In a little over a week, we’ll get to try out Star Ocean developer tri-Ace and Danganronpa maker Spike Chunsoft’s collaboration RPG, Exist Archive, for PS4 and PS Vita. Siliconera recently caught up with tri-Ace producer Shingo Mukaitoge and talked about some of the Valkyrie Profile similarities we’ve seen in the game, and his thoughts on what makes a “good” battle system.
Spike Chunsoft and tri-Ace are both well-known development studios in their own right. When creating Exist Archive, how did your collaboration help both studios push beyond what each studio could do individually? What will players see or experience in Exist Archive that showcases this joint effort?
Shingo Mukaitoge, Producer at tri-Ace: We were able to combine our expertise of RPG development and Spike Chunsoft’s expertise of content creation. The request we got from Spike Chunsoft was to create something that followed a unique direction. We both spent a significant amount of time creating the world that met this requirement and we were only able to achieve this due to our successful team chemistry. We traditionally make titles that take place in a realm of fantasy, but this title is unique in that its set in the present world but we took a different art direction when it came to the character design.
The side-view dungeons look very similar to what players have seen before in Valkyrie Profile. How did you approach creating the dungeons in Exist Archive? What elements of the dungeons do you think will be exciting for players looking for a challenge?
We decided to go with the 2D side-view format from an early stage since we’ve got a fair amount of experience making action RPGs. As for the design of the dungeons, they were designed to allow players to utilize an element called the Bind Sphere. The Bind Sphere is a sphere of light that allows you to hit the enemy and freeze them. You can also Burst Jump when touching the enemy during that state; allowing you enter a place that normally you wouldn’t have access to. This action is key in completing the dungeon portion.
RPGs are sometimes criticized for the amount of “grinding” they require from the player. Does the combo-based battle system in Exist Archive put players in a position where they may need to make detours to improve how their characters perform?
By the nature of the genre, Exist Archive requires players to grind their characters some. Level grinding is forever linked to RPG styled games, but the challenge was to make that aspect of the game feel organic and not tedious. As such, we spent a lot of time tweaking the game balance so that tremendous amounts of grinding would not be necessary to advance the story or to beat the game. We also stuck to our tradition of hiding a strong boss for all the hardcore fans who love a good challenge.
Exist Archive puts modern day characters in a supernatural world. In what ways does this juxtaposition come into play throughout the storyline? As a scenario writer, Masaki Norimoto is known for crafting stories with multiple potential endings, like in Valkyrie Profile.
As the title suggests, the theme of Exist Archive is “Existence” which is illustrated by the will of each character and their memories. Although the story takes place in an alternate world called Protolexa, their past from the real world is revealed through the progression of the game. The main plot of this game revolves around each character’s background. The player will also reach a point where they must make an important decision which might alter the ending.
Can you walk us through the process you go through to create new, exciting battle systems? As developers, what do you think makes a “good” battle system?
We created the battle system by gathering our knowledge that we had accumulated from past experience. We believe the most important thing when making a good battle system isn’t just that it needs to be good but that the battle is set at a good tempo and offers good catharsis. We feel like we accomplished this goal through numerous combinations, such as the timing of combo inputs, camera work, and an almost endless amount of adjustments.
What was it like creating the combo-centric battle system for Exist Archive? Were there elements that presented a challenge when you first began the design process? How were those elements overcome in the final version players get to experience in the game?
That’s a hard question to answer, but we think we were able to accomplish this by creating the battle system we were pursuing. The difficulty of making an engrossing battle system lies in balancing the flow of combat. We want to make sure the combos flow smoothly while allowing for some measure of customizability. The more elements you add to the system, the greater the possibility for balance and functionality issues. We are truly grateful to the engineers who worked on resolving all these issues and the entire team who put everything they had into making this game all it could be.
Exist Archive releases in North America and Europe on October 18, 2016 for PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita.