imageepoch turned quite a few heads when it unveiled World Destruction (Sands of Destruction in the US) back in April of 2008 thanks in no small part to the number of recognizable names that had signed up for the project. Chief among them were Masato Kato, remembered for his story work for Chrono Trigger and Xenogears, Kunihiko Tanaka, a character designer who had also worked on Xenogears as well as the Key the Metal Idol OVA, and Yasunori Mitsuda, the renowned video game composer who is well known amongst Chrono Trigger, Shadow Hearts, and Xenogears fans.
Since its release in Japan, the team at imageepoch that is responsible for the US localization has been making significant changes to the game. I had a chance to sit down with producer Yoichi Shimosato (Shining Force) and planning director Takashi Kuroki (Blue Dragon) at TGS last year and ask them about those changes. Here is what they had to say -
How is the US version different from the one that has already been released in Japan?
Takashi Kuroki: There are two main differences between the Japanese version and the US version. First, we've tuned the encounter frequency based on user reviews. The second thing we did was balance the battle system itself so that there's more of a difference between the two low and high impact battle attacks. That way, you can play the game more strategically.
So the game is not going to be really hard at the beginning and really easy at the end as it was in the Japanese version?
Yoichi Shimosato: The main reason why you most likely felt that the beginning part of the game was rather difficult and then it just got easier toward the end is that in the Japanese version the encounter rate was so frequent that you just built up your strength [quickly] and you got used to the battles as well, so towards the end of the game it just felt a lot easier. But as we indicated earlier, for the US version the frequency rate is tuned and more balanced out. The gamers will not have that same experience.
Why the name change?
Translator: That's more of a Western marketing decision and not really based on the development team. It's a trademark issue...
Why is the music being rewritten for the American audience?
Yoichi Shimosato: The only difference is the opening. It happens a lot in localized games, but for the opening track for the Japanese version we used a Japanese J-pop boy band which wouldn't necessarily be compelling for the foreign audience. Everything else is the same.
How much input did you have on the Sands of Destruction anime?
Yoichi Shimosato: Obviously, the game's development started first, and during the process of game development the anime [was started]. So we had a kickoff meeting with the game development team, the anime development team, the scenario writer for the game, Kato-san (Masato Kato), and the writer for the anime team - [at that time we all] worked closely together, but other than that the game was developed by the game development team and the anime was developed by the anime team.
So the show follows the game very closely?
Yoichi Shimosato: The basic storyline - the plot - is the same for the anime series and the game, but because the development of each took place independently, the details are different. So how the story evolves is different. The world, the setting - that's all the same, but details of the storyline are different.
What was the hardest part about working with so many recognizable names in the industry for this one game?
Yoichi Shimosato: Actually, working with so many big names in the RPG world wasn't too difficult because of how we developed this game in particular. The way we did it was - Mitsuda-san would come up with his music, Kato-san would come with his scenarios, and they would then bring that together to imageepoch, which developed the game based on that. So, the collaboration went rather smoothly.