GR: You said that you've worked on the original DMC, but this is the first time you've returned to the series. Can you tell me what other games you've worked on?
HK: Resident Evil 1-4. The Resident Evil series is the one I've spent the most time on. There's also a series called Dino Crisis. I've worked on 1-3. There's also a series that's only really out in Japan called Sengoku Basara. [Note: the first game was released outside Japan under the title Devil Kings.]
GR: It's interesting that you mentioned Resident Evil 4 - because the series went through a massive change in gameplay. Whereas DMC4 seems rather similar to the previous versions. Can you talk about the philosophy there?
HK: The Resident Evil series was basically made to be an action game that differs in each version of it. So we keep the same element of action while changing the characters and changing the setting. Whereas Devil May Cry was built on one character and basically one world, and we try to keep that throughout the series. Think of DMC as an ongoing series and think of the RE series as being compartmentalized per game.
It's basically the story of Dante and fighting demons. If we follow those elements, we'll be able to keep the Devil May Cry series consistent. In RE, there's just an outbreak of a virus in a given locale, and those people involved in that locale become the characters, so it's more random.
GR: The level designer, Makoto Tanaka, went on a trip to Italy and Turkey to scout locations. Were you impressed with the kind of stuff that he brought back? What do you think about going on a trip like that? Does it help the development process?
HK: Of course, even in the first Devil May Cry game, we went to Europe and Spain and took pictures of castles and things like that. When you're building a reality-based game it's important to have samples to build upon, so I think it's a good idea. I think it's just good for building our games and making them as real as possible.
GR: When he heard that we were going to see Devil May Cry 4, a friend mentioned that he's always been interested in the series but he finds the gameplay quite difficult. What's your reaction to that?
HK: [Laughs] I think it's difficult, myself. So with the first game, we set out to make a game that was "stylish hard action" - basically something that would let you fight and use difficult moves. And that was back in 2001. So back then, even if there was a high level of difficulty, people were willing to sit down and learn the moves and play hard. Since 2001, games have gotten easier and the number of game players has increased, but Devil May Cry hasn't gotten easier or been dumbed down to match the players. I've got a lot of comments that it's been difficult to play.
GR: Is there anything you're doing in development to address that, or is it too important to the series?
HK: What we've done to address the difficulty issue, is built in quite a learning curve. Not a steep learning curve, but a progressive learning curve. Even a novice player who buys the game won't get frustrated and throw the controller down because "I can't play it!" Instead, they'll learn how to do more difficult moves as the game goes on and eventually they'll be able to do the hard gameplay. What used to be really steep levels, we've built steps in between so it's easier to climb the levels. The level of difficulty will probably match that in DMC3 at the top, but it won't be so hard to get there because you'll get there in such small steps.