Six years might be a relatively short space of time to you and me, but for Platinum Games that same amount of time has been nothing short of a whirlwind. Founded in August 2006 by former members of Capcom’s Clover Studio, Platinum has since been behind some of the most supremely assured, innovative and tantalisingly over-the-top games of recent years. A smorgasbord of titles over a diverse array of genres; rich in style, substance and, in the case of seductive shape-shifting witch Bayonetta, sex appeal. “In my mind we’ve been rushing full-bore since Platinum Games was founded, and I doubt that feeling will ever change,” executive director and producer Atsushi Inaba-san informs us, “From our very beginnings, our vision has been consistent: to deliver new, surprising experiences around the world.”
He’s certainly not wrong in any case. Platinum Games is now a studio synonymous with taking a genre by the scruff of its neck and pushing its boundaries into new, ever-more spectacular and enthralling territory. In those six short years since its inception, we’ve seen the Japan-based studio tackle a spot of the old blood-soaked ultra violence in the black-and-white-and-red-all-over shooter MadWorld, seduce feisty ass-kicking witch Bayonetta in the sublime hack-and-slasher of the same name, and deliver its own super-stylish and gloriously fast-paced take on the third-person shooter genre with Vanquish. That’s not to forget, of course, Platinum’s brief departure to handheld shores in the stat-heavy science-fiction RPG Infinite Space for the DS. It’s been a busy few years for the team now slated to develop Metal Gear spin-off Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance.
In the mean time, the team is busy putting the final touches to yet another project under the studio’s belt that doesn’t adhere to any of the genres previously enjoyed by the six-year old developer. Welcome to Anarchy Reigns, a close-quarters multiplayer brawler that Inaba enthuses “literally [pushes] the limits of what online play allows.”
Bringing together an eclectic mix of highly individual and thoroughly dynamic cast of fighters (including various macho beefcakes from MadWorld, jetpack-wearing cyborg Big Bull, and dual katana-wielding ninja, Raiden lookalike ‘Zero’), Anarchy Reigns is a title so wildly ambitious, crazy and over-the-top on paper that Inaba-san concedes ideas had to be reigned in and sacrifices be made to remain stable. “Early on in development we concentrated on attacks that felt great and looked spectacular, but at the end of the day this is a multiplayer brawler. Overly flashy moves that simply annoy other players defeats the core purpose [of the genre],” says Inaba. “We began removing attacks in that vein, and arrived at a set of characters that not only feel good to attack with, but also to be attacked by.” There’s little doubt – from shape-shifting, to spectacular conjuration spells spanning the entire battleground via free-flowing blade attacks, Anarchy Reigns’ move roster is sure to leave even the most accomplished fighting and beat-em-up’s red-faced in comparison, and that’s even before the whole character set has been officially confirmed. Inaba refuses to budge on the matter when we admit Bayonetta would appear to fit perfectly into the line-up: “I can’t comment just yet”.
“In terms of the characters feeling unique,” he expands, “every character [in the game] has tremendous individuality. The key point was characteristic weapons and extremely distinctive design. This is a battle between superhumans, so our thought process was to ramp up individuality to the extreme. At the design level we completely unshackled ourselves!”
Publisher Sega has so far revealed four of the game modes set to be beaten to a pulp by players. From the taken-for-granted Deathmatch mode (“a straight up free-for-all where it’s every man, woman or cyborg for themselves”), to the “destructive anarchy” of facing off against waves of enemies in Survival, Battle Royale (in which “players jump into stages filled with disaster and calamity” and must “survive the environment to become king of the Battle Royale”) and last but certainly not least, Death Ball, a combination of sport and brutality where 'killer goals' must be scored and “anything goes”. If that doesn't excite you enough, Anarchy Reigns isn't just an online brawler, as many seem to assume. For the single players amongst you, Inaba assures us there is “plenty of content” when not tearing match-made online opponents apart. “Two characters stand at the core of Anarchy Reigns: Jack and Leo. Both have their own goals, and their actions interweave to form a larger story. After completing offline, I hope players will bring the fighting skills they've learned into the online realm.”
Anarchy Reigns is a Platinum game through-and-through insomuch that trying to attach it to any one genre is futile. With its large-scale fighting roots, categorising it as a beat-em-up is consistent and fair. But then you begin to scope into the meat of the action, getting close and personal with the characters if you will, and Platinum's hack-and-slash experience begins to become more apparent. While the issue of trying to balance each of the characters to make the game a success on the online side is sure to recall, at least for the studio, the stat-heavy formula of Infinite Space. For Inaba and the studio, the genre the game finishes being consigned to cares little, all that matters is the game stands on its own two feet: “The fighting game genre is saturated with franchises that have taken the fun of one-on-one gameplay to the limit. Launching a new IP into that space would be very difficult. But with Anarchy Reigns, a multiplayer beat 'em up, we want to blow the roof off the genre completely!”
Anarchy Reigns is due to hit Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 on 3rd July in North America, 5th July in Australia and 6th July in Europe. Find out more at the game's official site.
A huge thanks go to Sega for organising the interview and Atsushi Inaba for taking the time to answer our interview questions.