E3 2015: XSEED Booth Hands-on and Interview with Kenichiro Takaki

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At the XSEED booth at E3, I was able to try three games: The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel, Nitroplus Blasterz, and Senran Kagura Estival Versus.

Legend of Heroes is a long running franchise in Japan but less than half of the games have managed to be released here. In fact, the previous game released was Trails of the Sky, which is five games prior to Cold Steel in Japan. The second chapter of Trails in the Sky is supposed to release on PSP and PC later this year and XSEED holds the rights to the third chapter as well. They’ve skipped over the two game Crossbell Arc but said they could return to them if Cold Steel does well enough. Regardless, XSEED assured me that that Cold Steel is the beginning of a new chapter in the series and will be understandable despite all the skipped games.

Mechanically, the game played well. It is a turn-based RPG but with a variety of available abilities and strategies. I liked how there was some play between the powerful magic abilities, which take several turns to deal damage, and the other instantaneous abilities and attacks. Turn order plays a big deal as well, as characters can gain bonuses depending on where their turn falls. Party members can also team up for special attacks or to interrupt the turn order. Trails of Cold Steel seemed like a game that fans of Japanese RPGs might want to keep an eye on.

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Nitroplus Blasterz is a fighting game developed by Examu, who are known for their Arcana Heart fighting game franchise. Blasterz definitely felt like it had some influences from Arcana Heart but with some original takes as well such as using two support characters rather than the single Arcana. The game is a crossover of several anime and novel franchises. I noted assist characters from the anime Psycho Pass and Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet, plus plenty of others.

The game played much like I would have expected an anime fighter to play. It didn’t do a whole lot to set itself apart from games like Dengeki Bunko Fighting Climax or other crossover anime fighters. Still, it wasn’t a bad game either and there might be more to the game that I couldn’t experience in just a few short fights. I don’t expect to see this at Evo but it could be a fun game to bust out among fans of the franchises represented in the game.

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I enjoyed my time with Senran Kagura Shinovi Versus so I was excited to try the sequel Senran Kagura Estival Versus while I was at E3. Although I didn’t get a whole lot of time with it, there did seem to be a lot of great upgrades from the previous game. The combat seemed more fluid and refined and several of the returning characters I tried had been tweaked and upgraded from their appearance in Shinovi Versus.

Estival Versus also adds five new characters from a new faction. I didn’t get to try out the new characters but just looking at the designs, it would seem that there are some pretty interesting new characters. The version they had on the floor was the PS4 version (Estival Versus is coming to both PS4 and Vita, unlike the previous game). The game looks great on the PS4 with much better lighting and character models than Shinovi Versus on Vita. The PS4 version will support up to 10 players online while the Vita version will still support 4 players.

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I also got a chance to sit down with Kenichiro Takaki, producer of the Senran Kagura series, and ask him a few questions about that, some of his other games, and E3 in general. My interview was double booked and the other publication asked a few questions related to the upcoming 3DS game in the series, Senran Kagura 2 Deep Crimson.

Q: For the Senran Kagura series, how did you come up with the idea for a fighting game with girls?

Takaki: It was something I had been thinking about for a while but the first time I was able to do it was the Ikki Tousen series that I worked on. Basically, when you defeat a character, nothing really happens. I thought that was sort of boring, not having damage in a way that you can really tell. I thought what if we could make it more exciting, so I implemented this [clothes damage] into Senran Kagura and I have been doing the series for a while now.

Q: I was curious if you could talk about where your inspiration for the characters comes from, especially some of the outlandish ones in the games?

Takaki: Specific for Estival Versus, we have a new girl that’s themed after a festival, like a Matsuri festival. So with her I wanted to have a more fireworks and summer theme which relates to the whole gameplay and story. Things like that can inspire the characters. I think at the end of the day, it’s more my taste like, I want to see this kind of girl and this kind of girl, and it all starts from there.

Q: In the past, I recall you saying that you made the Senran Kagura games because you wanted to take advantage of the 3D technology in the 3DS, do you think there’s anything you could do with Morpheus or VR technology?

Takaki: Of course I have a lot of interest in it, especially for the kind of people that like anime and game girls in the 2D world. Anime girls never come out from the TV, no matter how hard we try, so the next step will be for us to go into the virtual reality. I tried Summer Lesson and I was blown away by what it could do so I am very curious about the virtual reality side of what Morpheus and Oculus Rift.

Q: Following that question with the 3D effect, do you want to make it more realistic or are you happy with how it has worked in the 3DS?

Takaki: I think there’s a lot more we can still tweak or make better but it doesn’t really mean more natural. It is a game and it is constructed within that. In a good way I want to try to make it more natural but it’s a little difficult trying to find that balance between anime and realism.

Q: Where do see the series going next after the main games and the rhythm game? Is there any other evolution you would like to make on the series? Any other genres of games you think would fit for Senran Kagura?

Takaki: One of the things I really want to do is have a game where all of the girls have a water pistol fight. The girls would get drenched rather than fighting each other.

Q: So girls are the main attraction for the game but there are other aspects of the games as well. Can you talk about that?

Takaki: I think it is easy to look at just the girls and the sexualism the game has, but I really concentrated on having a solid story as a base. Without that everything is just a façade; just the outside look of it. So I concentrated on “why are they there?” and “why are they fighting?” It’s really hard to explain that the game has a deep story without playing the game so once people play the game I think they will understand more about what I’m trying to say. Other than that, I also focused on the gameplay mechanics to make them better and more refined. The new games have more multiplayer modes so you can coop and you can versus with some titles. Another part I wanted was to allow the player to really customize their character and make them how they want them to be, and then to be able to play the character like that in the game. There’s a lot of ways to enjoy the game and the game is very full… of stuff; like their breasts. [Laughs]

Q: So you said that Senran Kagura 2 Deep Crimson has coop. How does it work? Is it fighting in pairs?

Takaki: So you do have a pair system and you’ll be able to play coop with your friend. Throughout the game there will be different missions that you will be able to do [together], but when you are playing alone of course the other character will be an AI character. It will be a very difficult challenge throughout the coop missions and you’ll be able to enjoy it more when you can play it with your friends and cooperate to defeat the enemy.

Q: This is the first time that you made a sequel, a direct sequel. Is that a result of the success of the first game? Do you see making more sequels if Senran Kagura 2 is a success?

Takaki: I think, yeah, it is just a pure numbers thing. If it doesn’t sell then there is no series. So I have nothing but gratitude to all of the fans that have been supporting us for letting me continue the series and make a sequel.

Q: Do you have a favorite character?

Takaki: Hibari. Also Murasaki, because she has the biggest, umm, assets.

Q: Why are there no male playable characters?

Takaki: If you want to play with a male character, there are a lot of games that feature them. And I just like girls. There is a male character in Deep Crimson for the first time though. He’s not a main character but you will be able to play as a male. It’s more like a joke character.

Q: Is there anything you can tell us about Valkyrie Drive?

Takaki: It sort of has the same entry point or gateway as Senran Kagura, like the way to express the game, but it’s a completely different type of action system. I think it will be a really interesting title and I would really love for it to reach over to the US and European regions too.

Q: I see you posting a lot about various other games on twitter, is there anything you saw at E3 that you are excited for?

Takaki: I’m really, really looking forward to Horizon. In Japan there used to be these robotic dinosaur toys called Zoids, it reminds me of that and what would happen if those became a game. So I’m really looking forward to what that game will look like.

Q: Are the new Senran Kagura games going to release in Europe?

XSEED: Yes. Both of them will be handled by Marvelous Europe so it won’t be XSEED Games but they will be coming out.

Written by Andy Richardson

Andy Richardson

A longtime PlayStation fan who enjoys JRPGs and rhythm games when he’s not tweeting about his parrot.

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