This week saw the keenly anticipated digital release of one of the most off-the-wall games you’ll play this year – Sony Japan Studio’s lunatic action title TOKYO JUNGLE.
For the uninitiated, it plays out in a post-apocalyptic vision of Japan’s sprawling metropolis where humans are extinct and the streets are fought over by gangs of animals. At its core, it’s a survival game that lets you answer that rarely posed question: what would happen if a gang of Pomeranians went toe-to-toe with a velociraptor, while a posse of baby chickens waited in the wings ready peck the victor to death? It’s mad as a proverbial badger, but it’s immensely enjoyable to play.
A quick viewing of the game’s eye-popping launch trailer below should raise all manner of queries – principally, ‘Why?. So, PlayStation.Blog caught up with the game’s director Yohei Kataoka in Tokyo last week in the hope of getting a few answers.
PlayStation.Blog: First and foremost, what possessed you to make a game in which you can pit a house cat against a panda bear in a brutal fight to the death?
Yohei Kataoka: In Japan it’s always been a universal concept of having a world without humans. And animals are also kind of a universal concept. So both of these concepts are quite popular, but I felt that if we could combine these two ideas it could result in something very catchy, very new and very exciting.
PSB: What was Sony Japan Studio’s initial response when you pitched the concept?
Yohei Kataoka: It was bad! Initially! It wasn’t received so well at the very beginning. I think there weren’t so many people that thought this game would sell just based on the concept, but as the game started to take form there was good user reaction and feedback.
PSB: Were you surprised at how enthusiastically your TGS 2010 reveal was received in Europe?
Yohei Kataoka: When we started to show the game in Europe, we saw that there was a good response and reaction and that actually in some respects pushed forward the development of the game. Like any other project, it might just have stopped with a Japanese release, or depending on how gamers and media reacted, it may actually have stopped development all together. But we had an opportunity to show the videos to Europe and US audiences and the European audience thought it was hilarious. So maybe there is something more similar in the sensibilities of Europeans and the Japanese. We thought we’d be able to release in Japan and Europe but we weren’t so sure about the US. But we got help and we’re now able to release there as well.
PSB: Were you frustrated that much of the coverage of the game has focussed on how eccentric the concept is, rather than the gameplay itself?
Yohei Kataoka: We wanted that hook, first of all, to get the attention. Then, as people played it and gathered more information they would find out that it’s a real game with substance. So we took time to make sure that was there – the substance – and took time to tune the gameplay.
Initially when [Sony Worldwide Studios president] Yoshida-san said that he didn’t necessarily have a positive view of the project, he explained there was a catchiness to the concept but the gameplay itself wasn’t at the same level. So we had to take some time to bring that up to the same level. That’s why it took some time from Tokyo Game Show 2010 for these adjustments to take place.
PSB: How difficult is it to balance the gameplay when you have chickens fighting polar bears?
Yohei Kataoka: The point of the game is not to fight and win against whatever animal you’re against. The point of the game is to survive as long as you can. So a baby chicken and a polar bear have their own survival methods – there are different skill sets needed for different animals.
PSB: Did you manage to squeeze your own pets into the game?
Yohei Kataoka: I only have a cat – but yes, it’s in the game!
A quick final word for Plus members. You can claim 20% off the standard $14.99 price tag for the first two weeks on release, and get four DLC animals for free for one week.