Part two of our my interview with the big three of ArcSys, the president and founder Minoru Kidooka, creator of Guilty Gear, Daisuke Ishiwatari, and creator of BlazBlue, Toshimichi Mori. In Part one, we discussed their upcoming BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle and the atmosphere in 2D fighters development and competition. At the halfway point, we dug into the history of ArcSys's two flagship franchises with their creators, including their inspirations, plans, and, of course, their favorite anime.
Was your original idea for BlazBlue entirely separate from Guilty Gear or where there untouched avenues in Guilty Gear you wanted to explore through a different title?
Toshimichi Mori: A large difference I kept in mind when I first developed BlazBlue was that it was going to be a platform, an intellectual property, moreso than Guilty Gear. That thought informed the mediums through which it developed. It wasn’t necessary only supposed to be a fighting game, we also have a mobile game, Dark War, coming up. I wanted there to be many ways to interact with the BlazBlue franchise and its characters whereas Guilty Gear is designed much more like a fighting game.
You mentioned that Ragna’s story was “complete” with BlazBlue: Central Fiction. Are there any new developments with the story you’re planning for BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle?
TM: In terms of Ragna’s story, Central Fiction represents a nice way to sort of tie up some of the loose ends. With Cross Tag Battle and the way its story mode will develop and interact with the BlazBlue universe, all I can really say is you have to play it for yourself and I think you’ll see what we were trying to do. I think it’ll become very evident once you pick up the controller.
BlazBlue was an interesting title since it first appeared as a 2D fighter with 2D sprites just as the 2D fighting industry began shifting over to 3D sprites. Was there an awareness of the industry was moving in that direction?
TM: It’s easy to call BlazBlue a 2D fighter, but I’d argue a good half of it is 3D including the backgrounds and, in the development pipeline, 3D was heavily used when generating the sprites, although they might look truly 2D in end. This 3D technology we used in our pipeline was heavily relied upon in the Guilty Gear development which, in turn, informed how Dragon Ball FighterZ looks right now.
There’s definitely been an evolution brought upon by the information passed on game-to-game as opposed to “this is strictly 2D" and "this is strictly 3D” so, in terms of BlazBlue, we’re not limiting it strictly to 2D. That’s just the form it happened to take, although you’ll find a lot of 3D elements if you look under the hood.
In ArcSystem Works, “ARC” stands for “Action, Revolution, and Challenge.”
Do you follow the Blazblue competitive scene?
TM: Yes, very closely. I’m still very curious about who’s going to defeat Fenrich.
Do you have any favorite players or characters you’re happy to see played on the competitive level?
TM: In terms of characters, I love them all, so there isn’t any single character I’d love to see in the professional scene. We do our best to make sure the balance is such that every character has a chance and have the right tools to be able to climb up to the competitive level.
In terms of players, I really can’t pick any single one player. Of course, I really want to see everyone succeed and I know the players spend so much time and energy and effort learning the games that we create, deconstructing them to become competitive with them. I feel it is our job to create a platform upon which these players can shine and an environment where they’re able to show everything they’ve done.
You know, we have some ArcSys specific tournaments in addition to our games selected for EVO. It could be as simple as pointing the camera on some of these players, shining a spotlight on them, inviting them, or getting them a plane ticket to a tournament they wouldn’t otherwise be able to attend. Making it easier for them to shine is what I feel our rule is as a developer and a creator.
In your honest opinion, is Noel better with or without a hat?
TM: Really, it comes down to personal preference, right? I’ve had a lot of players provide feedback saying they like her with or without the hat. Me, personally, I think I have a lot more nostalgia and memories linked to her original design with the hat. But, to be perfectly honest, looking at her from a design perspective, her silhouette, the strength of her as a character, I think she is a more complete design now with her hair down as opposed to with the hat.
In summary, it depends on whether you’re looking at her memory or in terms of the character…
Ishiwatari-san, same question for Millia Rage?
Daisuke Ishiwatari: *Laughs* That's funny, when Mori-san began answering that question, in my head, I immediately thought of Millia. I think my answer is kind of similar. Her design in Guilty Gear XX, I have a lot of nostalgia for that version of Millia but, as an icon and as a character, I think she’s much stronger with her current design.
I’m curious about the large gaps between Guilty Gear releases. First 7 years between XX and Overture, then another 7 years between Overture and Xrd. Can you share what was going on with Guilty Gear either conceptually or developmentally during those periods?
DI: There were a number of reasons for those huge blanks including creatively and development. The sheer amount of time it takes to get a project greenlit all the way to the finished product. There were a lot of challenges between Overture and Xrd and everything represented a sort of theme we had at that time. Overture was to tackle 3D. At the time, ArcSys wasn’t equipped to make a completely new 3D game. That was what Overture represents.
In a similar way, with Xrd, we were trying to find ways to express anime in a completely new way in a game, visually and conceptually. Those 7 years really were the time it took to completely challenge and rethink the way we can express certain elements of a game.
So the 3D in Overture, along with the developments from BlazBlue, acted as a sort of prototype for the new look in Xrd?
DI: It’s safe to say that, with every project and everything you do, you’re gaining XP. Knowing that experience will always materialize as the next product, I don’t think is necessarily a true statement. It can be applied in various different ways or might appear as a completely different thing in another game. That being said, in terms of what I’m working on, if you start to see me pop up less and less in the press then it’s safe to say that something big’s coming soon.
On that subject, you previously said you might be interested in developing games besides fighters and many of your favorite games seem to be RPGs. Is that a direction you could see yourself moving into in the future?
DI: In terms of developing games, I don’t feel bound to any particular genre. Of course, if the opportunity presents itself, I’d love to try developing an RPG, an FPS, or even something like an old-school Mario side-scrolling action kind of game.
Looking back on my own history, after Guilty Gear X2 #Reload, there was a moment when I was really tired of, or almost complacent in, developing fighting games. When Xrd came around, I discovered a new joy in fighting games, which was the internet and network battles.
Watching people fight each other while not being in the same place or, in extreme examples, Japan and US players can fight against each other. There was this moment of connection. It was a tool that could connect people and allow them to share that same emotion, this same moment, together, no matter where they were located. That showed me a new joy in developing fighting games and I believe there are still more joys to be found in the fighting game space. Right now, I’m really enjoying being able to develop fighting games.
I’ve heard rumors you were planning to conclude Guilty Gear and I’m curious about what that specifically means. Did you mean the story, the franchise, or perhaps your involvement?
DI: When I said to conclude Guilty Gear, I meant the current story arc would be concluded. By no means did I mean the franchise or intellectual property would come to a halt. Does that mean in the future I might be involved less or not at all? Perhaps, but, if I am involved, I think there are a lot of possibilities and different ways to explore what is possible with Guilty Gear.
Does the conclusion you have planned include Elphelt finding her true love?
DI: *Laughs* I might have to not be involved in the project by that point for that to happen, but I’ll leave it up to your imagination.
Guilty Gear is very well known for embodying the aesthetic of a particular era of music. If you were to make Guilty Gear today, would there be different inspirations you drew upon?
DI: Well, we’re entering the realm of fantasy here. Parallel universes or star systems, whatever you’d like to call it, I have thought of and I jot in my notebook sometimes, what would happen if I took the actor, Sol Badguy, and dropped him in different settings and stories. We have this particular collection of characters and I think that’s what people believe makes Guilty Gear, but, taking any one of these characters and drop them in another universe or setting, that has been a fun theme of mine to chuckle to myself about.
In doing so, I think, visually, it would be very different from what you see now. Musically, if I were to be developing this, I don’t think there would be many changes.
Ok, these last two questions are a round robin for each of you. First, what is your favorite non-ArcSys fighting game?
DI: Street Fighter: 3rd Strike. I played Q.
TM: Vampire Hunter. When I was a student, it was the game I played the most. I remember using the low-tier characters, that was my thing. Donovan.
Alright, last question. Many of our readers are anime fans, so can you share your favorite anime or manga?
DI: In terms of where I draw inspiration I’d have to say it leans more toward movies and other aspects of pop culture, but if we’re specifically looking at favorite anime, I would have to say Planetes is one of my favorites, but it doesn’t have much to bring to the table when it comes to Guilty Gear.
TM: Giant Robo would be my favorite anime. In terms of manga, I think Parasyte really is a very complete form of manga. The story is very well constructed. As a creator and as a way I thinking I can really resonate with Comic Master J. It’s a very dark manga, but I can really feel for the characters in it.
DI: That’s the same artist as Ninja Slayer.
Minoru Kidooka: Magical Girl Sally and Giant Killers… Come to think of it, Sally had the same creator as Giant Robo.