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Japanese developers discuss, and dis, the next-gen consoles

Top game creators from Japan share their opinions on the PlayStation 3, Revolution, and Xbox 360.


The unveiling of the next-generation consoles at last month's E3 marked the next step in gaming. Everyone, particularly the bigwigs at Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft, has been talking about the pros and cons of each of the machines. But what about those who will actually be making the games for the consoles? The latest issue of Famitsu has interviews with a selection of accomplished Japanese game developers who reveal their takes on the systems.

One of the big names in Japan's gaming industry right now is Akihiro Hino, the president of development at studio Level-5. His company garnered a lot of attention for two very different reasons last year: it created Square Enix's Dragon Quest VIII for the PlayStation 2, and it was also working on the long-awaited True Fantasy Live Online for the Xbox before that game was canceled by Xbox Japan.

Hino stated that he felt Sony's PlayStation 3 seems to have a very high ceiling on its hardware capabilities, and he truly considers it as a 'console of the future.' However, Hino also felt that developers may have difficulty in trying to meet the expected high standards--brought on by the impressive trailers shown at this year's pre-E3 Sony conference--in games for the PS3.

With regard to Nintendo's Revolution, Hino was quick to point out what others are thinking: Nintendo is still hiding something big--something that will likely get unveiled when the company shows off the console's enigmatic controller. Hino commented that the Revolution will probably have a very unique hardware spec, which he is looking forward to. He also said that the Virtual Console, which lets gamers download classic Nintendo titles, may end up being the Revolution's strongest sales point. But he noted that the machine could rely too heavily on classic games.

Hino criticized Microsoft's Xbox 360 by saying he didn't see anything "fresh" about it when he saw it at E3. But he also said that some of the games were playable at the show and that he is excited about the reality of the console being on its way this year. Hino did say that the impressive list of Japanese developers working on games for the Xbox 360, primarily former Square Enix producer Hironobu Sakaguchi, will deliver some stiff competition for the PS3.

A Japanese creator who's been complimenting the Xbox 360 since its appearance at E3 is Tomonobu Itagaki, the developer of Tecmo's Dead or Alive series. Itagaki is currently developing DOA4 on the console. On creating games for the Xbox 360, Itagaki said it is an extraordinary machine that's fun to develop games for.

Itagaki was also surprisingly positive (and paternal) about the PlayStation 3, saying the console is currently at a point where it's like a "newborn baby in a good sense." He sees the current stage as a period where everyone should look after it to make sure it "grows up to become a good child" and said he hopes it will "grow up to be strong."

Itagaki is also looking forward to the Revolution, much in the same way he eagerly anticipated the DS. He revealed that he's a fan of Nintendo's Pikmin series, and he looks forward to playing its next release on the Revolution.

While most of the Japanese creators spoke about the different traits of the next-generation consoles, a different view was had by one person: Square Enix's Akitoshi Kawatsu, producer of the Romancing SaGa role-playing games. Kawatsu said he was more concerned about how much memory was equipped on the consoles rather than their different hardware capabilities.

"When the machines evolve this far, they lose characteristics. As a developer, I'm most concerned about how much memory they're equipped with. The more, the better. The other specs aren't that important. I don't think that their graphic capabilities are too far apart from each other. Of course, their specs haven't been finalized yet, and we won't actually know how difficult it is to develop on them until we try it out," said Kawatsu.

Kawatsu also said that he can't clearly envision how the additional extensions, such as USB ports on the PlayStation 3, will be used, since normal households probably won't take advantage of them. "Some PC users might take good advantage of those kinds of external connections, but it's not something that's commonly practiced by people who come from the [console] gaming culture. For example, playing Famicom (NES) is as simple as just sticking in the game software."

Comments by other Japanese creators are as follows:

Yuji Naka, Sonic the Hedgehog series creator at Sega

PlayStation 3 - "I am very interested in its high-quality graphics capabilities. It's equipped with a graphics chip that's twice as powerful as the high-end [graphics card] for the PC, which allows it to make realistic expressions that haven't been possible before."

Revolution - "I look forward to the 'new kind of fun' that's unique to Nintendo, and I expect that there will be a lot of surprises, such as the unannounced controller. It's also great that we'll be able to play Famicom and other games via download. I hope Sega games will be playable as well." [Note: A number of Sega games have been released for Nintendo consoles by Sunsoft.]

Xbox 360 - "[Microsoft has] used its knowledge from Xbox Live to evolve their network, making its services and controls even more convenient for the user, which I think is a very attractive point."

Keisuke Kikuchi, Kagero II and Fatal Frame series producer at Tecmo

PlayStation 3 - "It has a very attractive, high machine spec. It may be difficult to design a system that can balance out the use of its power, but it should be worth the effort. It should be fun to make games that tend to require high-quality graphics, such as horse-racing games and horror games."

Revolution - "It's difficult to comment on it, since there's been very little information, but I'm looking forward to the controller that's yet to be announced."

Xbox 360 - "It's a well-balanced machine. Its CPU, graphics, memory, network capability, and convenience of hardware control are at a high level. I would like to make a game that takes advantage of its online connection."

Masanori Takeuchi, Otogi series producer at From Software

PlayStation 3 - "To be honest, it's still full of unknown factors, and it's difficult to comment on. In my own opinion, it doesn't seem like hardware that will make games more fun. It's being called a 'supercomputer,' so I guess it's like a set-top box which functions like a PC. My impression [of the console] is like, 'It can also play games,' which is good."

Revolution - "It's like a console that old-time gamers can drool over. It still has some mysteries, but it's not too difficult to imagine what the machine can do, so there should be people that are clearly looking forward to purchasing it. Its capabilities, such as the function to play with the DS via Wi-Fi connection, might change the way of gaming, and it's interesting."

Xbox 360 - "It seems like a standard evolvement from the current generation [of consoles]. Whether that's good or bad would depend on the opinion of different people. But it's obvious that the console is meant for heavy users. I believe it's also a console that publishers can use their accumulated knowledge the most [out of the next-generation machines]. It's the best hardware if you have a good fund and you don't want to take risks in development."

Noritaka Funamizu, former Capcom producer and current executive director of Craft & Meister

PlayStation 3 - "It's hardware with the utmost power. I believe it can realize new expressions, in both graphics and music, in ways that haven't been possible until now."

Revolution - "There hasn't been much information released about it yet. But I'm looking forward to it as a machine that will feature a distinct kind of fun, different from the direction that the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 are headed."

Xbox 360 - "It has a high [hardware] capability, but it's also strong in terms of network, and it's also a major console in the American market. So I am planning on title[s] with those aspects kept in consideration."

Yoshiki Okamoto, former Capcom executive and current representative of Game Republic

Xbox 360 - "When considering the titles by Q Entertainment's Mizuguchi-san, Mistwalker's Sakaguchi-san, and other games that will be announced in the future, the Xbox 360 should have enough firepower to fight in the next-generation console war. The independent creators, such as myself, are like the front line that's meant to cut through [the enemies] and start off a good pace, with an army [of publishers] following right behind us."

Kou Shibusawa, producer at Koei

PlayStation 3 - "We showed a trailer of Ni-oh at E3 in May. This game will take full advantage of the extreme hardware spec of the PlayStation 3. Being able to show movie-quality CG in real time raises our creativeness, and it stimulates our heart as creators. We hope our challenge on new product[s] that will stun our users."

Revolution - "It seems to be going in a different direction from the other two consoles, and it's trying to develop its own unique market. Being able to play old games from the Famicom era should be enticing to the gaming generation, and as a creator, I look forward to playing my games that I have a special fondness for. Aside from having good graphics, the Revolution's uniqueness and concentration towards gameplay should make it a product that's good towards all ages."

Xbox 360 - "Aside from the machine specs, I see great potential in its network capabilities and connectivity with PCs, which is Microsoft's territory. When thinking about the future of online games, I feel the urge to create a new product that takes advantage of [Xbox Live]. Since the Xbox 360 is coming out first, I am very interested in looking at how it will affect the market."

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