During a recent press event for J-shooter-with-giant-pulsating egg-sacs Lost Planet 2, we had the exceptional good fortune to bag an entire hour of alone time with Capcom’s (in)famous producer Jun Takeuchi. He was the much-pilloried chap behind Resident Evil 5, in case you were wondering, but don’t get the pitchforks out just yet because Takeuchi had some very surprising, interesting and remarkably honest things to say about the survival horror outing that divided an industry, his employers Capcom and a whole host of other red-hot game industry issues. Get ready because he ain’t holding back...
Hello Takeuchi-san. Co-op was a big focus of Resident Evil 5; now there’s four-player co-op in Lost Planet 2. Do you believe that, in a sense, multiplayer is almost the future of the single-player experience?
That is quite possible, though it also means we have to be increasingly careful about the gameplay design! However, it’s proved very popular and I fully expect the popularity of the co-op format to further increase in the future. Rather than AI playing in a prescribed way, you simply can’t predict what a human player is going to do next. That key element of surprise is very interesting for players... and developers too.
What’s your favourite Vital Suit and Akrid enemy type in LP2?
I’d have to say the gigantic Akrid/Vital Suit hybrid where one player pilots and the others are gunning on the leg turrets. You’ve already seen the Salamande and Gordiant, but he’s a particular favourite of mine. From a certain aspect he looks cute and cuddly, but players can actually enter its intestines, and grapple onto its back. It’s a multitalented monster!
In the past you’ve mentioned the shooting of Gears of War and the universe of Halo as being big inspirations for Lost Planet. Have any other games come out in the interim that inspired your change of direction for this sequel?
I’d suggest Forza Motorsport 3. I’m aware it’s a totally different genre, but I was hugely impressed with the streamlined interface; the concept of Lost Planet 2’s integrated single/multiplayer front-end stemmed directly from Forza 3.
Korean film idol Lee Byung-hun’s likeness ‘starred’ in the original Lost Planet. Yet none of the cast has returned for this sequel. Why?
That was a deliberate design decision. I’m not a big fan of Final Fantasy, but two of VII’s characters – Cloud and Sephiroth – are still very famous and identifiable today. Nevertheless, I maintain that if you use such strong characters it’s extremely difficult for a player to identify with them. So we’ve deliberately taken the personality out of the protagonists so you can play as ‘yourself’ in Lost Planet 2.
It must be hard helming an established series like Resident Evil. Is it more fun to take control of a relatively new IP like Lost Planet?
It’s a tricky question to answer; working on an established IP involves large elements of mental strength as it’s very draining and the pressure is high. Having said that, to push through new IPs like Lost Planet you need physical strength. The most important thing I’ve learned through these experiences is this though: not to handle two titles at once!
What did you think of Bayonetta – would you agree with a lot of Western commentators that it’s gone at least some way to saving a Japanese game industry that Capcom’s own Keiji Inafune controversially pronounced ‘dead’ at last year’s Tokyo Games Show?
I’m personally very good friends with [Hideki] Kamiya, and I can tell you that with Bayonetta he certainly didn’t go out with the intention of trying to save Japanese gaming! As a developer, he simply created something he was very passionate about, and the result is highly impressive.
But do you personally think Japanese developers can ever catch up with their European and American rivals again?
I have to be very careful with my answer here; I’ve had many bad experiences with people twisting my words! What I will say is this: if the Japanese games industry doesn’t evolve and simply maintains its current status quo, I really don’t think we have a hope in hell. Drastically innovative ideas are needed – and quickly – to equal or exceed the Western games industry.
You made us laugh at DICE last year when you said that, in order to make a game sell in the West, sometimes you would take a really smart and stylish Japanese character and turn him into a big, grizzly macho man! Is that what Dead Rising’s Frank West was?
I suppose Frank West is a very unique character, certainly not your stereotypical good-looking macho guy! Having said that, from my point of view, he’s an average American – albeit it with his facial features a little exaggerated for comical effect. It’s a fine line, but Frank appealed to a lot of people – and I respect Inafune’s research into creating such an unlikely hero.