Sega Wow: The Kikizo Interview 2004

We catch up with Sega Wow President Kaz Tsukamoto to find out the latest on the studio and its forthcoming console projects, Altered Beast and Blood Will Tell.

When we last spoke with Sega Wow, it was actually still called Overworks, and by the time we published the interview with designer Masahiro Kumono in October last year, the studio had merged with Wow Entertainment to create the ingeniously named Sega Wow.

But the studio, originally known as AM1, and acclaimed for classics such as The House of the Dead, has experienced a slightly turbulent ride since then. The resignation of Rikiya Nakagawa, who cited "personal reasons" on his departure last December, aroused the suspicions of some followers who were still cynical about the fresh news of Sammy's buyout plans. Meanwhile, charismatic Noriyoshi Ohba, of Sakura Taisen and Shinobi fame, had been relegated to executive producer solely on the Taisen series as a result of the merger.

The studio's new President was named as Kazunori Tsukamoto, a Sega veteran who's been at the company since 1987 and has worked on arcade titles such as OutRunners, Cool Riders and Ocean Hunter, and is now tasked with developing the joined studios into a more console-friendly outfit.

Sega Wow is hoping Altered Beast will boost mainstream sales.

The fruits of his labour and that of his 230 staff are reflected in the forthcoming console releases of Altered Beast, which has been in development for several years now, and Blood Will Tell - recently released in Japan under the name Dororo.

No so long ago we caught up with Tsukamoto-san along with two of his senior staff to find out more about the two projects.

This is this final, slightly delayed episode of our four-part Sega interview focus that has included Makoto Osaki (AM2), Yuji Naka (Sonic Team) and Toshihiro Nagoshi (Amusement Vision) - but naturally, we're hoping to follow up with even more in the near future.

Kikizo: Thanks for your time today, please start by introducing yourselves to our readers?

Kazunori Tsukamoto: My name is Kazunori Tsukamoto, I am the President of Sega Wow and I have been managing the team for the Altered Beast and Blood Will Tell projects.

Kazunori Tsukamoto, President, Sega Wow

Makoto Uchida: I am Makoto Uchida, I am the creator of the original arcade version of Altered Beast. I have also previously worked on games like Dynamite Cop Alien Front Online.

Yuji Horikawa: My name is Yuji Horikawa, I am the Producer for Blood Will Tell.

Kikizo: Sega Wow, under several previous names, has been responsible for some famous arcade titles in the past, for example House of the Dead. Is the studio moving more towards the console market now as opposed to arcade titles?

Kazunori Tsukamoto: Back then it was very much an arcade orientated market but now we are putting effort into both arcade and consumer videogames. There are slightly more home console videogames in production however.

Kikizo: What first brought about the decision to update Altered Beast, was it fan demand or more personal?

Makoto Uchida, creator of Altered Beast

Kazunori Tsukamoto: Well of course in order to release the new Altered Beast, the demand from fans was great, but we also just felt that this concept was time sensitive and one that could work well on this generation of game technology.

Kikizo: The original was very much orientated just around fighting - what have you added to the experience for the new version?

Makoto Uchida: Yes, the old one was just purely fighting really, but the new Altered Beast definitely has other new gameplay elements as well. Players can choose which beasts they want to transform into, and depending on the choice of beast the gameplay and battle styles are different. So if the player chooses a sea creature it will deal with water better and a flying beast it can cope in the air of course.

Kikizo: What areas of the new Altered Beast has the team worked hardest on?

Makoto Uchida: As a lot of people know, this has been around as a 2D arcade game before, and obviously this version is now 3D for PS2. We're trying to put more effort in creating the CG movie story scenes for a cinematic feel, but also we've worked hard on the transformation scenes that change the main character, that will impress the fans and the users. These are the parts we've worked hardest on. Originally when it was released as an arcade game, it was very short and very simple in terms of gameplay and scenes and everything, but with the new version players will be able to enjoy the game for ten or twenty hours. And in order to enrich this play time we have created some quite heavy and complex plot details, to make the story deep.

Yuji Horikawa, Producer, Blood Will Tell

Kikizo: Did you find any challenges in bringing the original 2D concept into a new 3D world?

Makoto Uchida: Yes it was a lot of work; bringing 2D out into 3D involves creating a lot more detail and layers; you have to take into account perspective and expand the way you view the world, and the players need more choice about how they explore the game world, which means more choices for us to make as designers. It's important to create levels that are entertaining but we must be careful not to go too far so that the environments are too sparse.

Kikizo: The new game seems much darker than before - would you agree?

Makoto Uchida: Well this is based on considerations for the western market, we think fans might like to see something like this now than in our generation back then. Old timer arcade fans might like to see more cheery, colourful graphics, but new fans will want more gruesome, scary images of the monsters and beasts!

Kikizo: Moving on to Blood Will Tell, how would you describe this game to newcomers, for example its origins as a Manga animation?

Yuji Horikawa: Yes, this game is based on Osamu Tezuka's work with Dororo. He is the master of Japanese animation, and pretty much the founder of the animation industry. That's what this game is all about.

Kikizo: Is the story original or is it all based on the original Tezuka story?

Yuji Horikawa: It's all based on the original story. There are new elements that have been created for the game, but there is no new adaptation per se.

Kikizo: Was it difficult for you to work on something that you weren't able to create from scratch?

Yuji Horikawa: Well, the original story was never actually completed. It had no ending; so the main character loses body parts and they're taken by the demon beings, and to regain them the adventure starts. But this was not how the original story went - and by working closely with Tezuka Productions we have been able to create the continuation of the story together.

Kikizo: How did you find working with the creators of the original animation, what has their feedback been like?

Yuji Horikawa: It was the wish of both the fans and the creators that there should be an ending to the story, and from the beginning we consulted with Tezuka Productions about designs, story, and dialogue and supplemental information that would be appealing to the fans. So these were the motives for getting Tezuka Productions involved. You might get the impression that we're merely borrowing the character from Tezuka Productions, but we see it as being a collaborative effort.

Kikizo: In your view, do games rely too heavily on elements like licenses now, and should gamers be more aware of people behind a game, in the same way people choose a movie based on its director?

Kazunori Tsukamoto: Back then it was very direct in terms of the way the medium entertained people. In the current era of videogames, the demands of fans are so much higher of course, so naturally the visual concepts, graphics and sounds have to be much better as well. We still try and create games that come from our own ideas and we try and keep our ideas fresh, but we must also listen to the demands and interests of the consumers, otherwise our game design ideas will not be as widely received.

Kikizo: What do you make of the new consoles on the way such as Nintendo DS and PSP?

Makoto Uchida: The unique features of these new handhelds - the two screens and touch-panel of Nintendo DS, and the large screen and high quality visuals of PSP - can be really beneficial to the next generation of games from a design perspective.

Kazunori Tsukamoto: I really get the impression that Nintendo DS opens up possibilities for new kinds of game experiences. It has really given us the opportunity as designers to think about how we could use the technology, and it will be interesting to see what ideas to come to market.

Kikizo: Thank you very much for your time and good luck with the launch of these games.

Click here for our latest Altered Beast impressions. Click here for our latest Blood Will Tell hands-on.

Click here if you missed part one with AM2's top development brass, Makoto Osaki. Click here if you missed part two with Yuji Naka of Sega's Sonic Team. And click here if you want to see part three with Amusement Vision's Toshihiro Nagoshi.

Altered Beast and Blood Will Tell both ship in the UK early 2005, and are apparently scheduled for US release later this month.

Adam Doree
Editorial Director, Kikizo

Video Coverage
(See Latest Videos & Video FAQ Here)
Altered Beast
Direct feed gameplay (640x480, 1Mbps)
1.04m 8.05 MB WMV
Altered Beast
Direct feed trailer (640x480, 1Mbps)
0.51m 6.52 MB WMV
Blood Will Tell
Direct feed gameplay (640x480, 1Mbps)
2.43m 20.66 MB WMV
Blood Will Tell
Direct feed E3 trailer (640x480, 1Mbps)
0.45m 5.69 MB WMV
Blood Will Tell
Direct feed video showing some CGI scenes and then some gameplay. [480x360, 1228kbps]
1.00min 7.62MB WMV
Blood Will Tell
Decent shaky cam footage showing some realtime cut-scenes. [480x360, 1228kbps]
1.01min 8.21MB WMV
Blood Will Tell
More decent-quality shaky cam, this time showing just gameplay. [480x360, 1228kbps]
1.01min 8.23MB WMV

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