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Dino Crisis producer Shinji Mikami was interviewed by Next Generation for their June 1999 issue.


It's quite a leap to go from creating Disney games like Goof Troop to Resident Evil, but that's what Shinji Mikami did when Capcom started gearing up for PlayStation development in 1994. Why the switch? "I was ordered to," answers Mikami. Clearly, his bosses knew what they were doing: Resident Evil has been a huge critical and sales success for Capcom on three continents. Now, while nominally producer of RE: Nemesis for PlayStation (see the first shots in Milestones, page 63) and Biohazard: Code Veronica (see the latest shots in Dreamcast Countdown, page 30), Mikami is focusing his day-to-day energies on Capcoms latest franchise bid: Dino Crisis. Next Gneeration caught up with him at Capcom's Osaka HQ.

Next Generation: The inspiration for Resident Evil seems at least to be partly based on George Romero's movies, like Night of the Living Dead. What was your inspiration for Dino Crisis?

Shinji Mikami: Actually, it was another film Maybe you've seen Jurassic Park? [Laughs]

NG: The setup of the game certainly parallels Jurassic Park - will the game's story play out like the movie?

SM: No, no. But, unfortunately, I can't say how it is different. I don't want to reveal too much of the plot. In the game, the player reveals sequences in the story one-by-one - I'd rather it's left for the player to discover rather than have me ruin it.

NG: Fair enough. Resident Evil was, thanks to PlayStation's abilities, one of the first games in years to offer dramatically new types of gameplay, specifically a story-driven action experience that truly inspired fear and suspense in the players. Will Dino Crisis instill this same level of fear, and are there any new feelings you're trying to get players to experience?

SM: In Resident Evil, a lot of the fear factor was just from the horror setting, and it would go up and down like a roller coaster depending on what was happening in the game. In Dino Crisis, there will still be sudden moments where it is really scary, but dinosaurs add a new kind of tension, where the tension is always building through the game. Dinosaurs themselves just add an entirely new dimension. If you think about it, they're really frightening, and I want to describe that in the game. Unlike zombies, dinosaurs can chase you and catch you, and because we are using skinned models, without joints, we can let the dinosaur get very close to the player, which can be very scary!

NG: What game are you spending the most time on - this or one of the Resident Evil games?

SM: Definitely Dino Crisis. I am producing the other games, but this is the one I am spending the most time on. I love Resident Evil, but I felt that I needed some variation in my routine, since I had done so many Resident Evil games already!

NG: Outside of work, do you see horror movies or read horror stories?

SM: Yes, I see all the big horror films, and specifically I enjoy reading Japanese horror author Edogawa Rampo, whose name is a play on Edgar Allan Poe. And I read a lot of horror comics.

NG: In a horror movie or book, you watch or read what happens to a character. In a horror game, you are the character. Are games the best medium to express horror?

SM: Well, in certain ways it is the best medium, because in a videogame you can control the character, so you feel the shock when things happen. At the same time, in a videogame we can't describe how you are actually feeling, internally, moment to moment. This can be done best in books, and secondarily in movies. So we cannot tell you what you should be feeling. Videogames need their "horror factor" to be a lot more concentrated. It's also tough because you don't control the pacing, like you can in a movie. You never know where a player will want to go next. But we solve this by setting some parameters or objectives that the player must achieve before enabling them t go further into the game.

NG: Although Resident Evil certainly owes a debt to Alone in the Dark,
 it pioneered many concepts that have now become very commonplace in games, even down to characters - it's hard to find a game today that doesn't have zombies in it. How does it feel to have paved this way that so many are following?

SM: Well, I feel pretty pleased in some ways, of course! But still, there are so many followers that are trying to make their own Resident Evil games today - I want to see designers become a lot more creative, exploring new possibilities. It's not very exciting for me to be looking at so many people just following my ideas blindly.

NG: Was this part of the reason for making Dino Crisis instead of working on another Resident Evil game?

SM: Yes, of course.

NG: What d you see as the biggest improvements Dino Crisis makes over the games in the Resident Evil series?

SM: Well, the biggest, of course, is the fully polygonal world; it's not pre-rendered like Resident Evil, so we can change the camera angles on the fly. Since one area can now seen from several different angles, it gives us the ability to create more action, although it's tough, because we have to design a camera system so that it can cover all the possible potential area. Otherwise, the camera misses the character, and that's obviously not acceptable! [Laughs]

NG: There wasn't much change in the puzzles between Resident Evil and Resident Evil 2. Have there been big changes with Dino Crisis?

SM: Probably two-thirds of the puzzles in the game will be familiar to anyone who played Resident Evil, but we are introducing some new code-solving puzzles. At first,
 these puzzles look like weird combinations of letters, but when you really look at it and figure out what rules can be applied there, suddenly you can understand the message needed to open the doors. Also, of course, the dinosaurs change the gameplay. You can't just run away from them lie you do with zombie, although you can shoot the dinosaurs with a tranquilizer weapon. other times you will need to press a button to close a door or shutter before a dinosaur catches you, or find a place to hide.

NG: Will the level of difficulty change when the game is localized for the U.S.?

SM: Yes, the puzzles will be a lot tougher.

NG: Why do you think U.S. gamers like their games more difficult than Japanese gamers?

SM: I think the difference between Japanese players and American players is that Japanese players get bored with a game more easily. If they get too frustrated, they'll quit the game, so I just have to keep the players concentrated on the game and instruct them about what they're supposed to do next - otherwise, they won't complete the game. But U.S. players will always try to feel like they have achieved something themselves, on their own, or of their own effort. That's completely opposite to the way of playing videogames in our nation. So right now, we design the game for a Japanese level of difficulty, with plenty of hints, then we modify it for the American market afterward.

NG: Would you rather not give out hints to the game?

SM: I'd rather not give out too many hints.

NG: Is Dino Crisis set in the same world as Resident Evil? Could there be a crossover game where the S.T.A.R.S. team ever came to the island - Resident Evil Vs.
 Dino Crisis?

SM: No, there's no relation between the two worlds.

NG: What do you think of the PlayStation 2?

SM: Spec-wise, right? It's unbelievable, I have no complaints at all - but at the same time, when you look at the PlayStation 2 specs, you're looking at the specs used by movie companies in Hollywood. These entertainment giants can join in and do the same quality work as traditional videogame companies have, with their special-effects houses and their own expertise. So, we're going to have a lot tougher competition because the expertise of a videogame company is working under technical limitations. That has been our speciality, but there are no technical limitations anymore. Now, it's all about artistic talent.

NG: Still, Hollywood has tried making games before and didn't do a very good job Don't traditional game creators have an inherent advantage in creating interactive media?

SM: Sure, but that assumes that the things that will come on PlayStation 2 will just be games. Maybe there will be new things, new kinds of experiences that aren't strictly games or strictly movies, and game companies may not have any advantages there. Games, videos, music CDs, they could all come together, so there will be more than just games on the system.

NG: When you saw PlayStation 2 for the first time, did you get some game ideas? Things you maybe always wanted to do, that weren't possible before?

SM: For the first time, I thought, "Human characters can have real personalities in games. For the first time, we'll see humans as real humans."

NG: What do you think of Dreamcast in light of PlayStation 2 now?
SM: I'm a firm believer in Sega, they have more than 10 years' history. So I think there's a place for Dreamcast users, and there will still be a place for Sega in the future, too. Releasing PlayStation 2 will not eliminate the Dreamcast market. In that respect, PlayStation 2 may not be successful, because it's still up in the air and there is no established Sony user base that has continued to loyally buy only Sony PlayStation games. So those users can go anywhere, but there are those Sega users who will always be faithful to Sega.

NG: OK, so, bottom line, which new platform excites you more?

SM: Actually, it's Game Boy Color right now!

NG: Game Boy Color? Why?

SM: Well, monochrome Game Boy is too limited - you can really just have symbols onscreen. But with Game Boy Color, you can have good graphics that show real things, but still, the graphics are so limited that you are forced to make the gameplay the thing that you focus the most on. So, right no, that's my main hardware interest.

NG: What are your favorite games, outside of Capcom games?

SM: Zelda 64.

NG: Do you play a lot of PC games?

SM: I don't pay one game for too long a time. I try a lot of games, but usually only for 10 minutes each, just long enough to get a taste, both for PC and video games.

NG: Except for Zelda?

SM: Zelda... [Laughs] Well, Zelda's my hobby.