Japan Expo Paris - July 11-14, 2024
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Daisuke ISHIWATARI

Just over a quarter century ago, Guilty Gear brought a breath of fresh air to the fighting game genre. This year, Japan Expo is honored to welcome the creator of this series, Daisuke ISHIWATARI, Chief Creative Officer at Arc System Works.

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The beginning

Daisuke ISHIWATARI was born on August 14, 1973, in Johannesburg, South Africa. He spent the first years of his life there, before moving to Japan as his family was of Japanese origin. He quickly developed a taste for the music of Western bands such as Metallica, Guns N' Roses, Iron Maiden, and especially Queen. Armed with his guitar, he taught himself to play and compose while continuing his studies in design.

After completing his studies, he made his debut in the world of video games at Arc System Works in 1994, a small development studio responsible for porting video games. In 1995, he worked as a designer on two titles: Virtual Open Tennis on the Sega Saturn and Exector, Arc System Works' first creation, on the PlayStation 1. 

 
 

The smell of the game

However, Daisuke ISHIWATARI wanted to go further, so he asked the founder and CEO, Minoru Kidooka, for permission to carry out a project he had already been thinking about during his time in college: Guilty Gear. With the president's approval, a 12-strong team was formed under the name "Team Neo Blood", and Daisuke ISHIWATARI took his first steps as game director. After a year and a half of hard work and sleepless nights in his office, the game was officially released in Japan on PlayStation 1 in 1998, then in Europe in 2000.

The game is inseparable from Daisuke ISHIWATARI, not only because he is mentioned no less than six times in the credits: game director, character design, graphic design, music, sound effects, and even as the voice of the main character, but also because the game is representative of its creator's desire to go even further.

Guilty Gear made a sensational entry into the world of fighting games, offering players a new approach to the genre. Farewell to martial arts rooted in a semblance of reality, Guilty Gear is as exaggerated as possible, both in its gameplay and in its character designs. With visuals inspired by manga and anime, including titles such as Bastard!!, Rurouni Kenshin, Evangelion, and Jojo's Bizarre Adventure, the game also pays tribute to the great Western music groups that Daisuke ISHIWATARI has been so fond of since childhood. Freddy Mercury is the source of inspiration for the main character's first name (Frederick) and his nickname "Sol Badguy", but there are also references to Iron Maiden, Enuff Z' Nuff, and Helloween (to name but a few) in the characters' names and attacks.

 
 

In terms of gameplay, the emphasis on frenetic combat and character speed was a hit with gamers. This style of gameplay has changed fighting games for years to come and has laid the foundations for what makes Arc System Works games unique, such as DragonBall FighterZ, Grandblue Fantasy Versus, DNF Duel, and the spiritual sequel to Guilty Gear, BlazBlue.

what's next?

The series was followed by numerous sequels, the most recent of which, Guilty Gear Strive, passed the 2.5 million player mark in 2023.

Since then, Team Neo Blood has given way to Team RED, which works on Guilty Gear Strive and DragonBall FighterZ, and Team BLUE, which handles other titles such as BlazBlue.

Daisuke ISHIWATARI, meanwhile, continues to work as game director on this series, even if, as he himself admits, it's difficult for him to bring together under a single flag the myriad of subjects on which he's doing such colossal work. He also continues to work as a designer and composer on other titles, such as the BlazBlue series and CHUNITHM CRYSTAL in 2019. 

From designer to game director and now general creative director at Arc System Works, Daisuke ISHIWATARI has risen through the ranks through perseverance and hard work. When asked for his favorite expression, he answers with one sentence: "Oh well, it'll be okay!". This saying sums up the determination that drives Daisuke ISHIWATARI in his work; for as he says himself: "There's no point complaining about the situation, you just have to push on forward."

This year, Japan Expo is honored to welcome this VS Fighting legend for the 4 days of the festival! Meet him at signing sessions and during his on-stage panels!

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  • Video games

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