Old School Gamer Magazine chats with Takuya Banno, Producer, Tozai Games, who gives us the inside scoop on the Nintendo Switch version of “Lode Runner Legacy.” One of the most important retro games of its time, the new version brings the experience to the Switch, making it one of the most imaginative and creative games on the system.
Old School Gamer Magazine: How was this game born? Lode Runner has existed in so many different variations. Why a Switch version?
Takuya Banno: Yes, as far as we know, there are about 100 Lode Runner games in the past. Back in the 80s and 90s, Lode Runner was released on every existing platform as a “must have” game. But nowadays it is not always easy to create a game for every platform, even though there are good game engines and tools arising. Tozai Games has been entrusted with the Lode Runner IP from the original creator, Douglas E. Smith, and it has always been our wish to keep this game updated and fresh. This time the latest Lode Runner is for Nintendo Switch, and we have many reasons why we chose it. Not only is the Nintendo Switch a very interesting and exciting platform which is now seeing robust growth, we also wanted to access a family audience and a younger generation of players who may not even know about the game to experience the fun of Lode Runner.
Lode Runner played a significant role in the history of video games. It was one of the first games to include a Level Editor, and the original Famicom version was the first third-party game to sell over 1 million units when it first released in Japan. Lode Runner has a great heritage that should be kept alive for future generations, which is why we called this version “Lode Runner Legacy”. Another reason we chose the Switch is that we had known about how we can leverage the uniqueness of the platform after we released “Spelunker Party” on Nintendo Switch with Square Enix last year. It is a unique platform and we are very happy that we could release the latest Lode Runner version on this platform.
Old School Gamer Magazine: What was it like to develop on the Switch?
Banno: Everything went very smoothly. As I said before, we had developed Spelunker Party for Switch, so that experience helped us. For the game engine, we chose Unity since we are familiar with it and it has good Switch support. But the best part is that Nintendo has a server to share user-generated content which is open to third-party developers like us. Otherwise, we would have had to create a dedicated server to share user-generated content, and that would have been a very tough challenge for a small developer like us.
Old School Gamer Magazine: What makes this game special?
Banno: Lode Runner has been evolving along with the history of gaming, and this time Lode Runner Legacy is designed to match today’s gaming environment. It is about network, customization and social community. You can not only create your original levels or characters, but you can also share with players around the world. We wish all Lode Runner fans and new players will be in one community with this game.
Old School Gamer Magazine: Any fun stories or wild moments during development?
Banno: As we were testing the Craft Mode for players in Lode Runner Legacy, the team members became quite competitive with each other to see who could design the most outrageous levels and funny characters. We made some extremely crazy designs!
Old School Gamer Magazine: Do you think preserving older gameplay mechanics in new games is important?
Banno: It always depends, so we do not have a definitive answer to that question. However, in the case of Lode Runner, we think yes. We would say maintaining ‘the core essence’ is important, rather than ‘older gameplay mechanism’. The core essence of Lode Runner is the perfect harmony of action and puzzles. There were many Lode Runner games in the past that tried to add something very new, but at last, we always find how much the original game structure was complete, and this game structure is what makes Lode Runner as it should be! We may have many ideas to improve the game, but preserving the core experience of balancing action and puzzle is very important.
Old School Gamer Magazine: What’s your favorite memory as a gamer?
Banno: More than 30 years ago, when I was a junior high school student, Lode Runner was always in the top rankings of all PC games. I used to own an NEC PC-6001 and was so excited to hear that it would be ported to the PC-6001 by System Soft. The PC-6001 version was a pretty good port. Finally, I could buy the game and I played a lot! Every weekend I tried to complete all 150 levels throughout the night, but always gave up since there were so many levels and I could not wake up! I also used to play the Arcade version by Irem. It is very well customized for coin-op, especially adding the timer and bonus scores.
Old School Gamer Magazine: How does this game improve upon the original Lode Runner formula?
Banno: Our intention is to preserve the core experience of the original Lode Runner, but the game has many improvements to make today’s gamers more comfortable. You can visually know how much time is left for the destroyed blocks to respawn, which block you are going to destroy while you are standing in between blocks, where the trap block is, and which enemy has stolen the gold. After you miss, you can continue the game from where you ended, including the gold you have already taken, so you do not have to start all over again from the beginning. Even though you may earn a lower score, at least you can finish the level after several tries and you won’t be stuck.
Old School Gamer Magazine: Who will enjoy this game the most?
Banno: First, needless to say, we want all Lode Runner fans to enjoy this game. But also we hope that the young generation who have never played, or even heard about Lode Runner, will play this game and discover the fun of action puzzle games. We have added local 2 player co-op play, and we wish that the parents who used to play Lode Runner will play together with their children who do not know the game yet!
Old School Gamer Magazine: How do you want this game to be remembered?
Banno: This may be one of the 100 Lode Runner games, but it is the first Lode Runner version that allows users to share their created content via a network. We hope this is a start of rebooting the ‘new’ Lode Runner for the future.
Old School Gamer Magazine: What are your goals for the game?
Banno: We want to see Lode Runner on every platform like it used to be in the past. But more importantly, we want everyone to enjoy the unique Lode Runner game experience!
Old School Gamer Magazine: What’s next?
Banno: The Steam version was just recently updated. The new update has the same features as the Switch version. We want to consider additional levels and game modes, but it all depends on how this game will be accepted.
Patrick Hickey Jr. is the author of the book, “The Minds Behind the Games: Interviews With Cult and Classic Video Game Developers,” from McFarland And Company. Featuring interviews with the creators of 36 popular video games–including Deus Ex, NHLPA 93, Night Trap, Mortal Kombat, Wasteland and NBA Jam–the book gives a behind-the-scenes look at the creation of some of the most influential and iconic (and sometimes forgotten) games of all time. Recounting endless hours of painstaking development, the challenges of working with mega-publishers and the uncertainties of public reception, the interviewees reveal the creative processes that produced some of gaming’s classic titles.