Interview: Ikki Unite Follows Gameplay Style Of Vampire Survivors With A Twist

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Ikki Unite - via SUNSOFT

Ikki Unite is a 16-player indie action RPG from SUNSOFT that boasts a unique arcade experience filled with exciting colors and a multiplayer bullet hell challenge. Players can take on the four diverse classes to meet their playthrough needs and dive into an arcade action world that demands a fast pace and strong attention. 

While keeping the essence of the original Ikki alive, the game meets the needs of players with a range of weapons, skills, and hordes of action-packed fun, making it highly addictive. To learn more about the development and inspiration, we interviewed Ina, Director at SUNSOFT.

Skill Tree
Ikki Unite – via SUNSOFT

Please introduce yourself and tell us a bit about your role on Ikki Unite.

Ina: I’m Ina, a director at SUNSOFT. With Ikki Unite, I was both the Director and one of the Programmers. I had experience as a Network Engineer, so mainly I worked on the system to sync up the large number of weapons and enemies that you’d expect in a bullet hell shoot ’em up.

What inspired you to revive Ikki with the same settings and mechanics but a refreshed look? How does the new game capture the essence of the original?

Ina: I was playing Vampire Survivors and other similar games, and intuitively I felt that this gameplay style would match well with Ikki. But that didn’t seem like it would be enough.

People used to poke fun at the Famicom version of Ikki back in the day, saying that it would take more than one or two people to have a successful uprising. That was my hint to make the game multiplayer. It was a way to respect the original, by doing what the original couldn’t at its time.

Ikki Unite - via SUNSOFT
Ikki Unite – via SUNSOFT

What was your approach to balance the game as the original title was lacking a lot of aspects?

Ina: The “ikki”s in Japanese history might be more familiar as a “revolution” in the West.

“Ikki” is about oppressed peasants rising in revolution. You would need to join forces with a lot of people to succeed. So for this game, I wanted a game balance where you can experience facing obstacles that seem impossible alone but can be overcome by joining forces with 15 other people

The community is mostly comparing Ikki Unite with Vampire Survivor because of the rougelite elements. What was the focus of SUNSOFT to keep the original essence of Ikki, while making the Ikki Unite fit the modern genre likings?

Ina: We wanted to make a multiplayer game that you could play casually.

You’d have to cooperate with random players as opposed to only playing with like-minded friends, and I think that helps Ikki Unite be a different experience from Vampire Survivors and other similar games. There are more possibilities for unexpected developments and you can’t just power your way through alone.

I think this need to cooperate with all these people online to overcome a common obstacle provides some unique and memorable moments.

Ikki Unite - via SUNSOFT
Ikki Unite – via SUNSOFT

The Ikki community is very excited about the announcement of Ikki Unite for Switch. Apart from that are there any more plans for new additions to content that players should look forward to from SUNSOFT?

Ina: Thanks to the simple style of the game, there are a lot of possibilities for updates. Some updates may be based on everyone’s feedback.

In the action bullet hell genre, how do you think Ikki Unite offers something unique or interesting based on its setting or characters?

Ina: It may seem like a simple bullet hell action game at first glance, but then you’ll start to see each character’s quirks and perks. They can be grouped into 4 archetypes: Explorers, Attackers, Enhancers, and Healers. You’d have to play according to your characteristics, or the whole team might be wiped out.

Also, the Unite Skills have a big impact on all your teammates, so you can use them to help each other even if you’re far away on the map. While the game can be played with only the directional keys, your skills are tested in not just your build but also how you read the room and I do believe that’s pretty unique in the bullet hell action game genre.

Gameplay of Ikki Unite
Ikki Unite – via SUNSOFT

Comparing both the original and Ikki Unite, how has the reception been so far?

Ina: Since its launch, Ikki Unite has received a lot of feedback from players. I do believe that this is because the game, while rough around the edges, is our honest and unique attempt at implementing multiplayer co-op with this number of players, with bullet-hell action. I think it’s an experience that makes the players start thinking of all the possibilities and how the game can be even better.

I think once you get a taste of it, you won’t want to go back to single-player bullet hell action games. Please give it a try!

What were the major challenges during the development of the game?

Ina: Balancing the game was challenging, as player damage significantly varies depending on whether they’re fighting alone or with 16 people. I still don’t consider it perfect.

Also, we went through a lot of trial and error to synchronize the large number of enemies and weapons.

How many developers actively worked on Ikki Unite?

Ina: Ultimately, there were four programmers and three designers involved in the production, but in the early stages, it was just 2 programmers including myself. We mainly divided the work between the server side and the client side.

Ikki Unite is a bullet-hell action game, developed and published by SUNSOFT. The game was released on February 15, 2023 for PC. Ikki Unite is also slated for release on Nintendo Switch on April 18, 2024

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