Disappointed about the current state of stale video games? Mad that Sony hasn't comped you yet for the PSN fakery? Don't worry—while millions are going gaga over the latest rumor about God of War 4, Capcom's Kazuhiro Tsuchiya (Haunting Ground) and CyberConnect2's Seiji Shimoda (.hack series, Naruto series) are here to tide over your godly needs.
At the 2010 Tokyo Games Show, the dynamic duo of dogma announced their collaborative title, Asura's Wrath, to much delight within the gaming community. Once a revered deity, Asura is stripped of all his powers by his fellow gods. Swearing vengeance, the god of fury uses his anger to lay waste to his enemies, some of whom are astronomically huge. With hype brewing by the kegful for the button-masher, Tsuchiya and Shimoda sit down with us to talk video game inspirations, God of War comparisons, and if online gaming has ruined storytelling for all the real gamers out there.
Interview by Kevin L. Clark
Complex: What first drew you both to gaming culture?
Kazuhiro Tsuchiya: I've been a big fan of manga, anime, movie, and of course games, since my childhood. Above it all, I was strongly interested in modifying the rules of board games or converting toys for my preference. When I was in university, I received a PC and learned how to write code, then I noticed that video games was exactly what I had wanted to do. That was my background to becoming a game creator. The great thing to working in the game industry is that I can meet a lot of "respectable cranks" here! [Laughs.] However, for me, the most satisfying thing is to hear when a user says that my game was fun.
Seiji Shimoda: I was a big fan of video games from my childhood, also, but I was shocked by movies like Terminator 2 or Jurassic Park when I was in junior high. After that I became strongly interested in 3D and CG. I wrestled with the choice between joining the video game industry or becoming involved with movies very seriously. But even during that time, the evolution of games in 3D was accelerating at an alarming pace, and I was profoundly impressed by the many great game titles. I started to feel like if I was the creator, I would do things differently, and one day I found myself working in the gaming industry. What I feel when I work in this industry is that, as a market that continuously changes, our daily work is full of changes. Working within those changes, compared to other jobs, one person handles the heavy responsibility of the entire project. I enjoy it and the final result are that gamers can enjoy it as well.
Asura's Wrath has been getting crazy comments due to its insane gameplay trailers but what is the story behind the game?
Seiji Shimoda: First of all, we had a vision that we would like to make a title that anyone who really loved video games in the world can enjoy. In order to achieve our vision, we thought it would be important to make the fun factor common to everybody, regardless of country, flag, or culture. Rather than superficial strategy of pursuing the most popular genre in the current market we focused on "fury," which is a very native emotion in all humans. In the Japanese Manga culture, it is one of the classic styles of catharsis that the hero uses overwhelmingly to place his enemy at a disadvantage, as you can see in many titles such as Naruto, Dragon Ball, or Berserk. We thought this feeling of catharsis could be borderless. At the same time, growing up with Manga as mental nutrition, we flatter ourselves that we understand the "fun factor" within the catharsis better than anybody else in the market. Mixing this "fury" theme with the myth of the Asian god of fury, Asura, allowed us to set up an attractive setting, mixing sci-fi and action.
But there must be some barriers in getting a Japanese game fully acknowledged in the U.S. What games do you feel could have fared well in America but never got the chance to make a splash?
Kazuhiro Tsuchiya: This question is a little bit tough. I love FPS [first-person shooters] but it doesn't resonate well here in Japan, yet. This truly might be the front and back of the same coin. Accordingly, rather than discuss specific titles, it might be better to look at the prevailing problem, not only in current titles, but also future titles. If I dare to pick up a specific point, we might be getting too complicated. I always try to ask myself, "Hey, shouldn't entertainment be much simpler?"
It seems that you can't get simpler in games than using the Unreal Engine 3. How easy or hard was it to choose that game engine over others?
Seiji Shimoda: Of course, changing the development style is not an easy decision to make, and we made our choice due to Unreal's high level of resolution and its current prospects of success. To start, Asura's Wrath, a very challenging title for us, allowed the team to use the gaming engine to change the development style fundamentally. We evaluated Capcom's MT Frame Work and other engines and immediately found out that the Unreal Engine 3 was the best match for our goal, which was the pursuit for better efficiency of development. In the end, it was best suited with our creative philosophy of CyberConnect2.
Those who attended last year's Tokyo Game Show compared Asura's Wrath to Kratos and God of War. What differences do you want the gamers to understand as more news is released about the game?
Kazuhiro Tsuchiya: God of War is a great game. Its value around the world won't change after the release of Asura's Wrath—what we are aiming for, though, is not comparisons with God of War, but to come up with a great title that users would enjoy and come away saying, "I love God of War, but I love Asura's Wrath too!"
Has online or multi-player ruined the "love" of storytelling that comes with experiencing single-player mode?
Kazuhiro Tsuchiya: It would be ideal if we could cope with both storytelling and online mode well, but depending on the game genre and/or theme of the story, the ease of handling them would differ. What we have to avoid is making a hasty call that we should add online mode for all games without analyzing specific features of each title deeply.
Beruseruku, also known as Berserk, is considered a classic manga/story across the board. The PlayStation 2 title never got much of a mainstream reception here in the U.S.—would you ever consider remaking it for next-gen consoles?
Kazuhiro Tsuchiya: It is very interesting that you compare Berserk to Asura's Wrath. As one of the flagship franchises to represent the Japanese sense of creativity within the worldwide market, Berserk is a very important title for creators like us. Even with your question about remaking it is a big honor for us—however, it's not our IP, and unfortunately we can't decide whether to do it or not.