Interview: Vanillaware's Jouji Kamitani on Muramasa

Jouji "George" Kamitani is the person most responsible for Vanillaware's signature look. Not only is he the company's president and director of its games, he's also in charge of the art. We were able to pull him away briefly from his busy day of signing Muramasa posters at Ignition's E3 booth to speak about action games on the Wii, selling a very Japanese game in America, and why we won't see the quirky DS title Kumatanchi in North America anytime soon. As a bonus, we were treated to an enthusiastic live demonstration of Kamitani's dream Wii minigame.

Have you been watching reactions to Muramasa at E3?

Jouji Kamitani, president, Vanillaware: (in English) Yes. Happy!

It's very different from previous Vanillaware games -- so much more action-oriented.

JK: With Odin Sphere, I was not satisfied with that aspect of the game. We were focusing on the scenarios, the story, the drama. This time we focused on the game system.

Were you tempted to include any motion controls?

JK: Actually, we tested various things, but the actions are so fast, that you couldn't follow the speed of the action. In the end, we removed all those features. Actually, I really insisted on including that feature in the eating scenes (picks up Wii Remote and Nunchuk like chopsticks), but the programmers said no.

Shane Bettenhausen, Ignition: I should explain, there's an eating minigame in which you eat a vast array of delicious Japanese foods.

JK: Finally, it turned out that the programmers cut that aspect because they thought people wouldn't like it -- because it's annoying. (Holding Wii Remote and Nunchuk like chopsticks again) These are too big for chopsticks.

I actually really wanted to do it!

Was there any concern about bringing a very Japanese game, with such Japanese visuals and themes, to the West?

JK: I worried that lots of things would be difficult to understand because they're so Japanese, but, for example, people in Japan understand Harry Potter, and they accept it, so I thought that it would be okay.

SB: At Ignition, we purposely chose to celebrate how Japanese it is and leave it in Japanese, because it's about Japanese culture. We believe players can actually learn a lot about Japanese mythology from this game. The demons are all very traditional, pulled from real works.

JK: I still wonder if they'd actually be conveyed correctly. I still have that concern.

This is different from most Wii games. Is there a good audience for this on the Wii?

JK: I think the user geography doesn't exactly match with the game. I hope that the old-school Virtual Console game fans will be interested in this game.

People who bought Legend of Kage?

JK: Yes! Do you know Genpei Toumaden? It's a very similar game.

That's the one that's called Samurai Ghost over here, right?

JK: Samurai Ghost. That's a very straightforward reading!

What's next for Vanillaware after Muramasa?

JK: (laughs) I'm prohibited to talk about it. (in English) Sorry! (in Japanese) But actually, I've already started it. I hope that it will develop in the direction that everyone's hoping for.

Would you want to localize any other Vanillaware titles?

JK: Do you know about Kumatanchi? They told me that I can't bring over that game to the US because it's not good to train little girls in that way. And Princess Crown ... that's a very old game.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.