Before I got the MotionPlus add-on in my sweaty hands, we had an in-depth presentation from the game's development team outlining the game's story to us. The original Red Steel revolved around an American entering the seedy underbelly of the Japanese mob world, but the second title tells a totally different tale that'll be familiar to fans of Westerns or Kurosawa.
You play the Unnamed Hero, an homage to Clint Eastwood's character in classic Western The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: a mysterious, nomadic character who just happens to be in the right place at the right time. He has no particular connection to the game's city of Caldera, but finds himself there chasing the man who killed the other members of his clan. Jason VandenBerghe himself admitted it's not exactly Shakespeare, but it's steeped in enough contemporary culture to endure - Jason showed slides of films as diverse as Yojimbo, A Fistful of Dollars and Hero.
We'd got a feel for the setting, and our exclusive interview with Jason VandenBerghe had answered a lot of our questions, but not even his effusive personality (and tendency to swear!) had convinced me you'd heard enough about their new project, so I collared the game's Lead Game Designer Roman Campos Oriola and subjected him to another barrage of questions to get his take on Red Steel 2's progress.
Nintendo Life: First off, could you give us a quick overview of your role on this project?
Roman Campos Oriola: Of course. I'm the Lead Game Designer on Red Steel 2, so I'm in charge of all game and gameplay actions. I'm not involved in the level design, so I don't put the actual physical levels together, but I'm responsible for the game's main design philosophy.
NL: The first game used every aspect of the Wii control set-up - every button and motion, like shaking the Nunchuk to pick up weapons. How did you approach creating the controls for Red Steel 2?
RCO: With the first game, our objective was to showcase the Wii's abilities for its control scheme, so we used everything available to us. With the second game, it was more about creating good first-person fighting sections, so we focused less on showcasing the hardware and more on using its features to meet that goal. We're also introducing the controls more slowly - although in the demo you played you learn to parry in five minutes, in the full game it'll be introduced later and you'll have more warning. It won't be a case of "press A to parry!" and then you get attacked!
NL: The game's set in Caldera, a fictional city in the Nevada desert. How do you keep the variety in settings, or do you leave the desert later on?
RCO: We tried to keep a consistency with the game world for this title, so we focused on Caldera and the surrounding area. In the first game there was lots of travelling - go to Japan, go to America - but in the sequel we wanted a lot less travelling, to keep it more focused. There's still very different visual settings for each level, but they all fit together. There isn't any snow!
NL: I loved the safe-cracking minigame. Are there more elements like this later on?
RCO: The safe game really came from the small precisions the MotionPlus is capable of, but that aren't used in the swordplay, just to see what we can do with MotionPlus. There's more varied games like this throughout the game, but you'll have to wait to see them!
NL: In the demo I got to use the "lift" move (a juggle-like move that floats the enemy high in the air) - what other moves do you unlock later on?
RCO: Okay, so the moves you unlock are split into two categories: special powers and combos. The lift is an example of a special power - it just reaches the edge of our fantasy world, of what's possible. It's hard to believe but you say "ahhh, okay, I can accept that because it's fun!", and there's a few more moves like that. Then there's your combos, and we have plenty of those available.
NL: Do they work like the katas in the first game?
RCO: No, they give you much greater freedom because they're a lot smaller - one combo might be a dash and a sword swipe, or a jump over the opponent to slash them in the air. The idea is that you chain these combos together much more freely to play how you want to - you've seen with the lift that you can then shoot your enemy, or dash into the air to slash or slam them down to the ground. The finishing moves you've used will work differently though: they'll be part of the combo, so you won't be able to use your critical finish without using certain combos first, with one of the benefits being extra money you can use to unlock more moves.
NL: I asked Jason whether he saw Red Steel 2 as the console's flagship FPS, like Halo or Killzone. What's your take on that?
RCO: (pause) Wow, you're asking the difficult questions now! (laughs) I don't see it as a straight FPS like those games, it's a mixture of FPS and a brawler, like Jason said in his presentation, but it's not direct competition because it's on the Wii, not those other consoles. We were more influenced by Metroid Prime 3, but with our close combat gameplay and in a semi-realistic world.
NL: The game's pleasingly physical, even for a Wii game. How did things like cutting the doors and bamboo come about?
RCO: We really wanted to reinforce the game's core mechanic, and use the same movements in different ways. Metroid Prime does this too - when you see a door, you know what to do because of the way it gets you to recognise and repeat, and we do this in a much more physical way. That's how we came up with the idea of being able to use your sword to attack the handle of a steel door in order to open it, to really get that core mechanic to stick, and the same for cutting the bamboo and fences. We're trying to get the player to use their weapons as they would their hands, in some ways.
NL: I noticed there's no "bullet time" in the demo. Is it going to be in the game, and if so, will it be activated in the same way? [The original made you push the Remote towards the screen to activate slo-mo]
RCO: (Smiling) It's in but it's different. That's all I'm saying!
NL: In the earlier presentation, we were told that MotionPlus can detect the Remote's positioning even off-screen. With that in mind, have you got any plans for the Wild West-style quick-draw duels? Ten paces then draw and all that?
RCO: I can't really make any comment on that at the moment... it's something that maybe we'll try but it has a lot of difficulties with it
NL: How far would you say Red Steel 2 is pushing the hardware?
RCO: Of course, I could say "this game is pushing the Wii to its limits!", but it wouldn't necessarily be true! I'll say that the first game was barely 30 frames per second, but this one is almost always running at 60fps.
NL: One of the questions that came from our readers was "why use the sword when you can shoot your enemies from a distance?"
RCO: Sure, this is a problem, so what we have is some balancing tricks we've introduded. For example, if an enemy is attacking you then slashing with your sword will interrupt their movement, but to stagger them with a gun will need a good head or torso shot, so it needs a lot more skill to use the gun successfully. Later on we may also make you pay for ammo, to encourage the player to mix it up with the sword and gun combination.
NL: With that said, how do you make it more difficult for sword masters?
RCO: The difficulty really comes from the number of moves and inputs you'll need to stay alive. If you play on the easy mode, you might never need to use the parry move - that level is really just for players who want quick action, "bang bang slash slash" and not to have to worry too much about the difficulty. As we get higher up in difficulty, it's more about the combination of moves you use - parry, slash, dodge, shoot, swipe, counter-attack. It's not just about giving enemies more health points and making your attacks do less damage - the difficulty comes in challenging the player's skill and co-ordination.
NL: What aspect of the game are you most proud of so far?
RCO: It seems like a really small thing, but I'm really proud of the way the wooden dummies react when you hit them! It took a lot of time to get them to react that way, and having that dummy you can cut up so realistically is very expensive! It was very satisfying to see it work though, so at the moment that's what I'm most proud of. Ask me again in a few months and hopefully I will say something different!
NL: What would you say to our readers to get them even more excited about Red Steel 2?
RCO: Well, today you saw the lift move. If you get that within ten minutes of play, imagine what you get after five hours... (smiles)
And on that cryptic teaser our time with Roman was up, leaving us on a real cliffhanger. Thanks again to all the Ubisoft team for their hard work in organising the event and for letting us play Red Steel 2!
Hopefully our mega information overload has satiated your lust for all things Red Steel 2, but if you're still hungry like the wolf then there's good news! You can submit your own questions for the developers right here, or via email. We'll pass them along to Ubisoft, who'll choose the best questions and pitch them to the devs before letting us know the answers! Whatever you want to know about Red Steel 2, let us know and we'll make sure you get your answer!