Here is a translation of part of a Japanese magazine interview with Yu Suzuki that was published in the May 9 (2016) edition of the Bessatsu Shonen magazine.
The article scan was obtained by Ziming.
(Original scans provided by Japanese Shenmue fan @da34ss on Twitter)
In this part, Suzuki talks specifically about Shenmue III, although it is pretty short.
Note: the rest of the article covers topics like Suzuki’s background in designing arcade games, the gaming industry in Japan, and how RPG and text adventure games of the time were influences on his design for Shenmue etc. I selected the part below as a priority for translation since it relates most to Shenmue III and the other topics have been discussed in previous talks & interviews.
We Talk With a Gaming Legend!
Shenmue III, the Game the World Eagerly Awaits, is in Development!
Game Creator Yu Suzuki Envisions
the Future for the Game Industry
Yu Suzuki developed the Shenmue series for the home console from 1999 through to 2001, and is a game developer respected by video game fans and game developers the world over.
Reporter Ikeda from the MMR* investigation team has carried out this personal interview as Suzuki works with youthful enthusiasm on his latest game, Shenmue III.
Suzuki speaks with passion about Shenmue III and the Japan game industry.
*MMR stands for “Magazine Mystery Reportage”, a manga series involving investigation of mysteries and the unknown.
- Interviewer Profile
- Name: Ikeda
- Reporter for the Weekly Shonen Magazine “Magazine Mystery Reportage”. During the 1980s he wrote under the pen name “Akira Hibiki” as a game journalist.
Growing Anticipation for Shenmue III
What Lies Behind the Veil of Secrecy?
Question: Getting straight to the point, what kind of game will Shenmue III be?
Yu Suzuki: With Shenmue III, I have taken a different approach compared to Shenmue I and II. Normally, a video game is planned around a pre-determined budget, but with Shenmue III money collected through crowd funding is allotted to the development budget, so I designed it so the design could scale flexibly to match.
In addition to the open-world gameplay aspect (which I termed “FREE” at the time of the first game), I also prepared new and attractive features that could be incorporated elsewhere.
In saying that, the creation of a video game that can be packed with open-world style elements will always be swayed by the development budget.
Rather than there being say 10 mini-games to play in a certain town, an even greater number like 20 or 30 is more enjoyable, right? However, creating a game this way has a direct impact on the cost.
Question: The development cost of Grand Theft Auto, a game which popularized the open world concept, is said to have been over 10 billion yen (US$100m).
Yu Suzuki: Trying to compete directly with Grand Theft Auto and its vast difference in budget would be like a puny 10kg guy taking on a 100kg sumo wrestler. In which case, the video game fans may as well just play Grand Theft Auto, wouldn’t you say? (laughs)
Question: Trying to compete in terms of quantity would be a losing proposition, wouldn’t it.
Yu Suzuki: The story for the Shenmue series is made up of the 11 chapters that I planned out, with Shenmue in 1999 being Chapter One, and Shenmue II in 2001 being Chapter Two. Actually, my intention for Chapter Three has always been for a scenario that digs down into a single theme.
Across the course of the first two games of the series, the player’s degree of freedom increases, their field of exploration widens and the scale of the game grows to having around 450 NPCs.
By comparison, although Chapter Three will give the appearance of growing further in scale, it will focus on digging deeply down into one particular matter, just as I planned out almost 20 years ago. And I’m aiming to do so in a way that the fans will enjoy, placing importance on originality.
Question: What do you have in mind when you say “originality”?
Yu Suzuki: For example, when characters are talking to each other, it would be weird for them to stand almost touching if they’re meeting for the first time, right? In real life, they would maintain a certain distance between each other.
Question: Their personal space… That’s true, if someone you haven’t met before stands too close it’s threatening rather than friendly.
Yu Suzuki: Conversely, when you’re with someone with whom you get on well… when you are with your girlfriend, you’ll be closer together, right? So if we introduce a new “intimacy” parameter setting, for example we could set the distance between characters according its value.
If the game contains many of these subtle but natural experiments then I think it will make for a much more believable world. It will give the game a more gentle feeling. Right now I’m working on overlaying these kind of subtleties.
Question: It makes me look forward to Shenmue III even more! And finally, actually there’s something I want to ask personally: I’ve heard that when deciding the name of the hero of Virtua Fighter, Akira Yuki, the “Yu” in his surname was taken from your name. If that is the case, how about “Akira”?
Yu Suzuki: Well, I took it from the pen name you yourself used when you were a gaming journalist: Akira Hibiki.
Question: What… really?!
Yu Suzuki: It’s true. Both “Akira” and “Yuki” sound cool, don’t you think? I think the name of the hero of a game should sound cool. Akira Yuki sounds way better than say “Torao Daimoji” (laughs).
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