An Interview with Toshimichi Mori of Arc System Works
Date: Monday November 13th 2017 [16:25] | Posted By: Lee
Rooster Teeth recently invited Otaku News to attend London's first ever RTX (Rooster Teeth Expo). While attending their animation panel we were surprised to see our good friend Toshimichi Mori of Arc System Works was also in attendance to announce that Weiss Schnee of RWBY will be appearing in BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle along side Ruby Rose!
We couldn't miss the opportunity to catch up with him again so we rushed to see him after the panel and had the honour of performing an exclusive interview where we talk about BlazBlue, it's collaboration with Rooster Teeth and the future of the series.
What inspired you to collaborate with different Anime series for BlazBlue?
BlazBlue the game itself kind of reached a good ending point in it’s arc so we wanted to do something that was a little more casual, a little more light hearted and take it out of the world of just BlazBlue. When that had happened we were going to work with some of the companies that we are very close with. We are very close with Atlus because we helped them build their games in the past and Under Night In-Birth, the guys at French-Bread. Those two companies alone, although still very significant, we felt like we could do one more final punch for impact and that’s when I said we should work with Rooster Teeth too.
Is this likely to be the last entry in the franchise for BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle?
I think BlazBlue is BlazBlue and it’s it’s own standalone thing, where as this is a separate experience, it’s designed to be a lot more fun and casual and light hearted, so I definitely want to continue building more of Cross Tag Battle.
When we last spoke to you a few years back you said that Guilty Gear was going to be the more hardcore stream and BlazBlue would be for more casual players. Is that still the vision of the game where you want to tap into that casual audience and what do you think helps it do that?
That’s exactly correct, it’s in the same spirit of that philosophy. The very first thing that I wanted to do with Cross Tag Battle, especially for the casual user, was the game needed to be playable on a gamepad not a stick. When I went to EVO 2017, which is an event in Vegas where a lot of the fighting game players gather and see who is the best, I saw them playing Smash Bros and of course Smash Bros is designed to be played on a pad and it made me realise that everyone needs to start at the same starting line. I think the arcade stick is a huge commitment and I know that it’s an expensive investment as well just to have one, so I didn’t want to alienate any part of the population. So again, going back to the philosophy it needed to be playable on the gamepad.
With controllers in mind, this is your first collaboration with the Nintendo Switch. What were the challenges with incorporating the game onto this new console and the different ways of playing the game?
I definitely have some ideas for some things we can do with the Switch and the potential the Joycon unlocks. As developers we have to be really careful about our priorities, we’re very tight on resources and that being said you are able to separate the controllers, so it would be kind of fun (this is just an idea) if two friends could actually tag team with each other, so you would have two groups of people playing against each other. That would be really cool. It’s a work in progress!
So possible for the next game?
I’ll just say that we are certainly doing our best right now to make it happen. The team’s highest priority right now is getting the network play up to speed. Especially on the Switch. We have never developed network functionality on the Switch, so that’s a big thing for us right now.
So can we expect it in for the launch of the game?
I am going to do my best! Really do you think we could release a game without network play on it?
With that in mind, what do you think is the next evolution of the BlazBlue series?
I think in terms of a form of expression, really BlazBlue is at the best it can be. Where we go expression wise is just to increase the resolution even more. Guilty Gear is really exploring different forms and ways to depict certain emotions or certain actions and as far as BlazBlue I think the next evolution or innovation will probably be in the game mechanics and the way the game functions itself. Take Tag Battle for example, that took BlazBlue and fundamentally changed the system and the mechanics of how the interactions happen so I think that’s the kind of innovation. One of my big goals, for me myself personally as well as my team, is to place as many people as I can at the same starting line.
Regarding your collaboration with Rooster Teeth, what was it like collaborating with them on this game?
Honestly, all joking aside, I think it really is a fascinating partnership and really inspirational as well. As far as the working relationship goes, a lot of what’s been done is we develop a lot (I mean, it’s a fighting game, it’s what we do!) and do the heavy lifting there and we will show them things and say “Hey, this is where we want to take this character” or “This is what we want to do with this” and they will sign off on most things and give us some advice. Sometimes they might say “why don’t you guys try out this thing” and then we will try and integrate that into how were designing the game itself. Rooster Teeth is very open to new ideas and interesting ways to connect dots so I feel like with some of the things that we’re doing inside Tag Battle right now, some of the RWBY team have been toying with ways they can bring it back into the anime. That actually came up in some of our recent conversations.
Was it hard to incorporate the fighting style in the anime with the fighting style in the game?
There are certainly a lot of challenges and in terms of Ruby. I think a lot of fans of the series have a visual image of the character, an imprint almost of how the character should be and what kind of character she is and that’s very very strong with the RWBY fanbase so whatever we did, we didn’t want to tarnish that image in any way.
You said they took some ideas from the game to the show, so have you had some freedom to embellish some of those details?
So a lot of how we work, especially as because I feel by now we're kind of the experts in fighting games and we have had a few partnerships where working with different people’s properties like DragonBall and Persona (just to name a couple). The stance we usually try to take in terms of how much creative freedom we have is if something is wrong with the character itself or the world or the setting then let us know. However, in terms of the fighting game or the system or the aspect of what the character needs fighting move wise, leave that part to us.
So how was it getting the iconic weapons from RWBY incorporated into the game?
Of course we watched the anime through and through, many times over and made sure what we’re doing inside the game was as close to replicable and feels that it would make sense for this character who is doing this kind of moves in the anime would also move in this kind of way in the game. In terms of the weapons and how we incorporate that, I think in many ways BlazBlue is a game in which the weapons and the magic element gets really crazy as well so it wasn’t that much of a leap to look at RWBY and take these crazy weapons and design a system around it.
Does that mean we can expect some summoning (slight spoilers, sorry!) from Weiss?
I can’t say anything right now! Sorry! Stay tuned for more information!
Are there any other characters are weapons from RWBY that you would love to get into the game?
The team with a lot of shields… Team JNPR. Of course this is all in the realm of speculation, but my team members knowing the property thought it would be really cool to make these characters.
Does that mean we might have more characters to come? I guess Nora would fit into the aesthetic of the game
I guess right now I could tell you it’s not possible...don’t read into it too much. There are a lot more characters we need to make before we can even exercise that thought. It’s kind of on the wish list of our team right now. However right now, we have way too many things to do before we can even think about it, so I told my team to not even think about it right now.
Outside of what you can put into the game, who is your personal favorite character from the RWBY series?
I’m going to have to go with Ruby. I know that it’s a very orthodox answer but when I first saw the clips that Monty made, there was something about the impact and the way she moved that really kind of attracted me and made me decide that Ruby is the one. If I had to pick another one that I really like personally then I would have to say Adam.
Why do you think RWBY has been such a massive success in Japan?
I feel like as an Anime RWBY really feels in some ways that it has been geared for Japanese audiences and created with that in mind as an anime. I think we will see more of this and feel like there are more Western studios attempting to do the same as we speak!
Do you have a dream anime collaboration with BlazBlue which you would like for the future?
Personally I gravitate towards games that have a very strong and concrete world setting and I really can’t pinpoint a single property, but I really like what the company Nitroplus is doing, such as Muramasa.
What’s the biggest challenge of incorporating these different worlds together in your games?
That would be a huge spoiler alert so all I can tell you is to play the game and see for yourself! You will probably start to understand it after you beat the game.
You mentioned previously that you would like to work on an RPG. Other than fighting games, is there a genre of game you would love to work on?
Perhaps an RPG or more specifically an action RPG. Even in doing so I would like to try something that I feel not a lot of western games do which is really focus a spotlight on a single character and I think a lot of action RPGs follow multiple characters and are multi narrative but I really would like to shine the spotlight on one character.
You mentioned Final Fantasy III in an interview earlier, maybe we could get a new (non Dissidia) Final Fantasy fighting game?
I’m afraid to say that I don’t think a collaboration with Square Enix will happen. Square Enix as a company is a company that like to favour doing things internally. I know some people on the Dissidia team as well and it’s a really great team so I think that they are going to continue doing some really cool things in the future. When I see their team it sometimes makes me feel a little jealous sometimes!
It definitely feels like an RPG team has made Dissidia, there are a lot of RPG elements, so it’s a very good almost learning experience for me as well. So I can see some of the things they are doing and think “Oh I see, interesting”. The way they approach certain things is completely different from what we do.
Is there anything you would like to incorporate from the way they do things into the way you do things?
I feel like the way they depict space in their visuals. In a more traditional 2D fighting game all of that is done horizontally and in 2 dimensions, but the way you can lock onto your opponent in Dissidia is a very new way to tackle this idea, judging how far away your opponent is.
Is there anything else you would like to tell your fans and the fans of BlazBlue and Guilty Gear?
Thank you very much to Rooster Teeth for inviting us out here so we could be here in London, in the UK and enjoying this moment. I would like Arc System Works as a brand to have it’s own presence and a way to interact with the fans more directly, so hopefully some time in 2018, even if it’s a tiny event, I would like to explore that possibility.
Otaku News would like to thank Toshimichi Mori for giving us such an awesome interview and the good folks at Rooster Teeth for having us at RTX London and inviting him over as a guest.