In celebration of the recent re-release of Ikaruga on multiple platforms including the Switch eShop, the Japanese publication Famitsu sat down with Yoko Taro - the director of the highly praised NieR: Automata - to discuss how exactly Treasure's sublime shmup has influenced his own work over the years.
Upon reflection, the Japanese director was quick to acknowledge Ikaruga as the first game to properly synchronise music with gameplay:
Ikaruga influenced how I synchronize the game sequences with the music. Combining the two in a way that appeals to people’s hearts is a task that’s quite difficult. This sort of technique has been a hurdle for developers to overcome since the early days of gaming history, and I think Ikaruga is the first game to actually do it. Because, up until then, BGMs were only split by different scenes in each stage. In that regard, I believe Ikaruga was a game-changer in gaming history.
When queried about what exactly he liked about Ikaruga, Yoko Taro noted how the director and planner of the hit shoot 'em up was also responsible for the game's music - allowing the stages and sound to be perfectly synchronised:
Iuchi-san, the planner and director of Ikaruga, was also in charge of making the music. Thanks to this, the stage progress matches the music as well. That is one part of what makes Ikaruga amazing. Stage 2’s music starts off with a sense of speed to go along with the opening scene, but as the screen starts scrolling slower, the song goes slower as well.
This encouraged Yoko Taro to implement the same qualities into his own games:
How they mixed music and the sequences together was really groundbreaking, and it left such an impact on me that I stole it for the Nier series.
It did have an influence, but I don’t think it was as successful as in Ikaruga. You see, we forced in transformation gimmicks to bosses, and while music rises to fit the moment, that’s just a scripted event, as the developers don’t know when the player will beat the enemy.
In another scene in NieR: Automata, the boss movements match the rhythm of the music, but that was just forcing it...and not something the players could control in an interactive manner. If it were done properly, the music would increase in fervor when you do massive damage, or something like that where you feel the game via the music...it’s because it’s done so well in Ikaruga that it shines so brightly.
Have you downloaded Ikaruga from the eShop yet? Are you a long-time fan of the iconic shmup or is the Switch version the first time you've had the chance to play it? Have you played any of Taro's games? Tell us in the comments.