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[Takeyasu Sawaki, the director of the visually inventive El Shaddai, discusses the game's unusual inspiration, how Japanese development has changed this generation, and how his experience on Devil May Cry and Okami affects the game.]
One of the most interesting Japanese games in development right now is El Shaddai. Its publisher is UTV Ignition, which is UK-headquartered but has its own naturally-grown studio in Japan.
The studio's primary development effort is the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 action title El Shaddai, a game based on the Apocrypha -- books not part of the Biblical canon but which tell stories in the Christian tradition. In this case, the main character of the game Enoch, a human who is promoted to be an angel.
Its director, Takeyasu Sawaki, got the idea for the game from a conversation with someone at the company's UK office and embellished it with his own ideas and visual style -- as well as gameplay director -- which arose from his experiences working at Capcom on games such as Devil May Cry and Okami.
Looking unlike any game on the show floor of either E3 (where it publicly debuted for the first time) or Tokyo Game Show, El Shaddai meshes an innovative visual style with hack and slash adventure gameplay -- a formula Sawaki has been well-acquainted with in his previous work.
To find out more, Gamasutra spoke to Sawaki about the game, his former coworkers, who are at Capcom and Platinum Games, and more.
How did you arrive at such a distinct visual style?
Takeyasu Sawaki: I have had a concept for this sort of visual style for a very long time. I used to work for Capcom, but I became a freelancer after that. But now I've been recruited, along with new staff, for a new company. Four years ago, I thought I'd be ready to create something like this.
To create the look of the game, did you have to develop technology like the game engine, shaders, that kind of stuff to support the individual style?
TS: The dev team made special technology to create these kinds of graphics.
What's the biggest priority with creating a game for you? As you said, you worked at Capcom, so you have a lot of experience. When it came time to make your game, what was the biggest priority of your creation?
TS: Of course, I'm always thinking of the players. I'm thinking of making something that all the players can like.
Do you have an image of the audience of this game? Is it a broad, wide audience? Is it specifically people who are interested in mythology or art or anything like that?
TS: I wish that all kinds of players can play this game.
It's interesting that it has the two dimensional sections and 3D sections. How did you arrive at that sort of design?
TS: I think action game become more playable -- because in a game that's more than ten hours, there will be a lot of repetition. So, I wanted to put different things to avoid players getting bored. So the tempo of the game becomes like 2D, 3D, 2D, 3D...
I think that 2D has recently become more popular because 3D technology has become more commonplace; it's not as novel anymore.
TS: I absolutely agree with that. Even though now all the users are liking 3D games, I still think a lot of users will like those 2D games. There are a lot of iPhone or PSP games that are 2D action games, too.
How did you actually arrive at using this backdrop of mythology, the Christian Apocrypha, that is the basis for the story?
TS: Well, our company's headquarters is in the UK, and one person in UK who used to work for UK office brought this idea to me, and I wanted to make a game related to this kind of religious theme. The theme was basically given to me.
It's interesting because it's like a very different take on this material than I think we would have gotten from a Western studio, or even from other Japanese studios. It looks at a story that we probably wouldn't hear about and it's also told in a different way, I think.
TS: As a Japanese creator, I want to make something that only Japanese people can make. I don't want to follow the European people's way.