As you probably noticed, I’m very excited about Little Witch Academia Chamber of Time, the game based on one of my favourite anime. I recently had the chance to sit down with Yosuke Futami, the game’s producer, and Katsuhiro Takei, the anime’s producer, to ask them a little bit about the game!
It’s a pleasure to meet you both. Could you start off by letting our readers know what your roles are on the game?
Futami: I’m Yosuke Futami from Bandai Namco. I am the game’s producer.
Takei: I’m Takei from Toho. I’m the anime’s producer. We’re co-operating with Bandai Namco on the game’s development.
This strategy might have made development take a little longer, but we felt it was important to respond to fans with the game.
I’m a big fan of Little Witch Academia myself. It’s really nice to see how closely you seem to be working together as a game developer and as an anime production company. How important would you say working closely together is for making a game based on an anime?
F: This game was in development while the anime was still in production. And for a period, it was not available outside of Japan. During game development, we made sure to absorb the reactions of fans both from the Japanese audience, and overseas. This strategy might have made development take a little longer, but we felt it was important to respond to fans with the game.
T: We’ve been working on the game since November last year, which was also a key period of time from our side on the anime production. But, even being so busy, we still managed to find time to have meetings with both teams about once a week for Chamber of Time.
What was behind the decision to have the game be a side-scrolling beat ’em up?
F: Very much the anime, and the first movies (OVAs). I think Little Witch Academia is very beloved by everyone, and has a very broad range of fans. For that reason, I wanted to create a Little Witch Academia game that would be immediately accessible no matter the player.
We hope that some people are attracted to the concept of the game itself, whether they’re already fans of Little Witch Academia or not.
How hard is it to toe the line between appealing to fans and potential newcomers?
F: We will be releasing a free demo for Chamber of Time. Hopefully this will help newcomers find out more about the game and Little Witch Academia, or help fans know more about how the game plays for themselves. As for potential newcomers to the series, we’d like people who are fans of Harry Potter and similar series, or other magical games, to enjoy the demo. And, because it’s a game, we hope that some people are attracted to the concept of the game itself, whether they’re already fans of Little Witch Academia or not.
What would you say the role is of a game based on an anime?
F: I know Little Witch Academia is very popular. But I think we can use the game to expand it to an even broader audience. Our role as developers of an anime game is to think “how can we take the reach of this anime even further?”
Our role as developers of an anime game is to think “how can we take the reach of this anime even further?”
So it’s a two way street? Some people might get into the anime from the game, and some people will get into the game because of the anime?
F: Yes, that’s pretty much it.
T: Well, it could end up being a disaster! [room laughs] Obviously there are a lot of worries about appealing to fans and new people. But having played it myself, I believe that the game can definitely expand the anime’s audience.
Without all this support at each step, the anime would not be nearly as popular
With Netflix picking up Little Witch Academia, do you think anime like this, and games like this, are becoming more popular in the west these days?
T: We really appreciate the support we’ve received so far for Little Witch Academia from overseas fans. As you know, the first anime was uploaded to YouTube [the 2013 Anime Mirai short], and the next one was funded as a Kickstarter project [2015’s Little Witch Academia: The Enchanted Parade met its funding target in 5 hours, achieving over 400% funds].
And then this next time, for the series, we received support from Netflix. Without all this support at each step, the anime would not be nearly as popular. I believe that developing the game, and releasing it in the west, will also further help Little Witch Academia appeal to a western audience.
F: Hopefully providing the anime in game form with Chamber of Time will allow more people in the west to fall in love with the world of Little Witch Academia.
Do you think there’s anything in particular about Little Witch Academia that gives it more of a worldwide appeal?
F: Of course, the fantastic animation of the show is probably one of the biggest appeals. As you know, the anime series has finished. However, we will be implementing new anime sequences into the game created by Studio Trigger. These will be exclusive to the game.
It’s really wonderful how even in the game itself you’ve managed to capture the visual feeling of the anime. How hard was it to replicate that?
F: We had to express Studio Trigger’s wonderful animation in the game itself, which was a fierce battle! It was very difficult to get it up to par with the anime! And on top of that, we also needed players to enjoy the game as a game, too. So yes, it was very hard!
Working together as game developer and animation studio, how much back and forth was there between your two teams?
F: As already mentioned, we had our weekly meetings beginning last November. We would submit all the assets to be assessed by Studio Trigger, and were always discussing how we can express the anime in game form.
T: So that would be all of the assets, all of the scenario, and that sort of thing. So that’s every 3D model, every background. We made sure to always be assessing how the project was going, and reviewing every detail to give the best feedback possible. We’ve been working very closely.
Having a lot of communication was definitely very important.
Is that closeness the integral component to making a good anime game, would you say?
F: It was great to have a lot of chances to communicate with Studio Trigger. Having a lot of communication was definitely very important. We ended up learning a lot of things by working closely in this way.
I’ve worked with other anime studios for developing games, but this has seriously been the closest partnership I’ve experienced.
Futami-san, I know you’ve worked on quite a few other anime games [such as most Sword Art Online games]. How does the close relationship between both of your studios for Little Witch Academia compare to other titles?
F: There’s certainly no bad blood between us! [shared laughter] I’ve worked with other anime studios for developing games, but this has seriously been the closest partnership I’ve experienced.
T: We had a lot of opportunities to communicate with other games companies for creating a game based on Little Witch Academia. But the relationship with Futami-san’s team while working on Chamber of Time definitely feels the closest.
Would you like to do any more Little Witch Academia games if this one is a success? Please say yes!
F: Personally, yes, I would like to create the next sequel to Little Witch Academia!
T: As long as we have continued fan support for Little Witch Academia, we’d love to continue the series whether that’s in game form, anime form, or something else.
We’d definitely like to create another game using a property from Studio Trigger!
Do you think this relationship between your two studios open the door to other games based on Studio Trigger properties?
F: This is this is the first time we’ve worked with Studio Trigger on a game. At the moment, we have no plans to create another game based on Studio Trigger’s properties. But, we’d love to keep the relationship going with Studio Trigger and Toho, given any chance possible. We’d definitely like to create another game using a property from Studio Trigger!
I look forward to it! A final question for you then, Futami-san: if you could create a game based on any anime ever made — no matter how old or new — what would be your dream project?
F: There are a lot of anime titles… However, I love Little Witch Academia, and would most like to create the next game in that series! [laughter, Takei-san seems pleased]
Little Witch Academia Chamber of Time releases this month in Japan, and Early 2018 in the west, for PlayStation 4 and PC.