We've lost count of the number of CVG Towers lunchtime hours Konami's Pro Evolution Soccer series has eaten up and, with the fifth instalment released today, the football before cheese sandwiches trend continues apace. PES producer Shingo 'Seabass' Takatsuka is of course the man to thank for our butties being left neglected on the sidelines and for delivering what is widely regarded as the best football game, if not the best sports game, ever to grace the videogame world - Seabass, we salute you - and we were more than a little eager to chat to the face behind the games when we met up with him recently. Also present at the interview was PES Management producer Akiyoshi 'Greyhound' Chosokabe.
Let's get on with the show.
Have you been surprised by the standard of players you've seen so far and are they what you were expecting from national league entrants - in the PES league, that is?
Seabass: Every year I'm looking forward to this event and every year I'm very happy to see many players playing in the Pro Evolution Soccer league. I realise the level of the European players is rising year after year. However, maybe the Japanese champions have a little bit of an advantage, looking at how they play, when they play against the users or the press this year. I'm very happy that everyone has fun in the league, including the press.
However I am a little bit sad because when I actually see people playing they're all selecting Brazil or France, so my personal goal every year when I come over is to make the European people select their own country and play; and represent the strength or weakness in the game so that the European people are more comfortable playing their own country when they play in the league.
Do you think there's a big difference between European and Japanese styles of play?
Seabass: Well yes there is a distinctive difference between the Japanese players and the European players in general. The Japanese players tend to be more aggressive in attacking, they're all selecting like three attackers in formations and no matter how much they give away in points they will try to beat that and just score more goals. European players play a little bit differently, they try to defend tightly as well so there's a definite difference there.
What are the biggest differences between PES 4 and PES 5?
Seabass: In PES 5 we have finally brought in the online mode [on the PS2 version] which has been requested for a couple of years. We're very proud that we have online in PES 5. The major upgrade is basically in the AI part of the game where we've challenged almost the limit of the hardware specs. We've evolved almost every aspect of the AI. One example is that we've put in a next-gen program that you never had before in terms of the players detecting the ball, where it will land.
And it won't just detect accurately and move according to that but it will move... We've also implemented the fact that players might make mistakes as well so some players might be better in knowledge of where the ball will land, some might not. The positions, the second striker and the second wing back, these are new positions that we've created.
PES on PSP - how well has the series translated to handheld?
Seabass: The top priority of the team when they were creating PES on PSP was that we give the same feeling of play. Or in other words, converting Pro Evolution Soccer on PS2 onto a portable format. We've allocated the core team to the PSP version too so overall the outcome was you get the same play feeling as the PS2 version. However, since we do have hardware restrictions we needed to cut some major parts of the game drastically such as voiceovers and the Master League, which aren't there on PSP. We've researched on how we could do this in the future. The voiceover could still be a problem in the future PSP series but definitely we think the Master League will get fit in there so in the future in the PSP version, we'll probably see the Master League come back.