Interview: Katsuhiro Harada talks Tekken

Series overlord opens up on backlashes, button mashing, and bears in bikinis

There are new character announcements forthcoming. Can you give us any information on them at all?

I can’t say a whole lot, but one is a character that has had a lot of fan requests to bring back. So [it is] a returning character that everyone has been asking for. The other is a character that no one will ever imagine to be in the game.

It's possible to play Tekken and other fighting games as simple button mashers. Do you think the style needs to change or evolve in the future to keep the genre alive?

Fighting games that you can button mash and enjoy are good fighting games. It’s your first experience with a fighting game, you don’t know how to play it, but you’re mashing the buttons and you get a good reaction from that, or even win, and it means it’s exciting because you feel the taste of winning. Not everyone is a hardcore tournament player. Seventy percent are just your average player who wants to beat their brother, or their friend, or whoever. So button mashing is very important for having them see that it’s fun, [but] those people, if they continue to be interested in the game, will eventually run into someone they’ll never be able to beat by just button mashing. So they will make the effort to learn how to play. It’s important that they at least feel that they have the chance of winning. If they feel that they can’t beat someone, they’re not even going to try the game at all. There are actually characters in the game designed with that in mind. Those elements are left in the game on purpose because it’s necessary as a whole.

We do get a lot of backlash from hardcore or high level players, but if they stepped into my shoes as a game developer and think of what’s good overall for the whole series, maybe they’ll start to realise that it isn’t such a bad thing.

There is a divide between what makes a game really successful in the competitive scene versus at home. For instance, Street Fighter X Tekken - some in the competitive scene might think of it as a failure, but it reviewed really well as a home console game. What elements are important for a game to work in a competitive capacity?

It’s interesting because the evaluation depends on the group, whether it’s the hardcore or just your average gamer, and it can be very different. You took the example of Street Fighter X Tekken, and if you just wanted to satisfy the core fans – the tournament going crowd – there are only a few elements that you really need to focus on. One of them is balanced characters, another is tech/skill – technique and controls. Another is knowledge of the game – if you know the game well you’ll be able to succeed and beat your opponent – and another is quick reflexes. If you make a game where if you’re good at all these elements, where you’ll win consistently as a high level player, that group would highly rate that game. That doesn’t mean it will be popular among the mass, though. Ono-san feels the same, as does the Virtual Fighting team. The game needs to give players the sense that they can beat the higher-level players at least some of the time. It’s a game, so it has got to be entertaining. It’s actually easier to make a game that just appeals to hardcore fans because you know exactly what you need to put in it.

"It’s actually easier to make a game that just appeals to hardcore fans because you know exactly what you need to put in it."

Another good example of this is Street Fighter III. That was very well received among hardcore fighting game fans. If you really get it down, where you know the knowledge and the reflexes and the skills involved, it’s a game where you can win 100% of the time. It’s funny, it was Ono-san’s game, and when Street Fighter IV came out, people were like ‘wait, there was Street Fighter II, now IV, where was Street Fighter III?’ We laughed hysterically at that, but Street Fighter IV sold a lot more than Street Fighter III.

Will the Wii-U version have any distinctly different modes to the 360 and PS3 versions?

Well, because of the controller, obviously there are going to be a few features that are more convenient because you can control them directly from the interface. But it’s not like the overall game mechanics are going to change that drastically. There are going to be some modes that will be interesting, because they are very Nintendo like. Some of this was shown at E3, where a mushroom drops down and Heihachi eats it and gets bigger. You know Nintendo fans hearing and seeing that just exploded with excitement. The things that we can do because it is Nintendo are things people will be very excited about, but we can’t go into it any further. That being said though, a lot of the online modes and customisation on the 360 and PS3 will be geared towards the core audience a little bit more.

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