Producer Kenichiro Takaki will have a big year stateside, as his titles Senran Kagura Estival Versus (PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita) comes out this winter, with the Nintendo 3DS title Senran Kagura 2: Deep Crimson slated for release this summer.
Being an initiate the franchise, my eyes were figuratively popping out of my head upon first glance at these female ninjas, but during my hands on for both titles (I played the PS4 version of Estival Versus along with Senran Kagura 2: Deep Crimson), I was impressed by the seamless, addictive level of gameplay.
During my chat with Kenichiro Takaki, I asked him about the secrets to the success of the Senran Kagura franchise and he also talked about his own passions for the present and future prospects of gaming. Enjoy!!
Was gaming a huge part of your life as a child?
When I was a child, I used to love to draw. I created my own board game to have some fun. It was a combination of those. I love Manga, so I was also trying to create my own Manga. In the end, of course I played a lot of games.
I just love the interactiveness of pushing a button and something happens on the screen – and with that you have to react and push a button. That interaction was something that I really had fun with.
From there, I had this admiration and desire to be in the industry. My foot in the door was being part of this small development company. I tried really hard and I was able to get in. From there, I worked my way through.
What helps with a game’s longevity? Is it having a vision for the game from the get go?
When you’re young and when you enjoy it that much, it’s sort of ingrained in who you become. Having that as a core and utilizing those memories as much as possible is one thing.
The other thing is, as for the longevity of a title, I think it’s to be flexible as to what the needs and how the environment of the industry is. Even if the title doesn’t seem like it’s evolving or changing much, if you really look at it, they are changing to meet the needs of the current time.
How important is feedback from fans of your game? How much of their input do you take in?
Of course if it’s good advice or good feedback, then I will utilize it right away. But in the very beginning, (Senran Kagura) was a very small title for a niche market. That time, I was just focusing, even if people were saying they liked it or didn’t like it – I just wanted a lot of feedback. That means that people are playing it.
But now I’m fortunate that the series is going on, there is a lot bigger fan base. I’m able to get a lot more feedback and I’m able to pick and choose which one that suits the game and ones that I think are important.
What’s the key to the success of the franchise? Is it just a fun game with sexy, beautiful women or is there something much deeper with your franchise?
The game does heavily emphasize on the sexuality and it’s an easy way to understand what the game is. But of course, as you mentioned, if you want to make it a series that has longevity – it’s not like we just wanted to create a sexual content driven game. There’s a solid core, game playing aspect behind it. It’s an action game plus it really has a deep storyline to explain why they are fighting and why they are getting their clothes ripped off.
Even though we’re pushing the sexuality, it’s sort of like a facade. Inside is a hardcore, gameplay mechanic and for people who don’t know when they play it, they are often surprised to see what it has. If you’re a core gamer, i think you’ll be pleasantly surprised how different it is and although you may have a different perspective than casual gamers, in the end the surprise element is something that I was pulling for.
With the evolution of gaming, are gamers today absolutely different than when you were growing up? Or is that a myth?
This is Japan specific, but in Japan the younger gamer is a lot different than the usual gamer that we used to have. There are so many smartphone and tablet games. So those casual gamers – there could be a time when they want to have actual interaction with pushing something and eventually moving onto a controller, but I can’t really say if that’s the way it will be. But one of my tasks as a developer is to create games that they’ll be interested in – and hopefully (they will) use that controller.