Interview With Street Fighter X Tekken's Yoshinori Ono
Posted on Monday, January 23 @ 02:10:54 PST by Josh_LaddinOn a gloomy, rainy day this past week, I walked in to Capcom's offices in San Mateo, CA to get some time with the most recent build of the latest crossover extravaganza to get fighting fans drooling: Street Fighter X Tekken. Sporting a lot of polish for a game that still hasn't even announced its full roster (expect one more round of character reveals soon, folks!), I tried out some of the newest characters like Balrog and Paul, and got to participate in the crazy Scramble Mode. But more on that later when the preview goes up.
Anyway, there's nothing like an interview with a beaming, excited, and fun-loving Japanese developer to brighten up a gloomy, rainy day. Yoshinori Ono, mastermind behind Street Fighter IV, has all that and then some. You can tell he really enjoys talking about this game, especially when it gives him the chance to poke fun at his counterparts over at Namco.
Game Revolution: What adjustments did you make to the Street Fighter formula while developing Street Fighter X Tekken?
Yoshinori Ono: So, if you play the game more and more, I think you’ll realize—it’s a Street Fighter game, but it’s not really a Street Fighter game, because although we do borrow from Street Fighter IV with the engine and things like that, in order to smoothly mesh the two franchises together we had to create something brand new. So we created this new battlefield for Street Fighter characters and we kind of invited the Tekken characters over to stand on the same playing field. We couldn’t just take Tekken and put them in Street Fighter, because it wouldn’t really be a collaboration anymore. So we put the two franchises on a brand new playing field and that’s how we created the game.
GR: Was it difficult for you to translate any of the Tekken characters into the Street Fighter gameplay?
YO: At first we were really worried about how well we could make these characters transition into this Street Fighter game. But we talked to Harada-san, we talked to the Tekken team over at Namco Bandai, and they said, “You know what? We trust you guys with our characters. You have the creative freedom to do what you want with the game and with the characters.”
[So] we felt that we had a lot of freedom to do what we wanted based on the experience we had making our own fighting games. So it was really easy in that sense to just look at characters like Kazuya and think, “What’s interesting about Kazuya from a gameplay perspective?” And we were able to translate that into our own Street Fighter knowledge rather seamlessly, so it ended up being a rather smooth process in the end.
GR: Just from seeing the game for a few minutes, you can tell that it’s a bit more light-hearted than either franchise—and Street Fighter isn’t the most serious franchise in the first place—but it seems even more light-hearted than that. Can you give us an idea of the story and setting for this game?
YO: I can definitely say that this story isn’t a serious story at all. It’s definitely something that we want fans to enjoy. Basically we have the Mishima Zaibatsu, who are the bad guys in Tekken, and Shadaloo, who are the bad guys in Street Fighter, and these two evil entities always have these crazy evil plans. We had it set so that there’s a meteorite that falls in the South Pole that has this “super secret” treasure and both Shadaloo and Mishima Zaibatsu are going after the treasure. That’s the basic premise.
GR: So basically the two franchises exist together in this universe, unlike a lot of other crossovers where two separate universes get kind of mushed together?
YO: Yeah, the basic premise of this game is that all the characters live in the same world. When we first introduced the game you saw Dan Hibiki was sitting in his dojo and Kazuya comes and beats the crap out of him. So of course if there’s Dan, then there has to be Ryu and Ken as well.
And we built relationships between the Tekken and the Street Fighter characters—if you play the Arcade Mode, you’ll notice that there are official tag partners on both sides, and as you go through there are various cutscenes and win quotes that kind of explain the relationships between the two sides and characters. In addition, we have endings which also shed light on those kind of things.
GR: So does that mean there are specific character rivals between the franchises?
YO: Yeah, as you play through the Arcade Mode, you’ll run into something called the Rival Battle, and if you play as the official tag partners that we’ve set up, for example Ryu and Ken, eventually you’ll run into a rival battle with Kazuya and Nina who are there to stop you. And Nina will be like, “Oh, do we really have to fight these poor-looking guys who don’t wear shoes?” And Kazuya’s like, “Yeah, we’ve got to beat them up.” So there are scenes like that that flesh out the relationships between rivals.
And there’s a lot of variety—that’s kind of a serious one, with Ryu and Kazuya and Nina and Ken going at it—but there are also really light-hearted Rival Battles as well, so we’d like fans to play through the story and just have fun finding out about all those relationships between the characters.
GR: How much communication do the developers of this game have with Namco?
YO: As I mentioned before, in the beginning when we were trying to figure out how to transplant the characters into the game, we did contact Namco on a frequent basis to get advice. But once they told us that we had the freedom to do with the characters what we wanted, we decided we could just meet up whenever we would have dinner together or something, but other than that we’d just make the game and just show them later. So every time I’d go over to their offices and meet up with the Tekken team, I’d bring a new build of the game with me, we’d play around, and then go eat dinner. So it was more like showing them progress on the game rather than getting their feedback consistently.
For this past year in particular, there were probably times when the Tekken team found out about characters through websites and things like that, not even us telling them directly. And then they would call us after reading the news on websites and say, “Hey, I want to play as that character! Can you bring a new version of the rom over?”
GR: Switching characters in this game is a bit more complex than, say, Marvel vs. Capcom, where you can just hit buttons and switch almost instantly. But in this game there are a few different ways to do it and there’s kind of a risk-vs.-reward element to them. What’s your design goal with that?
YO: Yeah, as a tag battle game, the tag mechanic is very important. We want players to use tag efficiently and we want pro players to use it as well. But where our philosophy was different from Marvel is that, as you mentioned, in Marvel you can tag in rather freely, and if your character dies, that doesn’t mean you lose, you know, you’ve got two other characters. But in this game we want players to really take care of both characters, because it is a tag battle game and you’re working as a team. So in Street Fighter X Tekken if one character dies, you lose the round. From our perspective, we want players to think about that more. We want them to be more tactical in when they choose to tag and finding opportunities to tag.
Especially when you’re playing with a friend online and you’re on the same team, you don’t want your friend to just die, right? You need to take care of them. So hopefully in having players consider their partner we hope to strengthen communication between players, whereas if you were playing Marvel and your partner died, maybe you wouldn’t even care cause you could just make the comeback yourself. So we wanted to foster that cooperation component of the game.
GR: We know you probably can’t say much about Tekken X Street Fighter, but as far as this game is concerned, do you have any easter eggs or nods to its Namco counterpart?
YO: With regards to Tekken X Street Fighter, the Tekken team and Harada-san over there haven’t even put together one page of design documents regarding their game yet! They’re so slow… I want to put in all sorts of whatever nods or easter eggs that I can, but just two weeks ago Harada-san called me and said, “Hey… can I have a list of the Street Fighter characters?” And I was like, “What? You’re so slow!” It’ll probably take them six years to come out with their game!
But hopefully now I can contact Harada-san more and since we’re doing these two projects, hopefully we can have some kind of link between the two, which would be really nice for the fans. When we first started making the game, we all really wanted to do that kind of thing. And he’s a smart guy, I’m sure he still remembers that promise, so we hope that we can make something like that come true.
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