The Fairy Tail series has a pretty strong following in the west. Although you might not hear about it as much as its Shonen counterparts, the long-running manga and anime series still manages to find a large loyal following. Sadly, in the west, the video game adaptions have mostly gone unlocalized over the years. That is, until now, as developer Gust is developing a JRPG adventure as a global release.
Noisy Pixel had the chance to sit with producer Keisuke Kikuchi to talk about Fairy Tail’s development and why Gust is the best developer for this job.
In case you missed our preview coverage of Fairy Tail, please check that out.
Azario Lopez: When it comes to licensed titles for Koei Tecmo, Omega Force seems to be the go-to developer for these projects, offering a more Musou style gameplay approach. However, Fairy Tail is being developed by Gust. How did this happen?
Keisuke Kikuchi: I am personally a huge fan of Fairy Tail, along with other members of my team. We felt that these characters and the fantasy setting were the right ingredients for a great RPG. Also, the series author Hiro Mashima and Kodansha, the publisher, were eager to have a game like this be made for Fairy Tail. This common goal brought us together, and the project came to be.
Gust is known for its RPG titles, but we’ve never been able to work on a license that is globally known like Fairy Tail. We think working on this title will be the perfect opportunity to introduce players to what Gust is capable of developing.
AL: Do you believe the turn-based RPG battle system works well in the Fairy Tail universe?
KK: Depending on what you want to focus on, the Fairy Tail IP could be adapted to other genres like action RPGs, traditional RPGs, and even a strategy RPG. We chose to create it as a traditional RPG because I wanted the game to be approachable to all Fairy Tail fans, even those who aren’t gamers. I believe this approach allows players to easily feel rewarded through gameplay and have access to the character’s magic. Also, looking at the manga or anime, the mages always work as a team and overcome formidable enemies together, which matches well with the turn-based system.
AL: In terms of world-building, how did the team piece the world of Fairy Tail together for this game?
KK: When it comes to the town of Magnolia, where the guild is located, you’ve seen bits and pieces of it in the manga and anime. However, in our game, we’ve connected these areas using our imagination as to how this world would look. Once we had something pieced together, we took it to the production committee for the license as well as Mashima-san to review and approve. This process was something we went through for many parts of the game.
AL: Licensed games are typically pretty strict with what developers can do with their characters in terms of costume DLC and story content. However, the Fairy Tail series has never shied away from having a bit of fun with their characters. That said, how creative were you able to get with extra costumes or story liberties during development?
KK: Mashima-san has a lot of say about his IP, and he is always thinking from the viewpoint of the fans. During development, he actually encouraged us to add more. In that sense, it was really easy for us to work with him and get creative. There were things he was strict about, like certain characters wouldn’t wear these costumes or be in a particular situation.
AL: Looking at previous Gust developed titles. There is a certain level of fanservice offered. With Fairy Tail containing some levels of fanservice already, can Gust fans look forward to Gust’s interpretation of this in the game? I think I’m just asking about Lucy bathing suit costumes at this point.
KK: During the game, the characters do go to the beach, which is in line with the canon of the series. We plan on maintaining the integrity of the Fairy Tail world. So, fans can expect to see that level of fanservice because that’s how the original IP presented it, whether it’s shown in a costume or a story scene.
AL: The enemies in the game have weaknesses to certain elements, which can make some bosses more complicated when a specific character isn’t in the party. In the later parts of the game, will players need to make sure they have the particular party assembled to get through these fights easier?
KK: I didn’t want to create a situation where you could only defeat a boss with a defined group of characters or using one specific way. I want fans to create their own party using their favorite characters. However, it goes without saying, each character has their shortcomings as well as strengths, and while bosses have weaknesses, the game balance isn’t too specific to where a player will need to sacrifice their team preference to get through the game.
AL: These recent titles from Gust have graphically improved when compared to previous games. Is this something Gust as a developer is putting a lot of resources behind and something that will improve even more in the future?
KK: This is something that we are trying to accomplish, and I believe that we can still make improvements in this area of development. We usually make anime-style games. What I noticed with our latest release is that fans noticed the modeling, texture quality, and shadows that we’ve been improving on in our recent games, and they seem to appreciate it. We will continue to improve in this area of development so you can expect the next Atelier to surpass what you saw in Ryza.
AL: I must ask, is there anything that you can tell us about what is happening with the Fatal Frame series?
KK: I answered a similar question at Tokyo Game Show with an English speaking interviewer. The Japanese media ended up taking that article, and it became big news. So, I’m going to be careful this time and say that these are just my personal thoughts on the subject.
It’s public knowledge that there is a Hollywood movie in production, and I’ve been the producer on all of the Fatal Frame projects, I personally and strongly wish to continue this franchise in some way. I know there are a lot of voices crying out for a new sequel. The directors and I have a few ideas about what the next title should look like, but this new project has to make sense from a business perspective for us to move forward with anything. For now, I’m focused on the Atelier and Fairy Tail titles, and it’s my priority to make these titles successful in laying the foundation for future projects not limited to Fatal Frame, but also the Deception series.
AL: How does the demand from fans determine what Gust works on next? Do you make a sequel or a new IP?
KK: I think everyone has observed that at least for the Atelier series, we put out a pretty steady number of releases. However, we get together to formulate long term plans for the Gust brand. We look into what fans are saying to guide us to what we will work on. You can see we do this by looking at Atelier Lulua, which is the sequel to the Arland series that fan fans seem to be really attached to. We’ve also released remasters of our previous trilogies, such as the DX releases. If the voices of fans pick up, we will take it into consideration, but it also has to match up with our current plans.
AL: Can you explain the battle system a little more to me, more specifically the Awakening system?
KK: Before we get into that, the basic cycle for battles is to cast magic and fill up the Fairy Gauge through coordinated attacks. After this gauge is full, the player can use the Awakening ability, and the party then grows blue, with Natsu taking on an entirely new form. This serves as a power-up mechanic to execute when you are in a crisis. It’s up to the player how they wish to use this because players can use it to power up the party or Natsu specifically. When the party takes advantage of the feature, they’ll be able to use two elements with their magic, which can really get them out of a tight spot.
AL: I know this is cheesy to ask, but do you have a favorite character?
KK: Juvia Lockser. However, I didn’t always like her and thought of her as kind of obnoxious. As the story went on, I’ve discovered more things about her that I like.
AL: I’m a Lucy fan, and I’ve had a similar experience with her over the years. Is there anything you’d like to say to fans of the Fairy Tail series looking forward to this title?
KK: I feel like we’ve created a platform in which the characters can really shine and express themselves. We look forward to players creating their own team and play how they like to play as they enjoy the prosses of upgrade and restoring the Fairy Tail Guild to its former glory. We hope fans enjoy it.
Fairy Tail is coming to PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, and PC in Spring 2020.
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