This year, we’ve seen several JRPG titles such as Bravely Default: For the Sequel, Conception II, and The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Flash. During a special get-together with Dengeki, the producers of these respective series talked about making sequels and ongoing titles, while retaining fans.
During the interview, Dengeki asks the producers to share their thoughts on the difficulty of making sequels or continuing ongoing series, and what they struggle most with, starting with The Legend of Heroes, which has seen a jump from one series to another in recent years.
“When we first started The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky, there were some people within the company who voiced their objections,” shares Falcom president Toshihiro Kondo. “However, what stands out most to me is the memory of Trails of Zero. Trails of Zero had a completely different design to go with a modern image, and there were some who thought ‘We got good results from Trails in the Sky, so why change it now?’”
“I think the biggest part of it was about getting new customers to take a look at our game. The Legend of Heroes is a series that has been connected from the very first title, but there are always customers who will be introducing themselves to the series.”
Kondo continues, “So, I wanted to avoid having a series that progressed with a simple reason such as ‘Because that’s that the previous game was like.’ Especially for Trails of Zero, which was the first game we released as a console title.” [Unlike Trails of the Sky, which was a PC-to-PSP port, as PC games have different retail distribution restrictions.]
“More than PC gamers, console gamers have a strong tendency of being fond of games with nice visuals,” says Kondo. “So Trails of Zero began with the thought of wanting to have its stage set in a city. Up until then, The Legend of Heroes games started in idyllic places, where you could see pigs and chicken running around; however, Trails of Zero had a metropolis called Crossbell as its setting, where we started out with an opening of the protagonist being assigned a task by the police. As a result, it went well, so I was relieved.”
“Again, since Trails of Zero, we’ve appointed Katsumi Enami as the character illustrator to change the image, which I’m certain it was well received,” shares Kondo. “To back it up, when the series was mainly on PC, the average player ages was in the 30s, whereas Trails in the Flash has an average of fans in their teens to early 20s.”
Next, Bravely Default producer Tomoya Asano shares some of his thoughts on the subject.
“That’s quite amazing that you guys were able to properly change the generation of your average players,” says Asano in response to Kondo. “When we released Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light, the average age of players was 30, but then for Bravely Default it had changed to 32. So in the end, it feels as though I’m being followed by those of my generation, and that we’re having trouble appealing to the newer generation [laughs].”
“Even for our company’s titles from other series, I’ve heard that changing generations can be a really tough challenge,” continues Asano. “The Trails games is a series that has history, to go with its ongoing story as its foundation. When new players are introduced to the series, they might check out the previous title, or the one before that, so I’m actually pretty envious about that.”
Kondo replies, “But sometimes we get some unexpected opinions coming from our core fans. For example, for Trails in the Sky, we had people who were pretty upset and said ‘for a Falcom game, the girls’ skirts are way too short!’”
Finally, Conception and Danganronpa producer Yuichiro Saito, from Spike Chunsoft, shares some of his own thoughts.
“So, fans seem to have their own established ideas on things such as the length of skirts, like how many centimeters it should be above their knees,” says Saito with a laugh. “When I worked on Conception II, we had a lot of trouble on things like what I personally felt, and how to keep our fans on board while acquiring new ones.”
“The first titles don’t have series fans, so you can challenge yourself without that [burden] from the beginning, without having to think about later, so in a way, it’s easier to do. However, from the second title and beyond, you might need to change favorable parts from the previous title, and you might also wonder if the fans will continue to support it.”