Relayer Interview – The director discusses Kadokawa Games’ quintessentially Japanese turn-based JRPG

Kadokawa Games will be releasing its mecha strategy JRPG Relayer in a few days, and it’s certainly an ambitious game for the Tokyo-based developer.

It combines a solid strategy JRPG and an expansive visual novel-like story into a successful space opera that packs all the anime flavor you’d expect from a quintessentially Japanese game (and you can read more about that in our review).

To learn more about the game’s philosophy and development, we spoke with CEO Yoshimi Yasuda, who also worked on Relayer as a director.

Giuseppe: We are very close to the release of Relayer. Thinking back to development, did you achieve everything you planned to do with this game?

Yoshimi Yasuda: Of course, there is a sense of accomplishment when it comes to doing our best to create this game, however, after developing it, I also feel that maybe we could have done more, or that our approach had less impact than desired, or that maybe I should have taken a different approach, etc.

It’s an emotion that can only be felt because the game is over, but like previous games and titles I’ve developed, I’m also not entirely satisfied when finishing Relayer.

Giuseppe: Does Relayer include a feature to help those unfamiliar with complex turn-based strategy games become familiar with its systems?

Yoshimi Yasuda: We have implemented convenient functions and operation options to drive the game forward.

For example, in order to jump during battle cutscenes or seamlessly advance through event parts, we’ve implemented a super-fast mode for text during autoplay.

In this mode, players can skip to the next line after only 3-4 seconds, making it a very convenient option for those who only want to know the actual content of the conversation between characters without listening to the whole voice. more than.

We have also created a manual to inform players of these different features and game options.

There is a lot of content, so for some it might seem like a chore to go through it all, but we would be very happy if players could read it before playing the game.

Giuseppe: It’s been a long time since you worked on a game that was simultaneously released worldwide and included English voiceovers. Was that difficult to achieve, and is that something you plan to aim for in future games as well?

Yoshimi Yasuda: Thanks to the efforts of Clouded Leopard Entertainment, we are able to simultaneously release Relayer worldwide while including Japanese and English voiceovers and localizing textual content into 8 languages.

I heard that recording English vocals was quite difficult due to the Covid pandemic, and in fact, the same is true for recording Japanese vocals in Japan.

Without the passion and effort of the people involved in development, it would have been difficult for a medium-sized publisher like us to launch Relayer simultaneously around the world.

When it comes to future games, we would like to continue to focus on actual development while carefully reviewing the features and marketing of each title.

Giuseppe: It looks like turn-based battles and tactical games are experiencing something of a renaissance, with the Yakuza series taking turns, Square Enix taking on Triangle Strategy, and many more examples. Since you’re about to release your own turn-based tactics game, what do you think of this trend?

Yoshimi Yasuda: I think the amount of real-time RPGs is overwhelmingly greater than turn-based RPGs and that prevalence will persist, especially in console games.

But that doesn’t mean turn-based games will go away. I think the important thing is that both genres produce high quality titles.

Relayer Interview

Giuseppe: For me, Relayer is a very strong example of many of the most beloved aspects of Japanese media, pop culture, and game development culture. Robots, strong storytelling, turn-based tactics, beautiful girls (and boys), and more make it feel like the quintessential Japanese game. Was it something you were aiming for specifically (assuming my impression is correct), or did it just happen naturally?

Yoshimi Yasuda: As you said, the game is like a “Tametebako” (Taro Urashima’s story treasure chest) filled with tons of Japanese pop culture elements.

What particularly interests me are the sincere impressions of gamers around the world on the storytelling parts with 2D illustrations in the game. Is this method of storytelling similar to Japanese animation accepted as uniquely Japanese, or considered like a bit old-fashioned or outdated?

I would love to hear the reaction from western gamers and especially console gamers, as this will influence the main direction of our game development in the future.

Giuseppe: This is Kadokawa Games’ first “high-end” game. Was it a challenge to develop your production capacities to achieve this? Maybe you’re aiming even higher for the future, or do you think this is the right place?

Yoshimi Yasuda: The technical hurdles of high-end game development are now overcome thanks to our experience in creating Relayer.

On the other hand, however, new challenges in terms of expression and production have also come to light during the process, so I think we still have to work harder.

Giuseppe: The demo has been in the players’ hands for a while now, and you’ve encouraged them to submit feedback. What were the most relevant points you took away from it?

Relayer Interview

Yoshimi Yasuda: What we definitely need to reflect on is that we’ve overlooked movement and clarity issues on the Star Cube (aka skill tree).

The reason is that we (the developers) knew easily where we could move, the fact that we could move freely with the cursor and what types of Star Cubes there were because obviously we used to play game using free cursor all the time. This prevented us from doing a thorough check of the Star Cube’s exploration and clarity from a novice’s perspective.

Because of this experience, we now want to review and update our systems and check them intensively from the player’s point of view, even if the testers or the debugging company do not report certain problems.

Giuseppe: Could you tell us more about the robot remodeling system that will be added in April?

Yoshimi Yasuda: For the evolution of the mech, we adopted a two-axis system in which the elements of training the game characters and strengthening the main body of the robot are reflected in 14 parameters.

The robot evolution system you are interested in is a so-called “Yarikomi” element (a replayability element) in which players can increase 7 of these 14 parameters.

Specifically, as shown in the attached images, strengthening “FRAME” increases the maximum HP, strengthening “CONDENSER” increases the maximum SP, strengthening “ARM” increases the attack power, the strengthening “BODY” increases defense, strengthening “BOOSTER” increases “AGILITY” and by strengthening “GENERATOR”, players can increase TEC (success rate) and SCH (mobility) parameters.

If players manage to max out all of these parameters, they can evolve their mech into an upgraded form.

Editor’s Note: You can take a look at how the system works in the screenshots below:

Giuseppe: Do you have any other ideas that you would like to share with Western audiences waiting for Relayer?

Yesoshimi Yasuda: We hadn’t intentionally aimed to incorporate so much Japanese subculture into Relayer from the start, but when I look at the final work, I finally realize that we’ve created a strategy RPG title that’s very much characterized by Japanese pop culture. .

Finally, I’m sure there are some elements in the game that you’ll like and others that you might have differing opinions on, but the story itself is both gritty and mystical. I hope many players will play and enjoy!