At Tokyo Game Show 2022, we got a chance to catch up with Armed Fantasia: To the End of the Wilderness lead game designer Akifumi Kaneko for a follow-up interview after the Wild Arms successor’s Kickstarter campaign success.
Armed Fantasia: To the End of the Wilderness is a Western-themed Japanese RPG from the creators of Wild Arms. It was announced late last month alongside Shadow Hearts spiritual successor Penny Blood, with the two games launching a “Double Kickstarter” campaign to fund development. Initially seeking 100 million yen, the campaign has since amassed over 215 million yen in support.
If you missed our first interview with Kaneko, which was just before the Kickstarter campaign’s launch, be sure to check it out here. Read more about the game itself here.
Get our latest interview below.
First, I want to say congratulations. It looks like you already passed your goals on Kickstarter by quite a lot—that’s really exciting! Also thank you for having an interview with us again.
Akifumi Kaneko, Lead Game Designer: “Thank you so much!”
I’m not as good an interviewer as Alicia is on the game’s official Twitter accountbut I’ll try my best.
Kaneko: “(Laughs.) That’s not true. You know, the person answering questions on Twitter as Alicia is this guy. (Points to Toshiki Kubota.)”
Toshiki Kubota, Alicia: “I am Alicia!”
So what has the experience been like developing a crowdfunded game versus having a publisher?
Kaneko: “Under a publisher, making a fun and interesting game is of course the most important. Publishers will do research to see what people want or if what they’re making is good or not, whereas with Kickstarter, without going through another company we can ask customers directly ‘What kind of game do you want us to make?’ and ‘What do you think about this?’”
This game is often advertised as a spiritual successor to Wild Armsbut for people who like me who haven’t played yet Wild Armscan you explain what makes this game special and stand out from other RPGs?
Kaneko: “First of all, Armed Fantasia is a completely different game than Wild Arms. There will be a compelling story as always, but the story and characters and such will be different than those from Wild Arms so anyone who hasn’t played Wild Arms will be able to enjoy this game. On top of that, it will be an open-world like experience where you explore all over the place. Also if you’re a fan of anime you’ll find fun in that as well.”
I read that Western themes and things like Trigun influenced your design of Wild Arms. Have there been any new or other influences for Armed Fantasia?
Kaneko: “We’re doing a double Kickstarter with Machida-san, who’s making Penny Blood. We both made 90s JRPGs, so we thought we want to make another 90s-style JRPG. Machida-san has more of a horror taste, and I have a Western taste. In addition, working on Wild Arms for 15 years and working in anime for 10 years inspired me to want to utilize aspects of anime like the storytelling and the way it’s portrayed in Armed Fantasia.”
In the video announcing the Double Kickstarter with you and Machida-san, you all suggest that JRPGs are not as popular as they once were. Why do you think that is?
Kaneko: “Of course there are still very popular JRPGs like Persona 5but with Persona 5 that’s the fifth installment. If it’s a part of series that already has a first game, it’s alright, but when it comes to making a new JRPG, Japanese publishers just won’t take the risk. In my case, I went to Sony over and over again, but nothing came of it. It’s not so much that JRPGs aren’t popular, its that publishers won’t let us make them.”
What do you think would be necessary to convince publishers to make more JRPGs?
Kaneko: “(In English) Money! (Laughs.) Of course if a game becomes a hit and has a good return it’s no problem. Sequels in a pre-existing series make a lot of money, so it’s hard for them to lend money to a new title as it won’t make as much. For a Japanese publisher to make a new game… it’s really about the money. Money! (Laughs.)”
To talk more specifically about Armed Fantasiathe Kickstarter page mentions six main characters, but we’ve only seen three so far.
Kaneko: “We’ve only shown three characters so far, but we plan to reveal them over time, so everyone please look forward to their reveals!”
The Kickstarter campaign and much of the promotional materials have been translated to English, but have you given any thought to who will localize the game itself?
Kaneko: “Our foreign staff helped create the Kickstarter page and worked on the campaign to market it to foreign markets, so as for the localization of the actual game, we think they can help out on that again.”
You recently released a field test video of the main character running around and jumping. Will Armed Fantasia feature a lot of platforming challenges?
Kaneko: “What you can see is some running and jumping, as we’re still thinking about what kind of actions there will be. You can switch between characters, as each will have certain actions only they can do to help you solve puzzles and navigate. It may be bad to say, but there won’t be as much freedom as something like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wildas it’s more of a story-driven game.”
In our initial interview you mentioned you wanted to make a huge world map, since you weren’t able to enter Wild Arms 4. Is there anything else that you want to put in Armed Fantasia that you haven’t been able to do in the past?
Kaneko: “The main thing is having a larger world map and having people be able to explore it by doing different actions like jumping, using gadgets, solving puzzles, and so on. In the past it was more going from point A to point B, so we want players to be able to interact with the world more.”
Speaking of the large world map, one thing that is a common complaint is the reuse of assets. How do you plan to avoid this?
Kaneko: “It may be a boring answer, but it requires time and money. To prevent players from getting bored we’ve implemented a more interesting battle system with different types of monsters to battle as well as having the various actions to solve puzzles. You always find something new to solve.”
On the topic of monsters, do you, or perhaps your enemy designer, have a specific inspiration or influence for enemy designs?
Kaneko: “Regarding enemy design, the chief director of this game, Ishii (Hiroki), is in charge of designing monsters. We worked together on Wild Arms where he made monsters as well. Speaking for myself, when I was a child I really liked kaiju such as Godzilla and Mothra. Around the world there’s a lot of myths and legends with different types of monsters. As a child in Japan, when I think of monsters I think of kaiju.”
What affects the order of turns in battle?
Kaneko: “There is a basic turn order based on speed and whether you perform actions before the enemy does. Order Chain allows you to do more powerful attacks by attacking consecutively with characters, which the enemy can do as well. Of course you can use Force Chains to interrupt a possible Order Chain.”
What is your decision process like when it comes to making gameplay choices? For example, whether you get a “Game Over” when the whole party wipes out versus when just the main character dies?
Kaneko: “I start by talking with the staff about my image for the game. I’ll have my opinion and then see what everyone else thinks, and they may have different opinions. There isn’t just one way we make decisions, but we usually decide by talking and coming up with the best choice together.”
Our time’s just about up. Is there anything else you’d like to say to the fans before I let you go?
Kaneko: “It’s been a long time since I’ve developed a game, about 15 years. Despite it being 15 years, seeing fans excited about the announcement and not forgetting me makes me very happy. Everyone’s passion is giving us 120 percent energy to power through. We just want a chance to work hard, so we hope for your continued support.”
Armed Fantasia: To the End of the Wilderness is in development for PlayStation 5, Xbox Series, and PC. Users interested in supporting the game’s Kickstarter campaign can do so here.