SNK Interview -- Yasuyuki Oda Talks Heroines, Gender Bent Terry, Rebooting Old Series, and Much More

SNK Producer Yasuyuki Oda Talks about SNK Heroines: Tag Team Frenzy, reviving historical franchises, crossover characters, and more.

November 1, 2018

Following the return to the name “SNK” and after dropping “Playmore” the house of The King of Fighters and Fatal Fury has been particularly active in bolstering its console games lineup.

In order to learn more behind-the-scenes details about the historical developer’s work, DualShockers had a chat with Producer Yasuyuki Oda.

Through the translation by Development Manager Joshua Weatherford, Oda-san talked about the release of SNK Heroines: Tag Team Frenzy. The reaction has been a bit polarized, with part of the fanbase delving deep into the systems and finding out what they can do with them, while others don’t like it at all due to the concept.

The development team started talking about the game right after the release of The King of Fighters XIV. The basic idea was trying to find the roots of SNK Gals’ Fighters for Neo Geo Pocket, creating something that wasn’t really a sequel but a spiritual successor with new characters. After that, the game grew gradually into its final form.

The developers have plans for at least a second wave of DLC to support the game, but they don’t yet know what will come after. Of course, Heroines will be supported as one of the official titles in SNK’s eSports program.

Asked whether we’ll see the title next year at EVO, Oda-san mentioned that the final decision belongs to the event’s organizers, but SNK expects that it’ll probably have a relevant side tournament. He feels that the game has the potential to shine on the tournament scene, as it’s very fun, easy to get into, and it allows for four people to compete in two teams. As people see more and more of Heroines played competitively, it’ll probably become even more interesting.

One of the most surprising elements of the game was the gender bent version of Terry Bogard. We heard that it may have been surprising for us, but not for the developers, as it was actually the very first thing they decided about the game. Oda-san didn’t expect such a big reaction from the audience, as he thought that people kind of expected something like that. The most amazing thing for him was actually that so many were taken by surprise by the announcement.

Terry was always supposed to be the character that would become a female, also because his design was the one that made the most sense for that. You can look at his gender bent version and still recognize Terry’s identity at first sight.

Most reactions to this plot twists were positive, at least in Japan. Oda-san has seen a few comments on the other side of the fence, but there really weren’t that many. The world of the game is supposed to be based on a dreamlike pocket dimension full of jokes and fun. Some people may look at the art and immediately be turned off thinking that it’s weird, but he feels that those who play Heroines and see how the story works out with its silly flavor, will actually enjoy it.

While it’s a bit early to draw conclusions from the data, Terry and Shermie appear to be among the most popular characters.

I asked Oda-san whether female Terry could take on a life of her own, and appear in more games, but he feels that now the surprise factor is gone so it’s not that interesting. He mentioned that he’d like to turn the character into something else, maybe Gundam Terry. Of course, it’s hard to say how much of this was actually a joke, but he was definitely laughing when he said it.

Speaking of the Neo Geo Mini, it was planned and released after Nintendo’s Classic Mini consoles, but the development team has been talking about doing something like that for years. The Neo Geo is one of the founding elements of SNK’s history, so it was pretty much natural to release something related to the console. That being said, Nintendo’s releases created a “perfect timing” situation that highlighted a demand from the fans, which caused the project to get approved and realized very easily.

At this point, I simply had to ask if there is ever any talk within SNK about creating a brand new Neo Geo console. Oda-san mentioned that it really never comes up, as it wouldn’t be realistic at this point.

We also talked a bit about SNK 40th Anniversary Collection, and that proved to be a very difficult operation. SNK was lucky to be able to team up with Digital Eclipse, who are expert at restoration and ROM hacking. For many games, the original source did not exist, but many famous collectors allowed the team to borrow the original boards, which were then sent to the United States so that Digital Eclipse could work on them. A running joke within the company is that if they waited until the fiftieth, a lot of those boards would have been dead since they’re already slowly dying. That would have made the operation impossible.

With Heroines and the 40th Anniversary Collection on the Switch, I asked Oda-san if the team was considering a port of The King of Fighters XIV on Nintendo’s console. There are some technical hurdles to clear to make sure that the game would perform well, but if those could be solved, it “would definitely be a possibility.”

There are internal talks about The King of Fighters XV, but it’s “really super-super early” and nothing has been decided at this time. It’s not even in pre-production.

Unfortunately, we weren’t able to talk about the newly-revealed Samurai Spirits just yet, besides the fact that the folks at SNK are definitely happy about the reaction from the fans they saw after the reveal at the PlayStation Lineup Tour in September.

Incidentally, Oda-san’s favorite game of the series is Samurai Shodown II, and his favorite characters are Haohmaru and Genjuro Kibagami.

Now that SNK has brought back The King of Fighters and is bringing back Samurai Shodown, I asked Oda-san whether there is any chance for a future return of Fatal Fury on its own. He would definitely like to bring the series back, but the biggest problem is that he feels like that the fans’ expectations for the series have been getting higher and higher. It isn’t going to be an easy hurdle to surpass.

The story of Fatal Fury is probably one of the most complex in the fighting game genre, which is normally more leaning towards simpler storytelling. This didn’t come from any specific inspiration, as the team simply thought that the fans would enjoy this kind of approach. Oda-san describes it as a very “narrow” story, with the protagonists fighting within a single town. The developers felt that it was an interesting way to tell a story, and everything grew gradually from that.

We also heard about SNK’s semi-recent tendency to pretty much disseminate its characters in almost every relevant fighting game by other publishers on the market: the way these talks come up are different depending on each partner company, but it’s very fun for the development team to work with other publishers and see their protagonists featured in different games.

Of course, I also asked about the possibility of an SNK character in Smash Bros. The answer was not unexpected:

“I’d love that, please Nintendo-san!”

If Nintendo asked for a character for Smash Bros. he mentioned that a fun idea would be Poppy (Galford’s dog from Samurai Shodown) on his own. A ninja dog would be a cool option.

Asked if there is any other franchise he’d like to place SNK’s characters into, he mentioned that he thinks that Charlotte from Samurai Shodown is a very unique character, and would fit in many different series.  He would also love to see Terry Bogart in a Dragon Ball game, but he would lose in one hit.

Usually, I conclude interviews by asking developers if they have a message for the fans, but this time around Oda-san had a question of his own:

“If we rebooted Metal Slug in some way, would they [gamers] be happy with the same “one hit you die” mechanic? Do gamers today think we should put it out that way?”

Asked whether he’s actually considering this kind of reboot, he elaborated further:

 “Obviously there is a lot of stuff that people want us to reboot. We have people asking for Garou [Fatal Fury], people asking for Art of Fighting, people asking for Last Blade, people asking for Metal Slug… We would love to do all of them for obvious reasons. There are always discussions going on, but whenever we get down to it and we start talking about rebooting Metal Slug we start thinking, is it ok to put out a game like that nowadays?”

If you want to read more about SNK’s recent production, you can check out our review of  SNK Heroines: Tag Team Frenzy, and the latest trailer of the 40th Anniversary Collection.

Giuseppe Nelva

Hailing from sunny (not as much as people think) Italy and long standing gamer since the age of Mattel Intellivision and Sinclair ZX Spectrum. Definitely a multi-platform gamer, he still holds the old dear PC nearest to his heart, while not disregarding any console on the market. RPGs (of any nationality) and MMORPGs are his daily bread, but he enjoys almost every other genre, prominently racing simulators, action and sandbox games. He is also one of the few surviving fans of the flight simulator genre on Earth.

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