While the world’s greatest fighters were trading blows during EVO, I was scrambling to trade words with top fighting game developers who attended the tournament. In recent years, Capcom Producer Yoshinori Ono has become the face of the legendary Street Fighter series and he was on-site showing off the upcoming crossover Street Fighter X Tekken. I wanted to pick his brain concerning his friendly rivalry with Tekken director Katsuhiro Harada, his thoughts on PS Vita development, and why he chose inFAMOUS frontman Cole as an exclusive special guest for the PS3 and PS Vita versions of Street Fighter X Tekken.
Yoshinori Ono, Producer, Street Fighter X Tekken: We started a tradition at last year’s Comic-con, this kind of a pro-wrestling-style rivalry. The new video is just this year’s version of our wacky rivalry. The game itself has kind of a festival atmosphere, so we didn’t want to be too serious about it. We wanted to bring Tekken fans and Street Fighter fans to the same table, and the best tool for something like that is humor.
PSB: On that note, what was the genesis of Street Fighter X Tekken? Who came to who?
Ono: It’s something we’ve both wanted to do for a long time. We’ve known each other for a long time, and years ago we’d have dinner and talk about the idea. But we were in different companies, so there was kind of an invisible wall between us…especially to combine our top brands and mix them together, that would have been unheard of a few years ago.
At one point, Capcom got out of fighting games for a little while. By the time we got back into them, I had risen within the company a bit; Harada had as well. So we have more political capital to make things happen back in the home office, so to speak. So it seemed like the right time to make something happen, and sure enough we pulled it off.
We actually set up a meeting between the presidents of both companies (Capcom and Namco Bandai). I was a little nervous — I thought they might back out or be lukewarm on the idea. Sixty seconds later, they’re shaking hands and the deal is done. So this was the right time to do this.
PSB: What are some other series that you have considered a crossover with? I know that, in the US, many fans would love to see a Street Fighter vs. Mortal Kombat…
Ono: I actually get a lot of requests for Street Fighter vs. Mortal Kombat on my Twitter feed and elsewhere. I understand why people want it, but it’s easier said than done. Having Chun Li getting her spine ripped out, or Ryu’s head bouncing off the floor….it doesn’t necessarily match.
But I’ve had a couple of dream projects in my head for a while, one being Street Fighter X Tekken, which is actually coming true. Another would be a Marvel vs DC game which would be pretty damned cool if we could ever pull it off. I’m a big comic-book fan.
Now if I can get the presidents of those two companies in the same room shaking hands, then we could get something started. I’d love to see that just as a fan!
PSB: It’s got to be tough to combine two radically different fighters; Tekken couldn’t be more different from Street Fighter. What were some ideas you had early on the process that you had to discard?
Ono: There was one feature that we gave up on, but then we brought it back: the Cross Rush combos. When you think of Tekken, it’s always been about aggression and in-your-face combos; dodging a move and then letting the opponent have it. The long Tekken combo strings…we thought, should we put them all in SF X Tekken? At first we thought, should we put them all in there? But if we did, we’d just be making a Tekken game. But we couldn’t take them all out, either, because there wouldn’t be much Tekken-ness left.
So we decided that the Cross Rush would be a good way to mix them together. You have that feel of rapid combos from Tekken, but it still feels like Street Fighter…or more precisely, a bit more Darkstalkers. But it’s sufficiently Capcom-y, so to speak. So the Cross Rush serves as a bridge between the two gameplay styles. It fits in there pretty nicely.
PSB: Tell me why you chose Cole from inFAMOUS for Street Fighter X Tekken. Did you seek him out? Are you an inFAMOUS fan?
Ono: Actually it was 50/50. I had been talking to SCE about perhaps getting Cole into one of our games because he seems well-suited to a fighting game: he’s got all of these cool moves. And it just so happened that, almost simultaneously, Sucker Punch was also wanting to do some sort of tie-in with Street Fighter. So it was a perfect storm, it was almost exactly 50/50. Luckily we could pull off the E3 announcement, which tied in nicely with inFAMOUS 2’s launch.
Here’s a little bit of behind-the-scenes info for you. inFAMOUS 2 was still in development and we didn’t have a lot of visibility into it, so our original version of Cole was mostly based on his appearance in the first inFAMOUS. Then we started talking to Sucker Punch and they showed us inFAMOUS 2 and we said, “Oh crap, he uses weapons now! We don’t have any weapons.” So we went back to the drawing board to make his moves more familiar to inFAMOUS 2 players.
It was a good collaborative process. Sucker Punch offered us a lot of information and data, so we’ve done our best to mimic the way he looks and feels. It was a fun process that’s still ongoing, but it’s been a real pleasure working with those guys.
PSB: How would you describe Cole’s play style?
Ono: If I was going to compare him to any character, it would be Seth — he has a lot of sneaky, tricky moves. I took the latest build of Street Fighter X Tekken up to Sucker Punch just before EVO, and even those guys were wondering if Cole wasn’t too strong [laughs]. So there’s still some tuning to be done. I don’t want to upset Street Fighter and Tekken fans by making the strongest character from neither camp!
PSB: What did you think of your first trip to Sucker Punch’s studio?
Ono: Actually, the impression that I got there was that it felt very Capcom-y to me, a lot like our Osaka office. Clearly these guys love games, and the dedication and energy that they put in reminds me of our Osaka office. And for an American studio, they’re in kind of a unique position in that they’ve worked on the same IP for a long time with a lot of the same time — that’s not necessarily common in America. That part is very much like Capcom. I think we can do something really special together.
All joking aside, I talked to the president of Sucker Punch while I was there about how awesome it would be if SCE, Capcom and Sucker Punch could get together and do something really cool. I plan on taking that conversation to SCE next time I’m there!
The biggest difference between Sucker Punch and Capcom is that those guys have all this free soda and cereal and snacks…Capcom’s way to cheap to do that kind of thing, we have nothing like that! [big laughs]
PSB: Have you played any interesting fighting games lately?
Ono: I’ve been playing a couple of things, and some of them make me feel a little bit bad about myself. One of the reasons we went with a tag system in Street Fighter X Tekken is because I personally loved the first Tekken Tag Tournament so much. In talking to Harada, he dropped that he thought of that in five minutes and it was a simple idea. That made me feel like a dumbass and just reinforced to me what a genius he is. I still do play Tekken Tag Tournament when I can.
I also have a penchant for wacky, over-the-top games so I’ve been playing a lot of Mortal Kombat, enjoying their Story mode. And they did such a good job with their Story mode and some of the other features that I feel like they kind of beat me in that sense. So I’m playing these other fighters and enjoying them, but sometimes it depresses me, too.
As far as upcoming games, I can’t wait to play Skullgirls. It looks like a really cool independent fighter, I’ve been on YouTube checking it out. I would love to meet that team someday, those guys seem like they know what they’re doing.
PSB: There’s obviously going to be a PS Vita version of Street Fighter X Tekken. What’s your philosophy for PS Vita development?
Ono: First of all, it’s always fun to work on new hardware and try new things….We’re doing a lot of customization and tweaking to make sure it’s as good as possible on PS Vita.
The really cool thing about PS Vita, of course, is the wealth of new features: Wifi, 3G, GPS, the gyroscope, and touch panels on both sides. There are all sorts of cool things that we can do with those. We want to take advantage of that and really encourage people to get out into the world with their PS Vita and play Street Fighter X Tekken. And we’re looking at ways to link to the PS3 version as well to get you into the habit of leading a double-life of Street Fighter X Tekken. When you’re out of the house, you play it on PS Vita and then you come home, turn on your PS3 and keep going.