Zoku Sonohigurashi vs. Touhou Universe 2 is a Higurashi and Touhou fan game in which Higurashi and Touhou characters battle it out in traditional 2D fighter-style gameplay. However, there’s a twist. All of the in-game characters are represented by live action capture sprites of men in costumes.
I recently had a chance to sit down with the game’s developer, Kura, and discuss what inspired him to make the game, his thoughts on various aspects of fighting game development and play, and how the game is viewed in both Japan and the West.
Me: What inspired you to create Zoku Sonohigurashi vs. Touhou Universe 2?
Kura: I was making a film piece called “When the Evening Cicadas Cry (Sono Higurashi No Naku Koroni)”, and I decided that if I have the costumes and the actors, I’ll make a game version of it.
I’ve always liked fighting games and I’ve also liked to think about the game’s rules and systems, so I thought, why not?
And, I knew that if I were to make a game, that the music would be important as well, so I focused on that.
Do you feel that using images of real actors is easier or harder than drawing assets?
I think it’s easy.
However, since all of the actors were amateurs, they couldn’t do high quality action scenes. That made things difficult as the poses were awkward and stiff-looking when we were filming attack moves.
What do you feel is the most important aspect of a good fighting game?
Interaction with people through battling.
I think of it as a multilingual communication tool.
How do you feel about software like Parsec that allows gamers to play local multiplayer games over the internet? Do you think that it’s good enough for fighting games or is a more sophisticated solution necessary?
I think the application “Parsec” is a very wonderful tool. “Continued When the Evening Cicadas Cry VS Eastern Universe2(Zoku Sono Higurashi VS Toho UNIVERSE2)” is made from an old software, so I couldn’t correspond it with online gaming. If I were to make an online gaming environment independently, there would have been a need to prepare servers and maintain many things. Therefore, I reluctantly cut it out.
I think “Parsec” is more than enough for fighting games for now.
Are there any challenges that are unique to selling fan games?
I don’t think there are any problems with selling fan games.
However, in the instance of fan games, the characters are not original. Therefore, it is disappointing that you can’t expand on the characters and the music. I think that this is necessary when you want to make a game to high quality.
I have plans to make original games where I can do this.
Do you feel that the game’s concept is difficult to market to westerners?
I don’t think it would be hard. I feel that it would be harder to try to sell it domestically.
Live action is often not accepted enough in the country, and even if the game itself is entertaining, people won’t actually play it. I think westerners would show more interest than Japanese people.
Is there any particular reason why live-action capture is seen as a negative in Japan?
I think the reason for that would be because many people think that it doesn’t look as good, and they don’t want the original image to be “tainted”.
Especially fan games tend to be inspired by works coming from Otaku culture, and Otakus tend to be have a very fixed image on what is “Anime” and what is ”Manga”.
There are more people that feel resentment rather than interest.
Since westerners might show more interest, have you considered finding someone to translate the game into English?
I did consider it. There is a large amount of English in the winning messages and the protests texts, but I didn’t have the budget to hire someone to translate these.
For the sequel, I am thinking of translating it and selling the game, but this is still in discussion because of the problem with the budget.
If “Continued When the Evening Cicadas Cry vs. Eastern Universe 2 (Zoku Sono Higurashi vs. Touhou UNIVERSE 2)” were to succeed profit-wise, I am considering translation for the future updates.
What is your favorite fighting game? Why?
I have so many fighting games I love, but in particular, I like “Power Instinct” “ART OF FIGHTING” and “MORTAL KOMBAT”.
“Power Instinct” gives you a unique worldview and game systems such as 2 step jump and dash attacks.
In “ART OF FIGHTING”, you can see the character’s face swell up as they get hit with attacks, and enormous characters fighting that fill up the whole screen.
“MORTAL KOMBAT” was fascinating to me for the “FATALITY” scenes where the characters get gruesomely killed, and unique characters and worldview that Japanese creators wouldn’t have been able to think up of.
The 90s was the time I played games the most, and my three favourite games influenced my game creating methods.
Also, I loved all of the music from each game.
Fighting games are generally considered to be difficult to learn. As a long-time fighting game fan, what do you feel that they can do to improve the learning curve?
I get the impression that the average demographic were not able to keep up with the increase in amount of the system, commands, and complexity of the rules and rise of combo games during the late 90s.
I believe that fighting games will gain more popularity if fun and unique systems with simple commands were prepared, and games with interesting characters and worldview were to be made. I think it will give people more chances to play the games this way.
Zoku Sonohigurashi vs. Touhou Universe 2 is available on Steam for $9.99.
Important note: Thanks to Reddit user cocopuffs0706 for properly translating the answers into English.