Capcom, you may have discovered, is on a little bit of a roll. Monster Hunter lastly consulted with the worldwide success it’s constantly been worthy of, its survival scary series recovered its fans with the pure scary of Resident Evil 7 and the superlative reimagining of Resident Evil 2, and even the modest Mega Man series is on surer footing than it’s been for a while. Really, however, it’s what’s following that truly delights me: Devil May Cry 5 isn’t simply the return of Capcom’s most trendy series. It’s the return of Capcom’s most accomplished director.
Hideaki Itsuno last beinged in the director’s chair for 2012’s Dragon’s Dogma – a standout title in an often distressed age for Capcom’s last generation – however you can trace his history with the business much even more back than that. “After I left college, I believed to myself, well, I might be an instructor, that may be all right,” he informs us on the London leg of Devil May Cry 5’s last press trip, the interview happening at the top of a mist-shrouded Shard. “But then I believed, you understand, I’m going to need to invest 35 years working prior to I retire, so I need to most likely do and go something I’m going to delight in.”
And Itsuno takes pleasure in computer game. Actually, that’s not rather best – he likes them. On his desk at Capcom head office in Osaka is a CRT TELEVISION he utilizes to indulge his enthusiasm for older video games – late in 2015 it was Famicom baseball video game Famista, however today it’s SNK’s 1990 action RPG God Slayer that’s keeping him inhabited.
It’s that exact same enthusiasm that got Itsuno his huge break. When he signed up with Capcom in 1994 (and asked why it was Capcom that attracted his 23-year-old self, the Osaka-native states with deadpan humour that it was just since of the simple commute) Street Fighter was at its peak. Itsuno, however, was a fan of the battling output of that other Osaka juggernaut of the 90s; SNK.
“I remained in the game area – my sensei was Noritaka Funamizu who made all sorts of video games – Sidearms, Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo – and at that time, the young hires would need to be available in early and look after the garbage. So I’d do that, and I’d have a long time to eliminate prior to the genuine work begins. I’d be sitting there, playing King of Fighters on Neo Geo. And one time my manager can be found in and stated if you’re such a huge fan of battling video games, why do not you deal with Street Fighter?”
Itsuno, who had actually formerly dealt with 2 test video games, was not surprisingly elated at the chance, and functioned as an essential figure in what would end up being Street Fighter Alpha; the very first brand new Street Fighter video game given that the all-conquering Street Fighter 2, and something of a brand-new instructions for the series.
“Up up until that point, Capcom was understood for making these truly intricate battling video games – there’s a great deal of subtlety to them, the styles were really intricate,” Itsuno discusses. “But then you had SNK, they were making things that would have the broadest appeal possible – all the characters looked quite fucking cool, they all have truly badass relocations. For Street Fighter Alpha, we wished to take that type of technique – let’s make something that looks more anime, that can attract a more comprehensive audience. And in order to make something that might attract a more comprehensive audience, to youths, we require youths to make the video game. That’s another factor I was chosen for the video game.”
The Alpha series is still precious today – certainly, you can see its impact rather greatly in Street Fighter 5, where characters produced by Itsuno take centre phase. “I managed a great deal of those characters,” Itsuno states. “Birdie, Rose, Adon, Charlie, Sodom… When I was making them, something I truly wished to do was make a character that was going to be the one that might squash Ryu and Ken. I really particularly had that in mind when I was producing Birdie and Rose.”
If there’s a continuous in Itsuno’s early profession at Capcom, it’s that he supervised many of the business’s renowned battling video games, from the Alpha video games to Darkstalkers, Power Stone and Rival Schools. “It’s not always battling video games, per se,” states Itsuno of the appeal of the category. “I like video games where individuals can challenge each other. Whether you’re discussing that, or something like Momotaro Dentetsu (a Japanese parlor game), I like those sort of video games.”
His period on the category consisted of classics, however likewise difficulties, assisting manage the often frustrating shift from 2D to 3D, initially with Star Gladiator and later on, more effectively, with Rival Schools. “The difficulty originated from coping the hardware,” he states. “The specifications weren’t rather equivalent to what we wished to do. Street Fighter, that was a 60fps type of video game – however when we were making Star Gladiator, we were locked into 30fps. And that was difficult. Because not just were we coping that, there were weapons too. We’d discover that since it was 30fps, the accident would not work as it should. With that in mind, I basically created the specification of Rival Schools. I created the structure, all of the concepts consisting of the tech, consisting of the polygon count, so we might run that at 60fps.”
Rival Schools, and possibly more particularly its follow up Project Justice, stays an all-time classic, a madcap fighter that made use of Itsuno’s love of a particular hair of anime and manga that concentrates on fighting school-kids. It’s a series he’s revealed an interest in, and one that still resonates with fans today. “It was simply the concept that *everyone’s* been to school. Because everybody’s been to school, they all have a context for this – so ideally it’ll offer truly well, since everybody can comprehend it.”
If battling video games formed the structure of Itsuno’s Capcom profession, it’s another series that’s specified the latter half of it – even if it’s not a series he produced. In 2002, Itsuno was dealing with producing a brand new video game at Capcom, a luxurious RPG with strong western leanings, when he was hired to assist an ailing effort at a Devil May Cry follow up that had actually been hurried into production on the back of its predecessor’s success.
“There was a duration throughout Devil May Cry 2’s advancement where things weren’t going extremely well,” gets Itsuno. “And so my manager pertains to me, he figures I’m in the exact same group as the director, and he’s one of leading gamers – he pertains to me and states Devil May Cry 2 isn’t going so well, exists anybody you understand that could deal with this? And I resembled, this person’s hectic on this thing, this individual’s hectic – so he resembled, alright, you do it.”
Devil May Cry 2 may have been a vital flop, however it’s a wonder it made it out at all – by the time Itsuno came onboard, there were 6 months left up until it needed to be finished, and next to absolutely nothing had actually been executed yet. Little would he know he’d stick with the series for the best part of two decades. “It’s interesting, because back then, I was actually coming up with the foundations of what would become Dragon’s Dogma, and then I was taken and forced to work on Devil May Cry 2,” he says. “And of course the rest is history – I went from that to Devil May Cry 3 and then Devil May Cry 4.”
So far has the series come since its beginnings as a retooling of an early attempt at a Resident Evil 2 follow-up that Itsuno’s name has become synonymous with Devil May Cry 5. He’s seen it through highs and lows, from the much-loved Devil May Cry 3 to the divisive – however, it should be pointed out, brilliant – DMC all the way through to Devil May Cry 5, which with its three distinct characters looks to be the most exquisite balancing act the series has pulled off to date. His biggest challenge while working at Capcom, though? It’s not even turning around Devil May Cry 2 in a mere 6 months, it turns out.
“Dragon’s Dogma!” he says. “That was a brand new series – a lot of other stuff I’d done was already established. It was one of the first real new things. And back then it still wasn’t quite so common for Capcom to do a simultaneous worldwide release, plus we were doing all this new stuff with the pawn system.”
To say Itsuno holds Dragon’s Dogma dear would be something of an understatement. It’s the game he’s proudest of from his time at Capcom, and you can even see flashes of it in Devil May Cry 5 – new character V, with his ranged attacks and devious use of magic, can feel like a straight lift of a sorcerer from the 2012 RPG. I don’t think it would be too much of a stretch to imagine a Dragon’s Dogma sequel sits somewhere in Itsuno’s future.
“I’ve mentioned this before, but when we started Devil May Cry 5, I’d gone to the people up top and said let me make either Devil May Cry 5 or Dragon’s Dogma 2,” he says. “I thought Devil May Cry 5 would be the better choice right now, so did that. If I could, I’d love to make Dragon’s Dogma 2 – it’d be awesome.”
It’d likely be another feather in the cap for Itsuno in a career at Capcom that’s now spanned a quarter of a century and seen the creation of some true greats, from Project Justice and its sparring school-kids all the way through to the lavish Devil May Cry 5. And throughout all that, Itsuno says his approach has always been the same.
“For Rival Schools, there were all these ridiculous ideas in there,” he says. “The way we approached it, though, is that here are all these ridiculous ideas, and we had actually to be absolutely serious about realising them. It’s the same thing for Devil May Cry 5 – in genuine life, you’d never attack anyone with a motorcycle, right? You’d never break one in half and attack someone with it, or with a cowboy hat. But it’s always been about taking those ridiculous ideas and approaching them completely seriously.”