WORLD EXCLUSIVE: Rev-ved Up! We chat with G.Rev president Hiroyuki Maruyama!
If ever a video game company commanded a mandatory abundance of respect by the bucketload, it’s G.Revolution (aka, G.Rev). A company initially founded for the sole purpose of developing shooting games, G.Rev quickly discovered that even with the goal set in stone to focus solely on shoot ‘em up games, they simply did not have the capital required to jump in to the arena and destroying all before them with magnificent, multi-million Yen titles. Instead, to acheive their goal, G.Rev worked hard on top grade titles for such respected companies as Sega, Taito Corporation and Treasure. The aim being to raise enough capital from co-devloping other projects in the hopes of being able to release their very own, 100% G.Rev titles.
That’s where the respect by the bucketloads part comes in. It’s truly an epic acheivement. Not just because of what G.Rev have accomplished in sticking to their belief of the original goal and actually following through with it, but for the fact that the product that they have produced, both as co-productions and their very own titles have been nothing short of astonishing. Indeed two titles from the G.Rev vault, Border Down and Under Defeat are widely regarded as two of the finest shooting games ever made. The latter of which will see an HD makeover and full retail release (in Japan only) on the XBOX 360 and PlayStation 3 this week.
I was incredibly honoured to be approached by Jacob Iyamu at online retailer Solaris Japan to have my tiny personal blog represented at an interview with the good folks at G.Revolution. Naturally I jumped at the chance and put forward a handful of questions for Jacob to ask Hiroyuki Maruyama, president of G.Rev on my behalf. The interview was recorded and will be available later on this month (stay tuned for more information to follow on this).
Fact File: G.Rev
G.rev (or G.revolution) is a Japanese arcade video game developer. The company was founded by former employees of Taito’s arcade division who had worked on G-Darius and RayStorm, and is known primarily for their acclaimed arcade shoot ‘em up games.
Although G.Rev have released only a handful of their own titles, one of the more prevalent titles, Strania, was released on the XBOX 360 worldwide as a digital download only. Some may say it was a risky move releasing a full blown retail (in the old days we’d call them ‘full price games’) title as a digital only download. When asked about Strania and if digital distribution is still the future or if physical products still have relevance today Maruyama-san said “To put it simply, it didn’t sell as well as we hoped. Of course, we are still interested in developing smaller download only titles, however under the current payment system established by the publishers it is very difficult to break even on DLC titles. I can’t go into specifics, but all I can say is with the Yen this high it is very difficult situation for developers.”
Staying with the subject of finance, the strong Yen and the gloomy global economic outlook which, in terms of the gaming industry, shooting games and Cave’s recent financial forecast figures for 2012 does not look exactly promising, I asked Maruyama-san what he thinks the future holds for both G.Rev as a company and if they think the arcade scene in Japan is dead. After all, the arcade has always been the natural birthplace of a shooting game and it’s rise to popularity and/or rapid obscurity. “Yes, actually we have hit a rough patch around 2009, when the decline of the arcade market hit our sales of Senko no Ronde and in the following year the unexpected weak performance of Strania couldn’t fulfill our expectations. The game industry in general is having a hard time and we refocus on social games and new revenue avenues. But we won’t give up!”. Reassuring words. Typical of G.Rev and their ‘never say die’ attitude really. When looked at through the eyes of an economist it more than likely reveals a gloomier picture underneath the smiley gloss. However you have to admire G.Rev and their sincere determination to stick to their roots, the foundtaion they laid, their mission statement and their unwavering strength and commitment to the genre they love so much. If there was a Victoria Cross equivalent for video game developers and publishers, surely G.Rev would be a strong contender for the award.
Looking toward the future, G.Rev have a quality release schedule before them. One brand new title is due for release very soon, but more notable to old school shooting game fans is the imminent release of Under Defeat for the XBOX 360 and the Playstation 3. Originally a Sega Naomi arcade game, it was brought to the home console market as one of the very last titles ever released for the wonderful Sega Dreamcast. A title which was released in very limited numbers and commands sky high prices even to this day, Under Defeat has received a dramatic high definition makeover and is due for release on both the current generation consoles on February 23rd in Japan. Sadly, for now it seems, the game will only be released in Japan. While gamers can import both versions, there is some controversy among fans as to the Playstation 3 edition being region free but the XBOX 360 edition being region locked to Japanese consoles only. I wondered why such a decision was made and if it was one G.Rev made themselves or had made for them by Microsoft. When pressed on the subject, G.Rev said “No, it wasn’t our decision. If we wanted to release a region free game we wouldn’t get the permission to release it. That is the policy of the hardware maker. We at Grev agree with the policy of Sony, because region free of course is better”. Personally I’m in complete agreement, region locks are a waste of time and simply suffocate any potential for much-needed sales. The XBOX 360 is widely regarded as ‘the’ console for current generation shooting games and to cut so many fans off is disasterous for a title so niche.
So will we see Under Defeat HD in Europe? “As of now there are no plans but we are looking into the matter and talking to publishers. Right now we can not say when or if it will be released, but we are doing our best to localize the game overseas”.
Don’t hold your breath then.
Another title synonymous with G.Rev and held in very high regard (and a very high price tag to match) is their oft-touted spiritual successor to Taito’s (at one time, early in development) Darius title, Metal Black. The spectacular Border Down. Border Down was met with critical acclaim both in the arcade on the Naomi platform, and again on the magnificent Sega Dreamcast. Is it possible, if Under Defeat HD is successful, that G.Rev are considering giving Border Down an HD makeover? “Border Down is an even older title than Under Defeat, but unlike with UD we feel like we still have unfinished ideas that we would like implement. Because of that we would have to invest quite a lot of resources to remake Border Down. It would probably require the same investment as developing a new title from scratch. Of course, part of me wants to remake Border Down, but I am also the head of Grev and therefore have to think in business terms. So for now we are not planning to remake BD, but give us some time and we perhaps can make it happen in the future”.
You heard it here first!
Social gaming has risen to prominence and dominence in the last 5 years. Indeed, some of our favourite shooting game companies like Taito and Cave have already published titles from their back catalogues to the iOS and Android platforms. Additionally Cave have taken the extra step and boldly announced a new DoDonpachi title, DoDonpachi Maximum, as a Windows Phone exclusive title (which makes me very happy as I recently acquired a Nokia Lumia 800 this week, which, on a side note I absolutely adore!). Cave announced in their forecast for the year ahead that some titles they were developing have had to be put on hold due to the economic climate and issues with the Yen. As aforementioned, G.Rev are also acutely aware of the economic situation. In the past they have developed titles for mobile platforms, but what about the future? “We are looking into it and definitely want to develop something for those platforms [iOS, Android and Windows Phone ~ed] in the future. However, since we only have a limited amount of employees we decided focus on the 3DS for now”.
You can’t really question G.Rev on that one, after all they are a miniscule company consisting of only 10 employees! Although a miniscule company that packs an almighty punch of course! But why the Nintendo 3DS? What’s the attraction? G.Rev are shortly due to release a brand new title, Kokuga, exclusively for the Nintendo 3DS, a console that hasn’t exactly set the world alight in the same way other mobile platforms past and present have. In what looks like a risky move, G.Rev is quick to reassure, in fact what happens next is actually rather jovial yet equally bizarre. “First we wanted to release it on the regular DS”. OK, I don’t think anyone reading this saw that coming! “But then the 3DS was announced and we felt that the specs of old DS did not live up to our demands. That is why we decided to start development on the 3DS”. Straightforward enough then. Hopefully Kokuga will prove interesting enough to be a huge success on the quirky 3DS platform.
Then again, that’s what G.Rev are all about, trying something different and pushing new ideas on tired genres. Similar in a way to Nathan Fouts of Mommys Best Games, whom I interviewed recently, and his excellent Shoot 1Up title. G.Rev pulled off a similar coup with Mamoru-kun wa Norowarete Shimatta! for the XBOX 360 and PlayStation 3. With Shoot 1Up, the genius (for me anyway) was the idea of using 1Up’s not as an extra life but as a power up. Chaining 50 ships together for full on wanton shooting assault is truly glorious and a spectacle to behold for any gamer. With Mamoru-kun wa Norowarete Shimatta! G.Rev threw together the ingredients of a vertical scrolling shoot ‘em up with sprinkles of run n’ gun and at times even an adventure game flavour. Think of it along the lines of Mushihimesama Bug Panic! for the iOS platform. G.Rev performed a similar feat with the much celebrate Senko No Ronde (aka Wartech in the west). That’s what I love about G.Rev, their unwavering passion for shooting games. That passion is shown in every title they work on. Coupled with their devotion to the fans that worship their every move it’s no small wonder that G.Rev are one of the most lauded and admired developers in the industry.
With the sands of time fast running out all that remained to be asked was the inevitable fan favourite. What are your top 3 shooting games of all time? The answer to which I will leave in all it’s glorious unformatted, uncensored form below for you.
“I’ve been asked this question many times and one of my favorite games is Metal Black from Taito which is also the reason why I wanted to become a game developer. Until Metal Black I was never interested in creating games and just interested in playing them. Actually, my dream was to become a camera man. The game I spent the most time with was Xevious from Namco. Yes, there is no game I played more than that. The last one would be Fantasy Zone from Sega which I really loved when I was a kid. I used to ride my bike for 20 minutes to a nearby department store, which had a Fantasy Zone cabinet on the top floor. I really enjoyed that game. That makes my three favorite games: one as a creator, one that I spent the most time with and one I enjoyed the most”.
And with that, my handful of questions and alloted time had ran out. I hope the future remains bright for G.Rev. Given the economic woes of the world today, businesses like G.Rev are a rarity and one we the gaming community should do our utmost to support as best we can. Once again, I would like to extend my most sincere thanks to Jacob at Solaris Japan for offering me the opportunity to put my questions to Hiroyuki Maruyama of G.Revolution Ltd and my utmost gratitude to Maruyama-san for taking the time to answer my questions. Thank you.
Don’t forget, Under Defeat HD is released in Japan on the XBOX 360 and Playstation 3 on February 23. You can order your copy from Solaris Japan direct (subject to availability).