18 years ago, video game producer Hisashi Koinuma began work on the first game in the Samurai Warriors series. Little did he know at the time that his game would become one of the cornerstones of the Koei Tecmo catalog, and in 2021, he’d not only still be working on the franchise, but he’d be developing the game while working in his dual role as both producer and company president. We talked with Koinuma-san to find out more about his upcoming title, his favorite character, and what the new re-imagined experience will bring when the game hits Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S (via Backward Compatibility) in the U.S. on July 27, 2021.
Koei Tecmo: It’s the 17-year anniversary of the Samurai Warriors franchise. Why do you feel like this is the right time to bring the series back?
Hisashi Koinuma: Samurai Warriors has always been a passion project to me. I started working on the first game 18 years ago, and here I am, still at it. Fans of the franchise kept asking me: When are you going to make a new Samurai Warriors? And it’s difficult to keep things like this a secret. I want to tell everyone what I’m working on, but obviously, it was a secret [laughs]. Creating a new game is all about timing. When you can combine a great story with compelling art and action to go along with that story, you know the timing is right to release a new game. It was finally time when all these elements came together.
Koei Tecmo: What’s the storyline of the new game?
Hisashi Koinuma: This time around, Samurai Warriors 5 will be a re-imagining of the first Samurai Warriors title, including elements from the start of the Sengoku Period (1467), beginning right after the end of the Ōnin war, which we were not able to fully include originally. The Samurai Warriors 5 story tells the tale of two of the most preeminent military commanders of this period – Nobunaga Oda, and Mitsuhide Akechi. We thought exploring Nobunaga’s younger years, when he was known as “Owari’s Great Fool,” is fascinating in terms of both action and storytelling as we lead fans through a period of turmoil and upheaval, leading up to the infamous Honnō-ji Incident.
Koei Tecmo: What makes the Sengoku period interesting in terms of transporting gamers to this time period?
Hisashi Koinuma: As developers, when we talk about Samurai Warriors, our high-level concept right from the beginning, our concept from 18 years ago remains the same today: We are looking to deliver Japanese history with exciting characters who are portrayed in a cool, unique way. To me, the Sengoku period, with all its history, is exactly the right place for Samurai Warriors and the type of exhilarating action fans of the series crave.
Koei Tecmo: There’s a new Ink art style to the game. Why the re-imagined look?
Hisashi Koinuma: We’re really trying to re-imagine everything about what we’re delivering with the franchise, and to do that, it’s key that right from the first time you see the game, you know from the first images, the first video that you’re seeing something unique, something that stands out. We wanted to bring a more Japanese art style to the game, we wanted to freshen up the look of every sword slice and Musou attack. This Japanese ink look helps capture the characters like you haven’t seen in a Samurai Warriors game before.
Koei Tecmo: Tell us about the new character featured in the game, Mitsuki, who is a Kōga Ninja.
Hisashi Koinuma: This is a young female ninja with an interesting backstory. She grew up believing Nobunaga Oda is her father, and she idolizes him. How will her story playout in the end? You’ll just have to play and see if her loyalty stands the test of time.
Koei Tecmo: Who is your favorite character to play as in the series throughout the years? Why? Do they have a quote that you follow to this day?
Hisashi Koinuma: The main idea behind our Musou games has always been this 1 vs. 1,000 exhilarating action. So, it’s key that the 1 in the 1 vs. 1,000 is someone you really feel a connection to, someone you really want to play as. One character that always stands out to me is Nō. I like the English version of the Nō quote from Warriors Orochi 2: “There’s not much you can’t do when you put your mind to it.” Good quote about life, and video game development.
Koei Tecmo: You’re not only the producer of the game, but you’re the company’s president. What’s it like juggling those two roles? Which role do you like better? Why?
Hisashi Koinuma: I’m a gamer, I’ve always been a gamer and I will always love video games. So naturally, creating games and working as a producer on titles like Samurai Warriors is what continues to inspire me. At the same time, making business decisions, bringing in new partners, and helping our business grow allows me and others like me to continue to create the games we love, so I guess it’s all about striking the right balance.
Koei Tecmo: This is the first Samurai Warriors game to hit Xbox since Samurai Warriors 2. Why the return to Xbox after such a long hiatus?
Hisashi Koinuma: Our plan as a company is to release our titles on multiple platforms, and we originally wanted to release past titles on Xbox as well but were unable to for various reasons. The concept for this title is to start a re-imagined Samurai Warriors series, so we would like to also challenge ourselves to bring this title to Xbox platforms as well. We hope all the Xbox fans enjoy Samurai Warriors 5.
Koei Tecmo: What can fans expect when they finally get their hands on Samurai Warriors 5?
Hisashi Koinuma: A deep storyline seeped in Japanese history, but with a fun twist. We strive to take these authentic historical events and amp them up for gamers with more weapons and enemies, giving fans the kind of action and strategy that attracted them to the Samurai Warriors franchise in the first place. I think this re-imagined look at Samurai Warriors is exactly what fans have been waiting for. I can’t wait for them to play!