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 Post subject: STG Scorer Interview Collection - TAC, LAOS, NAL, MON, etc
PostPosted: Thu Jul 12, 2012 7:22 am 

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In honor of the upcoming 2012 STGT, I decided to translate some interviews with Japanese superplayers. The best materials seem to be found in superplay/doujin dvd booklets and the like (anyone want to scan their stuff for me?) but I did find 3 interesting interviews online. The first is from Famitsu in 2003, around the time of the PS2 DOJ port, and includes LAOS, NAL, and CLOVER-TAC, who were all involved in playtesting DOJ for Arika. They talk about their experience as players and what it takes to get to that level, and they give some STG advice. I only translated the last third of the interview, because I don't think anyone cares that much anymore about the trials and tribulations of the PS2 DOJ port--and its mostly Mihara, the Arika VP, anyway.

Next up are two 2010 interviews from MON, the only player known to have finished DDPDOJ Death Label. In a long interview with 4Gamer he talks about that process, and especially about the importance of planning stage routes (which the Japanese call "patterns", btw). In the second, more concise interview, he talks with a member of the site and lists his other STG achievements as well.

None of this stuff is mindblowing in terms of tips/tricks, but I think it does vindicate the perspective that the main thing for becoming really good at shmups is time, thoughtfully applied. Another theme that continually comes up is "not dodging," or the reduction of stages and bosses to fully memorized routes. This also meshes with the oft-repeated view here that at high level play, "everything is a memorizer." In the future I'd like to add to this interview collection with other player interviews (gamengai has a great SWY-Yusemi one up already), especially from non-Cave games. I'd love to hear some thoughts on world class Raizing scorers. So if you own any of the superplay dvds/books that contain these interviews, please get in touch with me!

My previous shmupforum translations can be found at this thread, but I will also list them below for convenience:

Stella Vanity and Valhellio Developer Interviews
Two M-KAI Interviews (Eschatos, JSS, Cardinal Sins)
Yoshinori Satake - Steel Empire, Over Horizon Interview
Armed Police Batrider Characters/Stages/Bosses translation (w/ NTSC-J)
Basiscape Composers Interview - Shooting Gameside #1
Cave Shooting History Interview Extravaganza!
Doujin Round Table Discussion - Shooting Gameside #1
Mushi HD/Saidaioujou Famitsu Cave Interview
Raizing Interview - Sotoyama Yuuichi and Yokoo Kenichi
Masahiro Yuge - Toaplan interview (Shooting Gameside vol. 4)
Tatsuya Uemura - Toaplan interview (Shooting Gameside vol.4)

2003 Famitsu DDP-DOJ Arika Interview

Haneda: Interviewer
Sasaki: Interviewer
Mihara: Arika Vice-President
LAOS Osada Sennin: 1944, 1943 kai, and Dogyuun! WR
KTL-NAL: Futari BL Maniac and Salamander 2 WR
CLOVER-TAC: ESPrade, Galuda 2, Futari Maniac, and DSMBL WR; Crimson Clover programmer

Haneda: How much do you actually play Dodonpachi Daioujou at Arika?

TAC: From the moment we get to work until closing...

Mihara: From about 10 to 6, pretty much the whole time. Of course there are breaks for lunch and such.

Haneda: So during that time you're staring at the monitor all day, checking each other's performance, then putting up scores?

TAC: I wouldn't quite say "all day"... (laughs)

Haneda: Don't STGs require a lot more concentration than games in other genres? It doesn't seem possible to me to stay focused that long. How is it for you guys?

Mihara: Osada is really amazing. Once he goes into his room, he doesn't come out.

Sasaki: Eh? They each have their own private rooms?

Haneda: What are they doing in there... (laughs)

Mihara: No, no, I didn't mean it that way. (laughs) We can see what they're doing from the image on the screen. When I see that he's died, in the next instant he's started over again. He doesn't take many breaks.

Haneda: Is it like, you don't want to end on a bad note?

LAOS: Yeah. Its always like that though. (laughs) On my days off at the game center I play the same way.

Haneda: Everyday... does it feel like work?

LAOS: It is work, but its also the game I most want to be playing right now. So yeah, its like, I'm not complaining if I get paid for finishing this game. (laughs)

Haneda: That's true. (laughs) Normally... or should I say, now, what kind of other games are you playing concurrently?

TAC: Right now...

Mihara: Ketsui?

Haneda: I think I know what NAL will say. (laughs)

Sasaki: Yeah, I see him playing it at Shibuya all the time. (laughs)

LAOS: I'm playing Ketsui on and off, but basically I'm only focusing on Daioujou, for now.

Haneda: I heard you came to Tokyo to play it. When I saw your name in a book I was interested to see what kind of person you were. (laughs)

LAOS: I'm just a normal guy. (laughs)

Sasaki: (laughs)

Mihara: TAC, are you playing Daioujou mostly, and some Ketsui on the side?

TAC: Ah.. I do want to play Ketsui, but I don't really have time for it now. (laughs)

Haneda: Please give us some tips on how to become better at STGs!

Sasaki: Ah, a good question for beginners. (laughs)

NAL: Well... the main thing, as you might have guessed, is to practice...

Haneda: How many hours and how many credits in a day?

NAL: The more the better, of course. Also you have to memorize the location of enemies and what attacks they do and so forth. As much as possible, you should not be dodging bullets. These are "bullet dodging" games, but you should avoid dodging as much as you can. In short, you shouldn't be trying to pass through the space between the bullets, but rather going around them and avoiding them entirely.

Haneda: Sounds difficult. (laughs)

Mihara: That's deep. (laugh)

[[tr note: the way NAL describes it in Japanese uses some parallel phrasing with "uchigawa" and "sotogawa", and therefore sounds rather sagacious and deep, but this nuance can't quite be conveyed with English grammar]]

Sasaki: Uh... please explain it more simply!

Everyone: (laughs)

NAL: The simple version, as I said, is just to practice.

Haneda: (laughs)

LAOS / TAC: Its exactly as he says.

NAL: Your opponent in a STG is the computer, so in that respect its like a puzzle. So you should memorize it piece by piece... its like you're clearing one step at a time.

Sasaki: So we should use the practice/simulations modes, then?

NAL: Yeah, if you practice each stage, you'll naturally get better.

Sasaki: Hmm.

LAOS: In the end its all about the time you put in.

TAC: The master speaks. (laughs)

Haneda: (laughs)

LAOS: I mean, I first started playing STGs before I started elementary school, or somewhere around then. Its been so long I can't clearly remember when I first started.

Sasaki: Wow.

LAOS: Galaxian was the first game I really got into. And I played games before that, but I don't remember what they were.

Haneda: Its like you were born shooting, you know?

LAOS: I think it was my neighbor, an older kid, who took me to the game centers. I think that was how I got into it. After that, whenever I had free time I played nothing but STGs. I didn't play fighting games or anything else at all. Just STGs, 24/7. So I think that's how I got to be good. So yeah, if you don't put time into it, you won't get better. Its all up to the effort you put in.

Sasaki: Effort, I see...

LAOS: That's right.

Haneda: What direction should that effort take? Simply making time and playing?

NAL: You should be fine as long as you think about each credit you play.

LAOS: Yeah. So you can clear Daioujou, I think, if you work hard at it. Maybe it will take 6 months or a year. (laughs)

Haneda: (laughs)

Sasaki: Practice, practice everyday!

LAOS: That's right. Just play Daioujou whenever you have free time. (laughs) If you do that you should be able to clear it.

Sasaki: In a year?!

LAOS: Yes, definitely. Even for me, when I first reached Hibachi, I laughed and said to my friend, "There's no way I can clear this!" But yeah, after working at it for 3 months, I somehow managed to clear it. So yeah, just know that if you don't play a lot and keep practicing, you won't get better at STG. (laughs)

Haneda: There aren't any secret training techniques? (laughs)

TAC: (laughs) I don't think of these games as "shooting games"... like NAL said, I think they are closest to puzzle games. As a general rule, you're basically always thinking "if this bullet pattern comes, I dodge it like this!" I imagine for people who play versus fighting games its similar, too. Well, actually I don't play fighting games so I don't know, but. (laughs) Also, I agree with what our Master said earlier: "don't try to dodge the bullets." (laughs)

Haneda: Man, that is deep. "Dodge without dodging."

TAC: Good players don't do a lot of dodging. It might look like they are, though.

Haneda: That's because dodging bullets == you're in a dangerous situation, right?

TAC: That's right. There's been times when I've seen someone doing some amazing dodges, and from my perspective I think, "Ah, this person isn't very good." (laughs)

Haneda: I see. But aren't there times when "playing wild" like that feels good?

TAC: Yeah, that's true. There's times when you have to just let go.

Mihara: I saw that on Hibachi. (laughs)

TAC: Yeah! (laughs) You know, I'm thinking about the game even when I'm not playing. If you learn to think about enemy placement in your head, then you can strategize on your own, "maybe I should move here when this happens" and so on.

Haneda: Memorization, right.

TAC: Yeah, its neccessary. As for how to direct your efforts, its important to do things on your own, but you should also watch other players. When I didn't have money I would just watch other players all day. If you just play, I don't think you'll get better. Well, you may, but it will definitely take a lot longer.

Sasaki: So, think while you play.

TAC: That's right.

Haneda: Ah, LAOS said a moment ago that Galaxian was the first STG he really got into. What was everyone's first STG, or first STG you fell in love with? Or your favorite game, or game you have really fond memories of.

NAL: Well, I started STG with the Super Famicom. I played "Dezaemon" on it a lot, the one where you can make your own games.

TAC: I made games in Dezaemon too!!

Haneda: (astonished laugh)

TAC: I really love it. (laughs)

NAL: You can make your own STG with it, and make the kind of game you've wanted... there's a lot it can do. Also, I didn't have much money for the game center as a kid, so I spent a lot of time at home. You can really pass the time making a game with it. As for the first STG I got into at the game center...the first one I was conscious of scoring on was Battle Garegga.

Haneda: Really, Garegga!

NAL: That was about 7 years ago.

Haneda: I see. LAOS, how about you?

LAOS: The games that are most memorable to me and closest to my heart are, of course, the ones I played as a kid. Galaga, Gaplus... um, Pacland...

Mihara: That isn't a STG. (laughs)

LAOS: I said I played "almost" all STG. (laughs)

Haneda: It sounds like you were a "Namukko"? [[tr note: this is a cute combination of "Namco" and "ko" (child), meaning "Namco Kid"--a kid who played a lot of Namco's games]]

LAOS: Yeah... back then there were a lot of Namco games, after all. There are hardly any arcade games nowadays that I'm excited about.

Haneda: And there haven't been many titles released in the first place, either.

LAOS: Yeah, there's few games now where I think, "I'm glad I played that." Its sad, but for interesting games, I have to play older ones.

Haneda: I see. And TAC?

TAC: Ah. Actually, back in the day I didn't go to the game center at all. I didn't go until I was in high school. At home, I have memories of playing when I was in pre-school... games like Gradius. I also played Formation Z (laughs), stuff like that. Then in high school I went to a game center a lot where there were many skilled players. I'd watch them and try to imitate them. At that time I learned about Gamest magazine... my first thought was "I see high scores here, but how in the world did they get so high?" (laughs) So yeah, I learned to get good at the games we've been talking about, but the STG I have a lot of memories of and attachment to is Dezaemon. (laughs)

Haneda: Really, is that so?

TAC: I still play and write games for it now!

Sasaki: What!

TAC: I have a passion for Dezaemon. (laughs) I think if you use Dezaemon you get a very deep understanding of how STGs are constructed. Things like "in a 3-way spread, how would you handle that?"

Haneda: (laughs)

Mihara: 2 of the 5 people who can clear Daioujou use Dezaemon!

Sasaki: A shocking fact! (laughs)

TAC: Dezaemon is on the Famicom, Super Famicom, and Sega Saturn. Ah, I think there's one for the Playstation as well. I've used them all except the Playstation version.

Haneda: Which is the best one? (laughs)

TAC: Ah... the Saturn version. Its really good. (laughs) It feels like you can do anything with it.

Mihara: So Dezaemon is the STG you're most crazy about?

TAC: Well, the games I make in Dezaemon. (laughs)

Sasaki: Whaaatttt. Have you let anyone play these games you've made?

TAC: Yeah. My friends have composed music for them too.

Sasaki: Wow! Very professional!

2010 MON DOJ Death Label Clear Interview

Here is a link to the clear... check it out first!

—First, I'd like to congratulate you on clearing Death Label. Its truly amazing.

MON: Thank you.

—I'd like to start by asking about your play time. I've heard it took roughly 7 and a half years, so have you been playing since the release date? (4/10/2003)

MON: Yes. I bought it the day it was released, and started playing it right away. Then I despaired. (laughs)

—I see...

MON: After about a week of playing, I had made it to 2-3, but I got completely stuck there.

—You made it to 2-3 after only a week?

MON: Yes, and after that I continued to play intermittently, but I kept getting stuck. It actually took me six years to get through that part.

—I see... so that would mean you were stuck at 2-3 until 2009? Its really that difficulty?

MON: It was almost impossibly difficult. Actually, other players would get to 2-3 and then quit... it was a pattern I kept seeing. With a normal game, there are difficult enemies who may cause you to lose a single ship in order to defeat them, but in Death Label's second loop they automatically take all your reserve ships, so you can't rely on that.

—Did you stop playing during the 6 years?

MON: No, I didn't take a break. I would occasionally get frustrated and stop for awhile... this happened many times. Last year I succeeded in creating a strategy for 2-3, and I finally was able to progress to 2-4.

—Now that you've cleared the whole game, would you say that 2-3 is definitely the wall?

MON: Yeah. If you talk about the difficulty of Death Label, half of the conversation will be about 2-3, I think. The rest would probably be about the last boss, "Shin Hibachi Kai."

—What are some of the difficult parts with those bosses? Obviously you can tell that the bullets are incredibly fast just by looking.

MON: Well, with the latter half of the 2-3 boss, he emits blue and red bullets, in addition to which he releases two floating cannons, and those emit red needle bullets. You have to dodge all that simultaneously. Furthermore, the bullets themselves are moving fast, and the density of the bullets makes it hard to even guess where to dodge. On top of all that, if you use a bomb you'll restore the boss and the floating cannons' life. The whole thing is so laden with traps that if you make even one misstep, its over.

As for Shin Hibachi Kai, the speed of the bullets itself is difficult, but the problem is that because there are two Hibachis, there are multiple attacks where the bullet curtains keeps changing and you can't reduce it to a simple route or pattern. The truth is, for bosses that have beautiful but fixed patterns, they might seem difficult at first glance, but if you learn the way to handle them it can be reduced to a simple route you follow.

However, regardless of how the attack generally evolves, if the bullet pattern's shape keeps changing in subtle ways, it will be very difficult to plan a route. With Shin Hibachi Kai, the movement of the two Hibachis is random, so I couldn't make a simple route out of it.

—I see. If there are little changes in the attack, the shape of the bullet curtain will appear distorted or strange.

MON: The problem was that the enemy's positioning was different each time I played. In a similar sense to the latter half of the 2-3 boss, when the boss itself moves around a lot, the difficulty goes way up.

—I've heard you can dodge by leading* the bosses' movement, but of course it wasn't as easy as that here.

* 4Gamer Editor's note: In DOJ Death Label, the bosses movements may apear fixed, but they actually move within a fixed range according to how the player moves. In this case, "leading" means manipulating the bosses position by your own movement.

MON: Yeah, not at all. But... even so, if you don't lead the bosses, you won't be able to dodge at all and will get hit by a bullet. So I had no choice and just did the best I could.

—Was it like that for everything after the 2-3 boss?

MON: No, it wasn't. The 2-4 boss and the first half of the 2-5 boss "Kouryuu" actually move according to a fixed pattern. If you move entirely in a fixed way, the way the enemy fires... or rather, the way you dodge can all be reduced to a route, and in the end it just becomes "as long as you don't make a mistake moving the joystick, you won't die."

The 2-1 boss is also entirely route based. The 2-2 boss is entirely route based until the middle, and in the second half he mixes in a variety of attacks.

—But you have routes for them all, even though they're mixed up?

MON: That's right. You can say that not just for the 2-2 boss, but for the game generally, that once an attack ends, you make a route for the transition to the next attack, and so finally you've made routes for everything such that nothing unexpected comes. That is how I play, with a route for everything. So if there are 10 attack patterns, I know to do this for #1, and this for #10.

—So it all starts with seriously memorizing things. It sounds like slow and steady work.

MON: Yeah. In general all the bullets in the second loop for Death Label are fast, but for the especially fast ones, they're at a speed which you can't dodge just by looking. So from there, the main thing is to memorize the boss attacks and determine your movement route. Once that is set you just faithfully retrace the route when you play. You match the timing of your movement to the attack.

Doing this, you'll be able to sync up with most danmaku patterns. Then if you always follow the same route, it removes the need to dodge. The work is basically all creating routes like this.

—I see. Are the routes you've created easy to follow?

MON: I'd say that for Death Label, a representative part would be the opening of the 2-5 boss. You can also see it on a video I posted earlier on my web site. A person named Abi thought of this dodging route, and at a glance it looks incredibly dangerous and acrobatic, but the truth is its an entirely preplanned route. While playing, I'm in a state of mind where I'm just moving, hardly thinking at all.

—In terms of creating routes for the second loop in Death Label, what were some of the frustrating moments?

MON: I mentioned it above, but if you get hit once the game is over. That makes it difficult enough as it is, but it also made it extremely difficult to establish a plan for clearing the game.

By a plan for clearing, what I mean is that when you're developing an overall strategy in a normal STG, you can continue and do whatever to get to the last boss, after which you can get an estimate what you'll need to defeat him. Concretely, what I mean is that you can first see how many lives and bombs you'll need to defeat the last boss. Then you can start planning your playing from stage 1 around that estimate.

—In STG parlance, this is referred to as "resource management."

MON: That's right. But in the second loop of Death Label your lives are always at 0, so from the get-go that kind of calculating won't work. And you can't rely on bombs or hyper items, either. You really aren't given much to clear this game, you just have to keep working at it. So in devising my clear strategy, from the start I can came to the simple conclusion that where I couldn't use a bomb, I would have to just dodge everything, so I worked on dodging.

—When you came to that conclusion, did you ever get tripped up thinking things like "I know I just have to dodge this, but seriously?" It seems those would be natural thoughts.

MON: No, I didn't think things like that. It was more like, I knew all this had been designed so you had to dodge it, so I just needed to figure out the right execution.

—I see. What were some of the particularly memorable spots where you "had to dodge"?

MON: Definitely the end of 2-3, and all of Shin Hibachi Kai's attacks.

—All of them?

MON: His first and second attacks move so fast you can't dodge them on sight. Getting to the second attack was the most difficult, and even when I watched a replay I had recorded in slow motion, I didn't think I could dodge it.

So I arrived at the conclusion that I would just have to use bombs and hypers to time out those two attacks. Compared with those two attacks, the third was a little better, so I'd just have to dodge it. Here, let me show you in this video.

—Wow... the timing required for making the hypers appear is crazy.

MON: Yeah. I timed the appearance of the hypers completely, so I'm able to stay invincible during the whole second attack. By the way, the timing to make the hypers appear and refilling the hyper gauge on 2-5 to erase the enemy bullets is, to a certain extent, all part of a planned route.

—With the 3rd attack, there's no pattern and you have to sight dodge, right?

MON: Yeah. It pushed my sight dodging skills to the limit. For the latter half of the 2-5 boss, the so-called "Jet Hachi" (the second form of the stage 5 boss Kouryuu), the bullet patterns can't be reduced to a route and you have to sight dodge. But its not totally random, you still have a general idea of "if he's moving like this and does this attack, I move like this." Its like, you have a certain degree of strategy, but the rest is up to you to do your best and outmaneouver him.

—I see.

MON: For parts like this where even after you've formed a strategy, there's a degree of uncertainty, it may sound paradoxical, but its one of the main reasons you need to plan routes for everything else. This is because the more random bullet patterns you have to deal with, the greater the chance becomes that you'll get hit. Therefore all you can do is increase the likelihood of success in other portions of the game, and try to lower the chance of failure overall. For example, if you have a 1 in 10 chance of getting through a certain attack, and similar attacks come 10 times, then your overall chance of getting through is extremely low. But if you can take 9 of those attacks and plan a fixed route out of them, your overall chance of success is now 1 in 10, which is much more reachable. Therefore, the important strategy in STG is to make routes and figure out how to minimize the uncertain parts.

—Are you saying that you spend more time planning and forming routes than actually playing?

MON: Actually I spent about the same amount of time playing as I did planning the routes out. Trying out all the possibilities in my head took a really long time.

—When you're imagining the routes, do you do that while watching your replays? Or do you simulate things in your head?

MON: I do both. Sometimes when I'd get sleepy at work and such, I'd start thinking about the routes and test them out when I got home. Depending on what I was doing, if nothing was going on, I'd start thinking of routes. I once got a flash on inspiration while watching the Sakura Taisen Music show. (laughs) In the end it was like a puzzle, where I made as many routes as possible that would minimize the need to actually dodge.

—So then your Death Label clear was the fruition of all that steady, detailed route planning.

MON: Actually, on the playthrough where I cleared the game, I had only just finished planning routes for everything, and what remained for me was to connect that up with a no-miss of the sight dodging parts. So I figured from here on out it was just a question of probabilities... "If I can play through to Shin Hibachi Kai's last attack 50 times, then probably 1 of those will result in a clear." So I predicted I might clear it by the end of 2010. But then, surprisingly I cleared it on my first try.

—Wow, really, right on your first try?

MON: Yes. Having reduced the elements of luck to their bare minimum, on my first playthrough I actually got very lucky.

—In that sense do you think there's still room for improvement of your routes?

MON: No, I don't think there's any further room to raise my score. Though there is a little room to fine tune my routes and clean up some of the movement. But to be honest, I'm not sure if I'm going to do that. (laughs)

—I'd like to ask a bit about the environment you played in. Looking at the picture you shared with us, it looks like you sat with your legs crossed while you played?

MON: Yes, that's how I played.

—Sitting cross-legged like that and playing for a long time, didn't your legs start to hurt or get numb?

MON: In my case, that didn't happen.

—Did you choose that posture because playing on an arcade cabinet with your elbows bent is straining, but sitting cross-legged like this allowed you to keep them straight?

MON: No, that wasn't it. I find playing on an arcade cabinet very easy, and its the standard for me. I just found the cross-legged posture the easiest way to emulate that.

—I see you play on a tate'd CRT...

MON: I do pretty much all my gaming on a CRT.

—Right, HD TVs still have problems with screen lag/delay.

MON: Yeah. Especially with the 2nd loop of Death Label, there's parts where the speed of your reaction time is being pushed to the limit, so you want to minimize any display lag.

—I noticed your joystick there is the HORI Real Arcade Pro. Have you made any modifications to it?

MON: I've made one small adjustment, actually. Not with the electronics, but I adjusted the microswitches to change the play in the stick by adding spacers.

—Was this to reduce the play in the stick?

MON: Not necessarily... there's still some play there. It was just to make it easier for me personally. (laughs)

—Did you swap out the buttons or the stick itself?

MON: No, I didn't change anything there.

—That's somewhat unusual.

MON: Its often said among gamers that "the best stick for STG is Seimitsu, and the best for fighting games is Sanwa." But personally, I think that in the end whatever is easiest for you to control is best. So this time I used a Sanwa stick.

—By the way, this is kind of an in-depth question, but have you ever experienced a situation where you go to dodge, and you see what you need to do in your head and with your eyes, but your hand just doesn't move there? For me and probably others at my level, that happens often, but I'd like to hear if players of your caliber experience that.

MON: Yeah, that has happened before.

—Also, when you're weaving through a danmaku bullet pattern, do you ever overshoot your movement and run into a bullet? I understand that one of the main causes of dying for people not used to STGs is moving too far and crashing into a bullet.

MON: That goes away once get used to STGs.

—I see, you can fix that with practice. One other things I'd like to ask is, do you do push-ups or anything to train your body for STG? I think some arm strength is required for the fine movements needed to control the ship.

MON: No, I don't. Actually my thinking is the opposite there. If you put too much force into controlling the joystick you can't make fine movements. In my case I use the wine grip for the joystick, and I don't put any power into it, so I don't get tired no matter how much I play.

—So far you've talked a lot about the importance of making routes. I've heard beginners say they don't know where to start with that. Can you give them any advice?

MON: The first thing, as I said above, is to develop a general clear strategy. Its fine to die before getting to the clear, but once you finish the last boss, doing that reverse calculation is important. The plan starts with how many bombs and lives you'll need to clear. For difficult parts too, if your plan allows you enough bombs to get through it, then you can bomb and you don't need to dodge. I think once you know the parts where you won't have any bombs, then starting there you can make a route. But first of all, you need that overall clear plan. Only then can you go stage by stage and start to make routes according to that plan.

—Do you have any message for people who are going to start STG games? Surely, after seeing this achievement, there will be some people who are interested.

MON: My advice is not to spend all your time only on STG or even games generally, but to do a wide variety of activities. I realize that's kind of strange for me to say. STG is of course interesting, but if you do nothing but STG, you lose sight of other things. Games are great, but its fun to develop other hobbies too.

—Finally, I think that after your clear other players will now be encouraged to try clearing Death Label. Do you have any advice for them?

MON: I think players will be able to refer to the videos I've uploaded of the clear, but to a certain extent, I'd like people to experience the fun of creating these routes on their own. That's really where all the fun lies. (laughs)

—Now I'd like to ask Mihara some questions. It took MON seven and a half years to clear Death Label. Did the clear happen sooner than you expected, or later?

Mihara: Hmm, well, I thought it would take 2-3 years to clear. When we were adjusting the difficulty for Death Label, our basic design was to make something enticing to the top arcade players of the time, and to make it so they couldn't clear it.

—So they couldn't clear it? (laughs)

Mihara: Each time a game is cleared, Cave thinks to themselves "how can we make the next game unclearable?" and sets to building new walls and challenges for players. That's how Death Label was. To be honest, with Death Label, it was sort of like... if someone can clear this, great, and if no one can, ok.

—So that's how it was.

Mihara: I've often been asked if it was even possible to clear Death Label, but we made it so that if you get through it without dying, it can be cleared. But I figured that even for top players, connecting everything together into a no-miss would require a lot of time and effort. So when I heard that MON had cleared it, the feeling was "How wonderful, someone has shown us it can be done!"

—I see.

Mihara: Also, the timing is coincidental, but today there is something I can tell you. (laughs) This is "top secret", but now that you've cleared Death Label and seen the ending, in fact, there are now 2 futures that have been created. In one, the fight continues in the universe of Death Label. But there is another future which is connected to Cave's new game, the X360 Arrange A mode of Daifukkatsu.... Now the battle will continue on the two stages of the past and future. MON, you are the one who oversees the future. (laughs)

MON: By "future" do you mean Daifukkatsu?

Mihara: No, Daifukkatsu is the past.

MON: Looks like I'll have to helm the front here in the future (Death Label). I'm not sure I have the confidence for this... (laughs)

[[tr note: This is all very confusing regarding past/future, though I've translated it faithfully. Its obviously referring to the vaguely presented time-travel plotline of the Dodonpachi series, and Mihara's laughing suggests he too may realize it doesn't make a ton of sense.]]

Mihara: Anyway, thanks to MON's clear, I can tell you that the story of Daifukkatsu Arrange A is connected to Death Label. Ikeda, Asada, and myself too were all saying "thank goodness" when we heard that MON cleared Death Label. And being just before Daifukkatsu goes on sale, its perfect timing!

MON: Really! I'm really happy to hear that.

Mihara: This is also just coincidental timing, but Ikeda and I had been saying lately how it would be interesting to connect the Daifukkatsu Arrange to the setting and story in Death Label, just lightly tossing the idea around. Ikeda really got into it and enthusiastically went to work on creating it, and that's how they got connected. That's why Leinyan appears in the Arrange, and its supposed to feel like she's the only one who can put a stop the Colonel's ambitions. Anyway, make sure to buy it and see for yourself. (laughs)

—Well then, MON, what new challenges await you?

MON: I want to just enjoy playing Daifukkatsu as a player, for now leaving aside the question of whether I'll play it seriously. And I've got a real backlog of other games to get to. (laughs)

—We look forward to your future activities. Thank you very much for speaking with us today. MON Interview

After 7 years and 5 months, a player has finally appeared who can clear DOJ Death Label! When I heard this surpising news, I was further shocked to realize that this person was a flute player for GAME band! Not wanting to miss this unique chance, and moreover with it being a member of Gameband, we conducted this interview with MON!

—Your record with Death Label is 1 win, 81 losses, but how many hours did you put into it?

MON: If you count the time in the replays I've got saved since 4/09, about 500 hours (an average playtime for Death Label is around 12 minutes). But I also spent time during the day thinking about routes, so maybe somewhere around 1000 hours.

Prior to 4/09, my practicing was sporadic, so I'm not sure, but despite it being 6 years I don't think I spent a considerable amount of time on it. However, to clear Death Label, you need enough skill to be able to clear DOJ itself, and it took me about two years, so you have to add that in. If you consider it all together I've probably spent several thousand hours on this game.

—What kind of environment did you play in?

MON: A 25" Sony Trinitron CRT, a PS2 connected via AV multicable (similar to an RGB connection), a Hori Real Arcade Pro with my own modifications, and a 3-way recording setup (PC Capture, miniDV, VHS). It was like a little stronghold in the corner of my living room. (laughs)

—Are there any tricks or techniques to bullet dodging?

MON: The most important is coming up with routes where you don't have to dodge. Doing that, you can divide things into "bullets I have to dodge" and "bullets I don't have to dodge." Also, not looking at one's ship, but looking a little above it.

—Please tell us about your training and anything else you did for the clear.

MON: If you lose your concentration its all over, so I did things like take naps, keep my blood sugar up with snacks, and cool my brow with cold compresses if it was hot. I also made sure my position relative to the screen, like where I held my joystick and the position of my head, was always the same. (laughs)

—What was it like in that moment you cleared it?

MON: I did a guts pose, and after that I broke into tears.

—Did you ever think of quitting?

MON: At first I didn't think a clear was possible. I mean, I think there were only 5 people in the world who had even gotten to the last boss. That last boss was the craziest I'd ever seen, so I thought it was totally impossible.

—Well, why didn't you quit then?

MON: Once I buckled down and decided to make this my life's work, I saw a path towards a clear. So I just kept persevering.

—Please give a word to all the STG players reading this!

MON: Don't just do shooting games, try out other things too. (laughs)

—What was it that made you get into STGs?

MON: When I started playing games, STG and action games were the most popular genres. So I didn't really think about it, I just started playing STGs. The first game I really got into deeply was Star Soldier for the Famicom.

—Please tell us a history of your clears in other STGs!


Star Soldier (Famicom): Normal and Ura ALL
Super Star Force (Famicom): ALL
Mahou Daisakusen: 2-4
Darius Gaiden: All routes clear (10 mil)
Battle Garegga: ALL (Golden Bat, 12mil)
Radiant Silvergun: ALL (both st2 and st4 routes)
Guwange: Kosame (56mil)
Gigawing: ALL (Carmine)
Gigawing 2: ALL (~2quad)
Dimahoo: ALL (Karte, 68mil)
Espgaluda: ALL (Tateha)
Espgaluda 2: ALL (Asagi, aroung 200mil)
Mushihimesama: ALL (Original)
Mushihimesama Futari 1.0: ALL (Original, all types/ships)
Mushihimesama Futari Black Label: ALL (Original Palm)
Ibara: ALL
Muchi Muchi Pork: ALL
Dodonpachi: 2-ALL (C-S 390mil)
Dodonpachi Daioujou: 2-ALL (B-S 920mil)
Dodonpachi Daioujou Black Label: 2-ALL (B-S 1.3bil)

—Are there any other non-STG games you're into?

MON: I was really into the original Mother on the Famicom, which I played a ton on the actual hardware. I've also played the Monster Hunter series on the PSP a lot. For Monster Hunter Portable 2nd G, I cleared all the quests solo using only dual swords.

—Is there a particular STG you're planning to challenge next?

MON: I've got a lot of STGs on the 360 piled up, so I'm just going to play those casually for awhile I think. I don't think I'll be playing them seriously.

—Do you have any last message?

MON: I'm exhausted. (laughs)
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Last edited by blackoak on Thu Mar 12, 2015 8:16 pm, edited 4 times in total.

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 Post subject: Re: STG Scorer Interview Collection - TAC, LAOS, NAL, MON, etc
PostPosted: Thu Jul 12, 2012 8:10 am 

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That's amazing to read the story behind that DOJ run I've seen so many times, thanks a lot.
Here's another link to the video btw, has more 'commentary' to it

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 Post subject: Re: STG Scorer Interview Collection - TAC, LAOS, NAL, MON, etc
PostPosted: Thu Jul 12, 2012 8:15 am 

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Excellent translation, glad to be able to read the interviews!

Very interesting notes about practice environments and how the games were practiced. I guess it's time to apply these new tips with STGT'12 ;)
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 12, 2012 8:56 am 

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—Do you have any last message?

MON: I'm exhausted. (laughs)


great translation, thanks
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 Post subject: Re: STG Scorer Interview Collection - TAC, LAOS, NAL, MON, etc
PostPosted: Thu Jul 12, 2012 4:14 pm 

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Thanks for translating these, I love reading interviews from top players.

The "dodge without dodging" stuff is probably the best advice you can give to a new player.
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 Post subject: Re: STG Scorer Interview Collection - TAC, LAOS, NAL, MON, etc
PostPosted: Thu Jul 12, 2012 5:08 pm 

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blackoak wrote:
Gigawing: ALL (Kaamain)

Quick note: I guess you're not familiar with the cast of OG Giga Wing... the character's name is Carmine (after the colour).
"Amidst utter chaos lies strict order."

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 Post subject: Re: STG Scorer Interview Collection - TAC, LAOS, NAL, MON, etc
PostPosted: Thu Jul 12, 2012 8:16 pm 

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TAC: That's right. There's been times when I've seen someone doing some amazing dodges, and from my perspective I think, "Ah, this person isn't very good." (laughs)

this I understand :D
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 Post subject: Re: STG Scorer Interview Collection - TAC, LAOS, NAL, MON, etc
PostPosted: Thu Jul 12, 2012 8:44 pm 

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Smraedis wrote:
TAC: That's right. There's been times when I've seen someone doing some amazing dodges, and from my perspective I think, "Ah, this person isn't very good." (laughs)

this I understand :D

Hah, my favourite quote too.

I find it pretty reassuring that I have independently started to see shooting games pretty much the same way as the guys in the interviews.

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PostPosted: Thu Jul 12, 2012 8:48 pm 

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Especially in Cave games the stages are more about learning the patterns and avoiding them completely / being in the right place than dodging but obviously there are still numerous areas in every game that you can't just memorize where dodging skills are important. Thanks for the translations btw.

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 Post subject: Re: STG Scorer Interview Collection - TAC, LAOS, NAL, MON, etc
PostPosted: Thu Jul 12, 2012 9:07 pm 

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Nice interviews, thanks a lot for the translations!

blackoak wrote:
LAOS Nagata Sennin

So is he Nagata or Osada? IIRC his playtest initials on the default scoreboards in 'Pachi games are O.S or OSD (can't remember if it's one of those or both).
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Glad to see these being enjoyed, and thanks for catching the Osada and Gigawing errors! I've corrected them now.

I'd love to hear more from superplayers about the enjoyment of memorizing vs. improvising ("pure" or sight dodging). I suspect that they would say that they get all their "improvisational" enjoyment out of creating their routes, as a lot of trial and error is obviously involved. Basically I'd like to know how their enjoyment of STG has or hasn't progressed with their skills. Hopefully future interviews, perhaps with non-Cave games, will explore that a bit.
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Awesome. Thanks!!!
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 24, 2012 12:41 am 

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In retrospect, doing 1CCs of shmups and arcade puzzlers do share some similar traits...

I'm gonna add my two cents regarding my May 1994 1CC on the Atari Games full-sized Klax cabinet:

Despite having played the NES Tengen version of Klax for countless hours in 1991-1992 at home, for a long time, I really couldn't progress past a certain Wave. It wasn't until I learned that to pass each Wave, you'd have to complete the minimum goal set. Despite the fact that the CPU throws random colored titles at the player (and the possibiltity of Wild Tiles could be quite sparse or be given four or even five to work with sometimes). No two Klax sessions are alike due to the randomly generated colored tiles and you really have to make do with the tiles given at the present situation to try to complete the minimum goal (it's possible to keep scoring extra free points but at the expense of the CPU adding more & more tiles to "end your Klax session" more quickly aka "Ramping On" as the default setting on a typical Klax PCB comes to mind).

It wasn't until a Klax cabinet finally showed up at a local arcade in April of 1994, was I able to see how well all that practice paid off or not with the NES version of Klax.

So with the Fast Tile Waves, you really have to be on top of your game to quickly set up some tiles down to be able to make some diagonal Klaxs fast as they'll coming down the conveyor belt mighty quick.

It's nice to clear every 10th Wave and see your Drop Meter all cleared out (if it's close to three or four drops registered by the CPU).

However, with the arcade controls on a real Klax cabinet setup, it's going to be a dedicated 4-way digital joystick + the two drop buttons (one on either side of the joystick itself) and none of that 8-way digital joystick setup found on most candy cab setups (which invites the possibility to fuck up big time, especially if pressing diagonally with said 8-way joystick).

When I was "in the zone", it seemed like no matter what the CPU would throw at me, I could surpass it with no problem. There were a few close calls of having registered four tile drops on the drop meter and barely finished one Wave with the fifth tile just about to be dropped into the abyss. Talk about cutting it pretty close right there.

Of course with Wave 100 with it's minimum score of 250,000 points to clear, it's quite easy to excute two multi-colored Big Xs and collect your cool extra one million bonus points added to your overall score. So with an average playing time of anywhere from two to two & half hours (and using all the available Warps with five drops max allowed to allow for "some wiggle room if things don't go as planned" is your best bet right there), it's doable to get an 1CC on the arcade game of Klax. As the ol' saying goes: Practice makes perfect.

And there is this "law of diminishing returns" senario/reality -- meaning that for every possible attempt at an 1CC, there is always going to plently of fucked up gaming sessions easily. I've been down that particular road many times. ^_~

When I finally nailed that elusive arcade Klax 1CC on that fine day in May of '94, there was no one to witness it. Nor was it ever officially recognized by my local arcade (or even recognized by Twin Galaxies Scoreboard for that matter either). All that matters is I went in trying to see if such an 1CC on Klax was possible and with a resounding yes, it is indeed.

Over the years, I've learned that it's possible/doable to score 2 million+ points by Wave 7 or Wave 8, that's high-caliber Klax level playing right there. Means having to develop some pre-arranged tile patterns to successfully pull it off though (and there's no guarantee that it'll happen with the randomness of the colored tiles anyways -- it's a hit & miss opportunity at best).

So it's possible to play Klax just with the minimum goals met/cleared but the overall score won't be that high = 6,000,000+ easily after Wave 100 is completed (and using all Warps as well to cut down on the overall playing time to a minimum).

You can play Klax on any diagonal Wave and quickly rack up plently of free points for the taking -- easier said than done, though (especially on the higher Waves where multiple diagonal Klaxs are required to clear it).

PC Engine Fan X! ^_~

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