The lights are on
Keiji Inafune isn't one to mince words. The former Capcom creative lead made headlines a few years back after proclaiming that Japanese game development was dead. He's since left the company to work on a number of new projects, including the upcoming Vita game Soul Sacrifice. We sat down with him and discussed the game, as well as his thoughts on heroism, sacrifice, and, oddly enough, Wonderbook.
What can you tell us about Soul Sacrifice, for the benefit of people who haven’t been following the game?
The concept of the game, as you can probably tell from the title, is about sacrificing, and it’s about always having to make choices. You have to give something in order to get something. I’ve always wanted to do a dark fantasy title, so that’s how it all started.
Some of those sacrifices include losing your health for some of the attacks and even giving up your life in combat. How do those systems work?
You can go to those extremes, but generally in the game the system is that you have to always give something in order to get more power. Because the main character is a sorcerer in the game, you always need to exchange something to use magic. When you’re fighting simple enemies, you can find things in the environments that you can give as an offering to get those magical powers. There will be times when you encounter really tough monsters or enemies that you have to defeat. At that time, you’re forced to make choices of giving something up in order to get greater power. In those cases you would give your flesh or your eyeball or your body part — and eventually your whole life. I wanted to illustrate that that happens in life also, and there comes a time when you have to give up all of your money or your house or other big things in order to get something in return. The theme comes from my life, and it’s something I wanted to include in the game.
An obvious sacrifice would be leaving Capcom, right?
Yes, obviously that’s been an influence and inspiration for the game. Leaving Capcom was a big decision, and while I wouldn’t say it was a sacrifice, it was something that I didn’t give up easily. I’d been with the company for 23 years, and it was a tough decision to make. But I thought I would gain something greater by doing what I did. Working with SCE is definitely something I couldn’t have done, because it’s a first party. That’s something that I gained in return.
Now that there’s been a bit of distance since your departure, has leaving Capcom been a liberating experience for you?
It has been liberating in a sense. It’s been challenging, of course, but it was definitely worth it. In terms of creative freedom, I did have a bit of liberty and freedom at Capcom since I led that whole group, but it was based on Capcom’s decisions. I had to play along with their decisions. In a very real sense I can decide what to do and what to create in new ways now.
In Dead Rising, the clock was always ticking. In Lost Planet, you were always getting colder. Superficially, it seems as though you’ve gravitated toward games where forces far greater than your character are conspiring against you. Is that a coincidence, or is there something about that concept that appeals to you?
You’re probably right about those themes. I personally like to see games where a man is able to fight back in an extreme state. That’s kind of my image of a hero. Every time I create a game, I have to place a hero in the story, and because I like that kind of a hero who can really fight against those intense circumstances. That’s probably why.
Superficially at least, it seems as though there’s some commonality between this game and Monster Hunter. Would you say that’s a fair observation?
If you look at it, like you said, superficially, that’s a fair assessment. I feel that Monster Hunter is a great game, and I wanted to extract the series’ strengths and adopt some of them. When you play the game, you’ll quickly realize that the gameplay and systems are totally different. You’ll notice the same level of quality that you’ve seen in the Monster Hunter series, but they’re completely different.
So there’s no barbecued meat in Soul Sacrifice?
In our game, we might grill something else — something that might give us ratings issues. [laughs]
One of the people I work with has a Monster Hunter save with more than 900 hours on it. Is she insane?
In Japan, it’s not hard to find people like her. If you call her insane, it’s like calling all of those Japanese people insane, too. [laughs]
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