Hiroyuki Kobayashi is a producer of many talents, having worked on everything from Resident Evil 4 to the original Devil May Cry to, er, Blinx 2. We managed to catch a few minutes with the man in Leipzig as Devil May Cry 4 finally nears release after recent delays, and talk about his approach to taking the series forward.
Eurogamer: Was moving away from Dante for Devil May Cry 4 a big creative decision, or did it come fairly naturally?
Hiroyuki Kobayashi: Frankly it was a big decision, but having said that, on reflection, we have used Dante three times. We wanted to consider new players for Devil May Cry 4, to create an environment that would be easily accessible for them as well as satisfying for those who are already fans of the franchise; in bringing Devil May Cry 4 to a new generation of platforms, we thought it would be a good idea to introduce a new character at the same time.
This new character Nero, who starts the game, is characteristically wild, quite immature, young, and very passionate. At the same time he is kind of a rebel. Dante is not completely abandoned - he becomes playable around the middle of the game.
Eurogamer: With both characters playable, was it difficult to balance the old and the new?
Hiroyuki Kobayashi: It was quite easy to decide on the new elements, such as the new main character, and the new style of action he will bring to the game. We're also going back to old favourites, guns and swords - that was OK too, but when to introduce Dante, the timing of it, that was quite difficult.
Eurogamer: DMC3 was one of the last generation's definitive action games. Who do you feel is your competition within the genre, this time around?
Hiroyuki Kobayashi: Obviously there are many competing games coming out around the same time, but when you think about this type of action, Devil May Cry 4 is quite unique. I can't think of any real competitors.
As far as inspiration is concerned, personally I was looking back to the original Devil May Cry. It was the title to introduce the genre and the franchise, so I wanted to focus upon making something better than that. Much as Resident Evil 4 came up with a complete new type of game within the context of the franchise, if I can do that again within the Devil May Cry franchise, I will be happy.
Eurogamer: Are the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions really identical?
Hiroyuki Kobayashi: The actual contents are exactly the same, but having said that, the feel of the controller may cause a slight difference.
Eurogamer: And what about the PC version? How are you ensuring that it won't have the same problems as Devil May Cry 3 did?
Hiroyuki Kobayashi: Yeah, well, the PC version will be great because the same team is working on both [console and PC versions]. So it shouldn't be a problem.
Eurogamer: Devil May Cry 3 was absolutely infamous for its insane difficulty - how are you approaching that for DMC4? Are you ramping up the punishment, or making it more accessible?
Hiroyuki Kobayashi: [Laughs] It's interesting to know that someone would think we could create a game that would be more difficult than Devil May Cry 3! We had to learn a lesson there, actually, because DMC3 was really difficult. What we found was that people sometimes lost interest within the first two hours because the game just wasn't giving them any chance whatsoever. So DMC4 will be about same difficulty level, but we thought that we would be a little bit kinder to the player, so we're going to give a step-by-step guide on how to use the weapons and skills so that you should naturally progress to a better skill level a little more easily than in DMC3.
Anyone who hadn't played the DMC franchise could start off with number 4. There have actually been people who aren't all that familiar with the series who've played DMC4 and thought that Nero was Dante. Another interesting thing is that if you start off with DMC4, you'll obviously encounter Dante, and if you want to know more about him you could go back and play the previous titles.
Eurogamer: How are you keeping up the series' reputation for incredible cinematics?
Hiroyuki Kobayashi: Well, we're still using [Yuji] Shimomura-san, who is a proper film director anyway, and he is in charge of cinematics. What we do is lengthy process, but quite effective. He actually hires actors to act out the scene first, and then taking that footage, if it's effective, they use motion capture equipment on those actors. From there, the motion capture is worked into the cinematics. So it takes a lot of time, but it works well.
Eurogamer: How close is Devil May Cry 4 to completion, now?
Hiroyuki Kobayashi: Well, time is quite tight, to be honest. We're working frantically hard. But we've gone over the hill now, if you like, and we're finishing up. Hopefully we can deliver it on time.
Devil May Cry 4 will (finally) be out in March 2008 on Xbox 360, PS3 and PC - unless it's delayed again, in which case we shall join in the inevitable worldwide tantrum.