Neo Geo And Me File 2: Kenichiro Takaki

Magazine/Site: Famitsu
Date: 08/09/2018

Executive Officer at Marvelous, President of Honey Parade Games. He develops games across many different genres for Marvelous, such as the Senran Kagura and Half-Minute Hero series.

A Genuine Neo Geo Fan Made Arcades His Home

So Mr. Takaki, I hear that you’re the biggest Neo Geo fans in the game industry?

(Takaki) I don’t know if I’m the biggest or not, but I love the Neo Geo and I collect both the home cartridges and arcade boards. I have about 50 titles at home. Several years ago I was able to fix up my new house with a long held desire of mine: An arcade cabinet at the entrance!

That’s amazing!

(Takaki) It’s been my dream to have an arcade cabinet in my house ever since I was a kid going to arcades. Up until now I’d been renting places and didn’t have enough space to have one, but I was finally able to make it a reality. Though I’d like to get a change machine now too (Laughs)

Even though it’s your own house! (Laughs)

(Takaki) The cabinet at my house isn’t set to free play, so you need a 100 yen coin. It feels good when you put a 100 yen coin into the slot, after all. For that reason I don’t have it set to free play.

I see. You might call that a hangup, I guess. How old were you when you first encountered a Neo Geo machine?

(Takaki) I believe it was somewhere in my first or second year of middle school. I first encountered a Neo Geo machine in playing King of the Monsters and Burning Fight.

Those are some pretty dense games.

(Takaki) The Neo Geo library is full of dense games (Laughs) I played consoles at home too, but there were so many arcade games back then that were so impressive, that home console games just couldn’t compare. I was really engrossed by them. Home console games were interesting, but I was charmed by being able to get a rich experience from arcade games, much like that of going to eat a fancy restaurant. So I went to arcades a lot from the time I was a grade school student.

Where did you play most of your Neo Geo games at?

Takaki - Arcade Flyer Collection
Takaki’s collection of arcade flyers that weren’t made available to customers. It’s full of extremely rare items.

(Takaki) I first saw one in a local CD shop, and I used the very small amount of spending money I had as a middle school student to play it. I started going to arcades in order to find people to compete against in games like Fatal Fury. Arcades were still a bit scary at that time, so I remember being afraid that older kids were going to come and take my money while I was playing (Laughs) I got questioned by the police sometimes, but I always wondered why I should have to be so careful when I was just going to pay games.

That’s how arcades were back then though. Was Fatal Fury what got you seriously playing fighting games?

(Takaki) It was. I played Andy. And because I didn’t have much technique back then, I couldn’t use Terry and Joe. Andy’s Zaneiken was easy to do just by moving the stick down-back then forward and a punch, and it was very effective. So I won way more than I should have just by using that move.

And so you gradually just got more into fighting games from there.

(Takaki) There was no Internet at the time, so the places you could get information on these games were limited. So I would increase my own knowledge by watching other people play. I didn’t know about super moves like Power Geyser at first, but then there was footage of that move being used on a TV commercial. I thought “What the hell is that!? How do I do it!?”. I have good memories of going and asking my friends at the arcade about it.

The Arcade as a Second Home?

Which Neo Geo game did you get the most into?

Kenichiro Takaki - Duck King Pose
Takaki with a Duck King pose

(Takaki) I’d say it was Fatal Fury Special. Duck King was my main, and I loved his super move, the Break Spiral. Landing it felt really good. I was young and had really good reflexes, so it was like I could pull it off at pretty much any time. I also played Art of Fighting, Samurai Showdown, World Heroes, KOF, and all of those games, but the one that really clicked with me was Fatal Fury.

By listening to your stories, I’m getting the idea that you were at the arcade quite a bit.

(Takaki) In high school and college, it was almost like arcades were my second home. When you lose at a fighting game, it’s game over right there. The amount of money that you have to use in a single day is limited, so there’s no way you want to lose (Laughs). I’d go to an arcade that was further away where one play was 50 yen and not 100 yen, so I went to great lengths to be able to extend the time I was able to play for.

What was it that you found so attractive about Neo Geo games that made you play them?

(Takaki) I played games made by other companies too, but I liked how Neo Geo games were a little bit rough in a good way. When I think about it from a game development perspective, there are definitely some sharp edges that I’d want to round off. But Neo Geo games aren’t like that, they can have some very sharp edges. I don’t know whether or not they just thought “This seems interesting, so let’s do it”, but I was very taken in by that energy.

That feeling of roughness is definitely a Neo Geo thing. You’re still currently working in game development Mr. Takaki, so have you been influenced by any aspects of Neo Geo games?

(Takaki) Neo Geo characters have had a very big impact on me. To the point where I haven’t been able to forget them since I first laid eyes on them. I think it’s because of their personalities and how colorful they are, but I think I’ve really been influenced by their way of thinking around how to make characters stand out.

So you’ve been influenced by the way in which they make their characters attractive. Your memories of the Neo Geo have now been revived in the Neo Geo Mini, but what did you think when you first heard about it?

Takaki - MVS Cabinet
Takaki’s MVS setup in Sega Astro City cabinet! He’s mentioned that he wants a Neo Geo Mini that’s an actual MVS cabinet.

(Takaki) It was very unexpected. I didn’t think it would be the MVS cabinet that the Mini was modeled after, and not the home system. Now that I’m an adult with some extra income though, I’d love it if they reproduced a full-scale model of the cabinet (Laughs)

It might actually sell quite a bit (Laughs)

(Takaki) The core fans are still around, so it could do pretty well. It’s probably unlikely to happen though (Laughs) The Neo Geo Mini has a lot of titles on it at 40, and it’s quite a good deal.

Is it a must-buy for you?

(Takaki) I’m thinking about buying three of them.

Three!? One to keep boxed, one for display…that kind of thing?

(Takaki) No, I’d open all of them. I’d line up all three of them and let each of them play the attract mode for a different game. The music from them would mix together, and it would really give me the feeling of having an arcade in my house.

I see! What an extravagant way of using them! (Laughs)

Takaki - AES and Software
He still has a Neo Geo hooked up to his TV so that he can play it at any time. He also has a great software library for it.

(Takaki) I’d actually like to buy ten of them, but I’ll hold back from doing that since that would mean others wouldn’t be able to get one. But if I’m able to get that many in the future, I’d definitely like to do that! There are a ton of interesting titles on them now, so it would be great if all of the readers could experience these great games.

If you like SNK’s games this much, have you thought of collaborating with them?

(Takaki) I have. I’d love to collaborate with them if I could, but I’d love to work on a new game in a series as a producer. If I went to work over at SNK though, I’d probably get my own company pretty angry with me (Laughs) But that’s how much I love the Neo Geo.