It's a very showy game, and at the same time it's very responsive, quick, and deep. How do you pull both of those things off at the same time? Many games do one or the other.
YH: A lot of that comes down to the battle programmer, Don-san. His sense of being able to establish a feeling that feels right, but also to counter that with the visual representation of something -- so something might feel right, but doesn't necessarily have that action reflected on the screen -- is something that he's very good at.
In a sense you're saying it's really a technical challenge to make it feel that way, rather than a gameplay design challenge?
YH: Yes, that's absolutely the case. From a design perspective, we throw things at the battle programmer. We can come up with materials that say, "We'd like it to be this way." We have requests. In that sense, we do leave it up to the programmer. There's discussion of small things -- "Bring this more to the forefront" or "implement it in this sense" -- but essentially a vision that's then implemented and allowed by the skill of the programmer.
As an example of that sort of relationship, sometimes suddenly you realize the game is really difficult. Then there's a discussion between us that maybe we should ease up on enemies a little bit, or make certain adjustments that way... so it's definitely not a one-way relationship.
In the first game you could get upgrades that significantly changed the way the game worked. Not just weapons, but also abilities. You could skip them entirely -- it was not obvious how much they would affect the game. Do you feel it's dangerous, that players can't necessarily understand the potential of the game unless they get deeply involved in it?
YH: Yeah, that's feedback we received for the first one -- we're taking that feedback and working on it in the game, how we can implement it. There have been improvements there, in the second one.
At the same time, do you think there's an advantage to the flexibility? Bayonetta -- the character -- can behave completely differently for different players, depending on how you configure things. That's pretty atypical for a game like this.
YH: So that flexibility is absolutely something that we're putting a lot of importance on. It's not necessarily the most important thing, but players, some might prefer to use guns, some might perfect to use hand-to-hand combat weapons. Increasing the quality of the game to provide that sort of flexibility in the gameplay is really important.
Is it just as important for the game to look good as to play well, when it comes to combat?
YH: Both are important, and I wouldn't place one of those things above the other. And this is something that is evident in the E3 build of Bayonetta 2 -- it's our goal to surprise players. And whether that surprise comes from one element of the other, they're both equally valued in the production of the game.
When we're talking about surprise -- how do you define surprise for players?
YH: Of course, how surprise is defined and where people are surprised, that depends on the player. We come at it from a stance that if all the people making the game aren't surprised -- if everyone isn't surprised by an element -- then it has no chance of having that effect to as many players as possible. So we approach creating a game with trying to surprise everybody on the development team.
Do you find yourself throwing out your first ideas, or obvious ideas? Do you have to go beyond your initial ideas to find those surprises?
AI: I would say that I've noticed with Mr. Hashimoto, it's not so much about coming up with ideas and then killing them, coming up with ideas and then killing them -- but coming up with ideas that he'll then polish further, rather than haphazardly put in.
It sounds like refinement is more your process rather than just trying things. Would you recommend taking a strong idea and refining it, or trying a lot of different stuff?
YH: That is definitely the case with me personally. There are a lot of different directors and designers within Platinum Games and that style doesn't necessarily apply to everyone -- but I would definitely say there is more polishing in my personal style, especially in the case of Bayonetta 2. We start with a solid base and the goal this time is to create something bigger, greater, and more polished. For example, we had a base, and this time we're announcing we have a co-op mode. So that's consistent with that philosophy of adding to the experience, and that's consistent with my personal style.
If you were going to give advice on someone who's working on a combat-focused action game, what would you say is the most important thing to keep in mind?
YH: This also applies to the first Bayonetta, but one of the big things of the combat in the game, as a designer, was having almost a direct link to your brain -- having no inconsistency between what you were thinking and what you wanted the character to do, and what was happening on screen.
Of course, that all depends on responsiveness, and that all depends on feel. The main thing was to put effort into achieving that. You can take that kind of advice in different ways, depending on the person, but that would be my advice.
And, of course, that responsiveness relies heavily on a good framerate, being at 60 frames per second. So that was also a really important element to achieve that initial goal of responsiveness.