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The following is a selection from Masahiro Sakurai’s book: Think About Making the Video Games. If you enjoyed this article, I would strongly encourage you to support Sakurai by buying his books. This translation is for fan use only, and may not accurately reflect the opinions of Masahiro Sakurai. If you have any questions about this article, please contact the administrator.
The article was originally written: November 26th, 2009.
The looking back interview was published: June 2012.
The Super Famicom was released in 1990. Within a month, ActRaiser was released, and music on the Super Famicom quickly reached a turning point. Because of the new console’s name, “Super Famicom,” many developers likely set out to create music just a little fancier than that heard on the preceding console—in other words, “super” Famicom music. However, the music in ActRaiser changed things. Developers simultaneously felt a sense of panic, and a call to action, stirred to work harder and create something even better.
An outstanding game makes players think, “From now on, this is going to be the standard.” People get used to things so quickly it’s almost cruel, and the bar is raised at an equally incredible speed.
So what would be considered turning points in the history of action games? There have been quite a few important games over the years, but in recent years the God of War series has had a huge impact. The action-packed story overflowing with excitement and emotion has continued to surprise both players and developers alike.
I think you could say the developers of Bayonetta were quite conscious of God of War when they made the game. I had fun playing it through until the very end—on the Xbox 360, of course!
I was shocked a game of this caliber was created in Japan—and by Platinum Games, which isn’t a huge company. Cutscenes that show off an eccentric sense of style, the rich and exciting action, the entertaining setting and enemies. It’s an action game you could show off to the whole world with pride.
The team removed a good number of the annoying backtracking, puzzle-solving, or maze-like elements typical of games like this, aiming for a good, fast pace. And there are so many destructible items everywhere.
It’s a very different style of development from mine, where including even one destructible item makes me rack my brain with the extra costs and the time necessary to incorporate such a component. I’m sure they’re quite fatigued by all of the extra work, but I’m still a little jealous.
Looking back at the 2009 Tokyo Game Show, I think we definitely saw a huge increase in somewhat stylish action games, a result of the influence of the God of War series. But among those games, Bayonetta’s uniqueness shone the brightest. Simply put, it was the best of the bunch.
From hereon out, I think we’ll be able to differentiate between pre-Bayonetta and post-Bayonetta. The reality is, the people who have played this game will have their eye for games refined even more, and the developers will likewise have to ramp up their efforts to keep matching this ever-evolving standard. In particular, I think there will be more games that try to mimic Bayonetta’s extremely showy, over-the-top cutscenes.
Personally, the one bit that bothered me a little bit was the ranking system. It’s something I’ve had in mind since this sort of thing first showed up in Resident Evil, but I always feel like the games are continually yelling at me, “You suck!”
It’s probably not a feature geared toward casual, one-time players. On the other hand, for those who want to really get into the game, it’s a very logical system, and for people who are going to play through the game multiple times, I think it makes them really ponder how to approach the game.
It’s difficult for games to capture consumers who are likely to say “I’m bored; let’s go watch a movie” and don’t really want to commit very hard to one thing. There are a lot of diverse, varied ways to have fun.
And that’s precisely why I wonder if it’s necessary for me to make “lighter” games to be enjoyed more casually—so talented folks like Mr. Kamiya and his team can continue making games freely. I’m quite the heavy gamer myself, but still.
Making an effort to make sure games don’t all end up in the same place is something of a personal assignment of mine. We all have our roles to play, after all.
Looking Back on Bayonetta
Sakurai: Mr. Kamiya’s smile right here (laughs). Now, talking pre-Bayonetta and post-Bayonetta. That actually is what ended up happening. When you talk about stylish action games, Bayonetta’s the name that always comes up. But, I don’t think there’s been a game that’s surpassed Bayonetta yet, though.
Interviewer: If you had to say…
Sakurai: It’s really hard to make an original action game that’s this well made.
Interviewer: For games that are made in Japan, I feel adventure games where there isn’t a lot of movement is more common.
Sakurai: I think that’s solely because it’s hard to make games like that. You need a lot of capital and a staff that you can really trust, you need to work very hard to make something like that. Bayonetta also worked pretty hard to reduce costs.
Interviewer: In what areas did that happen?
Sakurai: Cutscenes using still images, or the fact that they repeat textures on the terrain often are some easy to understand examples.
Interviewer: I see. In that sense, in terms of both the contents of the game and the costs involved, God of War is a pretty monstrous game.
Sakurai: There’s been a marked decrease in these really solidly built action games…I hope Kid Icarus: Uprising fits the bill (laughs).
Interviewer: Oh, you snuck in some self-promotion (laughs).
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