The Senran Kagura franchise is expanding further in the West this year with the release of both a 3DS sequel, Senran Kagura 2: Deep Crimson, and a PS4/Vita action title, Senran Kagura Estival Versus. Technology Tell’s Jenni Lada and Graham Russell spoke to producer Kenichiro Takaki, with the translation assistance of XSEED’s Jimmy Soga, about the series, its future and the man behind it.
Technology Tell: What are your thoughts on Senran Kagura‘s performance overseas?
Kenichiro Takaki: To be honest, I’m very surprised, because when we created Senran Kagura 1, it was a low-budget title and I was just assigned to make some kind of game, so I wanted to make a game that I can truly enjoy and play and have fun. It was sort of aimed toward a very small community of niche gamers. While creating it, I really didn’t have U.S. or Europe in mind… I didn’t think it would be acceptable. But now that the series has gone on and there’s more overseas audience, and a large fanbase not only in Japan but just worldwide, I’m able to come to E3 again and show two of my new titles so I’m just very overwhelmed and surprised.
TT: Is there a region you find is more accepting of the game? Except for Japan, of course.
Takaki: I can’t really say if the U.S. or Europe is more, because a lot of people do write in. One of the things I was surprised by was, when Shinovi Versus came out, on my personal Twitter feed, there were a lot of people who held the game with a flag of what country they were from. The list became longer and longer, and I was really overwhelmed. I was very happy, and I found out that there were so many fans worldwide.
TT: Nintendo always has a family-friendly kind of appearance. Were there difficulties bringing Senran Kagura to the 3DS?
Takaki: To tell you the truth, there were mixed opinions. Like you said, it’s family-friendly. When they saw the concept, there were some voices who said that no, you shouldn’t be on our platform, but vice versa, there were some who said that there were no titles like this and you should definitely do it.
Of course, when you look at the game, it seems like it’s like the sexy and the sexual part only, so it seems like a fanservice game. When we explained that it’s not only that, there’s a solid action game to it and it really has a story and background to all the characters… so as a game, it’s actually a really solid game. We kind of had to explain that to them, but after they understood it, everything was great.
TT: There are some players who would otherwise be interested in the combo-based brawling gameplay, but they’re dissuaded by the fanservice and the aesthetics. Have you considered any ways to accommodate them during development? Do you have any thoughts on these sorts of people?
Takaki: Uh… not really.
I wanted to make a solid game but something I really enjoyed playing. As long as the game mechanics are solid, when people play it, they’ll understand it. It’s really hard to please those people and have the essence of what this game is.
TT: How do you feel about games that are trying to replicate the formula? For example, Hyperdimension Neptunia U.
Takaki: Do you know Fighting Vipers? Putting that as an example, it’s not a new concept. It’s always been there, like in Art of Fighting. It’s not my idea or something I created that everyone’s copying, but there had been a bit of a dry spell when nobody was creating it, so it sort of revitalized it. Because of that, that other companies are trying to create similar types of games does make me happy.
TT: Are there any gameplay mechanics that you’ve always wanted to experiment with that you’ve been able to put into Senran Kagura?
Takaki: One of the things I’d always wanted to make was a multiplayer game. But to make a multiplayer game, I need players to play it to actually make that work. In Estival Versus, I was able to implement that, because Senran Kagura has a certain amount of user base now.
TT: What sorts of ideas and mechanics would you like to see in future Senran Kagura games that you haven’t been able to implement so far?
Takaki: So right now, in Senran Kagura, there’s clothes tear, so when you sustain a certain amount of damage, it just sort of bursts off. I want to make it so just a little bit comes off, or just half, because it’s that subtle difference that I want to come back to.
TT: Is that why you’re trying to move to the PlayStation 4, because you feel it can help accomplish these goals?
Takaki: Simply put, yeah, just the machine spec is so much more than what I used to do. Anything that I couldn’t do on a handheld due to the restriction of the specs, just to get to see the characters I created with different dynamics and viewpoints. Anything that would make all the characters stand out more is something I want to improve on.
TT: So… this is a different sort of question. The persona that you show is a very bombastic, focused, driven, single-minded sort of persona. Is that you? Or is that sort of this character that you like to portray for the mythos?
Takaki: [Laughs.] I try not to lie about who I am. I am pretty single-minded, and I just love games. I’m creating something that I enjoy, and I’m hoping that others will enjoy it or get something out of it.
Past titles, like Half-Minute Hero, have had my characteristics in a different way, too. It’s very comical, but has a different tone of what I’m trying to say. For those who haven’t played it, I would love for them to pick that up and see a different characteristic that I have. That was all me, too.
TT: Sakura Note was a game I always wanted to play. Were you upset that it never made it to other countries?
Takaki: With that title, I was really able to work with a lot of my senior personnel that I look up to. I feel like that was a huge learning experience, and I feel humbled that you’d mention that title to me. In that sense, it’s dear to me, and I am sad that it didn’t make it to the U.S.
TT: I know you’re working on IA/VT Colorful. Is that something that you think would find an audience outside of Japan?
Takaki: I think there’s a fan base!
Thanks to both Takaki and Soga for sitting down with us for this interview. Takaki’s latest titles, Senran Kagura 2: Deep Crimson and Senran Kagura Estival Versus, will release in North America through XSEED in Summer 2015 and Winter 2015, respectively.