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interview: Bayonetta producer Yusuke Hashimoto

When footage from Bayonetta was first shown at E3 2008 alongside MadWorld in PlatinumGames' media room, it was introduced as a "cool and stylish action shooter." My first impression after hearing that description and seeing the footage was that it looked a lot like Devil May Cry mixed with some Ninja Gaiden. It was only later that I found out that the game's director, Hideki Kamiya, was the creator of DMC, so the similarities are somewhat understandable. However, it seemed like there was more to it than that, and at this year's E3, I was able to confirm that my suspicions were correct - it's more than just a DMC clone. The updated demo that we got to try at Tokyo Game Show last month was further proof of that. Luckily, those with Japanese accounts for both Xbox Live! and PSN will be able see it for themselves soon enough (possibly by the time this piece goes up). Whether or not the game holds up beyond what is presented in the demo is still unknown, but since it gets released in Japan in only a few weeks, we won't have to wait that long to find out.

side note: I've heard that the spoken dialog in the Japanese release is all in English. If true, it may not be necessary to wait until the January domestic release to get the full experience if you import.

Q&A with Yusuke Hashimoto

At this year's TGS I was offered an interview with Yusuke Hashimoto, the producer for Bayonetta, since he happened to be available while I was waiting for another developer. It being a surprise interview, I had to come up with some questions on the fly as opposed to doing research ahead of time and coming up with more informed ones. Hopefully, I was able to get a few responses that you might find interesting -

Before we get started, can you tell us about yourself?

I'm Yusuke Hashimoto, a producer at PlatinumGames. The past titles that I've worked on were Biohazard 3 for the PS1, Biohazard and Biohazard 4 for the GameCube, Devil May Cry, and Godhand.

So you were the producer for those?

For Bayonetta it is my first time as a producer, but for those I was the designer.

What exactly did you do as the designer for Devil May Cry?

I was primarily the effects designer; I did all the special effects.

Tell us about Bayonetta.

Bayonetta is a witch who has been in a magical slumber. She has only recently awoken into modern times and has no memory of her past. She has the ability to summon forth demonic entities through her hair. They take shape as she uses them in her attacks. As you progress through the game, you learn more about her past and what she's doing now as she adjusts to the modern world.

Is the main character's design based on any person, character, or actress?

The original idea for Bayonetta - the character design - is the brainchild of Kamiya-san. But translating that into digital flesh within the game took the efforts of the lead character designer and the people who had to actually turn her into a reality from somebody's mind's eye. Since the lead character designer (Mari Shimazaki) is female, she had a lot of influence and gave a lot of very good advice on how to really make a feminine character. If it was just a man trying to create a female character, it's going come off as really fake or kind of odd and just sort of out of place, but having a female character designer help out really benefited the look of the character, whether it be her makeup, her fashion, accessories, or those kinds of things.

How'd you come up with the name "Bayonetta?"

The name itself ties very closely to the core mechanics of the game. Basically, when you do the physical melee attacks - punching and kicking opponents - you follow up immediately with shooting. So she shoots when she punches, she shoots when she kicks. And that's how a bayonet works - you attach it to the front of a weapon and you shoot and you stab with it. So we kind of latched on to that. We eventually realized that [Bayonet] is not very feminine, so we tried to make it more feminine by transforming it into Bayonetta.

Did the idea for the game come about while Devil May Cry was in development?

PlatinumGames came together about three years ago, and around that time Kamiya-san and the other Platinum directors were talking about what kinds of games they wanted to create. Kamiya-san and I had worked together on the original Devil May Cry, so I came to Kamiya-san and said "I want to see another one of your 3D action games. And that's where that seed was planted. That seed eventually grew into Bayonetta. Because I pushed Kamiya-san into it, they made me the producer.

Were a lot of the concepts that were used in Bayonetta things that you thought were missing or should have been implemented in the Devil May Cry series?

It really wouldn't be accurate to say that we've built the game to incorporate a lot of the things that should have been in any of the Devil May Cry games because when we sat down to make Bayonetta, we really sat down to make it from scratch. And we didn't reference Devil May Cry or any of those other games to decide what kind of game we were going to make. We started off from zero and said "ok, we're gonna make an action game. This is all the stuff that needs to be in there to make the best action game that we know how to make." So, while Devil May Cry and the other games that we worked on gave us the experience and the know-how to make a game like Bayonetta, we never thought "oh, I wish we'd had this for that game" or anything like that. It's "what are we making right now? Let's focus on the here and now and the future."

A lot of people are saying that Bayonetta is all about style over substance. What is your response to that?

First and foremost, Bayonetta is an action game for action game fans. So, there's nothing for anybody to worry about when it comes to the depth of the game. It's really a non-argument for Kamiya-san, myself, and the rest of the team - the experience we've gained making action games over the years really lent itself to the kind of game that Bayonetta is. We've built the kind of game that we as action fans want to play ourselves.

To take it one step further, we understand that there are other people that are not like ourselves - those who are not necessarily action fans, who have yet to become action fans. And so, keeping those people, the broader market, in mind as well, we've actually put in an easy mode where the combo moves are easy to pull off. They're automatically enabled in easy mode, and so that's for people who maybe are on the cusp of becoming real hardcore action fans or those who are not really interested in taking things to the extreme level but still want to get the full entertainment value out of it. So the game at its heart is for action fans and it's going to be completely satisfying to any action game fan. But it's also going to satisfy the people who aren't necessarily action game fans.

Bayonetta comes out later this month in Japan and in January here in the US. If you want to find out more about the game, you might want to check out the PlatinumGames developer blog. It's actually pretty cool and something that I wish more developers would do. At the very least, it's a good read for those who need a distraction while waiting for the release.