Why Metal Gear Rising needed to be developed in Japan

By Garnett Lee, Dec 13, 2011 5:30pm PST

After months of silence, Kojima Productions and Platinum Games took the stage at the Spike TV Video Game Awards to reveal they were now working together to bring a newly renamed Metal Gear Rising: Revengance to market. At a press conference held in Los Angeles, Metal Gear Solid creator Hideo Kojima and Platinum Games executive director Atsushi Inaba sat down with members of the games media to answer questions about the new direction for the game.

Originally entitled Metal Gear Solid Rising, Kojima had handed off the project to a team of younger staff while he continued development of PSP's Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker. In the summer of 2010, though, Kojima said he realized the game was not coming along following an internal presentation. "By the end of last year I realized that this way we would never get a good game," said Kojima. "So I decided to cancel the project."

Kojima noted that there were a lot of things "like motion capture, a lot of good story, the view of the world within the game" that he didn't want to throw away. "I wanted to use that somehow," the legendary creator said. "I wanted Rising to be born again. So that's when I decided to contact Platinum Games."

Turning to a western developer was the first thought for Rising's fate, according to Kojima, but he foresaw creative differences. "I thought, if I take this project to them [a North American team] in one year I will come back and it won't be a katana; it will probably be a gun with a chainsaw or something." Because the katana played such a central role to the concept of Metal Gear Solid Rising, Kojima concluded that it had to be a Japanese developer at the helm, and settled on a team very quickly. "When you think of action in Japanese games, they [Platinum Games] are by far the best. So I had no doubts in my mind when I approached them."

The relationship between Kojima and Platinum Games stretches back several years. Kojima related how he has wanted to work with Inaba and game director Hideki Kamiya for years, even trying to recruit the at times. Kojima related how much he liked their prior work, such as Okami, which he said made him so jealous of how good it was that he had to stop playing it. Since then he has been thinking that the two could make games that challenge the world by working together.

Initially, Kojima wanted Kamiya to direct Metal Gear Rising: Revengence, but Inaba warned him off that path. "If you work with Kamiya, you will be delayed, very delayed," Kojima said, quoting a conversation he had with Inaba. He even considered other potential collaborations until Kamiya told him the only Konami game he cared to work on was an old Famicom game called Getsu Fuma Den.

Inaba had another reason he thought this the best outcome. "I could clearly see that at some point if they worked together, Mr. Kojima and Kamiya were going to have a huge fight and I had to step in as the producer. I didn't want to be a part of that. I would love to see them fight, but not if I have to be involved."

Though not ready to reveal who is directing the game at Platinum, Kojima and Inaba expressed confidence in the new direction for the game. In part, that seems to stem from the new clarity in what the game will be. "The goal was always making Raiden the main character, making something that you could cut everything, anything, some speedy action, in that regard the Rising that Platinum Games is making looks great," said Kojima. "I think even the old staff on the old project are impressed because it really looks like what we wanted to make back then."

Inaba said the team approaches this game with tremendous love and respect for Metal Gear. Without that, they never would have been able to succeed with the project, he said. "I told everyone," Inaba said, "If you don't love Metal Gear Solid already, if you don't like it, if you're just like 'it's my job and I have to make it,' I probably wouldn't have been able to take this game."

Inaba promises that Platinum has no intention to break or change the Metal Gear universe. The desire is to bring a new perspective to it, through a spinoff title. Inaba describes their approach as "if it's fun, anything goes," which guides their decision making process. In Rising, one of the first such decisions they made was to set aside stealth. It was a move Kojima had already seen the need for but his young staff had been unwilling to make. "I told my staff," said Kojima, "you don't need to have the stealth element in there, but the staff were like no, wait a little bit, let's make it half stealth, half action. That never worked out."

Another promise is that Platinum does not intend to copy one of its existing games, such as the action title Bayonetta. Inaba described their job as taking the Rising concept and making it something fun. If Metal Gear Rising achieves that goal, it will be through the combined work of both partners. Kojima Productions still guides the story, now being reset to fall after the events of Metal Gear Solid 4 rather than the game's original plan to take place before, and Platinum is tasked with creating the ninja action. But it just might work, and, if it does, well, as Kojima said, "The Japanese team are coming into the gaming world with that katana to challenge the guns."

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