Guilty Gear stands out among fighters for its hard-edged character designs and unforgettable music, both courtesy of Arc System Works' Daisuke Ishiwatari. In an interview with Gamasutra, he opened up on Arc System Works' current top series BlazBlue, a surprising obsession with Western games, and concerns over the PS Vita's online capabilities.
When asked about the recent resurgence of fighting games led by Street Fighter IV, Ishiwatari believes that "the first fighter boom pretty well wrapped up around 15 years ago, but now we're seeing a lot more excitement for the genre, especially over in Europe. That's helped contribute to what I think is a becoming a growing scene for fighters."
Ishiwatari pointed out that the effects of DLC was "pretty large" in the modern console gaming scene, and that Japanese fans had the highest amount of DLC purchases, probably due to Japan having "the most people who enjoy the anime or manga-like look that is prevalent in most of Arc System Works' titles."
Gamasutra asked if Ishiwatari played games from other companies, and he mentioned liking overseas games better than Japanese games, citing Operation Flashpoint, Gears of War, Diablo, and Warcraft among his favorites--Warcraft even more so than the insanely-popular-in-Japan Monster Hunter. He even talked about how since games like Warcraft don't come out in Japan, he buys import copies of the games from Akihabara and plays with an English dictionary next to him.
Ishiwatari had a lot to say about the importance of mobile gaming in today's market: "Mobile games are selling just as well as games on portable consoles these days, and for a lot of people, a cell phone can provide all the gaming they want. That's the trend these days. With big-budget games, there's a lot of risk involved. Our aim is to become the number-one maker of fighting games, though, so that's what we're devoting our resources to."
Bringing the conversation back to Western games, Ishiwatari talked about the chances of Arc System Works making an FPS, what's probably the most popular core genre in gaming right now, saying that "only Capcom and Konami would have a chance at doing that. Maybe Sega, too. Arc has about 100 employees, but there's no way we could beat the competition overseas if we made an FPS."
Regarding Japanese-made shooters, Ishiwatari was more cynical: "there's Vanquish, as well as that one Konami made. I don't think they're very good games. The AI, in particular, was just no good; that field is a lot more advanced overseas, and there really isn't that drive in Japan to make intelligent AI. Enemies just go in the direction they're given and react in preset ways to the player in battle.
This isn't a bad thing, necessarily, but an FPS has to have good AI or it's not going to be fun. The level design, too; in Japan, that's still kind of a work in progress in terms of quality. I do think, though, that a company like Capcom, Konami, or Sega could catch up and make something that meets or beats expectations in that arena within the next five years."
Most debates about fighting games are over balance--usually characters who are game-breakingly powerful. Ishiwatari believes that this is "poor game balance. You can't have every character be equally strong, but if the strongest character is always the strongest no matter who's controlling them, I think that's a balance problem." Ishiwatari also believes that it's a good idea to make low-tier characters stronger with patches, and expressed displeasure with players always only using strong characters.
While the PSP ended up becoming the #1 hardcore gaming system in Japan, Ishiwatari's outlook wasn't as positive for the PS Vita, even with its incredible hardware specs.
"I don't think many users worry all that much about specs in the first place. Angry Birds is enough for them. (laughs) Everyone likes playing that, and they're satisfied with ten-minute bursts of it... I think that both the Vita and 3DS aren't getting advertised in the best way possible. It'd be better if they could communicate the charms of the system and its games in more coherent ways. Both of them are more than decent game systems, I think. In this realm, specs don't matter a great deal since non-hardcore users will just play what they want anyway, so in the end, it's a marketing battle."
Regarding the Vita, "the hardware is really, really good, but networking costs a lot -- like 4000 yen for 100 hours. I don't think a lot of parents would be patient enough to pay that every month for their children. That's why I think only the hardcores will really adopt it en masse."
That was revealing. While the opinions of Japanese gamers on Western games may vary, it's nice to see that one of the head creative minds for a very popular Japanese franchise is so into Western games, to the point of playing with a dictionary near the computer. What do you think? While Arc has talked about more BlazBlue coming out, what about more Guilty Gear? Maybe another anime-based fighter, like Fist of the North Star?