Though Dynasty Warriors: Gundam may not mean a great deal to Western audiences, the match-up could be compared with Lego Star Wars to Japanese fans. Gamasutra spoke to Hisashi Koinuma, executive officer of software dept. 2, software division, about this crossover title, and about the company's first Wii efforts.
Did the idea for Dynasty Warriors: Gundam come from Koei's side or Namco Bandai's side?
Hisashi Koinuma: Koei side.
And how did that concept come together?
HK: Initially, there was a request made by another company about using a different type of content and applying it to the Dynasty Warriors series, and that didn't hammer out. But after that, we came up with this idea to use Gundam content, because it has a very big market in Japan.
Koei and Namco Bandai's Dynasty Warriors: Gundam
Switching topics, how is working with the Wii so far, on Samurai Warriors Katana?
HK: Well, as you know, Wii is a very unique platform with interesting controlling devices, and as a creator, I really wanted to play with it, I wanted to touch the remote and try out what I could do with it. And it took me a year and a half, but we finally managed to create a commercial product. And you can say this with any new platform, but we made a lot of trial and error, it wasn't easy.
Did you find it easier to develop for than other, larger next-gen systems? In terms of learning curve for a new console to be on?
HK: You can say this about any hardware platform, but unless you're trying to squeeze out the maximum potential from the platform, it's not all that difficult to develop a title for a new platform, a next-gen platform. But when you really try to take it to the max, then that's when the real big challenge comes in. And I believe it usually takes a couple of years before we reach that state, and I think we've yet to see the best titles come out for each platform. In terms of learning the platform, it wasn't that much more challenging than any other platform. Rather, the real challenge had to do with figuring out how to use the Wiimote.
So it was a challenge more from a design standpoint.
HK: Yes, figuring out how to use the remote within the context of the game, how to play with it.
It seems like you can't do many sophisticated attacks with the Wii remote. Is that a problem for you? Or does that fit with the simple play mechanic of the Warriors games?
HK: This title was suited for Wii in some ways and it was challenging to use with Wii in other ways. But I think Wii itself can do complicated, sophisticated things, but we made the decision to keep it relatively simple because we think that Wii users overall prefer games that are easy to operate, so that's why we made that decision. But I believe Wii in itself can handle more complicated, sophisticated types of commands.
Games like this seem a natural fit for the Wii, but so far there's only been this and Red Steel. Is it possible to make, for instance, a first-person version of Bushido Blade, where very precise sword movement and realistic swordsmanship would come into play?
HK: You really need a precise match between the motions that one makes, and what happens on-screen. And unless that is precise, it will be a very frustrating and stressful game for the user to play, and I believe there are still some hurdles for before that can happen, at this point. I believe it would be a very complicated [gameplay] system... to take in that direction.
Koei's Samurai Warriors Katana
Will the sensor technology need to get more advanced before something like that is possible?
HK: That may be the case, but we're actually not sure about what needs to happen for that to occur.
Many people having been saying that a number of companies in Japan are making fewer next-gen, Xbox 360 and PS3 games and many more Nintendo games for Wii and DS. Do you think that's going to happen, going forward, in general?
HK: It is true that it's easier to create titles for certain platforms, and it makes sense that you'll have more titles for platforms that are more simple in terms of developing new titles. However, from Koei's point of view, or I should say from a creator's point of view, I am more interested in finding the right platform to express my ideas, to create the most fun out of the concepts that I come up with. So, I don't think creators are necessarily interested in developing only for the best-selling consoles, but for finding the best platform for expressing their ideas. So I don't necessarily think that the growth will continue at its own pace for those two platforms.
Koei has traditionally not been a huge proponent of Nintendo consoles, much more the alternatives like PlayStation or Xbox. Any idea why that might be?
HK: I am often asked "when did we start developing for Wii", and actually, we were shown the Wii platform about a year before it was actually released on the market, and at that time we thought it was an interesting platform, and we thought it was unique, and could do things that could not be done on other platforms. So we were always curious about it, and in fact did develop a title, which has been released [in Japan], which is what I worked on. But again, it goes back to this idea about what platform is more suited for an idea, because not every platform can do all the same things. So it depends on the idea, and if we have the right idea for the right platform, then that's the platform that will be chosen.
As a final question, what were the difficulties or challenges in taking a third-person game and bringing it first-person? What were the considerations that you had in order to make that work for the player?
HK: This time we have a rail for the movements of the character, and then there's action that happens along that rail. Both games, the third person and first person, I think they're both action games, but the treatment of the action had to be changed. That was the most challenging part. Another point I wanted to make was we didn't try to bring Warriors to Wii, we started with Wii, and we looked at the Wiimote and we figured out what would be the best title to bring to Wii to make good use of the Wiimote.