With Hideo Kojima off with the fairies or something, it's up to others within his studio Kojima Productions to take up the Metal Gear mantle.
With Metal Gear Solid: Rising, the multiplatform sword slicing hack and action game (more on that later), creative producer Shigenobu Matsuyama is answering the call.
Here, Matsuyama tells Eurogamer why star attraction Raiden is worth a second chance, reveals in detail the mystery surrounding Hunter Stealth, and dismisses the reveal trailer as an "exaggeration".
Eurogamer: How did you come up with the idea of doing an action slashing game within the Metal Gear universe?
Shigenobu Matsuyama: First of all, on the technology side, we were experimenting with cut at will - that you could cut anywhere. That technology came into place, therefore I thought if I made this as a game it would be very interesting.
The second point is, the same with MGS2, I wanted to have Raiden play a stronger role. What if we made Raiden the main character? I was thinking about that. So with that and the technology, this concept of MGS Rising came up.
Eurogamer: What are Raiden's strengths and weaknesses?
Shigenobu Matsuyama: Raiden's weakness is his self, his will. His strength, from the story side, is he's grown up as a trained child soldier. Now he's become one of the strongest soldiers you see in the MGS series.
In MGS, Snake is getting old, as you know. I want to contrast that. The user will play and feel the younger blood, which is Raiden. That's probably another strong point of Raiden.
For the weakness, about the will, in the team we call it "himself". We want to put this on a theme that he will try to go through his weakness, to go through his will. It's one of the themes we're thinking we want to put in the plot.
Eurogamer: Will we see Raiden as a child warrior? Where does this game sit in the MG timeline?
Shigenobu Matsuyama: First of all, your question: will we put in more background story, what I'm thinking is I would probably present that kind of background as a setting but not draw on the story directly.
The game's chronologically set between MGS2 and MGS4. However this is not a spin-off of the MGS universe. Also I don't want to make the users feel they can't enjoy it unless they know MGS or 2, or they haven't played 4. I don't want to puzzle people who never played MGS too much.
Therefore I will not lead directly to MGS4. No is probably the answer.
Eurogamer: Is the game mostly hack-and-slash?
Shigenobu Matsuyama: It will be pure action, with the sword katana action. RPG or build-up elements will not be in the game.
However, with MGS Rising, the key word is zan-datsu. "Zan" means to kick and cut and "datsu" means to take. We will have the stealth element as well. It's not the stealth you normally have played in MGS. It will be purely based on action. I call it the Hunting Stealth. You will be the hunter. You will hide because you don't want to be spotted by the enemy.
So you will hide at high speed and hunt down your opponent. It's not like waiting stealth. It will be high speed and acrobatic. When you punch, you're trying to absorb the energy or weapon or item. You're not just waiting, still. It's fast paced action stealth so you can hunt without being noticed.
Those are the two key elements in Rising.
Eurogamer: You say you don't want people to have to have played previous Metal Gear games. Would you agree the Metal Gear plot's become a bit too mental? Will Rising have fewer, shorter cut scenes than in Kojima's Metal Gear games?
Shigenobu Matsuyama: You're exactly right about the complexity of the MGS series world and universe. Yes, the cut-scenes will be shorter!
I'm not saying the story is not important, but that was specifically tailored by Hideo Kojima. Since I'm not him, I'm not going to base my game on a very heavy scene. The story will not be in the centre. It's more katana action. I have to play a different style.
Don't get me wrong, the story will be there, because I believe a good-quality story background will always be needed in these kind of titles.
Eurogamer: How will you express Raiden's speed in the gameplay?
Shigenobu Matsuyama: It's very difficult to come up with good ideas and good ways to express the quick action. I'm always saying that something makes a game too complicated to control. I'm always saying MGS Rising should be intuitive for the novice players to play as well, and you should have a great feeling when you're using the katana.
So, I'm saying to the team don't try and make it so complicated because that's not the ultimate style I'm aiming for. That's the difficult part. We have great ideas, but if we chuck them all in the controls will be too difficult. So we have to decide which go in and which do not.
Eurogamer: The reveal trailer was pretty brutal. Why did you make it so violent?
Shigenobu Matsuyama: One reason is impact was needed because it's a new title. But the thinking behind the violence is more complicated and well thought. First of all, there should be more freedom in a game, I thought. The freedom to do anything I thought was important.
In the game you don't have to play like the trailer. We do not recommend you play like the trailer. There are more enemies: mechanical enemies, and there are humans too. And the theme, zan-datsu battle, meaning to cut and to take, you cannot do that from human enemies. Hunting stealth can be done from the mechs and cyborgs that appear in the game. If you cut and slice human enemies you will have no reward at all. The game will not be designed so that you have to do so in order to clear it.
But the freedom is there. It's very interesting, because you could be so precise. You could cut just the weapon of the human enemies and make them not fight any more. If you make a mistake, you might cut their hand, and you'll feel like, oh, I really made a mistake. I'm not saying this will be a game for children. It's a game for adults. Therefore I didn't want to lie. If you make a mistake something will happen in order to make it real and make you feel it's real as well.
That kind of image from the trailer you saw I thought was needed. But again, that trailer is almost an exaggeration of what you could do. We're not going to persuade people to do that.
Eurogamer: Have any games inspired you to go in this hack-and-slash direction? Do you admire any developers?
Shigenobu Matsuyama: It's a difficult question to answer. I can't say a particular title right now.
I've been creating games for a long time, and I do have a philosophy of what good games are and what good games are not. All games inspire me in some way. I look at many games, whether it's for the console or the coin-op, because I used to be a coin-op game designer. So anything I thought of as good game design, I try to implement in all my games.
For the people I admire, there are so many. Hideo Kojima is one of them. I'm not saying that because I'm in Kojima Productions now. I knew him for a long time. I was in the same company, but we never approached each other. I always looked up to him as a mentor. Now I have the chance to be in his Kojima Productions and work together with him. I'm deliberate not to be so close in terms of getting inspired from him. I'm trying to avoid that right now. It's a little difficult to explain.
Also, we would like to emphasise that this game is not, well, you might say hack-and-slash, but it's more than that. You would categorise it as hack-and-slash. We just want to represent a good feeling when you cut everything, like buildings and things like that. To me when you say hack-and-slash it means so brutal.
Eurogamer: Maybe hack-and-action?
Shigenobu Matsuyama: Whoa. I'm learning my English now.
Eurogamer: You can have that one for free.
Shigenobu Matsuyama: Thank you. We'll use this hack-and-action.
More on Metal Gear Solid: Rising
Face-off: Face-Off: Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance
Eurogamer: Are there any Western creators you admire?
Shigenobu Matsuyama: It's not influential - maybe it's influential in a way - but what was shocking was a title like Grand Theft Auto. I never realised the freedom of any other games. You could go anywhere. You could do anything. It was fun, but at the same time I felt a fear of what the people would do and how they would react. When I saw that title I thought, as a creator, there was going to be a hell of a lot of risk involved. As I create Rising, and going back to the freedom to cut humans, I always have Grand Theft Auto and that shocking feeling in my mind.
When you ask me what kind of games I like and dislike, I've been creating arcade gun-shooting arcade machines and also racing games. Personally I like titles like Gran Turismo. That's just for my hobby.
Eurogamer: You mentioned you have a philosophy for what makes a good game. What is it?
Shigenobu Matsuyama: One of the game philosophies I have is I want to recreate the feeling you get that, oh, I made a mistake. I've been doing this for over 10 years. A lot of people in the company - executives - don't like this style. For a gun-shooting game, you accidentally shoot a normal civilian. Nowadays it's normal, but in the past it was almost a taboo. I wanted to represent - not because I wanted to shoot civilians - but I wanted to make people be careful, get the feeling of, 'Oh, I made a mistake.'
I thought it was very important. But I also added a non-reward when you do that. When you shoot a civilian, your rank becomes lower from a police officer to a junior police officer. You're punished when you do that.
It's the same with Rising. I want to recreate a feeling that you made a mistake and you feel like you made a mistake, not to the extent that you're going to hate the game, but people will think, 'Okay, next time I will try to not make a mistake and I want a challenge.' That feeling is very important to a game, and I want to put that in Rising. Keeping the tension of that feeling is important as well.
So, in Rising, you might make a mistake. You might try to get just his weapon but you might cut his hand, and then you're surrounded more and you're in a more difficult position. Or, you're trying to do the zan-datsu, you're trying to cut the mechs and get the batteries out. But if you make a mistake, you can't get that item out.
I want to make people learn from their mistakes. That's one of the philosophies I have.
Metal Gear: Rising is due out on PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 in 2011.