Well, it took a little while, but given that Valhalla Knights: Eldar Saga is shipping next week, the timing is actually perfect. I initially thought this would be a simple Q & A session with an Xseed employee or two, but thanks to Xseed’s Jimmy (“New Daddy!“) Soga and busy-bee PR guy extreme Scott Fry, the Q’s got sent out to Japan where I’ve the pleasure of noting that they were answered by Kiyoji Tomita, Section Chief at KUROGANE (the Osaka-based team assisting K2 with the development and localization process). How’s that for service?
Anyway, here we go – enjoy!
Greg Wilcox: The Valhalla Knights series originated on the PSP, but Eldar Saga has moved to the Wii. What were the deciding factors in bringing VK to the console and do new players need any previous experience with the other games in the series in order to enjoy this new installment?
Kiyoji Tomita: In Eldar Saga the general world view is similar to the previous Valhalla Knights, but we wanted to changed the battle style from a symbol-encounter style to a seamless real-time battle style which was difficult to execute on the PSP, We thought that with the Wii, the user can enjoy more intuitive gameplay controls. For players new to the series, they certainly will not have any problems playing this title. However, for users who played the previous games, there are things in the game that will make them smile.
GW: What were the influences on the team when creating the game world? Did they simply expand what was found in the PSP games to fit the Wii, or were elements inspired by other RPGs, books or even films?
KT: The basis of the world evolved from the dark and gloomy world view that previous entries in the Valhalla Knights series have. However, since this title is on the Wii we wanted to create a more realistic atmosphere where players can actually feel the world around them, so we used fantasy films such as Lord of the Rings for added reference.
GW: In terms of presentation, does the game use CG, in-engine cut scenes or a combination of both to tell the story? Additionally, is there any voice acting in the game?
KT: For this title, we are using the in-game models during the cut-scenes so that any equipment the player has equipped will be seen in the scene. Other than battle call-outs, there is no voice acting in the game.
GW: Character customization has always been part of a VK game. In Eldar Saga, how deep is the feature? Can players change things like skin color, hairstyles or facial elements to reflect actual ethnic features or will there be a limited number of looks to choose from?
KT: Players won’t be able to change the shape of the face but they will be able to select gender, face, and hairstyles to create their own character. Also for hair color, the player will be able to select from 8 different color palettes.
GW: Are there any new races in VKES and can PSP veterans expect the return of certain special races and job classes?
KT: There will be no new races in Eldar Saga. As for the “special race,” are you referring to the Machine race? In Eldar Saga it is set that they are a race that became extinct long ago. For jobs players will be able to use all the jobs from the previous games such as fighter, mage, priest, thief, monk, anchor, knight, samurai, ninja and others as well as new job classes such as godhand and engineer.
GW: How is the game structured? Are players forced to stick to the main storyline or can they freely explore the game world? Additionally, about how large is the game world (is it seamless) and how many towns are there to discover?
KT: At the start of the game it will be a linear story line for players to understand the game, but later on you can choose to stick with the main story or freely explore as you wish. Regarding the size of the game world, that’s a tough question since I don’t have anything to compare it with. But I can say there will be multiple fields in the game such as grass field, rugged mountain, snowy mountain, swamp, forest, underground cave, etc. For towns, players will be able to visit human, dwarf, elf, and halfling towns.
GW: If one were to do every possible quest in VKES, about how long would the game take to complete? Additionally, is it possible to do expansion content via download on the Wii should the game become successful?
KT: It will approximately take about 20-30 hours. We are not thinking of any downloadable content at this time.
GW: With the new “multi-generational” storyline, the lead character’s story evolves as he marries and eventually has a child who takes up his/her own quest. How is that new quest related to the previous story and will we see the older hero in the second part of the game?
KT: This is something we want the players to actually play and see.., (LOL)
In the 2nd episode players will be able to see what the main character’s father did, the new hero’s early childhood stories, things about their mother and will be able to figure out some of the facts that were a mystery in the 1st episode. As for seeing the older hero, it’s a secret (LOL). I would love for the players to check it out themselves.
GW: How do players find a spouse for the first lead character? Is there some sort of “dating sim” element or is getting a mate an automatic part of the main storyline where your wife has already been chosen for you?
KT: The player will be able to meet the heroine (spouse) as they progress through the story. For the heroine event there are multiple choices and the heroine’s reactions will change according to the selected choices, but unlike a dating sim the player will always be successful in getting together with the heroine they wish to be with.
GW: As for mercenaries, once hired, how long can they remain in the party? Are they only going to stay with you for a certain amount of time, or will they be there until you “fire” them? Additionally, can players solo the entire game with no mercenaries at all?
KT: Mercenaries will stay with the player until you either let them go or hire a new mercenary. Also, it’s possible to finish the entire game without any mercenaries as well.
GW: Combat has changed since the PSP Valhalla Knights games to a more straightforward (real-time) hack & slash style. How much variety is in the combat (combo moves, magic system, ranged weapons, etc.) and could you explain the Wii-specific special moves a bit more?
KT: For combo moves, players are able to execute different variation of attacks since we introduced weak and strong attacks. The player will get to assess thse situation and use the two attacks accordingly.
For magic, the basic magic from the previous title is included as well as newly added bard magic. “Bard magic” is done by singing while playing the harp. Party members in the affected area will have elemental attributes added to their weapon or their status heightened for a period of time. However, the one executing the bard magic will not be affected by the spell they are casting.
For ranged weapons there are bows and launchers. We had bows throughout the series, but in Eldar Saga their strength will power up to 5 levels depending how long the player holds on to the attack button.
“Launchers” are weapons from the extinct Machine race I mentioned above that have been modified for people to use. It will take some getting used to but the range and power is very attractive.
For the Wii-specific special moves I’m assuming you are talking about the special attack by swinging the Nunchuk. You will open yourself up to counter-attack before and after the special attack, but the attack range and the power is well worth the risk. Also depending on the job class there are different special attacks, so I hope players will try them out and find the one that suits them best.
GW: Are there any new features added for the US version of the game such as harder difficulty levels (as in a New Game + mode), secret dungeons/bosses, bonus characters or more?
KT: Unfortunately there is no US-specific content.
GW: In other words, we’re getting exactly the same game content found in the Japanese version. How deep is the co-op multiplayer mode? Are offline characters the same as online characters? Is there any huge difference between the two modes in terms of content or quests?
KT: The host player will create a room and the client player will join in and after selecting which quest to tackle, it will transfer the players to the quest field. After defeating the specified monster (one or multiple) the quest will be complete. The players will be able to use their one (main) offline characters in the co-op mode.
GW: In co-op, can players many levels apart play with each other? Also, will players be able to trade items between each other and take them into their own offline games?
KT: Even if the two players’ levels are far apart they will still be able to play together. However, the quest type they will be able to play will differ depending on which of the two is the host. Also you will not be able to trade items.
GW: I’ve read elsewhere that Motoi Sakuraba is the game’s lead composer. If so, what can we expect from the soundtrack? Will the score sound similar to the older Valhalla Knights titles or can we expect a totally new aural experience?
KT: The music is different from the previous entries in the Valhalla Knights series. It is a bit more dark and gloomy to better fit the Eldar Saga world view. We hope the players will enjoy it.
GW: Finally, what’s the official release date for the game?
KT: The North American release will be September 29, 2009.
GW: OK, one more question (if you can answer this!): Are there any plans to bring Valhalla Knights: Battle Stance to the US?
KT: We can’t say anything at this point, but we are hoping to bring it over for the Valhalla Knights fans.
Many thanks to Kiyoji Tomita for taking time from his hectic schedule to answer your questions as well as Jimmy Soga and Scott Fry for their assistance in getting this interview together. Valhalla Knights: Eldar Saga will be in stores on September 29, 2009 – Back with a full review shortly…