Obviously you get questions about how DOA5 compares to X game, is it sexist, things like that... but do you ever get asked why you make fighting games?
People tend to ask a lot of questions that deal with the logical elements of the game, but nothing about the underlying nature of why we make fighting games in the first place. People start thinking logically about things, so we have to describe our game logically to journalists in order for them to put that down on paper or online so that their readers can understand it as well.
But when you look at fighting as a genre, for example, it's a very primitive genre. You've got to use buttons to actually make people punch and kick and throw each other. You push a button to initiate actions for people to fight each other - so it is very primitive. I think that's what people want though - they want that primitive nature of fighting games - it stimulates them to play. The people who make these games are the same. I think we need to make these games in order to fulfil ourselves. In that sense, I think fighting games have come this far because of that reason. I think all of us humans still have that primitive nature in us. We need fulfilment, and fighting - or fighting games - gives us that.
At Team Ninja we focus on making our games feel good in the player's hands. So when you push a button, whether it be a response from a character or an animation or whatever, we go through a lot of painstaking effort to make sure it feels good for the player. It sounds, to a certain extent, it sounds quite... erotic. We often think it's a little bit perverse when we talk about the detail that we're getting into to make sure the game actually feels good in the players' hands.
So for us it's almost like an instinct. It's something that we're actually aiming for when we make our games. Making games to appeal to human instinct rather than human logic is something we always remind ourselves to do. When you play a game there's always something there that's instinctive rather than logical. You can't explain why it's so good: it's almost impossible to put it into words. It's that instinctive element that we make sure is included in our games.
Of course, you did that with Ninja Gaiden 3, your previous game.
You're right when you compare it to Ninja Gaiden 3, but for that game we focused a little bit too logically on expressing the karma and the guilt, and the suffering that results from cutting and killing someone. We focused too much on the logic, and not enough on the primitive element in Ninja Gaiden 3. It's something that made the Ninja Gaiden series fun - just cutting through something and killing someone. It just felt good.
Recently Alex Hutchinson from Ubisoft Montreal said Japanese developers have an easy ride with their stories, and they're given an easy ride by games journalists. Do you think that's true or fair?
I think it depends on the person. Some people might find it's true what he said, and others would think not. In the games industry you have games that are fun intuitively and some that are fun when you look at them more logically. There are two ways of looking at games. Some games, when you look at them, and you think logically you can say 'wow that's a fun game, that's a good story,' or whatever. But there are some games that you play that just feel good intuitively and you can't easily explain why the game is so good. I think from Alex Hutchinson's viewpoint he was thinking more logically. I can kind of agree with him when you compare Gears and Bayonetta. The story in Bayonetta was a bit hard to follow so I can't say it was 100% fun; it was a little bit hard to get in to. I kind of agree with him. Some people may find that he's right and some that he's not right - I think it's something that's open for debate.
We've seen a lot of controversy and sensationalist stories this year - especially from the journalism side of things - about minor issues in games. Do you think that games journalism has matured as games have matured? Or do you think we are lagging behind?
Put it this way: I'm in my early 30s now. There are a lot of senior directors and producers that are in their mid-30s and even 40s. In the media, you used to have a lot of journalists that were around the same age - they grew with the industry. But many of those guys have left and moved on. The impression that we get right now is that there are a lot of young guys in this industry, just starting out, and leading journalism; moving it forward. That's a good thing, having new, young guys giving a fresh view.
But I think that the industry, and the media, have turned everything into a gossiping session. Someone picks up on something negative, and everyone else says: 'Yeah I know, that's right, that's right.' It makes people unhappy. It's just too much to keep over-analysing minor things like that. It's good to have that element in the media, in journalism; you need to keep the stories going but it would be good to have more senior guys being bigger influences on the media, to get more of a realistic view on games and the bigger picture. Many of the older people in the industry, like yourself, understand games better, probably because of that experience they have. You can have the gossip too, but it would be good to have more of a realistic view on games from time to time.