Kaiju Big Battel: Fighto Fantasy brings giant monster battles to RPGs, capturing the energy and humor of the real world wrestling group and bringing it to a game of time travel, goofy wrestling situations, and turn-based combat.
Siliconera spoke with Paul Harrington, developer of Kaiju Big Battel: Fighto Fantasy, to learn about the challenges and delights of bringing the wrestling group’s antics to his game, and how he helped convey the characters’ personalities through the game’s challenging, thoughtful battles.
What initially drew you into the world of Kaiju Big Battel Wrestling?
Paul Harrington, developer of Kaiju Big Battel: Fighto Fantasy – Funny enough, I discovered KBB by complete chance. It was 2001 and I was in an “Introduction to Computer Programming” class brainstorming monster ideas for my first game, Walthros, and I wanted to see if any other games had ever had a noodle-based monster. I searched for “Noodle Monster” and it led me to the bio page for Kung Fu Chicken Noodle! After this, I just devoured all of the info I could find about KBB and attended my first show in Boston in May 2004.
How did the game come about? How did you want to transfer the world of Kaiju Big Battel into a game?
I wanted to make something with wider appeal than my previous games. I’ve made a lot of short-form, jokey games, but never anything that I thought about giving any serious push. My most successful title was C. Kane, which just started out as a joke between friends. Most of the time I make games as self-expression without any real intended audience. If people play them and enjoy them I’m happy, but marketing them has never been a focus.
Fighto Fantasy was a way to push my own boundaries. It’s a larger game than I usually design and it taught me a lot about project management. I wanted to learn and to grow, and using an existing IP that I loved with an existing fan base seemed like a great way to transition. I knew the characters well and felt that KBB’s sense of humor lined up with my own well enough to make it perfect for an adaptation.
When it was first conceived, I figured it would take about a year to make from start to finish. I’m just now approaching the end, two and a half years later!
What thoughts went into making turn-based combat around giant monsters? Around a wrestling group?
I’ve always enjoyed building turn-based combat games. I try to add enough puzzle elements to keep things interesting; I don’t want to include bosses that you can just bulldoze by level grinding. I want each element of combat to feel like a little puzzle where players have to explore their options. I don’t want anyone to just hold down the “Attack” button and win a fight. I want them to use their special moves often, taking full advantage of each character’s strengths and weaknesses. Being a wrestling-inspired game, each big move from a hero or villain is accompanied by a text box representing a fight announcer, calling out the play-by-play.
What sort of look did you want the game to have? Why design it like a 16-bit era RPG?
I wanted it to be bright and colorful with a Saturday morning cartoon feel, both visually and in content. The heroes are somewhat bumbling dummies, but they’re incredibly earnest. I wanted the whole thing to feel genuine, unironic, while still being very silly. I’ve always loved the 16-bit aesthetic and have worked with it since I got started making games in the late 90’s. It wasn’t retro back then!
How did you decide which characters to include? How did you design their moves and abilities to make them unique?
KBB does a great job designing flashy characters whose personalities really stand out in the way they fight, strut around, and dance. Their costume design is fantastic! I had fun working to adapt that into a turn-based game, thinking of how each special move would really showcase who that character is.
There have been a lot of new KBB characters introduced in recent years, but I wanted to focus on the classics – fighters that have been around since the early days. Some newer ones pop up too, but the core group consists of some of the most widely known characters. I also tried to make sure that each playable hero felt entirely unique; I brainstormed concepts for a lot of characters who didn’t make the cut as playable heroes, but instead show up in supporting roles in the story.
Why go through different time periods? What did these temporal shifts do for the game?
I’d always conceived of the game as a world tour, with the heroes taking on iconic villains all over the planet. One early idea was for it to just be a series of global tournaments, but I decided I wanted to do something that allowed for more exploration than that. The time travel elements added higher stakes to the story, with the villainous Dr. Cube reshaping the world (both intentionally and very unintentionally) as he parties through time.
I always try to include surreal elements in my games, and completely distorting space and time seemed a good way to approach that here.
What goes into creating a good story for a giant monster to work through? Fun sidequests?
Pacing and editing is the most important part of any story; a great concept can crumble if it’s poorly paced. For Fighto Fantasy, I wanted to make sure that the players were always on the move, constantly seeing new places and new people, never spending an inordinate amount of time doing one thing. To me, a shorter, deadlier dungeon is more memorable and better for pacing out a story than a hundred floors of repetition.
For most of the story, Dr. Cube is one step ahead of the heroes. Narratively, you’re constantly on the ropes, improvising and using whatever you can get your hands on to stay in the fight. I wanted that type of storytelling to translate to the game’s combat as well; the number of fights per area are fairly low, but each one is potentially deadly. For the heroes’ victory to feel earned, they’ve got to struggle and get knocked down a few times.
The game’s side stories make the world feel more alive. While the NPCs you meet aren’t as bombastic as the Kaiju heroes, they still need to feel like actual characters. The side stories generally have lower stakes than the main story and are often much sillier. My inspiration for side story design is the Yakuza series, where I’ll do every side story I can find, not for the rewards or to check off an item on a list, but because the world is so enjoyable that I just want to see more of it. I hope I can capture a similar feeling here.
Humor seems to be an important part of the game. How do you work humor throughout the adventure?
I think it’s funny that the game’s villain is the only one taking things seriously. Our heroes are lovable oafs who don’t quite get the full implications of what’s going on until much later in the story, but they’re so kind-hearted that they’ll still help out anyone they meet along the way. When it comes time to meet Cube face to face, he drops a big monologue that the heroes don’t actually pay attention to. Cube’s largely used as a satirical figure, sometimes as a parody of megalomaniacal RPG villains, sometimes as the guy pointing out how ludicrous everything that’s happening is. Sometimes he takes a job at a radio station as a shock jock.
Being a wrestling-inspired world, almost everyone you meet is buff. There are musclemen all over the place, there are senior citizens who boast about how much they can bench, there are kids who just want to find a mask of their own and go out into the world to punch some monsters. Real people in ancient Egypt probably didn’t talk about lifting weights quite this much, but they do here.
Aside from that: Lots of puns. One of the heroes, Silver Potato, uses moves that are all named after different kinds of meal prep.