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Behind the scenes at JAPAN Studio: Allan Becker speaks to PlayStation Blog

Learn more about the idiosyncratic Tokyo studio and its forthcoming PS Vita projects

As you may have noticed, earlier today we unveiled a trio of new PS Vita titles coming out of our JAPAN Studio over in Tokyo: Oreshika: Tainted Bloodlines, Soul Sacrifice Delta and Freedom Wars. For those unfamiliar with the studio and its heritage, it’s one of Sony Worldwide Studios most interesting assets, responsible for a diverse library of hugely charismatic titles, including Puppeteer, rain, Tokyo Jungle, Gravity Rush and Shadow of the Colossus.

To find out a little more about its vision and creative mandate, as well as its three forthcoming PS Vita titles, we spoke with studio chief Allan Becker.
ALLAN
How has JAPAN Studio changed in the last two or three years?

Allan Becker: We have become better focused and better prepared to compete in a fast and ever changing industry. The Studio is more open to new technologies and ideas and willing to grasp those opportunities when they come along. But at the heart JAPAN Studio still retains its core ideal to make creative, novel and imaginative titles.

What sort of games do you want JAPAN Studio to be known for? 

Allan Becker: I would like for us to be known for titles that innovate and are of high quality, whether they are five-hour PSN titles or big AAA pillar titles. Obviously we are in a very competitive business so we have to make titles that do well commercially. Hopefully we will do that by staying true to those two core concepts and become known for them.

Prior to joining JAPAN Studio you were in charge at Sony Santa Monica. Have they been very different experiences? Is there any kind of shared ethos that you could pinpoint?

Allan Becker: Very different. To put it simply, cultural differences affect the way individuals perceive their world. Without the ability to tune into the culture, you simply cannot get very far. I’m still learning. The commonality between the studios is that we all want to find success, albeit in different ways.

Soul Sacrifice Delta on PS Vita Soul Sacrifice Delta on PS Vita

 
Soul Sacrifice Delta – is this an expansion, or a full blown sequel?

Allan Becker: It’s a very large scale expansion, but not a full blown sequel. There’s a lot for a Soul Sacrifice fan to sink their teeth into – no pun intended.

Soul Sacrifice Delta on PS Vita

What exactly can those fans expect from it, and when will we see it on shelves?

Allan Becker: Soul Sacrifice Delta brings many additions and enhancements to the original title – there are new monsters based on classic fairy tales with a dark twist, more sorcerers, maps, quest and spells.

But there isn’t just more of everything; we’ve made many improvements to the game mechanics with dynamic maps, adaptive and more complex AI for the monsters. The spell casting system has been overhauled too: you can now combine spells during battle to enhance them or create new ones, which adds a lot of variety and depth to the gameplay.

Soul Sacrifice Delta also introduces Grim, the third faction, and tells the story of their plot against the established order and the very nature of the world. Players can now choose to pledge allegiance to one of the factions, which have their own strengths, rewards and play styles, all of which reflect the faction’s belief.

And of course, game progression in Soul Sacrifice can be transferred over to Soul Sacrifice Delta, so veterans of the original title will be able to pick up the adventure where they left it.
We’re planning to release Soul Sacrifice only on PlayStation Store, from 14th May.

Freedom Wars on PS Vita

Freedom Wars – can you tell us a little more about this one? The concept sounds intriguing…

Allan Becker: The title brings chaos and order existing in a place where freedom is bought and worked for. It’s a role-playing game that chucks you into the middle of a dystopian underground world, where players have up to a million years sentence. The battles are fought as punishment and freedom is what you earn at the end of your fully redeemed sentence of a million years! The game is an action battle game and will include offline and online multiplayer play.

And Oreshika: Tainted Bloodlines. This is a series that Western gamers might not be too familiar with. Can you bring them up to speed?

Allan Becker: We released the original Oreshika on PS1 in 1999 and a remake for PSP in 2011 but despite their popularity over here neither made it outside of Japan. At the time we thought that the game was too ‘Japanese’ to appeal to a western audience. But if you play it you’ll see it’s a unique and fun JRPG that will appeal to a lot of gamers so this time round it just feels right to bring the experience to new fans outside of Japan.

Oreshika: Tainted Bloodlines on PS Vita

And for those who have played the original Ore no Shikabane wo Koete Yuke, how does the sequel build on the concept?

Allan Becker: Firstly, although the games are linked, players who have never played the original game will be able to enjoy Oreshika: Tainted Bloodlines as it starts a completely new story. But if you have played the original, you’ll find that all of the game’s systems have been greatly expanded. Plus, you should look out for some really cool things that we’ve been able to do using the Vita hardware that just weren’t possible with PS1/PSP.

All three titles have a really strong ‘Japanese’ identity to them. How accessible do you think Western gamers will find them?

Allan Becker: Part of our role is to support the Japanese and Asian markets. Obviously these markets are very handheld centric and that is why we are producing these titles firstly and foremost. So that is why they have a very strong “Japanese” identity, although I will say that these titles will be accessible. Will they appeal to a wide Western audience? That is hard to say, but they will definitely appeal to the eclectic hardcore gamer and ‘Japanophiles’ out there.

Freedom Wars on PS Vita

All three titles we’re announcing today are for PS Vita. Is this a coincidence or is JAPAN Studio putting a special emphasis on handheld development at present?

Allan Becker: As I mentioned, we are tasked with supporting our region and the PS Vita market in Japan/Asia is still growing. So we hope that these three titles will support continued growth of the PS Vita. Currently, the studio has many titles in development across several hardware platforms, so there is no specific emphasis on handheld development.

You’ve just released another PS Vita title, Destiny of Spirits. It’s a nice coup to have such a talented developer as Q Entertainment working on a title for JAPAN Studio. How did the collaboration come about?

Allan Becker: The game released just this past month and is our first free-to-play title. So we are both anxious and excited to see how it is viewed by gamers. If you haven’t downloaded it I suggest that you do and give it a try.

I’ve known Q-Entertainment since their inception and I always wanted to work with Mizuguchi-san on something new and Destiny of Spirits was the result. Simple as that.

More generally speaking, how do you choose which studios to collaborate with?

Allan Becker: The key has less to do with the studios but which creative individual we wish to collaborate with. They are the one that we will work with, sometimes on a daily basis. So it is important to choose someone who has the same mindset as we do.

28 Comments
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In RSS this post is named “Destiny of Spirits” and “full version” link leads to the store. Seems that happens because of added “Related product”.

CloudBelmont 14 April, 2014 @ 17:34
2

Really awesome interview, thanks for this.

A little bit disappointing we didn’t get an update on The Last Guardian, but a great insight nonetheless.

X_Blood_Curse_X 14 April, 2014 @ 17:43
4

Very disappointed that Soul Sacrifice Delta is digital only :(

dark_angel69 14 April, 2014 @ 18:44
4.1

Indeed. Not much point for me buying it now then. :( Don’t even have the space for download only. Hope this changes later on so I can get it

X_Blood_Curse_X 14 April, 2014 @ 19:00
4.2

@dark_angel69

I agree, would have gladly supported it at retail. I bought the original brand new too.

Guess we can kiss goodbye to that awesome artbook as well

Sharingan_itachi 14 April, 2014 @ 20:02
4.3

Why even localise it… I already have the Japanese version. Would have bought if it was physical….

5

Hi, satisfied Soul Sacrifice owner here (and very glad about this news)!
I’ve heard that in Japan there was an upgrade option for previous Soul Sacrifice owners, when purchasing Delta.
Will this option be available for EU and US?

6

Japanese development has really been lacking in the previous generation, I remember they were the best in the ps1 and ps2 days. Hope to see them compete better with western development more this gen. Need more awesome JRPG’s like Ni no kuni!

Sharingan_itachi 14 April, 2014 @ 18:48
7

Unbelievable. Digital only?

mojavehotwax 15 April, 2014 @ 07:22
7.1

i know right

A great interview, and it’s good to see Japanese developers really starting to get back to the level that they were in the PS2 generation, which was the greatest PlayStation era for diversity and quality of games.

Sadly, the quality and focus of Japanese companies fell off sharply during the PS3 generation, most not really knowing what to do with the extra power and wrongly believing that they needed to be more Western in order to pander to Western audiences. Sadly what this really meant was that they played eternal second fiddle to Western developers in a market they didn’t really understand. Not every gamer wants bro-fest shoot-em-ups and adrenalin fuelled action – they have their place, but the Japanese producers have always given us products for the thinking gamer, rich with lore, story and character.

With Yosuke Matsuda at Square Enix announcing their own refocus on JRPGs and how their PS3 ventures had been less than successful, Namco realising how profitable exporting Tales ...

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A great interview, and it’s good to see Japanese developers really starting to get back to the level that they were in the PS2 generation, which was the greatest PlayStation era for diversity and quality of games.

Sadly, the quality and focus of Japanese companies fell off sharply during the PS3 generation, most not really knowing what to do with the extra power and wrongly believing that they needed to be more Western in order to pander to Western audiences. Sadly what this really meant was that they played eternal second fiddle to Western developers in a market they didn’t really understand. Not every gamer wants bro-fest shoot-em-ups and adrenalin fuelled action – they have their place, but the Japanese producers have always given us products for the thinking gamer, rich with lore, story and character.

With Yosuke Matsuda at Square Enix announcing their own refocus on JRPGs and how their PS3 ventures had been less than successful, Namco realising how profitable exporting Tales games (and including dual audio) can be, and more and more niche titles getting localised, we’re finally getting back to the kind of form that produced titles such as Rogue Galaxy, Dark Chronicle and Dragon Quest 8. Would love another Rogue Galaxy or something like it btw, especially for Vita.

More power to you, and it will be Day One purchase on quite a number of the things announced recently. I could curse you for Destiny of Spirits though – that game should come with an addiction warning!

A whole interview and no questions about the new Team Gravity project? :O Seriously though, some great stuff coming out of Japan Studio lately, and I’m really happy to see Sony bringing over some of their titles that (like Becker says) previously wouldn’t have made it abroad. Cheers! :D

FourCartidge 14 April, 2014 @ 19:42
10

It’s always good news to get an update about Japan Studio. Handheld focus may be a coincidence, but I’m glad Vita is at least getting some support.

Fingers crossed for a Gravity Rush 2 localization!

11

I hope Freedom Wars will get a physical release. It better get a physical release!

12

I was soo happy with the announcement of Soul Sacrifice Delta in Europe until tonight I learn it was for PSN only… I feel so betray, it kill all my mood.
With the PSN only stuff I won’t buy it.
Maybe the Japanese Version if we can transfert the save, at least there will be the Japanese voices without having to buy a DLC.
Goodbuy The Art of Magic Artbook T-T

And of course it will be 40€ without even a translation, doesn’t it ?

13

Japan Studio are my fave of all the Sony first party studios. I game for the unique and innovative. I want fresh experiences, experiences that move me, speak to me on deeper levels and change the way i think about games (Team Ico).

Now they’re bringing a thrilling trio of big Japanese games to us and i couldn’t be happier.

The PSVita is the ultimate gaming machine at the minuet and i hope the PS4 mirrors it’s little brother in time.

Thank you for supporting us JP Game lovers and believing in the more artistic creation.

ophtalmo2014 14 April, 2014 @ 23:08
14

WHY WHY digital only………… i dont understand.

15

sad to hear its digital in hopes that its not too big. but c’mon guys, were still getting it and thats so great!

I pre-ordered Soul Sacrifice on PSN, now I hope it’ll be possible to upgrade on the cheap. The game was fun, but doesn’t justify double-dipping when it’s digital only.

if they are all Digital only releases count me out on all games sure as hell i’m not buying expensive AIR!!! seems sony themselves care less about VIta cause else they would get physical release and considering they japanese games most fans want a physical.
kinda a pointless announcement really if digital only.

guess PSvita will be dead pretty soon with a digital only line-up.

20

I always put japan studio 1 of my favourite Devs never forget you did forklore it such a pity i never finish it.

but that not why im a bit cheese off, time & time Devs make the same mistakes.

“At the time we thought that the game was too ‘Japanese’ to appeal to a western audience. But if you play it you’ll see it’s a unique and fun JRPG”

first is mistake is of course it be japanese it got the “JRPG” that western gamers wants.

second mistake why does devs thinks all western gamers wanted the games setting to western style storylines eg. more tanks like more 1st person shooters, storylines say about real life like tanks soidlers etc, hardly a fantasy RPG take fallout a 1st person shooter WRPG.

lastly i too have notice that some devs have seen the light & now ported over JRPG onto the western market the tales series the lastest 2 tales & FF10/10-2, oh about duo audio take dangaropa happy trigger havoc i bought that the over week that has duo audio so i do not know why rising star g...

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I always put japan studio 1 of my favourite Devs never forget you did forklore it such a pity i never finish it.

but that not why im a bit cheese off, time & time Devs make the same mistakes.

“At the time we thought that the game was too ‘Japanese’ to appeal to a western audience. But if you play it you’ll see it’s a unique and fun JRPG”

first is mistake is of course it be japanese it got the “JRPG” that western gamers wants.

second mistake why does devs thinks all western gamers wanted the games setting to western style storylines eg. more tanks like more 1st person shooters, storylines say about real life like tanks soidlers etc, hardly a fantasy RPG take fallout a 1st person shooter WRPG.

lastly i too have notice that some devs have seen the light & now ported over JRPG onto the western market the tales series the lastest 2 tales & FF10/10-2, oh about duo audio take dangaropa happy trigger havoc i bought that the over week that has duo audio so i do not know why rising star games cant do the same. but im seeing more duo audio into games like LR:FF13 a first in the flagship series.

Oh I skimmed past the part that said digital only.

Freedom Wars best get a physical copy or you’ve lost a sale from me. I would buy Soul Sacrifice too if it was physical, but alas not.

digital only….no thanks, no space on memory card…freedom wars best be physical!

dark_angel69 15 April, 2014 @ 17:58
23

With Fred away on holiday, I hope somebody is reading all this. A lot of unhappy people about Soul Sacrifice Delta being digital only including myself. No physical = no buy from me.

24

I nerver buy a game in DD! I hope Freedom Wars and Oreshika will get a physical release. Soul Sacrifice Delta is a important game for Vita…
Vita needs retail games

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