The double Kickstarter for Armed Fantasia and Penny Blood is nearing completion and to celebrate its success we were able to hold an interview with the lead games designers of both games: Akifumi Kaneko for Armed Fantasia and Matsuzo Machida for Penny Blood.
In this article, we’ll be looking at the interview responses from Mr. Akifumi Kaneko as he tells us more about his new western punk JRPG Armed Fantasia: To The End Of The Wilderness, the spiritual successor to the cult classic PlayStation series Wild Arms.
Mr. Kaneko was the lead game designer for the first three Wild Arms games under Sony Computer Entertainment. We would also act as the scenario writer for Wild Arms 2, 3, and 5. Needless to say, he knows his way around the Wild West and wishes to bring that “westernpunk” style with Armed Fantasia.
In this interview, he tells us more about the mechanics of Armed Fantasia, how they differ from Wild Arms, and bringing traditional JRPG sensibilities to more modern consoles including a good old-fashioned world map.
Both Wild Arms and Armed Fantasia have a unique “westernpunk” inspired setting. What do you think makes this setting so interesting for an RPG?
Because I added Sci-Fi and Fantasy elements to classic Wild West themes. The Wild West genre is pretty ordinary, and not very rare. But with Wild ARMs and Armed Fantasia, we take pop culture like Japanese manga and anime and combine them with the Wild West. That setting gives me more freedom with what I can do. It’s interesting because it’s almost like a parallel world that we’ve created.
Besides Wild Arms, was there any other game that you guys pick as inspiration during the development process?
Saying a game influenced our game has a bit of a grandiose sound to it. But we’re keeping up on recently released games. And that’s because one of our major themes is “reproducing the 90s JRPG feel”. We’re trying to recreate the fun from JRPGs in that era. But we can’t keep the same gameplay style or amenities from that era. We’re doing our best to give all of that a modern upgrade. We hope you look forward to it!
The Kickstarter mentions that Armed Fantasia is that it will have a traditional RPG world map which isn’t used as often in recent games. Does this mean there will be a lot of exploration? Is it safe to assume the game is going to be designed as an open world?
Armed Fantasia is a story-driven JRPG, rather than an open-world game where you can go anywhere you want to or where progress is left up to the player. In part, we intentionally didn’t go with an open-world design because we wanted the story progression to be dramatic. For the world to get more and more like a wilderness. For there to be some big secret behind it all.
But just as you can see in the promotional video, we want the world map to be very big. Even if you decide to stop progressing in the main story, we plan on having side quests and dungeons and whatnot for players to have fun with. The more support we get from backers, the more exploration and whatnot we’ll be able to include in the game!
Could you tell us more about the battle system and how the “Order Chain” and “Force Break” systems will give the turn-based combat a “faster tempo”? We also noticed Wild Arms and Armed Fantasia have the characters equip weapons called ARMs. How will the ARMs in Armed Fantasia differ from the ARMs in Wild Arms?
At its core, it is a turn-based command-style battle system. But we want it to be high-tempo. If you check the promotional video, you’ll get a good idea. At about 42 seconds, an Order Chain activates. Your party gets multiple attacks off without the game slowing down, and you get to do more damage. After that, about 50 seconds in, a Force Break is activated. These can be activated during enemy actions or party actions, interrupting anything at any time. You can use it like in the video to get out of danger. The most basic way to use it is to prevent an enemy Order Chain, but you’ll have to really pay attention to what’s going on and activate it in real-time. I think this will bring a sense of tension to battles that weren’t in the Wild ARMs series.
In this game, ARM stands for “Aether Reaction Maximizer” and is a new word made specifically for Armed Fantasia. ARMs can have a max of 10+ skills on them. So by equipping them, not only do you get stronger, but your Role will change. Equipping a Gun ARM will make your character faster. Equipping a Staff ARM will allow your character to use elemental magic. This is the Role Change System. ARMs are almost like another character in the story this time around. And they’ll play a big part in the game, especially in the climax. I hope you will enjoy it.
Having Tomomi Sasaki as the character designer along with Michiko Naruke and Noriyasu Agematsu as the composer is certainly a huge surprise for fans. How do you guys end up as a team once more? and was creating a Wild Arms successor always been the dream all along?
Agematsu-san is one of the bosses at the company I work with. And Naruke-san has been in the industry since before I started my career. Sasaki-san is not only an ally at work, but is a precious friend of mine. We’re all very close. So it was very easy to call out to them and ask them to work on this project.
The problem, especially in my case, was getting our schedules to match up. When the project started, I wanted to get as many staff members that worked on Wild ARMs together as possible. 10+ years have passed since the last release in that series, so some of them work at different companies or in different industries altogether. Some of them are so far away now that I wasn’t able to get in touch with them. But the staff members I was able to get on this project all carry the memories of the staff that wasn’t able to participate this time around with them.
Is there anything in particular from Wild Arms whether it’d gameplay, story, or setting that you are particularly excited to bring into Armed Fantasia?
There are several commonalities between WA and AF, like the world slowly turning into a wilderness. But those are all things I’m re-using for Armed Fantasia. There will be no continuation of Wild ARMs stories in Armed Fantasia, and there will be no fan-favorite characters from Wild ARMs returning. I’m sure there are people who won’t be happy to read that. But if you think about it, Armed Fantasia is a completely new JRPG that you don’t need to know Wild ARMs to get into. So we’d definitely like to get some people to play the game who have never played any of my works at all!
One of the main highlights for many people including ourselves when looking at the game in motion is definitely the graphics. Everything from the environment, character models, particle effects, and animations looks amazing. Can we expect the final game to have the same level / similar quality to it?
Thank you for the compliment on the video. It makes me truly happy to read that. Our talented staff members worked to their limits to make it, and I am very satisfied with it.
Of course, you can expect that level of quality out of the final product! In fact, we’re going to do our best to make it look even BETTER than that!
The Kickstarter was able to reach its initial funding in less than a day. How does feel knowing you were able to reach your goal so quickly?
Unfortunately, I missed the moment when the minimum goal was reached. But I was very excited at all of the support from people all over the world. So I would like to take this time to express my thanks to you all. Thank you so very much! Please, help us develop the Armed Fantasia of our dreams!
We thank Akifumi Kaneko for taking the time to answer our interview questions and congratulate him, his team, and the Penny Blood team for the success of their double Kickstarter.
Armed Fantasia looks to be a great throwback, not also to Wild Arms but to 90s JRPGs as a whole. Concepts like the overworld map, have mostly been forgotten by the RPGs of today so as an old-school fan I find it exciting to see a game attempt to modernize them for a new audience. Combined with the colorful animations, a unique fantasy wild west setting, and a fun cast of characters (Alicia looks cute): Armed Fantasia looks like it’ll be a wild time.
We’ve also held an interview with Matsuzo Machida, the lead game designer of Penny Blood, the other half of this double Kickstarter. To hear what he was to see about the upcoming game click here.