At the recent ChinaJoy conference in Shanghai, our Creative Director and Executive Producer, Xiangyu Luo (who we affectionately refer to as Boss Cat), had the opportunity to sit down for an interview with the folks at IGN Japan! While you can read the full, unedited interview over in the original IGN article (which we highly recommend, it’s a great read), we’ve also translated and paraphrased some of the highlights into English for our non-Japanese audience. Please enjoy!
The Surprising Response To The First Trailer
IGN: The reveal of the first Showa American Story trailer on IGN last year gained a lot more traction with readers than anticipated (with the announcement trailer sitting at 350,000 views on IGN Japan alone). Did the high amount of attention and positive reception have any influence on the development process?
Boss Cat: After the first trailer, we received a lot of positive feedback from the Japanese and Chinese gaming communities online. In a way, all the buzz around SAS was a double-edged sword, because it put a lot of pressure on us to live up to players’ expectations.
Within NEKCOM, it also led to the team having divided opinions on how we should move forward. Some people thought that we should stick to our original vision for the game and try to release the game as quickly as possible. Other people believed that it would be best for us to leverage this success to increase the ambition of the game and to go “all-in” with our financial and human resources, so that we could push the quality of the final product to the highest level.
As a producer, this presents a difficult decision to make about which mentality to adopt.
IGN: Which path did you ultimately decide to take?
Boss Cat: We are committed to delivering the game that we originally intended to create. We will not half-ass the development just to ship it more quickly and we also won’t throw unnecessary amounts of money at the project in order to make drastic changes. We are focusing on finishing the game as we originally conceived it and we haven’t made any major changes to the systems of the game since the announcement. We’re striving to realize the experience that our fans are expecting from us, so please look forward to it.
Cinematic Inspirations Behind The Game
IGN: How do you help people to understand the Japanese culture of the Showa era as well as ‘80s American culture, particularly when there is a difference between your own personal knowledge and the rest of the development staff?
Boss Cat: Rather than just relying solely on my own explanations, sometimes I’ll ask the development team to watch a specific movie or anime that we can use as a production reference. In these cases, I’ll explain what exactly they should be paying attention to. I’ll give them a detailed request like, for example, “Please refer to this section of this movie,” or “Please refer to the facial expressions and style of these characters.”
IGN: Could you share some of the films that you asked the team to watch as reference points? Which parts did you want them to watch and how is that influence reflected in the game?
Boss Cat: Visually, I’ve been very influenced by From Dusk Till Dawn by Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino, which is my favorite movie of all time. I really like that it seems like a normal road movie at the start until a family of vampires appear and things start to get crazy. The movie Assassin (1986) was also a major influence on the expression of the characters. It really captures that retro aesthetic and helps me bring the atmosphere of Showa-era Japan to the American West Coast. I also like movies directed by Takeshi Kitano. They are always humorous on the surface, but then on the inside there is a deeper meaning.
Presentation Of Female Characters
IGN: There has been a recent trend toward an increasing number of games in which female characters play the leading roles, as is the case with this game.
Boss Cat: I have noticed that trend as well. Since most games to date have featured a male protagonist, one of our goals with SAS is to portray the world from the standpoint of a female protagonist. However, the way female characters are portrayed may differ from game to game.
In the past, Eastern and Western studios have taken slightly different approaches in their portrayal of female protagonists, which demonstrates that there are many valid ways to depict strong women in games.
IGN: What kind of female characters in Japanese games would be easily accepted in China?
Boss Cat: The first ones that come to mind are Aerith and Tifa from Final Fantasy VII. Aerith is depicted as a heroine who makes you want to protect her and Tifa has a gentle personality despite her superior fighting skills. They are both iconic characters that are etched deep into the hearts of players. In other RPGs, Nihon Falcom’s Locus series also has many female characters that are easily accepted in China.
IGN: You are a man, but there are times when you need a woman’s opinion to express Chouko in an authentic way. How do you feel about that?
Boss Cat: It is definitely necessary to take women’s opinions into account when crafting a female protagonist. We aim to express “female beauty” as it is, including elements of sexiness. We frequently request opinions from female staff members about whether they feel the game and character designs are appropriate. Women comprise roughly one-third of our development team, and we also have a large number of women on our staff who are involved in community management in each country.
To be honest, I am personally not very good at putting emotion into scenario writing, and even more so when it comes to women’s emotions. So, for me it is crucial to receive feedback from the women on our team to make sure that we are creating something that feels authentic.
More Updates By The End of 2023
IGN: Did you have any problems realizing your vision for the game, or were there elements that you found difficult to incorporate into the game as you had planned? Have you had any concerns during the development process?
Boss Cat: There were some times when I had trouble translating ideas from my head into the game. SAS has a female protagonist and it reflects some of the characteristics from the shoujo manga that I have loved reading since I was a child. Whenever I struggled with expressing female characters, I would read the manga again for inspiration.
We have an external production company helping us with the visuals, but due to their schedule, there is inevitably a waiting period. We don’t waste that waiting time, so we use it to brush up on what has already been done instead.
IGN: Since the trailer was released in January 2022, there has been almost no further announcements. How is the development progress going?
Boss Cat: We’ve been encouraged by the great response we have received, so we are currently in a stage where we are concentrating on development. The overall game framework is ready, but currently it is the art production that is holding our progress back. We have been negotiating with an external art production company and recently we were able to secure more manpower, so we feel that development is progressing smoothly again. We have not yet decided on a specific release date, but we plan to release a lot of new information around the end of 2023.
That brings us to the end of the interview. We hope you enjoyed reading Boss Cat’s responses to these thoughtful questions from IGN Japan across a wide range of topics! If you haven’t done so already, then please be sure to join our community by following us on Twitter, wishlisting the game on Steam, joining our Discord server, and signing up for our newsletter so that you can stay up to date with all the latest information about SAS!