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Interview: Katsuhiro Harada

Interview: Katsuhiro Harada

Ah, yes, Tekken. The game most of us played before we even knew what it was to be a gamer. Or if you’re of the, ahem, younger generation like myself, the game you watched your older siblings play and one day dreamed of being able to play yourselves. Surely I’m not the only person that had to sit on the sidelines and watch for years before I was allowed to touch the controller myself…right?

Since 1994, the Tekken franchise has been a part of gamer culture the world over. Who hasn’t played at least one round of the iconic fighting game at some point or another? Maybe you’re just a casual fan, who’s played the game a couple of times and marveled at the simple fun of button-mashing until you get somewhere. Or maybe you’re an intense Tekken player, the type that actually knows what the buttons are for and knows the combos like the back of your own hand. Whatever the case, you’ll probably be interested in our interview with Katsuhiro Harada-sensei, producer of the Tekken series, and two-time visitor to our beloved country. Harada-san, dressed most iconically in a thobe, shumagh, and his signature pair of sunglasses, laughed as I told him how much the look suited him, and sat down eagerly with us to discuss the newest game in the franchise, Tekken 7.

GCON: Harada-san, as you know, we showcased Tekken 7 at Gamers’ Day this year. Could you tell us what makes this game different from previous titles in the franchise?

Harada: The most significant change in this game is the continuation of the story, particularly the plotline concerning Heihachi and his son. A lot of thought and hard work went into the creation of the story, and we are very excited to be able to share it with everyone at last.

GCON: Do you personally have a favorite character from Tekken 7?

Harada: I love all of the characters in one way or another, and I especially liked Heihachi in this game, but I think I’m going to go with Feng Wei.

GCON: The Tekken series is practically a household name at this point. The games have endured long past their time to ultimately become cult classics. In your opinion, why do you think that is?

Harada: Speaking in terms of its influence on Japanese culture, a lot of the appeal in Japan came from the fact that about 50% of the game’s design had a foreign influence. We borrowed a lot from foreign cultures; Chinese, American, and so on. Of course, twenty years ago, we designed the game with a purely Japanese audience in mind. But over the course of that time we received a lot of feedback, especially as the games began to grow in popularity, and started to expand even more to include more cultural identities, such as Arabic for example.

GCON: As I’m sure you’ve noticed, the character of Shaheen is quite popular with us in Saudi Arabia!

Harada: Yes, and we appreciate that. Shaheen was actually one of the most difficult characters for us in terms of design. We had to rework his costume many times before we were satisfied with the end result. We also took a lot of fan feedback on Shaheen’s design, as it was important for us for the fans to be satisfied before we could formally release the character.

GCON: Are you surprised at the popularity of the Tekken games here in Saudi Arabia?

Harada: Yes and no. As a Japanese person, I find Saudi culture to be very foreign to me. But then again, the last time I was here was five years ago, and many things have changed since then, so I’m being forced to reevaluate and update my opinions. It’s still a learning process for me. But I am happy to see the positive response to the game, and especially to the character of Shaheen.

GCON: My final question to you is this: have you learned any Arabic words during your visits to Saudi Arabia?

Harada: Good question! I have learned how to say “shukran”, “assalamu alaykum,”, and “marhaba”.

Shaheen makes his debut in Tekken 7, so be sure to check it out! As for you guys, let us know in the comments if you have a favorite Tekken character yourself. Me? I’m a lover, not a fighter. All I think I really want is a big hug from Kuma. I will say one last thing about Shaheen though; good job, Namco. Really. Good. Job.

Interview edited for conciseness and clarity. Tekken 7 is available in stores now.

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