Photo: Danny Moloshok (Invision/AP)
If the president of Koei Tecmo had his way, the next couple of Warriors games would be Star Wars and Mario. You can't fault the man's taste.
Koei Tecmo occupies a uniquely strong position in the Japanese video game market, thanks in large part to the evolution of its Dynasty Warriors series into a sort of one-size-fits-all template that seems to be able to magically turn any popular media franchise or game series into a hack-and-slash button-mashing good time.
Over the last decade, it's created well-received spin-off games in a variety of popular series from other publishers: Zelda, Fire Emblem, Dragon Quest, Final Fantasy, and more.
In January of this year, Kotaku spoke with Koei Tecmo's president Hisashi Koinuma about the future of the series. On the eve of the release of the latest crossover game - Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition for the Nintendo Switch - we thought we'd go back to this conversation to find out a bit more about what the future might hold in store, in Koinuma's wildest dreams.
"I've been saying this since a long time ago, but Star Wars would be a really good fit" in the Warriors series, Koinuma said. "If we could do it, I think it would be amazing."
If you've played any Warriors game at all, you can picture it in your mind. Luke Skywalker, mowing down a hundred Stormtroopers with an exaggeratedly powerful lightsaber? Unlocking the ability to play as prequel-era Yoda?
Conceptually, it's a perfect match. While Koinuma said that he could particularly envision Star Wars as an entry in the Warriors series, he doesn't want to limit his options.
"We are not really fanatical about having the game on the Warriors series," he said. "As long as it is fun and enjoyable, that is the most important thing. Whether it fits the Warriors system or not."
Hisashi Koinuma.Photo: Chris Kohler (Kotaku)
The thing that may keep Koinuma's dreams in a galaxy far, far away is the fact that Electronic Arts and Disney inked a deal back in 2013 that gave the game publisher the exclusive rights to create Star Wars games for the "core gaming audience."
One would imagine that Electronic Arts would consider a Warriors game to indeed be for core gamers.
Still, EA's deal isn't forever, and stranger things have happened. It's clear that Koinuma isn't giving up hope. "It's not just about me," he said. "If users demand or desire to have a game like that, I think that would be great.
Considering the circumstances, Koinuma's desire to do a Mario game is much more likely to bear fruit. (And yes, it's odd to consider any scenario in which "make a Mario game" is the more likely of two choices.)
Of all the partnerships Koei Tecmo has established, its relationship with Nintendo seems the strongest. Its horror series Fatal Frame is now developed jointly with Nintendo, and it's also created entries in numerous Nintendo franchises like Hyrule Warriors, Fire Emblem Warriors, and Metroid: Other M. Mario seems more like a when than an if.
Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition for Nintendo Switch.Screenshot: Nintendo
"I'd like to have an opportunity to work on Nintendo's Mario," Koinuma said. "Basically, he's a character I've been playing with ever since I was a kid, so if I could do something with him, I'd be really happy."
Besides being young enough (he is 46) to have grown up with video games, Koinuma is a lifelong gaming nerd. He studied programming in college and joined Koei in 1994, before it merged with Tecmo. His first task was porting the PC action RPG game Brandish 2 to the Super Famicom. He moved into game direction and production, and to this day splits his duties between the business and creative sides. (He gave up on programming some time around 2006, though.)
Much like with Star Wars, Koinuma said he'd pretty much like to work on any game featuring Mario, whether it's a Warriors or not. "I think anything would be great," he said.
"Even a simulation would be good." War sims like Nobunaga's Ambition were Koei's bread and butter before the lucrative Warriors games came along, and it still produces them today. Simulation games are how the company was able to produce other major franchise tie-ups such as Pokémon Conquest and the Japan-only Yo-Kai Watch Romance Of The Three Kingdoms.
Then again, if the company were to go that route, it would probably have to pitch something significantly different than Ubisoft's Mario and Rabbids strategy RPG.
Whether Koei Tecmo ever gets its hands on Star Wars or Mario, it's clear that Koinuma wants to continue the successful path of collaborating with companies that might otherwise be considered its rivals.
"I think it's a balance," he said. "It's necessary to have healthy competition in the marketplace or in the industry, but at the same time, if it's necessary, it's better to have a very favourable collaborative relationship as well, and nurture that."