Adventure Bar Story Interview: Making And Localizing A Mobile JRPG

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Much to our surprise the PSP game Adventure Bar of Wonderland Portable is coming overseas – in English – as Adventure Bar Story. Rideon developed Adventure Bar Story way back in 2006 and ZigZaGame will release the enhanced iOS version in Q1 2012. In this interview, Kenichi Sonoda from Rideon and Lars Kelley from ZigZaGame talk about creating and localizing Adventure Bar Story.


How did you come up with the idea for Adventure Bar Story?


Kenichi Sonoda, Producer at Rideon: We sat down with the objective to come up with a unique RPG game and came up with a cross between simulation management and RPG. For those of you thinking, “No, you copied Recettear”, Adventure Bar Story was originally released as a Japanese mobile game back in 2006, it’s older than Recettear.


Can you tell us how you integrated a battle system and designed it to reward players with ingredients so you can cook more exotic meals?


The balancing between RPG and Simulation management was a challenge. Characters learn new skills in battle, while they only level up through eating. Passing certain milestones in the sim-management aspect of the game trigger RPG events.


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How has Adventure Bar Story changed from the PSP version to the iPhone release?


When the game went from mobile to PSP, there were tremendous enhancements. The iPhone version is essentially the same as the PSP version with controls optimized for the touchscreen. There’s also additional content exclusive for the iPhone version which players can purchase through iAPs. This allows us to release the title at 99 cents (limited time launch price, standard price is $2.99). FYI, iAP content is absolutely unnecessary to beat and enjoy the whole game.


You also created a RPG where you’re a Researcher called Researcher Quest. It’s interesting to see RPGs like this and Adventure Bar Story that stray from the saving the world trope. What other kinds of RPGs settings and plots are Rideon interested in working with?


We have a lot of ideas, but haven’t decided which ones to pursue. Regardless, our focus is on developing unique RPGs.


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Rideon has a series of tactical RPGs called Mercenaries Saga and Vanis which is set in a school. What can you tell us about developing a mobile strategy RPG compared to a regular RPG?


The main difference is you code and design maps per stage in strategy RPGs, but in regular RPG development you code around the story.


I didn’t realize this, but Rideon helped created the Badman series. It’s one of my favorites! Can you tell us any stories about making the game with Acquire?


Thanks for playing Badman. Unfortunately, there are a lot of stories but we can’t share most of them!


I saw Rideon worked on Gunslinger Girl too. Can you tell us what it was like developing that game?


We helped code the game. Packaging anime with a game was something very new at the time.




How did you get in touch with Rideon to license Adventure Bar Story? Did Recettear’s success have anything to do with this decision?


Lars Kelley, CEO of ZigZaGame:  While Recettear’s success in the western market is reassuring, it took no part in our decision to localize the title. We played it, loved it, and made an offer. After all, who wouldn’t enjoy owning a bar and slicing up monsters for the main dish?


I noticed ZigZaGame does English to Japanese work, but do you plan to localize more Japanese mobile phone games in the future? Perhaps, other Rideon titles like Mercenaries Saga?


We are working on a couple of titles. That’s all I can say for now.


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Mercenaries Saga 3 pictured above


What do you think of the state of the mobile games market in the West compared to Japan?


We have to first separate the smart phone market from the rest, not-so-smart phone (feature phone) market. Japanese feature phone market is very saturated and advanced compared to the West with companies like GREE and DeNA combining for a total revenue of over 2 billion dollars.


What happened in the U.S. on the PC with Facebook and Zynga happened on the feature phones in Japan. Most of the top earning Japanese feature phone games are dumbed down versions of Zynga games (not insulting Japanese feature phone games, the device specs are simply different). Japanese companies so far have been able to recreate the same situation on the smartphone by pouring in millions of dollars in advertisements.


To get my point across, average user ratings for the top 5 grossing games in Japan on iOS is below 3/5. It’s 5/5 in the U.S.  In general, the top U.S. smartphone games are higher quality while top Japanese games know how to monetize users. In the future, the 2 markets will converge. Apple’s appstore and Google’s version of the appstore are making the mobile gaming markets borderless.


ZigZaGame caught our attention when you announced Adventure Bar Story, but you also created original games too. What can you tell us about those?


I can go on for hours, but I’ll keep it short.


Dragon Island (coming soon on iOS)

200+ Monsters to Catch, Evolve, & Combine! Explore a huge world with towns and dungeons (including a randomized infinite one). Players build an army of monsters. How many units you can take to battle increases as your hero levels up. Monsters only heal in town, which makes army size and line-up order (combos) important to get to the deep corners of the world where you will find rare monsters.




Berzerk Ball (Currently Free)

How far can a geek fly? Find out by joining millions of users smashing the geek! (it’s okay, we are geeks)



One of the most popular TD games of all time ported for iOS.


Protector: The Planes

Probably the Hardest TD game on iOS.


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How big is the market for localizing text heavy Japanese mobile games in the West? Have you considered to pick up visual novels as well as RPGs?


Before I dig into this, just want to clarify that ZigZaGame will NOT be bringing in dumbed down Zynga games. We only want to focus on high quality titles like Adventure Bar Story. We believe that there is a significant market. We will find out soon.


I’ve never considered picking up visual novels. Thanks for the idea!

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