In the near future, 7Sixty will be publishing 5pb/Mages’ first attempt at a fighting game—Phantom Breaker for the Xbox 360—in North America. The game features an almost all-girls cast of Japanese anime character archetypes, ranging from ninja schoolgirls to priestesses, each using their own individual weapon.
Mages are known primarily for crafting interesting visual novel-style games, so Phantom Breaker was a pretty radical departure for them. Wanting to find out more about the thinking behind the game, we got in touch with its director, Sakari Masaki, to ask him a few questions about Phantom Breaker.
How did the concept of Phantom Breaker originally come about, and what were your goals for the game to make it different from other fighters on the market?
Sakari Masaki, director: I asked someone to introduce me to [Yosuga no Sora manga artist] Ms. Hiro Suzuhira. I knew she loved action games and hoped to design characters for action titles. When I met her, she showed me some fantastic but rough sketches of the characters she had created. I loved her characters before I met her, so I was very keen to work together.
I think the difference with Phantom Breaker is that everyone from beginners to expert fighters will be able to enjoy the game, but this was a very tough goal to complete!
If you look at the character designs, you’ve got a lot of instantly identifiable character archetypes—female ninja, maid, magical girl, priestess and so on. Were there any other types that you wanted to include but didn’t end up putting in the game?
In Japan there are girl gangs known as ‘LADIES’. They like to put cigarettes in their mouth and pose with baseball bats that have nails hammered through them. It looks very cool but most of the anime otaku wouldn’t like to see this, so we decided to cut it out.
Looking at Phantom Breaker, it almost gives off the feel of being a doujin game from the overall art style and how the characters are designed to appeal to very specific tastes. Is that intentional?
It’s quite common knowledge that gamers playing one console game for a long time are disappearing in Japan. So it is very important to compete with other publishers to attract an audience for your game. To get players to play your game you must have a clear difference from regular titles and even attract people who have not played games at all!
5pb. is most famous for adventure games starring beautiful girls that attract customers who love both adventure and anime. But in Phantom Breaker, we wanted to stand out by having different gameplay systems to make sure it doesn’t feel like anything else out there. It is tough to mimic what other companies are doing, so we created the “Phantom Breaker” style, which offers something different.
Shikura-san once told us he wants to turn it into an anime series. What further steps do you see yourself having to take before you get to that stage?
Firstly it is important for the game to become famous and then an anime series may follow naturally.
You’ve described Phantom Breaker as a game with simple controls. Could you elaborate on this point a little? What exactly do you feel makes it simple?
In old 2D fighters, you have to learn all the complicated input commands and then to have fun playing the game, you had to remember all those commands and be able to execute them. For Phantom Breaker, the player just has to use a directional input and one button to perform a powerful attack, so it’s much easier for someone to learn, play and have fun with the game.
What about players looking for more advanced play? What aspect of the game’s system do you think will appeal most to them?
I don’t think games should have advanced/complicated commands and Phantom Breaker is fun without unnecessary complicated controls, but for advanced players, you have to carefully watch the power-up gauges and perfect your tactics.
If you look at videos of Phantom Breaker, the camera doesn’t move around very much, which is different from a lot of fighters. It’s more of a slow, gradual shifting, and the entire background stays in view the entire time. Was there a reason for this decision?
We did this for the same reason as we created the simple control system—it’s for beginner players who don’t want to get too confused. We wanted to make a fighting game that’s good for all levels of players.
Are there any differences between the Japanese and overseas versions of Phantom Breaker? Also, to coincide with the U.S. release of the game, you’re releasing a title update in Japan. Could you tell us a bit more about it?
Phantom Breaker is being released in America ten months after the Japanese version, and in this time we’ve found some elements that we want to adjust, such as character balance. In Japan we had to patch this, but in America, it’s included in the game. [Note: this interview took place before the contents of the patch were announced. You can read about it here.]