Right before this year's AnimeExpo, TechRaptor got the chance to send some questions NIS America's way to ask the president of Nihon Falcom, Toshihiro Kondo. Below are the 10 answers to questions that we sent their way (an 11th was accidentally skipped over on NISA's end). I'd personally like to thank both NIS America as well as Toshihiro Kondo for responding to our questions and giving us the opportunity to ask them in the first place!
For some background, Nihon Falcom are the developers behind both Ys and The Legend of Heroes series, as well as many other franchises such as Gurumin, Xanadu, Popful Mail, Sorcerian, Brandish, and more. Although the questions we sent Kondo-san's way mostly centered around Ys VIII and many aspects surrounding the title and its localization, we also took the time to try to talk about the company in a more general sense.
TechRaptor: Although the Ys series has been trending towards having the story play a more active role in the games, Ys VIII moreso than other recent Ys titles seems to embrace a much deeper narrative. What inspired the shift to go with a stronger story this time around and should it be considered representative for the series as a whole going forward?
Toshihiro Kondo: I don't think that putting the gameplay first in an Ys game has changed since Ys I. That said, this time we wanted to add new elements to the game. In order to do that, we had to follow the rule of making sure that the new features were somehow related to the story itself – that is, not just having features in the game for the sake of having features, but rather that each feature make sense in the world. So, following this rule as you begin to add new features, it is necessary to add more story elements as well. (laughs) So, in this way, as we were discussing what features we wanted to add, the game naturally grew to its current size.
As to whether the games will consider in this fashion, I will say that it was very difficult to make Ys VIII! (laughs) I don't know what will happen next time around, but I know that we will continue to approach things in the same manner and to try to add new elements to the game.
TR: Previous Nihon Falcom releases in the West have not allowed for players to listen to the original Japanese audio tracks, in lieu of English dubs. With both Tokyo Xanadu, as well as Ys VIII, this has changed, with both games allowing western gamers to experience the original Japanese audio. Has there been a conscious effort behind getting the original Japanese audio tracks available in the West?
TK: That’s more up to the publisher than it is to us. I feel like the voices of the fans who really want to have the original voice track has gradually reached publishers.
TR: One of the defining changes to Ys VIII's gameplay is the re-introduction of the jump button, as well as the shift to a more "over-the-shoulder" camera view. This has been the first time the series has gone for a truly third-person camera perspective: what was the driving force behind the decision to go with one for Ys VIII?
TK: As the Ys games pursue action first and foremost, the camera has a tendency to get further and further away from playable characters. This is because the player needs to have a broad field of view. We ran into the issue that with the camera out so far, the game looked really bland. From the very beginning, we really wanted to put an over-the-shoulder camera view. At the same time, we had heard a lot from players for a long time that they wanted the jump feature to return. However, because of the camera style of previous Ys games, we were able to implement the jump feature much more easily. With an over-the-shoulder camera, it is very difficult to create a sense of distance –particularly when jumping into the foreground or background. At first, we thought that it might be too hard to do, but we decided to not make the game’s platforming requirements as severe as they were in, say The Oath in Felghana, and focused more on letting the jumping be in specific parts of the action stages or to create a sense of height for other parts.
TR: It's been said that Ys VIII's PS4 release was made to target the West, though it and a few other "modern" Falcom titles are all receiving PC ports lately. Has Falcom been actively pursuing PC versions for more recent releases in the West?
TK: We have no hesitation about releasing games on Steam. Rather, given that we don’t have a large staff, we mainly have to rely [on] partners to help us realize a PC port. When we first started releasing games on Steam, we were initially unsure of whether or not players would want to play our older games. However, as we gradually released games on Steam and saw the very positive reaction that was much greater than we expected, we feel like we want all of our games that come out to [release] on Steam.
TR: Previous Falcom titles have tended to have a large "gap" between their original Japanese releases and their western localizations, though Ys VIII—especially on PS4—is releasing in the West much more quickly than some of your other titles. Is there anything specific that Falcom has started doing to address this "gap" for their western releases?
TK: We don't really decide when a game is released in foreign territories, but the truth of the matter is that our games generally have a large volume of text in them and that puts a lot of difficulty on the publisher, I’d expect. (laughs) For Ys VIII, it would appear that NIS America worked hard to get the game translated in a timely manner. TR: Though, speaking of a "gap" (barrier?) between Japanese and western audiences, have there been any moments where the differences in reactions to titles like Ys VIII between the West and Japan have surprised you?
TK: I think what has surprised me the most is that fans’ reactions to many things is actually pretty consistent across all regions. I had originally thought that since players in North America had different things they cared about in games that what they would be focusing on in the games would be very different, however, they actually care about the same things like the gameplay, the controls, the story and the characters and their thoughts on these things align very much with the Japanese players.
TR: Finally, it's not hard to notice that Ys VIII draws a lot from the series' history, with Adol even wielding his sword from the ending of the as-of-yet unlocalized Ys V for Ys VIII's opening minutes. Does Falcom currently have any plans to bring any previously untranslated titles from Ys or the company's other currently established franchises in the West, to the West?
TK: I can’t promise that Ys V will be the next Ys game that we release, but we definitely want to remake it. The original game design document for Ys V, which came out for the Super Famicon is still in the Falcom office and it turns out that a lot of really cool ideas were left out of the completed version. We’d like to look at these things that were missing and try to incorporate them into a remake. Sure enough, the number of fans in Japan and North America asking for a remake are about the same and we really want to realize this.
As we put our all into each and every game that we make, we would love for everyone to be able to play them all. Steam is a great platform in that regard, and, as I’ve said, we were very surprised to the positive reaction of our games on Steam and want to continue looking into it.
TR: With the western release of Ys VIII, the title will become available on Vita, PS4, and Windows PCs. Are there any other platforms that Falcom is interested in developing for (whether porting Ys VIII or centered around other projects) in the future?
TK: We just don't have the number of staff to be able to develop games for every platform. That, of course, is related to the style in which we develop our games and our overall direction for the company, but we’d love to attempt bringing games to other platforms with the help of our partners.
TR: Ys VIII's soundtrack is especially great, is there any chance we might see jdk work on other albums based around the title's soundtrack? (Super Arrange Version, Zanmai, etc.)
TK: This one really is up to the voices of the fans, but the reaction to the music in Ys VIII was very good. We will see what Western fans have to say about this once the game releases in the West.
TR: What was Falcom's experience with developing Ys VIII simultaneously on both PS4 and Vita? Were there any unforeseen challenges that made developing the game across both platforms especially difficult?
TK: What the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita are capable of doing is very different. We have many fans in Japan who want to enjoy our games on the Vita, so we developed the game for the Vita first. When planning for the PlayStation 4 version, we realized fans wouldn't be satisfied with a straight port, so we had to spend a lot more time on the PS4 version and push its release far out from the that of the Vita’s.
Once again, I'd like to thank both NIS America as well as Toshihiro Kondo for the time they spent both forwarding and answering our questions. You can follow NISA on Twitter, as well as follow Nihon Falcom's (mostly) Japanese Twitter page, too.