Just how far were you willing to let Ninja Theory go with its vision? For example, if it said 'we're going to kill off Vergil', would you have allowed it?
Eshiro-san: The people at Ninja Theory are fans of the original series, they understand and respect it enough not to do that. You gave that as an extreme example, but we knew they weren't going to come at it with something completely absurd so we trusted them.
We knew we didn't need to set out any specific ground rules but when it came to story we felt obligated to at least mention if we thought something didn't ring true to us or seemed weird, given our cultural biases and our background. That was our policy but at the end of the day we wanted them to craft a more western version of the game and its story, so our feedback would be 'we're not crazy about this part, but it's your game so go for it'. That was the stance we took on the story, there weren't really any sacred cows or rules they needed to obey.
What was the difference between how the game was initially received in Japan versus western territories?
Alex: My sense is that the more over-the-top negativity came from the west. There was much more of a 'hmmmm' or 'aaahh, I'm not sure' kind of skepticism from Japan, not as aggressively stated. We tend to be a little more unvarnished in our opinions in the West.
We got a very positive reception at TGS last year, a very enthusiastic reception. Around that time we were still taking flak from people in the States. Having said that, there were a couple of eruptions on a few Japanese boards, but I really don't think it was anything like it started off in the West.
There are some stubborn fans who hope you fail...
Eshiro-san: Everyone's different at the end of the day and entitled to their own opinions. In Japan we have a lot of people that also have the 'Japan is king' mentality and don't like western games, and vice versa. There are more and more people like that but as a creator I try to not even worry about that when working on games, I shut that out. My policy is that once we settle on a concept that we stay on track and focus, that we not worry about the peanut gallery so to speak.
The reason for that is that once you get to the end of a project, as long as you've come on a straight line, if you do fail you can look back and see very clearly what you've done wrong. Whereas if you're going back and forth, wavering, you don't know at what point things went off the rails. You can learn your lesson and take that with you to the next game. If you're worried too much about what users think, you're all over the place you have no recourse, you won't learn anything from it and you'll repeat the same mistake.
Alex: Certainly you can have competitive advantages. One group may make games better than another, but it's a little narrow-minded. It's the same as saying French people couldn't make Chinese food. Would there be a competitive advantage? Certainly, but if you were skilled enough and had the proper tutelage you could have a recipe just as good as someone else even if you weren't native to that culture.
The idea that just because games of this nature have their origins in Japan, somehow western developers are unable to recreate what was great about them, no I don't buy that. What I do buy is the method in which we've done it, which is to take people that are really great at it and mate them up with people who are passionate about making games of that nature that are outside their cultural circumstances.
Then you can have them transfer that wisdom to a group of willing recipients and voila, there is no inability inherent in not being Japanese to make awesome fighting games or whatever.
I don't begrudge anyone their skepticism because obviously Capcom did do this game right four times and it would make anyone a little nervous to have a bunch of newcomers take a crack at it. So while I accept that, I don't buy that premise and I don't think it's very productive. At the end of the day a game is a good game or it's not, people will be the judge of that when they get the controller in their hands.
Eshiro-san... a while back you said if there was a response you'd return to God Hand. Has there been any progress?
Eshiro-san: (Laughs) Personally speaking I'm a God Hand fan too, but I haven't heard anything.