Some of the people behind Suikoden games are coming together for an entirely new adventure. Rabbit and Bear Studios announced it will begin an Eiyuden Chronicle Kickstarter on July 27, 2020, in the hopes of creating a new PC game that involves some classic elements from the other games. Siliconera had a chance to send some questions to Yoshitaka Murayama, the Suikoden I and II scenario writer who is returning to pen this game, and learn more about this game, its development, and the campaign’s plans.
Jenni Lada, Siliconera: What led to the formation of Rabbit and Bear? How did you all come together?
Yoshitaka Murayama, RAB Studios: Over the past years, the core creators have met up at different events, and of course you talk about the glory days as well as regrets. One common thing that always came up was, “Isn’t it about time we make a game for ourselves? Something we really want to make? Something we can make for the fans?” And that dream provided the spark for this current project and setting up the studio.
Which Suikoden installment do you see Eiyuden Chronicle as being most like, considering you have members involved who worked on Suikoden I, II, Tactics, IV, and Tierkries?
Murayama: Eiyuden Chronicle is really and evolution of my many design experiences. The many games I’ve made have helped create the foundation for this title. Since I draw my experience from previous games I’ve worked on, of course you will see a little bit of those elements in Eiyuden Chronicle.
The main characters in Eiyuden Chronicle, Nowa and Seign, have a similar look and relationship parallel as Riou and Jowy from Suikoden II. How did you develop them and is this intentional?
Murayama: I just find it fascinating how war and conflict can sometimes end up destroying even the strongest of friendships. It’s one of the common themes I use. So I guess that’s one of the similarities between Genso Suikoden and this game.
Past games created by your team have regularly included troublesome and ill-informed race representation. What consulting and hiring are you doing to ensure your team has diverse voices and that Marisa (and other characters of color that are presumably in the game) are not given a similar treatment?
Murayama: This is the first title for us at Rabbit and Bear studios. It’s unfortunate whenever design choices end up making a person or race feel excluded but we’ve never made any of these choices intentionally.
Certainly, there have been a great deal of discussions about diversity in the world and we want to be thoughtful of those ideas and voices. Marisa will play a major role in the game and represents a third important power on the same level as Seign and Nowa. Story-wise, she has a very important role in the game and is one of the only characters capable of harnessing the raw power of the runes.
The only Black character revealed so far is Marisa, a young woman who is described as a member of a Guardian clan that seems to live in the forest and isn’t as technologically advanced as other groups (though still will occasionally use their tech). Are you concerned about how her depiction could come across? (Especially since, in Suikoden III, many of the Black characters all came from the Grasslands and Bob, one of the only Black cast members in Suikoden II, was also the only werewolf?)
Murayama: Marisa’s clan doesn’t live in the forest, they protect the forest and nature. And they are the only group in the game world that has the strongest technology capable of utilizing some powerful rune-lenses. That’s why Marisa is on equal footing with both Nowa’s group and the empire. The technological advances give her clan an edge. We feel confident that when people play as Marisa they will see we are not falling into tropes that would depict her as tribal; instead this is closer to how Wakanda is depicted in Marvel movies.
How similar are Eiyuden Chronicles’ rune-lenses to Suikoden’s runes? How did one influence the other?
Murayama: In the world of Eiyuden Chronicle, rune-lenses are representative of magic power. However, in order to hone that power a magic ritual involving an ancient vessel is necessary. As with anything that has power, many people have tried to manually manufacture these lenses. This ends up being one of the core conflicts in the game and something that is unique to the Eiyuden Chronicle story.
While Suikoden is being cited as an influence, how heavily will experiences and elements from games like Arca Last and The Alliance Alive weigh on Eiyuden Chronicle?
Murayama: Of course, in working on Genso Suikoden or The Alliance Alive you end up putting a big piece of yourself into them from a creative perspective. It’s therefore no surprise that as a creator grows they carry some of those ideas with them into new titles. We all carry our experience from one job to the next I think.
Some Japanese game Kickstarters end up not delivering, like Project Phoenix, not completely giving people what they expected, like Mighty No. 9, or not coming close to funding even with big names behind it, like Project Rap Rabbit. How will Rabbit and Bear assure backers that Eiyuden Chronicles won’t be one of these sorts of campaigns? What specific things will you do differently?
Murayama: That’s a really good question. There is no surefire guarantee that a Kickstarter will be successful, so in the end you have to do your best and hope that the fans want this title to exist.
As far as managing expectations if the Kickstarter is a success goes, we’ve looked over a wide variety of campaigns. Both the successes and the failures. And we’ve taken our time, not only in preparing the campaign, but also making sure all our design choices, the organization of the team, and the production costs are in line with what we are promising and we are not overpromising too many platform or too many modes in stretch goals that can delay the production.
The 4 key members have all done the equivalent work of director on big projects. We all have tons of experience and know how to navigate production issues. We also are able to scale up the team with the right people for the best results. But more than anything we are being open and honest about some of the tough production choices to the backers.
The Kickstarter clearly outlines some of the difficult problems we’ll have to solve so hopefully that openness can create a strong trusting relationship with our backers.
What efforts are you making to have Eiyuden Chronicles call back to Suikoden while still having it keep its own identity? How will you make it stand out, even though it will have the similar “rebels against the empire,” recruit 100 characters, fill out a fortress, fight in turn-based battles with six party members, and acquire runes?
Murayama: One of the bigger goals I have with my stories are to show how fascinating the interaction between a wide variety of characters can be. And then to have a system that emphasizes those connections.
In Eiyuden Chronicle, the guild system will allow you to watch some of your characters perform a wide variety of tasks and missions that help evolve your fortress town.
Some of your choices will also define the visual nature of your fortress town, allowing for a new level of customization.
Additionally, we’ll have some special content that requires the player to carefully select the right members of their party to be able to win, making the multiple characters you can control mean even more for the seasoned player.
When you talk about this potentially coming to consoles, would Eiyuden Chronicle be the sort of game where different compromises would have to be made to get it running on other platforms? What might need to be done to, say, get it running on the Nintendo Switch?
Murayama: Right now, we are focused on a 2022 Fall release. That timing will largely determine what platforms we can create the game for.
For example if a next-gen Switch comes out, but has worse graphical capability than a PlayStation 4, we’ll have to make some tough resolution adjustments in order to get as close to the baseline as possible. However, one of the
advantages of using pixel art mean that we won’t take as big of a hit from different hardware specs as a full 3D game might so we should largely be able to keep the base gameplay intact.
The Eiyuden Chronicle Kickstarter will begin on July 27, 2020 and, should things go according to plan, will appear on PCs in Fall 2022. (This interview was lightly edited for clarity.)