Interview with Tatsuhiko 'Falcoon' Kanaoka
(ilustrator and producer at SNK-Playmore)

05/19/2005, Source:

The man known as Falcoon was introduced to the gaming world as a fan artist who had an amazing talent when it came to drawing some of the most famous characters in the fighting game world. Thousands of fans drooled over his renditions of Mai Shiranui, Xianghua, Kilik, Ryu and Iori Yagami. Now a part of SNK as an art designer and producer (more on this later), Falcoon is helping SNK continue on their path of delivering quality, old-school titles for the PS2, Xbox and GameBoy. We were able to grab the popular artist away from his throngs of adoring fans for a couple of minutes to ask him some questions about his life and the future of King of Fighters.


When did you start drawing?

I basically started when I was little, that's when i started drawing.


did you study art in university?

I did go to art college in Japan, but it's not like I learned how to draw there. I basically learned by myself to improve my skills.


How did you start working with SNK?

[laughs] I just had an interview with SNK back in 1998. That's how I joined.


What do you think of the fan reaction for you at E3 this year?

I'm very happy with the turnout that I got at the show today!


Did anyone speak to you in Japanese?

Yeah, a few people. There were some Japanese people there, and some Americans were speaking to me in Japanese too.


Are you still creating fan art that's not for SNK right now? Casual artwork?

Right now, yeah.


Are you planning to do anything else for SNK other than art design, such as development?

Well I'm the producer of the sequel to King Of Fighters Maximum Impact, so I'm already creating games, and not just drawing characters. Right now I serve as the character designer and the producer on the game.


So is there anything you can tell us about the sequel right now?

Haha, no, sorry I can't.


Are you receiving fan feedback from fans of Maximum Impact? What have they been asking for?

Yeah, I have been, I read a lot of feedback about the game and the gameplay. They've been asking for more characters, more characters! They usually say "Use that character, use this character! Use my character!" Some fans want the sequel to be like 2D gameplay, but from other fans, they ant the game play to be separate from KOF, so there's all sorts of opinions from the fans about the game.


What games are you playing right now?

I'm a big fan of fighting games, so I'm playing KOF: MI and Tekken 5.


Are you good at Tekken 5?

Haha, no, not at all.


What games are you looking forward to in the future?

Well, like I said I'm a fan of fighting games, so I'm looking forward to any fighting games in the future, but I also want to play pure fighting games as much as possible.


Have you had a chance to walk around the show floor? What game did you think was really good?

Yeah, I really liked Soulcalibur III!


They have a tournament today at the Namco booth, you should enter!

Jajaja, ¡no gracias! He escuchado que sólo hay cuatro personajes, ¡así que no quiero entrar!


What do you think of the next generation consoles?

Well, with those next generation consoles, of course you could have great graphics and network play, but it doesn't mean you'll have great games. You can still create great games with non next-gen consoles, so it's not about graphics or great specs, it's about making a great game.


There's a big difference in Western-style games and Japanese-style games. What do you think are the strengths and weaknesses of both styles?

Well, in Japan, people tend to buy major games, which have large budgets, like Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest. But with western countries, they really like violent games like Grand Theft Auto, and also they do like sports games, which aren't doing so good in Japan. That's the big difference between those audiences.


Do you play any western style games like GTA?

Yeah, I have played it, but I didn't like it [laughs]. I didn't like it really, it was too violent for me.


We'd like to thank Falcoon for his time in this interview.

Interview with Tatsuhiko 'Falcoon' Kanaoka
(ilustrator and producer at SNK-Playmore)

(11/x/2005, source:

SNK Playmore is one of the primary Japanese console and arcade game companies still working in the pixel realm, choosing 2D over 3D for the majority of its properties, and continuing to build a cult following in the West for its products such as the Metal Slug and King Of Fighters franchises, which are being released more aggressively on consoles of recent, often in compilation or multi-game packs, by SNK Playmore USA.

Recently, though, SNK has been branching out into still other arenas, with a number of 3D projects in the works, and several tentative forays into the online markets, for example with the apparently cancelled KOF Online and Metal Slug Online projects. SNK's most successful step into the world of 3D has been the KOF: Maximum Impact series, keeping the popular gameplay of the firm's flagship fighting series to some extent, but transitioning the visual style to three-dimensional.

In this interview, Tatsuhiko Kanaoka, better known by his pen name Falcoon, discuss technique, tools, and influences or lack thereof.


So how did you get started as an illustrator?

Well I first joined SNK as a designer, just doing pixel work for various games, like King of Fightersfor instance. But while doing that, the higher-ups asked if I'd move to illustration... so it was basically requested of me.


What tools do you use for illustration?

I only use Photoshop.


Do you ever use pen, or traditional art media?

Only when I'm not doing it for work…but even at home I use a tablet and Photoshop on my PC.


Where do you get your ideas and inspiration?

I look at books, movies, sometimes game magazines, but more than anything I like to create from my own mind. If I have a reference before I make something, I'm worried I'll get too influenced.


How do you deal with artist's block?

Hmm, I can't say I really have that. Of course there are some times when I can't really envision things creatively, but when that happens I just do more rudimentary work, or practice. I have plenty of jobs to do, so I can't say I ever get into a classic slump. I also produce KOF: Maximum Impact 2, so I rely on that to get me through non-creative periods.


What would you like to improve about your own illustration work?

After I became a professional, I became most concerned with selling the games I was working on. So really, I want to create package artwork that people will want to buy when they see it, especially for my own projects.


Do you play many games yourself?

Not really now, but since I make fighting games at work, if other fighting games come out from other companies, I have to play them, and see what kind of feeling they have. SofFighting games are what I play the most, but it's purely for research.


When designing characters, how do you know when you're finished?

Before I draw a character, I write down the characteristics. Like the battle style, what they like and don't like, their gender, what country they're from, and what nationality they possess. Then after several months of thinking about that, I have a lot of ideas about the character in my head. Then I conceptualize the character in my head, and the character starts to come alive for me, gradually. So putting it down on the paper is the easy part. I don't think "oh, this should go here, or this should go here," all of that design is done in my head beforehand.


What other illustrators do you admire?

None! It's not that I hate other illustrators, I just consider them competition. In the past I had a bunch though! But eventually I realized that wasn't healthy for me, when I became a professional illustrator. I think it would influence me too much. Sometimes I'll see a nice image, and think "hey, that's well done!" but I don't bother to learn the name of the artist.


When you started out, did you draw from life, or from photographs and images?

At the very beginning, when I was really bad at drawing, I drew from books and magazine images I saw. Then I gradually began to draw from scratch. Then if I get stuck and can't figure out how something should move, I'll study a reference book, but I never drew straight from other material after that. And of course I've been influenced by all of the illustrations, books and magazines I've seen before.


Do you have future aspirations outside of illustration and production?

There are tons of things I'd like to do, but for now, I have to do anything the company hands me. Outside of the company, I'd like to do a few things too. I'd like to try to make an RPG, or a PC game…a fantasy or MMO. Right now I don't have a lot of freedom. I'm free within the constraints I'm given, but I don't have totally free reign to create. I'd like to find some new way of designing games. I'd also like to make comics, maybe movies, and I'd love to design costumes for movies too.


Do you prefer working for just one company, or a variety?

Well who knows what shape the future will take, but of course I'd like to work with other companies. I don't really care about the company's name, or the size, I just want to work for people that really want my artwork, and really need my help. I'd like to be in a situation where I can decide exactly what I want to do.


Thank you for your time in this interview.

Bonus: Interview to Falcoon
(ilustrator and producer at SNK-Playmore)

x/x/2005. Source:: http://www.geocities.jap/


Is KOFXII in development?

It's just begun.


Are [you] doing artworks for Card Figthers DS, and how far is the game in development?

[I'm] doing some. Development's at 2% (laughs)


Are there plans to release a soundtrack for the [KOF's] short anime?

We didn't do the music. It's done by the person that did Gran Turismo, so we don't know.


What about a sequel for Garou MOW?

It was about 70% done back in the old SNK, but whether it'll be released is undecided.


Will Neo Geo Battle Colliseum 2 come out?

It's undecided. It will depend on NBC's sales for the PS2, so please buy it (laughs)


[I've] heard that Rock can't come out in KOF?

Terry is in his MOW costume, so we have plans to use him as well.


Will Ash's flames be red in KOFXII? Will Iori still come out?

For Ash, it's undecided. Iori is undecided too, but he needs to come out since he's a popular character.


[I've] heard that Rugal has a young brother, but will he ever come out?

He has a young brother. Whether he'll ever appear is undecided.


Will characters from KOF Kyo ever be used again?

That's undecided.


Will KOF98 be released as an online collection?

We have plans of releasing it like 94RE. We also have something in mind for 2002.


Will there be a male version of Days of Memories (KOF cell phone dating sim)?

Yes. Please look forward. 

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