LionWing Publishing’s Bradly Halestorm speaks to us about the shoot ’em up’s upcoming western launch.
Four years on from its Japanese launch, The Adventures of Ten and Till is finally is making its way over to the west. Developed completely and solely by Toro Nishino, Ten and Till is not a typical shoot ’em up- because on top of its frenetic action, it also puts a greater emphasis on world-building than the genre usually tends to do. Looking forward to its release, we recently sent across some of our questions about it to LionWing Publishing, who’re bringing the game to western audiences. You can read our interview with LionWing’s Founder and Director of Operations Bradly Halestorm below.
"With there being a four-year gap between the Japanese and English releases of Ten and Till, some people may indeed wonder why we chose it as our next game. The answer to that question is simple, though: not only does the game still hold up in terms of gameplay, it’s also one of those shmups that does a fantastic job at world-building."
Given the long gap between the game’s Japanese and western release, what was behind the decision to finally bring the game over to audiences outside of Japan?
The great thing about shoot ‘em ups is they age extremely well. With there being a four-year gap between the Japanese and English releases of Ten and Till, some people may indeed wonder why we chose it as our next game. The answer to that question is simple, though: not only does the game still hold up in terms of gameplay, it’s also one of those shmups that does a fantastic job at world-building. There’s, perhaps, more story in Ten and Till than there is in a lot of STGs. With this, the game has a fair bit of text. We loved that about the game. And since no one had bothered to pick it up for localization, or even provide a fan translation, we wanted to be the ones to introduce the rest of the world to the fantastic story that Ten and Till tells. So, although we reached back four years to pull Ten and Till into 2020, we did so because it has so much to offer its players.
Can you talk to us about how much Ten and Till differ from each other in terms of gameplay mechanics and their unique attributes during combat?
Ten and Till utilizes both tried-and-true mechanics as well as its own mechanics. To that end, the game features an on-the-fly character-swapping system where the player, with the press of a button, can switch from playing as Ten to playing as Till. Not only does this mechanic make sense thematically, but its inclusion gives the gameplay an almost puzzle-solving element.
Similar to, say, Ikaruga, certain stages–or certain segments of stages–can be really challenging if you’re playing as a certain character; and thus, it’s in those moments that you may find that swapping to the other character allows you to eek out a victory against a certain boss or sub-boss. Some people may see this as a simple dressing up of shot types, but it’s not, as Ten and Till each have their own unique shot types as well. So this seemingly simple character-swapping component really gives the gameplay an interesting sense of synergy and depth not otherwise attained.
Another distinctive feature of Ten and Till is the inclusion of its risk-reward scoring system whereby players can get super close to enemies–which causes the enemies to shine a golden color–and then blast them for extra points. You can rack up huge points by chaining these types of kills together; the only problem, of course, is getting so close to an enemy opens you up to getting taken out. It’s a fun push-your-luck type mechanic that further adds to that depth I was talking about earlier.
How radically do the game’s two endings differ from each other, and what sort of decisions during gameplay affect what ending players will get?
The endings are quite different. Part of Ten and Till’s fun factor though is figuring out how to unlock its extras; so… I don’t want to give away the decisions that impact the game’s ending, nor do I want to talk about when and how those decisions occur. We’re a little old school in that regard, I guess you could say. We’d rather the community figure those things out on their own.
"The game’s designer, Toro-sama, loves pixel art. Not only that, he’s a brilliant artist in that particular style. All of the game’s art (and literally every other part of the game as well: programming, audio, soundtrack, story, etc.) was done by Toro-sama himself."
Can you explain the game’s risk-reward scoring system and how it functions? Is that something that encourages replayability?
As mentioned above, forcing enemies to shine (glow that golden color I referenced) is an integral part of Ten and Till’s gameplay loop and scoring system. Getting practically right on top of an enemy to make them shine (which we call “Light-state” in the game) is risky, especially when you remember that this is a bullet hell STG. However, the points received for destroying an enemy while they’re in Light-state are massive. You don’t have to use this system if you don’t want to, of course; you can make it through the game without ever worrying about it. However, the score-chasers of the world will want to learn this mechanic and become fluent in executing it.
The Adventures of Ten and Till sports quite a striking aesthetic. How did you land on this art style for the game?
The game’s designer, Toro-sama, loves pixel art. Not only that, he’s a brilliant artist in that particular style. All of the game’s art (and literally every other part of the game as well: programming, audio, soundtrack, story, etc.) was done by Toro-sama himself. Which is all the more impressive when you realize that Ten and Till is not a short game. This isn’t something you blast through in 30 or even 40 minutes–we’re talking over an hour to complete the main mode, which is fairly long by STG standards. And that’s not counting the special stage.
I imagine the primary focus in The Adventures of Ten and Till is its bullet hell action, but how much of an emphasis does the game place on narrative and storytelling?
That’s right: the primary focus of Ten and Till is indeed the core bullet hell gameplay. However, the game has a story to tell, as I’ve mentioned. And not only is the story profound in many ways, the manner in which it’s delivered is really unusual. The game’s writing is all delivered through a sort of old/poetic style. So those looking for a story that’s straightforward will want to look elsewhere, because you won’t find one here. That’s part of the game’s charm, though–and also part of what attracted us to it in the first place. Rarely do you see this style and depth of writing in a shoot ‘em up.
What was behind the decision to launch the game as a PC exclusive?
Resources, and the engine upon which the game is built. Ten and Till was built using STGBuilder, a Japanese development tool for shmups. It’s a popular–albeit aging–engine for doujin STG devs, and one that wasn’t exactly built with console architecture in mind.
The decision to release only on PC also came down to a matter of resources. That being said, should the game do well enough on Steam, we’ll definitely consider a port. Porting STGBuilder games to consoles can and has been done (Dezatopia is the most recent STGBuilder game to get a console port), but the pool of people who can do it is small. So simply finding someone who has the know-how for such a project is a challenge. But we’re up for taking that challenge, if the Steam release does well enough to justify it.
"We’ve been so focused on our upcoming PC releases, that we haven’t talked next-gen much."
Given that next-gen consoles are right around the corner, have you given any thought to next-gen ports for the game?
We haven’t. We’ve been so focused on our upcoming PC releases, that we haven’t talked next-gen much.
What are your thoughts on the PS5’s custom 3D audio engine Tempest? How much of a difference do you think tech like this will make to how immersive games can be?
You know, features like the Tempest excite me more than GPUs and GPU speeds. For me, there are other ways to get invested and immersed in a game than impressive visuals; audio–and in specific directional audio–is one of those ways, at least for me.
Since the reveal of the PS5 and Xbox Series X’s specs, a lot of comparisons have been made between the GPU speeds of the two consoles’ GPUs, with the PS5 at 10.28 TFLOPS, and the Xbox Series X at 12 TFLOPS- but how much of an impact on development do you think that difference will have?
For us, it won’t have an impact. Our speciality is in Japanese doujin games, almost all of which are developed by small teams with limited resources. For other, larger developers, though, it’s hard to say right now. I mean, we won’t know how to utilize the upcoming consoles to their fullest potential for years; that’s just the nature of the beast.
There is a difference in Zen 2 CPU. The Xbox series X features 8x Zen 2 Cores at 3.8GHz, whereas the PS5 features 8x Zen 2 Cores at 3.5GHz. What are your thoughts on this difference?
Variable frequency is an interesting discussion in the console world, primarily because it’s never been a discussion in the console world. Sony’s stated that the PS5 will alter CPU and GPU frequency in way that allows developers not to have to worry about it, which is what you would say if you were trying to court devs and also put them at ease. Microsoft is taking the opposite approach; they’re touting the Series X’s fixed frequencies. It’s fascinating to see how the two companies are going about nudging developers into the coming gen.
What are your thoughts on the Xbox One X’s Velocity architecture and how will it make development easier on it?
I’m not entirely sure how asset streaming and the compression of data will affect developers, outside of the obvious ability to retrieve data from the memory faster. The concept is fantastic though, and it will invariably have a positive impact on development; but as to the particulars, I’m just not sure at the moment.
So, there is a power difference between the two new consoles, there is no doubt about that. But do you think that the power advantage of Xbox Series X will matter because of Microsoft’s cross-gen policy?
I don’t mean to punt on this answer as well, but I’m not sure. The cross-gen stuff is interesting and is a very consumer-first strategy. I do think, however, that the further we get into this next console cycle–and thereby the further we get away from the current one–the more we’ll see if there truly is an advantage in that cross-gen policy.
Right now, it’s smart to promote cross-gen within your own family of consoles; after all, not everyone will upgrade to a PS5 or XSX this November or even next year. But 4 years down the road, will developers still be as willing to allocate resources to ensuring that their game runs on a console from the previous generation that is, at that point, nearly half a decade old? I’m not so certain.
"The cross-gen stuff is interesting and is a very consumer-first strategy. I do think, however, that the further we get into this next console cycle–and thereby the further we get away from the current one–the more we’ll see if there truly is an advantage in that cross-gen policy."
Do you think the Xbox Series X will out-power most gaming PCs for years to come?
I think it’s possible, yes. PC hardware just doesn’t seem to be evolving at the pace it used to.
There was a comment recently by a developer who stated that the PS5 is easy to code for compared to Xbox Series X. What are your thoughts on the same?
Since we’ve had no exposure to the PS5 and XSX dev kits, we can’t really contribute much to the conversation. That aside, the points the developer makes seem valid enough. But until we hear from a larger sample size of devs, I can’t form an educated opinion one way or the other.