The Ace Combat series has always stuck with Sony, yet here we are witnessing a new game premiering on the 360. Why this system, and why not PS3?
Ichiyanagi: One would think they could have produced this game for the PS3 launch, and time the development in that regard, but the team had several projects running, and their timing coincided well with the Xbox 360. Rather than timing it with the launch of a system, they timed it with their own development schedule. The Xbox 360 just made the most sense at this time.
Isaki: Up until now we've always had certain goals we wanted to achieve with each platform. This time around, we were able to meet these goals on next-gen hardware, and we wanted to get the latest Ace Combat into the hands of players as soon as possible. This was a major factor in our decision as well.
What can you tell us about Ace Combat 6 's online support?
Isaki: We're really glad to finally bring an online aspect to the series. However, it's not just simply taking the game as it is and porting it to make an online experience. We're going to have various types of online play available for players, dogfighting, team based and co-op of course, but you'll be able to set rules for everyone to follow. One other thing we have planned is, for those players who are victorious on Xbox Live, various things to celebrate their abilities. We won't go into all that just yet.
We also have plans for various downloadable content, decals and icons to customize their 360, things like that. In addition, we have various stages available for players looking for a more challenging experience. Also, for those who really enjoy looking at the planes, we have something planned for them as well.
Head-to-head gameplay isn't that hot in Japan, so is it safe to assume the versus matches are more for a Western audience?
Isaki: You're correct in assuming that it's not as popular in Japan as in the US, so when we included the online feature in Ace Combat 6, it was more for audiences in the US and gaining market share there. However, if it becomes a more popular element in Japanese games, that would great as well.
Of course, the Japanese players in general are very shy, so if you encounter these users online, please be friendly and talk to them. (laughs)
Is it difficult to create a balance between licensed, real-world jets and easy to understand gameplay? How do you create this balance?
Isaki: Basically, when we start development, we do research on the planes, be it online or going to see them at various air shows. We don't think much about how the plane handles, but rather how it looks as it flies, how it looks like it might handle and the characteristics of the plane, and create an image of it that way. Once we have that, we fit it into the game and make sure it translates into a fun, interesting experience.
How will players go about attaining new jets in this game? Each Ace Combat has some slightly different nuance to collecting new planes.
Isaki: The unlock conditions for planes and weapons will be similar to previous installments of the series - as you progress through the stages, you'll be rewarded with new planes for purchase, but there will be some secret jets as well. Players will have to fulfill some sort of condition in certain levels to unlock these jets. There will also be planes available for download on Xbox Live.