Gyromancer is different from the usual Square Enix game. Partially, because their puzzle game is based off an existing game, Bejeweled Twist from PopCap. We asked Yuichi Murasawa, Director, and Yoshinori Kamei, Producer, how the project got started and what they think about the comparisons to Puzzle Quest.
How did the PopCap Games / Square Enix partnership come about?
I believe it was around two years ago, PopCap’s Jason Kapalka (Gyromancer, Puzzle Advisor) visited our office while he was in Japan attending TGS. It’s not that we suddenly decided to collaborate at that point — it was simply a great opportunity to exchange ideas about the processes behind developing puzzle-game mechanisms. The conversation was very insightful, especially as my primary expertise was in developing RPGs and simulation games.
We got excited talking about creating a brand-new title by bringing together PopCap’s knowledge of puzzle-game development with Square Enix’s game designs. Puzzle Quest had just launched at that time, and our development staff, as well as Jason, were all creatively inspired in the midst of enjoying the game.
I had worked on several large-scale, high-profile titles in the past, which were received well in both North America and Europe, but felt that with our efforts combined we could create a more casual experience that could be enjoyed by a wider range of players. So that’s how it all started, as we exchanged ideas like these over some drinks.
Why was Bejeweled Twist picked as the base for Gyromancer? Were there other PopCap titles you were considering as the core?
We had confirmed that some sort of puzzle system would be utilized as the base, but it took a while to decide which one exactly to go with. The intention for this game had always been to have a single-player focus, so instead of going for a versus-styled interface, we wanted something that would make the enemy-ally positioning very clear. With this mindset, PopCap games like Zuma and Peggle were actually brought up as candidates. Ultimately, however, we felt that with this type of interface the sense of “combat” between two opposing sides would be lost, and decided to go instead in the direction of Bejeweled or Chuzzle, which would allow for a versus-styled interface.
Although the Bejeweled system, part of games like Puzzle Quest, is extremely easy to grasp from the player’s perspective, because our goal was to eliminate “turns” between enemies and allies the main challenge for us was figuring out how to customize this existing system to suit our vision. It was then that Jason showed us Bejeweled Twist, a new type of system based on Bejeweled. With this new system, we realized that we could create a system that eliminates turns, making our vision of the “Reaction Battle” possible! This is why we decided to go with Bejeweled Twist as the base system for Gyromancer.
How is the system in Gyromancer different from Bejeweled Twist?
In contrast to the single-player experience of Bejeweled Twist, the objective in Gyromancer is to defeat enemy monsters. Even though the battle systems look very similar at first glance, because of this essential difference, the methods involved in Gyromancer depart from those of Bejeweled Twist. We call the key characteristic of Gyromancer’s battle system the “Reaction Battle”.
In Gyromancer, you use the “twist” to attack enemies and cause damage, but the player’s twist actually invites attacks from the enemy side as well. The basis of the “Reaction Battle” is to consider attack possibilities for both sides and really put your thought into what the most effective move is. There are some enemies you can defeat simply by twisting at the right timing, but there are other stronger enemies that require much consideration for each and every move. This gives a very simulation-esque feel to the Gyromancer battles.
Of course, another big difference from Bejeweled Twist is that in addition to all of the above, the battles are presented in stages. In Gyromancer, players won’t necessarily journey freely across a broad world, but will go through the game in short stages, clearing them objective by objective. In order to proceed in the story you clear these stages, and by clearing the stages, new stages appear so that the adventure can be continued. There are also new discoveries that can be made by going back to stages that have already been cleared.
Can you tell us about the story?
The story begins when the main character, Rivel, along with Laska the ranger, are ordered by the king to find the rebellion group Temperance in the Aldemona Woods. Rivel and Laska close in on their target, but with the emergence of the Lord of the Wood, its’ Heir, and the hidden leader of Temperance, the story begins to encompass the entire forest.
Gyromancer’s story was created by Kyoko Kitahara of Final Fantasy Tactics Advance series fame, accompanied by a beautiful original track composed by Tsuyoshi Sekito. Gyromancer’s story is just as enjoyable as its puzzle battles.
The art is quite different from the standard Square Enix title. What inspired its design?
We asked the Art Director, Yuki Matsuzawa to base the visuals off of the following three key terms; “Mature”, “Movie”, and “Weight you can feel through the screen”. We had set the story content to be a dark fantasy, so rather than doing the cute characters Square Enix is commonly associated with, we wanted to create realistic visuals which will appeal to mature audiences, while keeping true to the game’s fantastical nature.
There seems to be a lot of opinions towards Japanese game characters overseas, so we made it our goal to overcome these criticisms. We want gamers from all over the world to find this title visually appealing, so based upon many discussions with the team and researching movie characters, we resulted in having a more realistic character concept. Even in the finer details, we were careful to not make it overly fantasy based. The coloring, as well as the UI design, has a focus on creating a “heavier” look in comparison to the traditional Final Fantasy series, and we feel we were able to create a rich look even in 2D.
What do you think of the Puzzle Quest comparisons?
Puzzle Quest is a very fun game that our development team got addicted to. I think it’s a wonderful game that has a proven track record across the globe. There are definite inspirations drawn from Puzzle Quest in the making of Gyromancer, but in a way, it became a sort of prototype to base the new concept for Gyromancer around for added entertainment value. I assume we will be compared, but once you play it, you’ll see a clear difference in the overall game concept. But rather than me explaining it, enjoy the demo, and see for yourself!
Are there plans for future collaborations? Maybe Plants vs. Zombies vs. Dragon Quest?
If the reactions from the fans towards Gyromancer are good, then we would love to consider another future collaboration. There are no specific ideas in this point in time, but it would be ideal if we can echo the feedback from the fans and create something to satisfy their needs.