―Why did you choose to make this game a spinoff rather than a numbered title?
Toshihiro Nagoshi (below, Nagoshi): I think to an extent we achieved results with Ryu ga Gotoku 5, but once you achieve results with a numbered title, in many ways there are elements that run dry. At a time like that, we can create a spinoff to try something new and look forwards. Not only that, but this was at a time when we were about to make the shift to a new platform, so it was also a good opportunity to study the PlayStation 4. Though the staff were exhausted, we were seeking something new. I think we managed to work in quite a highly motivated state. Not to mention that since it was going to be released alongside the console, the staff were really fired up.
―Is that how you were able to muster the power to utilise the PlayStation 4's functions to their fullest?
Nagoshi: Perhaps. But putting aside the HD picture quality, realising a circumstance in which, for example, the game would run at 60 frames per second was nothing more than an ideal or wish. This is a bit of a rough way to put it, but although I was fixated on it, I was prepared to give up on it. Actually, I'd like to shout it out that movements look more fluid with the higher picture quality, but that doesn't mean that the gameplay on the PlayStation 3 is inferior (laughs). The difference between the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4 versions of Ishin is, in terms of the picture, the way it's displayed. PlayStation 3 users can play it with peace of mind, without having to be envious of the PlayStation 4.
―Does this mean that in terms of the software, the main difference between them is features like the share function that are unique to the PlayStation 4?
Nagoshi: That may be the case. The game is being released at the same time as the console, so I'm sure people will think, "So this is what the PlayStation 4 can do." So with the share function, for example, we tried to think up something that would match up with it and use it if we could. It feels like a waste not to use something that's there, and for the service-minded Ryu ga Gotoku team, it's unthinkable (laughs).
―There might be new fans of the Ryu ga Gotoku created by releasing alongside the PlayStation 4.
Nagoshi: It's too early to know that yet (laughs). Whatever the intent, I think it will be the kind of title you'll want to play when you buy your PlayStation 4, so I hope people do try it out.
―Speaking more specifically now, what was the biggest reason for your choosing this content for the game?
Nagoshi: The bakumatsu period was one of the candidates that survived until the very end at the time of Kenzan. If you were to ask why we didn't choose it back then, that's because there are aspects to it that are difficult to fictionalise. If you're simply tracing around history, there's a possibility that it won't be interesting as a work of entertainment. This was the judgement that led us to shelve it at the time.
―Though you shelved it, it stayed in everyone's memories?
Nagoshi: Yes. Thanks to the experience gleaned from working on Kenzan, I think we were able to create a story without lowering the entertainment value. So we started talking about it maybe being okay to do a story with the bakumatsu, which had been the runner up, now. I guess in that sense, we'd already started considering the bakumatsu setting back then.
―Talking about the planning stages, what kind of impression did you have of Sakamoto Ryoma?
Nagoshi: I don't know all that much about history. Of course, Sakamoto Ryoma is a person who's portrayed in all kinds of media, and so I did know a bit about him. I had no idea who this Saito Hajime guy was. For a while after I read the script, I thought it was a temporary name (laughs).
―What!? But isn't that a key part of Ishin's story!?
Nagoshi: I asked, "When are we going to change this placeholder name? Isn't it overly cheap-sounding?" and the staff just looked at me, dumbfounded (laughs). But I'm sure there are players who didn't know anything about Saito Hajime, or still don't. It's better to have at least one person from that perspective, right?
―I guess it's just as you say (laughs).
Nagoshi: Let's not discuss whether it's okay for that person to be the general director, though (laughs). With regards to my impression of Sakamoto Ryoma, if we're speaking in terms of yin and yang then he's the yang. His personality is a part of him that doesn't overlap with Kazuma Kiryu. This meant that there was a time when I wasn't sure whether or not he would work as a protagonist. In the end, I felt that it was important to, whilst bringing out a Kiryu-ness in him, make people think, "Maybe this is the kind of person that Sakamoto Ryoma was?" and the choice was the right one.
―What was your honest impression the first time you read through Ishin's scenario?
Nagoshi: There were parts that I thought even people like myself with a cursory knowledge of history would get, and there were parts to make you think, "Oh, so that's how it was!" I think as a whole, the scenario was good. We did end up arguing over what stance Kondo Isami, Hijikata Toshizo and the Shinsengumi should be portrayed from.
―By which you mean...?
Nagoshi: Depending on how you look at them, the Shinsengumi could be taken as either heroes or villains, right? That's why we had trouble with it. But that much chaos is part of the drama of the bakumatsu, so we decided that we didn't have to portray them as entirely good or bad. Ultimately they're bad, but we tried to split the badness between them.
―In terms of the Ryu ga Gotoku series so far, how about viewing them in a similar way to the Tojo Clan?
Nagoshi: I think that perception is correct. In terms of the cast, a large part of that is utilising the personalities that have appeared in the past. Even if you don't know each member of the Shinsengumi, if you've played the Ryu ga Gotoku series then you'll vaguely know what kind of person they are. We have set up some tricks in the midst of this, of course.
―In a game with an all-star cast, which character do you have the strongest attachment to?
Nagoshi: In terms of strength... I suppose Hijikata Toshizo. Lots of Ryu ga Gotoku fans are Mine fans, too. I am one myself. This is the first reunion in a long time with the character of Mine, but also with Nakamura Shido who plays him... He gave such a dignified performance. It served as a great reference for direction, and thanks to him I think he turned into a fine character.
―Was there anything in any part of the game that was altered at your behest?
Nagoshi: For example, Saigo Kichinosuke. In the initial script, there was no dog. There were apparently no records that he actually owned a dog. But for me, I just couldn't imagine a Saigo Kichinosuke without a dog. I mean, the Saigo statue in Ueno comes with a dog, right? (laughs)
―Indeed it does (laughs).
Nagoshi: I think that you need that kind of fiction so that even people who don't know the history will get it, so we put in the dog.
―To think that the dog held such a secret...!
Nagoshi: Programming the animals was a real pain, though. But maybe out of joy that it was finally complete, there was a time when the prototype version had a town full of animals. Obviously I asked them to turn it down a notch. That's how many there were (laughs).
―Finally, then, please tell us one thing in Ishin that you'd recommend.
Nagoshi: One? That's difficult...
―I think you'll have trouble because of the sheer amount of content there is to play... but please just try to pick one!
Nagoshi: I want the Ryu ga Gotoku series to be representative of the kind of fun you can have on a stationary console. If I had to narrow it down to just one point, I guess it might be something like the spirit. People might say, "Isn't it always like that?" but for this game, where we had the challenge of developing a game during a limited period on the PlayStation 4, isn't that particularly striking? Playing a game like Ishin based on a stationary console is a kind of a constraint in the present day, I think, and restrictive. But we tried to make a game that had the value to compensate for that, so please give it a try.