Jason Kuo Interview

"Yusaku: Would you like to introduce yourself and what position you hold?

Jason Kuo- I’m currently a localization producer at SEGA of America in Product Development. I like to consider myself a fairly hardcore gamer, although I’ll certainly admit to being less so in recent years, as evident in tossing out my 7 year collection of Famitsu among other things.

How long have you worked at Sega and how did you get the job?

  • Officially, I’ve worked here for 15 years. Including temp. work, originally as a tester, I’ve actually worked at SEGA for 16-17 years. I originally got the job when one of my college friends, who was a tester at SEGA told me to apply. I did, got hired, and I’ve been working at SEGA since then.

What was your first project?

  • My first project as a temp. tester was Ex-Mutants for the Genesis. I then became one of 4 core testers on Sonic 2. My first test lead project was Cyborg Justice. The first project I was able to do level design for was the SEGA CD version of The Amazing Spider-Man vs. the Kingpin. The first project I worked on that was released while in the capacity of game designer was The Ooze. After that, it’s all a bit fuzzy as to what my first projects were.

Did you think you were going to stay at Sega this long?

  • I honestly never really thought about it. My goal at the time when working at SEGA as a tester was to get into game design, which I eventually did for a short period of time.

What is your favorite Sega console?

  • Do I really have to pick one? I really enjoyed playing games on the Genesis, Saturn and Dreamcast, and I really couldn’t say I enjoyed one hardware over another. If you’re talking about work, the Dreamcast was generally easier to work with, but a lot of that had to do with an evolving and improved process as we moved from hardware to hardware.

The Saturn was a special kind of console. Saturn did not receive a lot of attention, but those who owned it loved it and still do. Why do you think this is?

  • Personally, I think it’s because it had a lot of great exclusive games, especially if you were willing to import, and if you were willing to grab the 4 Ram Meg cart. I’d say a good 1/3 of my Saturn collection are import games.

Shining Force III was the last entry in the numerical series developed by Camelot. What are the chances we will see a collaboration between Camelot and Sega to continue the franchise in the future?

  • That’s a really tough question that I’m afraid I don’t have an answer to.

Julian mentioned that you did some of the text work for SFIII. Was that part of the translation? How did that go?

  • Actually, while I know a little Japanese, I don’t know enough to converse, let alone translate. So the work I was involved in was taking the translation and rewriting it to have a more polished feel. But I didn’t do the entire rewrite, just a small portion. Whether we succeeded or not is really up to the people who played the game. I don’t recall anyone complaining about the dialogue (I know there were issues with the voice overs), so I think we succeeded on that front. I hope people got a sense of the personalities of the characters from the rewrite.

Any word on releasing Scenarios II & III in English some day on a newer platform? The PSP or DS seem like they would make good candidates for the turn-based strategy gameplay.

  • There has been a proposal to bring over all three Shining Force III games onto a new/current platform, but the high cost of localization among other things makes it, at least at this point, something we don’t think is viable.

I’ve seen your name in credits for many Sega titles while growing up and continue to see it. Could you describe how the environment has changed over the years?

  • The biggest change I’ve seen throughout my years at SEGA of America is the change in focus from Japanese developed titles to Western developed titles, although Japanese titles are still a very important part of our business. Otherwise, I guess you could say for me personally, I’ve seen my space go from a cubicle, to a nice office and come 360 to a small cubicle again. :stuck_out_tongue:

Your credit list is impressive. If you had to pick your top three titles you worked on, which would they be?

  • For my top three, I’d say the 3 titles below are my most memorable:
  1. The Ooze – While it got pounded in the reviews, I was proud of the level design and boss work I did on the title, and I like to think of it as a hardcore gamer’s game. There’s quite a few “firsts” in the game, along with a few secrets that people don’t seem to have found. Plus, I think it’s funny that it also has “hardcore” status because the Japanese version is very hard to find.
  2. Sonic Rivals – This was a great experience, working with Backbone Vancouver, and also working with the Sonicteam located here (they’ve moved back now, however) to create a game closer to the traditional Sonic 2D gameplay fans had been asking for, while introducing something new.
  3. Phantasy Star Online – It was an exciting time, when SEGA was exploring online gaming. It was cool being part of the process of a game that allowed players from around the world to communicate and play.

Getting back to Shining Force, my first RPG was Shining Force II. I had no clue what I was getting into at the time, but I was hooked instantly and played it through three times in a row. It remains one of my most nostalgic memories. Being your first RPG for Sega, did you know what you were getting into? How has Shining Force changed you, if at all?

  • Actually, the first RPG I played at SEGA was probably Shining Force I. It was because of that experience that I requested to be on and eventually did testing for Shining Force II. So I definitely knew what I was getting into for SFII. :wink:

Redfield or San Francisco?

  • Is this something about sports? I’m pretty clueless when it comes to anything sports related.

*Note: I meant to ask “Redwood City or San Francisco” but Resident Evil’s zombie virus must have infected my train of thought.

Recently, there was a room uncovered at Sega with seemingly thousands of games and accessories. You never saw it before? Word is that everybody forgot about it and I think that’s really hilarious, but it’s a great story.

  • Sorry to break the news, but actually it was just the person who photographed the room who wasn’t aware of our huge archive. I believe he was just misquoted. A decent chunk of the games and accessories in that room came from the inventory I had retained before our move in 5 separate office cabinets. I’m glad I no longer have to worry about tracking those items any more!

Let’s assume Shining Force IV was announced in-house and Camelot was developing. How extatic would you be?

  • I’d be pretty happy, as I really enjoy tactical RPGs, whether on the console or on PC. Having said that, Valkyria Chronicles is pretty awesome, and I can’t wait for its US release. If you have a PS3, go pre-order it!

Just because I feel obliged to ask, when is Suzuki-san going to announce Shenmue III?

  • I’m afraid I have no answer to that question. You’d have to ask Suzuki-san.

If fans donated a million dollars (like through a fund), do you think that would get the ball rolling?

  • Unfortunately, I don’t think it’d really help get the ball rolling, or the ball really wouldn’t move that far along.

How about 10 million dollars?

  • That might raise an eyebrow or two.

Well, Mr. Kuo, it’s been a great honor to have had the priveldge to interview you. Your job is my dream job and I hope you have a great time visiting Japan later this week! As a last request, think you could bug corporate for us about Shenmue and Shining Force? Again, thank you and have a great week!"

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