Level-5 CEO on Yo-kai Watch 4 and Inazuma Eleven Ares, 20th anniversary title
At the Tokyo Game Show last month, Japanese website 4Gamer was able to interview Level-5 CEO. Hino spoke about the company’s upcoming Switch games, Yo-kai Watch 4 and Inazuma Eleven Ares. Given what was said, it makes sense that both were delayed this past week – Yo-kai Watch 4 to Spring 2019 and Inazuma Eleven Ares to this winter.
Aside from those two titles, Hino weighed in on a couple of other topics as well. These include finally returning to TGS and brief talk about the company’s 20th anniversary title.
We’ve prepared a translation covering most of the interesting sections. You can read it below.
Thank you for speaking to us today when you are so busy. It has been six years since you last attended the Tokyo Game Show (TGS), so first could you tell us about that?
As you know, many of our games are aimed at children, but having lots of kids flooding in at such a big scale game show would be really dangerous. Because of that we tried to stay away after the initial boom of the Yo-kai Watch series.
If I’m right, October 2018 marks your 20th anniversary.
Yes, this year is the 20th. Originally we were all really into attending TGS, but I thought coming to the show with games aimed at children would be too risky, and so we decided to hold our events in a different location. But with it being the 20th anniversary, I did a lot of thinking about our place in the gaming world. This year I wanted to bring the Level-5 here and raise awareness of the company.
Even though the booth is mainly centered on Yo-kai Watch 4 and Inazuma Eleven Ares, because there are plenty of gamers who enjoyed some of your older games and have now grown up, you could say this was the right time for you to be at TGS.
Since that time both we and the games we make have evolved. I think we’ve finally come to the point where even if our games are put up on the big TGS screen, we don’t have to be ashamed. Because TGS definitely has an image of high quality games battling it out to be noticed.
Inazuma Eleven Ares releases this autumn and Yo-kai Watch 4 releases in the winter, but from your point of view, what is it in particular that you’d like people to take notice of?
If possible, I’d prefer it if they weren’t being shown now at all. (Laughs)
No, I’m joking. Obviously in both cases we are trying our best to make good games, but bringing them to the show was definitely a case of ‘even though they are not perfect, we have to show them’. It was very much a time demand. For various reasons, I’d prefer people not to see them as they are now.
I see. Seems like you have conflicting feelings as the developer. Even though the games are still works in progress, you want people to be looking forward to the finished versions. Being that as it may, from your point of view what would you like people to appreciate in the two titles?
This time we are showing off the Switch versions of the two games, but both of them have also been made into TV anime shows, and thanks to that their popularity has risen. So in order for fans of the show to enjoy the game we’ve made it so that they can control their favorite characters directly and have really put efforts into getting their image just right. While the finished versions will be more polished, I think it’d be nice if we could put across that appeal for fans of the show.
Especially with the Yo-kai Watch game, there’s the appeal of the world being intricately recreated. At the center of the game is the town, then there’s the park and also the train for travelling to new locations where there are also Yo-kai. But then just walking around the town searching for Yo-kai is also fun.
That’s right. Because the graphics in Yo-kai Watch 4 are 3D, you can fully explore the town from your own point of view and also look up into the sky. Because this hasn’t been possible until now, I think those that enjoy that element of exploration will really get a kick out of this game.
In the trial version you’ve mainly been showing off the battle system. Although, I’m sure it will change a lot in the final version…
Yes that will also have a lot of improvements. In the final game there will be a lot more elements to the battling.
I’m looking forward to it. Talking of Inazuma Eleven, you’ve had many special timed events, and that has stirred up a lot of enthusiasm and appreciation from the fans.
I’m really grateful for that. Every time we have one of our events the support from the fans is overwhelming and I’m filled again with the motivation to make the games better and better. But at the same time we can’t just be satisfied with our hardcore fans. While treating those fans well, we also need to promote Inazuma Eleven and have it be appreciated by more and more fans. That’s also very important.
You’re really active on social media and your enthusiasm for the characters is really impressive.
I enjoy doing it. Even on Twitter I’m surprised by the popularity each character can have with the fans. I feel like each character’s personality is being recognized and appreciated.
I know what you mean. I think that’s the result of the appeal of the world, story and characters that you create. When you’re creating these characters, what’s the most important thing for you?
In order to make an appealing character I have spent the last ten years in trial and error, so recently I do it without even thinking… but basically I think the characters are brought to life by their connection to the story. So it’s not like: ‘someone does something so it’s interesting’, but for example, ‘A and B have this conflict between them, or this love between them, and that’s what’s interesting’. So it’s not just creating a character but thinking about what you want them to do for the story. That’s the main point. When we have to think about so many central characters, we put special focus on their environment.
I see. So it’s not just a case of having the character standing out alone, but being designed with their relation to the setting they are in.
Exactly. For example, if we have a villain that really stands out, we also have to have a hero that he despises for some reason… it’s that kind of thing.
I think if you play the game knowing that, it can give a new perspective.
By the way, are you thinking about a title for Level-5’s 20th anniversary?
We’re working hard right now behind closed doors to make an announcement as soon as possible.
Really? So, around autumn or at least within this year?
We’re working as hard as we can… but the main thing now is trying to avoid it becoming a game for the 21st anniversary. (Laughs) Of course we’re working our hardest on all of our titles, but the titles which already have fan expectations such as Inazuma Eleven Ares and Yo-kai Watch 4 come first. We want to make sure the release of those games goes well. Please look forward to those two.
OK. Finally then, what sort of challenges are you considering for Level-5 in the future?
For me personally, I want Level-5 to continue making light, enjoyable games to a high standard. That goes for both mobile games and eSports games too, but I’m thinking also about the games you can play for ten or twenty minutes online, like Fantasy Life Online. I want to increase our number of titles and increase our expertise. And, of course, I want to continue our pedigree of making single player immersive RPGs.
Games like Yo-kai Watch 4 and Inazuma Eleven Ares have definitely come to be seen as your real forte.
That’s definitely true. And while the work is continuing steadily, I hope the fans can hold out for the big announcement to be made for our 20th anniversary.
As a fan myself I’m looking forward to it. Thank you for talking to us.
Translation by provided by Corks on behalf of Nintendo Everything
If you use any of this translation, please be sure to source Nintendo Everything. Do not copy its full contents.