4/28/00 Dreamcast Magazine Shinya Nishigaki and Hirokazu Kojima Illbleed Interview Translation

[Translator's note: The following interview was taken from pgs. 64-66 of the April 28, 2000 issue of Dreamcast Magazine. A scan of this article (and, indeed, the entire magazine) is available at segaretro.org.]

Just before the latest Tokyo Game Show, Sega's "hidden gem" Illbleed was suddenly announced. The material on the title released for gaming magazines bills Illbleed as "the world's first haunted house game!" The game's genre poses many questions: just what kind of game is this?
Illbleed was created by Climax Graphics, the studio behind the rousing action-adventure title Blue Stinger, which made extensive use of cinematic techniques. The game featured sensational action scenes, puzzles that toyed with players - and a pervasive smorgasbord of explosive nonsense "catering to dumbasses" at every turn. Does Illbleed carry on that tradition? We held an urgent interview with the supreme commander of the game, Climax Graphics president Shinya Nishigaki, and Sega Enterprises producer Hirokazu Kojima to get some answers.

What is a "haunted house game"?

- Illbleed has been called "Sega's hidden gem." It really was announced out of the blue.

Nishigaki: Everyone who's visited our homepage has been getting excited, saying on the bulletin boards that "it looks like they're announcing something on March 25," talking about how we've gotta be up to something. We're sorry for announcing it on our webpage before we even told you guys at Dreamcast Magazine. (laughs) But we wanted everyone to see the details in a publication like Dreamcast Magazine, so we started by announcing just the title and genre.

- On the Sega BBS, too, there seems to have been a big response, with people asking, "What is a 'haunted house game'?".

Nishigaki: We've had a lot of people access our homepage, too! So as our initial hook, we think it's gotten us off to a pretty good start.

- That aside, "haunted house game" is a pretty cool name for a genre.

Nishigaki: With this game, when we're asked "what's the name of your genre?", for the time being, we're saying "virtual horror land," but "haunted house game" naturally rolls off the tongue more easily! "Horror land" has a special meaning, though, since the stages are really big! The game will take over 10 hours to complete. So to explain the "haunted house game" concept simply, it's a game where you can enjoy exploring the world's longest haunted house!

- But how was it that you decided to take a "haunted house" theme as your inspiration?

Nishigaki: First, the only thing we didn't do with Blue Stinger was horror. With the trends at the time, there were a lot of titles like Resident Evil in the adventure genre that were dealing with horror themes, so we wanted to set ourselves apart. But there was always that feeling that "if we could do it all over again, we'd want to do something with horror"! Also, one of Blue Stinger's themes was "wit" or "humor" - but there's a huge personal component to that. Because everyone's idea of what's funny is different, you see. But everyone has the same idea of what's scary - you're walking in the middle of the night and bam! someone pops out at you, that's scary. It's universal human psychology, right? We didn't want to leave out the "mass-market entertainment" part from our approach; we decided to take a big-bandwagon approach to "horror" as our theme.
[Note:I believe this is the first time in recorded history that anyone accused Blue Stinger of possessing wit.]

- There're differences in the degree of fright, but everyone is afraid of stuff that's scary. Your approach of trying to create a piece of mass-market entertainment is consistent with your previous game, isn't it?

Nishigaki: Yes, it is! I've always wanted to create "entertainment-oriented" work - things that everyone can enjoy on their weekends or free time. And now, horror titles are becoming all the rage - like with The Ring and Rasen. And there's now a renaissance in horror movies that began with Scream. It's like we're in the middle of the second coming of the '80s horror boom that gave us movies like Friday the 13th - a new generation of horror.

- Horror certainly is becoming more popular.

Nishigaki: To be honest, we went back and forth over whether we should make a sequel to Blue Stinger, but, of course, we ultimately decided to go with something original, and make it horror. And so, everyone attended a camp together, held discussions, and the conclusion we came to was: "We knew it: horror is TOUGH!". Tackling such a well-worn theme made it all the more difficult to bring something new to the table. So we researched stuff like human psychology and approaches to horror. We would start watching horror movies in the middle of the morning; we'd go around to see haunted houses... For example, we'd go, what about the Super Scary Labyrinth of Fear at Fuji-Q Highland [amusement park] - isn't that a haunted house; what about that? Around summer of last year, our staff got to talking about "what would a haunted house that took 45 whole minutes to go through be like?", and so we went. Six men, together. (laughs) And it was really, really scary. After that, we got the idea to create a haunted house incorporating all the tricks of the '80s horror movie trade - one that could be experienced through a game.
[Note: "Super Scary Labyrinth of Fear" is the English name given to the Fuji-Q Highland attraction; it doesn't mesh with the attraction's Japanese name, which translates to something like the "Condemned Ward of Terror." There is an attraction called the "Bloodthirsty Ward" within the Labyrinth, but the "Labyrinth of Fear" is the English name given to the "world's longest haunted house." You guys figure it out.]

We've got it all in this game!

Kojima: I have to wonder if the nature of games that sell hasn't been changing recently. In other words, I feel that we might all be getting tired of the same old games. Right now, the games that are selling are offering material that is extremely new. Illbleed also starts out as a "horror adventure," but there are so many of those games, aren't there? That's why something we're creating something new that sets itself apart from them - in other words, a "haunted house game"!

Nishigaki: Ultimately, while other titles have haunted-house elements, we decided to take it the next level. In other words, we decided to create a game that was an adventure set in this ultimate haunted house that cost 55 billion yen to build - something that could never exist in real life.

- In a game, you can create as elaborate a haunted house as you like, right?

Nishigaki: Because your budget can be as large as you like! In the game, I mean. (laughs) The traps are awesome, too.

Kojima: With rooms that can move at 150 km/hr and stuff. (laughs)

Nishigaki: We have a lot of traps like that in the game that couldn't possibly exist in reality. But we did do a good deal of research on actual haunted houses and did use them as a reference! For example, haunted houses are dark, but you can kind of make out your surroundings, right? And since you can see, you can spot places that look suspicious - you think, "it looks like something's gonna come from over there." When it does happen like you expected, you think, "Whoa, I knew it!" - and when nothing happens, you let out a sigh of relief! We studied the psychology of haunted houses and how they let you savor that sort of anticipation. I think we did a good job of flowcharting that process to create our game system.

- That's awesome! So you really did create the system from scratch?

Nishigaki: It's not as simple as setting Blue Stinger in a haunted house! Of course, we incorporated the know-how we gleaned from working on Blue Stinger and the "catering to dumbasses" atmosphere, but the system had to be made totally from scratch.

A game system created from the ground up

Kojima: For example, when people are scared, their heart rate goes up, right? That's how it is in the game, too - if you see too many shock events, your heart will start racing, and you'll faint or die of shock.

Nishigaki: Also, the secretion of adrenaline sharpens our senses - but we have only so much adrenaline.

Kojima: The game features an item called a "Horror Monitor"; one of the objects of the game is to use it effectively to detect the traps that are hidden all around you. So if something is suspicious, or if you think that it looks like a monster is going to appear from somewhere, you can look for a hint on the "four-senses sensor" on the upper part of the screen. However, you need adrenaline to use the Horror Monitor.

Nishigaki: In RPG terms, it's like MP. So when you use the Horror Monitor, it makes it easier to progress, but later on in the game, you can run out of adrenaline, and the game becomes a test of fortitude. Also, we used motion capture to portray characters who are panicking or about to die with we call a "weak-in-the-knees motion." Of course, just like with horror movies, you can also enjoy looking at the girls in the cast when they're frightened, right?

- Naturally, if you're panicking, it hampers you gameplaywise, right?

Nishigaki: It does. If you're scared, you won't be able to stand up out of fright, but if you anticipate enemy encounters, that won't happen. If you do a great job of engaging the enemy, you get more of a sense of catharsis than you do in Blue Stinger.

Kojima: So there are indeed weapons that appear and whatnot.

Nishigaki: When you're surprised by a ghost or monster in a haunted house, you get angry, don't you? You want to kill it, don't you? Well, here, you can. (laughs) But you can't kill everything; you also have to deal with the terrifying prospect that if you're surprised, the monster might kill you.

Kojima: Even if you die, though, if you have life insurance, you'll come back to life.

- So complicated! (laughs)

Nishigaki: If you're bleeding, you'll be OK if you get a transfusion, you know - but if you don't know your blood type, it's a big problem. There are a lot of systems like that. There's also an element of puzzle-solving. Each stage has a particular objective: you have to solve the mystery of the grudge of someone who was murdered hundreds of years ago, or a soldier who went missing and was killed in action - figure out why they're attacking people. But because it's a game from Climax, there's just a continuous parade of utter mixed-up nonsense that occurs. (laughs) In Blue Stinger, you piss, you change into Santa Claus, etc., right? There's just a steady stream of stuff like that.
[Note: The allusions to life insurance and transfusions refer to systems that were excised from the final game; references to them, however, can be found in UI elements on the game disk.]

- In Blue Stinger, there was a lot of concern voiced about the "changing camera perspective." What about this game?

Nishigaki: Much was said about the camera perspectives; they were improved for Blue Stinger's overseas release - so that the player could choose the perspective used. I don't know what we'll be going with for this game, but there'll be no stress when it comes to the camera. We've learned a lot from all of you.

- Ahh, we're almost out of time. For our final question, do you have any words for our readers? If you do, make it quick! (laughs)

Kojima: Well, in any case, we have a lot of traps waiting for you. We have a lot of promotional events in mind for the game, too.

- You're gonna build a Real-Life Illbleed in an actual amusement park or something? Right next to Joypolis [a Japanese amusement park chain].

Kojima: That'd be interesting! (laughs) But honestly, I think this will be a really scary, fun game, and I hope everyone's looking forward to it.

Nishigaki: No one dies in real haunted houses, of course! But in Illbleed, there's the sense that people really do die if they're attacked by creatures, and the fear that you might die if you're ambushed by the traps. Normally, such a haunted house would cost too much money and could never be built, but in a video game, you can be as extravagant as you like, right? So you see, we have a 55 billion-yen budget! (laughs)

[Captions on article photos:]

Illbleed's mascot Dummyman: Dummyman is the Mickey Mouse of Illbleed. He sometimes attacks visitors as an enemy - ironic, considering that he also gives them a warm welcome after the end of a stage!

Blue Stinger: Climax Graphics' debut title. An action-adventure set in the near future, the game was renowned for sensational action scenes that made extensive use of cinematic techniques and a smorgasbord of nonsense "catering to dumbasses."

Climax Graphics Home Page: Illbleed's title and genre were first announced on Climax Graphics' official site. The Illbleed promo video shown at the Tokyo Game Show can also currently be downloaded here (but only by PCs). http://www.cgstudio.co.jp

Kemco's late-era Famicom titles: The concept of "the fear of being killed by monsters" as depicted in Illbleed is said to be strongly influenced by Western games such as The Uninvited and Déjà Vu released by Kemco in the waning days of the 8-bit era.

Shinya Nishigaki (Climax Graphics): President & CEO of Climax Graphics. Broke away from Climax to found Climax Graphics. Known for Blue Stinger. Also renowned for his extensive knowledge of Hollywood movies.

Hiroaki Kojima (Sega Enterprises): Producer with Sega Enterprises. Has previously worked on NFL2K, NBA2K, Ready 2 Rumble Boxing, and more. Not directly involved with Illbleed but is supporting Nishigaki from behind the scenes.

Translated by R. Capowski, RACapowski@sceneryrecalled.com, 4/18/2017 (extra caption info added 5/7/2017).

Incidentally, there's a short article on the page following the interview analyzing how Illbleed uses its game mechanics to convey a horror atmosphere, and it includes a couple isolated quotes from Nishigaki and Kojima about the possibility of escaping the park:

Kojima: There are so-called "emergency exits" where visitors who are too scared to stay can give up and leave - but I don't whether or not they'll necessarily be able to actually get out!

Nishigaki: The emergency exits might also be traps. There's a second layer there. Take even Dummyman, who gives the player a warm welcome - you never know when he's going to turn on you. I think that's another intriguing aspect of the game!