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Armed Fantasia and Penny Blood big 2-part interview with Akifumi Kaneko and Matsuzo Machida

Armed Fantasia

We had the wonderful opportunity to interview the teams on Armed Fantasia and Penny Blood, spiritual successors from both Wild Arms series creator Akifumi Kaneko and Shadow Hearts series creator Matsuzo Machida.

Both Armed Fantasia and Penny Blood are currently seeking funding on Kickstarter in a “double” crowdfunding campaign, you can read more about that here in our other report. The initial funding goal has been met, but there’s a bunch of stretch goals to be reached.

Without further ado, here are our interviews from both Armed Fantasia and Penny Blood creators:

Armed Fantasia: To the End of the Wilderness

Armed Fantasia

Niche Gamer: How is Armed Fantasia: To the End of the Wilderness a spiritual successor to Wild Arms? What elements will fans recognize and enjoy in the new title?

Akifumi Kaneko: None of the story or characters from the Wild ARMs series will be carried over. However, the setting of a wilderness on the brink of destruction, and the story that is a mix of Western and Fantasy will be similar. I would say my personal tastes and style as a game designer will also be carried over throughout the story as well.

Why Kickstarter? How long have you/the team been trying to make this happen?

Kaneko: We simply wanted to make the kind of game we wanted to make. If we wanted to team up with a publisher, they would never let a plan with 90s style classic JRPG systems in it come to life.

Plus, we believed that there were enough fans out there who wanted this kind of JRPG. That’s why we decided to go to Kickstarter. That part of the idea goes back a while. But the actual project started about a year or so ago.

What makes the protagonist Ingram a “Pathfinder”? How is this new class of adventurer similar and yet different to the Drifters from Wild Arms?

Kaneko: This is simply a difference in how the translator chose to express the word. In Japanese, we use the term “”wataridori”” (literally “”migratory bird””, this term was used in all Wild ARMs games as well). It’s meant to evoke an image of an adventurer who doesn’t live in any one place, who lives free like a bird.

60 years ago, there was a main character in a Japanese movie that was called “”wataridori””. He was a vagabond who solved the problems of the towns he visited and then would go back on his journey. Sort of like the Western movie “”Shane””. That’s what I had in mind when choosing this name.

The translation of “”Pathfinder”” this time around has a very romantic, but powerful, reassuring feel to it. I’m quite fond of it.

This is probably a loaded (pun intended) question: what are your favorite guns or style of guns?

Kaneko: I’m a big fan of revolvers! How they look, how the cylinder spins around, the hammer structure. It’s all so cool! Of course they’re less accurate than an automatic, and there’s lots of problems with them. But that’s what makes them cool!

Armed Fantasia

Wild Arms was a post-apocalyptic western story, without spoiling anything what can fans expect from the story in Armed Fantasia? Are there multiple endings, etc?

Kaneko: Armed Fantasia isn’t an open-world game. But it is a story-driven JRPG filled with my personal tastes that I am very proud of. I feel like people will enjoy the grand story and the hardships and anguish the characters go through. But even more than that, I think people will enjoy watching the characters grow.

There’s definitely a reason the game is set in the wilderness. The truth and hidden secrets behind what happened 1000 years ago. The six characters that try to unravel the mysteries of the gigantic world. That’s Armed Fantasia. Unfortunately, there aren’t multiple endings planned. We will do our best to make sure that the ending we have for you is the best ending we can make, though!

What kind of media, films and such, influenced Wild Arms and now Armed Fantasia?

Kaneko: There’s lots of influence from the old Wild West shows I watched as a kid. And not necessarily Hollywood’s version of the Wild West, but rather that of Italy’s Spaghetti Westerns and Westerns from other countries. I think that’s where I got the idea of combining the wilderness with fantasy elements.

And of course, as you can see, Japanese manga, anime and pop culture play a big part as well. I love them all, and have been a big fan since I was a kid. What else…? I love the main characters from American comics. The ones from way before the ones we know today in the big successful movies. But from about 40 years ago. I’ve always looked up to those kinds of characters.

I’ve taken all of those things and blended them together. And that’s how I came up with Wild ARMs and Armed Fantasia.

While “ARMs” changed definition in Wild Arms, they return in Armed Fantasia. I expect details are scant to avoid spoilers but how common are they? Are there multiple types?

Kaneko: ARMs are developed and created by an organization that is trying to control the world. They’re called the Order of the Sacred Key. But the actual origin of them is much older, about 1000 years old.

The world of the game is infested with powerful monsters known as Anomalies, so people use arms to protect themselves from various threats, including Anomalies. So ARMs aren’t anything special. If you’ve got the money and parts, anyone can get their hands on one… However, that’s where one of the biggest secrets in the story lies.

As far as how many types there are, each of the six main characters will use a different ARM type. So it won’t just be guns. We hope you’ll enjoy the various types there are!

Armed Fantasia

Are there any particular cowboys or Wild West heroes/characters that particularly inspire you, and these games?

Kaneko: Of course! They’re lonely but passionate heroes. Even as far away as I was from their roots, watching them overcome hardships had a big influence on me.

The passion I felt from them is in every one of the characters in Armed Fantasia!

The world map in Armed Fantasia is described as “gigantic” and one players can explore. Just how big are we talking?

Kaneko: The world map is going to be gigantic. I want it to be so big that there isn’t a word to express how big it is.

How populated with content is this world? Is it more of a “traditional JRPG” with town hubs scattered throughout or more of a “western” RPG teeming with dungeons, sidequests, etc?

Kaneko: We’re developing the game as a story-driven JRPG, so first we want to make sure that the main story is filled with as much content as we can fit.

However, since this is a game and not an anime or manga, it is definitely important that the player be able to take detours and find side quests to enjoy. The amount of dungeons and side quests that we can put in the game definitely depends on how much money we make during the crowdfunding phase, so please consider supporting the campaign!

Wild Arms had an iconic soundtrack – you can hear its influence already in Armed Fantasia. How varied of a soundtrack can fans expect from Michiko-san and Noriyasu-san?

Kaneko: I would say we’re expecting there to be around 50 tracks or so in the game. But we feel that compared to past JRPGs, especially the Wild ARMs series, that 50 tracks might not be enough.

So that’s another thing that could change based on the crowdfunding phase! Please consider supporting the campaign!

It’s been some time since your team worked together on a title like this, where there any challenges or new approaches taken with development now?

Kaneko: It actually hasn’t been that long since I worked with a team. During the last 15 years, I haven’t been away from game development. I simply haven’t made any Wild ARMs games. I actually had a time where I helped develop Versus Action games.

And in my case, I also work as a scenario writer for anime. So I suppose during that time maybe I got away from game development for a bit. But this time around we’ve got the great people at bee tribe working with us, and they’re an amazing development team. So I feel like development will go very smoothly, with little to no problems.

Doing game development through crowdfunding is a first for me, though. Every day, I keep discovering new things. There might be hardships or confusing things along the way, but thanks to our support team we’re getting through it!

A final request – can you share a message to your fans?

Kaneko: Hello everyone! I’m Armed Fantasia’s Concept Leader, Kaneko. Through the chance of meeting a new friend and a coincidental conversation, we have decided to make a new JRPG set in the wilderness for the first time in 15 years. And we’re doing it through crowdfunding, without the instruction of a publisher to help us.

Making Armed Fantasia is a big dream of mine. But we need funding in order to create it. If any of you out there are interested in the title, please, consider supporting the campaign! Let’s develop a game with a grand story together, shall we?

Penny Blood

Niche Gamer: How is Penny Blood a spiritual successor to Shadow Hearts? What elements will fans recognize and enjoy in the new title?

Matsuzo Machida: First would have to be the worldbuilding, where we try to shine a spotlight on the darkness of modern history. Another would have to be the fact that it’s an RPG with love, tears, and laughter in it. The main story will be serious, but the characters will each have their own comical scenes that showcase their uniqueness.

Why Kickstarter? How long have you/the team been trying to make this happen?

Machida: I decided to try Kickstarter after being influenced by Kaneko-san from the Armed Fantasia team. His passion awakened my spirit of adventure I needed to accept this challenge. The game is again set in the early 20th century, does Machida-san have a fascination with this time period/style? How has it influenced his work?

I’ve always been very interested in the world of 100 years ago, because while the same countries exist in our time period, their situations and relationships have greatly changed. It makes our world feel like a completely different planet, which makes an appealing setting for entertainment.

Penny Blood returns to Europe and Asia, but the United States as well. How large of a world can players expect – and how much detail in each region?

Machida: This is an element of the game that will largely depend on how successful the Kickstarter is. If possible, I’d like to make the world as vast as possible and both scare and move the players as much as possible.

I get a bit of a Lovecraft vibe from Penny Blood, just like Shadow Hearts. What kind of cosmic horror influence can we expect in the game’s story?

Machida: I’ve been deeply influenced by Lovecraft ever since I was little. His detailed, sober sentences were hard for the ten-year-old me to understand, but I was able to decipher his world through mustering up all the imagination I could. The many traumas I gained from that also lurk within Penny Blood.

Talking about Lovecraft – maybe an unfair question but what is your favorite Eldritch monster?

Machida: The creatures of Innsmouth. The first time I encountered them was in a novel by Kaoru Kurimoto called Makai Suikoden. Creepy fish people appear in that novel, and learning that the idea had come from The Shadow over Innsmouth is what made me seek out the original and get into Lovecraft.

Another Lovecraftian theme is losing your sanity, and sanity points are back. Can you talk about this system and how it affects players on their journey?

Machida: Sanity Points are unique in Penny Blood in that players don’t lose control even after they go berserk during battles. When characters lose their sanity, they gain attack boosts and become able to use new skills that they can’t use when sane.

It’s risky, though – going berserk also leaves characters wide open and prevents them from defending or escaping. We call this system of dancing between the line of sanity and madness “Melees of Madness”. In Penny Blood, the true battle begins once you go berserk.

The protagonist, Matthew, seems like an anti-hero, or a tortured soul. Does this affect how he plays, or gameplay?

Machida: Yes. Matthew has the power to use fusion, but he also has normal emotions just like we do. He has his own weaknesses and mental scars. And there will be enemies in Penny Blood who try to make use of those weaknesses. Through the gameplay, the player will need to explore Matthew’s mind and acquire new fusion monsters so that Matthew can gain the power to stand up to these foes.

Whose idea was it to make the Combat Ring in the original Shadow Hearts? Is the Psycho Sigil battle system similar?

Machida: I’m the one who came up with the idea for the Judgment Ring. My old publisher currently owns the patent to it, but in Japan, my name is listed as the inventor of the patent. I also came up with the idea for the Psycho Sigil this time around as well.

Both systems control similarly, but they’re actually quite different. The Psycho Sigil isn’t just a circle – it gives me the ability to express things and new ways of playing that I couldn’t before. I’m thinking of showing off one of its possibilities soon, with the link combo system.

The fusion concept returns in Penny Blood, where Matthew can transform and fight monsters. How have the fusion mechanics/concepts changed or been refined?

Machida: I designed fusion monsters based on demons in my previous game, but for Penny Blood I went for knights in order to depict the sacred nature of heroes of legend. They aren’t just knights, though… They’re ghost knights.

I really put a lot of work into their designs. They’re meant to be dark ghost knights who have equal helpings of style and creepiness.

Avoiding spoilers, how dark can fans expect the story in Penny Blood to get?

Machida: Well… In Penny Blood, I intend to depict both psychological fear that stems from the mysteries behind the incidents as well as visual fear that stems from the grotesque. Elements of these things will assault Matthew throughout the story.

As you play the game, I want to make you say things like “Wait, I think I just saw something back there!” or “What did I hear just now?”

It’s been some time since your team worked together on a title like this, where there any challenges or new approaches taken with development now?

Machida: The Double Kickstarter campaign is a massive new challenge for me. This time, I don’t want to listen to any specific person… I just want to make what WE want to make.

My team and I believe that what the fans really want is a game full of all the things we’re passionate about. We’re all really working hard to make it a reality.

A final request – can you share a message to your fans?

Machida: The Double Kickstarter campaign is a big challenge I’ve taken on along with Kaneko-san from Armed Fantasia. It’s a difficult but amazing adventure that my team and I have embarked upon.

Every day, we’re enjoying our work as well as the excitement that comes from something like this. Please give us your support so that both teams can create an amazing game!

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