'Castlevania' Creator Koji Igarashi: 'I Don't Feel That I'm a Big Deal'

For years, Koji Igarashi – known as “IGA” by his fans – was MIA at the storied game publisher Konami. Though he helped create the legendary 1997 classic Castlevania: Symphony Of The Night for PlayStation, he spent the bulk of his next 17 years at Konami working on a seemingly endless procession of mostly handheld variations of the same theme. While stablemate Hideo Kojima pushed for an ever bigger canvas for his epic Metal Gear series, Igarashi – who in person is the very model of humility – plugged away on the franchise he gave birth to. He enjoyed some breakout critical hits like Aria of Sorrow on GameBoy Advance and Dawn of Sorrow on DS, but eventually left Konami in 2014 to pursue his own creative vision.

His work inspired an entire genre that’s partially named in honor of his work — the “Metroidvania,” which is a reference to the sprawling, contiguous design sensibilities that define Symphony of the Night and Nintendo’s Super Metroid. These days,”IGAvania” is gaining currency, which reflects an attitude among Igarashi’s fans’ that his impact on the genre should be more overtly expressed.

Igarashi is now working with publisher Artplay which is overseeing his return to his preferred style of action game with Bloodstained: Ritual Of The Night; notable for being both the genre that made Igarashi famous, and also for once being the biggest game-related Kickstarter fundraising project ever (before being overtaken a short time later by Shenmue III). With his recent public appearance indie game festival BitSummit, we caught up with IGA at his Tokyo office recently to talk about where he’s been and where his new franchise will take him in the future.

You made your name with Castlevania: Symphony Of The Night. You were the co-director, sharing the role with Toru Hagiwara. How did you guys work together?
Mr. Hagiwara was the original director, but when he was promoted and became the head of our division, he asked me to take it over the project from there. So it’s not like there was any conflict. He simply was promoted to a position that didn’t allow him to continue as the director, so I filled in.

What did you learn from him?
He is one of two people at Konami that I look up to as a mentor. He has two principles: the first is that he is passionate about making games fun and making people happy. Hagiwara also has a cunning sense when it comes to designating tasks to different teams to optimize the development process. I learned a lot about balancing that workload within the team from him. It’s a skill that is really hard to polish as a creator, but Hagiwara excelled in it.

Most of the Castlevania games you worked on have vastly different game systems. Why did you feel the need to alter them so frequently?
There are titles where we kept the same system. For example, from Aria of Sorrow to Dawn of Sorrow. But each Castlevania game is based on a character that has a different supernatural power. If we kept the same character with the same superpower, we could have continued to use the same system. However, we usually had different main characters because we didn’t want to make the same game over and over again.

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