Still, Arc's core is fighting games. You made a Guilty Gear with a 3D adventure element.
DI: Right, that was Guilty Gear 2: Overture.
Do you want to make other 3D games?
DI: Well, there are all kinds of things that I'd like to make. Guilty Gear 2 got its start because I wanted to make something new and something that may appeal to the world market.
The very first Guilty Gear came about because I really liked Street Fighter and wanted to make a game like that. With Guilty Gear 2, I wanted to make a game that would then inspire other people in that same kind of way.
So we tried to make the visuals from a more modern perspective, but the results didn't earn a lot of acclaim from the Japanese audience; it made me realize that they definitely preferred the more anime-like look.
Technology can really be a problem. That can be licensed, though, like with the Unreal Engine. What do you think?
DI: It'd definitely take a lot of time if a Japanese company tried to make something like Unreal Engine from scratch. It's gotten a lot less expensive, so I think a lot more companies are using engines like that in their games. I do think that it helps creators get what they want a bit more easily, but myself, I'm the sort of person who wants to do everything by himself.
I think that using a new engine would mean having to invent a new development process.
DI: Right. It makes it easier to move on and expand to other things. We have an engine that has helped us build a foundation that we can use to quickly move on to other projects. I think we want to use that to help improve the value of Arc.
One problem these days overseas is that smaller-scale games tend to get lost compared to the big-budget projects.
DI: I definitely know that. Mobile games are selling just as well as games on portable consoles these days, and for a lot of people, a cell phone can provide all the gaming they want. That's the trend these days. With big-budget games, there's a lot of risk involved. Our aim is to become the number-one maker of fighting games, though, so that's what we're devoting our resources to.
For example, if you want to make a shooter, you're going to be compared to Gears of War and Halo and Call of Duty.
DI: Yeah. I think only Capcom and Konami would have a chance at doing that. Maybe Sega, too. Arc has about 100 employees, but there's no way we could beat the competition overseas if we made an FPS.
You like shooting games; what do you think about the FPSes Japan has made?
DI: There's Vanquish, as well as that one Konami made. I don't think they're very good games. The AI, in particular, was just no good; that field is a lot more advanced overseas, and there really isn't that drive in Japan to make intelligent AI. Enemies just go in the direction they're given and react in preset ways to the player in battle.
This isn't a bad thing, necessarily, but an FPS has to have good AI or it's not going to be fun. The level design, too; in Japan, that's still kind of a work in progress in terms of quality. I do think, though, that a company like Capcom, Konami, or Sega could catch up and make something that meets or beats expectations in that arena within the next five years.
Which do you like more: games, or music?
DI: In the beginning, I wanted to be a musician more; I wanted to form a band. Now, though, I'm a person who makes both music and video games, and I feel like that's the best position for me right now.
Why did you go from music and band dreams to making games?
DI: Well, I wanted to form a band, but I wanted to do something visual as well -- I wanted to draw pictures and write stories. I was wondering where I could go to pursue all those interests, and that's why I joined a game company, because I thought that was the place.
What was the first game you worked on?
DI: That would be the first Guilty Gear on the PS1.
Anything before that?
DI: There was... what was I doing at the time? I was involved with the debugging of a couple of RPGs on the Super Famicom.
Were you with Arc System Works since the start?
DI: I joined the company midway, around 15 years ago. The company didn't have much in the way of original titles back then.
The first Guilty Gear was a major surprise for me when I first played it. It was a real high-quality product from a company I had never heard of, and I wondered where it came from.
DI: Thank you very much.
How long did that game take to develop?
DI: About a year and a half.
When you started the project, were you the one who planned it out?
DI: Before I joined Arc, I was in a vocational school, and even at that time I had the whole plan for Guilty Gear worked out. I kept that plan for a while as I worked on other things in Arc, and one day I asked the president whether I could make this and he said yes. That's how it happened.
You always do the music for your games. Do you think you could do a different style of music if you were making the soundtrack for another game?
DI: Well, the soundtracks for Guilty Gear and BlazBlue lean toward hard rock and metal, but I do compose music in other styles as well. They haven't been put into games, though.
It's very easy to spot the "Arc style," that mix of music and character design.
DI: I'm very glad for that. (laughs)
Is that important to you, that style?
DI: I think so, yes. We've all been doing the same thing for a while now, and that makes it easy to see where we're going in the future. If we tried to make something like Tekken or Street Fighter IV, there's no way we could outclass their knowledge and experience. So we're aiming to be number one and we want to do it our way.
Do you think doing it the same way will increase quality?
DI: Well, doing it the exact same way all the time would be boring. I'd like to go to the next stage visually and graphically, but I don't want the results to feel like something that isn't Arc. So we'll be developing new technology that retains that Arc feel.
Do you think it's be difficult for Arc to collaborate with another company and share that style?
DI: I think it's possible.
Persona: The Ultimate in Mayonaka Arena
I think Persona: The Ultimate in Mayonaka Arena definitely has both the Arc feel and the Atlus feel. Hard Corps: Uprising obviously has the Arc feel, too.
DI: Right, that anime-like style. But we can't do the same thing forever. We'll retain the Arc style, but we have to evolve it, too. That's our task for now.
It's not just anime-like, though. The character and enemy styles are very detailed and Arc-like, the design.
DI: Yeah. The design work's been done by the same people for a while now. That's probably what makes it Arc-like.
Do you see that as a problem?
DI: I don't think it's a bad thing, but I don't think people will find that appealing forever, either. If we don't try new things and evolve, we'll be left behind. Arc can't make FPSes or RTSes, but I want it such that the fighters we make can't be duplicated by overseas developers.