I stumbled upon a surprising bit of news today. The Xbox 360 port of Dodonpachi Saidaioujou, CAVE’s latest 2D shoot-em-up arcade hit, may be getting a global release. This is significant because most of CAVE’s console ports are only released in Asia, and most are region-locked to only play on Asian consoles. This forces fans to import Japanese consoles and/or games to have greater access to CAVE’s library.
It is rare for one of CAVE’s games to get a release in the West, so I’ll always jump at the opportunity to pick one up where I can read the menus and manual and don’t have do go through the cost of importing. However, it is challenging to publish a game like this in the West.
One challenge is that Microsoft typically mandates a minimum print run of 50,000 copies in North America. While this may not seem like a large number, it is not uncommon for quality games with limited appeal to be produced in smaller numbers. For example, I’ve enjoyed a lot of extremely good Nintendo DS games that sold fewer than 50,000 copies, and the Nintendo DS has a larger installed base than the Xbox 360. Therefore, it is not unimaginable that a non-mainstream 360 game might have difficulty selling those numbers. No publisher wants to be stuck with thousands of unsold copies.
Another concern is screen orientation. This game, like Mushihime-sama pictured above, was designed to be played on a vertically mounted display. In other words, the display is taller than it is wide. This means that a typical television will have pillarboxing or wallpaper on the sides. This effect is more pronounced on wide-screen televisions. For people who do not wish to waste so much screen space, the only option is to rotate your display to match the game’s screen orientation. This is not too difficult because many computer displays, like my old DELL playing Dodonpachi below, have this capability, but vertical displays are not something most gamers are willing to set up or invest in.
Finally, it will be challenging to market this game. There isn’t much of an arcade scene in this country, so there aren’t as many people who want to play a game that seems simple at first glance and can be credit-fed to the end in 30 minutes. I’ve seen reviewers who write “30 minutes of gameplay is not worth full price,” and other such nonsense. Ironically, those same reviewers never say the same thing about a sports game or a fighting game, despite them also being very short.
A professional writer recently mentioned that her publication won’t post a review of an MMORPG until it’s been played for a month. This allows early bugs to be patched and gives the reviewer time to get a proper feel for the game. Unfortunately, CAVE’s style of shoot-em-up games are rarely given their due consideration. Many reviewers of shoot-em-ups display little understanding of the game’s rules and scoring system, did not attempt to clear the game on one credit, and have not posted respectable scores on the leaderboards. While these ideas are ingrained into the arcade culture, console games are typically focused on completion, rather than the honing of skill and technique, so most console game reviewers approach these games from the wrong direction and create an unfairly negative public perception due to their inexperience with the genre.
A possible solution to the reviewer issues may lie within the game’s arrange mode. Arrange mode is a tradition in CAVE console ports where the game rules are changed to create a differently playing game using the same assets. Perhaps the arrange mode for Dodonpachi Saidaioujou will be progression-based. This could involve collecting, purchasing, or unlocking power-ups for your ship so that you can grow stronger from session to session, enhanced story elements, or unlockable gallery items. Fighting games and CAVE’s own iOS port of Deathsmiles have tried many of these things, so it seems a natural addition. That might be enough to satisfy the content demands of console-style gamers and reviewers.
However they do this, I am excited by the possibility of playing this game in my native language. Hopefully they can make it happen, and hopefully it will be a success.