Topic: Research: the conception of Touhou Hisoutensoku  (Read 5085 times)

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cuc

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Research: the conception of Touhou Hisoutensoku
« on: May 16, 2015, 05:42:12 am »
It has been a persistent rumor in the Touhou fandom that Kaguya and Mokou were once planned for Hisoutensoku, yet ZUN vetoed the idea for the reason that "they are too powerful". Not many people have actually investigated the rumor, despite that everything we know about Soku's development came from a Nae Radio livestream, of which a recording has long been uploaded to the internet.

In this post, I will attempt to assemble information on Soku's creation. Unfortunately, the loud music combined with ZUN's low voice to make it difficult to discern anything new from the recording, and all I could do was to verify the available text against the recording. Even so, the findings should be enough to give us a better picture of Soku's development.


I. The information

Nae Radio ("Wither Radio") is a doujin game dev livestream show, hosted by ZUN's friend D.N.A. We will investigate the broadcast from Sep 21, 2009, taking place after the Summer Comiket where ZUN released UFO and Tasogare Frontier released Soku. ZUN and Tasofro's NKZ were both guests.

Most people's knowledge about the show, like how Mokou was planned, or the whole design of Suwako was ZUN's idea, came from a fan's summary:
http://nico2c.com/acq/archiver/?tid-5140.html

The wiki has an English translation:
http://en.touhouwiki.net/wiki/Interview_on_Nae_Radio_%28September_2009%29

A recording can be found here (in 7 parts):
http://www.nicovideo.jp/watch/sm10791530

MP3 downloads:
http://pan.baidu.com/s/1kUJbqGf


1. Hong Meiling and the Touhou fighting games

As preparation, we need to understand why Hong Meiling was added into IaMP in a patch, without her own story mode.

In a diary entry from 2005, Tasofro's leader Unabara wrote:

追加キャラの美鈴についてですが、時期的にシナリオモードの追加まで手が回せず
アーケードと対戦のみの仕様になってます
まぁ本当に黄昏での二次創作としての意味合いが強いキャラなので
言い回しや技などに余り信憑性期待しちゃいけません
最低限のZUNさんの監修は受けてますが、黄昏サイドの味付けが強いですので

On the new character Meiling: at the moment we are too busy to add a scenario mode for her.
So she is playable only in arcade and vs. modes.
Um, to tell the truth, the character is to a large degree Tasofro's fanfiction.
That is to say, you shouldn't expect her moveset and what not to be trustable [as a canonical source].
ZUN-san only had a minimum amount of oversight, and Tasofro's own flavor is stronger here.


The implication is that ZUN's concept for IaMP only encompassed 10 characters, and adding Meiling was Tasofro's own idea. The character's design comes mostly from Tasofro, and ZUN's work might have involved only writing her dialog and attack names. This would also explain why Meiling was the only character whose moveset changed greatly between IaMP and Soku.


2. The Meiling route in Soku was originally planned for SWR

In Part 3 of the recording, around 10'41'', ZUN said the Giant Catfish was intended for SWR. NKZ followed by saying, they didn't have enough time for "China" (Meiling), so they ended up putting her in Soku.

At the beginning of Part 5, ZUN said, (SWR's) final boss was to be the Catfish rather than Tenshi.


So, the initial plan for SWR had included Meiling, as well as her story of fighting the Giant Catfish. Yet her part was cut when the devs faced time constraints.

This explains why the Meiling route in Soku was earthquake-themed, with an unmistakable connection to the SWR story. "The final boss is the Catfish" should be understood as a joke. It's likely that the player was supposed to unlock Meiling's joke route after finishing the main story, making the Giant Catfish literally the very final boss.


3. The conception of Soku

The 2012 announcement of HM again stirred up people's interest in the mystery of the Soku roster. Some fans, including writer of the Touhou news blog Tohomemory, had dug out the recording for a more careful listen. The relevant part starts in Part 5, around 21'.

22:13
ZUN:「非想天則はにとり出そうとしたら嫌がられた」
ZUN: "Nitori was supposed to appear in Hisoutensoku, but they didn't like it."

22:33
ZUN:「最初キャラクターはリグルとチルノとにとりと1、2面で固めようとしたら嫌がられた。テンション下がっちゃった」
ZUN: "Initially the characters were like Wriggle, Cirno, Nitori... a collection of Stage 1 and 2 bosses, but they didn't like it. Their motivation dipped."

ZUN then said they originally intended to make only a patch, yet this turned out to be too much trouble, so they just went and made a full game.

NKZ:「HALTさん、リグルか輝夜か妹紅の担当になると言われてたら早苗になった」
NKZ: "HALT-san [a sprite artist] was like, 'you told me I'll draw Wriggle, Kaguya or Mokou, but I ended up with Sanae.' "

23:33
ZUN:「早苗が決まったのは後の方」
ZUN: "Sanae was decided on later."

23:53
ZUN:「ゲームって人数少ないから弱いキャラが要る。ラスボス妹紅で他の人たち出そうみたいなこと、まあ言った気がする。でもやっぱり黄昏のメンツのテンション下がっちゃった」
ZUN: " 'We have too few characters for a full game, so we need the weaker characters. Make Mokou the final boss, and let the other characters have a go.' I must have said that. However, the guys at Tasofro still had low motivation."


The above shows that the concept for Soku developed gradually:

Initially it was to be a patch that adds new content to the game (which would at least have included Meiling and her story);

They felt making such a patch would be so much work, they may as well turn it into a full expansion pack. ZUN proposed to fill up the roster with Wriggle, Cirno and Nitori, who together with Meiling would give the expansion a minor character theme, yet the idea of a weak character lineup dampened Tasofro's enthusiasm for the project;

The lineup was also supposed to include Kaguya and Mokou, with Mokou as the final boss;

In the end, ZUN came up with a story driven by Sanae and Moriya Shrine, which is the Hisoutensoku we saw. Cirno was the only remaining character from the old plan. The Kaguya and Mokou plot was abandoned.


4. Tenshi's visual design

Aside from the more important issues, in Part 3 around 11', and a later part (which I couldn't find), ZUN also explained Tenshi's visual design. The original idea was for Tenshi's skirt to display a cloud pattern, which would be displayed as a separate image layer moving on its own in the game. In the end, the effect was not implemented in SWR, but later used on Utsuho's cape (we now have Miko and Sumireko in the cool cape club).


The Anime Weekend Atlanta T-shirt showed how Tenshi's skirt was supposed to look
« Last Edit: June 10, 2017, 03:53:24 am by cuc »
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cuc

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Re: Research: the conception of Touhou Hisoutensoku
« Reply #1 on: May 16, 2015, 05:43:00 am »
II. The analysis

After 5 fighting games, we should have realized that developing a fighting game character is a time-intensive process, requiring coordination between ZUN and Tasofro, and between Tasofro and the sprite artists. This makes a fighting game character slot a precious resource.

(For this reason, IaMP/Soku era characters who are not the two protagonists will not be playable in the new fighters, as the precious opportunities will be given to characters who never had it.)

I think ZUN keeps a list of characters that must appear at least once in a fighter, consisting of characters that are important to the story (Stage 4 to EX bosses, and some Stage 3 bosses), while also suitable for fighting games. E.g. Eirin prefers to avoid getting into fights; Flandre would not leave Scarlet Devil Mansion; while Shou and Captain Murasa should be more important than Ichirin, Ichirin probably was purposely designed to be a fighting game character.

Unfortunately, Hong Meiling must not be on the list. We can imagine that as Tasofro had already added her to IaMP by their own volition, ZUN decided to give this minor character a bonus joke route when designing SWR. However the joke route had a low development priority. When the time came, it would be the first thing to be axed.

We can also think about the placement of SWR in Touhou Project as a whole. The game started development in 2006, the year PMiSS was published, and was initially announced as Touhou Project No. 9.8. It likely is meant to play a role comparable to PMiSS, as a send-off of the EoSD/PoFV era (which I'll refer to as Touhou Part I). It would be a crossover event where all major characters from Part I can fight each other (in Japan they call these お祭りゲーム "festival games"). From this view, the SWR lineup has a bigger problem than removing Meiling: it has only one IN character, while omitting the most significant IN characters, Kaguya and Mokou.

If we take another look at ZUN and NKZ's statements, we can see that the stories they told focused on the conflict between ZUN and Tasofro over the weaker characters, only mentioning Kaguya and Mokou in passing.

I think this happened, because they treated Kaguya and Mokou as the basic premise of the expansion pack, something taken for guaranteed. From the beginning, their idea had been to add Kaguya and Mokou in addition to Meiling, and to turn SWR into the complete Touhou Part I fighter with the expansion. It was on this premise that ZUN further proposed adding the weak characters.

Then, what changed ZUN's mind? First, ZUN treats Tasofro as his friends, and he would not force his view onto his fellow doujin developers.

Second, I think in the autumn of 2008, when Tasofro and ZUN were planning their next moves after having finished SWR and SA, some new ideas had come to ZUN.

In the TD interview, ZUN said he makes three iterative shooting games, then starts anew. We know he did that with the EoSD/PCB/IN trilogy, and PoFV was an encore to show his appreciation for the players. What's strange was that TD happened to be the game that broke the pattern, becoming the fourth game in the second trilogy.

If we pay attention to details, we can see that the "religious war" story arc - UFO, TD, SoPm and HM were conceived together as a whole. The characters of UFO and TD are foils to each other; HM's four emotion-based card decks first appeared in Soku, concurrent with UFO; following UFO, Cirno's one line from Fairy Wars EX Stage was enough of a hint to enable the speculation that the HM character would be connected to Hata no Kawakatsu.

My theory is, ZUN's initial concept for the third game after MoF (about gods and "how scary mythology is") and SA (about the purest youkai and subconsciousness) was the prototype of the religious war, which he eventually expanded into a long-term plan involving two shooting games, a book, and a fighter.

Since coordination with Tasofro is an important concern for him, he and Tasofro reached the agreement that Tasofro would leave Touhou fighters to make whatever they wanted for a few years after the SWR expansion, and then build the religious war game in a new engine. For most players, Sanae and Moriya Shrine not fighting in HM was a perplexing move; but from ZUN's perspective as the creator, they were never part of the plan. Instead, his decision was to write a new nuclear power-themed story, allowing Sanae, Okuu and Moriya Shrine to take the stage, while leaving Kaguya and Mokou for the future.

By all means, he made the right decision, since even for a more farcial expansion pack plot (unusual for ZUN, the Soku script is littered with internet memes), "an aftermath to MoF and SA" is a stronger concept than "minor characters plus the IN pair". However, it effectively breaks down the Part II characters into two different fighting game engine groups, preventing a full-scale Part II crossover from happening.

Repercussions of this decision made in 2008 are still seen in the recent Touhou fighters, as Mokou and Nitori return to their well-deserved spotlight. Is there still a chance for Wriggle? Will more SA/UFO/TD characters appear? At the current pace ZUN and Tasofro put out Touhou games, can all the major characters from DDC, ULiL and future games even make it to the fighters?

Well, Touhou is not over yet.
« Last Edit: May 22, 2015, 03:40:25 pm by cuc »
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Re: Research: the conception of Touhou Hisoutensoku
« Reply #2 on: May 16, 2015, 06:04:14 am »
Interesting.
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Re: Research: the conception of Touhou Hisoutensoku
« Reply #3 on: May 16, 2015, 01:29:58 pm »
1cc Easy: DDC (all) | 1cc Normal: UFO (SanA autobomb),  DDC (ReiA, SakA) , LoLK (Sanae PD)| EX clears: DDC (MarB Ultra) | Puzzle Games: StB: 10-X, DS: Hatate unlock, ISC: All clear

Camilo113

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Re: Research: the conception of Touhou Hisoutensoku
« Reply #4 on: May 16, 2015, 10:37:12 pm »
This is one of the most detailed investigations I've seen concerning the Touhou Fighters history. I myself didn't know about the Tenshi skirt design, it would've been cool the see the cape-like pattern of Okuu in Tenshi's skirt.

I couldn't expect less from cuc! Keep the awesome and hard work, I'm always looking for this things when I check MotK.

I'm beginning to think cuc is ZUN disguised as one of the most knowledgeable fan from the Western community ...

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Re: Research: the conception of Touhou Hisoutensoku
« Reply #5 on: May 17, 2015, 02:09:55 pm »
This is really great, cuc. Thank you for sharing all of this information with us!

 I feel like I know more about Touhou now. :)

Sweetness and love~ ♥

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Re: Research: the conception of Touhou Hisoutensoku
« Reply #6 on: May 18, 2015, 04:17:50 pm »
In retrospect Soku becoming what it was worked. And Soku being a Windows 1 epilogue also would have worked. On one hand, SA seemed like sort of an odd duck in the grand scheme of MoF to HM, but as a mini-arc with MoF, the two received a fitting end in Soku. On the other, Sanae/Suwako/Utsuho, assuming any of them might have appeared in HM-ULiL if the original plan was followed, instead, could have basically swapped places with Mokou and maybe Nitori. It would have made for better cohesiveness and possibly removed slight oddities like Nitori in HM and the Moriyas being excluded from the popularity seeking (which has since been explained away, but still).

Strangely, with a return to the style and lore of old games with DDC-LoLK, the time is suddenly ripe for Kaguya to finally make an appearance in the next fighter.

I too wonder if we might finally get the likes of Wriggle. But if old fighting characters are out the question I wonder who's realistically left to include besides. Obviously you have a bunch of characters in the latter games left, but of older characters than that, there aren't seemingly that many left. Especially if ZUN still wants to get some of the ones who've never had a spotlight in.

The only thing I wish of the new games is that there was more balance between new inclusions and old fighters. Partially because I want certain ones back and partially because I want to see them in the new style no matter who it is. Speaking personally, if not in HM, I think an opportunity was missed to have Sanae interact with Sumireko, at least. That's my Moriya bias speaking, however. Maybe they'll address that in some form in the manga. The slate may also be wiped clean again at some point like it was after Soku so maybe we'll have a more mixed roster then and all hope won't be lost. Of course, by then we'll hopefully have more new games and characters (and ZUN will want to give attention to those characters, as well).

monhan

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Re: Research: the conception of Touhou Hisoutensoku
« Reply #7 on: May 19, 2015, 01:55:26 am »
I'm beginning to think cuc is ZUN disguised as one of the most knowledgeable fan from the Western community ...
But cuc's a Chinese.
He's awesome though.

Strangely, with a return to the style and lore of old games with DDC-LoLK, the time is suddenly ripe for Kaguya to finally make an appearance in the next fighter.

I too wonder if we might finally get the likes of Wriggle. But if old fighting characters are out the question I wonder who's realistically left to include besides. Obviously you have a bunch of characters in the latter games left, but of older characters than that, there aren't seemingly that many left. Especially if ZUN still wants to get some of the ones who've never had a spotlight in.

The only thing I wish of the new games is that there was more balance between new inclusions and old fighters. Partially because I want certain ones back and partially because I want to see them in the new style no matter who it is. Speaking personally, if not in HM, I think an opportunity was missed to have Sanae interact with Sumireko, at least. That's my Moriya bias speaking, however. Maybe they'll address that in some form in the manga. The slate may also be wiped clean again at some point like it was after Soku so maybe we'll have a more mixed roster then and all hope won't be lost. Of course, by then we'll hopefully have more new games and characters (and ZUN will want to give attention to those characters, as well).

I would like if there will be a fighting game that includes all the cast Part I(IaMP~Soku) and Part II(HM~ULiL) of the fighting games, if only to satisfy those people who wants the old roster back, and also to get a larger roster. Though if they have trouble making it balanced, I'd rather not have it.

As for the possibility of a new engine for the  "Part III", 3D Touhou Fighting game, anyone?
P.S. Not sure if want.
« Last Edit: May 19, 2015, 02:03:11 am by monhan »

Margatron

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Re: Research: the conception of Touhou Hisoutensoku
« Reply #8 on: May 20, 2015, 07:08:17 am »
I'm beginning to think cuc is ZUN disguised as one of the most knowledgeable fan from the Western community ...

Oh he/she's not from the Western community haha.

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Re: Research: the conception of Touhou Hisoutensoku
« Reply #9 on: May 20, 2015, 07:11:49 am »
I've never been very fond of the Touhou fighting games (if anything, I might have been more interested if the rosters had more minor characters in them, lol) but that was an interesting read.
Still hoping for Kaguya to show up in one of them some day, though...
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Camilo113

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Re: Research: the conception of Touhou Hisoutensoku
« Reply #10 on: May 21, 2015, 04:49:17 am »
But cuc's a Chinese.
He's awesome though.

I know but I think I misspoke, my bad. I meant he's the most knowledgeable in the Touhou community, even if he's from East.

If there was a higher level of awesomeness, it would be called cucness
Oh he/she's not from the Western community haha.

喵玉游客路过

Well, he's highly active in the Western community of Touhou, that was my point. At least, almost all the things I learn from Touhou comes from him.

Psst... all hail cuc...
 

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