A Game Designer’s Lifelong Pursuit of Action Nirvana

Few designers have dedicated themselves to the dark arts of video game combat more than Hideaki Itsuno, who has spent his three-decade career adapting the hyperviolent DNA of fighting games to ever larger, more ornate playspaces.

Itsuno, a game director at Capcom, cut his teeth on Street Fighter Alpha, a 1995 fighting game of crystalline purity whose brawls took place in confined two-dimensional stages. In the Devil May Cry series of the 2000s and 2010s, the symphony of on-screen savagery played out across discrete levels.

Now Itsuno is set to release his most ambitious game yet, transposing the blistering melee combat he made his name with — including in the cult classics Rival Schools: United By Fate, Power Stone and Capcom vs. SNK 2 — to a gigantic open world of quintessential fantasy tropes. When a monster lurches from the thicket in Dragon’s Dogma 2, which arrives on Friday, the game crackles with the cadence of its fighting forebears: the swing of a sword — bang — followed by bone-crunching pow.

“Fighting games are very technical, and that was how he spent most of the ’90s,” said Matt Leone, a video game journalist at Polygon and the author of “Like a Hurricane: An Unofficial Oral History of Street Fighter II.” “He learned the ins and outs of animation systems — how to make things feel good.”

Dragon’s Dogma 2 comes out this week, 12 years after its predecessor, which had chaotic battles that were underpinned by deeply satisfying controls.Credit…Capcom

The original Dragon’s Dogma, from 2012, married robust combat with slow, methodical adventuring and baroque, anime-esque pomp. (The player’s heart gets ripped out by a dragon in the opening 10 minutes.)

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