It was March of 2000. As my great friend and editor Ben Rinaldi and I sat across the table from Yu Suzuki during the Game Developer's Conference in San Jose, we couldn't help but become enamored. Here was a man who literally helped change the course of video game development with titles like Hang-On, Space Harrier, Virtua Fighter -- and now, Shenmue! Through his translator and publicist, Tomoaki Inoue, Suzuki-san very pleasantly answered questions and offered his perspective on gaming in general...
COMING TO AMERICA
GameWEEK: You are directly overseeing the localization of Shenmue, is that correct?
Yu Suzuki: Yes, that is correct.
GW: Are there American voice actors involved?
YS: Yes. There are subtitles, but there are also English voice-overs for all of the 350 characters. We auditioned and came up with 200 voice actors for these roles.
A cut scene in Shenmue
Shenmue: A world so rich and detailed,
even the soda machines are operational
GW: What about all of the signs and nameplates? Will they be changed to read in English?
YS: In the American version, when you view a nameplate, it zooms in close and reads in Japanese, but there is also a subtitle below in English. The street maps are in Japanese and English.
Notes written by Yu Suzuki during the interview
GETTING DOWN TO BUSINESS
GW: What is it like to work for the console market, versus the arcade market?
YS: For Shenmue -- for console -- the main difference was the size of the team. There are other differences though. To do arcade titles we have to look at a lot of things like motion control and cabinet design, for example.
GW: Arcade or console... do you have a preference?
YS: Designing for both console and arcade is a lot of fun. When I made F355 Challenge for the arcade, I was able to go to the circuit to gather data. I went to Maranello to meet with the Ferrari people. Not only that, but there was a great restaurant across the street from Ferrari headquarters! (laughs)
GW: When might we see F355 Challenge on Dreamcast?
YS: (Sega publicist quickly jumps in to discourage a response) I cannot say that right now.
NOTE: Not long after this interview I was able to pry the truth regarding F355 Challenge out of an industry friend... Acclaim (or Ack-lame as I used to refer to them) had contracted to publish the game. I can't recall why this was the case, maybe low sales expectations on Sega's part?
F355 Challenge was a beautiful Dreamcast game
and -- with the exception of not being rendered on
three screens -- faithful to the arcade version in many ways
GW: Outrun was a popular game in America. Might we see a sequel sometime?
YS: (glances at Sega publicist) Uh, next question? (laughs)
GW: How many projects do you oversee at any one time?
YS: No more than two at once so I can stay directly involved.
GW: Are there any differences in the work environment since CSK Corporation took AM2 under its wing?
YS: Not many. I am currently trying to come up with a new company name.
GW: What are your feelings about the decline of the arcade market?
YS: The small, dirty places in Japan will disappear soon. The big, clean locations will survive. This will actually benefit Sega. (referring to places like GameWorks in the U.S.) Sega is also planning to connect locations with fiber optic lines to offer network play. I'm not sure when that's going to happen, but... (Sega publicist jumps in again) Uh, I did read in the paper recently that our president said he has a goal in mind...
GW: Would that goal be sometime this year?
YS: Not too far away.
GW: Sega's arcade divisions -- AM2, for example -- have always been known for innovation. Suzuki-san, you've contributed so many unique gameplay concepts and many times others imitate those concepts. You do Afterburner, Namco does Ace Combat. You do Virtua Fighter, Namco does...
YS: I am glad you brought that up. After I completed the first Virtua Fighter for arcades, one of my leading members left to become a Namco employee. He also took a few programmers with him.
YS: Yes, Tekken.
Tomorrow: Part 3, the final installment of my interview with Yu Suzuki