Nintendo Enthusiast recently interviewed Ken Berry, the executive VP of XSEED Games, the company responsible for the North American publishing of widely-acclaimed Wii game The Last Story. The interiew includes several topics, including Starcraft, Operation Rainfall, and The Last Story itself. Here’s their full interview:Nintendo Enthusiast: How and when did the process shape up for publishing The Last Story? Did your relationship with AQ Interactive play a part, or did you approach Nintendo or Mistwalker (or vice versa)?
Ken Berry: We always had our eye on the title and thought it curious that it was never announced for North America, so when I was in Japan for TGS last year I decided to buy a Japanese retail copy to check it out. Once we started playing it and confirmed that it was as good as we had heard, we approached Nintendo about possibly publishing it over here and they were receptive to our initial inquiry. I can’t say for certain, but having our parent company at the time, AQ Interactive (who has since become Marvelous AQL), be the programmers behind the title may have helped as localization communication would be streamlined between us and the dev team directly.
NE: What is your view on Operation Rainfall? Did their enthusiasm have any role in your choice to publish TLS?
KB: They are an enthusiastic fanbase that did some impressive things as a group movement and have been giving us absolutely fantastic support since we first announced the title for North America, but to be honest we didn’t need any more additional convincing – the question never was if we WANTED to publish the title, but more if we COULD publish the title. The Last Story had always met all the criteria we look for when publishing a game in terms of quality and marketability.
NE: How do you choose which games to pursue for North American release? It must be hard to pick between games like Ivy the Kiwi? or Fragile Dreams at the expense of Fatal Frame: Deep Crimson Butterfly or Pandora’s Tower.
KB: Of course quality is a huge factor for us when determining a title, but so is feasibility as we only pursue the titles that we have a realistic chance of getting. Fatal Frame for the Wii is a title that was published by Nintendo but the IP is owned by Tecmo – that’s an immediate red flag to us that too many roadblocks and licensors are involved to get a deal done quickly. Fragile Dreams was a brand new IP created by Namco Bandai with a passionate development team that wanted the game released to an English audience, so that was the better fit for us.
NE: Digital distribution is creeping into every facet of entertainment consumption. How does XSEED adapt, and what are you looking forward to with a new console generation?
KB: Digital distribution is definitely a big boon for us as we don’t have to worry about manufacturing costs, retail placement and price markdowns on unsold inventory, just as long as the game isn’t devalued too much. In this day and age of ‘race to the bottom’ with the lowest priced games on smartphones getting into the top rankings in an attempt for additional exposure, if consumers feel that digital distribution immediately means an inferior bargain product then that undoes all the benefits it brings. The growth of digital distribution is something that we are definitely looking forward to, and hopefully a title like Unchained Blades that would have been sold for $39.99 as a physical 3DS game is just as good of a value proposition to the consumer as a digital title at $29.99.
NE: Can you give us your impressions on playing The Last Story? Where does it rank for you among the classic JRPGs, or your favorite JRPG?
KB: To be honest with you, I haven’t had a chance to finish the game yet, but I did really enjoy trying to learn the unique battle system with the combination of real-time and strategy elements. I would have to finish it before ranking it among other JRPGs, but for now Final Fantasy X still stands out of one of my most memorable RPG experiences thanks to the huge jump in graphics from FFIX and the full voice-overs, a first for the FF series at the time.
NE: Some people are going into their local stores wondering where TLS is. What is the in-store date we can anticipate?
KB: It is going to vary depending on the retailer, but considering that 8/14 was our ‘ship date,’ I would say by the weekend is when most retailers should have it on store shelves. We always go by ‘ship date’ as opposed to ‘street date,’ but usually we do try shipping our products a few days earlier allowing some of our previous releases to be available on store shelves on the ‘ship date,’ so I can see why some people are wondering why copies aren’t available yet. To be honest, we’ve had so many manufacturing issues with the bonus content on the launch units, specifically the custom outer box holding the game and art book, that production was severely delayed and we almost missed our 8/14 date entirely, preventing us from shipping any units early like we usually do. We were extremely fortunate to be able to ship our units on 8/14 at all due to this unexpected manufacturing issue, so we ask the fans to please be patient and give it a couple extra days for all the units to arrive – we think it will be worth the wait.
NE: You’re being launched into space and can only take one videogame with you. What is it?
KB: Not that it has anything to do with being launched into space, but it would probably be Starcraft. I’m a sucker for strategy games, and I could probably play against the CPU forever as I could always increase the difficulty or number of opponents against me to keep it challenging.
It’s a bit of an odd place to leave off, as the interview doesn’t really feel concluded, but there are definitely some interesting talking points in there. What’s particularly striking to me is the reveal that besides maybe a little bit of hype, Operation Rainfall had little impact on the release of The Last Story, and possibly even Xenoblade Chronicles. This does put into perspective the disappointing news that Pandora’s Tower, the last of the three games Operation Rainfall was rallying for, will not be coming to America still. I picked up The Last Story last Friday and Xenoblade Chronicles back in May, and though I still haven’t even unwrapped either one, it’s sad to hear that the last of these great games won’t be making it our way. What do you think of the interview? Have you picked up The Last Story yet, or own any other games published by XSEED? What do you think of it/them so far? Comment away!
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