James Mielke spoke with Crave's Mike Arkin about Tokyo Xtreme Racer 2 (Shutokou Battle 2 in Japan), which just hit store shelves for the Dreamcast, as well as Crave's plans for localizing future Genki titles and its coming US lineup.
James Mielke (EGM)/GameSpot News: Crave seems to have a great relationship with Genki. You've brought over a bunch of its games (Jade Cocoon, TXR, and Super Magnetic Neo). Does this mean you're first in line to localize Genki's games for the States? How is that working out?
Mike Arkin (Crave): You are correct that we have a great relationship with Genki. As I'm sure you know, relationships are very important to the Japanese. We definitely plan to keep working together on projects for a long time.
GS: Shutokou Battle 2 (Tokyo Xtreme Racer 2 in the States) is already a massive improvement over the original installment for the Dreamcast. It is well known that the US version, TXR2, is going to be even more refined than the Japanese version. Can you explain what is being added to and tweaked in the game for its US release?
MA: The major changes are the addition of six new cars, the addition of American license plates, fixing bugs, and changing some of the difficulty. Let me explain that last point a little bit. We did not actually make the game easier, but we made it easier to finish the game, or beat all of the rival cars. There are 374 rivals, or enemy cars, that you have to race, including 48 wanderers. The wanderers don't have to be beaten to finish the game, however they do unlock cars in the car shop. There are specific circumstances that cause the wanderers to appear that have to do with how long you have been racing or how many miles you have driven. In the Japanese version of the game, some of these parameters were so extreme that we suspect that it might take months of play to cause the car to appear. While I would love to hear that people love this game enough to play it for months, we thought it might be more enjoyable if all of the enemy cars could be beat in a shorter amount of time. So, we tweaked some of the parameters so the rivals would appear sooner. It will still take lots of play to get some of them to appear, but not quite months.
GS: Can you explain the reasoning behind Genki dropping the two-player mode? Even if it was just really the one-player mode in shorter, sharper bursts against a friend, surely it could have stayed in, inconsequential as it was.
MA: The reason was one of the trade-offs of graphic quality. When they added the extra visual effects and increased the detail on the cars, this just made the split-screen mode harder to pull off. They were trying to get it in up until the last day, but finally realized that it would be impossible to run the game at full speed with four cars on the screen at once. I was sorry to see it go, but game development is one big trade-off and, in this case, I accept the trade-off. Please don't hate me.
GS: Crave ditched the Import Tuner license. What was the reasoning for picking it up for part one, and why skip it in part two?
MA: The Import Tuner deal was a one-time promotion designed to give us the ability to get exposure in the import car community. It was very successful in that regard, and we were able to show the game at a number of import car shows last year. This got the game some exposure and allowed me to see how the car owners viewed the game. I can't stress this enough, but there is nothing more valuable then watching real consumers play one of your games. I saw the way they played the game and got to hear firsthand what kinds of features they wanted in the game. For part two we actually did a similar deal with HKS, which is one of the largest suppliers of parts for import cars. If you go to any import car shows that HKS is exhibiting at this year, you will have a chance to play TXR2 at their booth.
GS: How has Genki responded to Crave's input and suggestions? Was the company OK about putting non-Japanese cars into the game (like the Porsche, the Viper, and so on)?
MA: Genki told us from day one that they wanted to hear our ideas about how to make the game more Americanized. One of my first suggestions was the sticker feature, which they liked so much they added it to the Japanese version of the game. As far as the cars that you mention, these were actually Genki's idea.
GS: Genki is largely composed of former AM2 members. Being pals with Yu Suzuki has got to have its perks (better access to Sega's best programming libraries, etc.), and having done the ports for Virtua Fighter 3 and Virtua Striker surely must have helped them gain the experience necessary for making some of the best third-party DC software. Do you have any insight as to what they're working on now, and does Crave have the inside track for US publishing rights?
MA: Mmmmmm, errrrr, ahhhhh ... no comment. But it is cool stuff, and yes some of it will come from Crave.
GS: What is Crave working on now, besides TXR2?
MA: We are working on quite a bit. I have been personally involved in the UFC game, which is probably one of the best games that I have ever been involved in. Also, we are doing a DC version of Starlancer, which is fun space shooter; Battlerealms, which will set the standard for RTS games for the next 100 years; and, of course, The Lost from Irrational games, the nice people who brought us System Shock 2.
I am also working on some currently unannounced games, including one that will completely blow people away. I wish I could tell you about it, really I do.
GS: Will there be a TXR3?
MA: Good games always have sequels.
GS: Is Jade Cocoon 2 in the works? It's been rumored to be heading to the PS2.
MA: Good question.
GS: Now that Crave has by and large abandoned developing, what sort of games are you looking to grab the licenses of and localize for the US? Many companies are picking up Japanese games, but Crave is somewhat unique in that you try and improve the games (fix up bogginess, frame rates, difficulty balance, etc.) before release. Where does Crave's eye for the future lie?
MA: In the future I think you will see the fruits of our good relationships with some of the top development teams in Japan. And yes, you will continue to see improvements in the games as we strive to deliver the best possible games. The American consumer and the Japanese consumer have slightly different tastes, and we try very hard to make sure that we do what we can to adapt the games that we publish for the American and European taste. Also, we are working on some top quality original games for release next year that will blow you away when you find out about them.
GS: Thanks for your time.