This is big. Keisuke Nishikawa at SNK has helped us with another great interview. It’s been our pleasure to have Jim Bulmer, Nobuyuki Kuroki and Youichiro Soeda on Arcade Attack but we’ve probably saved the most well-known one for last. Adrian (with the help of our friend Anthony) came up with these questions and the legend that is Yasuyuki Oda duly obliged. Enjoy.
What was the first video game you worked on at SNK and how do you reflect back on this title?
I joined SNK as an artist in the spring of 1993, when I was 20 years old.
Our development room was located in the ground floor of a building of 6 floors.
At that time, the dev team just began to work on balancing Fatal Fury Special’s characters.
My senior colleagues shifted off to the development of Art of Fighting 2, whose dev team just began their development. They left their balancing and debug work and debug for Fatal Fury Special to the rest of us, 6 freshers. This became my first mission.
I played this game to balance it with a small team. That is why I played this game very well at the summer game show that year.
And then, I joined Art of Fighting 2’s dev team as an artist and worked on dot pixel art work for the character Takuma Sakazaki.
One of the very unique features in this game is that your characters’ clothes are torn apart when they lose. So, I was wondering “if Takuma puts nothing on his upper body which means….his body could be torn apart…? I have never drawn any organs so….will I need to get medical books or something…?”
But he just ended up having blood effects instead, so that relieved me!
Can you explain a typical day working as a producer at the iconic SNK company?
Since the release of KOF XIV, we have worked on multiple titles. I have not focused on the development of just one title but managed multiple project developments while checking the dev process with each title’s PJ directors.
Also, I often have discussions with other departments or companies, and make plans for each release, as well as future development plans.
You’ve had a lot of experience working on previous iconic titles, before working on the awesome King of Fighters games. How did your past experience of fighting games help you when working on this classic SNK fighting series?
One of the best things when you have multiple dev experiences in fighting games could be that you smoothly can estimate how much and how long your dev team could work on a project.
And you immediately can come up with what will be important in fighting games so that you can make schedules without huge problems.
When we kicked off KOF XIV’s project, fortunately, there were many staff who knew about development of fighting games. Even if the studio was set up from the beginning at the time, we quickly initiated our development.
The King of Fighters XIV has been a tremendous leap forward for SNK since The King of Fighters XIII. As a producer, were you satisfied with the results that the current title in the series has been able to perform?
To be honest, I did not see much news about SNK after I quit SNK.
I believe this was because SNK was focused on the Pachislot industry at that time and video game news was not the trend.
Now, we are focusing on the video game industry since the release of KOF XIV.
What was the biggest satisfaction, for us, would be the truth our fans saw on the rebirth and return to video games since the release of KOF XIV.
Do you have a favourite King of Fighters character and can you explain why?
Kyo Kusanagi and Leona are my favourites.
Kyo is simply cool as well as his fire abilities. And he is easy for me to play too!
Leona’s character is reticent and she does not show so much charm. But I think that makes her cool.
During her dash, you can charge her attack and I love it.
The sharp sound effect when she performs her Moon Slasher is the best.
If you could meet any of the fighters from King of Fighters in the real world, who do you think you would most get on with and do you think you could become friends?
I possibly want to see Omega Rugal. I think he would come to kill me as soon as he finds me though, lol!
Ah, I feel like jumping on the back of Brian Battler during his Brian Tornado. I’m sure I will feel sick if I do it.
Also I want to go to King’s bar. If you go there as her customer, you probably will not get kicked.
All KOF characters are just crazy so you need to be careful when you see them in person.
SNK Heroines looks incredible! How did you aim to make this game stand out from the crowd and what is the tag team element?
Our main concept for the battle system and worldview about SNK Heroines was that you could laugh a lot, whether you win or lose. It could be a similar concept with party games or when you watch professional wrestling.
For instance, a character’s favourite foods or things appear with their hit effects. Or you can slip on items thrown by your opponent. And all who are watching the matches can be in a stew over the situation when the match never finishes with Dream Finish. In SNK HEROINES, you need to confirm a Dream Finish attack in order to win the match once your foe is on the ropes.
One of our classic titles, Kizuna Encounter Super Tag Battle also had a tag battle mechanic. I think that sort of limitation, with character changes could make this game more attractive too.
In Japan, the pro-wrestling culture has deeply remained alive, and we put our eyes on that tension of pro-wrestling’s tag battle for this title.
SNK HEROINES has its unique system with the gauge management and its rules, in contract to its comical looks and we’ve heard that a lot of fans enjoy them.
Not only players but also everybody who watches battle can be happy. So please try out this game with your own hands.
So many well-known female characters have been selected across so many SNK titles. How did you choose who would appear in the game and were you sad to leave any particular characters out?
First of all, we picked up popular characters.
Secondly, we chose the new characters who we would like to make more popular.
And then, Terry and Shermie were selected as special guests.
If possible, we wish we could have added more characters to the roster.
Personally, I wanted to have Cathy from Top Hunter: Roddy & Cathy.
Do you have a personal favourite character from SNK Heroines and can you explain why?
Jeanne, who we are currently planning to release in December.
My favourite World Heroes instalment is World Heroes 2.
I wanted to make this game’s return for a long time.
We were super lucky that we had an opportunity to add her into SNK HEROINES this time.
SNK Heroines uses great 3D graphics. Did you face any additional challenges when looking to produce a title in 3D as opposed to the more traditional 2D SNK style?
I personally had worked on 3D game development after I left the old SNK so it was very natural for me to develop games in 3D graphics.
I always keep in mind that we have to consider whether we should move onto 2D or 3D for each game itself or depending on platform requirements.
Your time at SNK has been prosperous and you now command great respect among gamers and in the video game media, do you feel that you accomplished your personal goals and do you have any future ambitions within the industry?
I never had an experience that made me 100% satisfied so far. But I’m pretty sure that we leave our message to our fans as we SNK once again come back to the game.
From now on, we will do our best to adapt ourselves to the evolution of each platform.
I’ve heard a number of stories behind the development of AAA titles of a vast scale such as open-world genre games about their extraordinary works and you sometimes might feel toiled.
I’ve never experienced such development projects yet so I kinda want to try once how tough it is.
And we want to expand our SNK IP to the world with not only game but also anime, manga, toys and more.
What inspires and motivates you to continue doing what you do best that helps give your team members the confidence and ability to produce really high-quality games?
All our staff have brushed up their skills day by day.
But what’s the best way for them to be motivated should be our fans’ reactions after a game release.
When the reactions are positive, we are simply happy. When they are negative, that will be our motivation to work harder for the coming projects.
SNK is still not so big.
But it also should be a good thing for us since we can feel that we make our company bigger and bigger by ourselves.
Have you always been a fan of SNK’s amazing back catalogue of classic titles and do you have a personal favourite SNK game?
Garou: Mark of the Wolves
Real Bout Fatal Fury Special: Dominated Mind
If you could work on any future SNK title or series of games, what would you choose and why?
I once felt I’d like to work on the development of the typical classic RPG such as Crystalis which has been included in SNK 40th Anniversary Collection.
What are your top three video games of all time and why?
Donkey Kong (Game & Watch)
– I remember that I played this game endlessly when I was a primary school student. Even when I played baseball with my friends, I played this till my turn.
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
– A very well-known title which everybody knows. I have the PlayStation, Sega Saturn, PlayStation Portable versions. And recently I bought the PlayStation 4 version too.
I have this game’s soundtrack CD at home and have got two playing guides. I’m sure I will play this game forever…
Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag
– You can play not only stealth but also can be a pirate. I was amazed with the rendering of the ocean too.
– The jerk-like main character gradually changes his mind and becomes a great assassin… I really loved the storyline.
Can you reveal what future games or projects you are working on?
Stay tuned for more news about our latest Samurai Shodown release!
Adrian & Anthony