Interview with CyberConnect2’s Hiroshi Matsuyama

Namco Bandai may be the masters of bringing Japanese video games based on anime to the west. So far in this console generation they’ve published games based on DragonBall Z, Mobile Suit Gundam, One Piece and arguably most important, Naruto. CyberConnect2, the developer behind the Naruto video games, are planning to bring their newest game to Europe in March 2013 in two exclusive special editions, which we were able to take a look at recently.

At the MCM Expo in London last week I was lucky enough to be able to sit down with Hiroshi Matsuyama, the President and CEO of the company, and have a short chat about the upcoming Naruto game, Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3. We discussed how much of the existing Naruto storylines the game would cover, the level of support they had from Masashi Kishimoto, how closely the game will follow to the source material and why long time fans of the series should be excited. Why not sit back, put on your ninja headband, grab some ramen and join us for a chat about the newest game featuring the soon to be Hokage.

Q: How far along the Naruto storyline does the game go? The fourth ninja war, which we saw in the trailer, is still going on in the manga and the anime. At what point did you have to say “enough is enough”?

Matsuyama: We’re trying to cover up until the latest episodes of the anime. Because the war is not done yet we can’t really reveal how much of the story we can cover up to right now.

Q: How closely does the game’s story follow that of the anime and the manga?

Matsuyama: We’re creating the game to be extremely faithful to the original source material, so yes, you can expect it to remain very faithful.

Q: In previous demo’s you’ve shown off large scale boss battles with big cinematic effects. Are all of those type of moments based on the anime or have you been able to create any of your own unique cinematic sequences?

Matsuyama: The game is created very faithfully to the series so it will follow the series fairly closely, however, because it’s a game it does follow the events a little differently so some things may feel different in the game. As well as the main storyline we do have the opportunity to branch off into sub stories and so this game offers a very large volume of story, in fact the largest, in any of the Naruto games.

Q: For those side stories, how closely did you work with Masashi Kishimoto and the people working on the anime as to what you could and couldn’t include?

Matsuyama: One hundred percent actually, we worked very, very closely with Studio Pierro who are the animation studio. We also worked closely with the original Mangaka Kishimoto Sensei and we worked closely with the licensor. One hundred percent they’re with us and the side stories are all authorised to be part of the official universe.

Q: How difficult is it for you to come up with new ideas after this many new Naruto games?

Matsuyama: We haven’t revealed everything that’s new yet but we did make a lot of new upgrades to the battle system. Some of these new features were based on feedback we received from the previous games, so we wanted to make improvements in the areas that players felt were a little lacking and add some new elements here and there.

Q: Is there anything you can tell us about that people who’ve played lots of the previous Naruto games should particularly be looking forward to?

Matsuyama: Apart from of course the story and the new battle system we mentioned earlier, we have a new online system. Unfortunately I can’t reveal the details of it right now but it is designed to allow players to be able to continue playing the game even after they complete the story mode.

Q: With the speed the games are released are you worried you’ll have to come up with your own story arc in the future?

Matsuyama: (Laughs) Well we’re not really thinking about anything of the sort right now, we’re just focusing on getting Storm 3 ready, so … look forward to Storm 3 (laughs). We’ll be talking about future Naruto game plans afterwards.

Q: Did your experiences with Asura’s Wrath help you in terms of designing the boss battles in Storm 3?

Matsuyama: Well, yes, all experiences our development studio creates do effect each other. It’s not just Asura’s Wrath but also games like (dot)hack do effect the games we make and they all influence each other.

And there you have it. What do you think? Are the changes to the game going to be enough to get you to come back to the series? Is there anything that would convince you to pick up a Naruto video game for the first time? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

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