El Shaddai: Sawaki Takeyasu Interview – Says he’d love an iPad Version of El Shaddai
Recently there has been a lot of confusion regarding the release of El Shaddai – originally it was slated for release today. But due to issues beyond Ignition Entertainment’s control. Incase there’s any doubt in your mind, the game will be released on August 16th in North America and September 9th in Europe.
We know some of you may be feeling down today, knowing you could have already been playing El Shaddai today if not for the delay – but to make it a little easier on you, here’s an exclusive interview we got when Gamer Euphoria sat down with Sawaki Takeyasu from Ignition Entertainment.
- How did the concept of El Shaddai come up?
Sawaki: The original idea to create a game based on the Book of Enoch came from Ignition’s UK-based head office several years ago, but we then took the concept and made it our own in Tokyo. I was careful to maintain the overall narrative and themes from the apocryphal Biblical texts, but I did take some creative liberties in order to make the story a little more relatable for modern players. Since these allegories are part of the oral tradition and were constantly being changed over time, I felt that I had some freedom to add tiny elements to the story by modernizing it a bit.
- The art style is very striking, was there any inspiration taking from the likes Studio Ghibli?
Sawaki: There are many, many influences in my approach to creating El Shaddai’s visual style. First, some of the ideas come from deep within my own head – I’ll wake from a deep sleep or a fleeting reverie and have an inspiration that I can translate onto paper. But you’ll see direct nods to other outside influences throughout the game, too, including some famous Japanese woodblock artists, ancient African and Native American sculptures, even some references to famous anime and manga. Everyone on the team grew up loving the works of Studio Ghibli, so there’s probably no escaping the crucial influence of Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata.
- The story is based on the Biblical book of Enoch, was there a specific reason for this choice? And do you have any slight concerns in terms of sales in territories that practice alternative religions?
Sawaki: As I said before, the initial idea to use the Book of Enoch came from our counterparts in the West. Of course, we are concerned that some people might not understand our intent with El Shaddai, but since it is not based on the canonical Bible, I don’t think there will be too much backlash. It’s been an interesting learning process for all of us….In Japan, we often view religion as more a spectrum of beliefs, and citizens here often will describe themselves as following multiple belief systems and philosophies. Being exposed to other belief systems is always interesting, in my view.
- The game appears to be very artistic, how did the creative processes begin and what was the basic concept when the project began?
Sawaki: Although I’ve worked on many games in the past, it’s true that working on El Shaddai was my first experience as the Game Director, so it was definitely a learning process. That said, I knew that this was exactly the type of game that I always wanted to create if given the opportunity, so I had to stand by my convictions even if they might initially have seemed strange. But thankfully my team was patient and eager to go on this exciting journey with me, so in the end, I feel that it was a worthwhile endeavour. I had a general guideline for what narrative ground I wanted the game to cover, but much of the design, gameplay, level layout and pacing evolved as we moved from pre-production into proper game development.
Unllike in the West, when game developers tend to finish each level independently, we used an approach in which the entire game gets worked on simultaneously, so that we be more fluid in our approach to its design.
- The recently announced delay of the game in the US came as a surprise, but will the delay effect the EU release?
Sawaki: No, there will be change to the European release date. The slight delay in North America was a result of some last-minute logistical challenges, but I’m confident that the fans there will be patient and that the game will be well worth the wait.
- Ignition recently claimed that El Shaddai may appear on the Wii U and Playstation Vista, whats your thoughts on both systems and are they something that appeal to developers more or less than the Xbox 360 and PS3?
Sawaki: I believe that Ignition has speculated about how they might want to bring the El Shaddai universe to these new platforms, but nothing has been announced yet. I’m curious to see what the fans in North America and Europe will want from any prospective future offshoots from the first game. Clearly, both the Wii U and PS Vita offer all sorts of exciting new control methods and connectivity options, so I feel that anything is possible with these new devices, and the El Shaddai universe is rife with a multitude of avenues that could be explored. I’m personally a big fan of the iPad, so I’m curious what might be possible with touch-panel enabled consoles.
- In regards to the Wii U and PlayStation Vista, do you plan to use the technology offered by both systems to enhance El Shaddai or to add new gameplay?
Sawaki: That’s definitely what’s exciting about these new platforms, but as I said, this is all purely speculative at this point. I’d rather focus on getting players to try the core El Shaddai experience first!
- When developing a game that carries a very Japanese identity do you ever have any doubts about how the game will perform in North America and Europe?
Sawaki: Although there are many aspects of El Shaddai that are truly ‘Japanese’ and it was made primarily by a Japanese team, I feel that its influences and inspirations are so cross-cultural and universal that I always hoped that it would touch the hearts of gamers all over the world. Nothing would make me happier than for El Shaddai to achieve critical acclaim and find fans in Europe and North America.