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GS: What do you think of Resident Evil 4?
AI: Well you can ask me what I think of it, but I’ve never played the final version. I would see how the development was going, and play it sometimes, and I thought it was really interesting. I was really busy with work, but I often went to the development area and played it. What Shinji Mikami did with it was pretty amazing, I thought.
GS: After all that, how did you wind up starting Clover?
AI: After I left the Resident Evil 4/Devil May Cry team, I became a producer at Capcom. The stuff I was doing was pretty original, and had lots of creativity to it, so I thought, maybe it should be differentiated from the company. So Shinji Mikami and I had an idea to set up a brand where it would be clear that these were to be the original games. So Capcom would make their games, and we would be within Capcom, but we would be making our games. So the idea to set up a company within the company, for original games, came in around 2002.
GS: Where did the name come from?
AI: People seem to like this question! Well we thought pretty hard about it, and it comes from Mikami’s name and mine. It takes the ‘mi’ from his name, meaning three, and the ‘ba’ from my name, meaning leaf. Put those together and it’s ‘three leaves,’ so even though the logo is a four-leaf clover, the idea actually comes from what plant would have three leaves.
GS: Especially since you came from SNK, it seems you’re very much a kansai (southern part of the main island of Japan) person, with Capcom and SNK both based in Osaka. Do you think the southern culture has a big impact on the type of game people in that region make?
AI: I think that recently the differences in those games have gotten smaller, but I do think they’re different. Comparing to the games made in Tokyo, I think those made in Osaka are have a stronger taste. They’re stronger in general, more power. There are fewer developers total in Osaka now, with just Irem, SNK and Capcom remaining, really, so that difference is definitely going away, but I feel like there’s a power in games that can only be achieved in Osaka.
GS: Can you explain the collaboration with Clover, Nudemaker and Grasshopper that happened early in Clover’s career? This was around the time of Steel Battalion and all of that.
AI: Nudemaker and Grasshopper were two companies that resulted from the death of Human. They started doing their own things. Steel Battalion was something we were working on with the Nudemaker team while they were still at Human, before they were even Nudemaker. They were kind of freelance ‘heroic’ game designers, and as we were making the game, they decided to form their own company. We decided we liked them and wanted to work with them, so that was the partnership there.
In Grasshopper’s case, we really respected Goichi Suda (Suda51), he’s a genius designer. So even though we weren’t sure how things would work if we ever collaborated on a project, we look forward to everything he makes.
GS: Is that how the Killer 7 collaboration with Capcom came about?
AI: So Killer 7 was a design document that was brought to Shinji Mikami by Goichi Suda and Grasshopper. We didn’t send them staff or anything like that, Suda simply wanted Mikami to produce his game. In the case of Nudemaker, it was a collaboration and mixing of both of our staff.
GS: Is Nudemaker also based in the south, or no?
AI: They’re in Tokyo.
GS: Was it difficult to work with a team outside your general sphere of communication?
AI: They all came to Osaka to work on it with us. With Killer 7 though, where the development was done in Tokyo, and the production side was in Osaka, being separated was rather difficult.