There's no question that the original Soul Calibur was one of the must-have games for the Dreamcast. Its incredibly detailed character models and backgrounds, smooth controls, and wealth of extras made it one of the most finely crafted fighting games to date. As excellent as the game was, Namco hopes to surpass it with Soul Calibur II, which is currently in development on the System 246 arcade board. We had a chance to speak with Soul Calibur II producer Hiroaki Yotoriyama to get a development update on the game, as well as details on the gameplay and information on the GameCube, PlayStation 2, and Xbox versions.
GameSpot: How long has Soul Calibur II been in development?
Hiroaki Yotoriyama: It's been taking quite a while. So far, we have spent a year and two months in development.
GS: When will the game be completed? When do you plan to release it in the arcades?
HY: We'll probably be working on the game for two more months, and we plan to release it in the arcades before the summer.
GS: And from there, when do you think can we expect the console versions?
HY: We'd prefer not to leave too much open time between the arcade release and the release of the console versions. Though we haven't finalized our plans, we hope to release it this year.
GS: Was the game always in development on the System 246?
GS: The GameCube-compatible arcade board Triforce was recently announced. Would you have considered developing the game on that board if it had been available earlier?
HY: I think it would have been possible, but when we started developing the game a year and two months ago, we had already experimented with and studied the System 246 hardware. Since the Triforce was just announced and is still being studied, I think that's a difficult question to answer.
GS: How big is the development team? And among the members, how many worked on Soul Calibur?
HY: About 50 or so are on the team. Though I don't have specific numbers, I'd say most have worked on Soul Calibur.
GS: Did the success of the Dreamcast version influence the development of the sequel?
HY: Yes. We were thinking about doing a sequel for a while, but before that, we were considering bringing the Dreamcast version into arcades, although that didn't happen.
GS: What will the character roster be like? Will there be more recurring characters, or more new ones?
HY: I think about 70 percent of the roster will be recurring characters, and the remaining 30 percent will be new characters.
GS: Including time-based release characters, how many characters will there be in all?
HY: We can't reveal the total number of characters at this point.
GS: What are the major differences between gameplay in the first game and this one?
HY: The relationship between the horizontal slash, vertical slash, and run are now more apparent. Upon playing, you may notice instances like horizontal slashes countering the opponent's vertical slash, the use of the run at the right time allowing you to dodge vertical attacks, and so on.
GS: Will the recurring characters have new moves?
HY: We use what we call "motion blending," where you can see, for example, Ivy walking while she's swinging her whip, or walking while she's in fighting stance, giving it a more aggressive look. Motion blending has been used in other games already, but it's basically mixing two separate movements into one. So you have the upper part of the body showing the character swinging the whip, and the lower part of the body showing the character running, and we basically put the two of them together.
GS: The Dreamcast version had a lot of extra modes. Will there be several modes in the arcade version, as well as the console versions?
HY: As long as time allows, we intend to include as many extras as possible. You may have noticed there are some extra slots on the game other than the arcade mode and the time attack mode, so yes, there will be other modes in both the arcade and console versions.
GS: Are you overseeing the ports of the console versions?
HY: Yes, I am overseeing the ports from top to bottom.
GS: Which system is the easiest to port to? Logically speaking, we'd think the PS2 port would be the easiest since the System 246 is a PS2-comptible board, so that leaves us with the Xbox and the GameCube. Which is easier among the two?
HY: Yes, basically the PS2 port would be the easiest since the System 246 and PS2 are pretty much the same hardware. I think working on the Xbox and the GameCube are both just as challenging, since we have to work around both sets of hardware based on their advantages and disadvantages.
GS: Is the team that developed the Dreamcast game working on any of these versions?
HY: They are actually working on the arcade version right now, and they will also be working on the console versions. There won't be different teams working on each port separately.
GS: When you look at other games like Virtua Fighter 4 or Tekken 4, do you draw any inspiration or learn anything from them?
HY: We don't feel particularly inspired, but we have looked at these games as products and studied them as well.
GS: We've heard the game is about 67 percent complete now. Is that correct?
HY: Actually, the entire development phase is 67 percent complete, but the demo version that was at the AOU show is about 50 percent of that.
GS: So, are the playable characters in the AOU version complete? We noticed that some of the characters who have been announced were not in that version.
HY: We haven't fully tweaked the playable characters, so they are not 100 percent complete. The game hasn't reached the level where gamers can play it as a product, so we haven't been able to put all the characters in yet.
GS: What are you most proud of in Soul Calibur II?
HY: We are still in the midst of development, so we're not particularly sure. But, we do hope to accomplish two things. The first is that this game is about fighters using different sets of weapons, and the second is the relationship between the horizontal slash, vertical slash, and run. If we are able to show these two elements in our final product, we'll certainly feel proud of it.
GS: Thank you very much for your time.