Platinum doesn't do games by half. From Wii skewer-'em-up MadWorld to the handgun stilettos of Bayonetta, Hideki Kamiya and chums always aim to surprise. Vanquish, the studio's upcoming third-person shooter, is their latest attempt.
Eurogamer talked to producer and Platinum co-founder Atsushi Inaba to find out more about the inspiration behind Vanquish's action style, the difficulties of porting to Xbox 360 and the possibility of a Bayonetta sequel. Turns out there's method to the madness after all.
Eurogamer: What kind of reaction have you had to the Vanquish demo?
Atsushi Inaba: We've been gathering feedback not only from Japan but from Western users. Many of the comments tend to be monosyllable or a single word, like "Wow", "Great" and things like that.
Overall the feedback seems really positive. Although they don't tend to elaborate with deep analysis on what was good or bad, our impression is they really enjoy and appreciate the main concept of the game, which was to combine the shooting genre with a speedy action game.
We think the feedback and the result from the downloadable demo was very positive.
Eurogamer: Do you have any messages for those who have played the demo and are still undecided?
Atsushi Inaba: It depends why they're undecided if they should buy. If they still haven't decided, one thing I can say is the demo version was only one small excerpt from the game. Although we tried to put the best moment in the demo, there's a lot more variety and a lot more Vanquishness in the main game.
If the user enjoyed even a little bit of the downloadable demo they should buy it because it gets better and better as you play. We are really confident with the quality of the game we have achieved. It's not every day we get this kind of game, nowadays. I would like to encourage people to get it. It's definitely good value for money.
Eurogamer: Vanquish depicts a nightmarish vision of the future where the US and Russia are fighting over resources. Is the story just a platform for the gameplay, or is there a serious message you'd like to get across?
Atsushi Inaba: Our stance about story in games is that the story is there so people can immerse themselves in the gameplay. So we always prioritise gameplay over story.
In some games they take the approach of preparing a lot of twists in order to keep people motivated and stimulated. But in this game we already have a lot of unfamiliar factors in the story and the background.
For example, everything happens in the near future. The setting is quite unusual. That is something that challenges our imagination already. We have this space station and novel ideas, like the suit that Sam is wearing, and the Russian enemies – they're all robots.
So with all these novel elements we didn't want to stretch people's imagination too far by inserting more fantasy-based story. We wanted to insert a certain level of believability; a certain element of realism, so people will have something they can put their feet on, that will feel familiar and they can relate to.
That's why we chose this realistic story. It's not like we had a strong message or warning we wanted to convey to the world.
Eurogamer: How would you describe Platinum's trademark style? What makes a good game?
Atsushi Inaba: First of all there should always be an element of surprise, an innovative idea in the game that you've never seen before. We always try to challenge ourselves and come up with new ideas.
Also, we would like our games to be something universal and accepted and talked about for a long time. It's exciting to imagine that young people who play our games will talk about them and come to the industry with our games in mind.
That's the sort of continuity we are trying to achieve when we are making games.
Eurogamer: What's been the most challenging aspect of the game's development?
Atsushi Inaba: As I said earlier, the main concept was to make shooting and action coexist in one game. It was really hard to get the balance right between these two elements. That was the core idea that could make or break the game. That was one thing.
Also it was hard to achieve our goals. Initially we had very high expectation in terms of the graphical quality. We always struggle to realise it within the limit of a machine's power.
The initial goal we set out when we started working on this project, it would have needed probably 10 times the machine power of what we have right now.
Eurogamer: Most people consider the PS3 – which I understand was the lead platform for Vanquish – to be a very powerful console that no developer has maximised in terms of visuals. Are you saying you've reached the limit of the consoles?
Atsushi Inaba: The situation in this project was special because before, Platinum had no previous experience with PS3. We had to start from scratch. We had to study the console and try to figure out what we could do with this machine.
At first we had this prototype on PC. That was the design goal of what we would like to achieve. At the same time we started to build up our know-how on PS3 from scratch. As we got better in handling PS3, only then were we able to strategise what features we were going to keep and what we were going to throw away from PC.
That was a pretty lengthy and painful process. It's not like we knew the limit of PS3 from the beginning. Some of it was due to our lack of previous knowledge about PS3.
Eurogamer: I bet the PC prototype looked great.
Atsushi Inaba: If you look at it right now, actually the PS3 version looks much better than the PC prototype. As a game developer we have pretty good knowledge and know-how about tuning the graphics.
Eurogamer: How does the Xbox 360 version compare to the PS3 version?
Atsushi Inaba: For this title there is no difference between PS3 and Xbox, so you can be assured you'll get exactly identical quality.
Eurogamer: Now you've had experience of both consoles, how do they compare?
Atsushi Inaba: Both PS3 and Xbox 360 are great platforms. They use very different methods in terms of processing data. They both have good things. It's really important to know how to approach depending on the console you're working on.
But just speaking of media, since Xbox 360 still uses DVD, for games like Vanquish that have a lot of data in one disc and lots of voice over, it's a bit hard to compress everything in one disc. That is the only complaint I have.
Eurogamer: Was anything cut from the PS3 version so the game would fit on a DVD?
Atsushi Inaba: We thought we might have to do that during the development but in the end we were able to fit everything in the DVD. So there's nothing we had to cut.
Eurogamer: Vanquish is a third-person shooter. What third-person shooters do you admire?
Atsushi Inaba: The director of this game, Mikami, he started this genre with his previous work on the Resident Evil series. Resident Evil 4 was really innovative. I still really enjoy that game.
Eurogamer: Hideki Kamiya said on Twitter that he believes there will be a Bayonetta 2. Have you already begun work on it?
Atsushi Inaba: There is no concrete plan or schedule we can talk about here. It's not like Kamiya said, 'Okay, we're going to make this.' But Bayonetta is a special IP for us, and we loved creating that game. We think it was a really good game. So we would love to make a sequel to it, when the time is right. That's all we can say.
Vanquish is due out on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 on 22nd October 2010. Our review will be published at 5pm UK time tomorrow, 19th October.