Bullet hell-style shoot 'em ups are some of the most challenging, demanding games around. But even for veteran developer M2, it's become important to bring those experiences to a wider audience by providing optional settings to ease up on the difficulty.
M2, well-known for its Sega Ages remakes, is currently working on a new game in the shoot 'em up Aleste series called Aleste Branch. In an interview with German gaming magazine M! Games, game designer Highma Fuyuno stressed the importance of providing different difficulty modes for players.
HF: I have worked on shooting games before and there have been some very difficult games among them. From my experience, games with easier difficulty levels are enjoyed easily by more people; they have much more positive feedback. Especially in events where we could communicate with fans directly, there were many occasions where fans thanked us for making easier modes. Many people seem to feel isolated and estranged by too difficult games, and sometimes they feel apologetic about buying games that they can't really play. So I feel it's important for us to implement easy game modes that people can enjoy right away, and they can become better and enjoy more difficult game modes.
Difficulty can mean different things for different games. In your Souls-style games, like the brutally tough Nioh, it's part of overcoming the obstacles in front of you. In Monster Hunter: World, it's how they ramp you up over time, getting first-time players to the level where most Monster Hunter faithful are at. And in games like Celeste, difficulty can be fluid, adapting to keep the pace moving and avoid frustration.
For a shoot 'em up like Aleste Branch, this could make a traditionally impenetrable genre just a little more approachable for first-time players. That seems like a good thing overall for M2, and I have no doubt the options to make the game crushingly difficult will still persist.
Be sure to check out our full translation of the Aleste Branch interview to see more of what M2 is up to with the Aleste series.