There are 3D action games like God of War and older 2D brawlers like Final Fight. The main difference is that 2D games require precise distance between characters and movements, while 3D games emphasize timing and general proximity. Where do you think Soulcalibur lies as far as fighting games are concerned?
HT: I think the difference here lies in how much information is presented to the player. With 2D fighters, as long as you have a grasp of the ranges required to land attacks, that's pretty much all you need. From there, you can figure out which combos work the best under these rules -- it's a very one-sided approach to strategy.
With 3D fighters, your opponent can approach you from all sorts of angles while doing all sorts of things. There are many more possibilities, so it's impossible to come up with one all-effective answer to every situation you're presented with.
In this way I think 3D fighters are more demanding of players than 2D games, because while 2D games always give you the same front-on perspective, you might be viewing the action from all kinds of angles in a 3D title.
It creates more excitement and encourages a more freestyle approach to play, and that's something any game in the genre should aim to expand upon.
How do you make that mental leap easier for people -- moving around and being able to attack from all sides?
HT: I think it's nice to be able to fight on a full 3D field using weapons that also work in three dimensions. However, it's also important that some of the style of 2D games is retained in the back-and-forth -- both for 2D fighter fans new to 3D, and to people who've never played either. Being able to take what you know from 2D and be able to use it to immediately gain some mastery of the game is a great thing, I think.
I don't think there's been a true 3D fighting game yet, although I'd like to think Soulcalibur comes close (laughs). One way this works out is in the way you can slip behind your opponent -- it's very quick and responsive to your command, not very realistic. It has to feel right, and that's important.
Why do you think there aren't any true 3D fighting games like that? You're always fighting on a 2D plane, after all. Why do you think a full-3D arena fighter hasn't worked yet?
HT: Because we haven't found a way to make it intuitive for players yet. Giving players full 3D freedom in a game like this sounds like a great idea, but for example, if you want to go behind a character, you'd have to give another input in order to reposition your direction and face your opponent again afterward, and that's something a lot of players would find annoying. So freedom is something people want, but not too much of it. Soulcalibur makes some compromises along those lines -- it offers some freedom, but under certain conditions.
Adding that extra aspect of movement would reduce the number of precise moves you could do, as well.
HT: Certainly. There's Monster Hunter, for example, and you have to hold the controller like this (Tago demonstrates) to control the camera -- the "mon-han grip", they call it. You use the directional pad to turn the camera while using the analog stick to move. It's something that works, with time, and it's nice because you can use items on the fly without getting distracted, but while fighting, it's an exercise in frustration.
How do you feel about projectiles in 3D fighting games?
HT: That's a good question. (laughs) I can't talk about all of it, but we're thinking of ways of expanding the weapon-based fighting gameplay in this series, and so we're looking at that aspect... and I can't say much more than that (laughs), but we're looking at the future of weapon-based fighting and what weapons would work with that, so that sort of thing could be a part of that.
In Soulcalibur, you have something that almost feels like a projectile -- just not all the way across the screen. To me, it seems weird, because you can just sidestep it -- something you can't readily do in 2D fighters unless there's a button for it.
HT: With a spear, for example, you can see exactly how long it is and how much speed and range you've got to work with. It's obvious, which it isn't with a projectile. That's often more of a surprise attack in a 2D game, something you can't necessarily dodge all the time. I'm not sure truly free projectile weaponry like that has really worked in a 3D game yet. We've had things like the shots Cervantes can fire, but I think it's a little early for a 3D fighter to have a character that can just fire away all over the arena.
If you guys have some future solution for that, I'd like to see what it is.
HT: (laughs) We have been thinking about the give-and-take involved; how a character would respond to a sudden shot like that. It's part of the ideas we throw around as we try to advance the series, so in that respect, I don't think it's any kind of impossibility.
Why do you think Soulcalibur has so few competitors right now? It's nearly the only weapon-based fighter that exists.
HT: I think the short answer to that is that we've actually got quite a lot of competition. We look a lot toward Mortal Kombat, for example, and looking more broadly, there are tons of action games where a lot of the fun is centered around weapon-based combat. Soulcalibur's audience overlaps a lot with those as well, I think.