Sunday, February 24, 2013

RPGs Old and New - Iwata Asks Atlus about Etrian Odyssey IV


Yesterday, Etrian Odyssey IV was released in North America on the Nintendo 3DS. Greatly anticipating the game the night prior to release, I began translating an old (Iwata Asks) interview between Nintendo CEO Iwata Satoru, and Etrian Odyssey series' directors Komori Shigeo and Kanada Daisuke, about Etrian Odyssey IV, the series in its entirety, and RPGs in general.  There's a lot of very interesting stuff here, so I'd recommend giving it a read if you're at all interested in game design or roleplaying games in particular.


With regard to the Interview's translation itself... it's very rough. I apologize in advance for any grammatical errors, misspellings or inaccuracies that may be present. I went through the interview very quickly in a short two-day span, during which I was also writing a 10-page essay on the emergence of French nationalism (exciting, I know) and plowing through a very depressing Toni Morrison novel. Oh--and I also put a good eight hours into Etrian Odyssey IV, which is a fantastic game that I cannot possibly recommend enough. By the way.





Anyway, the interview here is long--very long. Twenty-sheets-of-paper long. It's most definitely worth reading, don't get me wrong, just make sure you've got the time to wade through it.



Iwata:
Today I'm speaking with Kanada-san and Komori-san, from Atlus, about the upcoming game Etrian Odyssey IV: Legends of the Titan. Thank you both for coming to speak with me today.

Kanada & Komori:
Thank you for having us.

Nintendo president Iwata Satoru
Iwata:
Let's start off with your work on the Etrian Odyssey series as a whole. What can you tell us about it, Komori-san?

(Note: a dungeon-crawling RPG series, the first game, Etrian Odyssey, was released on the Nintendo DS in January, 2007. The latest game, Etrian Odyssey IV, will be released on the Nintendo 3DS on July 5th, 2012).

Komori:
Of course. I am the current series director for the Etrian Odyssey games. About six years ago I was shown a proposal for a game called Etrian Odyssey, and found it very interesting, so I immediately passed it on to the staff. “We have to make this!” I was also the director of both the second and third installments in the series. For the fourth game, even though I was supposed to the game director and producer, I was busy with other projects at the time. So I said, "Who will take over for me?" Kanada raised his hand and said, “I'll do it!” So I entrusted the Etrian Odyssey IV to Kanada's direction.

(Note: Etrian Odyssey II: Heroes of Lagaard was released on the Nintendo DS in February, 2008; Etrian Odyssey III: The Drowned City was released in April, 2006).

Iwata:
Well, then, Kanada-san?

Kanada:
Right. Etrian Odyssey IV will be a continuation of the series; overall story, but this time it is Kanada who will be in charge as director! This is my first time working on a game in the capacity of director. My goal is to reach a point where we can call the game "almost finished."

Iwata:
What can you tell us about your previous involvement in the series?

Kanada:
Right. I was an advisor for the battle system with the first game. At that time, I was also working on the Trauma Center series. Every time an Etrian Odyssey game was in development, I seemed in a similar situation working on other projects.

(Note: a medical-action game, Trauma Center was released on the Nintendo DS in June, 2005, but has since seen numerous sequels released on both the Nintendo DS and Nintendo Wii).

Iwata:
I see. Thank you very much. Now, before we discuss the fourth game here, I'd like to ask the two of about the “backbone” of your careers with gaming. First, Komori-san, how did first become involved in gaming?

Komori:
I think it's the same story for everyone from my generation: when I was in the lower grades of elementary school, I was mesmerized by the NES. Friends would bring their cartridges over to play with, and every time you loaded it up there was always a fresh, new experience.

Iwata:
Back then, the whole notion that "this happens inside the television," so to speak, was profoundly shocking.

Komori:
Yes. I was especially fond of Dragon Quest. It was a lot of fun go out on this big adventure, to become a character in the game--it was a very enjoyable experience.
Then, when I moved on to high school, I got addicted to tabletop RPGs.


(Note: the first Dragon Quest game was released in May, 1986, for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), and became synonymous with the roleplaying game genre).

Iwata:
Oh, so that's what you were into.

Komori:
Yes. Back then I was in the art club at school, and we turned it into the “Tabletop RPG club.” (Laughs). In my student days I played a lot of tabletop RPGs, starting with Dungeons and Dragons.

Iwata:
Did that make your club neglect its art? (Laughs).

Komori:
Of course. (Laughs). I'd play tabletop RPGs at school, then I'd go home to play computer games. So, when it came time to decide what I wanted to do after graduation, all I could really think was that I really wanted to work with my favorite things....
At the time, it was very difficult to find a job in the gaming industry, so I had to settle for a much more normal job at a local company.

Iwata:
"I like games, but they can only be my hobby" is what you decided, then.

Komori:
Well, in the end, I thought “This isn't right,” and I ended up quitting the company after only three days. (Laughs). I eventually moved to Kyoto and started working at a game company there.
One day a memo was passed around detailing the previous game, and at the bottom it said, "now think about how to make the next game amazing by yourself."
I looked at it and thought, "Eh? how would I make an amazing game?" I started drafting out some concepts on my own, so as I remember it, I taught myself how to make games then and there.

Iwata:
When I think about how things used to be, I always start out going, "Oh, how awful that was!" But I also have to remind myself what a fortunate time it was.

Etrian Odyssey series director, Komori Shigeo
Komori:
Personally, I felt very blessed. Now, suddenly, they were allowing a rookie to stand up and say, "Let's try and make this into a game!" I kept thinking, "My boss is a really nice person." (Laughs).

Iwata:
Or too engrossed in Dragon Quest to care.
Do you think your affinity for pend-and-paper game and roleplaying games has had much influence on the games you've worked on?

Komori:
That's true. If you love the RPG genre, you go into things thinking, "I want to make an RPG I'd love!" It has a lot of impact on your process.
After a few years, I was working in Atlus' Kansai branch. I ended up working on Shin Megami Tensei simply because I really wanted to make an RPG.

(Note: a roleplaying game for the Nintendo SNES, Shin Megami Tensei was released in October, 1992).

Iwata:
Speaking of Atlus, shouldn't you be working on a very long-awaited RPG right now?

Komori:
That Atlus RPG... is made by the people in the Tokyo headquarters.

Everyone:
(Laughs).

Iwata:
Would you rather they made it in Kansai? (Laughs).

Komori:
Yes.... (Laughs).
For a while there, they had me working on a fighting game. Because it was so different from an RPG, even though it was fun to work on, I kept thinking, "I really want to make an RPG one day!" And I prayed for an opportunity.

Iwata:
Now then, Kanada-san, let's talk about how you were introduced to video games.

Kanada:
I'm of the same generation as Komori, so I also first got into gaming with the NES. The first game I played was Popeye. It was at a friend's house and it was my first time seeing a video game, so I was quite surprised. Even though were weren't really good friends up until then, after that I went over to his house to play every day. (Laughs).


(Note: Based on the American cartoon, "Popeye," the action game of the same name was released on the Nintendo NES, Arcades, and Nintendo Game & Watch in 1983, 1982 and 1981, respectively).

Iwata:
Back then I was in a similar position, too. I'd go home and before I decided whether or not to visit a friend, I'd ask them "Is there an NES?" And that's how I decided.

Kanada:
Exactly. (Laughs)
Maybe it's because I was a kid, but I'd look at the movement of an enemy thug in those days and think he moved a little differently, and think "This guy... he's getting stronger and stronger!?"
I would imagine all kinds of things. "Do you remember me from yesterday, you jerk!" Things like that.

Iwata:
Ahh, that's incredible. Why did you think things like that?

Kanada:
My imagination was quite swollen.

Iwata:
Did you find yourself drawn to any one genre?

Kanada:
The same as Komori: I, too, loved RPGs.
It was really refreshing to be able to enjoy the story from a character's perspective, and I'd get obsessed with the game's world. Someone would bring an instruction book to school, for example, and everyone would gather around the manual. We'd look at pictures of the weapons, like a sword or even a club, and say, "Wow! Cool!" (Laughs).

Iwata:
Is a picture of a club really that exciting? (Laughs)

Kanada:
"A spear!"
"A club!"
Anyway... it was just exciting. At the time, it was really just the beginning of the Dragon Quest explosion.


Iwata:
Dragon Quest III, in particular. There was a really long queue on the day it was released. I really got into the series from that tradition.

(Note: Dragon Quest III was a roleplaying game released on the Nintendo NES in February, 1988).

Kanada:
Yes, indeed. It was a social phenomena. Because I experienced it from the perspective of a player, I think it had an even greater impact. While the games got bigger and longer, I went to college to study film and visual art.

Iwata:
"A person who aspires to work in the video game industry," then? There were lots of people like that back then. Or was gaming simply another media for visual expression to you?

Kanada:
Yes. At the time, working with games wasn't something I'd really thought about doing. It seemed too much like having my head in the clouds. I had a senpai who got a job in the game industry, and I realized that it was something I really wanted to do, myself.

Iwata:
Ah, so you were able to get into the industry because you were close to other people who were in the inside.

Kanada:
Yes. I was very excited to work for a company that made games, and right away I helped develop the company's first fighting game.

Iwata:
Oh, so both of you were involved in fighting games.

Kanada:
But, after all, back then I was only working on the planning side of things. While I was at that company, I'd think, "I really want to make an RPG after all!" That feeling kept getting stronger, so left and joined Atlus.

Iwata:
Kanada-san, at Atlus, were you able to work on that RPG?

Kanada:
Yes, because I was fortunate enough to be working in Tokyo. (Laughs).

Iwata:
It's funny that the both wake up with this feeling of, "Today I want to make an RPG!" In your hearts. What is it about RPGs that the two of you found so irresistible?


Komori:
Hm... that's a difficult question, you know.
There's the raw RPG experience of Wizardry and Dragon Quest and Ultima, but with tabletop RPGs, the only thing that exists is the rule book. They allow you to go on adventure of your own, to play and think freely.

(Note: Wizardry is a roleplaying game series first released on the PC in the United States in 1981; in Japan, the PC version was released in 1985 and later ported to the NES in 1987. Since then, the series has been ported to many platforms. Ultima is a roleplaying game series first released on the PC in the United States in 1979; in Japan, the PC version was released in 1985 and later ported to the NES in 1986. Since then, the series has been ported to many platforms).

Iwata:
Because you have a Game Master (GM) controlling the game, you need a good GM, don't you? To help make the world more interesting.

Komori:
That's right, you need a good GM to make it enjoyable. I think I'm mostly attracted to the fact that RPGs can let you experience that same feeling of not playing by yourself, even though you're in a virtual world.

Iwata:
What do you think, Kanada-san?

Kanada:
RPGs are a "story where you are the hero," and that's a very appealing concept. When I was a child, that was really the feeling I wanted to experience. When everyone gathers together for an RPG, and a friend is put to sleep in combat, you'll get so immersed in the game that you'll shout out, "Wake up!" That happens all the time.

Iwata:
And even though one person is controlling everything as a GM, you all react as though you're in the fight together.

Kanada:
That's right.
I've also got a party on this side of the television. (Laughs).
Only now, you're playing the probabilities all the time, so when a character gets put to sleep, it makes it feel like you've got the same thing happening. That's what an RPG is--something that entertains you with your own imagination.

Iwata:
From the Etrian Odyssey games, it seems to me that both of you are enamored with the original experience of the great, old RPGs, and are saying "I will deliver this experience to a game console."

Etrian Odyssey IV director, Kanada Daisuke
Kanada:
Eh... that might be right.
Compared with the past, game consoles these days really have a lot of graphical capability. Because of that, there's a lot less of the game you're able to use your imagination to enjoy. The part of me that loved using my imagination in games hasn't diminished at all, though.
After all, I think imagination is the "air" of the story you're playing in, and you really need a sense of imagination in order to enjoy the game. Just like in the old days. You've always got to be conscious of that.

Iwata:
The RPG is a major genre all around the world, and as game consoles continue to develop rapidly, RPGs have developed in the direction of increasingly deep combat systems and visual detail.
However, the desire to make an RPG that requires an "inflated imagination" in order to fully enjoy seems to be a common point with both of you.

Kanada:
Even now, in the current generation, I think there's a feeling of "I want to feel the same 'air' I tasted in childhood."

Iwata:
While one person is holding the controller, everyone else is shouting with the mood of the party. It's a very unique experience. (Laughs).

Kanada:
It really is an incredibly fun thing! Even sitting behind, you can feel the magic that comes with each turn. "This guy! He's doing really good!" Like that. Even though there may be no basis at all for that kind of feeling in the music of image of the monsters, it just a human weakness--you have to imagine something like that.

Everyone:
(Laughs).

Iwata:
When you first saw the proposal for Etrian Odyssey, Komori-san, which aspect of the game most resonated with you?

Komori:
At the time, I thought, "I really want to create a game reminiscent of Wizardry," but I also wanted to capture the feeling of, "This is really close to a tabletop RPG."
I also felt I wanted to make a game that wouldn't have a complicated flow. I wanted to play something simple, something that contained the purest essence of an RPG.

Iwata:
How would you define the "essence of an RPG?"


Komori:
I think that, with Etrian Odyssey, the elements I focused most on the three elements that were most important in Wizardry. I think those three are the most important RPG elements: "growth," "battle," and "exploration."

Iwata:
And when you boil down the essence of those things, do you get something called Etrian Odyssey?

Komori:
Yes, I think so.

Iwata:
When you made the first game, did you meet much resistance with that core concept?


Komori:
Actually, there were only about six people on working the the team, including the development staff. So, yes, I did feel some resistance, but I think that's mostly because just making the game was hard. (Laughs).

Iwata:
But it was very daring at the time. To go out and make a new RPG must have been quite the hurdle; there must have been many difficulties you had to overcome before you could finish it.

Komori:
Yes. But, remember, "battle" is an essential essence of an RPG. That said, it was a good situation with the team we had, and I was able to pull lots of good ideas out of Kanada.

Iwata:
Kanada-san, you helped out a lot with Etrian Odyssey. What was your first impression of the game?

Kanada:
...Honestly, "Is something like this all right?" Is what I thought. (Laughs).

Iwata:
Because you were going against the grain of contemporary RPGs.

Kanada:
That's right.
To be brutally honest, you can spend a lot of time decorating an RPG to make it look more appealing, but you'll pay for that, because what matters more is the simplest combat mechanics, and without them your RPG won't really have much life in it.


Iwata:
"It's not complex, but it still has to be appealing," then? That's a very difficult proposition.

Kanada:
Yes. But there's a certain grace to turn-based RPGs, making games that switch in and out of combat so simply. When someone does it well, I feel envious.

Iwata:
That's something that reminds me a lot of the good old days of RPGs.

Kanada:
Yes. It's the root of a good game. If you do it well, the final product will "absolutely become fascinating."

Iwata:
Komori-san, you've also said that simplicity is as important in RPGs as it is in painting, or music, or writing. How would you evaluate yourself on overcoming the challenges involved with creating the first game??

Komori:I had to always remember to think in that direction. The clear aim was to engender nostalgia, and to stimulate the imagination. At the time, Game Books were really big. I had to keep in mind that I was catering to a specific taste. I would think to myself, "Don't you really want to make an RPG that stimulates the imagination?" I thought the best way to make a game like that was through text, so I moved on to the Nintendo DS. That's about the time I became a director.

(Note: Game Books were stories written for the purpose of allowing you to experience the same thrill of playing an RPG. The reader chooses certain options while reading, which change the storyline and ending. Also known as "choose your own adventure" books).

Iwata:
Was that a refreshing experience for you?

Komori:
Yes. When creating text, I always needed to be aware of the point of view for things such as talking to players and walking through a 3D dungeon to "create the atmosphere."

Iwata:
How did that influence the creation of visuals? How did you convey that atmosphere through the battle system?

Komori:
I just asked the director of the first game, and Hinata-san, who worked on Etrian Odyssey since the first game game. He gave it a very catchy atmosphere. He did all of the artwork for the game, and is responsible for the character of the series.


Iwata:
At the time, the combination of art and combat was very unique. What about the music?

Komori:
I asked Koshiro-san to compose the music. The midi music is a great sound for our generation, as it's kind of like a spice that "stimulates the imagination." But I also thought it would feel "fresh" to younger gamers.

(Note: Koshiro Yuzo is a composer who has composed music for many game series, including Ys and Professor Layton).

Iwata:
I get it.
"To combine fascinating new things with things that have been lost? I think it will be interesting." That is the challenge of making "Etrian Odyssey."

 Komori:
The development staff had confidence in their ability to make an interesting game. However, there was some anxiety. "Will this thing really sell in today's market?"
To be honest, I felt some resistance even after release. It was a feeling of, "This is it..." That time had finally run out.

Iwata:
Were you able to anticipate how people would react to the game?

Komori:
We knew there were other people like ourselves who shared our nostalgia, but it was unexpected to see just how many of the younger generation were able to appreciate the same type of RPG.

Iwata:
You did say that midi sounds fresh for younger gamers earlier. That it wasn't something only older fans could appreciate. Kanada-san, what do you think?

Kanada:
Although I agree there is "freshness" there, certainly, I think the key point is "Atlus has challenged the essential qualities of a fun RPG." I'm in the same crowd saying, "I want to enjoy more of core RPGs," and I think it's a big crowd with a loud voice.

Iwata:
A voice that also came out from the younger generation, who were not motivated out of nostalgia. Why do you think younger gamers were able to appreciate the Etrian Odyssey's old school sensibilities?

Kanada:
Yes, it is because it was different and fresh. But really I'm just happy they're all able to enjoy something from my generation.


Iwata:
Why do you think it took so long for a game around those older aesthetics to get made? Why haven't old-style games been seen as viable until recently?

Kanada:
I suspect so.
When the Wii came out, I stood in line all night. (Laughs). We used to be younger gamers, too, and that's the real story of Etrian Odyssey. It may look like something new to the younger generation, like some mysterious presence that can be felt, not heard. It's the kind of game that makes gamers curious and say, "What kind of game might this be?"

Iwata:
I think Etrian Odyssey was a really good match for the DS, using the bottom screen to draw a map and the top screen for the "Etrian Odyssey." Did you decide to make the game like this from the first planning stages?

Komori:
Yes. From the very beginning, we designed Etrian Odyssey I with the assumption that it would be on the DS. "Remember back when we'd draw maps on graphing paper," was our general line of thought.

Iwata:
Oh, yes. Back in those days I'd always be drawing my own maps, but these days all that is done by the computer, isn't it? There's a refreshing, nostalgic quality to drawing your own map with your own hands.

Komori:
Absolutely. When I first learned I'd be able to draw my own maps on a game machine, it struck me as ingenious.

Iwata:
And so the first Etrian Odyssey game was born. Now, let's move on to the sequels. What were the chief themes of the second and third games?

Komori:
After the release of the first game, we saw that there was a large audience for the title, so we had to meet their expectations for Etrian Odyssey II. I looked back at what we did and thought, "How can I make that more interesting?" I did not want to change the core concept of the game in II, so instead I focused on making it easier to play--more accessible.

Iwata:
And you clearly met that goal. How was it with the third game?

Komori:
Well, it was something I really had to think about a lot.


Iwata:
It must have been exhausting to make II after the first game. "Is it okay to keep the game this simple?" That's a natural thought that could cause some conflict with development.

Komori:
Yes, but at the same time you have to worry about deviating too little from the original concept. "Will our audience bet bored with this is we don't change it?"
That's why I added a new thematic element to the game: "Surprising changes."

Iwata:
Were you able to implement that theme as you initially intended?

Komori:
Yes.
At an event prior to the game's release, several gamers tried Etrian Odyssey III. They were a bit puzzled by all of the changes. But they said, "Ah, it's still Etrian Odyssey, after all." I found that very reassuring.

Iwata:
You must have been very happy to hear that. It sounds quite invigorating.

Komori:
Yes. I'd hear things like, "That was so fun!" And, "I did it!"

Iwata:
Well then, let's finally get down to business and talk about Etrian Odyssey IV. How did you start out with the game?

Komori:
The feeling we had was, "Let's make the fourth game for the 3DS!" And we started talking about it right after wrapping up development for III. I used to say, "We'll make a 3D dungeon RPG on the 3DS," because no matter what language you speak, that's just a perfect combination.

Iwata:
It's almost too perfect to believe. "Did they make the 3DS just for Etrian Odyssey?" It's a perfect match.

Komori:
Exactly. (Laughs).
Unfortunately, I was the timing wasn't really good for me as I was busy with other things, and I couldn't really work on the game. Luckily, Kanada had plenty of free time to spare. Kanada had a very strong desire to make IV, and asked to be game director.

Iwata:
You were both involved in development of the series because you shared the same, strong design sensibilities. Did you find it difficult to leave?

Komori:
I did.
I really wanted to think it was possible for me to head up the game, but, of course, it was not possible. I thought the game would probably be fine if I left everything to Kanada. When I left, I told Kanada, "Now I'll be able to enjoy the game the same as everyone else." (Laughs)


Iwata:
So that brings us back to Kanada-san.

Kanada:
...Yes.

Iwata:
The fans must have very high expectations.

Kanada:
Ohh.... It felt like I had a lot of pressure piling up on both shoulders.... (Laughs). I think there were some concerns about the change of director, but there was a feeling that the fourth game would be a milestone for the series.

Iwata:
The fourth entry is certainly very important.

Kanada:
Yes.
Even so, I had been making Trauma Center games for a while. It had been a long time since I'd made an RPG, and my mind was filled with stuff about heart surgery.

Everyone:
(Laughs).

Iwata:
You certainly have to decide on which elements to change, and which elements you dare not change. If you change too much with the new game, you risk it being "Not Etrian Odyssey."

Kanada:
That's right.
Specifically, I couldn't "Squeeze the play out of the game." I had to "Give the audience a question, but not provide an answer." It's all about crafting an experience where thinking is fundamental, but still accessible.
That's why slightly altered the map-making mechanics.
Now, people who are familiar with drawing can still draw out the maps they want, but the auto-mapping functionality also makes it easier for gamers who cannot draw neatly.

Iwata:
A human being's personality is revealed through his or her drawing.

Kanada:
Yes. I went with the assumption that not everyone playing the game would have the same level of drawing ability. Because, to add on to what Komori said about the good old days of RPGs and the three core elements of "Growth," "Battle," and "Exploration," I think the key element of "Exploration" is that you search with the expectation of finding. That's the sentiment I most invested into IV, and I think it's one of the chief attractions of the Etrian Odyssey games.

Iwata:
I see.

Kanada:
Actually, after I decided to be director, I went to hang out with some of my senpai from university, and we drove all around Osaka delivering newspapers. (Laughs).

Iwata:
Ah, I see now. “You, yourself, went on a journey that reminded you of the RPGs you used to play”, is that it? On that journey, did you remember many things?

Kanada:
Yeah. I remembered the atmosphere of playing those games. Before I started work on IV, I thought about how I could “recreate the essence that made those old RPGs so fascinating for me,” I wanted to make the game remind me of those times. Even though it was a very rushed overnight trip, I'm really glad I went. (Laughs).

Iwata:
Which areas of Etrian Odyssey did you think would take the most advantage of the 3DS' features? For example, what kind of feeling do you get from using stereoscopic 3D?


Kanada:
It's a very strange feeling. I see enemies moving about the field, and see depth the background; I can almost feel the air of the labyrinth....

Iwata:
Does it improve the atmosphere of the game?

Kanada:
Well, it definitely makes it much stronger. Because of how compatible the game is with stereoscopic 3D, I decided to separate the enemies into ranks this time. “I think I can make this look better,” was my thinking.

Iwata:
What about the wireless communication features of the 3DS?

Kanada:
With the 3DS, we have the ability to use wireless communication. Following the example of III, I approved “Guild Cards” which serve as records of the player's guild and his or her favorite character. If you receive someone else's Guild Card, you can incorporate that character into your party.

(Note: Street-Pass communication is when you leave the 3DS turned on and carry it with you. The communication exchange occurs automatically, exchanging data with the people you walk by).

Iwata:
So if you use Street-Pass, you might end up getting a really nice character.

Kanada:
That's right. If you're up against a tough enemy that you can't beat, you can borrow the power of one of these characters.
I've added the the element of “sky” to the game, and in the “sky” there is a lot of hidden treasure you can find, but to do so you need to first receive a map from a Guild Card via wireless communication, such as Street-Pass. The Street-Pass functionality has become a very big function of the 3DS, so I wanted to incorporate it into the gameplay.

Iwata:
Did you try to make the game more approachable for newcomers to the Etrian Odyssey series?

Kanada:
I think the Etrian Odyssey series' “firm difficulty” appeals to people, but conversely, that firmness also makes the game seem impenetrable for others. That is why this time we've implemented a “casual mode” so that anyone will be able to play.
Actually, I'm a little concerned about how people will react to it.

Iwata:
Oh, Nintendo also did that with Fire Emblem, for example. If a character dies in combat, he or she is lost forever, but in alternate modes of play you can revive them. There was a lot of fuss over it. (Laughs).

Kanada:
That's right. After all, there's less value in being firm if not everyone will experiences it. But even so, I think normal mode's firm difficulty needed to be toned down for casual mode.

Iwata:
But this time there is a casual mode, now beginners can play the game on casual mode with confidence, and then move on to normal mode for a greater challenge.

Kanada:
Yes, there is that aspect. “There's a casual mode, but that's okay, because I can make the normal game more difficult.” I was able to divide it. Also, “I can't clear this game because it's too difficult” because I've heard people say that, I wanted players to be able to switch between normal and casual mode at any time.

Iwata:
So you carefully constructed the game so that it would be playable to a wider audience.

Kanada:
Yes. I think it's important to give our customers a choice.

Iwata:
I understand. Well, you're currently in the final stage of development. How are you finishing up?

Kanada:
I play the game normally while checking it over. Even though it's not much fun relatively speaking, I enjoy this time and am proud of all the work we've put into the game.

Iwata:
Are you sure you're not just playing the game instead of checking it? (Laughs)

Kanada:
Yes. (Laughs).


Iwata:
Ah, this is just like when I was young, and we'd all get together to talk about the playing RPGs.

Kanada:
Yeah. I'd listen while grinning, I'm experiencing that exact same feeling now.

Iwata:
RPGs generate a mysterious and wonderful phenomenon. Even though you're playing by yourself, there's a strong social element to the games—you want to talk to other people about it, and share the experience.

Kanada:
That does seem to be the case. (Laughs)

Iwata:
It's fun to talk about your experiences, and fun to hear other people talk about theirs. That's why Dragon Quest became a social phenomenon—the social nature of the game made it a part of what was going on at school, and in the workplace.

Kanada:
I think so, too.

Iwata:
Komori-san, how do you feel about this last leg of development on Etrian Odyssey IV?

Komori:
Actually, right now I'm leaving everything to Kanada and the staff, so for me right now I'm in a state where “I can't wait for it to come out.” (Laughs).

Iwata:
Ah, to tell the truth I'm also really looking forward to its release. This time, you are in the same state, looking forward to the game's release date, as all of your fans.

Komori:
Yes. If I can, “The way it is now, I can look forward to release!” Is what I like to think. (Laughs).


Iwata:
Finally, I'd like you both please say something for the fans eagerly awaiting the next entry in the Etrian Odyssey series. First, what would you say to those who have never played a game in the series before, Komori-san?

Komori:
Of course. If you have a 3DS and are thinking, “I really want to play an RPG,” then please, consider Etrian Odyssey IV. If you dismissed the series in the past for being too difficult, the addition of casual mode should enable to you fully enjoy the game this time around.

Iwata:
And to those who are already familiar with the Etrian Odyssey series, what would you say?

Komori:
That's right, just as I thought... “You create your own adventure in the game. In-game directions are reduced as much as possible, “Will I be able to overcome the challenge using only my own head?” Is how you're supposed to approach this game.

Iwata:
The game is built around the player carving out their own destiny.
Now then, Kanada-san.

Kanada:
I also think Etrian Odyssey IV can a “where you can create an adventure.” You can jump into an open, untamed wilderness on your 3DS, and reform it into a civilized garden by mapping out the land yourself. I think it is exactly what an “adventure” should be....

Iwata:
When you open up your 3DS, you fall into a world of adventure, and you only return to the real world when you shut your 3DS.

Kanada:
Exactly. If you have some time during a commute, you can enjoy “another world....”

With the flick of a switch, so to speak, you can change the world—with the power of stereoscopic 3D, the world becomes more and more immersible. If you wish to enjoy a real adventure, please enjoy Etrian Odyssey IV. Even though it is the fourth 4th work, please do not worry and play the game.

(T/N Note: Four is an unlucky number in Japanese culture, associated with death).

Iwata:
Well then, what would you say to the fans of the series so far, Kanada-san?

Kanada:
With IV, I've added a new element to the key concepts, and, of course, the new casual mode. A lot of has changed, particularly with regard to the visuals and sound. But, on the other hand, the fundamental gameplay has not changed at all. If you play the game, I think that you will feel that it is unmistakably “Etrian Odyssey.” In fact, you may find it to be unexpectedly challenging.

Iwata:
Even with the new casual mode, fans will not find the game's difficulty lacking.

Kanada:
Yes. While play-testing, there is an enemy the staff cannot beat even after sixty tries. (Laughs). We're on the same side as the fans of the series, so please enjoy the game with peace of mind.

Iwata:
So, Komori-san.

Komori:
Right. Earlier I said that I left things to Kanada, but, in truth, many of the staff who helped develop III often spoke eagerly to me about IV, so I am really looking forward to the game's release. The new Etrian Odyssey will be out soon, so if you are at all interested in it, please buy it with me on launch day!

Everyone:
(Laughs).

Iwata:
That was a new kind of appeal, wasn't it. (Laughs).

Komori:
Yes, it certainly was. (Laughs).
By the way... one last thing, the series art director, Yokomichi entrusted me with a question. Would you like to answer it? (Laughs).

Iwata:
Yes, go ahead.

Komori:
Actually, for today, when did this place called “Labyrinth of the World Tree” become a title you were interested in talking about? Is what he asks.

(T/N Note: Labyrinth of the World Tree is the direct translation of the Japanese game series localized in the West as Etrian Odyssey).

Iwata:
“Why are we here?” Is that what you mean?

Komori:
Yes, please.

Iwata:
I think you meant to include, “Please ask the president this.” (Laughs).
Well... To me, Labyrinth of the World Tree is a title that conveys a lot of heat. That heat has always been a part of the series. In fact, in the recent Nintendo Direct there was quite a resounding reaction to it.
“I wonder how this got made?”
“What kind of person made this?”
“Why is it that the game's concept has not changed?”
I really wanted to find out the answers to those questions.

Komori:
Ah, so that's how it was.

Kanada:
I get it....

Iwata:
Now that I've spoken to both of you I understand very well why Etrian Odyssey was produced as a “Labyrinth of a World Tree.” First off, the games replicate the experience of older RPGs that defies conventional expectations, appealing to gamers who feel nostalgic for the good old days of the RPG. But at the same time, it introduces a new kind of gaming experience to a new generation of gamers. I think Etrian Odyssey is, undeniably, a series with a charm strong enough to appeal to gamers of all ages.
That charm is embodied in the newest incarnation of the series, Etrian Odyssey IV.
It will be a pleasure to see how gamers react to the game.
Thank you both very much for taking the time to speak with me today.

Everyone:
Thank you very much.

6 comments:

  1. Awesome job! Keep up the good work!

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  2. Thanks for the work. There's some interesting stuff here.

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  3. Thanks for the translation! I hope you can translate more Iwata Asks interviews even for some games not available in the west. :)

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    Replies
    1. Well, if you come across any that are potentially interesting, let me know.

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