Tekken master retains his zeal
Katsuhiro Harada, the man behind the long- running Tekken series, believes the latest game in the series, Tekken Tag Tournament 2, has something for everyone.
It will appeal to both newcomers to the series and long- time Tekken fans, he says.
"Tekken is a fighting game . . . one where it's not that the better player is going to win 100 per cent of the time. Tekken has an element of surprise that allows you to feel that, if you play a person better than you, you can win some of the time. That's one reason why the game is easier to jump into the series. Obviously, it's not going to appeal to everyone because no game does, but for people who have the slightest interest in a fighting game, TTT2 is really easy to pick up, and we've noticed that a lot of fans of the series who are not so hardcore are attracted to things like the game mechanics, the vast array of characters and the various customisation options. There's a lot for novice players to really enjoy besides the one-on- one fighting mechanics."
Harada has worked on the Tekken series for 17 years. Is he still passionate about the game series? "Well, you know, personally I think I have the most experience but also the most passion about fighting games compared to anyone else, although I feel I need to start giving some more of my work to the younger members of the team. I still don't lose to them as far as passion goes, though."
For such a long-running series, it would be easy to think that coming up with fresh ideas would be difficult, but not for Harada. However, a long-running series such as Tekken presents other challenges.
"It's not really difficult to have fresh ideas to keep the series fresh, but the difficulty lies in the various ideas that we have and want to implement as a team. Since the series is so long, half of the job is [satisfying] the fans and the fighting game community who expect certain things from the franchise as well. They expect us to maintain the elements they like, while still adding new ideas without changing the game too much so they go away from the series. That is where the difficulty lies. It's a balance, because there are many ideas that the team has always wanted to implement but we've always held back on those, mainly because we didn't want to change it too much into a game that nobody recognises."
Harada admits that it can be hard at times to satisfy everyone with each new edition of Tekken.
"It is quite difficult to please everyone, obviously, because there is no limit to what people want from you. I guess the most difficult part is that often the requests contradict each other.
"One example was that there are some people who say, 'There is no end to how many characters we want: the more, the better,' and then when we go and put as many as we can, [and] we have other people who say, 'Oh, that's too much. We can't work with all these different characters and also the techniques and strategies involved, so we want you to scale it back'. It's hard to determine where to focus when you're looking at all these requests."
Tag Tournament 2 will be a launch title for Nintendo's upcoming Wii U console, but Harada admits there have been challenges in developing for a console for which they don't know the release date.
"It is quite tough with the new console because sometimes the specs can still change since they're still developing it. The Tekken team has done several launch games [for a console], but it is easier to do a follow-up, or a sequel, after you've already become familiar with the hardware. Part of the difficulty in this launch title is - and I'm not joking when I say this - we still haven't been told when exactly launch [of the Wii U] is."
While Harada regards Tekken 4 as his favourite in the series - "this is probably unexpected to fans of the series because this was the one that they didn't like the most but I learned so much from developing that title" - satisfying fan requests and getting the vision he wanted was sometimes difficult. He often takes a fan request and subtly changes it to satisfy everyone.
Despite Tekken being a long- running series, Harada thinks there is still plenty of life left in it, and he has lots of new ideas for the series.
"One idea - and this isn't even my favourite - is that in Tekken at the moment you have the character-select screen, and with all those characters it gets a little crazy, but if you press a button it's a secret command for all those panels to switch to animals from all over the world. If you could do that it would be kind of interesting, but that's an idea that probably no-one would ever want to play, so it probably wouldn't sell, and for that reason it hasn't been put in the game."
Tekken Tag Tournament 2 is out on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 on September 13. Gerard Campbell travelled to Sydney courtesy of NamcoBandai Partners.
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