MonkeyPaw Games and Gaijinworks have teamed up to bring J-RPG titles to the USA and they are using Kickstarter to raise the money to adapt original titles to the US market. To start the team is bringing Class of Heroes 2 to the PSP. The funds they raise through Kickstarter and through other private investments will allow the team to polish and localize Class of Heroes 2, as well as create a physical Deluxe edition pack to retail.
We had a chance to speak with Victor Ireland (Gaijinworks – formerly of Working Designs) about their Kickstart project and about the game.
1) What made you decide now was the right time to start a Kickstarter fund for this project?
Victor Ireland: This is how long it took us to get all the moving parts lined up to offer a console Kickstarter. It’s much more complicated than a PC release because there are so many other layers of approval required to get it launch ready. We actually started talking about doing this early last year, and it moved into an active phase last Fall to really work toward launching it.
The reason Kickstarter seemed like the best way was because many of the RPGs we wanted to do were on the PSP, which is very popular in Japan, but not nearly as much here. That led to tons of great games being stuck in Japan, and a relatively small market in the US for them – typically a death knell for any chance of most of them coming here. But if we could get Kickstarter fan support for a direct-to-consumer physical release, we could make enough money to expand the budget and be able to do a much more complete localization with dubbing, English song localization, extra game features, more music, etc.
2) What other games do you plan to bring over to the US?
We have a long list of “want” titles to do. Fortunately the Vita PSP compatibility has extended the PSP title viability a little longer so we can get a number liberated from Japan with fan support. But talking about actual titles would take the focus from this Kickstarter, and we want to keep fan awareness on it so we can fund it, because it will make it much easier to do the next title once we can point to this success with other Japanese publishers that are “on the fence.” I will say that our “target” list and the “want” lists we’ve seen from fans are very, very similar. We’re in talks or negotiations with many of the publishers of games on our list.
3) What made you choose Class of Heroes II to be the first game to release?
It’s one of many titles that are on our list of licensing targets. I personally like the game and CoH3, CoH4 as well, so they were on our radar and we were actively involved in talking to the Japanese publisher for them as well as other publishers for other titles.
But Kickstarter is a new model – a new way of doing something and it’s really, really hard to get a Japanese company that is risk-averse to jumping on board. They’re mostly taking the wait and see approach to this. Acquire was willing to roll the dice with us and try this new way to reach fans that really want the games but have been denied, which is a huge credit to them.
If we can succeed and get this to fund, it will help move publishers we’re talking to off the fence and everything gets a little easier for the second time. We could have kept talking to all of them to try to get a different game for another 6-8-12 months, but that would have been no guarantee of success, either, and the PSP was already fading in the US market. So we found a great partner in Acquire to get this done now and get the ball rolling. Its success is key to helping us start checking off other games in our long last of titles we want to do and making them a reality.
Fortunately the Vita’s PSP compatibility helps widen the market for PSP RPGs, and that’s one reason we’re still looking at PSP RPGs. There’s so many good ones in Japan that need to come over.
4) If the fund succeeds, what are some of the improvements or changes you’ll be making to the game?
Dubbing the Japanese voice to English, localizing and re-recording the opening song in English, removing excess confirmation boxes, making the battle screens more visible (currently the text boxes obscure much of the “action”), adding shortcuts to common maintenance things like healing, etc, etc. There are also things I would like to try like spell hotkeys. I’d also like a location warp (school to school or school to village, etc) instead of a dungeon-based X/Y coordinate warp. If it’s in there, I never found it, and it’s needed, especially late in the game. It’s a pretty long list of things that will make it more fun for players.
5) What can gamers who enjoyed the first Class of Heroes expect from the sequel?
A better experience overall. More dungeons, less “procedural pain” – no extortion to evaluate the loot you get in the dungeon, for example. It has more monsters, more character classes, more spells, more quests. Just as it comes from Japan, it’s a substantially better game than the first. If we fund, we can improve it even more.
6) What are some of the bonuses that will come with the Deluxe Pack?
It will have a custom blind-embossed box like an old book you’d find in the corner of some really cool, mysterious book store. It will have a faux-leather embossed game guide/art book. It will have a soundtrack of arranged themes and some new themes from Bill King, who did a lot of fan favorite music for Working Designs like the Alundra opening movie theme, Star Dragon Tower theme from LUNAR2, and the Dragon Force theme, amongst others. The UMD in the Deluxe Pack will be presented in a special way, but that will be a surprise. The cast of the game is large enough that we are doing a return of the character standees. Finally, there will be three additional pack-in items, but they’ll be decided by a combination of the Kickstarter supporters voting on them and how well the prototypes work out. The CoH2 themed choices that will be voted on are a watch, pendant, dagger letter opener, coin bank, inflatable sword, and pen/pencil set.
7) What do you think can be done to improve the popularity of JRPGs in the West?
Just get more of them out, and do them well. If something is good and people enjoy it, word of mouth can be a powerful thing. Kickstarter allows a more direct fan to publisher relationship, bypassing any potential deal-killers from retailers who may not want to stock a niche game, despite fans wanting it. If we can grow that support, we can grow the genre again here as well.
8) Are there any plans to bring Class of Heroes II to other platforms?
We’re listening to fans, and taking notice of what they want and where they want to play it. It’s not always possible to make things happen the way fans want, but we try. In this case, we want to get the game and series awareness out far and wide, which will help get this Kickstarter funded. Once we have funded and are able to provide a great experience with great presentation to RPG fans, it makes everything else easier. Getting the boulder started moving is the hardest part. Once it’s moving, keeping it moving and building speed is much easier. RPG fans can help us get this moving and we’re encouraging them to spread the word.
To help make this project happen and future projects from the team head over to their Kickstarter page and donate now!