Interview: Sega of Japan R&D
We go undercover to bring you details on VF Quest, recent successes, sequels in the pipeline, how the spirit of Isao Okawa lives on, and who'd win a fight - Naka or Suzuki.
Kikizo was recently fortunate enough to have an exclusive chat with the Presidents of Sega's world-class R&D studios, recognised world-wide as one of the industry's most elite development groups. We sat down with all the biggest names at Sega to find out what's going down.
Located in Ohta-ku, Tokyo, the sprawling Sega Corporation building has stood proud for as long as anyone at Sega remembers, and produced some of the most innovative and successful projects in the history of gaming. Almost all of the personalities who created 'the classics' such as Streets of Rage, Shinobi, Sonic and Virtua Racing, are still active in development and managerial roles today.
Those present were Yu Suzuki of AM2, Tetsuya Mizuguchi of UGA, Smilebit's Takayuki Kawagoe, Yuji Naka from the Sonic Team, Noriyoshi Oba from Overworks, Toshihiro Nagoshi from Amusement Vision, Hisao Oguchi of Hitmaker, and Yukifumi Makino from sound studio, Wavemaster. As well as some interesting reflections on the past, the Sega's 'superstars' also offered a few insights and details on projects coming soon, even though time was fairly limited. Enjoy.
|Nagoshi: "I learnt a lot from Isao Okawa about how to manage a team."|
Toshihiro Nagoshi: Okawa never directly helped me with ideas for games, but I learnt an awful lot from him about how to manage a group of people.
Hisao Oguchi: Mr Okawa's dream was for Dreamcast to be connected to a network, and now Sega has stepped back from hardware, the online concepts inside games are still being created and released on other platforms. So, Mr Okawa's spirit is still with us in our games.
Kikizo: Mizuguchi-san, can you tell us briefly about your past at Sega when you left AM Annex, and what projects are you working on at the moment?
|Mizuguchi: "I just wanted to build my own studio."|
Kikizo: Would you make a sequel to Rez to improve any parts of the first game you weren't happy with?
Tetsuya Mizuguchi: Maybe, yes! [smiles] In terms of sales figures, I wasn't satisfied with Rez, but we should give Rez more time. I need to trust myself.
Kikizo: Takayuki - Jet Set Radio, Panzer Dragoon and Gunvalkyrie are very different visually. How do you come up with so many different visual styles within one studio at Smilebit?
|Kawagoe: "We get a lot of inspiration from each other."|
Kikizo: And with such a distinctive style in your games, where do you look to recruit your artists?
Takayuki Kawagoe: Because all of Sega's games look so distinctive, it encourages really talented people to come and work at Sega. All our previous titles attract a lot of talent for future games. We don't recruit people from the movies industry or anything.
Kikizo: Suzuki-san, we know that Virtua Fighter Quest features the cast of the VF series, can you tell us anything more about Virtua Fighter Quest at the moment?
|Suzuki: "I'm not really sure how [VF Quest] will turn out yet."|
Kikizo: So Naka-san, who would win a fight between you and Yu Suzuki?!
Yuji Naka: [Bemused Japanese noise...] Suzuki-san would win! It's hard to pick one reason why... but we're friends so we probably wouldn't fight anyway!
Kikizo: Oba-san, What do you feel you've accomplished with the new Shinobi?
Noriyoshi Oba: Well I designed the original Revenge of Shinobi, but in a lot of similar games recently there has been a lot of adventure, but not enough action. We wanted the emphasis in this Shinobi to be on action. I wanted players to feel like they're really good at the game when they play it.
Kikizo: What's your opinion of the new Ninja Gaiden from Tecmo?
|Naka: "Yu Suzuki would win a fight with me."|
Kikizo: Would Yu-san ever lend you Kage Maru from the Virtua Fighter series to use in a ninja game?
Noriyoshi Oba: If I ask, maybe he will rent him to me!
Kikizo: You seem like a very happy guy, why such a violent game like Shinobi? And is there going to be a Skies of Arcadia sequel?
Noriyoshi Oba: I don't think it's such a violent game! [laughs] The Skies of Arcadia sequel is in the planning stages at the moment.
|Oba: "The Skies of Arcadia sequel is in the planning stages at the moment."|
Yukifumi Makino: I wasn't really involved with B-Univ. I was just a creator at that time, not a manager, so I didn't get to manage music for all the different groups.
Kikizo: What has been your favourite game to work on in recent memory from a music perspective?
Yukifumi Makino: Without the consideration of actual sales figures, my favourite project was Rez - a music game [laughs].
|Oguchi: "Mr Okawa's spirit is still with us in our games."|
Hisao Oguchi: There's a lot of discussion at the moment - so maybe we'll do another one... Maybe!
Kikizo: What's the deal with Crazy Taxi: The Movie?
Hisao Oguchi: The idea for Crazy Taxi first came about when we got stuck in the middle of a traffic jam! But the movie is difficult to comment on, because a different department is handling it. In Japan the licensing department is taking care of it. I will be happy as long as it's a fun movie though, like the game.
Kikizo: Thank you all so much for your time, and we wish you the very best with your future projects.
We'd again like to thank Sega's R&D Studio presidents for their time, and to all those at Sega who made the interview possible.