Interview: Koei Tecmo's Hisashi Koinuma on Creating Samurai Warriors 5 - Prima Games

Interview: Koei Tecmo’s Hisashi Koinuma on Creating Samurai Warriors 5

by Lucas White

Koei Tecmo’s Warriors series has been around since the PlayStation, but (aside from the first one) to this day the formula has stayed the same. With characters based on important figures in Chinese and Japanese history, the player takes on hundreds of enemies by themself. As technology has improved, so has the depth, fidelity and sheer number of enemies. Koei Tecmo and the teams at Omega Force have also expanded the Warriors brand, creating several successful collaborations with IP from the likes of Shonen Jump, Nintendo and Square Enix among others. But while the collabs are exciting, Koei Tecmo hasn’t ever abandoned the “core” of what this series is.

Related: Samurai Warriors 5 Hands-On | A Colorful Past

With Samurai Warriors 5, that core is still very much intact. But aside from that, many conventions from the Musou series over the years have been revisited. Most notable, this entry’s visual style has been revamped, with a much brighter color palette and Sumi-e ink-style filters and effects. This game also shifts its scenario focus, moving from the traditional time period Samurai Warriors 5 adapts and going back in time to show how a brash, young Nobunaga Oda grew into the notorious warlord we see depicted in so many other games, anime and Japanese media in general. We’ve already spent some time playing Samurai Warriors 5 and shared that experience with our readers.

But as a longtime Musou fan, I wanted to try and reach out to the source, simply in the interest in more context and knowledge about what goes into creating these titles. We were able to contact Hisashi Koinuma, who is the President and COO of Koei Tecmo. Mr. Koinuma gave us insight into the planning, tweaking and research that goes into a new Warriors game, and especially the new approaches resulting in Samurai Warriors 5. Check it out:

Samurai Warriors 5 Koei Tecmo Interview

Lucas White, Prima Games: When it comes time for the team(s) to return to the “core” series after things like outside IP or other collaborations, what kinds of conversations are happening when a new “Dynasty” or “Samurai” title is starting?

Hisaishi Koinuma, Koei Tecmo: We look at the elements that were well received in collaboration titles and consider if they would be a fit for the DYNASTY WARRIORS and SAMURAI WARRIORS series. If we do go forward with one of these elements, we begin considering and putting together the plans for how we would go about this in a way that would be a good match for either series.

There’s always something new to look forward to in each Musou, but Samurai Warriors 5 seems to be a major shift. What made this game the vehicle for more striking change?

Koinuma: When we decided on creating a new entry in the SAMURAI WARRIORS series, we eventually came to the decision that we wanted to re-imagine the period from the first SAMURAI WARRIORS title. As a result, the story, visuals, characters and action all needed to be re-vamped. Our goal in doing this was to create a title that can reach new and old fans, along with players that may have drifted away from the series.

When redesigning a character, such as introducing the younger characters in this game, what’s the creative process like? Oda Nobunaga has a distinct look that seems to be “the” look for him across videogames and pop media, even across unrelated projects. So what led to his new look?

Koinuma: In order to keep the character designs in line with the particular time period and narrative we were going for, we decided to keep the distinguishing aspects of their faces and their general silhouette intact. The main elements we changed were their age, expressions or makeup. Nobunaga’s design is consistent across all of our titles at KOEI TECMO GAMES, so we made sure to reference his younger design that was featured in the NOBUNAGA’S AMBITION series as a base for his design in SAMURAI WARRIORS 5.

When it comes to portraying real historical figures, are there challenges in deciding who to show as a protagonist versus what that person may have done in real life? How much historical research goes into these games, especially Samurai Warriors?

Koinuma: We utilize the historical figures they are based off as their general motif, and as all of them are protagonists in their own right, we were very careful to ensure they embodied both their real-life history along with elements that would be important for a main character.

Of course, we make sure to conduct a lot of historical research during the development process. I feel like all of the research and know-how we have built up over the years in developing historical games is one of our unique strengths as a company.

And speaking of research, how does the team decide what weapons each character uses or even how they use them?

Koinuma: While we have implemented a system in this game that allows players to freely switch out each character’s weapons, each character has their own weapon they are proficient with.

For characters like Toshiie Maeda and Tadakatsu Honda, we based their weapons on what they were famous for in real life. Overall, we decided on each character’s proficient weapon based on their image, design or what would be important for the story. For example, we may make sure a main character has an easier to use weapon.


Have there been any interesting challenges or roadblocks while creating Samurai Warriors 5 that could clue readers in on what it’s like to make these games?

Koinuma: One thing in particular was the fact that it took a lot of time to decide on each element we planned to re-imagine for this title. This included the visuals, design, story, and action system. The visuals in particular took quite some time as we carefully considered various patterns that we felt would be the right fit. In addition, we went through a process of taking the story and action elements we felt were working and continued to either scrap anything that didn’t work and build off of the most successful parts until we reached what we were going for.

Has the fanbase, or even the general reception, to Musou games changed in any surprising or notable way in recent years?

Koinuma: Thanks to all of the titles we have put out in collaboration with other companies’ IP, I think we have been able to reach a lot of new users in the process. Titles such as Persona 5 Strikers and Hyrule Warriors have also allowed us to receive a lot more praise from players in North America and Europe as well.

What goes into setting up granular rules and limitations in combat? Things like juggle properties, off the ground damage, recovery windows?

Koinuma: We generally retain the core elements we implement across all of the SAMURAI WARRIORS titles as a base. However, for the new systems we are adding in to SAMURAI WARRIORS 5, we test out each feature many times, and balance everything carefully to ensure it starts feeling the way we intended.

What’s something about Samurai Warriors 5 that the team is especially proud of or excited about, that may not necessarily appear as a selling point or main attraction in a list of features? 

Koinuma: We are really proud of the brand new visual style, re-imagined story, and re-vamped action system, and hope that players can experience all of these aspects of the game for themselves. And while we are of course very proud of the main characters and story we have put together this time around, we also put in a lot of effort into the original designs for the 10 supporting characters as well. Please try out these characters to experience a different perspective on the story, as well as the If Scenarios we have prepared in order to see the Sengoku period in a number of new ways.

A little thrill of mine with the new consoles is to fire up Musou games and see how they run on the new hardware. For example, I revisited Berserk Musou recently after Mr. Miura passed, and it runs amazingly well on PS5. So I’m curious what impact the new hardware has had on the folks working on Musou internally. Is anything especially exciting or intriguing about new consoles from a Musou perspective?

Koinuma: I think the latest hardware will allow for an even great number of enemies to be displayed on the screen at one time, giving the player the ability to increase their number of hits in their combos by tens of thousands. The exhilarating 1 vs “1000” concept of the WARRIORS series will most likely become a thing of the past, since we’re no longer restricted to “only” a thousand enemies. AI and the graphics used in stages will most likely be greatly improved as well, so those are a few other points to potentially look forward to.

It’s fun to see the future of Musou being hinted at, yeah? It may be obvious, but the limitations becoming “a thing of the past” is pretty hype. Since Samurai Warriors 5 is a previous-gen game, we won’t yet be seeing just what this series can be capable of with the new hardware. There are PC ports, sure, but Musou is a console-first series. That said, Samurai Warriors 5 is a gorgeous game with an intriguing story, and as Koinuma said the If Scenarios add even more to this adaptation of Oda’s journey. It’s also nice to hear about how much care and thought is put into this series, despite its reputation as a more simple “hack and slash” type of game. 

Samurai Warriors 5 is sure to make the Musou fanbase happy when it comes out later this year. It remains to be seen if this is the kind of title that can bring in a fresh audience, but as Koinuma said the collaborative IP efforts may have done that work already. Perhaps those folks will dip their toes into the more history-oriented series, and Samurai Warriors 5 is an excellent place to start. Thanks again to Koei Tecmo and its North American PR folks for helping get this interview coordinated. And of course thanks to Mr. Koinuma for taking the time to answer our questions. I thought this was pretty cool, but what do our readers think? Let us know through spaces like the Prima Games Facebook and Twitter channels! 

Lucas White

Lucas plays a lot of videogames. Sometimes he enjoys one. His favs include Dragon Quest, SaGa and Mystery Dungeon. You can find him on Twitter @HokutoNoLucas. Wanna send an email? Shoot it to [email protected]