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"Sengoku BASARA" Special Feature #1 The Story behind Development of "Sengoku BASARA"10th Anniversary

A Narrated Account Based on the Facts

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"We need to challenge ourselves even in difficult times."

Part1: Launch Winter 2003

"Hmm… A new kind of action game featuring a main character based on a real-life feudal warlord…" muttered one corporate director.

The deafening silence of the meeting room was difficult to describe. The directors, general managers and head of R&D looked over the proposal Hiroyuki Kobayashi had handed out with silent, stern looks on their faces.

This scene made it feel as if everyone sitting there was an enemy character. As Kobayashi proceeded with the presentation, he felt his heart becoming heavier.

November 2003
An enterprising, young producer, Kobayashi was in a marketing meeting focused on his proposal for a new game. Before him stood a barrier more impenetrable than he had ever imagined.

"You understand the situation we're facing right now, don't you?" asked a director.

At this time, Capcom's business was in dire straits, having plunged into the red for two consecutive fiscal periods and posted a 45 billion yen extraordinary loss. The tremendous amount of time and budget required to develop a new game posed a significant risk to the company. Kobayashi had expected there would be a certain amount of pushback from management.

"I do understand that, which is why I am proposing this as a project to increase earnings!" asserted Kobayashi as he stared intently at the director.

"We cannot afford any more losses. Rather than new titles, we are focusing on sequels to hit titles that are expected to provide stable earnings. That's the theory, right?" said another director.

"This is a game for the casual user segment unlike anything we have done before. If we only play it safe, we will keep sliding downhill." countered Kobayashi.
The person in charge of sales spoke up. "Don't we already have a feudal warlord game?"

This was true. Two years earlier, Capcom had released "Onimusha", a survival-action game based on a Warring States Period motif.
"'Onimusha' is totally different. Please read the proposal more carefully!"
"Won't this result in cannibalization?"
"Our target users are different. Cannibalization is not an issue!"
"I wonder if it is right to put out such a frivolous game under the Capcom name."

The critical opinions continued to rain down, threatening to drown the spirit of the normally resilient Kobayashi. He knew this was no time to lose his composure. He absolutely had to gain their approval. Kobayashi lifted his head and stared unflinchingly into the eyes of the directors.

At that moment, the silence was broken by a lively voice that reverberated throughout the room.

"Why don't we give it a try?"
It was Capcom president (now chairman) Kenzo Tsujimoto. Everyone in the room focused their attention on him.
"As Kobayashi has said, we need to challenge ourselves even in difficult times. Am I wrong?"

Tsujimoto, who founded Capcom and played a leading role in the Japanese game industry, had identified numerous talented young creators up to now who had gone on to generate hit titles. Everyone in the company had the utmost respect for his ability to spot genius. And of course, the company wanted a hit game. If the head of the company approved, it was probably a good idea to give the new title a chance. Kobayashi's frantic and fervent speech combined with Tsujimoto's approval gradually changed the atmosphere. An hour later, Kobayashi received approval to develop the new game, which he called "Sengoku BASARA".

However, the real challenge lay ahead.

What could replace "difficulty" as the game's appeal?

Part2: Chaos Summer 2004

"Put me on any team, just not 'Sengoku BASARA'."
"Right. I feel sorry for whoever's making that game, it will never sell."
Kobayashi overheard comments like these as he walked down the hall outside the development room. For the last few months word had been going around the company, and though he had known that few people supported his effort, the murmuring took an emotional toll nonetheless.

July 2004.
Eight months had passed since production of "Sengoku BASARA" began, with only 10 months left until completion. It felt as if even after the title was finished, it would continue to receive a chilly response internally. It wasn't as if Kobayashi didn't understand the feelings of his colleagues. In a sense, this was new territory for Capcom, so he didn't expect everyone to understand. But still…

There was another reason Kobayashi felt uneasy. The development team was losing its sense of unity, and fast. The biggest reason for this was because both the section leaders and the director did not understand the direction development was taking.

The game concept Kobayashi envisioned was a Japanese warrior action game anyone could enjoy. However, this was different from what had become conventional thinking at Capcom. The problem was the idea of a game "anyone could enjoy". In other words, the simplicity of the gameplay.

Capcom's specialty was action games, which were popular in part because of their difficulty. Enemies were vanquished using advanced techniques requiring precision command of game controller buttons. The joyous taste of victory was savored only by those passionate and skilled enough to achieve it. These games are fun precisely because they are difficult. This was the conventional line of thinking with regards to action games.

Even members of his own development team frequently raised doubts, asking Kobayashi, "What's so interesting about a game where you can mow through enemies with a push of a button?"

However, his aim was to create a game anyone could play. While Capcom action games had a passionate fan base, they had earned a reputation for being too difficult for beginners. Kobayashi wanted to remove this barrier completely and cultivate a new fan segment. The challenge was: what would replace "difficulty" as the game's appeal? Kobayashi himself had yet to discover the answer to this question.

Amid impatience and frustration over the inability to move forward, conflicts within the team began to increase. As the situation began to escalate, Kobayashi was worried things were out of control. A month later, he decided to replace the director.

Like the director of a movie, the director of a game development team plays the leading role. Changing the director mid-development is like changing directors on a movie and having to reshoot all the existing scenes.
Considering how little time was left, it seemed a reckless decision. Yet if a change was not made, the project would end in failure, just as others in the company had predicted all along.

Kobayashi had only one person in mind as a candidate for the new director position: game designer Makoto Yamamoto. The two men had worked together a number of times in the past, but they didn't know each other on a close personal basis. Nevertheless, Kobayashi had a feeling Yamamoto would be able to straighten out tthe situation.

Yep, he's the one… Kobayashi thought, determined as he reached for the phone.

How would you like to become the director of "Sengoku BASARA"?

Part3: The Tipping Point Summer 2004

"How would you like to become the director of 'Sengoku BASARA'?"

Yamamoto still remembers his surprise and the mixed emotions that sent his heart racing upon hearing Kobayashi's offer.

Yamamoto was, of course, well aware of the cool looks the "Sengoku BASARA" team received inside the company.
He also remembers witnessing internal clashes on the team, and feeling sympathy for those who appeared to be struggling. However, that was someone else's problem. He could never get involved in such a troublesome project.
After all, they only had nine months left…

Yet, amidst feelings of disquiet, the resolve to fight quietly welled up inside of him. Yamamoto believed no matter how difficult the situation, saying ‘no' is never an option. If anything, adverse conditions were a source of motivation. He burned with the desire to overcome any obstacle, no matter how high.
After a short pause, Yamamoto answered.

"I'll do it," he said decisively. "Let's go for it."
"Thank you so much!" said Kobayashi who looked as though tears were welling up in his eyes.

As a matter of fact, Yamamoto saw a way to break the deadlock on "Sengoku BASARA's" development.
Two years earlier (in 2002), Yamamoto had joined Capcom mid-career and began working in the development division. Thus, he did not have a fixed idea of what constituted the "Capcom way". At his previous job, he had been involved in action, sports and a wide range of game genres. Armed with the perspective of a different culture, Yamamoto soon discovered the key to making Kobayashi's concept a reality.

His idea focused on the character element.

If the characters controlled by the player exuded outlandish personalities and presence, even with simple battles, the player would project themselves onto the characters and become immersed in the game. It was actually better if the battles were simple, since that gives the team leeway to incorporate more elements for enjoying the characters' personalities.

"We are going to redesign the characters. I want to create extremely distinctive feudal warlord characters, the likes of which have never been seen before," Yamamoto announced to Kobayashi one week after taking over as director.

"I hadn't thought of that!" said Kobayashi, who immediately saw what Yamamoto intended. It can be said this was the birth of "Sengoku BASARA" character-driven game concept, which has been carried forward throughout the series.

"OK! We only have nine months left, so let's focus all our energy onto creating characters!"

With their new director Yamamoto at the helm, the development team finally regained a sense of unity and began moving forward.

Open discussions between Kobayashi and Yamamoto gave rise to a host of ideas.

Part 4: Creation Winter 2004

"What? Masamune Date is going to speak English?!"
Yamamoto responded to the surprised staff with a nod and a smile.

"That's right, the Date clan engaged in foreign diplomacy throughout the Warring States period. Of course, they probably didn't use English, but we want to create distinctive characters while maintaining a link to those kinds of historical facts."

When using an actual warlord as the model for a character, convention calls for the design to be faithful to historical fact. However, Kobayashi and Yamamoto established a developmental policy where they turned up the dial on historical fact, from a baseline of 1 all the way to 100. Their line of thinking was, even when based on historical fact, imagination should be used freely to thoroughly distort and expand those facts to create a completely off-the-wall feudal warlord character.
"A warlord named Tadakatsu Honda fought 100 battles throughout his life and never lost once."
"Let's run with that and make him the game's strongest character."
"Why not go further? Let's make him a steel robot, impervious to swords."
"You know what'd be cool? If we made Lord Ieyasu Tokugawa a young boy and had him control the robot."

Open discussions such as these between Kobayashi and Yamamoto gave rise to a host of ideas. Through this, they realized that the mishmash of various entertainment themes created a patchwork feeling. Turning Tadakatsu Honda into a robot was a touch of science fiction; other elements were borrowed from young girls' comics, horror, the occult and comedy, all to add color to the characters and create a sense of excitement since no one would know what to expect next.

One other element that enhanced the characters' presence was conversation. Characters rarely speak in action games, as there is little time for idle chatter while engaged in heated battle. But in "Sengoku BASARA", which places more emphasis on characters than battles, dialogue like Masamune Date's English are an important part of the character's distinctiveness. Lines were given not only to main characters and enemies, but also to the legions of rank and file soldiers who are noisily taken down in battle. Even warlords not present on the battlefield speak freely to provide commentary on the battle action.

These conversations are made more appealing through the use of voice overs. At the time "Sengoku BASARA" was being developed, game character lines were typically displayed as subtitles, but text alone would have left the characters feeling flat.
"Let's add voices. And let's use first-rate voice actors," suggested Kobayashi.
"Using talented, top flight voice actors will really boost the presence of each character, and in itself create some major buzz."
"Yes, but it will also increase expenses."
"I'll take care of the budget. Let's get premiere voice actors for all 22 characters."

One month later, a test run of the game screen was conducted incorporating voice overs provided by the actors. The excited reaction of the staff was unlike anything up to that point.
"I've never seen an action game like this!"
"I finally understand the vision for this game that Kobayashi and Yamamoto had talked about!"

Thus the unique appeal of the "Sengoku BASARA" world, which had not been experienced before, came clearly into focus. This was definitely going to sell; every one of the staff sensed a hit in the making.

"Sengoku BASARA" Series History

July 2005 PS2

"Sengoku BASARA"

The series debut title featuring distinctive warlords, "Masamune Date" and "Yukimura Sanada".

July 2005 PS2

"Sengoku BASARA 2"

Warlord "Keiji Maeda" joins the battle as a new character bringing not only more action but also a new depth to the story.

November 2007  PS2,Wii

"Sengoku BASARA 2 Heroes"

Enemy warlord "Hisahide Matsunaga" joins the battle! Develops action and story angles further than was possible in "2".

June 2008 PS2

"Sengoku BASARA X (Cross)"

The series' first 2D combat-based fighting game developed so that fighting game users can also enjoy "Sengoku BASARA".

April 2009 PSP

"Sengoku BASARA Battle Heroes"

The first title for handheld game devices realizing team battles involving up to 30 popular warlords.

Profile

Profucer Hiroyuki Kobayashi

As a Producer, he is responsible for "Sengoku BASARA", "Dragon's Dogma", "Devil May Cry" and "Resident Evil".

Director Makoto Yamamoto

After joining Capcom as a Designer, appointed as Director of "Sengoku BASARA", a position he has maintained throughout the entire series.

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