Koji Nakajima on Bringing Games Overseas, Choosing Characters, and Popularity Growth in the West
My head is still spinning that J-Stars Victory VS+ is coming to the west. Naturally I jumped at the chance to chinwag with Nakajima-san about it! Read on:
First off, I suppose you get this question a lot, why is now the right time to bring a Shonen Jump crossover game to the west?
We realised that there’s actually a lot of fans in the west who really like Shonen Jump and those characters. That was actually one of the biggest motivations for us to bring this title overseas. This will be really, really, the first time bringing this kind of crossover game overseas, especially for Weekly Shonen Jump. There’s actually several challenges to bringing this title overseas, such as licensing and several other issues, which took a bit of a long time, which is why we’re releasing this a year after the Japanese release.
Both Jump Super Stars and Jump Ultimate Stars were imported by a lost of western Japanese fans. Was this noticed and part of the decision to bring J-Stars Victory VS+ to the west?
We actually knew that there were a lot of fans who played the crossover Weekly Jump titles before, but moreover there are a lot of fans who specifically like Naruto, One Piece, Dragon Ball, and those sorts of very famous titles, so we’re confident that this crossover title can entertain those fans.
How important was it to bring J-Stars to the PlayStation 4 for its western release?
Actually my goal was to simply allow as many users as possible to enjoy this game. We have seen a really quick move from the current-gen to the next-gen, especially for the overseas market. That was actually the biggest reason for bringing the PS4 version to the overseas market.
We’re confident that this crossover title can entertain those fans.
With a pretty large character roster spanning years of Weekly Shonen Jump history how hard was it to balance the characters?
As far as balance goes there’s actually not that much difference between the characters, with things like power, health or stamina. We did put specific moves and even specific controls for each character, which actually brings another strategy to this game. As long as you master those specific moves and controls for each character you can really be the best when you play any character.
Was it important to make the game as accessible as possible?
Each character is really accessible and easy to control for any players. But, at the same time, you can really find your own best character. As I mentioned before, each character has their own specific moves and controls, so that one character is really good from a distance, and another at close-ranged attacks. J-Stars is not just 1 vs. 1 gameplay, you actually play with your partner character in 2 vs. 2 fighting game play. You need to think about the combination between your character and your partner. For instance, if you’re fighting with a close-ranged attack character maybe your partner could be someone who is really good at long-range. Additionally there’s also a support character which provides an additional strategy aspect. You really have to think about how you team up with other characters.
You need to think about the combination between your character and your partner.
How hard was it to choose which characters would be in the game?
I really like Weekly Shonen Jump myself, so I wanted to put as many characters as possible in it. Choosing characters was really hard. Thinking about it from the process of development, there are actually several characters in the game that fight in the original comics, but as you know we’ve also included other characters who don’t really fight at all in their source material, because they come from different types of comics. That was a hard point, creating moves for those non-fighting characters, but I personally really enjoyed that part.
It seems like a game that’s really aimed at Weekly Shonen Jump fans, but also one that could get fans of one series into another series. What are your thoughts on that aspect of the game?
We know there are a lot of fans who like the more popular series in the game, such as Naruto, One Piece, etc. But we believe this will be a great opportunity for those guys who really like one specific title to try other characters in J-Stars and they can get to know other characters because their moves are funny or their controls are enjoyable. So that through this game they can get to know that character and maybe they’ll start to watch the anime or read the comic, and this could be the first step to introducing them to a new character in Weekly Shonen Jump.
We’ve also included other characters who don’t really fight at all in their source material.
Do you think in general there’s much better response to Japanese games and anime in the west than there used to be, as we’ve been seeing a lot more games that would usually be Japan-only come out in the west over the last few years?
This is very much my personal opinion but the number of fans of those kind of anime and comics has just been increasing overseas. My goal is to always bring the same games for overseas that have already been released in Japan, and then everyone can enjoy what we produce.
Why do you think there are more fans of Japanese anime and that sort of thing now than there used to be in the west?
I think this is simply because there is actually more animation broadcast overseas, and also thanks to the internet — if there’s an anime broadcast in Japan it’s almost simultaneously released online with subtitles. Those kinds of things really help the anime and manga market to expand.
My goal is to always bring the same games for overseas that have already been released in Japan.
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