Q&A: Japanese Xbox first-party team

GameSpot speaks with key members of Microsoft's Japanese first-party games about games such as Maximum Chase, Nezmix, and Kakuto Chojin (formerly Project K-X).

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TOKYO - Microsoft's Xbox console may have launched in North America, but it's not scheduled to release in Japan until February of next year. GameSpot recently sat down with the folks over at Microsoft Production Development--Toshiyuki Miyata, product unit manager; Yoshikatsu Kanemaru, the lead program manager for Nezmix and Kakuto Chojin; and Katsunori Yamaji, the lead program manager for Maximum Chase--to learn about the progress of some of the Japanese first-party titles for the console.

GameSpot: Judging from the press release, it looks like Nezmix, Maximum Chase, and Kakuto Chojin are all being developed by different companies (Media Vision, Genki, and Dream Publishing, respectively). Has Microsoft been involved in the planning stages of the development of these titles?

Toshiyuki Miyata: We work on titles under the Microsoft brand name, so we have cases where we have our own programmers and graphic designers develop the games, and other times we handle the titles externally using outside game developers.

GS: So what was the original idea behind Nezmix? One of our readers suggested that the movie character Stuart Little may have been part of the influence.

Yoshikatsu Kanemaru: They are original characters. Media Vision originally had the suggestion of creating a game where the characters act as a group, so the idea didn't necessarily begin with the mouse itself.

GS: And how about Maximum Chase?

Katsunori Yamaji: I have personally wanted to work on a car action or car chase type of game for a while now. I think it is important for us to present these cars realistically, including details like the roar of the engine, so we think working with Genki, who has experience developing on several car racing titles in the past, is the right choice.

GS: Kakuto Chojin was originally shown as a technical demo. Is Seiichi Ishii from Dream Publishing primarily behind the creation of the game?

YK: The project started when both Mr. Ishii and Microsoft wanted to create a fighting game. In regard to the game elements, Mr. Ishii has more experience, so he is mainly the one working on it as whole, while the character and stage designs are done by artists at Microsoft.

GS: Can you tell us about some of the game's features, like how many characters, stages, and game modes there will be?

YK: For Kakuto Chojin, we have not officially given the number of characters. We are considering somewhere around 10 or more, but we'll try to have enough to satisfy the gamers. The number of stages will match the number of characters.

GS: Are the character models shown in the screenshots and movies the final drafts?

YK: It is not final, but it is close to what we plan to use.

GS: Regarding the stages, will they include features like multiple levels or walls?

YK: We have not decided on that at the moment.

GS: Fighting games involve strategies such as parries and throws. What kind of strategies are involved in Kakuto Chojin?

YK: The basic elements of a fighting game are of course included, but our challenge [during development] is dependent more on a new type of control. Though we can't elaborate much on it right now, we are attempting to utilize a different control scheme and at the same time would like fighting game fans to be satisfied.

GS: You mentioned that the game is like a "street fight" fighting game. Will it be more realistic like Virtua Fighter or a bit more fictional like Tekken?

YK: We'd like to have dynamic movements in the game, so some of the moves look exaggerated. We've added eye candy such as motion blurs at certain times, but overall, it will be a more realistic type of fighting game.

GS: And how about Maximum Chase?

KY: The game features 10 stages, with the chase scenes and the shooting scenes alternating. We haven't decided on how many cars we'll feature, but we have decided which cars will be the default cars. Players will use one car per two stages--the same car for the car chase and the gun shooting sequence that follows. Afterward, players will switch to another car, like car chase movies where the protagonist hops into a different car as they are being chased. We're also thinking of which cars to use as enemy boss cars, as well as cars running alongside the road during the game. For replay value, we have secret cars that players can unlock. Actually, the car and the gun you will be using [during the shooting scene] are a pair. So, for example, this car might have the magnum, while the other has a rifle.

I'm sure the users will compare the graphics with other titles, but we instead put more effort into how the car gets damaged. Depending on where and how the collision occurs, we have simulated how the cars are dented and scratched on several parts of the car at different levels.

GS: And Nezmix?

YK: The game doesn't have different stages, but it will be one giant town. The TGS version only showed the interior of a house, but the house itself actually has quite a few stages, with several gameplay patterns built into it. There are items and new mouse characters you can find, and that's where replay value comes in.

GS: Do you also get to fight against cats?

YK: We're thinking about the possibilities.

GS: The Xbox is said to be relatively easy to develop games for. Have you run into any difficulties or challenges?

YK: Nezmix was originally going to look more like something from a picture book or animation. At SIGGRAPH, a graphical demonstration on "fur shading" was shown, and we decided to experiment with the technology. When we first worked on it with Media Vision, we were a bit reluctant. But after several tries, I think it is coming along pretty well now.

As for Kakuto Chojin, this was already introduced first as a technical demo to show the hardware capabilities of the Xbox. So now, rather than the graphical aspects, we are focusing more work on the gameplay.

GS: A lot of American games have avoided the display of car damage since licensers do not like it. Was it hard to get approval for Maximum Chase?

KY: As you may have read in the press release, we have acquired licenses from car manufacturers such as GM, Nissan, and Toyota. This past year was difficult until we got to this point, since we have talked with the car manufacturers several times. I think we've established a good relationship.

GS: What is something that distinguishes your games from similar titles for the Xbox, like DOA3 and Bunkasha's Double Steal?

KY: For Maximum Chase, we'd like the players to feel the pressure and excitement of being chased in a car. Most racing titles probably focus more on simply driving the car or have mission objectives similar to action games. I think our game is aiming in a different direction in that sense.

YK: Fighting games such as Dead or Alive, Tekken, and Virtua Fighter have reached a point where players anticipate and read the opponents' minds. We'd like to take [the genre] one step further beyond that. So, for example, if the opponent falls on the ground, most would jump and add a punch or two while he's still on the ground--it's a pattern. In real fights, there are no patterns. We have our characters fall on the ground in different patterns, so depending on the situation, we'd like for the players to think how they should attack next. That is something we are aiming for.

GS: Do you have plans to release any of these titles for the North American market?

TM: Though these titles are targeted at the Japanese audience, we are always in discussions with the American side about the possibility of such release.

GS: Any final comments for our readers?

KY: We hope to make Maximum Chase the kind of game that allows the players to become the star of a Hollywood action movie, so I hope the game excites its fans.

YK: Kakuto Chojin also has influences from American comics, and fighting games are popular there as well, so I hope the users there will enjoy the game. As for Nezmix, the game has received some good feedback from overseas, so we'd like to aim for a release in other territories as well.

GS: Thank you for your time.

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