Friday, May 03, 2013

Ten questions with the makers of THE 'DENPA' MEN 2: Beyond the Waves

You may have heard the news, revealed yesterday, that THE "DENPA" MEN 2: Beyond the Waves will hit the North American (and European) 3DS eShops on May 30.

If not, well, you've heard it now.

Anticipating that announcement, I recently reached out to the company behind this series of portable RPGs, Genius Sonority, and asked if someone there would be willing to answer a few questions about it. Surprisingly, someone agreed--with that someone being CEO Manabu Yamana.

Before I get to the meat of our little tête-à-tête, I have to point out what Yamana said when I asked if he and his colleagues at Genius Sonority were happy with the first game's North American sales. "We’ve had a lot of positive feedback from users and the media," he shared, "but unfortunately, we had some trouble with PR and getting the word out, so we were not able to tie the positive feedback into sufficient sales."

Thankfully, the company decided to localize THE "DENPA" MEN 2: Beyond the Waves despite the original's seemingly disappointing sales.

Speaking of Beyond the Waves, read on to hear what Yamana has to say about this soon-to-be-released (with an $11.99 price tag attached to it) digital title--including whether or not this iteration will feature a few more female characters than the first and whether or not it will allow gamers to scan QR codes created in other regions.

The Gay Gamer: I've read that you made quite a few changes while creating THE "DENPA" MEN 2. For instance, there's an overworld this time around and also at least one town for players to explore. Why did you decide to make these changes? Also, are there any others that you hope people will find interesting?

Yamana: We were already thinking of including an overworld in the sequel when we were making the first game. We created the first game with the aim of getting people acquainted with the series, so we didn’t include too many complex elements and we used a simple and fun system that consisted of battling monsters.

This time, a lot of the players will be familiar with the first game, so we included an overworld map to walk around on, in order to create the sense of a bigger world.

We’ve also visualized equipment this time, so you can have fun dressing up your Denpa Men any way you like, and you can even take pictures of them. You can also enjoy fishing in the sea and in rivers, and cultivate plants this time.

We’ve also added dungeons that use the StreetPass function, and you can fight other players on line as well, so there are a lot of new things for everyone to enjoy.

The Gay Gamer: Will THE "DENPA" MEN 2 feature a more substantial story? And if not, are there any particular reasons you've decided to keep these games light in this regard?

Yamana: There’s a little bit more to the story this time. But the point of this series is to have fun deciding for yourself where you want to go and what you want to do, which is the basic premise of RPGs. So instead of providing a very rigid story, we decided to leave things up to the imagination of the players, and we kept story and background elements and such to a minimum.

The Gay Gamer: Do you expect THE "DENPA" MEN 2 to be as challenging as the first game?

Yamana: The content of the game is pretty different from the original, so it’s hard to compare both games as a whole, but, like in the first game, we’ve made sure that there is a solid challenge.

The first game mainly focused on how to deal with monsters, so the difficulty lay in the battles. This time, we’ve included puzzles and world exploration too, so there’s the added difficulty of solving riddles as well.

The Gay Gamer: Personally, I found the juxtaposition of the first game's "cute" graphics with its challenging gameplay to be interesting and even refreshing. Was that a goal of yours with the first and even second "DENPA" MEN games--to make RPGs that are both cute and tough?

Yamana: Yes. We wanted as many people as possible to play this game, so we used a cute design that was likely to be well-received by many people. On the other hand, we figured that if the game was too easy, it would be forgettable, so we chose a difficulty that people would remember.

The Gay Gamer: Will the sequel include more "Denpa Women" than the first game?

Yamana: Yes. There are 200 percent more this time!

Actually, it would be wrong to say that there are any Denpa Men (or Women) in this game in the first place. They are all tied to their own territories, so they only exist outside of the game world. We’d never force them to appear in a game.

The Gay Gamer: I thought it was interesting that the North American version of the first "DENPA" MEN title featured a number of characters with fairly feminine faces and/or names. Was that the case in the Japanese version, too? If so, what was the point of it? Were we supposed to think they may be women, or did you have another intention with that design choice?

Yamana: This doesn’t just occur in the North American version, it’s in the Japanese and European versions as well, but it’s not intentional. In this game, if the characters have a feminine name or face, they will have a feminine way of speaking.

The Gay Gamer: For the first "DENPA" MEN game, players from different regions weren't allowed to make use of QR codes from another region (so, North American gamers couldn't scan and use Japanese QR codes, for instance). Why was that?

Yamana: We tied QR codes to specific regions in order to avoid language-related problems.

The Gay Gamer: Will that be possible with THE "DENPA" MEN 2--i.e., will North American gamers be able to scan Japanese QR codes and so on and so forth this time around?

Yamana: Unfortunately, no, the region lock is still in place.

The Gay Gamer: Did any particular games--old or new--inspire you while making THE "DENPA" MEN 2, or even the first game?

Yamana: I don’t know if it counts as inspiration, but I worked on the Dragon Quest series for many years, and those experiences there are clearly reflected.

The Gay Gamer: Finally, have you found that these games are difficult to promote? I have to imagine it's hard to convince people to want to take their 3DS systems out into public and move them around to capture Denpa Men--even if, in reality, it's a lot of fun to do so.

Yamana: The first game was the first time that we published a game by ourselves, and we didn’t know much about the US market, so promotion was pretty difficult, even regardless of the game’s features.

We’re sure there are people who feel embarrassed playing this series, but there are also a lot of people who feel the gameplay is very fresh, so it’s not all negative.

Also, when catching Denpa Men, the Denpa Men are actually kind enough to approach the player, so it’s not necessary to move your 3DS around that much.

See also: previous 'Ten questions with...' posts


michaelstearns said...

Wow, very cool that you got an interview with these guys. :) Will we be seeing more like this in the future? (It's been a while since your last one!) said...

Thanks, Michael! Glad you liked it :) And, yes, at least one more such Q&A is in the offing, as they say--this one being with the folks who made Witch and Hero (3DS eShop). And if ever I can get other folks to answer my questions, I'll interview them, too :)

SpeLinnea said...

Looking forward to this game. I tried the demo of the first Denpa men and although I really enjoyed the esthetics of the game, it was so difficult for me as a rookie rpg-player to eveb get through the demo. Let us know what you think about this when it's released. :)

Zaphod65 said...

Just tried the demo for the first one and ended up buying the full game. Very cute. I've never been worried about playing my 3DS in public, so hopefully I'll be able to assemble a good team. said...

It's funny how many people have told me they downloaded the demo but never bought the full game, SpeLinnea. In your case, it sounds like it was because it was too difficult? In that case, I guess it's good you didn't buy the full game, as it got quite hard at various points (and required quite a bit of grinding--at least in my experience).

As for this one, I'll definitely be writing about it pretty extensively after it's released--assuming I like it anywhere near as much as the first. Hell, I'll probably write about it even if I hate it, as I'm *expecting* to love it, so anything else will be a huge blow to me. said...

That's great, Zaphod! Also, just be aware that the "issue" I addressed in the Q&A--playing the game in public--is a bit, er, different than you may be expecting. It's hard not to spin around and move your 3DS all around you as you try to catch Denpa Men before they disappear. I know Yamana says they'll come to you, but if you're out and about--in a bus, etc.--they can disappear quickly, so you have to do what you can to nab good ones before that happen. Anyway, it's not exactly the biggest of deals, but I thought you should know about it anyway :)

Matt said...

It's cool that you were able to get an interview with Genius Sonority--it's great for a company to be so transparent and accessible.

I'm at what I imagine is the halfway point in the original game before I put it down (I'm not a big fan of forced item equips in order to defeat enemies), but I'll definitely pick up the sequel. The new world map and town were enough to sell me. said...

Yes, it definitely was nice of them to agree to an interview. Hopefully this little Q&A will do *something* to help push sales of the sequel in this region, as it certainly deserves it if it's even half as good as the original.

I'm not sure I'd say you're forced to equip certain items in the original, by the way--although it's been a while since I last played it, so it's possible my memory isn't correct in this instance. Even if that's that case, though, you'd surely have to grind a lot to make up for it, so I guess it doesn't much matter, eh?

Anyway, I'm glad you're still willing to give the sequel a try. Here's hoping it's as fun as I'm expecting it to be :)

Matt said...

I could be wrong, but I believe there's some sort of ghost enemy that requires an item to actually hit. Or at least, that's the excuse I'm sticking to as for why I'm awful at the game.

Yeah, between Denpa Men 2 and the Guild 02 games, there's a decent number of eShop games on the horizon that I'm interested in. said...

Oh, no, you're right. Or at least I think you are. That kind of thing doesn't really bother me, but I can understand why it would bother some (including you).

That's only one small part of the game, though. Most of the time all you have to be aware of is the element focus of your Denpa Men--as in, you don't want to take Denpa Men who are weak to fire into a dungeon full of fire enemies, etc.

You just reminded me of the Guild 02 games, by the way. Ack! I really want two of them--Starship Damrey (or whatever it's called) and Monsters Come Out on Friday :)

apricotsushi said...

I love this comment re: the denpa men that appear in the game: "They are all tied to their own territories, so they only exist outside of the game world. We’d never force them to appear in a game." Too cute!

Great interview, Bryan! It's really amazing that you were able to ask Manabu Yamana all these interesting questions. said...

Thanks, Anne! Yeah, I like that quote, too--and the one about the Denpa Women ... not that I completely understand the latter one :)

Also, yes, it definitely was an honor to be able to ask Yamana these questions. To be honest, I didn't know until the responses were sent to me that he would be the ones answering them. Before that, I assumed some PR person was answering them. Which would have been OK, of course, but this is even better.

Nightmare Bruce said...

Very cool that you got in touch with them! Hopefully the sequel gets more attention in NA.

Phil Stortzum said...

Great work on getting this interview and having it posted on The Denpa Men Facebook feed! said...

I agree! I'm going to do my best to make that happen. Of course, my site is VERY small potatoes compared to the "big boys" (and girls) out there :| said...

Oh, really? I didn't notice that, Phil. Thanks for letting me know :)

Juan Luis Vargas said...

"The Gay Gamer: I thought it was interesting that the North American version of the first "DENPA" MEN title featured a number of characters with fairly feminine faces and/or names. Was that the case in the Japanese version, too? If so, what was the point of it? Were we supposed to think they may be women, or did you have another intention with that design choice?

Yamana: This doesn’t just occur in the North American version, it’s in the Japanese and European versions as well, but it’s not intentional. In this game, if the characters have a feminine name or face, they will have a feminine way of speaking."

Hi, i love this game and im from peru, so i have the north american version.

I would be glad to know how look and speak these denpa men of those who are speaking.


Justin Difazzio said...

Whoa. Reaching CEOs and bigwigs now, are you Bryan? That's pretty stinking amazing! I'm glad they're promoting more heavily this time, since your blog was about the ONLY place I read about this game. said...

Yep, I've officially hit the big time now, Justin. Just kidding ;)

And, YES, I'm glad they're really pushing this at the moment, too. The first game deserved great sales and I'm sure this one will, too, so hopefully the boost in promotion will help make that happen. said...

Thanks for the comment, Juan Luis! I like that comment/quote, too :)

Kaze said...

Awesome interview, Bryan!! That's so cool you got to talk with Yamana-san! Did he respond in English or did you go through one of the company's translators?

I loved the first game so much so this will be a day-one-purchase for me! Now I want to support them more than ever! ^^ said...

Hi Marty! The responses were sent to me in English. I honestly don't know if he typed them up that way or if someone translated them.

I'm so glad to hear that you loved the first game, too. So did I! Such a charming and fun little game, wasn't it?

Hours said...

I'm surprised to see Yamana say that they weren't happy with the US sales of the first game despite the fact that it was constantly in the best sellers list and was very highly rated on the eShop. I hope they aren't setting their expectations too high. Hopefully the added attention to the sequel will bring in more fans.

Anyway, great interview. I'm really looking forward to this game. said...

Me, too, Hours. Then again, maybe those "positions" on the sales charts just don't translate to the sale you and I imagine they do?

Anyway, yes, here's hoping this one sells better than the first--regardless!