Yu Suzuki: The Kikizo Interview

We spend time with one of gaming's most legendary creators to learn the latest on Psy-Phi and a great untold story about Suzuki learning Hakkyokuken from a grand master. Oh, and some Shenmue stuff too.

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The highest profile Sega veteran of them all, Yu Suzuki has earned his elite reputation at the very pinnacle of game creator. One of gaming's most iconic figures, Suzuki practically invented arcades as we know them, with hits such as OutRun and After Burner, before pioneering the modern racing and fighting game genres with Virtua Racing and Virtua Fighter, and breaking new ground in role playing games with Shenmue.

His career at Sega has spanned some 23 years, and included high points such as his induction into the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences' Hall of Fame in 2003. He was formerly the president and well known face of Sega's distinguished AM2 division - proudly characterised by all of Suzuki's work until around the time he received the prestigious award and (coincidentally) changed offices at Sega - and today, operates a completely new division, AM Plus.

Of course Suzuki's role at Sega today is not without its mystery - nor a degree of debate. Debate, fuelled by his critically acclaimed and fan-worshipped Shenmue franchise, which has kept players guessing for some time. Fuelled further, perhaps, by a report on this website last summer about the future of the project, claiming that internally, Suzuki is not involved with the elusive and still officially-unconfirmed next in the core series. And as for mystery, well, can we just say it's been a while since we've seen a game bearing the 'YS' seal, and one must surely wonder what Suzuki-san will have for his fans next.

P L E A S E   V I S I T   O U R   S P O N S O R :

Kikizo recently spent some time at Sega to meet with Yu Suzuki, primarily for a much needed, up-to-date, English-language and frankly very rare interview, focussing on the man himself, his career to date, and his future goals - but also to see if we could find out any answers to some clearly burning questions. What we present below, is as complete a summary on the essential topics as can possibly, humanly be published. And you can take that or leave it!

Kikizo: Suzuki-san, thanks for your time today. Can you tell us about your new arcade game, Psy-Phi - what is the setting and the story of the game, who are the characters?

Yu Suzuki: It's an action-shooting game with 1-on-1 combat, and it's the first game of its type to use a touch panel control. Everything in the game is controlled through the touch screen, so the control is more directly connected with your thoughts and physical actions.

Yu Suzuki, Creative Officer, AM Plus RD Dept

All the characters in the game have psychic capabilities... they're not robots, they're all humans [capable of] extrasensory perception, if you will. The costume designs for the characters look very futuristic. Some characters are even a bit... sexy [laughs]. They're not like characters I've used in previous games I've done. It's been a challenge for me to develop them.

Kikizo: When did you first conceptualise Psy-Phi?

YS: A long time ago - I've had an interest in fantasy and sci-fi stuff since my childhood, when I was watching a lot of anime.

Kikizo: You mean stuff like Mobile Suit Gundam?

YS: A bit older than that. In particular, there was an anime and manga series called Babel II that really gave me a strong interest in that sort of thing.

Psy-Phi utilises Suzuki's "newfound pyrokinetic powers"

Kikizo: How long has it been in development?

YS: Planning on the game began about 2 years ago [around the time Mr Suzuki's 'Digital Rex' studio was first announced].

Kikizo: Why did you choose this touch screen input method over a more traditional control style? How is it used in gameplay, specifically?

YS: I thought the standard joystick and button layout was getting rather boring. As I mentioned before, I think you have more direct control of the characters through the touch screen. It's been a challenge to implement, but as any good developer will tell you, it's important to try new things.

"You can call Psy-Phi the Sega DS!"

Kikizo: Obviously, there's only one console out there that has touch-screen capabilities... so do you think we'll be seeing anything Psy-Phi related on the Nintendo DS?

YS: Well, you can call Psy-Phi the Sega DS! [laughs] Actually, we've joked around about it, but... we haven't considered anything seriously. I don't think the DS is capable enough. We could make a DS [port of the] game, but I think it would lose a lot in the transition.

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