How One Producer Brought Together Over A Dozen Artists For Unchained Blades
Unchained Blades follows Fang, the Dragon Emperor who loses his powers due to arrogance. He has a band of allies like a cowardly golem, a goofy fox girl, and a medusa with androphobia that travel with him. What makes Unchained Blades unique is this dungeon crawler has a dozen different artists that each drew one character for the game. In this interview, we spoke with producer Hiroyuki Abe about creating Unchained Blades and chatted a bit about the 3DS/PSP sequel Unchained Blades Exxiv.
One of the main features of Unchained Blades is you managed to bring a bunch of artists together. Can you tell us how you did this?
Hiroyuki Abe, Producer: I started with my friends in the industry and asked them if the would like to be involved in our title. Then I went on the Internet and looked up other artists and basically cold called them.
How did you get Yoshitaka Amano who created the Black Knight character for the sequel, Unchained Blades Exxiv, to work with FuRyu?
I didn’t think I could get Amano-san either. I cold called his office as well, fully expecting to be turned down, but luckily his schedule was open and Amano-san was able to work with us.
We haven’t talked much about the character, but I can say he comes out at the end of the game and he is very much a part of the story’s climax.
Can you tell us how you develop characters? Maybe we’ll use Lapis, the medusa girl from Su Minazuki, as an example?
Lapis is a character I envisioned in terms of her personality, her bust, and her being a medusa girl. Once I had that in mind I went to the artist who could best represent her and that’s how Lapis came to be.
Who is your favorite Unchained Blades character and who is the most popular character in Japan?
My favorite character is Tiana, she is the princess of the Phoenix clan. I like her because while she is a part of the Phoenix clan, but she wants to be a dragon. Everybody that meets her for the first time and hears that will think she is weird, but as players progress through the story they will see a deeper meaning behind that. Tiana really develops as a character.
Based on what our fans are saying, the protagonist Fang is the most popular character in Japan.
I’m surprised a lot of the work was done by cold calling. Usually we hear stories of friends of friends introducing each other, can you tell us how many rejections you got compared to the number of artist that joined Unchained Blades.
For the original game, Unchained Blades, it was very hard to explain what we were trying to do, so, we didn’t get answers from a lot of artists. [Unchained Blades] Exxiv was a much easier process because we already released the first game.
How does the protagonist in Exxiv compare to Fang in Unchained Blades who was kind of a jerk?
Yeah, Fang was very arrogant and independent. He would try to succeed by himself at all costs so he wouldn’t have to rely on anybody. Ryuga, the protagonist in Exxiv, is much more friendly and willing to take on allies and see them for more than their outer appearance.
One of the new features in Unchained Blades Exxiv is the boss battles take up multiple screens. How did you design this?
There are these bosses that take two or three different screens players have to alternate between by tapping the L or R buttons. We designed this thinking how the bosses would fight so we could incorporate more strategies. Not just the strategy for fighting on the main screen, but if you go to the right or left screen you can use a different strategy to defeat the boss.
Unchained Blades has many different artists working on it, but the game is a first person dungeon RPG so you don’t see the character art as much. Players see more of the world, but since one of the key features is the art why did you decide on a first person perspective?
Because there are so many different artists working on so many different characters, we knew from the beginning that we wouldn’t be able to animate or make 3D models for all of them. From the very beginning, our design choice was we would get all of the illustrations and for minute details like how the characters move we would count on the player’s imagination.
If you were to make another game with a diverse selection of artists working together, but it wasn’t a dungeon RPG what genre would you choose?
I think it would probably be the same basic genre, once again. Taking into account all of the animations and nuances between different artists, we would lose a lot of that during 3D modeling and the animation process because we would have to standardize it. You would have characters that look completely different moving in a similar fashion and that would lose the charm of each unique character design.
If I had to choose, it would be a strategy RPG type of game. It would be something like Super Robot Wars, which has a collection of famous characters all in the same game.
Do you plan to continue to grow Unchained Blades and are you considering to release Exxiv in North America?
The original game and concept for Unchained Blades was well received. We were eager to create a sequel based on the same concept that people seemed to enjoy. In terms of Exxiv, coming over is something we will still have to evaluate. If American gamers buy a lot of Unchained Blades from Xseed, the possibility of Exxiv coming over grows quite a bit!
What other games do you want to develop at FuRyu, aside from the concept of bringing different famous artists together?
Having all of these artists was a key sales point for Unchained Blades. We wanted to surprise players with all of this beautiful and varied artwork. Just being able to pleasantly surprise the player, is something something I want to continue. We have started work on another project in a different genre, but nothing has been announced yet.