Space Invaders Helps Taito Develop for iPhone

It’s fair to say that some of the “big boys” (the publishers we all know who make their names on the big, hi-def “next-gen” consoles) haven’t had the greatest of runs on iPhone so far, either porting titles fairly unsuccessfully or failing to grasp the community-based nature of success on the App Store in the first place. Throwing a massive budget at an iPhone title can’t buy you success, fellas.

There are, of course, a few exceptions. Namco, for one, received much praise for bringing an original title from an established franchise– Ace Combat– to the iPhone with much aplomb, and Taito won plaudits across the board with its recent Space Invaders Infinity Gene. In fact, our own review proclaimed it as a title that ‘most shooters can’t touch’ and awarded it a top score of 4.

Yet, as most commentators will tell you, many of the traditional gaming powerhouses have very little idea about what to do on iPhone, seemingly failing to gauge just what consumers want to play in the first place.

Not Taito. According to an interview with UK trade magazine Develop, the biggest problem Infinity Gene’s director and graphic designer Reisuke Ishida and his team faced when tackling the iPhone was not what game they should try to pitch at the mobile market, but instead a more practical quandary: how to incorporate the format’s controls into gameplay.

‘It was difficult coming up with a control system that would be stress-free for the player, but I don’t think that’s particularly special to the shooter genre with regards to the iPhone,” Ishida told Develop. “I experimented with a number of different schemes before finally arriving at the one that appears in the final game. If the controls aren’t pleasant to use, other aspects of the game end up limited as well. It’s pointless to come up with interesting enemies or levels if control-related issues end up preventing players from defeating them, and for that reason the controls are absolutely critical.’

Rather than fuss over what to pitch at an iPhone audience, it would appear Ishida focused instead on what he wanted gamers to take away from the experience of Infinity Gene in the long run– a lesson some of Taito’s rivals would do well to heed. ‘Not only does the game use Space Invaders to trace the evolution of gaming, it’s also a love letter to the gaming culture as a whole,’ he concluded. ‘If it helps even one new person rediscover the fun and wonder of gaming, then I’ll be very happy indeed.’

With more and more established franchises beginning to make their way over to the App Store, Infinity Gene could well have set the benchmark for their rivals to follow for some time to come.

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