The Senran Kagura series is growing even larger soon. Thanks in part to publisher XSEED Games, North American gamers will soon get their hands on both Senran Kagura: Estival Versus (on PS4/Vita) and Senran Kagura 2 on 3DS. Both titles are shaping up well as our E3 preview shared, but you can’t learn everything about a game just by playing it. That’s why we took some time to speak with series director Kenichiro Takaki to chat, not just about Senran Kagura, but gaming in general.
[Hardcore Gamer] So, this is the first time [Senran Kagura] is coming to a console after being on 3DS and Vita. What made you decide to take that leap to the current home console generation?
[Kenichiro Takaki (via translator)]Before Senran Kagura, I used to work on a lot of console titles. But, as you know, the consoles in Japan are getting smaller and smaller while handhelds are getting larger and larger. So, inevitably we went with handhelds, but I’ve always had passion for console devices. We were fortunate enough to make the Senran Kagura series and a lot of fans, not only in Japan, but overseas in both the US and Europe, have made up the fanbase which allowed us to go back to consoles for this title.
And another part is I just wanted to see the cute girls on a big screen. (Everyone laughs)
You said that there’s a worldwide audience now for Senran Kagura. Were you at all surprised by the excitement in the western gaming community that they also wanted this game? I feel like in the past this sort of title wouldn’t have been localized but now Senran Kagura keeps coming out here.
I’m very, very surprised. I wasn’t expecting to reach the western audience at all. So, with that in mind, I was just creating this game specifically for the Japanese crowd who have a Japanese taste for what I’m trying to do. But, maybe because it was specific for that small community, that it actually did well over here too.
But at the same time, it is heavily emphasizing the sexual aspect of the girls in the gameplay, but the basic system is solid. The gameplay and story are definitely there, so that as a base on top of the sexual aspect could be why it did well over here too.
Yeah, definitely. I was just playing the new games at the booth and having not played them before I wasn’t sure what to expect. But, it was very intense in regards to the controls and systems and really fun. In Japan, is it difficult to reach an audience? If they see “cute girls” is that enough of a selling point? Or do they come in expecting good, exciting gameplay too?
Yeah, it won’t work. It might sell a little bit like a one hit wonder but it’ll die out. It definitely won’t make it into a series. This comes from experience because it’s not a new genre — its always been around.
When I was a child I used to buy these types of games, but was always disappointed by the fact that there was no gameplay to it. It was just the aesthetics. So when I was creating this game I wanted to make a good game and, on top of that, there was a sexual aspect to it.
This is sort of tangentially related I suppose, but: how do you feel about Western gamers? Do you think that they are shutting themselves off to experiences like this because they see the visuals and feel like they shouldn’t be playing this type of game?
Not really in the sense that I think that we get the same type of comments in Japan. Maybe not as much, but there are those fans that say they would buy it if it were in a different style. It’s just this type of style that I like and this kind of gameplay that I wanted to create and play.
I don’t want to change or shift this because there’s naysayers. It’s not that I don’t listen to feedback, but there is a core as to why I make the games this way and don’t want to shift that around.
Is the appreciation of fanservice is different between culture? Is that changing because we’ve seen games like Senran Kagura coming out a lot. Is Western culture is becoming more accepting of these games?
Compared to before, I think it is changing but not on a massive scale or anything. I just think a small amount of people are beginning to understand more. Definitely I see a little bit of difference, but I think another part of it is the internet and what the web can provide. You can get an abundance of information and as such it’s just easier to share information around. That’s changed it a little bit.
So now that we have these games coming onto consoles is there any intention to consider other platforms? Potentially the PC or Xbox One in the future?
Probably, if it does well then the next one I’d be really curious to see about creating a game on PC. Just how much I could expand the world.
About PS4: What does the PS4 provide when compared to the limitations of handhelds? Obviously there’s graphical differences, but is there anything else that you utilize now that you have the extra power?
Of course there’s the simple aesthetics, like you said. But there’s something a little hard to explain — the “softness” of the girl. I’m not just only talking about the boobs, of course that too. But the hair, the way their skin is, and the way their clothes move make up the “softness” that the girls have and it’s something that I was happy to be able to see.
And of course gameplay-wise we were able to make multiplayer for four players on the handheld but now we can have ten players at once [on PS4]. That was a big jump for us. I want to keep trying and making more stuff.
I’m curious about something you touched upon earlier. Why do you feel that things have gone mobile in Japan as opposed to consoles which used to be front and center? Why isn’t the industry changing quite the same way here?
This is completely my opinion, but I think that it’s just that the U.S. gamer plays games because they “want to play games.” But the Japanese user’s mindset is changing a bit. They’re playing games because some free time, or there’s something they need to do and in between they have a bit of a “refresher.”
Because of that, it’s just easier and handy in a way to go with handhelds or mobile devices to fill in those times. I think that’s why it’s moving toward more convenience of playing games.
In regards to PC: Japanese companies have been mostly avoiding the PC in many ways until recently. Now we’re seeing their console games coming out on Steam. Is that because of Western audiences or is the PC also becoming a bigger platform in Japan?
I think it’s a little bit of both. The PC gaming crowd in Japan is a lot less than what the U.S. has. Usually, when people think of PC games [in Japan] it’s more of the sexual, sexy game. It’s also that the packaged game sales have been going down and so now more digital games are coming out.
So, it’s just the PC being another sales vehicle for publishers to go after. It’s convenient and easy too, just like how you sign up for Steam and just start playing right away. Recently, I’ve been a Steam member and curious about all the sales that they always have.
What message do you want to give to people who have not yet played the Senran Kagura series? Why should they jump in now on either version [Senran Kagura 2/Senran Kagura Estival Versus]?
I do understand that this title has a lot of sexuality and is an anime style that might make some players take a step back and say like “this isn’t my title,” but… As a video game creator, I’m always trying to provide something that’s fun and exciting for the users. Not just like the aesthetics of it, either.
If anybody who hasn’t played it, even if they can just try it for three minutes, that might change their mind about it. Like “wow, this is actually a fun game!” It could be the story or the control, but just give it a try. That’s all I can ask and if they do try it then I will be very grateful and happy.