Dead or Alive 5 developer Team Ninja believes its concept of ‘Fighting Entertainment’ will further the genre as a whole. VG247’s Dave Cook speaks with director Yosuke Hayashi to find out why.
“We got the team back, got some new members too, and came up with a theme for Dead or Alive 5 which was ‘Fighting Entertainment’. We felt that concept would propel the series forward a little bit, and redefine the fighting game genre in general.”
Imagine if a Call of Duty game came out next year that didn’t feature a single gun, or picture a Minecraft sequel without straight edges. It wouldn’t happen, just like a Dead or Alive game without over-sexualised females wouldn’t happen. The traits have now become too ingrained.
Dead or Alive’s heated depiction of women is a topic for another article, but for good or ill, the flamboyancy and over-the-top nature of its cast fits perfectly within Team Ninja’s concept of ‘Fighting Entertainment’. Also tigers. Lots of tigers.
VG247 caught up with director Yosuke Hayashi recently to discuss everything beneath the tabloid issues, such Dead or Alive 5’s origins, combat refinement and its much-celebrated collaboration with Sega’s Virtua Fighter franchise.
VG247: Dead or Alive 4 launched in 2008. Why has it taken Team Ninja so long to return to the franchise?
Yosuke Hayashi: After releasing Dead or Alive 4, we really didn’t know what we wanted to do with the series, and in which direction to take it moving forward. After that time the Dead or Alive team kind of split up and started working on different projects, so we sort of left the series out in the open basically.
Then about three years ago we actually got an idea for the concept of Dead or Alive 5 and ways we could take it forward. Not only that but the whole time the series was away our team were really eager to make a new console version.
So we got the team back, got some new members too, and came up with a theme for Dead or Alive 5 which was ‘Fighting Entertainment’. We felt that concept would propel the series forward a little bit, and redefine the fighting game genre in general.
Fighting Entertainment is a good tag line for Dead or Alive 5 because it seems like Team Ninja has really ramped up its stage interactions, ring outs and other high flying stunts.
Yeah, and I think instead of having things flying around the stage and interfering with each round, we’ve made it controllable. The way dynamic stage interactions work is that they’re actually a result of someone pulling off a move.
So its not like something’s going to just fly by and hit you, because then one player may complain and say, ‘Oh, it wasn’t you who hit me, that’s not fair.’ For example in the circus stage, if you manage to hit someone into a cannon, then that’s OK because the person who did that actually planned that strategy.
We made those interactions part of the fight, almost like a tool to let players utilise strategies. It was important that they didn’t create unfairness during fights.
Balancing is another area that must have needed a lot of work to make Dead or Alive 5 run as smoothly and as fairly as possible. How challenging has it been to strike a solid balance this time around?
In terms of balancing the most difficult thing for us was balancing the Virtua Fighter characters. Obviously, characters coming from a different game also come from a different fighting system, and so putting them in the game required a lot of work actually.
In the Virtua Fighter system, the recovery period after you get hit is much shorter than in Dead or Alive 5, so I think we had to work around with the frames to make sure the cameo characters fit within our engine.
We had to really adjust them but in the end we’ve preserved the originality of those Virtua Fighter characters, and I think we got very, very close to the way they actually play in Virtua Fighter.
Sega’s team spent a lot of time with us actually and discussed the game’s development, about how we should adjust and balance the game. We also consulted a pro Virtua Fighter player during the process, and got a lot of community input as well.
Can you shed some more light on how the collaboration between both franchises came about?
Actually not a lot of people may know this but the first Dead or Alive game that came out in arcades was actually made with the Virtua Fighter arcade engine. So that’s how the first ever Dead or Alive project came about.
We didn’t aim to be where Virtua Fighter was, but because we used its engine as our base, we obviously had some kind of connection with Sega. So when we decided to make Dead or Alive 5 we went to see them and to say, ‘Hey, we’re making this game’, and through conversation we asked if Sega could join us in this celebration of our comeback.
Sega then said OK, and thanks to our connections in the past they thought it’d be fun, so why not do it? So we got the characters and Sega was very cooperatively actually, in letting us adjust them for our game. We were in very close contact with their development team.
We got their guidance and feedback, we got them to check for everything we were doing with the characters. Because of that kind of close communication, we managed to pull off a fairly close system to the original Virtua Fighter characters.
Are there other dream cameo characters you’d like to see brought into your game?
Dream characters from Virtua Fighter…well that’d have to be Akira, as he’s like the essential character. But speaking of Sega characters, I’d say the main character from Shenmue.
When considering a cameo for a fighting game, you have to look at someone who can actually fight. After the release of Dead or Alive 5 we’d like to explore cameos further, but at the moment…it’s a secret.
You had a franchise cross-over in Dead or Alive: Dimensions, which was the Metroid stage. Do you think you’d ever revisit the series on 3DS?
As I mentioned earlier, the Dead or Alive team broke up after the fourth game, but we kind of brought them back to make Dimensions under the concept that it would give us more experience in what it is to make a fighting game.
We went back, tried a few new things and looked at new directions for the series. It was almost like a trial period to get us back into the know-how basically. So the timing of 3DS gave us room to explore and compile the whole Dead or Alive universe in one tight package.
If you look at Dead or Alive 5, a game like this couldn’t be done on 3DS. You couldn’t port it. It would probably have to be a much more washed out experience because you couldn’t port such a big engine across.
With 3DS, it has its own unique qualities and attractions, so another 3DS version would have to be have a different concept built from scratch.
You’ve been quite open in regards to Dead or Alive 5’s development – such as revealing test footage to show frames, big combos and other gameplay traits. Why was it important to give people this insight?
We wanted to share a lot of stuff with our fans and community early on. The reason for showing so much was that we wanted to listen to fan feedback to help us make the game better.
Leading up to each development milestone we threw more reveals out there to get feedback and – speaking of the test footage – we were really surprised that so many people watched it online. It was great that we could open up to the community in that way.
If you look at many fighting games, they chuck out an arcade version, do location tests with it and do a lot of research before they launch the game on consoles. We can’t do that as we’re going straight on to consoles.
Speaking of formats, are you tempted to take this game over to Wii U?
With the new technology and everything – as game developers it’s our job to make new content that is fresh and exciting, rather than re-hashing the same old stuff. At the concept stage for Dead or Alive 5 we only had PS3 and Xbox.
But thinking about Wii U, the technology is interesting but we’d have to sit down and play around with it first.
Finally, do you have any plans to return to the Metroid franchise?
Unfortunately Metroid is kind of out of our league as it’s Nintendo’s game, but we’re still in close touch with co-creator Sakamoto-san, so we want to do something with him moving forward definitely. It really depends on what he wants to do with the game first.
Dead or Alive 5 is out on Xbox 360 and PS3 across Europe September 28.