Creating a launch game for a new hardware platform is never an easy job, as the development team of Genji: Days of the Blade will attest. The follow-up to the original on the PlayStation 2, it continues the story of the Genji clan in ancient feudal Japan. It's partly inspired by true events and partly by Japanese mythology. You take control of four characters in the game, including the young master swordsman Yoshitsune from the first game, a club-wielding warrior, a priestess, and a lord.
Although the game has already been released in the US, the console isn't due for release in Europe until March, so PAL gamers have yet to sample Genji 2 firsthand. We took the opportunity to attend a recent preview in London and talk to Yoshiki Okamoto, exectuive producer, and Yukiko Goto, European producer.
GameSpot UK: Can you give European gamers a little bit of background on the game?
Yoshiki Okamoto: That's a very difficult question, and a very difficult answer! The game is set in ancient Japan where the country is split in two--the Genji clan and the Haishi clan. A lot of this game, especially the second part of it, is based around the real battles that took place as a result of the power struggle between the two clans.
GSUK: Why did you decide to bring Genji 2 to the PlayStation 3, as opposed to the PlayStation 2?
YO: When we were making the first title, we already had a sequel in mind because of other historical aspects we wanted to explore. Immediately after finishing the first game, we started building the sequel on PS2 and even the internal teams didn't know a release date for the PS3. But as soon as the date was announced, the SCEI head office came to me and said that they wanted me to make the game on the PS3. They thought that my team could do it, that they could really bring the graphics out and use the emotion engine. At first I was thinking "Oh no!" but it was very much an honour and I said yes, I wanted to make a launch title.
GSUK: Genji 2 was a launch title for the US and Japan--how difficult was that time constraint when producing the game?
YO: Well, making any game is hard work, but when you're working on a launch title the date cannot be moved, even by a day. If you're not working on a launch title this day can be moved around depending on how development goes. We wanted to make a good game, as pretty as possible graphically and as fun to play as possible gameplay-wise, but there were bits we had to cut out to make launch. That was the hardest thing for me, development-wise--working the 24-hour shifts was easy but we wanted more time to work on the game.
GSUK: Of all the launch titles, Genji 2 is one of the most technically accomplished. How much of this was down to internal expertise and external development tools?
YO: The average age of our team is older than you might expect for a game developer, so we had a lot of experience working internally on this game. What really helped us out though was being treated almost as a first-party developer when it came to backing from Sony, with all the right tools and technical support to make sure the game looks as good as it does onscreen.
GSUK: Can you talk a little bit about the upgrades that are being made for the European version of the game?
Yukiko Goto: Basically, we've tidied up the PAL version a little bit--nothing has changed design-wise, but we've certainly tweaked it here and there. We also wanted to make sure the localization was as good as possible. This means that all the major European languages are in there apart from Russian, and our testers have been up days and nights testing this game. Basically, it's a very clean version of Genji 2.
GSUK: New costume sets have been made available for download in the US and Japan--will these be available out of the box in the UK?
YO: Whereas the downloadable content was available in Japan and the US within a few months of launch, Europeans will be able to get hold of this content on launch day for free. We'll have a number of downloadable costumes, and we're looking at bringing more out in the future. At the moment, there are no plans to charge for these updates when they are made available on the PlayStation Store.
GSUK: Thanks for your time.