GameSpot is back from Japan where we checked out some of Sega's big releases for 2010, as well as talked to some of the developers behind games like Yakuza 3, Super Monkey Ball: Step and Roll, Valkyria Chronicles 2, and Resonance of Fate. We've already given you a sneak peek at Sega HQ in Tokyo, but this time around, we thought we'd answer some of the more pressing questions readers had in response to our first post.
The list of questions below is organised by game name. The answers have been provided by managing director of Sega Australia, Darren Macbeth, for questions relating to Yakuza 3, Shenmue, and Project Needlemouse; Yasuihito Baba for questions relating to Super Monkey Ball: Step and Roll; Takeshi Ozawa and Shinji Motoyama for questions relating to Valkyria Chronicles 2; and Takayaki Suguro and Mitsuhiro Shimano for questions relating to Resonance of Fate.
GameSpot readers: Why does it take so long to bring Yakuza games to the West?
Darren Macbeth: We need to be comfortable that there is a strong enough market in the West to warrant local releases. Feedback from our fans online has suggested that there are more than a few gamers out there that are looking forward to a local Yakuza 3 release. We are listening to this feedback.
GS readers: Do the sales of previous Yakuza games in the West make any impact on your decision to release new Yakuza games in this market?
DM: Yes and no. Past sales are always a strong indicator of how a franchise is likely to perform. However, it is also important to invest in a franchise for the future.
GS readers: What other factors affect your decision to bring big Japanese titles like Yakuza to the West?
DM: Releasing Japanese titles in the West is a tricky beast. In a lot of cases, we have a very strong vocal group of fans who demand the opportunity to play these games in their local markets and are very outspoken in their support. However, when the time comes, they are reluctant to stay committed and actually make the purchase. For this reason, although taking consumer feedback into consideration is important, we really need to analyse the market and competitive landscape to determine for ourselves if localization of Japanese games is indeed warranted.
GS readers: Why did you decide to use English subtitles in Yakuza 3 rather than voice-over?
DM: These decisions are made on a case-by-case bases. In this circumstance, we simply felt it would be cooler to have a more authentic experience by retaining the Japanese language.
GS readers: Do you think Yakuza 3 will sell better than its predecessors in the West?
DM: There seems to be a bigger market for this sort of title now, so we do expect a positive result.
GS readers: Will Yakuza Kenzan ever be released in the West? What are the reasons for its delay? Can you reveal if there are any intentions to one day release it?
DM: There is nothing in the plan at this stage for Yakuza Kenzan.
GS readers: Will it also take up to a year to release Yakuza 4 in the West? Or will you be able to speed up the process?
DM: Right now, we are focusing on the release of Yakuza 3. The feedback we get from this release will help us in making future decisions.
GS readers: What advice do you have for Yakuza fans who are angered by the long delay between Japanese release dates and Western release dates?
DM: Please understand that we are doing everything we can to expedite the release of Yakuza 3.
GameSpot readers: Will Super Monkey Ball: Step and Roll support any online features?
Yasuhito Baba: No. However, looking forward, we’d like to consider online functionality with the next Super Monkey Ball title, but we haven’t decided if we will. We still don’t know what platform the next game will be on or when it will be released. However, we feel online functionality would mean people can enjoy playing the game for a longer period of time. And that’s something we want to do.
GS readers: How did the idea for using the balance board come about?
YB: Super Monkey Ball has always been a very simple game with very simple gameplay. We didn’t want to change this. We just wanted to come up with a new experience. The Wii Balance Board has been around for a long time, and we wanted to take advantage of it. The simple game mechanics of Super Monkey Ball made this a possibility, and we hope fans of the game enjoy it more with this new addition.
GameSpot readers: What problems did you face switching from the PlayStation 3 to the PSP?
Takeshi Ozawa: We wanted to bring the game out as soon as possible and focus more on multiplayer and co-operative play, so that’s why we chose the PSP as a platform. However, it was really hard to port the battle system over. In the end, we think we brought the same experience to the PSP after a lot of work. We’ve also included a few new features and maps, which we hope players will be pleased with.
GS readers: What multiplayer options will you be offering?
TO: The PSP has both ad-hoc mode and wireless play, so it was a perfect platform for multiplayer. We'll be offering versus and co-operative play. Players will be able to choose from many customized units based on the existing classes, as well as different maps with new objectives. There is also a co-op mode that will allow players to work and attack together.
GameSpot readers: Will the battle system be turn-based or real time?
Takayaki Suguro: Both. We know that Western gamers don’t really like the slow nature of the command and turn-based battle systems, so we tried to create something different with the incorporation of real-time elements. We wanted to make a hybrid between a role-playing game and an action game.
GS readers: What reasons stand behind the decision to use guns rather than more traditional RPG weapons?
TS: We wanted to step away from traditional RPGs and go with something that will make sense given the game’s gritty context and setting in a world ruled by machines. Traditional swords and magic in RPGs is becoming very banal. We wanted something different with acrobatic actions and camera angles.
GameSpot readers: There's been a lot of community response regarding Shenmue. Does Sega ever intend to finish the series? If so, when? And if not, why not?
Darren Macbeth: We have read all the comments and posts on Shenmue. We wish we had an answer for you all, but at this stage, there are no plans to revisit the franchise.
GS readers: Is the big fan base and heavy community interest in Shenmue enough to inspire Sega to make another game? Or does that decision rely on other factors such as budget, and so on?
DM: Game development is a large investment with a complex process behind it that needs to span across many years. Before any game can get a green light, there are many levels of research and study that need to go into ensuring that it is the correct path to take. As important as interest from the fan base is, this is by no means the only indication factor that needs to be considered.
GameSpot readers: Can you give us more details about Project Needlemouse?
Darren Macbeth: More information on this project will be revealed in the new year.
Stay tuned to GameSpot's Sega feature on December 28 where we'll be giving you exclusive previews on all these games and video interviews with the developers behind them.