Originally posted on February 29 2016
Source: Ryu ga Gotoku Kenzan Guidebook, page 454-463

Ryu ga Gotoku Kenzan: Developers Interview

Takeshi Tanaka (adventure part leader)

General supervisor of the adventure part. He was in charge of many games, requests, kakemawari, drafts for wanted posters and supervision, solidifying the game with charming gameplay, and could even be said to be the game's designer. With his abundant knowledge and ideas, he provided many ideas and implementations for the game. He is one of the men who knows the game best of all.

Koji Tokieda (sequence programming)

A key programmer who has been in charge of sequence programming since Ryu ga Gotoku 2. Sequence programming is a fundamental part of the game, and his role was to bring together as one a multitude of elements in this game with a huge amount of content in its main story, plus the complicated entanglement of requests, kakemawari, wanted posters, and many mini games.

Tetsuya Kaku (chief programmer)

The genereal director of programming on the Ryu ga Gotoku series. He is also in charge of implementing the battle program. Beginning with Virtua Fighter, he is a pioneer of Sega's fighting games, using his skills to create the deep battle system. He is a person who brought the game to completion as "a game in which anyone can become a man of legend".

Daisuke Sato (director)

Served as director for the game, directing the team as on-site director and supervisor. Due to tight scheduling and management, he was able to bring the game to release in the short period of only about a year since the prior game. Worked as design director on Ryu ga Gotoku and Ryu ga Gotoku 2. Starting with Kenzan, he now serves as overall director of the project.

Kazuki Hosokawa (design director)

Serves as design director. He is single-handedly responsible for the overall progression of development, including things like characters, backgrounds, motions and effects. Taking command of the army of developers, they managed a commendable depiction of the world of a period drama. He was in charge of event creation on Ryu ga Gotoku 2, and took charge of overall design direction from this game.

Jun Orihara (battle part leader)

General supervisor of the entire Ryu ga Gotoku series' battle parts. On Kenzan, he also took charge of supervising revelations, weapon training and ideas for training. He made a major contribution to the genesis of the new battle system, based around swords rather than the previous bare-handed brawling. He is deeply knowledgeable about martial arts as a whole, utilising this in the creation of heat actions.

Haruyoshi Tomita (sound director)

Serves as overall sound supervisor and music director, including BGM, voices, environmental sounds and sound effects. He brings a unique worldview to the series, utilising BGM of all genres, environmental sounds that make it seem like you're really walking around town and sound effects for battles that almost make you feel pain, working hard to create realistic sounds.

Masayoshi Yokoyama (script/production)

Has been in charge of script and production throughout the Ryu ga Gotoku series. On this game he also handled the original draft and sound direction. Beginning with the original draft and creation of the plot, he worked as on-site director for the scenario, storyboads, motion recording, voice recording and a huge number of event scenes. The extravagant casting was also down to him.

❖ Original draft and character backgrounds

―Please tell us the reason why Miyamoto Musashi and Sasaki Kojiro are the main characters.

Masayoshi Yokoyama (below, Yokoyama): Let me start with a story from when we began the original draft for Ryu ga Gotoku Kenzan! (below, Kenzan). The players had taken to Ryu ga Gotoku (below, 1) and Ryu ga Gotoku 2 (below, 2), and to a degree we had created a fixed style for them. There was something in that that I thought was the reason why they were so well received. I think that the series is praised as a whole, but the thing I think people liked about it was the old fashioned, passionate people in it. I started to think, "Okay, so what if we take these intense characters and have them do something else?"

―This was with everyone on the team?

Yokoyama: At first it was Nagoshi, Kikuchi and me. We had a bunch of ideas. Things like, if we have the past then we also have the future. Out of all of these backgrounds, the one that seemed the most likely to make the characters shine was something around the Sengoku era of the past. What we came up with as a keyword at the time was, "The era in which people brought out the best in themselves by killing." But simply portraying the Sengoku era wouldn't be interesting, so we made it about people who are behind the times, but keep pushing on with their way of life. Although the Sengoku era is over, and swords are no longer needed, if there were a person who continued to place his faith in his blade as he lived - the person who fitted neatly into that was Miyamoto Musashi.

―And so you decided to go with Miyamoto Musashi as the protagonist?

Yokoyama: That was the way we started off thinking about it. In honesty, though, it wasn't Miyamoto Musashi or anything like that. ...If we're talking about the very first draft, then I was thinking of a red light district. A closed-off space; a miniature garden. I was really interested in how the women in these red light districts lived, and I wanted to try putting Kiryu into the story of a man who lived in a place like that. This idea meshed perfectly with the old fashioned warrior I mentioned earlier.

We had decided from the beginning that Kiryu was going to be the main character, so I thought I should make this warrior - Miyamoto Musashi - be Kiryu. I guess that really, it's because I said, "Maybe it'll work out when we try it," and then we tried it out that we ended up with this kind of story. We came at it from a variety of different angles - not just basing it on Miyamoto Musashi, a red light district or the Edo period - and I guess this is just what fell into place.

―And you put in Kojiro because of Musashi?

Yokoyama: Miyamoto Musashi is famous, right? There are novels about him, TV shows, and even a famous manga. I'm sure that when using Musashi, the players will expect Kojiro or Inshun to appear as well. Our team's stance is to cater to the wants of the players. I do think, however, that the Kojiro in Kenzan is quite different from what the players will have pictured. But when you're using events that are based in historical fact, if you end up changing history then it turns into a lie, right? For example, if you were to say, "Miyamoto Musashi is still alive right now," that would be a lie. So we didn't do that. We decided to take a level of "if" - like, "Oh, maybe this might have happened in the past, too," - and make it amusing.

―Then what about appearances from Honami Koetsu and other characters from previous games?

Yokoyama: When we were wondering what we should do about characters who had already appeared in the series, we thought, "What if it's... not just Kiryu?" We wanted to put in some things that would put grins on the faces of the people who buy the games because they like the series. When you think of familiar characters, you've got Date and the Florist, Majima, Haruka, and Kazama, plus Sayama from 2. You could think up something for these six. The story this time around doesn't really have anything to do with 1 or 2's, so we could use everyone. When we were trying to think of ways we could use them, we decided to narrow it down to Haruka, Majima and the Florist.

―Is having Koetsu be an informant one of your original ideas?

Yokoyama: That's right. We started talking about who would be an informant in Kyoto, and that's when we decided to put in the Florist. The game needs to have an informant. But just saying that the Florist owns an udon shop isn't interesting. The Florist has an abundance of financial muscle and also has acquaintances in underground organisations, as well as ties to the shogunate, but he also lives freely according to his wishes... The person who came to mind was Honami Koetsu, who was an artist and probably had money, too. The decision was a very easy one to make.

―Did you choose Ito Ittosai and Marume Nagayoshi because of their being master swordsmen?

Yokoyama: Yes. In the sense of being a strong master swordsman from the time, it's because he was alive at the same time as Musashi. This is true of Marume Nagayoshi as well, but they really are masters from the same time. Though we did just sort of... find Marume (laughs). Seriously. I was looking into what master swordsmen were alive at the time, and there he was (laughs). Marume is the person in the game who's the closest to being made up.

❖ Location background

―What did you struggle with most in terms of the background of the game's setting?

Kazuki Hosokawa (below, Hosokawa): The hardest part was, unsurprisingly, Gion. We of course went to Gion in Kyoto for research and bought all the materials we could get out hands on, but if you were to ask whether the Gion in the game is simply a version of the modern day one we took and aged, then I don't think that's the case. This is more about the game's concept, but we also wanted to change the things that players do and feel inside and outside of Gion, so we decided to make Gion sort of like an amusement park; to make it look Japanese and extravagant and like a festival. I spent a lot of time discussing what kind of graphical solution we should use to fulfil this request with the scenery leader.

―None of the shades of the town from back then are left now.

Hosokawa: Right. Though there is still a building with a strong reddish hue left in modern day Gion like the one you see in the game. [To Yokoyama] Hm, what was it? Sumiya?

Yokoyama: Huh!? Sorry, I've not heard of it...

All: (Laugh)

Hosokawa: Isn't there a famous shop in Gion that has bright red walls?

Yokoyama: ? ... Well, I guess Gion was mostly red, anyway.

Hosokawa: Uzumasa and the red light district were red, too. But because just having a Japanese feeling to it was unsatisfactory, there are a lot of additions like the construction and silhouette and use of colours, so it changes from Japanese to Chinese. Always. I wondered how far I should take it...

―You mean that if you go too far, it ends up looking like a Chinatown?

Hosokawa: Right! If we excluded that, though, it wouldn't look right, so we argued quite a lot about how much would be okay. We even fought about it.

―By fighting, you mean with the general producer, Nagoshi?

Hosokawa: No, no (laughs). With the scenery guy...

Takeshi Tanaka (below, Tanaka): We made quite a lot of revisions to the townscape.

Hosokawa: Yeah...

Koji Tokieda (below, Tokieda): At first, we had this lonely road...

Hosokawa: That's because the first thing we thought was, "Maybe the old main road in Gion used to feel like this?" We were making it on the PlayStation 3, after all. Even that alone meant that we could go further with the graphics than ever before. We tried a lot of different things in an attempt to flesh out this goal that we were fumbling around for... In the end, we brought out about double the festival atmosphere versus what we had initially imagined.

Tokieda: At the start of development, everyone really was saying, "Make it like a festival! Make it like a festival!" It ended up like this [using the bon festival dance] (laughs).

Yokoyama: This is a fairly general thing to talk about, but we were looking for reality - that is, our aim was for a realism. ...When you're trying to realistically create something like Gion, you become stingy. From the start, we had decided to skip some of the historical research part. If it was going to make things boring, then we didn't need that realism.

Hosokawa: It becomes modest if you make it normally.

Yokoyama: You don't know in what kind of way the people from back then would walk around, or anything like that. More than that, we wanted to create the realism of a living, breathing town with a sense of humanity to it. That was probably the idea behind the townscape, too.

Hosokawa: In a trivial way it's persuasive, isn't it? Someone with a bountiful knowledge of the subject might look at it and think, "That's not true," but when you consider the understanding of the person watching, they will accept a certain level of dramatisation, and I think that this actually creates more positive cases.

Yokoyama: The prostitutes would actually have whiter faces and blacker teeth. This might have been true in the past, but if you met a woman with blackened teeth now... you know?

Hosokawa: Along with the prostitutes' features, we made the town into something that would be easy for the players to understand.

―By the way, does Hozoin still exist today?

Hosokawa: I'm sure the historical site does...

Daisuke Sato (below, Sato): We went to Hozoin for research, but nothing was left.

Hosokawa: The first time you visit Hozoin in the game, you'll see the entire thing, but it's a total fabrication. We had pictured Inshun and Inei showing up in the story from the initial stages, and of course the location would be Hozoin. But when I heard that Hozoin could function as a fighting arena, I thought that rather than making it into a huge temple, we should just turn it into a sort of colosseum to make it interesting.

Yokoyama: The arena is part of the interestingness of the world of 1 and 2. There was a place like that underground, and I wanted to emulate that. I really wanted to put it in somewhere.

―I'm sure that the fans will definitely have been expecting it to be in there.

Yokoyama: Yeah! At this point, we're basically just forcing in things like this that will make people unexpectedly smile (laughs). And things like making sure that the floor in the Florist's room sinks down. All I could think about from the start was having it sink. I wanted to put in the "obligatory" elements no matter what. Hozoin just happened to be free, so we put the arena there. I want the fans of the series to think, "Ahh, so they put in the arena after all!" when they get there.

―By the way, was there anything to consciously changed about Gion from 2's Kamurocho?

Hosokawa: In game terms, we had the principle that it had to serve the function of 2's Kamurocho, but I think that in design terms, I don't think I was too strongly mindful of putting things from Kamurocho into Gion. For example, there's a big town called Rakugaicho outside of Gion. I thought that having Gion and Rakugaicho would create a good contrast between an otherworldly town and a town where you get an up close look at everyday life.

Yokoyama: That, and one other thing. From the start, we had this concept of Kiryu being a swordsman and a kakemawari... he has the duality of being both a playboy and a swordsman living in Gion. We wanted to set up the town so as to be symbolic of that. There's a total shift inside and outside of Gion. I guess really, though, this shows up in a lot of different places, like the way battles work. Things like Kiryu's outfit and equipment changing are part of this, I suppose.

❖ Behind-the-scenes stories about recording with the voice actors

―Next, let's talk about the voice actors. Did the casting process go smoothly?

Yokoyama: Well, to be honest, it didn't, really! At the launch presentation and things like that, we end up saying that it did. Okay, let's just say that it went smoothly (laughs).

―Because you decide upon the characters before their voice actors.

Yokoyama: Speaking about this game, the one I had in mind from the start when I was writing the scenario was Ito. I had decided in my mind that Ito Ittosai was Mr. Terajima. With 2's Detective Bessho, we made him do things that were against his usual character. I wanted to see him do something in his usual manner. Or, more accurately, I had already asked him from the time of 2 (laughs). But the others were kind of... The thing I was most conscious of was having an image to face up against Kiryu. We had decided that with Kenzan, we would take images of the actors' faces and use them in the game. I wanted to make it so that the in-game characters of Ryu ga Gotoku and their real life actors would seem natural next to each other. With this as a prerequisite, I was trying to think of someone who wouldn't look weak when fighting Kiryu. In that sense, Kojiro was hard work. Kojiro is the rival that Kiryu is chasing, after all. But because of the way Kiryu is, he already looks strong just from his appearance. Then the discussion becomes about making his rival be gorilla-like. This is what happened with 2's Ryuji Goda, but I wanted to do the opposite this time around. I wondered whether there was anyone who looked slender, but strong at the same time. That's why I asked Shota Matsuda to do it. Trying to choose a Kojiro gave me grief right up until the end.

―Had you already decided upon everyone else when you chose your Kojiro?

Yokoyama: Yes. Mr. Terajima was chosen at the very start; it was ones like Marume and Gion Toji who took some time.

―Did they all do motion capture, too?

Yokoyama: No. Not motion capture. They only did capture for the facial models - we didn't record facial movements, either. This is often misunderstood, but facial capture involves just the face. We do of course capture their wrinkles and movement patterns, but things like their mouth movements and expressions are done by our designer. It was apparently a lot of hard work - for example, I heard that they watched a tonne of movies in order to make a scene where Mr. Terajima speaks. In order to make it feel like Mr. Terajima is the one speaking.

Hosokawa: We use a piece of software called the Magical V Engine that we released which automatically creates facial motions. The software gradually inserts the key faces. Even still, the designer has to add the movements. They would look at a bunch of photos, movies and TV shows in an attempt to replicate Mr. Terajima's face, researching things like how he smiles...

Yokoyama: When Mr. Terajima speaks, he will sometimes trill his speech and make slight mouth movements. He doesn't open his mouth too wide, and he pokes out his lips too, right? When it's automated by the Magical V Engine, it ends up looking mechanical, so we change it to look more Terajima-ish. He was particularly challenging, apparently. The way he speaks is so characteristic.

―Are there any other stories about the voice actors?

Yokoyama: He showed this off a bit at Kenzan's completion presentation, but you mean things like how long and passionately Masaya Kato talks? He's amazing. He brought a wooden practise sword along to the recording. There are lots of people who serve as voice actors on the Ryu ga Gotoku series who haven't done it before. Most voice actors are used to this, but you can't hear any sounds from outside of the recording studio. In a silent room, everyone gets tense. It's only natural, right? The staff are talking away on the other side of the glass, but you can't hear a word of it. You start to wonder what they're saying. There's this tenseness at the time of recording, and everyone is nervous about whether their voice is coming out properly. Mr. Kato thought that, in order to create a sense of realism, he would wave around a sword (laughs).

All: (Laugh)

Yokoyama: So, he turned up at the recording with a sword and a wooden practise sword. But things like sword noises get put in later on, and when you're swinging around a wooden sword while you're recording you end up capturing a bunch of background noise like the rustling of clothes, so it didn't work out. So I told him he couldn't do it. He said, "But...!" and began another enthusiastic argument (laughs). He was the same way before recording. Pre-recording normally concludes after a briefing session that lasts for 20, 30 minutes, but the meeting with Mr. Kato went on for about an hour and a half. He was really into it during the recording, as well, so we had to keep taking breaks in the middle. It was like, I'd say, "Let's take a five minute break!" and then during the break we'd end up in another passionate discussion about performing for about an hour (laughs). The whole time, he would tell me of his thoughts about films and performing. He's an extremely passionate person, and it's easy to see why he gets on with Nagoshi. They're really friendly with each other.

―What about Mr. Matsukata, Mr. Tsukamoto and Mr. Takenaka?

Yokoyama: Mr. Takenaka was impressive. He's done a lot of voice acting jobs, and it seems like he's friends with Mamoru Oshii. Of course, he's also used to being a voice actor. He's... well, it's kind of presumptuous of me to say this, but he's a genius. He doesn't even have to memorise the script.


Yokoyama: Before the recording, according to him, "I haven't memorised the background of the story." If you haven't read the script up to the stage directions, it's normally quite difficult to get a sense of distance; however, Mr. Takenaka can read as he goes. Most things only took one take. We hardly needed to have him redo anything. This is something I heard second-hand, but it sounds like this is how he always is. I guess he's the type who's good at short term focusing. I've never actually seen it for myself, so I can't say for sure, but on this game, at least, that's how it went. He really can grasp the sense of distance in an instant and do it perfectly.

―Even though he might not be reading anyone else's lines but his own?

Yokoyama: ...I think he'd get mad at me if I said that. But his performance is perfect. There are people who view the process with import, but he's the actor I've produced who has given me the highest quality performance. At a recent production presentation for a film, when he was being interviewed, he was asked, "What happened during the recording, Mr. Takenaka?" to which he replied, "I was so nervous that I don't remember." Does he really not remember, I wonder?

All: (Laugh)

Yokoyama: In contrast with Mr. Kato, he's normally a really quiet person.


Yokoyama: He's super stoic. He doesn't seem like the type to say any more than he has to. Maybe he was concentrating really hard before the recording, too. When recording starts, it's like all of a sudden a switch is flipped. For example, prior to recording he's tense and very quiet, but during recording he gets into it and races to the finish. Whether you're recording voices or footage, people suddenly change out of nowhere when you start recording. We asked him to say something for a making-of video we were doing for Kenzan, and his demeanour suddenly changed. Out of the blue, he spoke in a high voice and started joking around. He just suddenly changed from this super scary manner [folds his arms]. It's like he goes, "3, 2, 1, okay!" and just transforms. I wondered whether he would laugh in embarrassment or something after he finished, but it was like, [in a low voice] "...Will that do?"

It sounds like he has an amazing ability to switch on and off.

Yokoyama: It really is amazing. Maybe he can switch back and forth in a way that an average person can't.

❖ About the BGM and sound effects

―Next, let's talk about the BGM. Since this game is a period drama, did you struggle with the music?

Haruyoshi Tomita (below, Tomita): One of the preconceptions of Kenzan is that you're liable to picture a period drama, but when I spoke to Nagoshi about it, he asked me to just increase the range, so I tried not to think about it too much. The most symbolic of this are the main theme song and the ending theme. It spans a wide range of genres. When I heard from Nagoshi that Zeebra would be doing the theme song, though, I was honestly a bit shocked (laughs).

―It does seem a bit different from what you would expect from a period drama.

Tomita: On the other hand, there was a part of it that make me think, "Oh, I see." Kenzan's cutscenes have parts where they're classical, and battles have parts where the electric guitar is brought to the forefront. I was careful not to primarily use Japanese-style things simply because it was a period drama.

―But Japanese-style music does play in the red light district, right?

Tomita: That's right. The red light district has a koto as its main sound. After all, if you take out absolutely everything Japanese from the game, it turns into a different title altogether (laughs). I wanted to think simply about it so that it would be easy to understand. People from the company have worked on songs for the game, but we also asked people from outside the company to do some. If we're talking about things we struggled with, we initially couldn't achieve a sense of mutual understanding with the outside staff... They'd ask, "What kind of thing do you want me to make?" but it was like, "The aim is that we don't have an aim!"

―But did you give any general pointers for things like battle scenes or fleeing scenes?

Tomita: Yes. I asked for music that would fit with this, regardless of the genre. Then it was checking everything when it was done.

―Did you also check things like smashing sound effects?

Tomita: Right. Our main aim with the sound effects was to make them easy to understand. For example, when you unsheathe a sword, I don't think it really makes much noise. You might just hear a faint "shh!" noise. We made that into a "shrin" noise (laughs). I talked it over with Nagoshi, making it more and more exaggerated, to the point of near obstinance.

―Are things like the voices of people around town talking sound effects as well?

Yokoyama: How was it on this game?

Tomita: Starting with this game, all of the people around town are done by voice actors.

Hosokawa: Now that you mention it, the staff didn't do any recording this time.

Yokoyama: On 2, voices for things like the people around town were done by the staff, and we would record them saying things like, "Welcome!" Even I did some. I'm sure I remember being made to do things like the kung fu voice at the private video place...

Tomita: I honestly did think about doing that again, but 2 is set in the present day, and it's set downtown, so ordinary people are more effective. But this game is a period drama. Not only that, but it's in the unique environment of Gion. We talked about wanting to distort the voices of people around town a bit more, and so we had professional voice actors dub in even the trivial voices of passers-by. There were things like tone and regional accents, too.

❖ Weapons and battle

―Many weapons appear in the game. What criteria did you have for what kinds of weapons you would use?

Jun Orihara (below, Orihara): The main standard, first of all, was a single sword. Miyamoto Musashi uses two swords. Right at the very end, we decided to have odachi. Sasaki Kojiro carries a naginata, so we thought that Kiryu should have an odachi, too.

―Things like odachi and iron clubs take both hands to hold.

Orihara: Right. You need both hands, and they're big and heavy. Not only that, but I think we managed to come up with something that wasn't a katana in the end. At first, though, there weren't really any plans to bring it to the forefront.

Sato: Yeah, that's right. At first, with the motions for the odachi, it was just like, "Just a little will do," (laughs).

Hosokawa: Though they gradually increased to the point where it was like, "This isn't what we talked about!" (laughs).

―You've changed the names of the weapons, too. Who came up with things like "bassari-maru"?

Orihara: [Raises hand] That was me. Making up things like this is good (laughs).

Yokoyama: This is just the kind of thing you'd come up with. Particularly with things like weapon names.

Tanaka: You never know what kind of name he's going to give something.

Hosokawa: You can't read them, and converting the kanji is hard (laughs).

Yokoyama: All of a sudden, he'll come up with something funny like Bassari-maru (laughs). Also, all of the esoteric names in the series are made up by Orihara. Things like the essence of whatever heat moves...

Tokieda: The first thing I start by doing is trying to memorise the move names (laughs).

Tetsuya Kaku (below, Kaku): Right, right, right. They're so hard to remember.

Yokoyama: The kanji and naming are totally like Orihara's own style.

Tanaka: He loves kanji.

―I've heard that you have an intimate knowledge of martial arts as well, Mr. Orihara?

Yokoyama: Well, he is a martial artist. ...Oh! Wait. A fencer?

Orihara: I did fencing the whole time I was at university, and my graduation thesis was about bushido. It was based on Hagakure, but there are books like Inazo Nitobe's "Bushido" and Benedict's "The Chrysanthemum and the Sword" that are famous in the theory of comparative culture. The ideologies of Japan as seen by foreigners. I also use a book where Yukio Mishima explains Hagakura for reference. ...I was in the philosophy department, you see.

Tomita: Really!

Orihara: Really. So my graduation thesis was was based on those ideas...

Tanaka: I never knew (laughs).

Tokieda: I guess that explains it (laughs).

Orihara: Miyamoto Musashi and Yagyu Munenori are from a period of war a bit before Hagakure's time. I thought that I should read something from that time, like The Book of Five Rings and A Hereditary Book on the Art of War. The Book of Five Rings was, of course, written by Miyamoto Musashi, and A Hereditary Book on the Art of War is a book about Yagyu Shinkage-ryu. It's written by ●●● (Yagyu Munenori) from the game, so it feels like fate.

Yokoyama: I'm sure the only one here who's read the original text of The Book of Five Rings is Orihara. There's also something like old documents that appear in the game. They're full of hard kanji and old language. He writes things like that, too.

Orihara: I don't take it too seriously (laughs). If you read it closely, it would look kind of... I just want to make people feel the atmosphere of it.

―But the composition and things like that are basically correct?

Orihara: No, it's kind of dodgy (laughs). One of the designers is a girl called Nakamura who always writes out things like the title and a few paragraphs. She takes what I write and then quickly writes them out. This is because I think that they look closest when they're written quickly.

Yokoyama: Orihara will message me to say, "Is this okay for the writing?" and all I can say is, "It's fine," (laughs). I'm the one who gets the requests for writing things like old documents, but I can't write them. It ends up being like, "Is it okay if I ask you to do this, Orihara?"

―Come to think of it, does Itto's zanshin mean the same thing as in the game?

Orihara: Uh, they're actually different (laughs). "Zanshin" originally refers to the preparedness of not letting your guard down after striking. It's not like the way Kiryu accumulates fighting spirit or anything (laughs).

Yokoyama: I see!

Orihara: In modern kendo, too, if you land a blow and then move away from your opponent, it becomes invalid. It doesn't count as a proper strike if you don't see it through to the end. It's basically the same thing in the case of swords.

Yokoyama: I didn't know about that.

Orihara: If I were to define zanshin, it would be something like a single drop of water that remains in a cup after you spill it. That one drop left after it all flows out at once. Sort of that kind of feeling. ...It's kind of hard to explain.

Hosokawa: The examples are even harder to understand (laughs).

All: (Laugh)

Orihara: Zanshin means keeping your guard up until the end! It means "keeping your mind", after all!

―There are lots of foes with unique moves in this game, aren't there - for example ninja, iai and aikido.

Yokoyama: What!? Aikido? I think it's this guy [pointing at Mr. Tokieda] who did aikido.

Tokieda: I did do aikido when I was at university; the aikido-type enemies who appear in the game are largely faithfully reproduced. They did a good job with things like the kotegaeshi.

Yokoyama: Even though I don't suppose you were involved in making them (laughs).

Tokieda: It's true that I'm not really involved with battles, but as an observer looking in, I do think they did well.

―Can't you advise on things other than the parts you're in charge of?

Yokoyama: That's totally fine. It is, but a lot of the time we get so busy that we have no idea what anyone else is working on, right?

Kaku: There was sort of something with the enemy movements. Sumo are stout and have big bodies, right? If you add another character's motions to them, things happen like their arm sinking into their chest or stomach. I heard that a sumo would be appearing in this game, too, and wondered if something like this would happen, and of course it did (laughs).

Tokieda: Sumo appear at the arena, too. I hear that lots of people had lots of trouble (laughs).

❖ Requests, kakemawari and wanted posters

―Until 2 you had substories. Why did you separate them into requests, kakemawari and wanted posters in Kenzan?

Tanaka: Kiryu is a bodyguard and kakemawari in Gion. We don't normally show much of what Kiryu does during the story. Sato had the idea that we should use kakemawari substories to show the kinds of jobs that Kiryu does. That's how kakemawari came about. We ended up making everything else into a request. In all honesty we wanted to call them substories in Kenzan, too, but we couldn't really find the right word and they became requests.

―You mean you couldn't just use a katakana word?

Tanaka: Not generally (laughs).

Sato: We generally went along with them not being used, but we just couldn't find the right words (laughs). It's a period drama, after all, so we did all we could to keep it in Japanese.

Yokoyama: I guess if we really tried to force it then it could be done, though. I wonder, though, if the players would really feel it if you for example changed "save" to "hozon".

Sato: We decided that in cases where it would actually make things harder to understand, we would just use katakana.

Yokoyama: What did we call heat actions at first?

Orihara: Deadly Esoterica [必殺奥義] (laughs).

Yokoyama: Yeah, that's it. But I wouldn't really like to have five kanji or whatever in a row.

Orihara: But it was a bit weird for people in the game to be saying something like "heat action!", so we did our best to make it ambiguous.

Sato: We use katakana notation for things to do with the game system, but we made sure that it would never show up in conversation or anything like that.

―The atmosphere is important, isn't it? Please continue, then, Mr. Tanaka.

Tanaka: Substories are a large element that's carried over from the previous games, so we really couldn't leave them out. From the very start of development, we were working with the concept of making absolutely sure to put in 100 of them. ...So we did start out with 100, but a lot of things happened along the way (laughs). We decided that we needed some kind of kakemawari element after all, and so we added 20 more. That's the kakemawari you see during the game.

―And at that point you went over 100?

Sato: No. At first we had thought of having 100 requests, and we had about 10 stories amongst them that would be called kakemawari. Like Tanaka said before, we separated kakemawari out from requests, but this time we ended up saying, "10 kakemawari won't be enough, will it?" and so we created 10 more; then we increased the requests once more to replace the 10 that had been lost, and it returned to the original number. I guess maybe we should have taken more away, though (laughs).

All: (Laugh)

Tanaka: We couldn't really make the decision to decrease them, I guess (laughs). We all cooperated to come up with them, after all.

Yokoyama: I guess that the biggest characteristic of our team is the way that, rather than deciding to decrease them, we have the courage to increase them. All of us.

Sato: What if we just don't have the courage to decrease them?

Yokoyama: To be honest, I think there were lots of points where they could have been decreased. Maybe there are lots of elements that end up getting spoiled because decreases have to be made in order to make the release date. But it's because we don't do that that I feel like we've done it all. I always feel fulfilled each time I work on the Ryu ga Gotoku series.

―I see. Finally, then, how did you decide on the wanted posters?

Tanaka: In the last game, we had a setup where once you were in enough random encounter battles ("encounter battles"/遭遇戦 in Kenzan) a boss level enemy would appear for you to fight, but we wondered if maybe it was a bit too difficult to understand. The wanted posters take this up in a bigger form. When we were thinking about the worldview of the time, we decided that we definitely had to put in some kind of scene where there's a pentagonal bulletin board in town and everyone looks at it and fusses about there being a new wanted man. So we set up a bulletin board near a guardhouse which Kiryu can look at and capture wanted people.

―The names of the wanted people are strange, too, aren't they?

Tanaka: They are. You'd need to ask Orihara about that. The taste in naming is "Orihara-style", after all (laughs).

―What does the "Kahatare" part of the wanted man Kahatare Nonbee (Kahatare the Drunkard)'s name mean?

Orihara: It's 彼は誰, meaning dawn, which is the opposite of tasogare (誰そ彼), meaning dusk. In terms of time, it refers to the morning.

Yokoyama: So isn't that the opposite of Tasogare Seibei?

Orihara: Yeah, right. So he's Kahatare Nonbee (laughs). I can't say it too loudly, though (laughs).

―Should we not publish it?

Orihara: Uh, I don't really know.

Yokoyama: I'm sure it's fine to print something that small.

―Okay, then we'll just go ahead and publish it (laughs).

❖ About the mini games

―Next, let's talk about the yugi - that is to say, the mini games. First of all, I'd like to start by asking about the waterfall training in which Yinling of Joytoy appears (laughs).

Sato: This is something I thought up the basic concept for along with Orihara, which was supposed to be what turned into 2's massage parlour. We also wanted to put in some waterfall training in terms of the period. Waterfalls are things you would associate with shaking off impure thoughts, so we made it into a game where you would see a sexy image of Yinling and wouldn't be able to beat the game if you were distracted by it. That's how the waterfall training took shape.

―Everyone plays it because they want to see Yinling.

Sato: But there's no way you can beat it if you're looking at her, right? I guess, though, that's exactly what we were aiming for. Also... what I actually wanted to put in the most was Kiryu in a fundoshi. A sort of attempt to cover that group, too (laughs).

All: (Laugh)

Sato: There are kind of a lot of homosexual jokes in the game. Things like the joke about the sumo in the "Possessor of Supple Skin" (Suitsuku you na Hada no Mochinushi) request.

Yokoyama: The direction suits it. After all, this was a time when homosexuality was rampant. It was an important task for us to cover that group who might buy it with the expectation of seeing things like this, so as not to disappoint them. Right! We include even the narrowest of demographics.

―Is this your sense of obligation towards all players?

Yokoyama: Yes, yes. But frankly speaking, we don't have the tattoos that have been so symbolic in Kenzan, do we? So we have no excuses to show them naked. With 1 and 2, we were practically forcing in situations to make them naked. It's not like there's really any reason to go to the trouble of taking off your shirt on top of a building or something. I guess you could call it the climax - we have to make a place to show it. When I was writing Kenzan's scenario, I suddenly realised that we didn't have this - an excuse to show them naked. But it would be sad if we didn't have something as lively as a muscular man yelling. So with things like this, even if you take out all of the homosexual stuff, we need places where we show off the toned, muscular bodies of men, right? ...It ended up drawing some laughter, though.

―So did you decide on Yinling afterwards, with the waterfall training being based around Kiryu?

Sato: When did we decide on Yinling? [Looking at Mr. Yokoyama] Who did the casting?

Yokoyama: Huh!? It wasn't me! Well, to explain the intentions behind casting Yinling, we had only been doing face capture on men for Kenzan. The person doing the casting had chosen all of them. But we didn't want to attach the image of any particular actress to people like Ukiyo and Ageha... and something felt like it was missing. We also felt like it wasn't sexy enough. Yinling was like killing two birds with one stone. We had her body captured, as well. She's the only one who had her body captured.

―I see!

Yokoyama: That's her only difference from the other characters. Everyone else was only done from the neck up, but Yinling also had her body and poses captured. There are times when she's just posing on the screen. When she's moving, though, she had motions added to her body model later on just like all of the other characters. Yinling's waterfall training was the only one that had set poses. They're all poses that we actually recorded Yinling doing. So when you see her with her legs opened in an M shape on the screen, that's the real thing. When you're shooting 3D captures, though, you wear this hat that's like a swimming cap. Sometimes things don't get captured properly if there's hair in the way. So it was her with all of her hair up, wearing something like a swimming cap, doing the M pose. In a swimsuit, too (laughs). It wasn't so sexy when it was being shot.

Tomita: Aiming for another group?

Yokoyama: I don't even know who we're aiming this at anymore (laughs).

All: (Laugh)

Yokoyama: When you're actually being captured, it's kind of like having an X-ray taken. The equipment itself is, too.

Orihara: Being captured by that equipment is kind of like "the human body!".

Yokoyama: Yeah. The equipment makes it feel like they're taking photos of the mysteries of the body.

Orihara: It's just like an MRI.

Yokoyama: When we were doing capture with Hiroki Matsukata, he said it was just like a scan he'd had a few days before. He sounded almost excited. "Oh, I had this done two or three days ago as well! Amazing!" (laughs).

―I see (laughs). Then let's change the subject. It feels to me like the difficulty has been lowered of the games where you acquire moves by achieving the taget score.

Sato: That's right. Unlike 2, we decided not to have you obtain moves by experience points alone. We changed it to a setup where you can't learn moves if you don't reach the targets. Of course, learning more means that battles will become more and more fun, so I hope people think of it in a positive way. ...So yes, we decided to set the passing score that's required to obtain the moves a little bit low.

―Is this why the Jiraiya Style Training Chamber, which has nothing to do with obtaining moves, is so difficult?

Sato: It seems tricky, Orihara.

Orihara: I wanted to keep the difficulty on that one, although initially I create things to be difficult and then reduce the difficulty from there. The reason why I didn't lower the difficulty on this one is that clearing Jiraiya is tied to obtaining weapons. Kenzan has a swordsmith element in it, right? If you can get hold of strong weapons with no problem at all, it takes away your incentive to make use of the swordsmith. This is why we raised the difficulty of Jiraiya a bit. I wanted to make the player think, "This is hopeless, so I'll go to the swordsmith and strengthen my weapons."

―Were there any mini games that were scrapped?

Kaku: At first, we had a UFO catcher (laughs).

Sato: We initially came up with ideas that emulated 2's mini games, but the time periods were just too different... though we did talk about things like UFO catchers and the batting centre. The batting centre is still there, though, in the form of melon slicing by the name of "mental training iai slashing". And tokkuri-daoshi, sake bottle toppling, is of course bowling. I did think we would be able to do the UFO catcher too, though.

Tokieda: I'm sure the background for it was something like, "This mysterious box has been imported from Europe and turned up in Koetsu's mansion!" (laughs).

Sato: At first. In the end, we thought that it might not be particularly fun. Then we got rid of it altogether.

―There are also several mini games that reflect the time period.

Sato: Things like konpira fune fune and tosenkyo, yes. We had the concept from the very start with Kenzan that we would do tatami room games in the red light district. We went out on research specially for these mini games. We actually played them for ourselves. Konpira fune fune is surprisingly difficult when you do it after a drink, which is great (laughs).

―Are you made to drink if you lose, like in the game?

Sato: Yes, yes. It's a really faithful recreation of konpira fune fune. It's pretty much identical to the one that exists today. But the rules for tosenkyo were too difficult... There are actually a lot of other models, and the score differs between them. But even if we put this into the game, most people wouldn't know about it, and so we weren't sure if going that far would make it fun... We thought that it really wouldn't be fun if the rules were too difficult, so we used one point, two points and three points to make it easy to understand.

―Speaking of the scoring, how are you at the waterfall training and yabusame?

Yokoyama: I'm pretty bad at the mini games in general. I'm so bad that in a way, the way I play serves as a good indicator of the difficulty balancing. I managed to clear the very first waterfall training, but my absolute best at yabusame is 7. I'm probably the worst on the entire team.

Tanaka: (Laughs) With mini games aside from the mental ones like shogi, I can't beat them without using the cheat mode we use for development. I can always try for a perfect at sake bottle toppling, though.

Orihara: I've pretty much managed to pass all of the waterfall training courses. Once a day passes, though, my senses for each course reset, so the next day it takes me about three falls into the waterfall to beat it (laughs). I can beat it without a problem once I get used to it. I can manage a "master" (passing score) as far as the advanced level of yabusame, but "bow wizard" is... impossible.

Hosokawa: Hmm. Overall, I'm not particularly good. I'm especially bad at konpira fune fune and Jiraiya. I guess the only one I'm comparatively good at would be sake bottle toppling?

Tokieda: I cleared the waterfall training up until the Banquet of Plenty (酒池肉林). I probably only won because I don't have many impure thoughts (laughs). I gave up on yabusame at "advanced", though. Charge shots are hard to pull off, so I'm not so good at it.

Tomita: I'm not good at either (laughs). I'm good at shogi, though, so I hardly ever lose.

❖ Incidents involving the general producer, Mr. Nagoshi

―Have there been any amusing incidents while working with Mr. Nagoshi?

Yokoyama: In terms of the script, we ran into difficulties during meetings where we tried to decide, what with this being a period drama, how difficult the kanji and names we would use should be. It took a few hours of discussion between us and the producer, Kikuchi, just to decide whether or not to put in the single word "missho" (secret message). Parts of these ended up in the in-game dictionary or glossary, though.

Hosokawa: Nagoshi's really particular about the event scenes, too... He orders retakes that just barely fit into the schedule, and we weren't at all sure that we would make the deadline (laughs).

Tokieda: We really did have so many retakes! At a stage when the game is complete to an extent we'll play through it from beginning to end, but I think at that point that Nagoshi's demands to "fix this" or "do this" alone made us go through it more than 100 times. It was a challenge to meet his demands, but I think this made it into a good game full of Nagoshi and our sentiments.

Tomita: He always brings innovative counters to the sound design as a whole, too (laughs). Even though his pointers for a single sound or song are always on the mark, it still shocks me.

Tanaka: In terms of innovative counters, for me it was turtles. Before the turtle races had begun to take shape, we were talking over what we should have race when Nagoshi suddenly shockingly proposed turtles. And he had such affection towards them... When he saw them moving around in-game, he looked happier than I've ever seen him. Also, when we were having a meeting about the turtle races, he suddenly said, "The turtles should run away!" That was what led to us introducing the element of turtles fleeing.

―So it was Mr. Nagoshi's idea to have the turtles run away! Are there any more stories?

Orihara: With regards to battles, it would be the shinken shirahadori. We make sure not to overdo the heat actions. I wondered whether shinken shirahadori would be too much, and so I wasn't going to put it in. But one day, when I was watching this video called "Enbu" for use in a presentation, I saw this scene where a mysterious monk halts his foe's slash with two fingers. I asked Nagoshi about it, and he said, "The shirahadori is eternally romantic, isn't it?" This is a wise quote that stayed with me. Also, when I showed him the Sturdy Blade - Tricky Spin for the first time, I clearly remember the iffy response he gave: "Hmm, what's this? Well, I guess it's RGG-ish, so okay."

❖ For the players

―Finally, then, please explain the appeal of the part you worked on.

Sato: I'm in the position of director, so my role was basically to manage the progress of work. The reason why everyone was able to come up with so many ideas for the game is because they took on leadership. This is definitely a Ryu ga Gotoku game. It definitely won't betray the expectations of people who have been fans so far, so please do experience it.

Kaku: And suddenly he goes and summarises it all (laughs).

Orihara: He ended it (laughs).

Hosokawa: Kenzan is part of the Ryu ga Gotoku series, but... [To Mr. Sato] I could say the opposite. The time period it's set in is different, and the story is totally different from 1 and 2's. Not only that, but we've switched hardware to the PS3, so as a designer we've had to completely redo it from the ground up. This is only natural, but still, everything on the screen is made of the designer's blood, sweat and tears (laughs). We pride ourselves on having created graphics that will delight your eyes, so please enjoy your fill of them as well as the game.

Tanaka: The hardest part was the requests; originally we created about 300 of them, and then the ones we carefully selected from these were condensed into the game. Also, with this game the camera angle is now as standard freely movable, so all of the planners have had to work hard to strengthen the staging. Please make sure to enjoy all 140 total substories. Our blood, sweat and tears...

Hosokawa: Isn't that what I said? (laughs)

Orihara: In 1 and 2, everyone was able to get stronger by battling as the ultimate brawler, but in Kenzan you're Miyamoto Musashi, without peer, which was the ultimate challenge of the action part. You can of course train and level up, too, but between the tempering of weapons and the player's own training of their skill you really can become unbelievably strong, so please get a taste of what it feels like to be peerless.

Tomita: From this game onwards it will become fairly plain, but it supports FullSound (laughs). Well, we did support it a bit in 1, but 2 was stereo only. We're starting to support it with this game. It depends on your home environment, too, so it might be a bit tricky, but it would make me happy if people were to enoy the sound aspect, too.

Yokoyama: I say, "Sorry, please think that you were fooled and buy it!" in things like interviews. I once apologised to the fans we've had so far, saying, "Sorry for totally changing the worldview!" but also my message is, "Still, feel fooled, but try buying it. I'm sure it will betray your expectations." Also, I think we have a lot of "training" elements this time around. The Ryu ga Gotoku series has so far been dragged along by the story, games that try to induce a sense of immersion in casual players, but this game is a slightly different kind. You can train Kiryu himself, or you can get your hands on nice weapons. So I think that people who enjoy collecting or training things will find this really fun. Personally speaking, I think that Kenzan is really fun. I hope that everyone plays it to the end.

Tokieda: It's the enjoyment of collecting things. I love things that involve collections, and I can't settle if I don't complete them. If you complete everything in the game, like moves and weapons, at the end a courier will bring you something "nice", so I hope people work hard so that they can see it. The couriers run using a program I created, so pretend that I'm the one running to you and go for it!

Kaku: They've said it all already (laughs). Being in charge of battles, heat actions are exhilarating, but there's also a lot of training to do and moves to learn. If you learn them you become able to do so many actions, so I hope that people go and do that. It will serve as a reward for my efforts (laughs).

―Thank you all for your time today.

(Enterbrain, 8 February 2008)