Though Sony had already confirmed that Yuke's Media Creations (the technical force behind THQ's SmackDown series) was working on a PSP wrestling game in a somewhat-buried list of confirmed Japanese developers, concrete news about the title hasn't appeared for more than a year. That is, until now. Later this afternoon, during the annual Japanese trade show known as "PlayStation Meeting 2005," THQ and Yuke's will reveal the portable version of WWE SmackDown! vs. RAW 2006 to an unsuspecting audience (though, now that we told everybody, I guess they will suspect it, hmmm?)
To get a better idea of what the PSP version of the highly popular PlayStation 2 franchise will be like in its portable form, I called up Creative Manager Cory Ledesma for the fully skinny. Here's what he had to say...
IGN: Thanks for agreeing to do another interview with us so soon -- especially since you're over in Japan right now. I really appreciate it.
Cory Ledesma: Oh it's not a problem at all. Things are going fantastic right now, they really are. We're out here working on sight [in Japan] with Yuke's and it's going very well out here, so it's no problem at all do hook up for another conversation.
IGN: That's good to hear. But on to business and the first and most obvious question, why did you feel now was the time to do a PSP game?
Cory Ledesma: Well, since the system was first announced we were excited about the idea of bringing the SmackDown franchise to the PlayStation Portable. The main reason really, is because we've always wanted to bring the really fun and addictive gameplay of SmackDown to a portable medium but never had the means to before. We've wanted to do it for a very long time.
Another reason for doing it is simply because it's rare that the WWE license goes handheld and we wanted to bring it back to that market with something really strong. We saw the opportunity to jump on the next generation of handhelds with the PSP and now we can truly bring out a portable SmackDown like we always wanted to. I think the fans are going to be really excited about it too. I mean think about it. Whether they're on their lunch break at school, or on a long road trip, or just waiting for the bus or something, they can just break out SmackDown anytime they want and start playing.
IGN: What are some of the developmental differences of working on the PSP version of the game as opposed to working on the console version? Would you consider it an easier process?
Cory Ledesma: The ease of creating a game is pretty high. We're able to develop the PSP version of the game side by side with the PS2 version with little difficulty. There are definitely a few limitations with the PSP that we have to be mindful about... like streaming. We have to make sure that we don't completely drain the user's battery and stuff like that. So there are definitely a few things we have to watch out for and make some adjustments to while we're coming up with our feature set and design.
There are also a few other design differences we come across in regards to PSP/PS2 development, and that's mostly with the control scheme. With the PS2 version, we have an advantage. With the PSP, we have to make an adjustment relating to where we map our buttons -- especially with SmackDown vs. RAW, because we pretty much use every button on the Dual Shock controller. So yeah, that's our biggest challenge so far: reconfiguring the controls and still making it a fun and easy experience on the PSP.
IGN: What are some examples of how the controls have changed?
Cory Ledesma: Well we've been tossing around PSP control ideas forever trying to figure out what works and is fun to play with. We don't want to come up with anything too complex. The biggest problem we've had is really with shoulder buttons. Since we use the shoulder buttons a lot, it's hard remapping the L2/R2 buttons to other controls... especially since they're important on the Dual Shock. It's been our biggest challenge. We're still trying to find the perfect way to do it, but the end result will probably be double button presses. So you'll probably have to hit Square and L1 in conjunction to perform some of the moves that would normally be on the back shoulder buttons... or something like that.
That said, we feel really confident that the PSP control scheme will work really well and it shouldn't be an issue at all. We want to make sure that people can move between the two versions of the game without any problems and be able to figure out both schemes fairly quickly. We want it to be a very similar experience and not confuse anyone. The game speeds will be similar too.
IGN: Is it safe to assume that the PSP version is essentially a scaled-down version of the PS2 game? Or is it a completely different game entirely?
Cory Ledesma: SmackDown vs. RAW 2006 on PSP will be pretty much comparable to the PS2 version. The size and depth of both products are pretty close to each other and you'll see a lot of the same features that you'd see on PS2 in the PSP version. However, there will be exclusive game content on the handheld version that won't be found on the console iteration, and likewise, there will also be exclusive content that's only available on the PS2.
Anyway, I think that the feature sets being similar is great because we'll be able to give players similar experiences no matter where they go. The roster size, full season mode, and other cool things are just some of the ways we want to make that experience as fun as possible.
IGN: Can you talk about any of the PSP exclusive modes yet?
Cory Ledesma: Sorry, I can't do it just yet.
IGN: All right then, can you talk about what PS2 features will carry over? The Buried Alive match, for instance. Is that a PS2 exclusive?
Cory Ledesma: Nope, the Buried Alive match will be for both versions of the game. Like I said earlier, the PSP match list with be for the most part, pretty comparable to the PS2 match list. Almost all the matches you expect are going to be in there: Players can expect around 60-80 match types... somewhere around that range.
IGN: How about the roster? How much smaller will it be on the PSP compared to the PS2 version? And can we also expect to see legends in the handheld version?
Cory Ledesma: You'll definitely see the legends in the PSP version, and to be honest with you, the roster will actually be the same exact size if not slightly bigger than the PS2 game's.
IGN: Really? Is there a particular reason that the PSP version would have more wrestlers? Are the models easier to create for the PSP version or something?
Cory Ledesma: Well the models from the PS2 version have been scaled down for use on the PSP and we have to make sure that they're done so appropriately. That means that they're actually a little more difficult to do in the handheld version. But for the answers to the rest of the question, you'll just have to wait and see.
IGN: Sorry, but I'm really intrigued. How is it that you're going about adding the extra guy (or guys) to the roster? And why would they be in the PSP version and not the console version?
Cory Ledesma: That's the magic question isn't it? But honestly, it really comes down to the fact that since you are getting a bigger product on the console, we want to offer something special for the smaller-scale PSP users. As to whom the exclusive superstar is, you can expect them to be very important and worthwhile. Don't expect a HEAT or Velocity main eventer in that role, either.
IGN: Will we get the interactive arenas and backstage areas that you're working on for the console version?
Cory Ledesma: Yep. We haven't had to scale back any of the activity or interaction in the environments at all. The only thing we had to scale back was the polygon count for the environments and how many particles we can show. But the actual interactivity hasn't been compromised whatsoever.
IGN: How about the career mode? Will it be structured any differently than the console version? Will there be any PSP-exclusive storylines?
Cory Ledesma: Though they won't necessarily be exactly identical, the season modes between the two versions are going to pretty comparable. As for the storylines and possible exclusive ones for the portable version, I can't really discuss that yet. Sorry.
IGN: What are some of the other cool modes that we can expect to carry over?
Cory Ledesma: The Create-A-Superstar and Create-A-Championship modes will both be in there too.