Sitting down with new Team Ninja lead and Dead or Alive 5 producer, Yosuke Hayashi, it appears there's actually much more to the title than the series' signature high-kicking hotties. While the busy head honcho—Hayahi's also serving as producer on Ninja Gaiden 3—remained tight-lipped on a number of details, he offered enough teasing insight to get our thumbs twitching in anticipation of DoA5's late 2012 release.
Based on itbeing the first console title in the series since 2005—and the first without creator Tomonobu Itagaki's involvement—there has been quite a bit of curiosity surrounding Dead or Alive 5. What can players expect from this latest entry?
Yosuke Hayashi: We're revamping and redefining the fighting game; not just DoA5, but also the whole genre. We're calling it “fighting entertainment.” It follows our style, but puts everything on a much grander scale...both the way the stages behave and how the characters are more fleshed out. Additionally, dynamic backdrops, like movie climax scenes, will contribute to this whole “fighting entertainment” aspect.
This sounds like a pretty dramatic departure for the series. What was the impetus for the fresh approach?
YH: In the fighting game genre you see a lot of games that look and feel very similar. The biggest change that's occurred within the genre this generation is obviously the reinforcement to play online. But other than online play, the formula in the core systems has pretty much remained the same for several years. We're trying to make a fighting game that's befitting to this generation. So for us, with DoA5, what we had to do is go beyond that and redefine and reinvent the fighting game formula. We've decided to do this by taking the base and core of what makes a fighting game and just add on to that...add new expressions, new visuals, and everything to compose an experience that hasn’t been done and goes beyond the simple fighting game formula. It's a concept that manifests itself throughout the whole game...it is in the visuals as well the gameplay.
Is this approach being adopted to appeal to a broader audience than the genre generally attracts?
YH: Yes, that's true...that's one thing. Some fighting games are very hardcore, which we have in here. We're not ignoring our hardcore audience; they will still get the same experience they've gotten in the past. We have the deep fighting game systems, but we also wanted to make it so the more casual crowd could also have fun with the game.
You mention this “fighting entertainment” manifests itself in both the gameplay and presentation. Can you offer some examples?
YH: In terms of visuals, the characters now get dirty and sweaty; the harder they fight, the more they sweat. This is one of the main things we're exploring. It's a small, but essential touch we've added. The environments are also highly interactive.
We've seen interactive environments in the series before. Is DoA5 taking this concept further?
YH: They've been interactive, but again, it'll be on a much grander scale. We've always been known for this, but we're going to take it to a whole new level. In standard fighting games, the environment is just there for the backdrop for the sake of just being there...t doesn't do much. But here we try to hint at the future of fighting games and how they kind of crossover with action games, providing more dynamic environments.
And what’s an example of “fighting entertainment” influencing the actual gameplay?
YH: We have a move called the “power blow.” This is something new we've put in the game...the action goes into slow motion and kind of allows you to aim where you want to hit your opponent into the stage.
Fighting games typically don't focus on narrative. Will DoA5 's fresh approach also translate into a deeper story mode?
YH: Yes, it will. It will be more like one whole intertwining experience rather than just little cut scenes.
Can you talk a bit about what you have planned for online multiplayer modes?
YH: We'll obviously have multiplayer as we've had in the past. We're planning a huge online mode, but we're not talking about it just yet. We're also still experimenting to see what will fit best. We'll also have lots of the favorite characters from the franchise, but I will put some new ones in there as well.
Speaking of characters, it's become trendy to feature crossover characters from other fighting games and, in the case of SoulCalibur, even include stars from other non-fighting games? What do you think of this practice? Is it something you're considering for DoA5?
YH: It's something we’re definitely open to thinking about for DoA5. But if you look at SoulCalibur, for them, right now, it’s like their guest characters are kind of becoming the main characters for the game. We don’t really want that. We'd want something that can benefit the other games' characters as well as our characters.
Based on our recent demo, we can't help but notice DoA5's female characters seem to be wearing more clothes than usual; their proportions also seem more realistic than their past iterations. Is this specific to this demo or a new direction for the game as a whole?
YH: This was a trend in the past, the deformed anime-like characters that we’ve kind of taken with us ever since. But for this game, we just wanted to change that. Up until now, we had the female characters with the crazy proportions like a magazine that a middle school or high school kid would want, almost like a pin-up. We don’t really want that for DoA5. We want our core audience to look beyond that. We want to show women that can just really take a man’s breath away. We just look at a woman and she’s stunning as a woman; she doesn’t have to have big proportions to get our attention. That’s just a more mature approach we're taking.
Was there a concern that the series unrealistic portrayal of women was overshadowing the actual games? Also, by changing their looks, do you risk alienating your core audience?
YH: I think it was more than that. We just really wanted to have a much better image of women, and have women that can really just look stunning as women. It was more about that than the concern of it becoming synonymous with the series. Also, we want our audience to change as well; we think they've grown up, too.
Ninja Gaiden and Dead or Alive entries have recently made impressive showings on the PlayStation Vita and Nintendo 3DS, respectively. DoA5 seems like an especially good fit for the console-quality Vita—any plans to port it to Sony's new portable?
YH: Well, first of all, we just want to focus right now on the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions of DoA5. That’s all we’ll say from here. We’ll see how our fans and players take that into account. We’ll think of that in the next step I suppose, but we’re not up to the stage of deciding anything like that.
Okay, great, and when can we expect to see more of DoA5?
YH: Well, we’ll have the demo that you just saw included with Ninja Gaiden 3 pre-orders. It will also be in the collector’s edition. Before that, at the end of March, we’ll also have some new announcements.