Thursday, August 24, 2017

GAME Watch Interview with Yu Suzuki | Full Translation | 22 Aug, 2017

GAME Watch Interview with Yu Suzuki

This is a full translation of an interview that was held with Yu Suzuki by GAME Watch at Gamescom on August 22nd, 2017.

The interview begins below.

Q: I have really been looking forward to today's interview, and getting the chance to ask you about Shenmue III after so long.

YS: Would you like to watch the video? Not the 90-second version released on the internet, but the long one that's two-and-a-half minutes.

Q: Yes, please.

[The trailer starts to play]

Q: Are the images in this trailer in-game images, or pre-rendered?

YS: They are all in-game images.

Q: What level of completion of the game do they represent?

YS: It is a compilation of various scenes so it's hard to say, but as far as the characters go, they are all still provisional data.

Q: The characters facial expressions are rigid or "fixed"; is this something that is actually going to be changed?

YS: Yes, we haven't yet put in their expressions. We had them in a month ago, but have temporarily removed them.

Q: The sound is gorgeous; is it something that has been newly recorded?  

YS: No, it's using sound as-is from Shenmue II.

[The trailer ends]

YS: So, something like that. There's an element of having created it on the spot for Gamescom, so it's still rough. [laughs]

Q: Speaking of Gamescom, the day before the the event you announced your partnership with Deep Silver, didn't you. What was the reason you chose Deep Silver as your publisher rather than a Japanese company?

YS: I explored many options, but one is our business connections with SEGA, and also that several people expressed their opinion to me that Deep Silver is a solid firm and would be a good choice; hence I decided to visit their head office in Munich. Upon going I discovered there were fans of Shenmue among their staff - and the rest is history.

Q: Who will be the publisher in Japan?

YS: That's still to be decided. The international publisher is Deep Silver.

Q: The release timing has finally been clarified as the second half of 2018. What kind of things do you have on your work schedule from now?

YS: Hm, what's the best way to answer... [laughs] Now that we are partnering with Deep Silver, various elements have stabilized, from the budget through to promotional support and so on. The project is one that originally started through Kickstarter, and so its content is scalable with the amount of funds accumulated; and here I have made an upward revision. [Game] production too has sprung into action with this extended content.

Q: This is a slightly philosophical question, but what does Shenmue mean to you?

YS: No matter what I say, everyone will probably say it's my "life work" [laughs]. I have a heap of games I want to make. But regarding the Shenmue series, there's the fact that its story isn't complete, and there is a lot of demand from everyone so I felt that I wanted to fulfill my responsibility.

Q: With respect to that story, it remains shrouded in mystery, but basically will it be a continuation from Shenmue II?

YS: Yes, it's a continuation of II. However, Shenmue has a total of 11 chapters in the original novelized story, and creating a game that follows those won't necessarily make for a fun game.

As a game, what content will be most effective changes depending on the engine, the staff, the conditions at that time and so on. Money can't be spent like water, so I put together the game scenario using the most effective methods at that time, with added twists and touches.

Q: Does the 11-chapter novelized story form the base of the Shenmue III story? Or does it portray a story separate to that one?

YS: The 11-chapter original story forms its base. However, I think there will be cases where a town that the protagonist visits is skipped, or its order is swapped, or scenes with people he meets and so on are varied.

Q: What is the main setting for Shenmue III?

YS: Guilin, in China. Although, since it's deep in the mountains of Guilin, I could go and say it's such-and-such a place, and that would be its setting. [laughs]

Q: What was your reason for choosing Guilin as the setting?

YS: The core part of the scenario weaves through Guilin.

Q: Will Shenmue's story be completed with Shenmue III?

YS: There are a lot of people who want it to be completed, but if I were to force an ending, I would have to cut a vast amount, and when put together as a game, no matter how it was rearranged it wouldn't end up being fun. So I want it to have a certain level of enjoyment when played. Also [regarding the completion of the story] I hope to complete it while I'm still alive [laughs].

Q: Does that mean you would like to make a Shenmue IV and beyond?

YS: Yes, if possible I would like to.

Q: So for now then, the story won't be completed in Shenmue III?

YS: No, I don't think it will be completed. It just won't be enjoyable if forced to a conclusion.

Q: In terms of the amount of content in the game, how much do you suppose it will be?

YS: We're still in the middle of making it so it is difficult to predict, but I would say it will easily reach around 30 hours.

Q: Shenmue and Shenmue II were action adventures that retained the atmosphere of your masterpiece, Virtua Fighter. What kind of genre will Shenmue III be?

YS: This time it won't be Virtua. Shenmue used the Virtua Fighter fighting engine, and Shenmue II the Virtua Fighter II engine for battles. However this time, we aren't using the Virtua engine, but building an original one from scratch. It's hand-made.

Q: What will one of the main characteristics of the series, the fighting element, be like?

YS: I don't think it will be an action game that demands the input of critical commands. At its foundation Shenmue is a thinking-style game, and what's important is not skill at timing commands correctly, but decision making. For some time I have thought that the Virtua engine doesn't really suit it, so we're now in the middle of making a new battle engine.

Q: That will be something to watch for! Approximately when will the new battle engine be complete?

YS: It's hard to say. That depends on how much we enhance it.

Q: It's not something that could be called a new Virtua engine, is it.

YS: No. It will be something of a completely different type. With Shenmue, fighting is no more than one of its elements. It's a tale of adventure that's based around martial arts, so the fighting aspect is bound to appear in it, but it's a matter of how dramatically, and how cinematically it can entertain the player. I want to make it so that even people who aren't good at fighting games can press buttons - without worrying too much about which, to a certain extent - for the story to advance.

Q: What is it that you hope to express through Shenmue III?

YS: Hmm.... That's a tricky one. [laughs] I would say that making Shenmue III lets out the game creator in me.

Q: Specifically, what kind of things do you mean by your game creator "essence"? 

YS: Answering that is difficult. [laughs] For example, I'm unable to watch horror movies by myself. I don't like movies or novels that are too cruel - I can't handle them. Therefore, my approach is to introduce a little bit of humor [into my games], so they're not too heavy. This may be a bit of an old reference, but [Japanese movie director] Juzo Itami in his movies did things like deliberately showing people getting pins-and-needles in their legs in a funeral scene. That kind of thing, and portraying the everyday and common - this is the kind of attention to detail that I believe is my own "stamp".

In Shenmue, "the everyday" is an important theme. I want to show things like subtle, everyday gestures, and I hope that for Western players the customs of Asia will come across as inspiring when they play. I think the part that I depict is different from others. I want to show the smallest detail.

Q: For you, what do you think is a "Shenmue-like" feel?

YS: For example: humidity.

Q: Humidity?

YS: A lot of CG in games have high-contrast images that are and crisp and dry like a desert, and they look great as far as that goes, but this is a slightly damp feeling like after rainfall. Or another example: in China pig carcasses are sold just as they are under the blazing sun, without refrigeration, and they give off a stench. As a part of the reality, I'd like to portray an atmosphere that makes you feel stinkiness. I think that's the kind of thing that makes people say it's Shenmue-like.

Q: Shenmue is strongly associated with Kowloon, but will Kowloon or Hong Kong reappear as a setting?

YS: No, they won't.

Q: The previous game, Shenmue II, was released in 2001 and I think there are many gamers who don't know about Shenmue at all. For those relatively-new gamers, how are you planning to convey the series' story to them?

YS: The best way is to make a game that can be played without knowing the original story. However, without impressing on them [Ryo's] father's death as the starting point of the story, they won't know why they are making the journey. So I will include supplemental movies for the key parts of the story so far; that alone won't be sufficient, so I am planning to include a system for phoning the characters that appeared in Shenmue and Shenmue II.

Q: Phoning them?

YS: Yes. You can make an international call from China to your old friends, and when you ask them "Hey, what's up?" old memories will play back in the form of a movie, informing you about what happened in the past. I'm thinking of subtly supplementing the game like this. If this is overdone it will be clumsy, so I think that providing only the most important parts will allow those who haven't played Shenmue I or II to enjoy the game.

Q: At the moment, there are a lot of revivals of previous or classic games. Do you have any plans for a revival of Shenmue I and II? I think there would be a lot of people who would try them if they were available on PS4.

YS: The Shenmue IP belongs to SEGA, so I'm not in a position to give a direct answer. Personally, I also think it would be good if something could be done in connection with Shenmue III. It would probably also have a synergistic effect.

For the time, Shenmue I and II had big investment in its budget and personnel, and we were able to things we can't readily do now such as detailed settings for the characters. If anything, if Shenmue I and II are released, perhaps they will be our direct and formidable rivals. [laughs]

Q: Is the game going to be single-player only? Will there be any multi-player feature?

YS: Single-player only.

Q: Is there any plan to provide downloadable content (DLC) after the release?

YS: Yes, there is. I can't tell you what it is yet though. [laughs]

Q: What kind of game do you want Shenmue III to be?

YS: Originality is important, and I think that once we have been able to create a fully-realized world, various elements will work in synergy with each other. I'd like to take it to a point where that kind of chemical reaction takes place, and the game's fun factor increases by itself.

Q: In the game, will original characters appear that were not in the previous games?

YS: Yes. For example, if I was to televise the 11 novel chapters, with one chapter being 30 minutes to an hour, then in order to generate excitement at the end of the first chapter I think this kind of element is important. And although this isn't Tora-san*, in order to balance out all those elderly men and elderly ladies, let's add in a cute Madonna... and so on.
*Tora-san = the main character in a long-running Japanese series of films, each of which featured a new leading lady / love interest, who is called a "Madonna".
Q: What will happen regarding voice actors?

YS: It's something that was already arranged at the Kickstarter, but to start with for the Japanese version we have Masaya Matsukaze who acted Ryo Hazuki, and for the English version Corey Marshall. There has been a lot of people wanting the series' voice actors to be in it, so I want to make that happen as far as possible. However, the previous games were a long time ago, and some of the voice actors have already retired - for example, for the case of the heroine Shenhua, a new audition will need to be held, I think.

Q: How about the sound?

YS: I think what we have from Shenmue I and II will be sufficient*.
*Note: Yu Suzuki has previously mentioned in a video interview held by Shenmue Dojo & Team Yu that there he has access to a vast library of unused songs from Shenmue I and II.
Q: By that, do you mean that there won't be any recording of new songs for Shenmue III?

YS: It's something I'm still considering - but most likely we will be OK [without new recordings].

Q: Please give a message to your fans in Japan who are looking forward to the release of Shenmue III.

YS: We have gained a powerful partner in Deep Silver, and are planning a super-charged Shenmue III whose content has been revised upwards compared to what was scheduled from the Kickstarter. We are now in [development] production. We will make efforts to make the game as good as possible, and appreciate everyone's continued support.

Thank you very much.

Source (Japanese): GAME Watch
Translated by Switch @

If quoting from this translation, please include a reference back to this page. Thank you.
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  1. Superb again, Switch. I very much doubt it, but fingers crossed the extended trailer is released to the KS backers at the very least. iyapol

    1. I'd love to be able to see it! Maybe they'll polish it up further and release it a bit later...

  2. Thank you switch for your hard work!

  3. Ooh extended trailer & DLC all very interesting stuff. Would have liked a couple of newly recorded music tracks for Shenmue 3... but as Suzuki says he has lots of unused music assets at his disposal, so I guess they'll seem new. But were they originally left out for a reason I wonder? Great work bringing this interview to us English speaking fans Switch. Keep up the phenomenal work

    1. Interesting point about the history behind those unused music tracks. Perhaps that will come up in one of the future interviews.

  4. Great interview; but there is one think in it that is making me worried; the fighting system. I hope that Shenmue 3 won't become another button masher; Shenmue would lose one of its essencial elements. The martial arts element has to be interesting and challenging; i think that the player has to feel that him or Ryo are evolving has a martial artist during the playthrough of the game just like what happened with the previous titles.
    If they want to make the game easier for player that are not good at fighting games; they can just add different dificulty levels instead.

    1. Although Yu indicates he wants to make the fighting aspect accessible for players who are not skilled at fighting games, I think he may potentially implement some kind of automatic difficulty adjustment (like he did with QTEs in the first two games) but it doesn't necessarily imply a button-masher approach.

      Check out some additional information about the fighting in the next translated interview (Dengeki Online) where he talks about the skill tree system and how you can build up to special moves. So it will be up to the player as to how proficient and skilled you can make Ryo, and how well those moves are mastered will affect how well he performs in fights.

  5. Thank you for that very interesting interview with Mr Yu Suzuki. Great job on the translation too!
    Evrytime I read something new from Yu I feel confident that the game will be great.

    1. These interviews have really been a great opportunity to learn some extra details from Yu that normally would be hard to obtain while he's tied up with development.