he man behind Capcom's Clover Studio sits down with Managing Editor Billy Berghammer at TGS and talks the past, the present, and the future of gaming. Oh, and he discusses a couple games you may have heard of before: Steel Battalion and Viewtiful Joe.
GI: First off, how are you enjoying the show so far? How has the response been to your games?
Inaba: I’ve been really busy so far so I haven’t had much of a chance yet to walk around and see things. I’m going to get together with some other developer friends tomorrow and get them some backstage passes to get some access to some of my games. One thing that’s surprised me about the reaction about Vietwiful Joe 2 is that I expected it to be mostly fans of the first game that wanted to play the new one, but I’ve noticed that for the most part it’s been a lot of people who didn’t play the first game and are just interested in the character and want to see what the game is all about. It makes me very happy.
GI: I saw your presentation onstage earlier today and you were showing some of the characters from the first and second game and is some of this being used towards the anime?
Inaba: Yes. I love the character so much myself and I’ve always wanted to make a cartoon. Now that the second game is coming out the time seems right to make an anime and I’m very happy about that. It’s about to come out in Japan on October 2nd but it has really been decided if we’re going to release it outside of Japan, but since the anime has such a high reputation like the game we don’t see why we wouldn’t put out the anime overseas. But officially it hasn’t been decided yet.
GI: Who’s going to play Joe?
Inaba: Seki Tomakazu, he’s a famous Japanese actor. He’s actually famous for doing anime voices.
GI: Did you have anything to do with the writing of the anime or are they simply taking the story of the game and taking that in a new direction on their own?
Inaba: I don’t have any direct input on the storylines and have given them the basic materials in terms of character design and there are going to be some original characters in the anime that haven’t appeared in the games. My team and I actually designed those characters, as well, and sent them the appropriate materials so they could put them in the cartoon.
GI: If there were a Viewtiful Joe 3, any chance those characters would appear in that game?
Inaba: I’m leaning more away from doing a number 3 and taking the idea in a new direction. Rather than making another game I’d like to make a more original game.
GI: An original game with Joe?
Inaba: I can’t really tell you right now, but the gears are always turning in my head.
GI: In my opinion, Viewtiful Joe was a very original 2D game, something that hasn’t shown up in a really long time. Would you ever think about taking Viewtiful Joe in the world of 3D?
Inaba: No, that’s never crossed my mind.
GI: So you think he fits better into a 2D world?
Inaba: I think that gameplay system fits Joe to a T, so I don’t really see a reason to change it up in any way.
GI: Why was the decision made to bring Viewtiful Joe to the PS2, since the game was originally part of Capcom’s GameCube exclusive “Capcom 5?”
Inaba: I don’t really have a preference for a system, but we decided why not let more people play it and we thought let’s get the game to more people and let them enjoy it, too.
GI: What has the feedback been so far from Joe fans bringing the game over to the PS2?
Inaba: I think that a lot of PS2 owners may not be familiar with the game unlike GameCube owners, so I think that the popularity of the game on the PS2 will happen surely, but hasn’t happened yet. But I’m looking forward to the game on the PS2 receiving the same reception as it did on the GameCube.
GI: What were you thoughts on bringing Dante over as a secret character for the PS2 version of Viewtiful Joe?
Inaba: Actually, it was a rather natural progression because we through that simply porting the game was a little boring so we wanted to add a little something extra. At first we didn’t know what we wanted to do but it ended up being easy because Kamiya had directed the first Devil May Cry and he directed Viewtiful Joe. When we sat down and talked about what we were going to add it just naturally go about that we would put Dante in there and sure enough by the next day they already had the designs done and everything ready and we were all very excited about it.
GI: Were there any other characters that you would have liked to have brought over in terms of secret characters that didn’t make the cut?
Inaba: Actually a lot of ideas were discussed, but I can’t tell you about them because they might just show up in another game sometime.
GI: So those characters may just end up being in Viewtiful Joe 2?
Inaba: It’s possible, but I can’t really tell you.
GI: How much did you change the game engine from Viewtiful Joe to Viewtiful Joe 2?
Inaba: Basically both games have a similar engine but the new game has the character of Sylvia. Since you can change between the two characters you end up with two very different styles of play so it opens up some new dimensions of gameplay. That’s one difference. What’s different about Sylvia in particular is that she has a new VFX power and it’s called Replay, where you can do the same move three times in a row. Of course if you miss the move it causes big problems. In exchange for that, she can’t use the Mach Speed Power whereas Joe can use Mach Speed but not Replay. So it ends up being a question of using the right character for the appropriate situation to make it through the puzzles and the levels.
GI: Should it be expected that there are going to be unlockable characters like you had in Viewtiful Joe?
Inaba: We can’t say anything in particular, but it is safe to say that you should look forward to some surprises.
GI: How do you feel on how successful the Steel Battalion series has been?
Inaba: It sold a lot more than I expected it to, since it is a very niche game. I was very pleased to see so many people interested in it.
GI: Could we ever see another Steel Battalion game?
Inaba: There’s nothing currently planned right now, but in this industry you can never rule anything like that out. It’s always possible that some sequel to some game will come.
GI: How about the possibilities of any patches or downloadable content? Some of my friends have run into problems with the network play. Any chance of that feature getting an improvement through a download?
Inaba: We’re working on something along those lines, but I can’t tell you much more than that. But we are working on something. It’s a slippery slope because the game uses so much information over the Xbox Live service and it really boils down to whether or not you have a good network connection. There are no guarantees, but we’re working on a way to perhaps fix some of the problems.
GI: If you could design another game around a controller, what would you do?
Inaba: It’s actually crossed my mind to do such a thing, but it would be something completely unique from the Steel Battalion controller. In fact it would be something so unique and different that you might not even be able to call it a controller. That’s all I can tell you right now.
GI: Since you’ve made games for all three current consoles, which one did you enjoy working on the most and which one was working on the most difficult?
Inaba: The easiest to work with and program for was probably the Xbox. I don’t really think of things in terms of negatives like thinking that something is hard to develop for because when you set out to develop a game you have to get it done no matter what. It’s part of your job to work around the problems. I don’t really have the sense of it being difficult or easy.
GI: You’ve made a lot of very different games. Comparing games like Viewtiful Joe to Steel Battalion, what inspires you to make the games that you do?
Inaba: The thing that is similar between those games, despite them being from different genres, is that they each contain an element that hasn’t been done before; something unique that I haven’t seen before and probably hasn’t existed before. That’s what I look for in making a game and if you look carefully at my games, at the core they have the unique feature about them.