Each game in Spike Chunsoft’s Way of the Samurai evolves with new (usually wacky) ideas. Way of the Samurai 4 comes out on Tuesday, care of Xseed, and has a new mechanic that lets player’s carry their character’s achievements over when they restart the game. The Proof of Life system is kind of like "New Game +" weaved into the story. Way of the Samurai 4 also has wandering samurai who travel into other players games, a feature Tetsushi Saito, Localization Director at Acquire, explains was inspired by Demon’s Souls.
Saito also explains how the fishing mini-game got into Way of the Samurai 4 and tells us about crazy ideas that they weren’t able to add to the game.
Starting Way of the Samurai 4 with foreigners arriving in Japan is an interesting setting. Why did you choose this? Is this a parallel to the video game industry with more Western games coming to Japan?
Tetsushi Saito, Localization Director at Acquire: After we finished Way of the Samurai 3, we had a meeting to discuss the era the next game should take place in. The last game was set during the Warring States period in the 1500s, so we had been aiming for a rough, cool feel, but for this one we wanted flashy, ostentatious visuals and therefore decided to set it at the dawn of intercultural exchange. We weren’t really thinking about the expansion of Western games, but we did consider to some degree that this era might be appealing in the event that the game was released overseas.
Can you tell us about the Proof of Life system? What kind of changes to the world carry over when you start a new game?
It’s a system where you are a different person every time you begin a new game. Therefore, the actions of your previous hero remain in the new game’s world. For example, if you beat the game while the crime rate is still bad, that condition will carry over to the next playthrough.
If the hero is killed partway through the game, there will be a flower memorial at the place of his death.The weapons carried by a deceased hero will end up in the hands of in-game characters. There are times the previous hero can also appear as an NPC. Sometimes a particular event scenario might even change in the new game.
What can you tell us about the wandering samurai feature where your character can invade other players’ games? Was this inspired by Demon’s Souls?
The game is characterized by character customization, but there wasn’t a place to display that personality. That said, it was difficult to make the game completely online-capable. The originality of the asynchronous online system used by Demon Soul’s led us into discussions about creating a simplified version in the form of the wandering samurai feature.
It was a technological possibility, and it was the right decision to add it to the game. However, it was difficult because it was a feature we added at the end of development.
So… there’s this torture room in Way of the Samurai 4. Where did this idea come from?
The Way of the Samurai series has been characterized by the ability to freely wreak havoc in a town, but actually Way of the Samurai 3 had a player rating system. Something like, if you did something bad you would receive punishment. That being the case, people who did bad things would have to receive torture as a punishment. We thought that players had fun dying by the “Vegetable Toss” mini-game in Way of the Samurai 3, so it wasn’t a hard decision to include a torture mini-game for this game, but for some reason or another, this became one of the selling points. As a result, the rating system had absolutely no meaning. Incidentally, the characters of the three sisters unexpectedly came out of this development.
I think my favorite part about the Way of the Samurai games is the humor. There was the cardboard hero outfit in the last game and in Way of the Samurai 4 you can… tiptoe into a girl’s house at night? What’s the craziest thing in the game?
Other than women, old women and men can be the targets of your night-crawling. This was uncomfortable during debug.Also, it’s a simple element, but there is a fishing system.
Actually, there was a member of our staff who loved fishing, and during a Spike dinner party he got into a passionate discussion on the subject. At that time, through someone’s careless words, we ended up having to make this a part of the game. Our development budget was limited to that free meal. So we developed that element for free, and you are able to fish anywhere there is water. If you take some time to look for places you can fish, you’ll see the effort of that talkative staff member.
Kahitsu Tsuchida, Project Manager: (jumping in) For me it was the torture element. This is a common motif in Japanese period dramas, and it has a lot of impact. Particularly, making it an interactive part of the game was basically unprecedented.
And what’s the craziest thing that didn’t make it into the game?
Our development time was short, so there were a lot of ideas we had to give up on. For example, there was a system where you could have a child as a result of your night-crawling activities. Then you would be asked by your lover to get married for the sake of the child, and you could refuse. If you refused, your child would grow up and try to assassinate you.
There was also an idea to let the player build a house and grave as a “Proof of Life,” and we wanted to let players who had defeated other players in the wandering samurai feature become disciples and fight together.
There were a lot of leftover ideas, so we’re hoping for another installment to implement them.
How do you feel about the game being released overseas? It looks like XSEED is keeping in jokes with Melinda Megamelons (yeah we got it – "dekameron").
We didn’t think the game would be released overseas, so we’re really excited that it is going to be. XSEED is a company that clearly respects Eastern culture.
I thought they would want to erase the kanji in the game, but they actually asked to leave it in, and their translation has “onigiri” instead of “rice ball,” so I could really sense their particularity about that flavor. That said, I was surprised by Megamelons.
As a company that makes quirky titles, do you think there’s still room in stores for games like Sumioni and Way of the Samurai 4?
We’ve made a lot of games with a Japanese flavor, but it has become difficult to create a hit just from that. So recently we’ve been making non-Japanese style games, but we want to maintain an eclectic spirit in our games.
However, if we have an offer for a Japanese-style game, we’ll readily make it.
Can you tell us what’s next for the Way of the Samurai series?
I can’t say anything about that. Maybe it’ll happen, maybe it won’t.
If you’re hoping for another installment in the Way of the Samurai series, flood Spike’s inbox with requests.
If there are lots of requests from overseas, maybe they’ll act on that.
If you were a samurai, what would you do?
The first thing I’d do is swing my sword.