Cubed3: Your team is made up of quite an extensive range of talents. Could you please let our readers know a few details about your background?
Mr. Hirohide Sugiura, President of Monolith Soft and Producer of Baten Kaitos Origins: I have been in charge of sales, advertising, public relations, development, and producing at several game publishers, such as ASCII CORPORATION, KONAMI, WARP Co., Ltd., and Squaresoft. In 1999 I established the original Monolith Soft Company, after accepting an investment from Namco.
C3: Baten Kaitos was co-developed with tri-Crescendo. Is this the case with Baten Kaitos Origins? And if so, which areas did they contribute to?
HS: Yes, we co-developed with tri-Crescendo this time as well. Mainly tri-Crescendo was in charge of the battle direction and sound. The idea of Magnus Battle < also > came from them.
C3: The first Baten Kaitos was met with a lot of critical praise and performed solidly at retail. What can fans of that game expect in terms of improvements for this follow-up and how does this game differ to the first game?
HS: Although we call it Baten Kaitos II, it is the story about the world 20 years prior to the previous Baten Kaitos. If you have played original Baten Kaitos, you will be excited and < it will > put a grin on your face when you notice various advance hints dropped all over the story relating to the Baten Kaitos world. Of course, even if you have not played previous game, you will fully enjoy the story as a royal road role playing game.
When it comes to the system, the most notable point is its battle. In the previous game, each character held one deck to fight, but this time, one deck is going to be shared by the party. Therefore, if you are beginner, you will experience battles at a quick tempo. If you are an expert player, you will be able to enjoy more strategic battles by incorporating more advanced strategy into the deck.
C3: One particular aspect of the first game that some fans criticised was that of the voice acting. Can they rest in the knowledge that the quality has been improved upon? And will some of the same voice actors return?
HS: I believe fans can be satisfied with this because event rendering has been dramatically improved, compared with the previous game. And, some characters from the previous game also appear in this story, so you may find some voice actors return.
C3: The GameCube is seen to be a dead format in many territories, as was evident with the disappointing Japanese sales of Baten Kaitos II earlier this year. Did this fact cause any hesitation about the game's potential for success in the West? And was any consideration given to moving it on to the Nintendo Wii in order to improve sales strength?
HS: Because we were almost finalising the development of the game when Wii was announced, we determined that transplanting it onto Wii was not worth the cost and labour hours. And since Wii is very unique hardware, we thought we should start from the basic game design if we < were to > make game for Wii. Therefore, I would rather challenge it in another opportunity.
C3: Have there been any issues with developing on the GameCube? Also, was there content that not be included in this game due to system restrictions or time constraints?
HS: We did not compromise because of the system restrictions. As is the case with many other titles, there are always the contents that could not be included in the game because of time and cost limitations. Within the limitation, we always make efforts to do our best, and we believed we could do it this time as well.
C3: Card battling games seem to be a regular occurrence nowadays, with their popularity increasing at a very fast rate. What do you feel helps Baten Kaitos Origins appeal to people more than the competition's titles?
HS: I think it is its comfortably fast-paced gameplay. There are various games that incorporate card battles, but they often end up slow-paced gaming experiences because of the process when they choose cards from the deck and decide the winner by comparing the strength of the card. However, in the "Magnus Battle" the system was designed so that cards can be easily seen visually, and you will be able to enjoy fast-paced battles.
C3: How long has the game actually been in production and how large was the team working on it? Also, what was the deciding factor to continue work on a new BK after the original Baten Kaitos?
HS: It took 18 months to develop and about 50 developers were involved. Since the original Baten Kaitos game was highly regarded by the users, we wanted to respond to them. That was the deciding factor.
C3: When the Nintendo DS was originally announced, a list of future games was released that included a version of Baten Kaitos. However, since Xenosaga I & II was revealed and released in Japan nothing has been heard about BK on the DS. Is the project still alive?
HS: Please ask Namco for this question, because they sell the title. We are strongly willing to develop this.
< In response, one of Namco's Producers said the following: "The Baten Kaitos DS project has been stopped once. Further development
is currently undecided at this point." >
C3: If you could do a crossover Baten Kaitos RPG project with Nintendo, which characters from the Nintendo universe would you like to include and why?
HS: I believe we could create a lot of very exciting elements using the card battle < mechanic > if we could have Link from The Legend of Zelda appear in Baten Kaitos' world.
C3: Has work begun on a Nintendo Wii version of Baten Kaitos or any ideas been formulated yet? And can fans expect Baten Kaitos to remain exclusive to Nintendo formats?
HS: At present, we do not have concrete plan to produce Baten Kaitos for Wii. However, there are several on-going titles exclusively for the Nintendo format. Please look forward to them.
C3: What are your thoughts about the WiConnect24 concept, being able to leave the Nintendo Wii on in order to download new content? How do you think this could be best incorporated into the RPG genre?
HS: I think it is an amazing concept. We will be able to make it clear how the function will be utilised in the game when the on-going titles are announced. We would rather refrain from commenting on the details at this point in time, since our competitors seem to be in the process of the development of their software.
C3: Finally, how do you see Nintendo doing against the competition in this generation?
HS: I feel Nintendo is aiming at the innovation of entertainment, while Sony and Microsoft are interested in technological innovation. Nintendo's message of "the graphical beauty is not the decisive fun factor of games" has strongly reached out to the developers. And it is clear that more and more users are agreeing with Nintendo's message, as the success of Nintendo DS indicates. I hope they continue to work on overcoming the innovator's dilemma.
The team at Cubed3, and I personally, would like to wholeheartedly thank everyone that took part in this interview and wish them all a very bright future!
Do not forget to check out the following links for previous
exclusive interviews: Skip Ltd About Chibi-Robo, GiFTPiA & Beyond! Nikoli, Creators of Sudoku Matt Bozon of WayForward Technologies (Sigma Star Saga, Shantae) TOSE Co., Ltd (co-creators of Nintendo's Starfy games) Mitchell Corp. (Magentica, Polarium and more) Tuna Technologies, Developer of Alien Hominid GBA Wii Interview with Robert Saunders, Nintendo UK Brooke Burgess, Ex-EA & Creator of Broken Saints Namco Tales Studio Interactive Brains, Deep Labyrinth RPG on DS Martin Kitts, Editor of NGC Magazine Wil Overton, Former Super Play / N64 Mag, now at Rare UK Steve Jarratt, Group Senior Editor at Future Publishing Charlotte Martyn, Production Editor at Official Nintendo Magazine