Originally posted on 15 March 2016
Source: Ryu ga Gotoku 0 Koryaku Shinan no Sho, page 138-142

Ryu ga Gotoku 0: Toshihiro Nagoshi interview

A carefully crafted 1988 Kamurocho. No compromises are allowed in capturing the playful mood

―RGG0 is the first numbered title to be on the PlayStation 4, and the second in terms of the Ryu ga Gotoku series. Did development on it go smoothly?

Nagoshi: In terms of us rushing around all over the place, it's actually pretty much the same as Ryu ga Gotoku Ishin was. The previous game was our first on the PlayStation 4, and a launch title at that, so of course we were flustered. So, if you were to ask if that knowhow made RGG0 easier... that wasn't the case whatsoever [wry smile].

―What kind of things specifically gave you trouble?

Nagoshi: First of all, the townscapes of Kamurocho and Sotenbori, which is where RGG0 is set in the Ryu ga Gotoku series, are familiar. The rise in the quality of those towns is the easiest to compare to the past games. Increasing the density and realism of them as towns is a high hurdle to leap over, and also requires a suitable amount of resources. If you add and take away the energy we spent on that and the experience gleaned from the last game, then I guess it's about the same as that... In the worst case scenario, maybe things were even busier than back then.

―The towns truly are carefully made. The time period is different from that of the games so far, so I understand that there must have been many things that you had to newly create.

Nagoshi: Yes. I wanted us to go more for depth than breadth on this one. For example, when compared to Ryu ga Gotoku 5, the actual number of towns has gone down. However, because of the detailed work on creating them, and also an increase in the number of places you can enter and visit, I don't think it will feel like the overall volume has decreased.

―That's right. I think that in terms of a satisfying play experience, this as good as or even better than the other games in the series so far. By the way, was creating the towns the biggest challenge that the development team faced on RGG0?

Nagoshi: Yes. Also, I often use the word "seamless" when I talk about this, but the way the game is constructed makes for a smoother experience. Things like how we take the three main pillars of the adventure part, battle part and movie part and tie them together in a way that feels good, or just making the loading times faster. Like I said before, when the game is set in Kamurocho it will of course end up being compared to past games, so we had to do a good job there.

―These are points that, while you can't see them, are noticeable as you play the game.

Nagoshi: That's right. This is what it's like every time, though. To speak of one other thing that you can see, when compared with period dramas, contemporary dramas have an overwhelming number of items on screen. Kamurocho and Sotenbori wouldn't look right if they didn't have a bunch of people and things around. Not to mention the fact that because of the age the game is set in, we had to make them incredibly vibrant and jumbled, but also squalid.

―I would like to ask from the point of view about objects around town - in this game, there is a mix of things which did, of course, exist in 1988, and things that did not. How did you achieve a sense of balance in this area?

Nagoshi: You could go so far as to say that ultimately it would be best to have everything the way it was back then, and you wouldn't be wrong. But the original town was always made fastidiously without compromising on anything, so if in places there were modern things... for example, even when we had tie-up shops that we couldn't reproduce in that time period, it doesn't feel too out of place. This is because of the background team's excellent tastes, however. On the contrary, I think that there will be times when you'll be playing the game and suddenly think, "Did this exist in 1988? Or maybe not?" But I guess that's fine (laughs).

―So you mean it's the kind of thing that will make people who aren't familiar with the time go and look it up on the internet?

Nagoshi: Yeah, yeah. I'm of a generation that knows about it, pretty much, so here and there I will give advice about what it was actually like. I think we ended up creating towns with great atmospheres.

With a fresh theme and concept, even young people will surely enjoy it

―What kind of time do you, in terms of your own feelings, think that 1988 was?

Nagoshi: There were lots of good things involving the economy. I think it was a time when even people who would be called average were able to have a really good time. Of course, back then, just like now, there were invariably some who had no money. I was in the category of people with no money myself back then, so however much people around me talked about the economy doing well... it wasn't really any of my business (laughs).

―To the, "Ah, it must be nice to be rich," kind of level?

Nagoshi: Yeah. The rich people, even though they were young, were riding around in these outrageously expensive cars. I was envious, but viewed it in a cold-eyed manner, like it had nothing to do with me.

―By the way, money is an important element in RGG0 in terms of the system. Was this not done because of the time it's set in...?

Nagoshi: In some ways we had the era in mind, but some things were added in later. Rather than deciding to make something based around the year 1988, we originally got started with wanting to make a story about when Kazuma Kiryu and Goro Majima were young. All that happened was we counted backwards and found that it was during those prosperous times.

―I see. The Ryu ga Gotoku series shows part of Kiryu's life, so in terms of age there isn't really any way you could go further back into the past with RGG0 than this.

Nagoshi: Going back to the past is difficult. That said, I don't really know how it would turn out, but it would probably be difficult. We'd end up having him come in and out of places that kids really shouldn't be in (laughs).

―Ahaha (laughs). I suppose there isn't any more of the past to pick up on aside from at most a time back when he wore school uniform.

Nagoshi: Maybe there are people out there who'd like to see that kind of drama, though. But I'm sure that Kiryu isn't the kind of man to diligently go to school...

―I think there are several nuances of a spin-off nature in the numbering of "0", but were there any particular reasons behind choosing it?

Nagoshi: We have no intentions whatsoever of this being a spin-off. We just treated this as a normal numbered title, simply going with "0" because it's a drama from when Kiryu and the others were young. There's also the fact that at the time they were the least "complete" as men out of all of the games in the series, and lots of things about them are uncertain. But this on its own made the drama worth making, and we can also tie that uncertainty into their battle styles and the manner of play. This is a weird story, but if Kazuma Kiryu's youth hadn't been in this era, I think we could easily have made RGG0 long ago. But because the time it's set in is so characteristic, there was a possibility that it would feel too distant for people who don't know what things were like back then. I had misgivings about whether it would look understandable, but actually be an unrealistic time, and so ended up postponing it until now.

―What was the reason that the idea you had put off became possible?

Nagoshi: I changed the way I looked at it. It was a time when money was plentiful - to put it another way, a time when anything could be solved using money. This led me to arrive at the thought that, despite the fact that money is important, it's also the thing that matters the least. When I looked at RGG0 from this viewpoint, it didn't seem like not knowing about how things were back then would be a big problem. If anything, because it was such an eccentric period I thought that we could create a drama befitting of Ryu ga Gotoku to correspond to that. I also thought that, though it's a time that people tend to look at with nostalgia, if we smashed this together with a fresh theme and concept we could make an incredibly interesting Ryu ga Gotoku. Upon arriving at this conclusion, I began thinking that we should try fearlessly making a drama set in a time when Kiryu was young. As a result, I think it turned into something that won't make people think, "I don't know anything about back then, so I don't really care about the game."

We wanted to do something for the 10th anniversary - "RGG0" is also a declaration of this intent

―I've kind of been wondering what the reason was for not having this game's story be RGG6.

Nagoshi: To be honest, RGG6 was an option. To tell you why we didn't do it, frankly, at the point when we were coming up with ideas for things we should try doing, we couldn't really come up with a topic. Most of the time, if you don't start off with something that has a strong energy then it won't work out. In that respect, the story of Kiryu and the others when they were young had this overwhelming energy to it where we could do so many things.

―I see.

Nagoshi: But when talk turned to the subject of the 10th anniversary of Ryu ga Gotoku's release coming up soon, some people thought it might be too backwards-looking to release a story about the past at such a time. I, though, thought that maybe its true form would be to take those 10 years, first of all sum them up, and then create a foundation for us to look towards the 10th year. Not only that, but we had a lot of ideas, and if we were confident that it would turn out well... then it would also raise expectations for the game that was to follow. "Let's just go for it and do RGG0, then," was how the project began. Of course, just as always, whether everyone loves RGG0 holds the key to whether or not we'll be able to make a sequel.

―So that's how it came to be.

Nagoshi: In a way, it's a declaration of our intent in wanting to do something for the 10th anniversary... or perhaps the sense that this game exists because it was so strongly wished for.

―When I think about it with those implications, the "0" numbering seems extremely fitting.

Nagoshi: It does. In terms of content as well, when you compare it to Ryu ga Gotoku 5 I think it will seem like we've cut a lot away. This is something we had no choice but to do in order to bring out a sense of dazzle and buzz. In terms of exactly how much we stripped away, though... to be honest, we could only judge based on instinct and experience (laughs). While we're working on it, there are things where we aren't sure how they will end up. When I saw RGG0 actually finished, it seemed to me as if we did the right thing. Maybe the feeling was close to how I felt when we were making the first Ryu ga Gotoku.

―There were lots of things you discarded with the first Ryu ga Gotoku as well?

Nagoshi: In terms of the market, we've thrown away children, women and foreigners (laughs). The map basically only consists of one town, and it's definitely not like a huge sandbox for you to play around in, but I had this goal of creating an extraordinary story that no one had ever experienced before. When I look back on it now, we succeeded in that goal and that's why we managed to turn it into a series, but back then I was so nervous. It takes courage to cut, abandon things, make them smaller. But there are lots of people who fell in love with the cleanliness we achieved by trimming it down.

―Right. That's for sure.

Nagoshi: But because we had already built up a series when we were working on RGG0, we had to be mindful of the fans. If we were going to cut something, there had to be a good reason for it... I guess. It's difficult (laughs). In any case, we have female fans who we'd not considered at the start who have loved Ryu ga Gotoku for all this time. There are some people you might say, for example, are fans of Koichi Yamadera, who plays Shun Akiyama, and that's what led them to begin playing Ryu ga Gotoku. I don't think that this will make them say, "I guess I won't be playing RGG0, then," just because Mr. Yamadera isn't in it, however. We've always tried in the Ryu ga Gotoku series to create a drama to make people think this way, after all. If anything, I anticipate that people who liked the buzz that Ryu ga Gotoku 1 and 2 gave off will take this as an opportunity to come back.

Cast members who have appeared in the series: "I'm envious of games"

―On RGG0 you will of course have done this with the drama and background, but it seems like you also emphasised the buzzing feeling in terms of casting?

Nagoshi: We have people like Hitoshi Ozawa, Riki Takeuchi and Hideo Nakano, all of whom are edgy and have their own unique fanbases. That's why there haven't really been any roles in the Ryu ga Gotoku series so far that would fit them. However, in terms of both scenario and time period, this time we thought it would be a good idea to have people with immovable strength and awesomeness appear in the game. Not only this, but I wanted them to have a buzz to them that would rival that of the story. So, with this being the case, we ended up deciding that this would be a good chance to have them all appear at once. We've heard people say, "Why isn't Ozawa in it?" or, "Why isn't Takeuchi in it?" over and over. That's another reason why the timing was good.

―Do you feel like the finished product lives up to your expectations?

Nagoshi: The atmosphere I was hoping for came out really well in everyone's performances, so I'm glad that I asked them. Oh, right - what left an impression on me was being told by people wo appeared in this and past games, "I'm envious of games."

―What makes them say that?

Nagoshi: The first big reason is that the drama is long. "I would rather have had a cut like this in order to convey something" is something that's being cut down on in recent TV shows and films. I'm not saying that the performances are wasted, but there's just no feeling in them, or something like that... The average film will have a run-time of about 120 minutes. RGG0, however, has about 300 minutes' worth of cutscenes and story events in it. All of this in one episode, so to speak. You could say that there are restrictions on the length in terms of capacity, but to a certain extent we can be freer with the allowances we make.

―Because speaking in terms of the Ryu ga Gotoku series, it's all based on the scenario at first?

Nagoshi: Yeah. That, and films and TV dramas have a basic format. For example, "We need to have X scene occur within X minutes of starting." Games don't have that. Well, strictly speaking they do... but they might as well not.

―I see.

Nagoshi: For example, when we showed Hitoshi Ozawa what we had done on this game, he didn't say anything like, "It looks like me," or, "The CG is amazing." Instead, he says, "So that's how you make these images," or, "So these are the effects you use." The depth that's being lost in modern films and dramas still exists in games, which impressed him.

―The kind of way that only an actor would think in.

Nagoshi: That's right. In the past, not only myself but the industry as a whole was prisoner to the feeling that other media were freer than games, or that games were confined, small and suffocating, I think. But along with the evolution of technology, this has been going away. Right now, we're experiencing a kind of reversal phenomenon where other forms of media are envious of us... it's very moving.

―More than ten years ago, you never would have seen a celebrity performing in a game.

Nagoshi: Right. But back then, I did think that one day it would become commonplace. Of course, this doesn't mean that I'm against games that don't cast celebrities or prominent people. Those are fine the way they are, and should be treasured. But I had a feeling that games could do more than that... That had a big influence on the first Ryu ga Gotoku.

―And now that game is a big hit. Finally, then, please give us a comment for everyone playing the latest game, RGG0.

Nagoshi: The first Ryu ga Gotoku had a shine to it where was filled with purity in the way that kids couldn't play it, women didn't have to touch it, and foreigners didn't have to know about it. I think that RGG0 is a title that takes us back to those origins. The hardware has advanced, too, and you can experience the drama using current technology to the fullest, so perhaps it shines even more brightly than the place it originates from. I'm sure there are many things that you could debate over regarding the time in which it's set, but it deals with the enduring theme of human drama, so I think that it will move you as always. It's a title I can recommend with full confidence, so please enjoy it to your heart's content.