E3 2002: Yu Suzuki speaks on his upcoming titles

We get details on Shenmue II, Beach Spikers, Ferrari 355, and Yu Suzuki's upcoming projects.

We had a chance to sit down with Yu Suzuki and talk about the upcoming multiplatform titles currently in the works by the various teams at Sega developer AM2. Since AM2's critically acclaimed release of Virtua Fighter 4 for the PlayStation 2, Suzuki and his teams have broadened the number of consoles they develop for. At present Suzuki's teams are working on a conversion of AM2's titles to the GameCube, PlayStation 2, and Xbox.

The first topic of conversation was Beach Spikers, the upcoming GameCube version of the developer's arcade title. Suzuki's decision to bring the game to the GameCube stemmed from his desire to provide content to all three consoles. While decisions regarding AM2's titles for the PS2 and Xbox had been made, there had been no specific plans for a GameCube title. Rather than try to do an original title, which Suzuki felt was risky, he settled on Beach Spikers, which was a known title. Converting the arcade game (developed on Sega's Naomi 2 arcade hardware) to the GameCube posed little problem for the development team, a mix of members of the arcade Beach Spikers team as well as new members. The team included extra modes to add replay value to the title. When asked how he felt about the conversion, Suzuki stated that he was quite pleased with the way the conversion is turning out.

The next title we discussed was Ferrari 355 for the PlayStation 2, AM2's conversion of its arcade and Dreamcast game. Ferrari 355 is the only game developed by AM2 on the original Naomi arcade hardware, which was essentially Dreamcast hardware. The title was notable in its day for its large arcade cabinet, which featured three monitors in order to simulate the full view from inside a car, and was also notable because it used multiple Naomi boards connected to each other to achieve the effect. Suzuki stated that the PlayStation 2 version of the game was challenging to convert because of differences between the hardware. However, he noted his teams were always learning from their experiences on the PS2 and were able to draw the performance the game needed out of the system.

The last game we discussed was Shenmue II, for which Suzuki is director. He is pleased with how the conversion is going, citing the speed in which the game was brought over from the Dreamcast to the Xbox. He stated that the power of the Xbox allowed him more freedom in perfecting the game's cinematic look, citing the use of the pixel and graphics shader as an example. We then asked whether the game would have the online components found in the Dreamcast version or any other kinds of enhancements. Suzuki stated that while the game would not be online, it would let players store snapshots and view them in the game, as well as change filters on them to change their appearance. He stated the game would also support Dolby 5.1 in the cinematic sequences. We then asked him whether we would see another installment after Shenmue II on the Xbox. He stated that depending on consumer feedback and whether the market received Shenmue II well, a sequel could be possible. When we asked whether he personally wanted the series to continue, he stated that given the various game franchises at Sega, he preferred to put them in order and focus.

The conversation then turned to AM2's future development plans. We asked whether AM2 intended to support each platform equally or favor one as most of Sega's teams have. He said that while that was the rough plan, everything depended on the games themselves, as AM2 would put its games on the platforms it felt they were best suited for. We touched briefly on his involvement in the development of the Xbox hardware. Suzuki stated things were going very well. When asked whether he preferred making console games or arcade games, Suzuki stated that he enjoys everything and would be open to developing on any of it. We asked him about AM2's Propeller Arena and if the game would ever see release on any platform. Suzuki replied that while the odds of the DC game seeing release were slim, the game may see release one day.

Our thanks to Yu Suzuki for meeting with us during the show.

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