Muteki Corporation recently revealed to Nintendo Everything that it will soon be bringing Dragon Fantasy: Book I (as well as Book II) to the 3DS eShop. We spoke with creative director Adam Rippon to learn about what’s new in the 3DS release, whether or not we can expect more 3DS support from the studio in the future, and a whole lot more. Continue on below for our full discussion.
For those who haven’t previously played or heard of Dragon Fantasy: Book I, can you share a brief overview as to what the game entails?
Dragon Fantasy is a JRPG in the classic NES style, taking cues from both Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy, but also from other great JRPGs like Lufia and Earthbound. Originally it was quite simple, but because I enjoy working on it so much, over the years we’ve added a ton of new features like monster capturing, recruitable characters, multiple new chapters, and more. But overall, it is the story of a knight named Ogden, on his quest to rediscover what it means to be a hero, and where his place in the world is.
Dragon Fantasy is a classically-inspired game in every sense of the word. How was the retro look and feel decided upon?
Initially, it was because I wanted to finally make an RPG that I could actually finish making! The first chapter of DF1 took six months to build from scratch, which was great considering we didn’t have any money at all to fund the development. Prior to that, I’d spent 15 years writing a 12 chapter epic, and it was just completely insurmountable. By cutting the game into three specific sections and targeting an 8-bit look and feel for the first game, I was finally able to get part of it actually done. Of course, with DF2 we went 16-bit, which is considerably more time consuming to create than 8-bit. Surprisingly, it’s even worse than building a 3D game! So, quite glad to have that largely behind us – DF3 will be much easier to tackle than DF2… once we’ve all recuperated from DF2, that is!
EarthBound has left an undeniable impression on Dragon Fantasy: Book I. Has the SNES classic left any sort of lingering impact on you personally?
Aside from the fact that I’m wearing an Onett Little League shirt as I answer questions for this interview? Earthbound wasn’t my favorite game as a kid – I liked it, I thought it was fun and hilarious, but I reserved favorite status for the more “serious” RPGs. But as I’ve gotten older and games have progressed I’ve realized more and more than Earthbound is probably the greatest video game of all time. Its ability to be serious without taking itself serious at all is amazing. The writing is light, dark, serious, silly, and completely spiritual all at the same time. It’s a game that covers a huge range of human experience. Someday, I hope to do something 1/10th as brilliant as Earthbound.
How did the 3DS version of Dragon Fantasy: Book I come about? Were there any particular circumstances that motivated Muteki to bring Dragon Fantasy over to the platform?
While we were showing Book II at E3 I got invited to a dinner with Nintendo at a Japanese curry place in LA. It was so delicious that I basically had no choice but to port DF1 to 3DS as soon as possible, lest I do those intense flavors an injustice!
But seriously, I just love Nintendo, and the prospect of having games on the 3DS is just incredibly enticing to me.
How will this version of Dragon Fantasy: Book I play on the 3DS? Will the game take advantage of the system’s dual screens?
Absolutely – we’ve been creating a TON of new features for the 3DS version! This is the first version that has built-in maps of towns and dungeons, which are displayed on the bottom screen. Battles are now spread across both screens, so the enemies are presented larger on the top screen. The Mode-7 like world map is 3D, which looks really cool!
Will Dragon Fantasy make use of any of the 3DS’ features such as StreetPass?
Not sure what we’d do to take advantage of that – if anyone has any ideas, I’d love to hear them!
Have any changes/additions been made to the core experience of the game?
Definitely – I’ve made more changes to the game for the 3DS version than I did for any other version of the game. For example, there are now monsters on the map, instead of random battles. You can turn it off with a switch if you’re old school, but I think most players will really appreciate it. In addition, I’ve added support for monster capturing in every chapter to fill out your party, as well as adding a quest log and bestiary to track your progress. Then there’s a ton of little stuff, like being able to defend in battle, or buy up to 99 items at a time – little changes that really makes the game feel more polished.
We understand that the 3DS version of Dragon Fantasy: Book I has been in development for a few months. How far along is the project at this point? Are you targeting any particular release window?
We’re almost done now, we’ve just got a lot of testing and paperwork ahead of us! We’re aiming for a spring release.
Dragon Fantasy: Book I marks Muteki’s first time developing for the 3DS. How have you found working with the hardware thus far?
The biggest challenge I think is coming up with a good balance of usage for both screens. I think I’ve managed, and I built on my experiences from making original DS games back in the day to make it feel quite solid. Having Dragon Fantasy’s touch screen roots (it debuted on iOS) definitely helped here!
Were there any difficulties encountered in bringing the Dragon Fantasy experience to 3DS from a development standpoint?
Honestly not really, it’s been quite smooth. Time is always the constraining factor, so there were a few long shot optional things I wanted to do that I might not have time for, but largely it’s been a breeze.
Do you foresee Dragon Fantasy: Book II heading to the 3DS as well?
Definitely – it could be as early as in the fall or winter! DF2’s world map will look amazing with the 3D mode 7
With Dragon Fantasy: Book I coming to 3DS, could the platform be a part of Muteki’s plans for future projects?
Absolutely! I did a ton of work on our engine to support the 3DS, so from now on everything we do will work on the 3DS out of the box. Then it’ll just be a matter of “does this game make sense on this platform?”, rather than any technical considerations.
Part of your company mission statement suggests that some of the constraints, presumably creative ones, of working for firms of a larger scale was a grand factor in forming Muteki Corporation. Would you say the release of a project as close to the chest as Dragon Fantasy validated that maxim?
Both of the DF games were incredibly personal projects for us, myself especially, but the whole team expressed themselves quite a lot in these games. To me, my time spent working on these two games has been the most fulfilling of my 14 year long career in the game industry. These are games I started designing when I was 14, so getting the opportunity to finally release the first two thirds of the game I designed as a kid is an incredible honor.
Given your name, Muteki Corporation, which translates to The Invincible Corporation in English, I can only assume you all do a lot of weightlifting. Who would you single out as the best lifter at Muteki, and what is their record lift?
I would imagine that that is probably our producer, level designer, and resident pirate miscreant, Bill Schmidt. He may be short, but what he lacks in height he makes up for in pure man strength. I have seen him lift a planet with my own two eyes. Granted, it was a small desk globe, but it was made of dark matter, so it was quite heavy.
Also, one time I saw our President, Bryan Sawler, lift an entire stack of European release paperwork. That was incredible.