Since its first release on PlayStation 2 back in 2004, the Samurai Warriors franchise has invited players to slash through droves of enemies with stylish flair. To mark the upcoming July 27 release of Samurai Warriors 5 on PlayStation 4, I sat down with Samurai Warriors producer and Koei Tecmo president, Hisashi Koinuma, to discuss the evolution of the iconic action series.
What’s it like working on a video game franchise for 18 years? “It’s amazing, but I never thought I’d be working on this series for so long,” says Koinuma. “We made the first Samurai Warriors title in response to how popular Dynasty Warriors 2 was, and we wanted to make a Japanese counterpart set in the Sengoku period, in the same way that we have the Romance Of The Three Kingdoms and Nobunaga’s Ambition series.
“Fortunately the first Samurai Warriors game was very well received and continues to be enjoyed by the fans to this day. It’s thanks to their support that we were able to continue the series for this long.”
But what does Koinuma-san have up his sleeves for the latest, and what he calls “re-imagined” Samurai Warriors 5? We caught up with the boss behind the in-game bosses to find out.
Q: After almost two decades of working on Samurai Warriors, what’s your favorite thing about working on the franchise?
A: My favorite thing is choosing which Samurai Warriors to include from the Sengoku period when we are working on creating the theme of the story, along with seeing the reactions from all of our fans when they see them in the game. In Japan, it is really fascinating to see the response not only from fans, but from regions that have a connection to those Samurai Warriors, especially museums and public transportation companies such as trains and taxis.
Q: Why did you decide to drastically overhaul the visuals for the new game?
A: The theme for Samurai Warriors 5 is to rewrite the first title, so we decided to re-imagine everything in the series. The story, characters, action system, and also the art and visual style were all aspects we wanted to re-imagine.
Q: How would you best describe the re-imagined look of SW5?
A: We continuously discussed what would work best as a Japanese aesthetic for the game, and after taking everything into consideration, we decided on a visual style that looked like an illustration that incorporated aspects of Japanese ink paintings. We were going for a dynamic yet detailed look for this new entry in the series, and I feel we have achieved an art style that is recognizable as being completely different from the rest of the series just with once glance.
Q: What influenced the new art style for SW5?
A: As I noted in regards to describing the new look, we had a lot of inspiration from Japanese ink paintings, one of the major styles of ink wash paintings, along with Japanese pop art which has received a lot of praise from around the world. We also took inspiration from a number of different games as well.
Q: Looking back throughout the history of the game, what are some of the biggest visual changes that have been made throughout the years leading up to SW5?
A: The first Samurai Warriors game was released on PS2, so having access to shading technology, which was becoming popularized at that time, was a big change for the visual style of the game. As a res