Producer Katsuhiro Harada on all things Tekken
Matt Kamen: Let’s talk about the genesis of Tekken: Blood Vengeance – how did the film come about, and why now?
Katsuhiro Harada: Well, back maybe thirteen years ago when we were doing Tekken 3, the game was well received by the fans for the CG character endings. They really enjoyed that, and asked for more, more! They asked for longer versions but we couldn’t do anything longer at the time because the cost at the time was intensive, and there was no place to outsource. We’d really wanted to make a movie for quite a while now, but we just weren’t able to. Then Tekken 5 came around and we worked with Digital Frontier on the endings and it was at that time we felt that it might be possible to create a full length movie.
You’ve asked viewers to “please forget the Hollywood movie”. Why do you think American adaptations of video games, especially beat ‘em up video games, are so universally terrible?
When you look at games and movies in general, first games were influenced by film, and also comics. But after games became more mainstream and game characters became popular, the games in turn influenced movies and comic books. They have this cycle where they both influence each other. When you have the game characters they’re CG so they’re each unique within the game but then when you try to return them to live-action, such as a movie setting, they don’t translate very well and that can be said of a lot of fighting games.
There is of course the example of the X-Men or Marvel characters who have been adapted to film well, but that is because they were comic book characters to begin with. The focus in comics is more on the story and the characters, their conversations and actions are more similar to a movie than game might be. Whereas for us it’s all about the gameplay, how they control and move. Even the visual effects are symbols to the player about what’s going on. All this stuff is focused on making the game enjoyable and to improve the controls of the characters. Taking that into a movie just doesn’t lend itself very well. Since everything we do as far as the voicing or how the character looks is geared towards the fighting game aspect of the game, when you take that and put it into a movie you have to have them speak certain lines or portray the character’s depth that you wouldn’t do in a game. When you try to do that and it’s something that isn’t done in the source material, fans feel it’s a little off when you do it. However this time, it’s all in CG computer graphics like it is with the game opening and character endings so hopefully the fans won’t feel it’s a little off like they do.
Do you see Blood Vengeance as a one-off, or are you hoping for further stand-alone movies?
Other games come to mind that might make good CG movies, such as Soul Calibur. With Tekken there is a setting, but it is a lower priority than the actual gameplay itself. Soul Calibur as source material would lend itself to that. Another game we’d like see as a CG movie is Ace Combat. As for games that are not our IP’s, maybe Kojima-san and his Metal Gear series, if he had a chance to do something similar he could produce something really high quality.
Do you think there’s more of a drive for games developers to take control and make their own movies?
I’m not really sure. As a game director I’m more interested in focusing on the gameplay mechanics rather than the story, setting, characters and such. But for other developers maybe it’s because they want better control over their characters, setting and story, or there’s creators out there who can’t fully portray what they want to in their games and a movie may be a more adequate route for them.
Has the development of Blood Vengeance had any impact on the games? Will there be any crossover effect?
The movie itself is set between Tekken 5 and Tekken 6. We consider it a side continuity – it has its own story with the characters that Tekken fans know but people who have not played the games can enjoy the movie too. However, we really loved the character models and designs for the movie, so we took them and entered them in the Tekken Tag Tournament 2: Prologue. This was an update for Blood Vengeance; we have the animation and the movie character models in the game now.
You’re also working on the Tekken X Street Fighter game, crossing over with Capcom’s franchise. Has Blood Vengeance eaten into development time on that at all?
No, not at all. Obviously there’s Tekken Tag 2, there’s a movie, there’s other things up our sleeves we haven’t announced yet in our franchise, but it isn’t that resources are being taken up by the movie. The art director on the Tekken series is the same on the movie but it’s not like the artists are involved in rendering the film; our programmers working on it. Our resources are mainly going towards finishing the arcade version of Tekken Tag 2 at the moment but rather than resources being taken up by a particular project, the influence of the earthquakes in Japan has been a big effect.
It sounds like there are a lot of other Tekken projects coming up – do you ever worry you might be spreading yourself too thin?
You’re right, we have a lot of things Tekken going on at the moment and maybe there might be some concerns by the fans that this might occur. We are taking on extra staff to cover that, but that being said we’re not where we want to be so we are spread a little thin. If someone were out there that would help us out on that, that would be great!
Tekken: Blood Vengeance is released on UK DVD from Manga Entertainment on 6th February.