Renowned Japanese games firm SNK Playmore has teamed up with UK publisher Rising Star Games to grow its presence in Western markets. Will Freeman speaks to both companies about the challenges ahead and their first release, Samurai Shodown Sen…
What is it about the SNK brand that makes it carry such credibility and weight with consumers?
Masaki Oyama, Games Business Unit, SNK Playmore: The SNK brand owes its success to its permanent search for perfection during game development, and loyal support from its fans for more than 20 years. SNK became principally synonymous with high quality games, particularly in the 2D versus fighting genre, after the release of the revolutionary NeoGeo system in 1990.
Moreover, SNK Playmore has always contributed to the internationalisation of its games, allowing fans from all over the world to play and enjoy SNK’s famous series to the fullest.
Whereas many video games companies have abandoned certain types of games, SNK Playmore holds true to its roots, from King Of Fighters or Metal Slug to Samurai Shodown Sen.
SNK was once a console manufacturer, making the hardcore favourite Neo Geo. Are you hoping to break out of that niche?
Masaki Oyama: Living up to the expectations of SNK and NeoGeo fans across the globe is a true mission for us. So yes, development can be very difficult and we do feel standards will continue to be raised in the future.
However, in this sort of case when great games are made and fan expectations are met, a release can also go extremely well.
What do you think will make Western gamers buy Samurai Shodown Sen?
Yen Hau, Product Marketing Assistant, Rising Star Games: Samurai Shodown Sen is part of a legacy of titles from one of the best beat ‘em up developers in the world.
We are confident that players will be drawn to an established franchise as well as new fans becoming interested in the latest instalment of what is one of the best fighter games on the market.
Masaki Oyama: SNK Playmore is proud to team up with Rising Star to bring this unique title to PAL gamers.
The distinctive late-Edo period backdrop, Japan-esque game art from series artist Senri Kita, a plethora of new and old characters, along with refined gameplay fine-tuned for hardcore and fans of the Samurai Shodown series worldwide, is sure to please hardcore gamers worldwide.
Samurai Shodown isn’t the most obvious SNK title to bring to Western audiences. What motivated you to release this title over here?
Masaki Oyama: Two years ago, in commemoration of Samurai Shodown’s 15th anniversary, SNK decided to produce this 3D title for arcade release. The console version was then released in December 2009 for Japan.
The 2D fighting can be a difficult genre at times, especially in the West. We hope the easily accessible 3D gameplay, unique story, weapons-based gameplay and setting of Samurai Shodown Sen will help Western gamers truly appreciate this special instalment in the series.
Similarly, Japanese firms seem more interested in bringing games to the West that would have traditionally stayed in the East. Why is this?
Yen Hau: The Western market is more receptive to Japanese games than it was a few years ago. Games are being released that publishers would have never considered before – this is a testament to Western gamers. Gamers in the West are open-minded when it comes to what they play and that has really helped the worldwide gaming industry develop, and also given Japanese titles the audience they deserve.
Samurai Shodown has a fantastic and renowned heritage. How do you plan to introduce UK customers to Samurai Shodown Sen’s status?
Yen Hau: The Samurai Shodown franchise has always had its core fanbase, ever since it first appeared on the NeoGeo many years ago. Samurai Shodown Sen is one of the best-looking and most challenging in the series. It also features many fighters who have appeared in previous iterations, so it’s like coming back to see an old friend after a few years. The online challenge is also very close to a real arcade experience and we think Xbox Live is the best medium to push this through.
What makes Samurai Shodown Sen a great fighting game?
Masaki Oyama: Samurai Shodown Sen is different from most fighting games in the sense that all characters in the game have their own unique weapons. Depending on the character or type of weapon, the player’s attack range, speed and power will all vary considerably. We are proud of the refined gameplay in this instalment and are confident it will be a very fun and refreshing experience.
The beat ‘em up genre is enjoying something of a renaissance at the moment. Why do you think that is?
Yen Hau: The genre has had a few years out of the public eye. The market is currently flooded with first person shooters and a lack of any high profile fighters. Sometimes gamers just want to have fun and fight each other – virtually, of course.