The trailer for Asura's Wrath has got to be one of the most awesomely weird announcement videos of all time. Developed in collaboration with Capcom's newest partner, CyberConnect 2 - famous in Japan for the .hack games and Naruto fighters and in the West for, well, nothing in particular - the game is a bizarre and ambitious hack-and-slasher. It's seeking to redefine the action genre, though it's leaving us guessing as to exactly how. Take a peek at the video for a clue.
Producer Kazuhiro Tsuchiya was at Capcom's recent press event in Tokyo to answer questions about the title. He was joined by CyberConnect 2's enthusiastic president Hiroshi Matsuyama and game director Seiji Shimoda, who gave an excitable insight into what it's been like working in partnership with the publisher so far. They refused to give us any more details on the actual gameplay, but were keen to talk about the creative process.
Eurogamer: Your game looks completely deranged.
Hiroshi Matsuyama: [Everyone laughs.] Excellent. That's exactly what we want.
Eurogamer: How did you arrive at this insane-looking concept? What had you done before that informed it?
Seiji Shimoda: First off, we came up with the concept of wrath, which is a very core part of the game, by thinking about what can we could make that people all over the world would enjoy.
We felt that wrath was a good thing to focus on in an action game, because it's a deep, core human emotion that everyone feels – it's not rooted to culture. Japanese, Europeans and Americans all understand wrath. We felt like if we could communicate that energy in a fun way, it would be a good concept to go for.
In Japanese entertainment and comics, and in games as well, there are a lot of interesting depictions of wrath already – things like Dragonball and Naruto – and we love those kinds of comics and games. So we thought, what can we do if we really, really focus on that? How interesting can we make it? That was our challenge to ourselves.
Eurogamer: What does the action revolve around in Asura's Wrath? The trailer makes it seem focused on scale – the size and scope of the action.
Hiroshi Matsuyama: Mm – not quite. The theme isn't so much about the size of the things you fight, or how many of them there are. It's more about the bizarre, the ridiculous – it's something that's beyond belief. Exceptional. Something you've never seen before. That kind of feeling.
Eurogamer: How have you found the experience of working on a new IP for Capcom?
Hiroshi Matsuyama: We actually have been working together for quite some time – about three years – on this project, and we've really gotten to know each other over that time. It's been a warm environment. Over that long period of time we have had a lot of really fruitful and interesting discussions about a lot of things, particularly action games.
Capcom is obviously famous for its action games, and at first when we brought out initial designs to [Capcom head of R&D Keiji] Inafune, which were what we thought a Capcom action game should be, he said "No no no, you don't get it, that's not it at all."
After talking it out and having loads of fights amongst ourselves at CyberConnect 2 – creative and constructive fights, though – we've come to this new idea of what an action game should be. So it's been very rewarding.
Every day is exciting. We have really energetic arguments with Capcom sometimes, but it's good for the creative process. It's something that we haven't experienced with any other creative partners up to this point.
Eurogamer: Can you give us an outline of the story to set the trailer in context?
Seiji Shimoda: Well, at this point we can't go into details about the story, but as you saw from the trailer there is a very strong Buddhist influence on some of the stylistic elements of the game, and there are also very strong science fiction elements to the story. Drama – continuous drama – is also another key point.
But that's all we can say about the story. We're certain players will enjoy it.
Eurogamer: It's got a highly unusual art style. Is that mostly CyberConnect 2's influence or Capcom's?
Seiji Shimoda: I think one thing that was very important and clear from the beginning of this collaboration was that this game has a worldwide audience. We want everyone to enjoy it.
In terms of the art style, we've obviously made a lot of other games and we feel we have our own unique style. One thing that we were able to gain from working with Capcom was confidence in that style, because Capcom was so interested in it and liked it so much.
We developed the confidence to really go for broke with what we like – and not only in the art style, but in the entire game design and creation process. We learned so many new things and really got the chance to not only create an entirely unique art style, but to create game systems in a new way, from the ground up.
Hiroshi Matsuyama: One thing we pride ourselves on trying to do is making something that nobody has ever seen before. And I think with this Asian-themed sci-fi Buddhism angle, we're probably going to be doing that. We're fairly sure that nobody's seen a game where a ginormous statue from space squishes an enemy with its finger.
Eurogamer: I'd take that bet. What appetite do you think Asura's Wrath satisfies, then? Bored action gamers?
Kazuhiro Tsuchiya: Well, certainly the action-gamer. We're trying to redefine the action game, that is one of our goals, so people who love action games will play this and they will be surprised – that's definitely one of our focuses.
But if we do our jobs well, it's not going to be limited to hardcore gamers who like character-based action games. We're hoping that we really will present a new kind of experience – a visceral one – that's not just for either hardcore or casual gamers, that hopefully a whole lot of people will be able to enjoy. We're trying not to limit it at this point.
Hiroshi Matsuyama: We want to bring something to the table that's very Japanese, that feels Japanese – it's obviously that, and we won't try to hide from that. We want to bring that to everyone, and hope that they'll find it interesting.
I'm a big fan of Lost, Battlestar Galactica, 24, all these Western series, and that feeling where you're at the end of an episode and you're desperate to know what happens next – that's a feeling of continuing drama that we want to put in the game. Hopefully anybody who likes that kind of stuff is going to like Asura's Wrath.
Asura's Wrath is in development for PS3 and Xbox 360. A release date is yet to be announced.