E3 2017 Interview with Kenichiro Takaki

The Senran Kagura series is one that we’ve looked at a few times in the past. It’s a series that’s very in-your-face with its fanservice, yet doesn’t rest on its laurals, providing strong gameplay mechanics beneath the sexy visuals.

The series is back with a new entry, subtitled Peach Beach Splash, which changes things up from the series’ action and beat-em-up roots. The producer of the game, Kenichiro Takaki, decided to bring his series into a new genre, turning this new title into a third-person shooter.

Takaki was present at E3 this year to promote his new game, and we had the chance to sit down and talk with him about the upcoming release, along with some future hopes and plans for the series.

Gamer Escape: For the sake of any newcomers in our audience, can you tell us a bit about yourself and your Senran Kagura series?

Kenichiro Takaki: Well, I am Kenichiro Takaki, and I’m a producer at Marvelous. Senran Kagura, the series, has recently passed its five year anniversary. The series started out as a very niche title for a small subset of the Japanese audience, but over the years, it has been able to grow in popularity, including overseas thanks to the people here at XSeed. And, you know, here we are showing it at E3 as well! We’re very happy that the series has grown over the years. It has traditionally been an action game series but for the first time, with this title here, we’re trying a new genre, which is a TPS [Third-Person Shooter] game.

Gamer Escape: That actually leads directly into my next question. Knowing that it was an action/beat-em-up style series, now it’s shifting over to third-person shooter. Was there anything that prompted the genre switch?

Kenichiro Takaki: The PS4 has been growing in popularity in Japan as well as all around the world and, like I said, the Senran Kagura series has also been growing in popularity, in particular with overseas fans recently. I’ve always been a very big fan of TPS games and I thought that if I was going to try something new, a new challenge, that it was a good genre to attempt.

Gamer Escape: Peach Beach Splash is a PS4 exclusive, but the past few entries in your series have also received a Vita release. Is there any reason you’ve decided to forego doing a Vita release for this title?

Kenichiro Takaki: The Vita is a handheld that I like very much, but this time, for a TPS, I felt that the multiplayer mode was going to be a really important part of the gameplay. I wanted to be able to go up to ten players playing at once. On the Vita, this is difficult to do. For example, in the previous game in the series, Estival Versus, we had both a PS4 and a Vita version. The PS4 was able to do up to ten players, whereas the Vita could only do four. So on Vita, it would just be two-versus-two matches, which I felt wasn’t enough to experience the game the way it should be.

Gamer Escape: Your Senran Kagura series is known for having some interesting (read: crazy) storylines and Peach Beach Splash, from what I can see, is no different. I wanted to ask how you come up with or plan out the plots for these games?

Kenichiro Takaki: These games have a lot of characters in them, and these characters are all very unique in their own different ways. So, when thinking about the storylines, it’s almost like the characters themselves are suggesting the storylines to me. Just thinking about these characters and what kind of things would happen to them, just sort of leads to new ideas based on the characters already.

Gamer Escape: Your Senran Kagura series, it definitely has a cult following here in the west. Do you think that shifting the series to the shooter genre, which is very popular here in the west, will help bring anymore widespread attention to it?

Kenichiro Takaki: Yes, I’m definitely thinking along those lines, that a TPS might bring in more overseas fans. But also, in Japan too, I’ve met people who haven’t played this series before, but now that it’s a TPS, a genre they like, they’re trying it out and experiencing it for the first time.

Gamer Escape: I actually wanted to ask along those lines. People generally believe shooter titles aren’t very popular in Japan, so I was wondering how the response to this genre shift has been?

Kenichiro Takaki: In Japan, it’s true, FPSs and TPSs weren’t particularly popular, but they’re kind of slowly catching on. Overwatch has been popular in Japan, so I think the market is beginning to change and these genres are catching on now. With Peach Beach Splash, the reaction I’ve gotten has been…you know, some people were excited. “Oh, this is a new genre, it’s something I want to try out!” and other people were kind of like “Eh, I dunno, I kind of like the action games, I don’t know if I’m gonna like this one.”

The game has been designed in particular to bring in people. It’s easy to get in to, it’s designed for people who are new to the genre to be able to jump in and have a good time. I hope that people will give it a try. Even those who may be suspicious about the genre change will play it and realize “Oh, this is the same Senran Kagura that I know and love!” It’s just in a different format this time.

Gamer Escape: So on the topic of platforms, it wouldn’t surprise me if everyone is asking you this, but the Senran Kagura series is definitely getting a wider audience with its PC ports. Has there been any consideration or possibly any work on bringing Peach Beach Splash to PC?

Kenichiro Takaki: The PC is a great platform for us, so we’re definitely considering porting this one and future titles. The Senran Kagura series has been making its way over to PC and we have Valkyrie Drive coming out soon, that’s being published by Marvelous Europe. So definitely, PC is now one of the platforms that we consider a major platform to release on.

Gamer Escape: Senran Kagura is no stranger to dabbling in new genres. You released Bon Appetit, a rhythm game. Do you have any interest in trying out any other genres with the Senran Kagura girls?

Kenichiro Takaki: Yes, I’m a big fan of pinball! I would love to do a Senran Kagura-themed pinball game!

Gamer Escape: Alright, so I have to ask: breast animations. When I did reviews of Shinovi and Estival Versus, I described them as “water balloons stapled to the chest” and “soft and springy rubber” respectively. How would you describe the breast animations of Peach Beach Splash?

Kenichiro Takaki: Lately I’ve been thinking that the animations resemble pudding, a bowl of pudding! It’s smooth and it’s soft and maybe a little bit wet…and it jiggles!

Gamer Escape: I have one more question, it’s more personal interest, stepping away from Senran Kagura. I believe this one was one of your games [pulling a copy of IA/VT Colorful out of bag]. I know this one’s been out in Japan for a few years. I was curious if you have any interest in returning to a game like this, or another game of the same style?

Kenichiro Takaki: I’d love to make another game like IA. With games like this, one of the biggest hurdles is, because it has a lot of music in it, there’s just incredible rights issues. It’s even challenging to get it all sorted out within Japan, and if you want to localize it and bring it overseas, it’s ten times as hard. I definitely want to make something like this again, but it is a big challenge.

Gamer Escape: Is there anything else you’d like to tell our audience about the upcoming Peach Beach Splash?

Kenichiro Takaki: There are probably a lot of people out there who have heard of Senran Kagura, maybe know what it is, but have never actually played it for themselves. I’m hoping that, with this genre change, there will be more people who are willing to give it a shot, try it out, and see if they like it or not.

Even though the game obviously puts its fanservice upfront, and some people might be a little turned off by that, the game has been designed to be fun to play, it has a solid gameplay base on which the fanservice is layered on top. If people give it a shot, they might find that this is something that they really do enjoy and would be willing to play!