Why were there no inns in I Am Setsuna? What’s up with the lack of world map? And will the team’s next game have a bit more... variety?
After finishing Tokyo RPG Factory’s debut game a couple of weeks ago, I contacted Square Enix in hopes of chatting with the folks who made it, and eventually set up a phone interview with the game’s director, Atsushi Hashimoto. Speaking through a translator, Hashimoto answered my burning questions about development challenges, small teams, and what his next game is going to look like. (It probably will be a original new game rather than a sequel to Setsuna.) It was a fun Q&A, so here’s the whole thing.
Interview has been lightly edited for clarity and brevity.
Schreier: Now that the game has been out in the wild for a few months, how are you feeling? Are you happy with the reaction so far?
Hashimoto: First I wanted to say thank you for playing the game. For the Western reaction, we created I Am Setsuna based on the thought that there are many RPG fans out in the world. And by releasing the game, we were able to really realize that there are in fact RPG fans in the world as we’d imagined. And so just to know that there are people there who have the same sentiment as me and my team, I’m just happy to know that truth.
Schreier: Was there any reaction you saw that made you think, ‘Oh this is legitimate criticism, this is something we should keep in mind for the next game’? Can you give an example of some good feedback you got?
Hashimoto: There has been a lot of feedback, not only from the Western audience but the Japanese audience as well. For example, we’ve been told a lot that users wanted to see more of the story, they wanted to dive deeper into it, they wanted to know more about it. So I feel that there may have been some things that we may have been able to improve for this title on that front. The characters right now are likable and I think they are very empathizable already, but I feel that there may have been something more that we could’ve done to make it more satisfactory for the users. And that’s one criticism that I want to utilize for future titles.
Schreier: Gameplay-wise, looking back at I Am Setsuna, is there anything you wish you had done differently, any choices you would like to take back?
Hashimoto: The tutorials were a little bit weaker [than we would’ve liked]. There weren’t that many things in the game that would direct the users to go from here to there, like if there’s an event happening somewhere, the game didn’t really tell you where to go or what was happening where. That was actually deliberate on our end, because we were trying to have that ‘90s RPG feel in it. But admittedly it was probably a little bit hard to understand or hard to play. And so in the future, we’d like to keep looking into keeping that ‘90s feel but still wanting to make it a little more accessible, user-friendly in the future.
Schreier: I actually think, in my experience, playing the game and reading a lot of feedback on the Western side of things, I think people liked that they weren’t told exactly what to do next, but they had more issues with the lack of tutorials in combat, and the stores, and some of the specific mechanical parts of the game, as opposed to telling you what to do with the story.
Hashimoto: The battle system and the other systems that you mentioned, that was actually a little bit included in the previous answer that I gave. We really wanted to have that added depth of gameplay, and that is why it ended up as it is in I Am Setsuna. But just as you said, there were a lot of comments that said it was a little bit hard to understand, it was a little bit difficult. And that’s something that we need to reflect upon, we need to really try to improve next time. And I do feel that we didn’t have enough of a feel-good element in these battles because of that difficulty, and we really want to improve that moving forward.