Monday, September 23, 2019

SEGASaturno Interview with Yu Suzuki at Gamescom 2019 | Translation

We're very pleased to host today's guest post: an interview with Yu Suzuki about various Shenmue topics, which was carried out by Alfonso "Ryo Suzuki" Martinez  from SEGASaturno at the recent Gamescom event
The article starts below.

Yu Suzuki met with us again at Gamescom in Cologne, Germany. A few months ago, we were granted an interview with him at MAGIC Monaco. He was very kind towards us since he already knows us from previous occasions, being fully aware that we usually go to all the possible events related to Shenmue III.

The Japanese master showed us the instruction manual in physical format of the demo that will be available to the backers soon. He seemed proud of this and somewhat enthusiastic.
He also asked us if we had already tried the demo in the Deep Silver booth, but we told him we would do it the following day. Yu-san seemed to be very interested to know our opinions, since he knows we are big Shenmue fans.
This is the brief interview we were able to have. It’s somewhat shorter than usual, but this was expected because we were at a big event like Gamescom, and they have to cover many appointments with journalists.

ALFONSO MARTÍNEZ (SEGASaturno): Akira Yuki seems to be a last minute inclusion in the original Virtua Fighter replacing Siba. How was the character conceived?
YU SUZUKI: No, Akira was there from the beginning. Siba is a different character.
[The question seems to surprise him].
Akira and Siba are different characters.
AM: But we saw an old Virtua Fighter cabinet in which you could see that Akira was not there and the character that appeared in his place was Siba.
YS: Akira was in the game right from the beginning.

[He doesn't seem to know anything about this].

AM: How has it been working with a smaller and modest team compared to the bigger budget productions you used to work in the past? What advantages and disadvantages does it have?
YS: There are a couple of big ones. In the past, we built the entire engine from scratch. This time, we've created the game using an engine called UE4 (Unreal Engine 4). That's the biggest difference.
The next one is that, back then I created it at SEGA and I had about 200 full-time employees under me at AM2 working on it. I made it using chiefly people from the company, whereas this time I started by gathering people together from all sorts of places. I had to start by building the team.
I think those are probably the biggest differences.
Having said that, PC abilities have improved and the engine is also excellent so I think that's why we've been able to make Shenmue III. Back then had its own set of issues we had to contend with, and now there's a different set of difficulties.
AMWill Ren's future actions have a key importance, to the point of impacting the future of Ryo and the Shenmue series?
YS: Ren will make an appearance.
And he'll become involved in the story [he makes a gesture with his head as implying that he will be an important character].
AMI always thought that there is a certain parallelism between the protagonist of Shenmue and yourself. Am I wrong? Perhaps you may have unconsciously brought aspects of your own life and somehow he is alter ego? Is Ryo Hazuki a bit like Yu Suzuki?
YS: [laughs] I've never thought that, you see... I'm too shy to say!
Well... maybe we share a strong sense of justice. A touch of "samurai".
AMWould it be possible to include classic features on Save Shenmue Hall, like additional footage of Shenmue Saturn or the entire Shenmue Premiere video sequence? Or maybe something similar that could please the fans?
YS: I've taken your request on board.
You see... the license for the images is held by SEGA. It would be a bit difficult to do so now, so close to release. There wouldn't be enough time to negotiate it.

AMLet's talk about the Shenmue III DLCs. Will they contain further elements of the main story plot, or will they only consist of side quests and other minor features?
YS: Side quests. Some are side missions, but there are also some that aren't. And there are some that are stand-alone.
Let me clarify what I mean by "stand-alone" to avoid confusion. Some are a side quest type. As well as that, there's... I'm not sure the best way to describe them, but that's not the only type.
TRANSLATOR: What I think he means is "story snippets", so "stand-alone" is not the right term.
AMYou wrote an eleven-chapter novel for Shenmue. I wonder if it’s possible for the novel to be released in some way.
YS: I don't have any plans like that, at least not at the moment.
AMAre there any big differences in what has been included in the game so far, compared to the original novel?
YS: There is an overall structure: Shenmue I is Chapter One and Shenmue II is Chapter Two; but for Shenmue III I changed the structure a little and added extra elements. So Shenmue III doesn't match up one-on-one with Chapter Three.
TRANSLATOR: Parts from Chapters Three to Six were used to make Shenmue III.

YS: There's a 11-chapter story it's packed full with ideas for the game. From that I re-imagined and recombined it to make Shenmue III. So the 11 chapters are something that are full of ideas for making the games. The story is in a novel-like format, but it's a thing that's full of game ideas.
AMShenmue places importance on realism, but at the same time has aspects like people in China speaking Japanese, or Shenhua's image appearing on merchandise. Are these kinds of discrepancies something that was done deliberately?
YS: That's right. If everything was real then it would be less effective. It would lack impact. Considering it as entertainment, I think it's fine for it to feel as if it "could" exist.
For example, if a Chinese person speaks Chinese and there are subtitles in English or whatever, then your eyes are drawn to the subtitles, right? And that means the player will stop looking at the character's face.
Or another example is the town of Kowloon. For players in Europe who aren't familiar with Kowloon, it's easier for them to grasp that it is a mountain-top "den of iniquity" by symbolically populating it with evil organizations. And I increased the realism for things like room interiors and small objects.
It's about making it feel "right". My aim is to make it effective entertainment by creating a reality, not to make it real.
One more example is with Shenmue III in China. There are a lot of different kinds of food in the game. In truth, I wanted to keep to Chinese food only like steamed buns, dumplings and so on. But given the budget and staff resources this time, it would have been extremely hard to create them all like that. However rather than having the tabletops at the restaurants bare, it would be better to have sausages or something there, right?
AMIt has been almost four years of Shenmue III's development. What have you learned during the process and what are your conclusions?
YS: Hmm.... This may not answer the question directly, but I feel extremely happy to have had the chance to create Shenmue III, and I am thankful. I'm grateful to many people.
At the beginning, Sony gave me the chance to announce the Kickstarter on their stage. The initial Kickstarter goal was 2 million dollars. Then $6.7 million was funded on Kickstarter. Then Shibuya Productions also came on board. And finally we partnered with Deep Silver (Koch Media).
So under the initial plan, I didn't expect that Shenmue III would become this big. The amount of content in Shenmue III is now greater than Shenmue II. I've been able to make a full-size Shenmue.
I think I'm an extremely fortunate creator!
And I believe it's due to the support of the fans throughout all these years that this chance came about. I'm extremely thankful to them (including yourselves, of course!) for that. 
-- End of interview --

And that was it. We had many more questions prepared, but we didn't have time to ask them.
The next day, we were able to chat briefly with Yu Suzuki, and he asked us again if we had been able to try the demo yet.
This time, we answered affirmatively and we were happy about it because the game felt like the previous Shenmue installments. We emphasized the fact that it was clear that Shenmue III was developed with the fans in mind.
Yu-san was very happy to hear that. No doubt the journey of Shenmue III has been a long one, and now we are able to see a more relaxed Yu Suzuki, and the Japanese genius seems to convey some relief because of the work done.
The final stretch is here and I think we can rest assured that the third installment of Shenmue is going to be as expected. There is nothing to be afraid of.

Special Thanks

  • Gerard Amés of Vadebits, for joining me with the interview and all the technical support he gave me.
  • Switch of Phantom River Stone, for giving some advice in writing the questions. He also translated them into Japanese to ease Yu's comprehension, and then transcribed and translated the answers.
  • Adrián Cantador Lozano 'Wesker', who helped me improve my initial translation of the questions into English and then translated the answers into Spanish.
  • Kenji Kojima, the translator. He made things somewhat more complicated this time, but given that he had many interviews and other schedules, he must have been very tired.
  • Simon Maflin of Deep Silver, for giving me the opportunity to be there interviewing the master once again.
  • Remy Louisin, Peter Campbell and Dmitry Cluev for giving me a hand throughout the event, and also the good company always provided by the Shenmue community.

You can complement this interview with the SHENMUE PODCASTellano podcast (in Spanish) that we recorded few minutes after doing the interview. You can listen to it here.

Many thanks to Alfonso and SEGASaturno for a great interview!

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