Yukiko Karashima and Naoki Horii Discuss G Darius HD 2.0, M2 ShotTriggers, More Switch Ports, 120fps on PS5, Steam Deck, Mushihimesama Futari, and More – TouchArcade


Over the years, we’ve written about shoot ’em ups and retro game re-releases multiple times. One name often comes up when thinking of the best of the best in those genres and kinds of game releases: M2. A lot of folks might know of M2 for their SEGA AGES releases or Konami’s Contra and Castlevania collections, but to me M2 is all about shoot ’em ups, and the studio has worked with ININ Games and Taito many times for some fantastic releases in the West in addition to its own incredible M2 ShotTriggers line of games for consoles.

After playing and enjoying M2’s on Darius Cozmic Collection Arcade and G Darius HD, I started buying every M2 ShotTriggers release on the PS Store and eShop in Japan. I knew I had to interview the team about these games, and that’s where today’s feature comes into the picture. I got a chance to chat with M2’s Yukiko Karashima and Naoki Horii about working on G Darius HD, M2 ShotTriggers, more Switch Ports, potential PS5 releases, Steam Deck, whether Mushihimesama Futari is happening, and more.

TouchArcade (TA): For those unaware, tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do at M2.

Yukiko Karashima (YK): I’m a director at M2 Co., Ltd., and was in charge of the G Darius HD port. I managed the overall planning and progress of the project, and handled the slowdown adjustment and other tasks.

Naoki Horii (NH): By building and running a company, I can produce the games I want to play. It’s like having a farm and growing the crops that you like. Apparently, my public title is CEO or something like that.

TA: In the last few years, we’ve seen many major M2 releases come to the West through ININ Games like the Taito releases. These include legendary games like G Darius HD, Darius Gaiden (in Arcade), and the Ray’Z collection. Which has been your favorite project so far?

NH: As a project that we put everything we had into, the Mega Drive/Genesis Gauntlet was my very favorite. We were all students, or living with our parents, so we were able to work on it until we were completely satisfied, without worrying about time or life pressures. There is a Japanese proverb that says, “The soul of the 3-year-old stays the same at 100,” and only recently I came to realize that Gauntlet has always been my standard for everything we work on.

YK: I love and have feelings for all of them, but my personal favorite is Darius Gaiden, which is included in the Darius Cozmic Collection. I love shooting games, but I’m a beginner as far as skill goes. Darius Gaiden has a route with a pelican eel as the final boss, which is not too hard for beginners to clear. I would recommend even those who have never played a shooting game to give it a try.

TA: G Darius HD is a very special release because it was already amazing, but M2 did the huge 2.0 update making it basically perfect. What led to the team wanting to go above and beyond with G Darius HD for the 2.0 release?

YK: We started talking within the team about how awesome it would be to include everything up to G Darius Ver.2 even before the initial release. However, the slowdown adjustment work for G Darius was very difficult, and it took so long that we could not make it in time for the first release, so we talked with Taito and decided to do a 2.0 update. The team was very enthusiastic from the early stages of development, and although the porting was difficult, I was happy with all the things we were able to do.

TA: G Darius HD basically felt like an M2 ShotTriggers-lite release with how much it added. I wanted to know how M2 approaches gadgets for shmups?

YK: As with M2 ShotTriggers, we were reissuing a legendary shooting game for the modern era, so the G Darius HD gadgets were carefully considered and selected with the help of test players and staff familiar with the game, to make it accessible for new players and at the same time make it even more enjoyable for existing players. We then enlisted the help of programmers who specialize in analysis to implement everything.

In terms of the gadget design, we placed great importance on making them clearly visible and usable during game play. Because the game is a side-scroller, there is only so much free screen real-estate left for the large number of display elements, and the designers had a hard time fitting them on the screen.

Besides gadgets, M2 also focuses on recreating the play feel of the original game. The arcade version of G Darius uses the hardware to its limits and is very prone to slow down. In addition, because the background music is timed to the action with the amount of slowdown figured in, we took extra care in reproducing the slowdown.

Through Taito, we were able to hear from members involved in the development of the game about what they were doing back then, and with the cooperation of programmers, sound staff, and test players, we spent a long time repeatedly adjusting and testing the game to recreate it as best we could.
 

TA: The Darius series is very important to the industry, and I’m glad to see so much of it preserved perfectly thanks to M2. Is there anything more you’d like to do with Taito on Darius in the future?

NH: So Taito, what’s next? We still have Night Striker to work on before Darius!

YK: I’m interested in the other Darius titles that haven’t been ported yet, such as less well-known titles like Darius Wide that came out on mobile.

TA: I’ve bought every single M2 ShotTriggers release on PS4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch through the Japanese or North American digital releases. Not all games are on all current platforms. Are there any plans to bring Battle Garegga, Ketsui, and Dangun Feveron to Switch?

NH: Yes, if we have the opportunity. Let me rephrase that. We’re always looking for that opportunity.

TA: Now that DoDonPachi DOJ (amazing work) has been brought to the M2 ShotTriggers lineup on PS4 and Switch, can we hope for Mushihimesama Futari?

NH: We’re always looking for the opportunity. There are so many things I want to do compared to what I can actually do, I have to do something about it. (Laughs)

TA: Are there plans to bring M2 releases to PS5 natively or should we expect to play them via backward compatibility only?

NH: It can be both, and we are always looking for opportunities. A 60+ fps environment, or rather a 120 fps environment, is very appealing, so I would definitely like to do something with that.

TA: How has M2 changed over the years in terms of the number of employees and are all the founders and key staff from when it was founded still more or less at the studio?

NH: In the first decade, there were a little over 10 employees, in the next decade it went up to 20 then over 30, and in the following decade it grew to over 50. The number of employees has increased in line with the scale of our games. There’s always a shortage of talent, so I’m glad that people want to join us.

TA: Has there been a project in the shoot em up genre that didn’t work out for M2 that you tried to pursue before?

NH: Perhaps the release of the Aleste Collection, in that it ended up taking until 2020. There were twists and turns, but I’m glad we were able to create something very satisfying.

TA: We spoke to you (Naoki Horii) back in 2021 about Darius Cozmic Revelation. Since then, we’ve seen M2 release more games on Steam through Taito. I wanted to know if there were plans for M2 to expand more titles for the Steam platform in the future including the M2 ShotTriggers lineup? I love them on Switch and PS5, but would also like to play them on my Steam Deck.

NH: Steam Deck sounds good. I have a feeling that by the time this interview is out in the world, I will probably be playing Devil Blade (Reboot). I’m very much looking forward to it.

(Editor’s note: This interview was conducted over a month ago, but it needed to be translated back and forth.)

TA: What are your thoughts on the state of the console industry in Japan and globally?

NH: There’s no longer that much of a difference in what PCs and consoles can do. It seems like the Switch is the only system that’s unique, but nowadays there are many gaming PCs inspired by the Switch’s style.

TA: What are you currently playing, and what did you enjoy the most in 2023?

NH: The most in 2023? It’s hard to narrow it down to just one. The game I’m playing the most right now is Dungeon Sweeper. It’s fun to just switch off and click away.

TA: How do you balance M2’s projects for external partners like Taito and ININ Games compared to M2’s internal projects?

NH: By setting up a production system that enables us to do our best in response to any requests that we think are worth doing. That’s what we aim to do, anyway. It really is difficult, though.

TA: Can you give us an update on what to expect from Aleste Branch?

NH: At the end of summer of 2023, we said “It’s pretty much done!” So we held an event where local shooting game developers could play test it and give us their opinions, and I remember seeing them and thinking we’ve finally (almost) completed the game. Seems like yesterday, but now it’s almost the summer of 2024. Isn’t that kind of crazy? It’s progressing well and is now nearly complete.

TA: Is there anything you’d like to say to your overseas fans of Taito projects and M2 ShotTriggers reading this?

NH: Thank you for always playing our games. I’m always happy to hear about what titles you want to play, what features you want, and so on. We want more and more people to experience the excitement (the “shooting game high,” you can say) that you get with shooters. In my case, when I feel I get into that mode, the tip of my nose gets itchy, which is a problem.

TA: Do you like drinking coffee? What is your favorite coffee drink?

NH: Yes, I do. At cafes, I usually order coffee. I love Kilimanjaro coffee. Usually I just drink from cans (canned coffee is popular in Japan). I also love tea and green tea. My body is fueled by caffeine. That being said, if you have any recommendations for equipment, procedures, beans, etc. for making coffee at home, please let me know. I feel that what’s missing in my life is time spent doing those kinds of things.

I’d like to thank Yukiko Karashima and Naoki Horii from M2 and Derek and Dan from PR Hound for their time and help here.

You can keep up with all our interviews here including our recent ones with Digital Extremes for Warframe mobile, Team NINJA, Sonic Dream Team, Hi-Fi Rush, Pentiment, and more. As usual, thanks for reading.



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