Fairy Tail Interview with Keisuke Kikuchi

Last week, Koei Tecmo brought their upcoming video game adaption of manga and anime series Fairy Tail to the west in a playable form for the first time. We had the opportunity to try out a short demo of the game, which you can check out here.

Also present at the demo event was the game’s producer Keisuke Kikuchi from Gust. Kikuchi has been working on Gust’s Atelier series for the past few years, and is bringing his experience in creating RPGs to this long-established and well-known franchise.

We had the opportunity to sit down with Kikuchi to ask him about the development of Fairy Tail and what fans and newcomers can expect from the upcoming title.

Gamer Escape: From what I’ve seen, it looks like Gust hasn’t done much work in licensed games in the past. What led to your decision to develop a licensed game with Fairy Tail?

Kikuchi: There might have been cases from two decades ago where Gust developed some licensed titles, but that hasn’t happened for a while. This time around, our thoughts were to bring Gust’s RPG system to a globally popular IP. People around the world enjoy games from Gust, which is the biggest reason. That’s why we talked with Kodansha [note: publisher of Fairy Tail manga] and Mashima-sensei himself [note: author of Fairy Tail] and got the licensing.

Myself and many members of the team are fans of Fairy Tail. At the same time, we found the world of Fairy Tail is a perfect fit for an RPG game. It’s got all the right ingredients for a good RPG game. At the same time, Kodansha and Mashima-san themselves were very eager to create a Fairy Tail game. It serves a purpose for both sides.

Gamer Escape: Is this game going to be a straight adaption of parts of the manga story, or are you telling an original story?

Kikuchi: For the story, it is the original canon. To be more precise, midway through the franchise, the Grand Magic Games and Tartaros arcs. Aside from that, we did take some liberty with character episodes as well as certain quests. After the ending, there will be more scenarios that serve as original story. So, it’s a combination.

Gamer Escape: Can you describe your process in adapting a manga and anime into a video game?

Kikuchi: Basically, Kodansha came to us with the will of Mashima-san more than three years ago. We were contemplating on what kind of genre this game should be and how to translate this manga into an appealing game. We eventually arrived at this framework. Utilizing our expertise creating RPG games, roughly a year-and-a-half ago, that’s when the decision was finally made, that we going to go with an RPG in bringing life to the characters, to recreate such a passionate and dramatic story.

In this particular case, it wasn’t us asking for the licensing. We were approached by Kodansha. So, eventually when we decided we will make a game, this type of game was kind of it. The hard part was the planning and the conceptual design part.

Gamer Escape: Gust is known for its turn-based RPGs, but has worked on action RPG titles such as Nights of Azure. What led to the decision to design Fairy Tail as a turn-based title?

Kikuchi: I was producer for Nights of Azure as well, so I understand where you’re coming from. In the case of Fairy Tail, our thoughts were to create a game for all Fairy Tail fans, and we suspect that not all Fairy Tail fans are skilled gamers. We want to bring the joy and the excited experience to all fans, so that everyone can cast spectacular magic with simple commands.

Also, with a turn-based RPG game, it is easier to depict fellowship and character bonding, which is what you see in the original manga. Them working as a team to overcome formidable enemies. That’s not to say that an action RPG is the wrong direction or a bad idea for this IP. It’s just that we set out to create an RPG and picked this theme, so that’s kind of the story.

Gamer Escape: I see most of your production work over the past few years has been on the Atelier series. How has that influenced your work on this game?

Kikuchi: First of all, I personally think Atelier has been good at transforming 2D character designs into vivid 3D attractive characters that you can be emotionally attached to. So there’s that. That was basically my input as the producer, but in terms of technical know-how, in terms of programming, graphical, designing expertise, those were obviously brought to Fairy Tail as well.

Gamer Escape: This game is based on a very long-running and dense franchise. Are you doing anything that might help newcomers enter the franchise with this game?

Kikuchi: For fans who are not familiar with Fairy Tail, first of all, this is a fantasy-based RPG. If they’re drawn to the fantasy style of game, that’s one entry point. Also, as they play the game, there is a certain place in the game where you can go check out previous stories or character backgrounds if they become interested. Those are some of the tools that we incorporated in the game to help people understand Fairy Tail better.

Gamer Escape: To cap things off, is there anything in particular you want our audience to know about the game?

Kikuchi: In this game, players can play not only as mages from Fairy Tail, but also from other guilds as well. For fans who want to play as certain characters, I think you’ll be able to achieve that in the game.

Also, with various development systems with characters or the guild itself, people will be able to find their own play styles and shape their own Fairy Tail. We hope all fans will be looking forward to that!

Screenshots courtesy of Koei Tecmo