Recently, Idea Factory International released Fairy Fencer F: Advent Dark Force on PlayStation 4 in North America, coming to Europe later this year, to serve as an update of 2013’s PlayStation 3 title Fairy Fencer F. It’s rare for a game development team to get the opportunity to return to their previous work so soon for an updated version.
Director Ken Ito used this chance to utilize the new hardware and take the Fairy Fencer F story to a new level, adding hours of extra story scenes and broadening the personalities of multiple characters.
DualShockers had an opportunity to speak with Ito-san about his time working on Fairy Fencer F, covering why it was important for him to return to the game and update the RPG for current-gen hardware.
Idea Factory International assisted with the translation of questions and answers.
Azario Lopez: Fairy Fencer F was first released in Japan in 2013 for PlayStation 3. What was the reason why the team wanted to create an updated version of the game for the PlayStation 4?
Ken Ito: When development was finished for the PS3 version, the team felt a little unfulfilled with the project, and we were hoping we’d get another opportunity to work on this again in the future. Fortunately for us, our fans and customers really enjoyed the game, and we initially thought we would create something like a “fan disc” in response. The PS4 had just released though, so we decided we would reimagine FFF for the new hardware.
A: Fairy Fencer F: Advent Dark Force expands on the stories of characters that didn’t get very much screen time in Fairy Fencer F. What made the team want to go back and flesh out these stories?
KI: In the PS3 version, the story was heavily focused on the hero and two heroines. There wasn’t much room to develop other characters in the game. We, the writers, were aware of this, and we ended up hearing this from people who played the game, as well.
For instance, Pippin and Ethel are very popular, but they were just “there,” and their roles felt like they bore little significance. Of course, when we heard about making FFFADF for PS4, we immediately began thinking about how to make the story stronger. Some new characters (like Pappin!) were actually already thought about and created before we even finalized the FFFADF development planning. We always wanted to have another character like Pippin!
A: After spending such a long time working on these characters, is it going to be difficult for you to begin work on other projects? Or do you hope to create more stories with them?
KI: I always look back on my projects and regret choices I’ve made with a character, thinking I should have created the character a little differently. In FFFADF, each human character had certain qualities that defined them, and sometimes, when reflecting on this, I’ll think I should have emphasized certain qualities over others. I feel that sometimes, because of these oversights, some fans may not have noticed what I was trying to relay to them through these characters. These kinds of regrets and reflections happen after each project I complete.
As for the future, considering what I did with the last part of the Evil Goddess Story, I’d love to further develop some of these characters through new stories. Actually, I’ve already told producers about certain things I’d like to achieve through specific characters, and I’ve found out that some fans had similar thoughts about certain characters, so I’m sure fans will be happy with my ideas, if they become true!
AL: During development of Fairy Fencer F: Advent Dark Force, did you keep the West in mind as a potential market? If yes, did that encourage you to add or tweak any styles of gameplay? If no, will you keep the West in mind for future projects?
KI: It’s a little different than just keeping the West in mind; I did think about Western games quite a bit. Personally, I love open world games (like GTA, Far Cry, or the Batman: Arkham series) from the Western market. Their qualities are tremendous. That said, we added a new open-world style to FFFADF. We wanted to see how this style of navigating the field would play in the game. To tell you the truth, I’d love to reimagine FFF as an open-world title eventually. However, since FFFADF was based on the PS3 version, I couldn’t technically do that [laughs].
That being said, although I think Western games are really incredible, I do take care to not let them influence me too much. FFF is a traditional Japanese RPG, and I believe what fans and customers want is exactly that. Also, we can’t forget that the FFF series is under a brand called Galapagos RPG [laughs]
Anyway, I’d like to definitely keep Western market in mind, but at the same time, I will stay true to Japanese-made games. I would love to maintain the core elements of Japanese-made video games, and season it with all of the popular elements in Western market to make a perfectly fused game! If I can do that, it would be the best!
A: What is it that you enjoy most about the RPG genre? How do you balance keeping true to the turn based battle system with a story driven plot for seasoned players, but also make it accessible and inviting for new ones?
KI: When I think of RPGs, I think of leveling up. This is more involving than that, though. I think players do enjoy it more when they can learn new skills. I get the greatest feeling of catharsis when I’m able to defeat incredibly strong enemies by using new skills I’ve learned in-game. That said, I decided to feature “Weapon Boost” in the FFF series, where you can decide to learn skills based on preference.
Regarding turn-based battle… it’s been used since the era of “Wizardry,” and it’s been in countless titles. Since the creation of the Neptunia franchise, we’ve started to implement different elements into the battle system, such as location and movement based functions in battle, or adding things that affect skill activation via the action order, tension gauge, or other elements. Also, I started implementing a function that would cause background music in battle to frequently change. It makes it much more exciting.
As for new users, we’ve implemented new things to attract new fans, and also keep the title fresh for returning ones. For example, we’ve taken a “Tokusatsu” approach to the effects and direction in the game, and we heavily promoted that aspect before the release in Japan. We also brought on a critically-acclaimed Tokusatsu writer, Mr. Toshiki Inoue, as a scenario writer for FFFADF. Last, but certainly not least, we have requested Mr. Yoshitaka Amano to design the Evil Goddess and Vile God. We’ve made sure to add exciting elements like this to our game so that it won’t get drowned in the massive amount of other game releases.
A: This might be a tough question, but who is your favorite Fencer and why?
KI: Hm. This question is actually really hard since all of them are weirdos [laughs]. Well, if I must pick one… it’d be Harley. If you have her around, she usually solves most of your problems for you! [Laughs] And… she has a certain perspective on men, and acts the way she does! Righteousness!
A: You’ve worked in many areas of game development. How would you describe your experience as director? Also, could you maybe tell us of a time you were met with a road block during development of Fairy Fencer F: Advent Dark Force and overcame it? How did you overcome it?
KI: Considering I’m also involved with overall planning, my ideas heavily affect final decisions. I always make sure I take a step back and think about these ideas and decisions objectively, asking myself “Is this really great?”
I truly appreciate our programmers’ feedback on things, telling me if something is fun, or if something wasn’t working at all. Aside from that, the battle with the schedule is always difficult, so to have them tell me they would be able to achieve something within our schedule is something I appreciate. I know they worked really hard and they have my deepest appreciation. FFFADF had a very tight schedule.
As director, I had to oversee the project as a whole. However, unlike other planning team members, I did have an additional job: I was to interact with all of the media outlets, such as interviews for magazines, shows or websites. I spent a lot of time representing FFFADF as a director. In the past, I’ve usually stayed in the office all day during a project, so it was incredibly refreshing to be able to go outside the office and do things like voice recording. There were many obstacles and struggles, but, in return, there were a lot more fun and enjoyable parts in the process of making the game. In the end, it’s been very rewarding and encouraging.
A: Are you currently working on any new projects? If yes, can you give us a hint?
KI: Yes, I am indeed working on a new project. I’ll have to wait a little while longer to talk about it, though. What I can tell you is that I’m in charge of some things that are very new to me, so it’s very fresh. I’m definitely enjoying it.
A: Is there anything you’d like to say to current Western fans of Fairy Fencer F: Advent Dark Force?
KI: I am really grateful to hear that there are many fans enjoying FFFADF in Western countries even if FFFADF is under the “Galapagos RPG” brand. I do appreciate any feedback, positive or negative, from the fans and customers of the game, and these comments do strengthen and motivate me when entering my next project. I will keep working hard to create more quality titles! Thank you very much for your support!