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RPGamer Feature - The State of XSEED/Marvelous Interview
XSEED
Marvelous
Avalon Code
Platform:
Developer: Matrix
Release Date: 03.2009


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Rune Factory: Frontier
Platform:
Developer: Neverland
Release Date: 03.2009


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Little King's Story
Platform:
Developer: Cing and Townfactory
Release Date: Summer 2009


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Muramasa: The Demon Blade
Platform:
Developer: Vanillaware
Release Date: Q3 2009


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Arc Rise Fantasia
Platform:
Developer: imageepoch
Release Date: Q3 2009


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Retro Game Challenge
Platform:
Developer: Namco Bandai
Release Date: 02.10.2009


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Welcome to the State of XSEED/Marvelous interview, our third "state of" interview with North American publishers. XSEED Games and Marvelous Entertainment have gone to Japan and back to answer our burning questions about their upcoming titles for 2009. Stay tuned, you're bound to learn something.


Greetings Ken. We want to start off with a brief introduction. About the Marvelous Entertainment partnership, how does that actually work for XSEED? Are the localization teams the same for XSEED-only games and Marvelous co-published ones? Are you guys crammed into one big room?
Ken Berry, Director of Publishing at XSEED Games: Yes, the localization teams for XSEED-only and Marvelous Entertainment USA co-published titles are the same. Our XSEED office is small so our localization team is packed into some tight quarters, but Marvelous has a separate office within the same office building.

XSEED's vision statement expresses a desire "to cross pollinate the avid gaming culture of Japan and North America", and it seems like you are succeeding in doing just that. What challenges have you faced in your efforts to bring over titles that just a few short years ago would have never seen the light of day in North America? What frustrations have there been?
Berry: Of course there's always the issue of if we can actually obtain the North American publishing rights from the IP holder in Japan or not, but feel that we've been pretty fortunate so far. Probably the biggest challenge is just getting the retail support and having our products carried in store shelves considering the sheer volume of games out there these days, especially on a platform like the Nintendo DS. Pre-orders are everything these days, so if a gamer wants to obtain one of our titles on day 1 then they really need to get a pre-order in or else the retailer might not order that game from us.

We always get a lot of requests from gamers to bring a certain game from Japan and a lot of times we'll agree with them that it's a great game that American gamers will enjoy, but we just can't make the financials work if retailers won't support it. Perhaps as digital distribution grows we can worry less about which niche products retailers will carry since we know the hardcore gamers will purchase it via download.

Even if you can't give release dates for your upcoming releases yet, is there at least an order in which you expect to release them?
Berry: Of course everything is subject to change, but probably along the lines of Retro Game Challenge, Avalon Code, Rune Factory: Frontier, Little King's Story, Muramasa: The Demon Blade and Arc Rise Fantasia. These are just our announced titles, other unannounced titles will make their way into this schedule as well.

Avalon Code

Ok, so let's jump into your 2009 games. We've really heard little about Avalon Code, despite its recent release in Japan. Could you share a little about the game's general plot?
Yoshifumi Hashimoto, Producer of Avalon Code at Marvelous Entertainment Inc.: It's an action RPG game where the main character obtains a blank Book of Prophecy which he/she collects what they think is important to keep, with the help of the spirits to pass the information to the next world.

We've read that the Book of Prophecy is used to modify weapon and monster attributes. What exactly will that entail?
Hashimoto: You can use the Book of Prophecy not only for weapons and enemies but pretty much "Everything," including other characters. The main character has the Book of Prophecy that can change the elements in the book. For example, if you add fire information to your sword it will become a fire sword. Another way of using it will be to capture a hard enemy's information into the book, find out that its body has a rock element so you remove the rock and make it a weaker enemy. You'll be able to freely change the information as you please.

Will the main character have party members to assist in combat or does he/she have to go it alone?
Hashimoto: The main character will fight on its own but you'll have up to four "bookmarks" which are spirits.

The spirits will provide guidance on how to use the book or even use their power to unleash special attacks to advance through the game.

What level of customization will players have in terms of character creation? Does changing equipment change the look on the character models?
Hashimoto: It's really difficult to say how many customizations there are since any information you change will change the item itself so there could be an enormous number of combinations. For weapon types there are swords, hammers, bombs, crossbows, guns and shields. What type of weapon you want to wield is up to the player so if you're confident with your battle skills you can equip hammers in both hands which will give you a slower reaction time but a stronger blow. If you're not so confident with your fighting skills you can equip a rapier and rapidly hit the buttons like a shooting game.

For armor you can equip head, face, chest, hip and back areas and the look of the character will change accordingly to what you equip.

It was intriguing to read that the story will change based on the main character's selected gender. Will it be more than just basic dialogue changes? Is it enough to make players go through the game twice?
Hashimoto: One of the big features of this game is that though it's an action RPG it has a "relationship" factor in it. If you're playing as the male character you'll be able to seek out female characters in the same age range and as a female character you'll be able to seek out male characters in the same age range. We thought it would be interesting for each player to have a different objective to save the world for someone else.

Who is doing the composition for this title?
Hashimoto: For the music composition we have Mr. Iwasaki, the composer of such titles such as Yggdra Union, Riviera, and Summon Night.

Rune Factory: Frontier

Rune Factory? Is this series now far enough away from the Harvest Moon series that Natsume might not have full control over it any longer, or is it your Wii expertise that is breaking this one your way?
Yoshifumi Hashimoto, Producer of Rune Factory: Frontier at Marvelous Entertainment Inc.: It's not like we're going away from Natsume because even with "Frontier" in the title it's still a Rune Factory game, just one that we're taking new challenges on so we decided to publish it as a Marvelous USA title.

What are some of the major differences between this and the DS Rune Factory games?
Hashimoto: Since this Rune Factory is on a home console, the amount of activities is significantly larger. Other aspects are exploring the floating Whale Island, as well as using the spirits called "Runey" which you can use to create an ecological chain and other various aspects that makes a fun "fantasy world" in the game.

What level of customization is there for the main character in terms of look and design?
Hashimoto: Hats and other objects can be equipped on your head and anything you equip on your body will change your appearance as well. Also in this game you'll be able to give gifts to female characters in the village and if they like your gift they'll equip it.

What's the deal with the girls with multi-colored eyes?
Hashimoto: Both their names are Iris and for some reason the two are identical. I can't tell you who they are since that will be a spoiler but the story will unfold dramatically around them. You'll be able to meet one of them somewhere as you're exploring the Whale Island.

How many different people do you have the opportunity to court and marry?
Hashimoto: If we just count in character terms, it'll be 12. However there are aspects in the game that you can't just count how many characters there are. Each character will have their own animation and events so please look forward to it.

What about the combat system? Any unique and exciting details on that front?
Hashimoto: By using a certain item you will be able to take in monsters that appear in the dungeons as pets. In this game there are some monsters that you will be able to ride on their back and go to locations that you normally could not go to. Try to take in as many monsters as pets and try out their ability to see what happens.

Little King's Story

Since the announcement of Little King's Story, it has yet to be playable anywhere. We are curious about jobs in Little King's Story. What are some ways that we can make our peasants work like dogs?
Yoshiro Kimura, Producer/Director of Little King's Story at Marvelous Entertainment Inc.: There's a variety of jobs. There are cooks, lumberjacks, wizards, miners, and many more. By using/selecting the right jobs for the characters, you will be able to defeat the boss fights easier. Personally I love the Carefree Adults fighting hard against Shishkababoo and TV Dinnah.

Is the Little King brave enough to go into battle with them or does he just get to sit back and enjoy the battles?
Kimura: Even if the King doesn't fight, his servants will. But if all your servants are defeated then the king can fight on his own too. However, he can fight but if you're in that situation you're in big trouble. So it is best to avoid that kind of situation and have your servants fight well.

Does Little King's Story have an end goal or is it a completely open ended attempt to create the best kingdom ever?
Kimura: There is an end goal of course! You need to defeat the seven kings and become the world's greatest king. World domination! But at the very end of the story... hmmmm, is something I cannot reveal at this time (smile).

Was the knight in Little King's Story a direct inspiration from Don Quixote?
Kimura: I love old-timers and aged men. Like the funny and cool old men. For example I love Sean Connery. Don Quixote is a historical figure I like since he has this humorous aspect. When you look at it in the real world, don't most cool old men seem to be separated only by a fine line of "cool" and "weird?" I love to use real life experiences and implement that into the game so there's someone like Howser in real life. I modeled Howser based on that funny old man I met in the past (laughs).

What roles have Cing & Town Factory each had in terms of development of this game?
Kimura: Of course they each have their roles but thinking back to the beginning their roles have changed a lot. Usually when we have a project with multiple companies working together we get these types of questions a lot. It's usually asking about how the companies are working together but for me it's more about people working together. In these types of projects each individual's roles are big but the role as a company is pretty small. You can create a game without companies getting involved but with all the grown up circumstances we have to do company to company style. A project goes on for a long period of time and is full of ups and downs but at the end of the day the staff member that I'm working with to finish this project together are the best staff members. I just wanted to clarify that point!

Most importantly, when are we actually going to get to play this game? We're really excited.
XSEED/Marvelous: The development team is hard at work to try to finish the game, but at the same time they don't want to compromise quality to push it out the door sooner. We're getting pretty close, but afraid we'll have to wait for the official announcement, hopefully sometime soon.

Muramasa: The Demon Blade

Muramasa looks unbelievably amazing. There, we've got that out of the way. Got a problem with that? Didn't think so. Long live 2D!
Yoshifumi Hashimoto, Producer of Muramasa at Marvelous Entertainment Inc. : Thank you very much. I'm excited about this title as well and hope to show the best 2D game with today's technology.

It has been noted that Muramasa appears to be a lot more action-focused than Odin Sphere. RPGamers everywhere want to know what RPG elements will be present. Please share.
Hashimoto: (Compared to Odin Sphere) The action elements have been emphasized but I believe it's more accurate to think of it as an evolved title. Preparing for battle you can pre-select which weapons you want to use and if you encounter an enemy you can go straight in without thinking or you can try to strategize the best way to fight the battle. There's a lot more RPG elements other than the battle part I just mentioned as well.

Vanillaware's last two games on the PS2 were highly praised by critics, but also harshly criticized for their frame rate problems. Has anything been done to fix this issue with Muramasa?
Hashimoto: You can probably see the difference in the TGS 2008 gameplay movie but we are doing our best to address this issue and putting in a lot of research into the Wii hardware as well.

Any reports yet on how inventory is going to be managed? Anything similar to Odin Sphere?
Hashimoto: I cannot really talk about this yet but please look forward to it. The inventory will have a vibe that is inherent of ancient Japan, similar to the whole game atmosphere.

I've seen reports going both directions. Will this game use motion controls or not? If not, why do you think the decision was made to place this on the Wii?
Hashimoto: The game does not use motion controls at this time but there is a possibility that we will. When we looked at the Wii hardware we didn't think Wii = motion controls since it offers so many other wonderful capability with strong imaging ability we thought we can make a game that you can take your time and play.

Arc Rise Fantasia

It's looking like Arc Rise Fantasia is going to be the first turn-based RPG to grace the Wii. How does it feel to have that privilege?
Hideyuki Mizutani, Producer of Arc Rise Fantasia at Marvelous Entertainment Inc.: For the players to deeply immerse into the story we wanted to create a turn-based RPG that is smooth with good pacing, which led to this new style of battle which we think is always stimulating for the player. The three party member Trinity Battle System has a wide variety of move selections with various combination skills which equals to about a wide array of variations for a turn-based battle system.

How exactly does party combat within Arc Rise Fantasia work? Is it typical, player gets a turn and attack style?
Mizutani: The player will get to attack and do other moves when the character's turn comes but you are also able to do combos, activate your skills, do cooperation attacks and many other actions. Assessing the party's condition and implementing the right action at the right time can lead to an unexpected and surprising outcome.

The fantasy setting with dragons screams classic RPG, as does turn-based combat. Sometimes it is nice to have that comfort of a classic RPG. That being said, how do you feel Arc Rise Fantasia will compete in today's market?
Mizutani: In this game a noble creature like a dragon is becoming something foul which is the prologue of this world destruction. As you go though the story you will find out why dragons have became these vile creatures. It's a very unique story. Also the cast that support the story are very interesting, and getting the deep emotional bond with each character is an experience only possible in this kind of game. You'll be able to see the latest style of J-RPG in Arc Rise Fantasia.

Retro Game Challenge

How deep would you say the RPG game in Retro Game Challenge is? It is like a 10 minute quest or will we be playing for hours?
Michael Engler, Localization Specialist at XSEED Games: Ah, you must be referring to the mighty Guadia Quest. Fear not, it is a full, 20+ hour RPG that faithfully (maybe a little TOO faithfully in some instances) recreates the ultimate 8-bit RPG experience offered by the game that influenced it. I can't say which game, of course, but just think of what you'd call your adventures when searching for Smaug.

Could you share anything else exciting about Guadia Quest?
Engler: I could, but then you'd probably want to kill me for giving away too many spoilers. On an unrelated note, I got to experience first hand the pain that 8-bit localization crews had to suffer through when trying to translate grandiose item and weapon names while having the most ludicrously tiny character limits to work with. Let's just say you'll get to see a lot of cool stuff in the game, if you're paying attention.

What about Retro Game Challenge really makes stands out from other DS games?
Engler: In addition to just being a solid game in general, it is a necessary history lesson for all gamers without being a cheapy retro compilation. While current-gen games are fine and all, too often they're simply a showcase for really great graphics with really mediocre gameplay mechanics. With Retro Game Challenge, players will be able to experience a time when games HAD to stand on the strength of their game play, as to be perfectly blunt, graphics blew back in the day. Also, for fans of the old school, they can enjoy the best of the major genres without having to endure the frequent crippling bugs and slowdown that plagued games back in the "good old days."

General Q&A

Along with all of these co-published Marvelous titles, XSEED has been branching out with Populous and KORG. Is most of XSEED's RPG focus going to stay based around Marvelous, or are there other unique RPGs that you would like to cross pollinate?
Ken Berry, Director of Publishing at XSEED Games: Marvelous has some of the best RPGs around so we're very fortunate to be working with them, but there's a lot of other great RPGs out there, both new and old, that we would love the opportunity to work on if we get a chance.

We saw Valhalla Knight: Eldar Saga for the Wii at the Tokyo Game Show. Should we prepare ourselves for that to grace North American shores?
Berry: The first two Valhalla Knights titles have made it here and been successful, so probably a good chance that another game in the series will eventually make its way here as well.

Are there any titles that you have attempted to bring over, but haven't been able to for some reason?
Berry: A ton. They have been for a lot of different reasons such as not being able to acquire the rights from Japan, being told that the original Japanese source code can't be localized, low projected US retail support, localization costs being too high to justify the projected sales (like a title having 2 million Japanese characters of text and 10,000 lines of voice-overs), and even denial from the platform holder because they don't want that game published on their platform in the US. Despite all these hurdles, we've still been able to in essence "cherry pick" our titles and only work on the games that we've played beforehand and know are quality titles so we're very proud of each and every title we've published so far.

Here's a question for anyone and everyone. What has been the most exciting title you have worked on at XSEED and why?
Berry: All the new Marvelous titles that we're working on together are great since this is the first time that our localization team works hand-in-hand with development since the games are not finished yet. Of course it makes localization a lot tougher when game features and in-game text of the original Japanese is still changing, but also more rewarding because a lot more of our feedback can be implemented as the game is still evolving when we first start working on it.

In terms of the XSEED-only titles, we've loved working on all our past titles but I think Retro Game Challenge was one that our team especially enjoyed since it was so nostalgic of how games were when we all first started playing, not to mention the little surprise we have in store for hardcore gamers with the photos in the in-game magazines.


RPGamer would like to thank XSEED Games, Marvelous Entertainment, and One PR Studio for all the hard work that went into getting these questions answered. RPGamers should prepared themselves for a major year from XSEED and Marvelous, as we're sure that these games will be exciting and likely the first of more to come in 2009. Thanks again to everyone.



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