there such a thing as logic in matters of the heart? Unfortunately, this is one thing that can’t be helped. Yes, it’s your own fault if you fall in love.
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  • // Other Story
  • ・SUPER STREET FIGHTER 2X :: Kotaka Shoten.

    ・SUPER STREET FIGHTER 2X :: Yuvega

    ・DODONPACHI DAI-OU-JOU :: fufufu

    ・DODONPACHI DAI-OU-JOU :: SPS

    ・PUYO PUYO TETRIS :: kazu

    ・PUYO PUYO TETRIS :: Amemiya Taiyou

    ・STREET FIGHTER 5 :: Kawano

    ・STREET FIGHTER 5 :: Tokido