You may know him best as the “Bursting Breasts Producer” from his involvement in Senran Kagura: Portrait of Girls, but Kenichiro Takaki is also responsible for overseeing one of Marvelous Entertainment’s most interesting established franchises — the Half-Minute Hero series — as both producer and director.
Takaki has both a passion for video games and a quirky sense of humor, so it’s no surprise that he’s in charge of the Half-Minute Hero franchise. We got in touch with him to talk about the Half-Minute title he’s presently working on — Half Minute Hero Second for the PSP, which has seen two delays so far, for “various reasons”.
Armed with his intimate knowledge of the Time Goddesses, Takaki took on our questions, starting out by discussing how the game originated and the key to creating memorable characters.
Half-Minute Hero started as a flash game and now it’s grown into a PSP sequel. Congrats! Can you tell us how the Half-Minute Hero Second project got started?
Thank you for your kind words! I’m so glad that so many people have come to enjoy Half-Minute Hero as a wholly different type of game.
When we started out on the sequel, things were not very easy. While the original Half-Minute Hero was pretty successful, many people on the inside (and a lot of people on the outside) thought that a half-minute RPG was just a one-hit wonder. Then compound this with the feeling that only people who finished the first game could truly enjoy a follow-up. So just overcoming these misconceptions was hard from the get-go.
Next, when we sketched out the game plan, we had two directions to go in. One was to just increase the number of stages from 50 to 100. The other plan was to instead reinforce the JRPG style storyline and mix both new and existing gameplay elements into a new experience. We decided to go with the latter plan, since a strict increase in levels just seemed too vanilla for a proper sequel to Half-Minute Hero.
It was very difficult to get everybody involved in the game on board with this approach. Until the prototype was completed, many people had doubts and fears that we took a solid original work, and turned it into a normal JRPG. Others were worried that we were spoiling the experience as a whole. Helping people collectively overcome these thoughts was probably harder than making the game itself.
Anyway, I truly believed that we could make a game worthy of the Half-Minute Hero title, and while starting out things were difficult, they were exciting, too.
The characters in the first game had memorable personalities. Can you tell us about the cast in "Second" and what the secret ingredient is to creating interesting characters?
I loved all the original Half-Minute Hero characters, which really gave me a lot of motivation to make the characters in Second live up to their predecessors’ reputation:
The protagonist with a single wing and huge blade is called Yusha.
Yushia, a tomboyish princess who goes to school.
Yuja, who believes power can control everything.
Kuu tries to save the world by songs.
Yashu, Yusha’s main rival.
??? loves Yusha at any cost.
Then there is a mysterious hero who continues fighting beyond time.
And the Time Goddess who loves money.
I really believe that to create a unique, lively character is not to miss the forest for the trees in over-defining their personality, but to leave space where users can imagine as they like. Then it’s up to artists and designers to find a fitting, rough description of the characters, what they’re fighting for, what they live for, etc., and boil that essence down into a bitmap. Again, we try to follow the philosophy of leaving a lot of these characters’ personality and appearance up to the player’s imagination. I think this process really leaves players with a significant impression.
Maybe to put it more simply, when we play The Legend of Zelda on the NES, Link, in our memory was much more expressive and vivid than the actual bitmap sprite that represented him on the screen.
I think the Time Goddess is most people’s favorite character. What is she like in this game and who is the black time Goddess?
The Time Goddess wants to support and aid the heroes in any way– wait, no, she just wants money. She hasn’t changed at all, even though centuries have passed since the last battle. Just recently, out of the kindness of her heart, she founded the Goddess Loan Plan for poor users who don’t have enough money. Interest is at a very reasonable 3% per second.
The relationship with the Black Time Goddess? It is too horrible to tell the truth, but I can say that the battle with the Black Time Goddess will be an epic scene. Players will finally be able to get an answer to the question, “can war be fought with war?” Truly the overarching theme of this whole exhibition.
One more hint! Fans of either game in the series are going to be really pleased when they see what’s in store after finishing the game.
How do you come up with jokes for your games? Half-Minute Hero has a good amount of video game humor and I see all of the main characters are puns on the word "Yuusha."
Jokes? I guess they really just pop into our heads as we’re going along, really. Really, we just love video games, as it’s this medium that we were all brought up in, so putting in little hints and side-references comes naturally. Maybe movies or music have a similar role for others.
It’s similar for writing the story, really. There’s a lot of mixing our original story with episodes from games which we’ve played and loved.
Did you notice the name puns? Great! The names are all sort of similar, but there’s important meaning there, too. Like, “Yashu” being an anagram of “Yusha .“
We’ll have part 2 of our Half-Minute Hero Second interview with Takaki up in the near future!