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.
With that in mind, how would you describe the character design in Lost Planet 2? A fusion between Western and Eastern?
Yes, that's absolutely the direction we were aiming for. I think our designers did a good job.
Did you feel any pressure when it came to making Resident Evil 5 because of the success of its predecessor?
Yes, it's true we did feel extreme pressure - and Mikami-san's shadow - after Resi 4. However, because we were creating the sequel to this huge franchise we wanted to make our fresh direction clear. Personally, I don't think I'm gonna deal with Resident Evil 6 at all - as far as the series is concerned I'm not planning to return until at least two more Olympics have passed!
Dead Rising, a hugely successful game, was developed in Japan. Its sequel has been farmed out to a Canadian developer Blue Castle - being assisted by certain members of Capcom Japan, including Keiji Inafune. Can you explain a little of how this works? Are there any difficulties?
It's a unique experience. We have the original game's director and the planning team speaking with Blue Castle on almost a daily basis - this is very much an equal collaboration between the two teams. What we wanted to achieve was to meld Capcom's DNA with a foreign studio, while at the same time taking advantage of their strong points as well.
Your last collaboration was Bionic Commando, a bold and pioneering development project between Europe and Japan. Unfortunately the game didn't score or sell very well, and you've since admitted that development collaborations sometimes haven't gone smoothly because cultural differences tend to get in the way of harmony...
Unfortunately, that was an experience we learned several hard lessons from. Bionic Commando was slightly different to Dead Rising 2; it was essentially commissioned and farmed out to Grin, with Ben Judd producing the game from Capcom Japan. As far as Dead Rising 2 is concerned, we have daily video conferences with Blue Castle, and studio visits every few weeks. The lines of communication on this project have been greatly expanded.
You admitted at DICE 09 that Japan is an island nation close to being homogenous. What's it like having a Westerner like Ben Judd in your ranks? Does he have to work extra hard to impress or does the fact he's American mean he's a handy point of reference for Western culture?