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PSP Fanboy interview: Wild ARMs XF's Akifumi Kaneko

XSEED's upcoming PSP exclusive Wild Arms game takes the series to a bold new direction. Like the great PSP games of last year, the popular RPG series is getting a taste of strategy. We got a chance to talk to producer (and scenario writer) Akifumi Kaneko about this upcoming SPRG.

Where does the influence for the unique western music come from?
From all the western movies I used to enjoy as a child. I think the idea of something being "cool" is a worldwide concept. I thought combining the musical style from western movies with the style from anime (Japanese cartoons) would create an original Wild ARMs soundtrack that would be considered very "cool" by many people. That is what we strive to achieve with each new game's soundtrack.

Was this game originally created as a strategy-RPG?
It was planned as a strategy RPG from the initial stages. The past few Wild ARMs games had become more action-based but we wanted to add more depth to the battle tactics while creating a new concept in the Wild ARMs series. Another reason was that we wanted a faster paced story element, especially since the story in Wild ARMs XF is constantly changing with many plot twists. If we kept it the same style as previous Wild ARMs games, the pace of the story gets put on hold every time the player gets lost or can't find the next dungeon. We branched off to the strategy RPG genre so that the story can be enjoyed at the speedy pace that it was meant for.

Gallery: Wild Arms XF

Is this a natural progression for the HEX system?
Not exactly, it may actually be closer to the opposite as the HEX system that was implemented in Wild ARMs 4 and Wild ARMs 5 was inspired by strategy games and modified to work as a turn-based RPG battle system. Our new battle system could be easily enjoyed, but the numbers of characters that could join the battle were limited. Since Wild ARMs XF is about the civil war raging in the kingdom of Elesius , we wanted to have as many characters as possible joining the battlefield together and that's why we went ahead with the retro strategy style gameplay to make that happen.

Was it a difficult choice to go back to 2D sprites like the original PlayStation titles? Was there ever a plan to make the characters 3D?
Wild ARMs XF was originally conceived as a 2D game. When we first began this project, there was talk about how the next-gen consoles like the PS3 and Xbox 360 were going to enable games to present great 3D graphics, but we wanted to go back to the origin of gaming and this is why we implemented 2D graphics for this title. I personally love the old school retro games and 2D graphics are what Japanese development teams are especially good at. The series is special to me and I am particularly fond of the story in Wild ARMs XF, so we made the decision early on to stick to 2D graphics.

We've met the main characters and villains -- will there be a larger cast, or will we focus on the mains?
Yes, there is a much larger cast as other mysterious characters (some human, some not) will become major key figures in the story. The story of Wild ARMs XF has so many plot twists that even identifying some of the characters that appear later will be a spoiler.

Will there be a class system in place, or a way to build characters however you see fit?
Yes, there is a class system in place but customization is the key in this game. For example, you can have a certain character set up as a fighter-type class, but customize the character so that he/she is able to use mage skills during battle. Character customization is also vital in defeating the unique battles that you come across and many battles will challenge you to be creative at choosing your skills. The greatest thing about it is that there is no one way to win a battle or complete the mission objectives.

All the games take place on Filgaia and many names get tossed around over and over. Do you foresee any plans to link the games together loosely?
Each Wild ARMs game is independent of one another so I currently do not have any intentions of linking the stories together, but this is just my personal view. The Wild ARMs series has grown so much over the years that there are many people involved in creating the series now. If everyone agrees on creating a backstory linking all the previous titles together and evolving it into one enormous universe, then that very well may happen. It would be great to see a new Wild ARMs series created by a new team of creators.

Sort of in the same vein ... will there be any easter eggs regarding previous Wild ARMs games in Crossfire?
As has become the norm for Wild ARMs games, there is a lot of additional content like hidden bosses and Ex Files. Longtime fans of the series will recognize a few enemies and area names, but no cameo appearances by characters from past games as Wild ARMs 5 had.

Can you give an estimation of the game's length?
Depends on the person and how well they can play it. If you play only the main story and are able to clear the battles without too many problems, I'd say around 50-60 hours or so. If you're a hardcore player and want to fight the optional battles and do everything there is to do in the game, then 100+ hours. Our average here is around 100 hrs.

When do you expect the title to release?
XSEED is planning for a March release so it's coming soon.

Thanks to Akifumi Kaneko, the XSEED staff and Jimmy Soga for getting this interview together. Stay tuned for more on Wild Arms in the future.

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