Kenichiro Takaki Interview – Granblue Fantasy: Versus, Changing Roles, and Staying Dedicated

We had the exciting and exclusive opportunity to once again sit down and chat with the huge boob producer himself – Kenichiro Takaki, at this year’s E3!

In our interview we talked his departure from Marvelous, his new gig at Cygames, and his newest project – Granblue Fantasy Versus.

Find our entire interview below:

Niche Gamer: I just want to say first off, I’m super happy with how the game plays. How did you balance the ease of play, versus letting more hardcore players build combos and such?

Kenichiro Takaki: Our main goal for this game was to create a fighting game that can pretty much be enjoyed by just anybody. Easy to get controls, but still has enough depth so the fighting games community can get into it.

Niche Gamer: How does that break down in terms of overall mechanics, like standard attacks, special attacks, etc.?

Takaki: We made many systems for this game. That includes, for example, the combos, they’re quite easy to launch or the special attacks, which can also be unleashed with just basically one button.

Rather than bringing out combo after combo to get your opponent cornered where he doesn’t have a chance to come back, it’s a bit more user-friendly. A fighting game where you can attack each other with few rapid attacks here and there. That kind of game.

Niche Gamer: I did notice that the game has the auto combos and feels pretty well balanced already, but was it difficult to balance auto-combos over say more traditional fighting?

Takaki: Of course it was quite difficult and we’re not yet at the point where we can say ‘This is the final product. It’s amazing.’ That’s not the case, but I am confident enough to say that we managed to produce something that is simple but also has great depth as a fighting game. The balancing has been mastered and we really made that part well, so I’m not worried about it.

Niche Gamer: Fighting games have become increasingly popular here in the west. Has the native market for fighting games changed much?

Takaki: Fighting games, overall, are very popular for certain amounts of people but still they’re not the majority. In Japan, as there is actually a big hurdle, fighting game players are getting fewer.

Niche Gamer: You’ve been a lifelong fighting game fan though, right?

Takaki: I was a fighting gamer back then in the ’90s, but these days, I feel like I cannot keep it up with recent fighting games.

Niche Gamer: Have fighting games changed a lot in your eyes?

Takaki: Ever since starting Street Fighter IV, I saw this trend that fighting games have a tendency to become simpler in their controls and therefore the genre has enjoyed more popularity with users, because it’s just easier to get into them. That is one thing that we realized.

Niche Gamer: So you had to take that experience and adapt it to a Granblue fighting game. How do you and the team build these new experiences for Granblue, for global audiences?

Takaki: That all goes back to the plain fact that Granblue Fantasy is a franchise. It’s such a powerhouse in Japan with 18 million downloads. It speaks for itself. Compared to that, in the west, the awareness for this franchise is still very, very low so that is also a prime goal of introducing fans to the franchise Granblue Fantasy. It’s a huge universe with a heap ton of great characters, really popular characters and in addition to it, a simpler style of the game has been newly added. We just want people to get to know the world of Granblue Fantasy.

Niche Gamer: Do you feel like your pedigree for sort of these crazy, absurd, silly games with – you can say like slightly sexual or sexy things, does that kind of affect the design and the feel of Granblue Fantasy: Versus?

Takaki: For this title, not that much or not at all. I was very respectful of the franchise that already existed so I was closely collaborating with the team behind that game, and just shared my expertise with bringing out console games that are enjoyed in the western market. I thought how could Granblue Fantasy be introduced, imported into the western market.

Niche Gamer: I’m familiar with some, but I can imagine there are lots of wild characters in the franchise.

Takaki: I didn’t really have to bring any of my own craziness into there because there are so many characters in the franchise. A lot of them are quite twisted in a way or another. If you want some craziness, you can look forward to this game. This is a great opportunity for it.

Niche Gamer: What fighting game franchise has inspired you the most? Have you taken any of that inspiration from those games?

Takaki: I really love SNK after all. Their games like Fatal Fury and Samurai Shodown are my foundation. And all the games from Capcom. Of course, I love Guilty Gear and BlazBlue as well.

Niche Gamer: When it came to building the game, did you consider making a full 3D fighter?

Takaki: With regards to the action parts of the game, there’s no such thing, no such thought in going full 3D. That connects back to the mobile version of the game because it’s a 2D game. So we really are staying close to the original art where you see the battle stage from the side, to what the fans and users are used to, while just paying tribute to the original mobile game.

Niche Gamer: Do you feel like Granblue Fantasy: Versus could be like a breakout game for the franchise in the west, in terms of e-sports and overall popularity?

Takaki: We have two titles for the franchise, one being Versus and the other being Relink. We’re really using the vessel of console games, which are big in the west, in getting people introduced to the franchise, getting them to know the franchise. For this one, it’s a fighting game, so we really are thinking of not just right now, but on a longer scale of bringing in new contests, bringing in DLC  and whatnot, and having people enjoy the game as long as possible – fostering a community and all that kind of stuff. We would like this game to hit the eSports community at full scale.

Niche Gamer: Is there any way that Granblue Fantasy: Versus could be coming to the other platforms? We have a lot of PC gamer fans that were immediately asking for a PC version.

Takaki: We can’t say anything for sure, like how things will unfold but there is no way that we will say, “No, we will not do PC. That’s not an option.” (laughs) That is absolutely not the case, rather the opposite, we want as many people as possible to be able to try our games, as there has been less boundaries among consoles and platforms. So, of course that thought is on our minds and we are looking into that.

Niche Gamer: I’m really curious how you have transitioned to your new role at Cygames and how you’ve been managing the stuff back in Marvelous. Now that you’re a producer and director at Cygames, how are you balancing between those two roles?

Takaki: I definitely can’t say like, “I’m doing 60% Cygames and 40% Marvelous.” It’s tough to be asked the ratio, but I have basically become a Cygames employee now. I can’t really quantify it but what I have to say is no matter what game, I’m giving it my 100%. Right now, I am a Cygames employee. I am with Cygames but all the games that I have been in touch with, I always give 100%.

Niche Gamer: Some fans were concerned Senran Kagura 7EVEN, or other titles would be held up with your departure.

Takaki: The titles within Marvelous that are already in production that I have been linked with – of course, I’ll make sure they proceed.

Niche Gamer: Cygames is really making a big entrance in console gaming, and they have you at the helm?

Takaki: Over at Cygames, it used to be just a mobile game company and lately, they have founded the console department back in the spring of this year. I have been running that department now, which is basically all console gaming.

Niche Gamer: With your move back to Tokyo and your new position, have you given up on the dream of being a master, sort of living in the mountains somewhere near the hotsprings, and training the next generation?

Takaki: No! (laughs) I have not given up on my dream. I still wish to foster the next generation. I have no thoughts whatsoever like I will become an administrative executive or I will quit working soon or anything like that. I am still running full speed ahead and I just want to make games (laughs).

Niche Gamer: Can you talk a bit about why you chose to leave, only to now find your next gig at Cygames?

Takaki: The reason behind my move to Cygames was that I wanted to create new games that are more interesting, that are fresh, and that are exciting. Just introduce new fans to the games I work on.

Niche Gamer: If you could have free reign making games at Cygames right now, what kind of game would it be?

Takaki: I’d like to make a kung-fu action game. (laughs)

Niche Gamer: I would love to see that! (laughs)

Niche Gamer: When Granblue Fantasy: Relink and Versus were announced, our fans went nuts. Did it take a lot of demand before you were like, “Okay. We should consider this for the worldwide release.”

Takaki: Basically right up from the start, it was always clear that this game will be internationally released. The philosophy of Cygames – their slogan is actually ‘the best content and entertainment.’ Going by that philosophy, we want to have as many people as possible enjoy the best games possible, that we can provide. They have to implement it. They are not thinking to limit it within Japan.

Niche Gamer: Versus is very Japanese and you’ve been known for making very Japanese experiences. Would you say you’re looking to create fresh experiences from Japan?

Takaki: It’s a very Japanese game, the art and aesthetics are Japanese, I wish the game isn’t reduced to that. I want to bring something new to that, something that isn’t just super Japanese. Something extra, have the game take the next steps to be something new.

Niche Gamer: If there’s the fan demand for post-launch characters or content, would you consider adding them?

Takaki: We talked about it before. One of Granblue Fantasy’s points that attracts users that people loved about it is its vast roster of the characters. As a fighting game, it is more fun to have more characters. Granblue Fantasy has something like 300 characters. A certain amount of users play the game just for the characters so of course, we want those users also to enjoy themselves, not just the fighting community but also those users. If there is demand we will try to answer the fans.

Of course, it would be great to just have as many characters as possible but you always have to consider things like balance and so on. We’ll check the balancing carefully and proceed as a team.

Niche Gamer: The game play’s really well. We’re really happy with it already. (laughs)

Takaki: It gets even better. (laughs)

Niche Gamer: (laughs) We can’t wait! That’s all the time we have I think – thank you so much!

Takaki: Thank you!

Granblue Fantasy: Versus is coming west for PlayStation 4, although a release window hasn’t been announced.

Niche Gamer regularly interviews developers on a variety of subjects—if you’re a developer and want to chat with us, please contact us!

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