Thanks again to Keisuke Nishikawa at SNK for giving us another interview opportunity. Youichiro Soeda is SNK’s motion-artist supremo and a retro gaming legend. Having worked on Arcade Attack favourites such as Fatal Fury and King of Fighters XIV, it is an honour to feature him on the blog. Adrian had the pleasure of devising the questions. Enjoy!
What was the first video game you worked on at SNK and how do you reflect back on this title?
Fatal Fury for the Neo-Geo was the debut title which I worked on. This title allowed me to continue my career in the fighting games until today lol. After working on this title, I have worked on many other titles.
You’ve had a lot of experience working on previous iconic titles (inc Fatal Fury mentioned there), 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?
I had worked on the development of the Fatal Fury and Art of Fighting series’. My final title at the old SNK was Garou: Mark of the Wolves.
Did you initially feel a lot of pressure or excitement when given the amazing opportunity to work on the King of Fighters games?
I was enjoying working on character development while my colleagues had been working on many aspects under some pressures.
No matter what development I worked on, I got feelings of both concern and excitement. I always aim to reflect on a new project as if I depart to on a new adventure.
Do you have a favourite King of Fighters character and can you explain why?
I can choose only one character? That’s difficult …lol
The characters from the Fatal Fury series are very special to me since that was my debut title.
What is your exact role as a character motion artist and can you run us through a typical day?
The role as a 3DCG character motion artist is to succeed in bringing a character model to life. At first, we have a discussion with planners about each character’s moves. Whilst bringing these ideas, we begin to work on creating moves for 3D modeling with posing each move as well as the effects with a camera. Around the halfway point of this work we usually look for move creations. Sometimes we take some shots of ourselves with us acting many moves by ourselves. And finally, we focus on polishing the animations more by using 3D tools.
What was the most difficult project that you were assigned to do in the company?
It would be Fatal Fury 3 in terms of development.
After we made a success with Fatal Fury Special, we needed to reflect on multiple aspects to the new numbered sequel, such as new character development and how the game evolved as a new title.
I remember that the specs for this game were changed multiple times during this development.
During SNK’s bankruptcy in 2001, did you feel that SNK would ever rebound to what we have today? Did you ever think the Neo-Geo would have such a considerable gamer following almost 30 years later?
To be honest, I thought SNK’s rebirth would be difficult during this time.
I believe that SNK has made a return by putting on huge amounts of effort by our many co-workers for our titles. Of course, all of our fans who have been supporting us until today too. I love you all!!
Have you always been a fan of SNK’s amazing back catalogue of classic titles and do you have a personal favourite SNK game?
My favourite title is Fatal Fury. But at the same time, I was always excited about every release of the Samurai Shodown series. The worldview of Samurai Shodown is phenomenal.
If you could work on any future SNK title or series of games, what would you choose and why?
It would be on all the new titles, because I can try new things.
I am always thinking of surprising all of our fans with our new titles in the way which only SNK can do.
The Japanese are rightly regarded as being one of the best nations at making video games. What are your views on this statement and why do you think Japanese games are so well respected?
Hmmmmmm… I believe that many overseas companies have developed fantastic masterpieces these days. If you ask me what the main attraction for a Japanese videogame is, it would be the characters I guess.
There are many characters in Japanese games, who you actually want to be friends with, right?
Japanese videogame companies are putting a lot of effort into creating characters to be loved by everybody during their development.
When you think about Neo-Geo, what is the first thought that comes to mind?
I recall the days when I was struggling with testing games a lot with Neo-Geo…just kidding.
It would be the booting-up sound of the Neo-Geo for me.
Every time when I hear that sound I remember my youthful days in the 90’s. At the same time, the sound cheers me up on the projects I am working on.
What advice would you give anyone looking to get into video game industry?
You cannot develop video games alone. To co-work and make efforts with your team is very important. I want everybody to respect each other as teammates. And some show some true effort and powers! Lol!
What are your top three video games of all time and why?
– Soccer Brawl
I always recall when I was fresh and used to play with my senior colleagues. You can see the half-time show only for home system and I love it.
– Boxer’s Road
This title was the game which I spent the most hours playing in my life. Sometimes, I did not stop playing this game until the next morning!
– Nier: Automata
This is my favourite title in the more modern games. The characters’ action moves are really good.
Can you reveal what future games or projects you are working on?
I want everybody to stay tuned for our SNK Heroines. It is a very fun party game and the worldview must be very SNK-ish.
I am working on some parts of this title’s development but I can’t say the details now. It was really fun for me to work on.
If you could share a few drinks with a video game character, who would choose and why?
Only one? I can’t choose! lol!
King and Mary must be very fun to have some drinks together!
They would drink me down since I am not as strong as them though ahahaha!
But I am sure that I can spend the best time with Joe to have drinks at chintzy pub while chatting about our old stories forever…
Thanks also to our friend Anthony Durso who introduced us to a few of the SNK guys (including Jim Bulmer). If you want similar articles to this, please follow him on twitter and check out his Atariage forum Neo Geo thread here.