As one of the main minds behind Mega Man and Resident Evil, Keiji Inafune knows a thing or two about launching new franchises. The former Capcom producer, who now leads up independent game incubator Comcept, has been busy for the past little while working on the PS Vita's Soul Sacrifice, out now in Japan and already receiving pretty good reviews. and, as he put it in an interview with Famitsu magazine, it's been remarkably smooth sailing.
"It was developed in about two years," Inafune explained. "Not that I have any right to say this, but completing a brand-new title in two years is one serious undertaking. Something always winds up falling apart in the middle of development, requiring you to put it together again, but that didn't happen this time, in part because the original design plan got it right the first time. The concept art is a good example of that; the stuff we drew up at the start of development can still be used now. Usually the concepts start to drift or change their design and become unusable, but not with this one. The concept hasn't wavered greatly since we began to work on it."
Soul Sacrifice got its start with one of Inafune's first ideas after launching Comcept: a traditional fantasy action game that would support the PS Vita's multiplayer functionality. Teruhiro Shimogawa, the game's director, got wind of this and produced an entire project plan before depositing it on Inafune's desk.
"We wanted to make the sort of 'traditional' game only we could come up with," the Comcept leader explained. "It's 'traditional' in that the hero uses magic, but that's not enough. What do we need? It'd be normal if you used MP to cast magic. What about magic that required something in exchange? We played around with ideas like those for a while as we solidified the concept. Then the developers at Marvelous AQL and producers at SCE added their opinions and the ideas started to expand. I made the decisions on the core aspects, but as for the ideas that expanded out from there, that was a game of catch between all three sides."
As Inafune put it, part of the reason this approach worked is the extensive concept art that his team at Comcept produced at an early stage. "It was important that we were all on the same visual page, and in that way, it made things easier," he said. "At a really early point, we all had a goal in mind for what we wanted to make. That helped speed up development, too. Myself, if I don't like something, you can try explaining it to me all you want and I still won't like it, but if something's good, I 'get' it instantly. I think it's always best if I can give the okay to whatever the production team comes up with, but we were able to keep that going until the end of the project."
Soul Sacrifice is due out April 30 in North America, and Inafune has characteristically high hopes for its sales performance. "I'd like this game to be something where people immediately associate Soul Sacrifice with the PS Vita, like Mario with the NES," he said. "If gamers decide that this is one of the titles that personify the PS Vita, then that'd make me very happy. I do think that right now, it's a game that would make anyone feel glad they purchased a PS Vita."