Soul Sacrifice comes out tomorrow and if you don’t count Keiji Inafune’s cameo in Hyperdimension Neptunia mk2 it will be Comcept’s debut title in the West. Siliconera spoke with the CEO about Comcept’s other projects like the Romance of the Three Kingdoms-meets-pirates game, Kaio, which was announced back in 2011, Bugs vs. Tanks from Level-5, and how Inafune remakes legends into video games.
We haven’t seen Kaio: King of Pirates in a long time even though that was one of the first titles that was announced that you were working on post Capcom. The series has grown too into an anime from Studio Pierrot and manga, but what’s going on with the 3DS games? (See a trailer for Kaio: King of Pirates here to refresh your memory.)
Keiji Inafune, CEO of Comcept: Marvelous AQL is the publisher and there are plans to make a manga and anime. At Comcept, we’re producing the game and it’s going well. There is a total effort with all of these collaborators for the Kaio intellectual property, so we can’t just show the game. It’s basically not our choice.
Is it actively under development right now?
Yes, of course.
I remember it was mentioned it would be a series, a trilogy right?
You know the original story, the Romance of the Three Kingdoms, is a long story. The way I recreated it for Kaio, it’s a three part story. That’s still the plan.
Yeah, I’m familiar with the Romance of the Three Kingdoms. In Asia, its a story that everyone grows up with. However, in the West and despite Dynasty Warriors’ efforts, people aren’t that familiar with it. How do you plan on making Kaio appeal to say America when people may not understand the Romance of the Three Kingdoms origins?
I feel that Kaio will appeal to America and the Western world since the story is unique and its immersive. I’m a fan of the Romance of the Three Kingdoms and it’s a great story. If you take it as a Chinese war story, it’s hard to get into if you’re from the West. With Kaio, I recreated it with a pirate theme and the characters are all animals. It’s easier for people to get into since it’s totally recreated.
Dragonball is a good example since it’s based on a Chinese story, Journey to the West, too, but you don’t really think about that. You take it for granted that the story is Dragonball and later on you find out that it’s based on a Chinese story. I hope Kaio will do the same.
J.J. Rockets was a neat concept since had a funny backstory with the American president beating up mutants. The time limit works well for Japan too since around Tokyo it takes between three to five minutes to get from one station to the next on the Yamanote Line. While the game isn’t even available in Japan anymore, do you think there is some way we will be able to play it in the West?
Infaune: Thank you for your covering J.J. Rockets and sparking interest about it in the West. Of course, I would like for everyone to play it. We’re still talking to various places about bringing this out somehow. Stay tuned for that and it might make a difference if people write in that they want to play it!
Since it was a game for smartphones when I thought backwards when coming up with the concept. These days, busy people do not have time to spend half an hour on a smartphone game. I thought about an idea of having a game that you can play within the three to five minute range. The main target was working business people who owned smartphones. They’re busy people who would take three to minutes out of their lives to play.
It was kind of ironic to use the president since he has to be busy. If he was a hero too, he would have to save lives and protect the country, but he can’t say he won’t show up to meetings. He would have to do both! I thought it would be a perfect idea and appeal to the main audience as well.
That’s an excellent backstory for the president character! You’ve made a lot of action platformer games from the NES to J.J. Rockets with different control schemes. Has the design for action games changed over the years? Did you have to adjust the controls for mobile devices?
Making J.J. Rockets was different from creating NES games since it was designed for smartphones. It was a big challenge to simplify the controls. While it had to be simple, it can’t be too simple. Typically, smartphone games use one finger to tap or swipe. I wanted to make sure J.J. Rockets would also appeal to game fans so I had players use two fingers. From the limitations of what I could do with smartphones, I’m satisfied with the outcome. There was a good balance of simplifying, but not making it too simple.
Bugs vs. Tanks which Comcept made with Level-5 looks like another game that is simple to get into, but has some depth behind it with the way you customize the tank. Why did you want to work with Level-5 and where did you get the idea for this title?
At the very beginning, when Level-5 was creating Guild 01, Hino-san from Level-5 approached me and asked if I would be interested in participating in the project. At that time, I was still at Capcom and I was willing to work with them, but it was very complicated since I was employed by a different publisher. We kept the discussion open and when I became independent it was easier for me to participate, but at that time it was after Guild 01. When Guild 02 started, I was one of the first candidates on the list. I showed a couple of concepts to Hino-san and the one that was most appealing was Bugs vs. Tanks.
Can you tell us about the other ideas?
Hino-san also liked the other idea, but it was bloody and gory. It would probably a M-rated game and it wasn’t really suitable even if it was a good idea. Hino-san laughed and said it might be hard to put it into the Guild 01 Nintendo series.
Speaking of violent games, how is Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z doing?
Production is going well. The game system is coming together and it’s moving forward.
You must be proud of Soul Sacrifice since there was a shortage in Japan. It looks like it sold pretty well. (Also read our Soul Sacrifice interview with Inafune-san here.)
I’m really happy. I knew the Vita wasn’t selling as much as Sony wanted. I wanted to create a game that would be a system seller and was hoping that my game would pull up Vita sales. Soul Sacrifice exceeded my expectations for that. The next step is to create sequels and make this a big franchise. I have a good start on that, too.
What would you do for the next Soul Sacrifice game?
From the successful sales at this point, I’m optimistic that Sony will sign off on a new title. I have a lot of ideas, but I can’t say what I’ll do yet.
Soul Sacrifice has a steady stream of downloadable content like Behemoth monster and the new area for players to explore.
In Japan, we launched in March. Every month, we plan to give out downloadable content like monsters as well as additional stories until the end of summer. There’s much more to come.
Inafune-san, I think it’s interesting how Soul Sacrifice has elements of the Arthurian legend given how the characters are named and Kaio is based on the Romance of the Three Kingdoms. What legend, fable or famous tale would you like to work with in the future.
[Laughs.] As a creator, it’s really appealing to create something from scratch. I tend to like to create something original from something familiar that everybody is familiar with because it’s easy to catch on to. People won’t be scared about approaching it because they will say “I think I know of that legend or story.” When you take back the layers in one my creations it’s actually something different. People think it’s something familiar, but when they open it up it’s something new. In general, that’s the approach I like to take. It’s been a successful strategy throughout my career.
Using cuisine as an example, if somebody gives you a dish that’s brand new you might be hesitant to try it because you don’t know what you’re eating. However, if it’s a recreation of something you know. like Asian fusion you would be more interested in trying it even if it’s brand new because it’s partially something you know and you can imagine what it’s derived off of.
I’m always thinking about what to mix next. I’ve done a couple of legends in a row, so maybe it’s time to do something brand new from scratch.