Interview by Matt S.
Last year, three titles in the Atelier series released in a single year. In that context it is almost surreal that we’ve had to wait this long for Gust to drop its next game, but now it’s just around the corner. Fairy Tail is a licensed game to the popular anime and manga series, and while Gust’s parent company, Koei Tecmo, usually turns licensed games into Warriors (Musou) titles, in this instance they’ve instead decided to give the reins to the JRPG specialist within the group, and the results are looking promising indeed.
It releases in just a few weeks now. Ahead of the launch, we had the opportunity to drop a couple of questions to the game’s producer, Kikuchi Keisuke, on what we can expect from the game, some of the things to look out for, and what might be in the future for Gust from here (to date, there have been no announcements for what comes next).
Also, just as a head’s up, can all Dead or Alive fans please read the last question and do me a favour and drop Koei Tecmo a note asking for a Marie Rose JRPG? It’s long past time my girl got the game she really deserves.
Matt S (MS): We last spoke about Fairy Tail at Tokyo Game Show last year – what has happened with the game since – is there anything that has come together that you’re particularly proud of that might not have been there when we previously spoke?
Kikuchi Keisuke (KK): We’ve made many wide-ranging improvements to Fairy Tail thanks to first-hand experiences from TGS and media events across North America and Europe. We improved the production of battles and events, along with adding new magic and working on the lighting and movement of background graphics, and additional character animations. These large-scale improvements were undertaken in order to give the players a greater sense of immersion in the game.
MS: What do you think it is about Gust as a development studio that makes it the right choice to tackle a Fairy Tail game?
KK: Our team’s strength is the ability to create game systems that bring out the most charming aspects of the characters. We put a lot of effort into the events and battles, ensuring that all of the characters can stand out and play an active role in Fairy Tail. Due to these factors, I think that Gust was the right team for the job in order to bring the wide range of unique characters from the Fairy Tail universe to all of the fans through this new RPG.
MS: When the swimsuit alternative cover won the poll that Koei Tecmo ran to give fans a choice of which would be produced to go with the game, it was a pretty clear sign that fans did want to see fan service with this title. What will the team at Gust deliver around this?
KK: The results of the survey showed us that there was a demand to add in swimsuit costumes. In addition, we are considering adding new playable characters, missions, and a photo mode that allows players to take screenshots in-game!
MS: The game seems to use a similar engine to what Gust has used with the Atelier series in recent years – was it difficult for the team to take their Atelier engine and expertise and apply it to a very different narrative and experience?
KK: While Fairy Tail does not use the same game engine as the Atelier series, there are aspects that do resemble the series. I do feel that Fairy Tail has been influenced by our game system that can display the most charming aspects of the characters, along with the know-how we have accumulated over the years.
MS: What does success look like for this game? Obviously, Koei Tecmo wants to see it well, but I mean more in terms of player response – what are you looking for players to love, and what kind of resonance do you want to see them have from this game?
KK: Players can create their ideal party, which allows for characters to create stronger bonds with one another, which can result in linked magic attacks. I hope that fans can use all of these aspects to enjoy their own original story.
MS: There’s some that think that turn-based combat is becoming increasingly archaic, and while there are still plenty of fans of turn-based combat, there is also the feeling that it’s on the wane. Firstly, what do you think are the strengths of turn-based combat and the reason that the Gust team continues to produce the bulk of their games as turn-based experiences, and secondly, how do you look to make these systems exciting to players still?
KK: While turn-based RPGs are not currently the most popular system, it is a very well-established game system which allows players to plan out their next move, which results in an amazing attack. Overall, I feel this is the system’s main advantage. We really put an emphasis on allowing fans of the anime, who normally don’t play games, along with new players to be able to unleash fantastic linked magic attacks in Fairy Tail. With the right timing during battles, players can perform counter attacks or follow-up attacks, which gives the game an added sense of liveliness.
MS: I want to ask you about game length, because I do believe that video games are becoming far too long overall, but I love that Gust, in particular, continues to focus on telling tight and complete games while also respecting the player’s time. How do you find the “sweet spot” when it comes to the length of your games?
KK: The main story will take 20 to 30 hours to complete. After finishing the story, the player will be able to access end game material. We set the length of the game at where it is now so that it wouldn’t be too long or too short so players won’t become tired or bored during the main story.
MS: Do you think the Fairy Tail game will be the start of more anime licensed JRPGs from Gust?
KK: We will continue to consider new ideas that would be ideal for game versions of anime series. We will proceed with the development of new titles with great care, including new titles in the Atelier series, and we hope to obtain a good balance in the process.
MS: Are there any Easter eggs that you would like for me to look out for in particular?
KK: There are special items scattered throughout the field areas called “Nikora’s Delicious Candy” which once collected will give you various rewards.
MS: Finally, and I know I ask this of just about every Koei Tecmo person I get to interview, but I’ve just got to ask again… I think a Marie Rose RPG would be excellent. Is there any chance that Gust could get a chance to work with the best girl of all?
KK: That is a really innovative idea. While there are no plans to make any title like that currently, in a past title I produced, Fatal Frame: Maiden of Blackwater, Ayane from Dead or Alive makes an appearance as one of the player characters. If there are a lot of requests from fans for a Marie Rose RPG I’d probably consider it.
– Matt S.
Find me on Twitter: @mattsainsb