Valhalla Games Studios’ Tomonobu Itagaki was interviewed by Famitsu recently regarding Devil’s Third. Itagaki was kind enough to provide a full English translation of the interview on his Facebook page, filled with details on the game’s troubled development and Nintendo’s involvement in the project. Here’s one of the juiciest quotes.
“Well… If we had given up, then we wouldn’t be able to show our face to all the people that had supported us up to that point. There wouldn’t be any opportunity for us to work in this industry anymore. That’s just how it is. We developed Ninja Gaiden in 4 years, and that was with us developing multiple lines at the same time, so it’s not a particularly long time. Our desire was to complete the game by any means while establishing our company structure, developing the game itself, and keeping the company going all at the same time.
“We were finally able to make it through thanks to Nintendo who really made it all possible along with everyone in the industry, and also thanks to the expectations from all the fans and gamers that were waiting. With all that support, I couldn’t be someone who would drop it all and walk away. That’s one part. And on top of all that, we had already made the decision to make the game. We brought in staff to execute that decision. Those staff, their families… I’m repeating myself, but all of our fans… I couldn’t just betray them.
“‘So you did it just as some personal responsibility?’ No, it’s not like that either. You know, sometimes if I’m speaking with someone, they’ll tell me that I’ve changed. Establishing my own company, I’m pretty much free to do what I want, and I’m also solely responsible for what I do. It can be a pain sometimes, but at the same time it gets you in the mood to just get it done. So as I said before, for all the support we’ve received in every form imaginable, and for letting me introduce Devil’s Third like this here today, I’m incredible grateful. Like I said in the beginning, it’s a culmination of everything so far—not just mine, but of everyone that works here. Please try it for yourself. I think it’s going to be a breakthrough for the industry. I believe it’s going to take shooters to the next level.” — Tomonobu Itagaki
Itagaki has shown confidence in his product, despite scathing reviews. Even if the game isn’t well-made, I have to credit the guy for giving the project his all and sticking with fans and staff to the very end. It’s honorable.
Earlier, Itagaki elaborated on how he set out to develop Devil’s Third.
“I’ve made an A-class action game already with Ninja Gaiden, and DEAD OR ALIVE ranks up there with Tekken and Virtual Fighter; so when I became an independent developer, I started thinking about what kind of game I wanted to make. I thought it’d be pretty boring to make another fighting game or another hack-and-slash—life is short, you know? [laughs] I decided I wanted to challenge myself in another genre. I had a really strong desire to make a completely new type of game. Sort of… a culmination of all my games up until now.
“That’s the idea I had, that’s what I wanted to make. I wanted to take everything I had learned making action games, everything I had learned making fighting games, and merge them into a completely new type of shooter.
“…you can play it as either an action game, or as a shooter. In the end you’ll probably end up playing it as both. But for now, players can play it in whatever style they want. It’s wide open like that. I’d love for Ninja Gaiden and DEAD OR ALIVE fans to play it. I say action, but it’s actually a shooter with strong action elements.”
Finally, here’s a quote regarding how the game ended up on the Wii U and Nintendo’s relationship with Valhalla.
“As to how Devil’s Third ended up being released on the Wii U: I visited the Nintendo offices, and explained to them that I had a game… THQ, who we originally intended to publish the game with, went through what it did. After that, we visited the Nintendo offices and explained, ‘This is the game that we have… Well, this is only what we have.’ [laughs] We showed them our documentation and visuals, the gameplay—we showed them everything we had at that point, and gave a proposal. Their people in charge—beginning with President Iwata—said, ‘Let’s do it.’ This is just my assumption, but I think the reason why he said, ‘Let’s do it,’ is because a varied lineup of titles is necessary for any hardware. I like to think the staff at Nintendo—beginning with President Iwata himself—felt the possibilities in our game to be a new type of shooter, a new type of action, a new type of game.
“We started the title with THQ, and Nintendo came in with development already underway; so it wasn’t really possible to make any sweeping, fundamental changes. With that said though, Valhalla did have a lot of pretty heated back-and-forths with Nintendo like, ‘We think we should go with this,’ or, ‘Don’t you think it’d be better like this?’ [laughs]
“I’m getting a little ahead of myself, but Mario Club was amazing. [laughs] They are really intense.
“We got a lot of feedback. Everyone was really positive and enthusiastic. One thing we ran into though is that there really haven’t been any other titles from this type of genre—not specifically the Wii U, but titles like this coming from Nintendo itself. There aren’t any previous examples, so the standards weren’t really defined. While our staff was developing Devil’s Third, we were setting targets trying to push the Nintendo hardware as far as possible—overcoming obstacles one by one… or sometimes going around them. [laughs] Then we’d get into discussions with Nintendo like, ‘This is how far we’ve come, let’s keep going,’ to which they would respond, ‘Well, we know you want to…’ Then we’d say back, ‘Then let’s do it!’ and in the end, Nintendo finally told us, ‘Alright then, do it!’ (laugh) We’re mercenaries hired to win the battle. Mercenaries working together to win.
“More than that—and I’m not being patronizing—Nintendo is trying to change itself on a large scale. The way I see it is that we were entrusted to help with one small part of that change. For example, with things like online multiplayer, Nintendo is trying to break out of the paradigm they’ve held for so long by exploring all kinds of new angles; and as our part in that plan, we were to make a completely new type of game—something that Nintendo had never made, that wasn’t in their portfolio. In the beginning, they were telling me, ‘This isn’t very Itagaki-esque. We want it more Itagaki-esque.’ That’s how much they were saying, ‘Do it!”
While I’m still unsure if I’ll give Devil’s Third a whirl, I really do admire Itagaki for his passion on this project. Despite that reference to himself in the third-person, he seems to be a man who truly cares about the medium and the work he contributes to it.
You can read the whole interview’s translation on Facebook.