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Keiji Inafune: Return of the industry mega man

ReCore is a brand new game from an old school developer

When I arrive to interview Keiji Inafune at the Microsoft booth at E3 the atmosphere is more One Direction than I was expecting. A group of girls are having their photo taken with him and laughing in that nervous way people only do when they're meeting someone famous. They're still breathing in excited gasps when they leave the room clutching Keiji-related art in their hands.

"I've been making games for a very long time. If this were all for my own self satisfaction it could be very possible that I would have already ended my career at some point," Inafune says through his interpreter.

"It's unbelievable how much I do get noticed and sometimes I can't even go to the bathroom"

"Whether it's in the US or Asia or the Middle East or South America. I've travelled to all those countries and it's unbelievable how much I do get noticed and sometimes I can't even go to the bathroom.

"Until you face those situations you never know that you've had that effect and that you've created entertainment for fans around the world. I don't think even the company that I've worked for has given me that type of reward. So it's a completely different meaning and sense of reward that I get back from gamers around the world and that's what really keeps me going."

That energy has propelled a career in the industry that began in 1987 and has spawned iconic titles like Onimusha, Lost Planet, Dead Rising, and of course Mega Man. Now he's back with ReCore, an Xbox One exclusive featuring a female heroine and lots and lots of robots.

"My approach to how I make games has actually not changed over time. The market demands and the audience demands and what they are looking for and what they want to play are things that are not within our control, and so to keep up with that is not something that we can forecast. At the same time, yes it is a business and so the reality for me too is that I've been turned down by publishers," he explains.

"In that sense I want to be as open-minded and as flexible as possible, but if I use those things as an excuse then I don't think I can get over the challenge, my own challenge, of wanting to create what I really want to make. So whether it is a small budgeted title or an independent title or whether I pitched it but I was told I only could have this amount, I will find creative ways to make it still work. When that is done, when there's a product that goes out, there's is still no guaranteed success. There may be failures and learnings from failures but at the end what I want to do is deliver what I wanted to make and have people understand what I truly wanted to make. It may not be a commercial success but if there enough people who get why, what's in it, then that's what's most important to me."

The game is being developed as a joint project between Inafune's Comcept and Texan team Armature Studio. Armature previously worked on Borderlands: The Handsome Collection for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One and The Unfinished Swan on PlayStation 4 and Vita. Mark Pacini explains that ReCore really is a joint effort between the two development studios and Microsoft.

"We're very comfortable working in this sort of configuration. Myself and my partners at Armature worked at Nintendo for a really long time, so we already kind of had this understanding of how to solve problems and communicate with a Japanese developer. The way we work is that while it's a true collaboration between the three parties--Comcept, Armature and Microsoft--we gravitate towards what we feel that we bring to the table most. But we still contribute to everything. So for example, Inafune-San's group are the caretakers of the overall idea, the overarching story, characters, world-building, [and] what is the main focus of this game.

"On the Armature side, we're handling a lot of the moment-to-moment gameplay, the mechanics, the AI, the pace of the game, just how everything works together. But Comcept is equally invested in that."

He also fielded a question about the game's exclusive status, a decision that he says came down to timing.

"At that point Inafune-san's group and Armature were trying to find a way to work together again. We had worked together previously when Inafune-san was at Capcom and that went really well, and at the same time we were starting talks with Microsoft about how we could maybe work together. The timing seemed to just be perfect to take Inafune-san's idea, so we worked on it, and we only really pitched this idea to one publisher, which was Microsoft," he continues.

"It was risky for Microsoft and they knew it internally so they did a gigantic amount of work internally to sell this and get momentum behind it."

If it is a timed exclusive, which sounds unlikely given Microsoft's involvement it development, then no one is ready to hint at it to the press quite yet.

ReCore stood out for a number of reasons on the E3 stage. In a cluster bomb of sequels it was a new IP, and one with a female protagonist, no less.

"Throughout my career, with all my creations, the approach that I have is I just kind of follow my heart," says Inafune. "Wherever it lands--the timing and everything--when it works, it works. So each opportunity I get I want to do something new and I don't really want to work on sequels. That is the truth.

"It is a huge challenge and it's very nerve-wracking to come to the stage and be presented as a brand new surprise and a new IP."

"I don't really want to work on sequels. That is the truth"

So far, he adds, the reaction has been very positive, and he's pleased. The trailer was crafted carefully to give both a sense of the character and the world but also to suggest what players can expect from the gameplay.

"So a lot of times when we create these sort of announcement and debut trailers, there's a lot of fluff, for a lack of a better word, that's built-in. And when the time comes to show off gameplay and this is how the game really works it's like, 'Oh gosh, that's not what I really saw in the trailer, why is there a big gap?' So it's illustrating the image and the tone and the vibe video and then here's the reality, and that's not what we want to do," he says, adding that the team "maybe hit the jackpot" in getting the emotional aspects of the game across too.

"We're really trying to break down the game and show it in a video manner. If you now know that and take a look at the video again, then I think you might actually even notice more about what this game is really going to be like."

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