Editor’s note: The interview was originally conducted on camera, but due to a technical error, the audio was severely distorted. After some thought, I decided that it would be best to release the interview in text form. My apologies for this, but hopefully you still enjoy the content!
At this year’s NYCC, I was fortunate enough to interview Executive Producer Jun Imaizumi from gumi, Inc. about their game Phantom of the Kill, an upcoming strategy RPG making it’s Western debut this Winter (the game is already out in Japan). I would like to give special thanks to Benjamin PerLee, PR Manager for gumi America, who helped set up this interview, as well as Shiori Sumida, Head of Global Platform Management and Relations for gumi America, who translated all my questions as well as Mr. Imaizumi’s responses.
Moar Powah: First off, could you tell people a little about Phantom of the Kill for those who have never heard of it before?
The overview is that Phantom of the Kill is a strategy RPG game that’s been doing very well in Japan. We focus a lot on high production values. If you’ve noticed we’ve had Oshii Mamoru, who is the director of Ghost in the Shell, to help with the intro animation. So that’s kind of it in a nutshell.
MP: There are a lot of SRPG’s out there, so what do you think makes Phantom of the Kill very unique or special? Why would players in the West want to play it?
Couple of the key differences about Phantom of the Kill compared to other strategy RPG games would be first of all the amount of work that goes into leveling up and growing your characters. The other difference in this game compared to other strategy RPG games is that one mistake on the map can change everything. Each move you make is important so that can change the gameplay.
MP: You talk a lot about strategy and how one move can make a difference, so would you say Phantom of the Kill is more difficult than other SRPGs?
I do agree that it might be a little more challenging than your average RPG game; however, because it is on a mobile device we strive to make it accessible and easy to play with so that you can play for longer and devote more time to the product. But yes, I do feel like the difficultly level might be a little higher than most other strategy games. But there obviously is game progression so when you start you won’t be fighting high level characters or enemies. There will be a graduation level.
MP: Mobile games are very popular in Japan and are growing in popularity in the West, so what’s it like developing this very high production value SRPG for mobile?
It definitely has been a challenge. However, I felt it was needed to differentiate us from other RPG games out there. So we did spend a lot of time, for example, with Oshii Mamoru in creating the opening animation. We went through with a lot of extensive details and made sure that each part of the game whether that’s the animation, characters, character moves, enemies and all that stuff are almost like a Japanese anime if you will. I wanted to bring that Japanese anime pop culture aspect into the game and introduce it to the West. That definitely has been a challenge because we started in Japan and bringing it out to the West was a whole other level of playing field. We hope and believe that bringing something of this value would make a splash in the West and hopefully become very popular.
MP: Phantom of the Kill and all of other gumi’s games have done very well in Japan. Phantom of the Kill I believe reached number one on the Japan Google Play Store. What are your hopes for Phantom of the Kill’s Western release?
I’m not sure how well it will do in the ranking charts. Obviously we hope it does very well. By bringing a game that is very Japan centric is a differentiating factor for our game. We hope to achieve a similar ranking like in Japan.
MP: You talk about working with Oshii Mamoru on the opening movie. Do you see Phantom of the Kill becoming a multimedia project?
I want to make it into a Hollywood movie! That’s my ultimate goal. But yes, there are definitely plans in the works for beyond the boundaries of a mobile game. Shorter term goals include making figurines, making some merchandise out of it, potential animations. We’re definitely thinking about pushing the boundaries of the brand. We want it really to become a well known brand not just in Japan but globally.
MP: I want to take step back and go back to the characters. What was the inspiration for their design?
We definitely would love to make original characters, but in order for it to be more accessible, we wanted to use very familiar names that most people would know. So we based the lore of each character’s name on familiar Gods and Goddesses which helped create a vision for the characters. Of course outside of the name, we added in our own creative personalities. We eventually want to branch out and do some more original characters, whether that’s through introducing new characters or maybe crossover events which we have done before.
MP: At Tokyo Game Show, you teased the male character Zero, and he’s been revealed now. Were male characters always in the works or was it more just for Western appeal?
So from a story perspective, the male characters always have existed. But when we had first started building for the Japan market, we weren’t sure if we were going to be introducing them in the game. However, when we had the opportunity to bring it out to the West, we decided that we wanted to start differentiating the products and providing a different side of the game. We decided to introduce a male playable character. As you have probably have seen from the animation reels, the story of the English version is set one hundred years prior to the Japanese version; it’s a prequel basically. I hope that a male character can help tie the story together.
MP: How much thought did you put into the prequel story?
So because the male character always existed in the story, it wasn’t that difficult for us to figure out how to do a prequel because we already had a basic story line. The more challenging aspect of the game was since we’re adding this new layer, how can we make it fun and interesting? In Japan, a lot of Japanese developers when they bring their games to the West, they just bring it as is. They don’t really put much effort to change it or add something to it to make it more interesting or different than the original version. So part of the challenge was how we can make it different.
MP: Any final words?
I’m excited and looking forward to the release of the international version of Phantom of the Kill. I hope everyone feels the same way, and I hope that everyone definitely tries to at least check it out once it comes out. I’m very confident that everyone will enjoy it and have fun with the game.
Thank you again to Mr. Imaizumi and gumi for taking the time to speak with us! You can look forward to Phantom of the Kill this Winter. Pre-registration is also open on the official Facebook page.
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