Adam Riley, Senior Editor at Cubed3: Can you tell us a bit about what PANG: Magical Michael is about?
Yen Hau, Product Manager at Rising Star Games: PANG is about a young magician called Michael, who made a mistake during a spell and released deadly balloons around the world. It is up to him clean up his mess before the balloons destroy the world’s most famous landmarks.
Fans of the original will instantly recognise the familiar gameplay of PANG, allowing for simple vertical ‘shots’ to destroy the balloons as they bounce around the screen, all whilst avoiding being hit by one.
Adam Riley: For those that don't know, can you explain why this isn't called Buster Bros. anymore?
Yen Hau: Buster Bros. was the name Capcom, publishers of the original PANG games, decided to use when releasing the series outside of Japan. As they are not involved in PANG: Magical Michael, and since they still own the copyright for the Buster Bros. name, we have reverted back to the original PANG name for this release.
Adam Riley: What does 'PANG' actually mean?
Yen Hau: In Japan, PANG is usually used as a sound expression for when a balloon or tyre bursts.
Adam Riley: Mitchell Corporation has worked solely with Nintendo this generation on WiiWare, DS and DSiWare. How did RSG get involved with snatching PANG: Magical Michael away from Nintendo?
Yen Hau: We were actually approached by Mitchell Corp. regarding PANG following a glowing reference from a certain games journalist *winks* We met with their president, Roy Ozaki, whilst out in Japan at last year’s Tokyo Game Show and had a chat about who RSG are and what we stand for. I like to think we suitably impressed Roy enough, seeing as we’ll be releasing the game on Friday (17th September)!
Adam Riley: Are you aiming to lure older gamers who played the arcade versions of PANG in the past? Or are you trying to tap into the more casual DS market?
Yen Hau: This is one situation where we’re actually aiming to do both. The simple yet challenging nature of the game makes it perfectly suited to the DS, and any age group really, so we’re looking at introducing PANG to a new generation of gamers, but at the same time reminding older gamers that a game many enjoyed in the past is back with a ‘pang’...sorry, a ‘bang!’
Adam Riley: What sort of promotional techniques have you used so far to spread the word?
Yen Hau: We’re focusing on the community and social channels to promote PANG. It’s an old premise on a modern console for a new market, so the goal is really to talk about the game directly to our core audience. We have a very loyal (and growing) following on all our social networking channels, and the idea is to get the information out to these people first and allow the news to naturally spread out from there.
Adam Riley: Will you be continuing to support PANG: Magical Michael after its release?
Yen Hau: With the promotion strategy that we are adopting for PANG, it really does lend itself to long-lead support. We will not stop talking about the game upon its release, but will continue to promote it wherever we can up to, and possibly beyond, the New Year.
Adam Riley: The game has already received a strong score from ONM, but what has feedback been like from other media sources so far, as well as the RSG faithful?
Yen Hau: Initial feedback has generally been positive. Once people pass the early introductory stages they really get a sense of what made the original series a hit all those years ago. Simplicity leading to insanely challenging, all whilst remaining utterly addictive, that’s what we’ve been hearing so far and what we hope will continue once it goes on sale.
Adam Riley: What would you say are some of the best features of PANG: Magical Michael?
Yen Hau: The Panic Mode is a must-try for anyone who picks up PANG. It encapsulates everything about the game, starting off slowly yet increasing in difficulty very quickly but still managing to make you come back for more. Aside from this, the two-player battle mode is a frantic balloon blaster that always raises a smile (and a few shouts!).
Adam Riley: Trying to get retailers to stock ‘lower status’ Nintendo games nowadays appears to be very difficult. What sort of hurdles have you faced when trying to get PANG into stores across the UK?
Yen Hau: As far as I’m concerned, I don’t consider PANG to be of ‘lower status!’
Adam Riley: Are matters different across mainland Europe/Scandanavia, and what are the main territories PANG will be available in?
Yen Hau: PANG is localised into French, Italian, German and Spanish and will be available to all PAL territories.
Adam Riley: Is PANG launching in Australia at the same time as Europe?
Yen Hau: Yes, PANG: Magical Michael is to be released in Australia at the same time as Europe.
Adam Riley: Now that Marvelous and Rising Star have parted company, are there any plans to expand into Japan and/or the US?
Yen Hau: RSG currently does not have any plans to expand into either territory.
Adam Riley: If you do expand soon, do you think PANG could become one of the first games brought across, or have other publishers approached you about bringing the game out abroad already?
Yen Hau: As stated above, RSG does not publish in non-PAL regions, and I cannot say what the deal is for PANG’s release in the US and Japan.
Adam Riley: Mitchell has expressed interest in making PANG: Magical Michael 2, but how much say do you have in whether there will be a PANG sequel or not? Does RSG have 'first refusal' for such a project because of your current deal?
Yen Hau: It’s been great working with Mitchell Corporation so far and I believe that we have created a great working relationship with them in a short time. Mitchell titles work well within our Home of Japanese Games portfolio and we are always keen to work with studios such as these in the future.
Adam Riley: How did you decide upon the final release date? Do you think going head to head with Nintendo's Last Window will help or hinder the game's sales?
Yen Hau: Last Window is a different type of game to PANG, so we don’t consider that to be a competitor. Any game that increases exposure for the DS as a whole, though, is welcomed and hopefully having PANG alongside Nintendo’s release will increase the opportunities for consumers to pick it up. As for PANG’s release date, that was set as soon as the manufacturing stage was ready.
Adam Riley: Has there been any talk of bringing PANG to a download service like DSiWare or WiiWare as well?
Yen Hau: Not at all!
Adam Riley: A few RSG questions in general to finish: What can we expect from RSG before the year's end?
Yen Hau: We have a nice selection of Nintendo titles set to be released before the New Year, including the much anticipated Rune Factory 2. We will also be bringing Ivy the Kiwi? to market from PROPE (Wii, DS, WiiWare and DSiWare), the studio set up by the co-creator of Sonic the Hedgehog, Yuji Naka. We also have a handful of Harvest Moon games in the form of Frantic Farming (DS) and Hero of Leaf Valley (PSP).
Adam Riley: Arc Rise Fantasia has appeared to have dropped off the radar. Can you give us an official update on it? Also, has Steal Princess been canned?
Yen Hau: Neither Arc Rise Fantasia nor Steal Princess are on our release schedule.
Adam Riley: What is RSG's stance on localising Wii games like Tales of Graces and Captain Rainbow? Also, whatever happened with Fatal Frame 4?
Yen Hau: We would love to work on those games, especially as most of our community has been asking for them on a regular basis! Unfortunately they are not available, so it’s out of our hands.
Adam Riley: Can Nintendo fans expect some nice surprises on DS and Wii for 2011, or will your focus quickly turn to 3DS?
Yen Hau: You’ll have to wait and see!