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Get Ready for the Rebel -- the developers behind the Guilty Gear and BlazBlue fighting game franchises talk about their inspirations, the gaming industry, and who they would cosplay as.
Although the marriage of anime aesthetics and video games is commonplace in Japanese developed games, Arc System Works Guilty Gear fighting game franchise always stood out amongst the rest since its debut in 1998. Its blend of distinctly eye-catching 2D animation with its heavy metal music and complex game play mechanics made it an instant hit with anime gamers, despite it not being based on a particular anime or manga series.
The man behind Guilty Gear is game developer-artist-musician Daisuke Ishiwatari. His fingerprints are all over the franchise: he designed the characters, wrote the story scenarios, composed the soundtrack, and even voiced the game's protagonist, Sol Badguy. As a huge fan of Western rock and metal music, Ishiwatari famously crammed in numerous references from bands like Queen, Guns & Roses, and Metallica into the Guilty Gear games. Plot tends to be an afterthought in fighting games (Street Fighter IV's plot is as solid as wet tissue paper on a rainy day), but Ishiwatari painstakingly crafted a complex back story for the Guilty Gear universe. Although it never became a mainstream hit like Street Fighter II, Guilty Gear was successful enough to warrant a sequel (Guilty Gear XX), several revisions (most recently Guilty Gear XX: Accent Core Plus), and unusual spin-offs (Guilty Gear 2: Overture) across every major gaming platform. So it was a surprise when Arc System Works announced that the game they had been working for the current generation of gaming was not Guilty Gear XXX, but BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger, a brand new fighting game series unrelated to Guilty Gear.
Even more surprising was that Ishiwatari would take a backseat, as just the game's composer. Instead, Toshimichi Mori served as BlazBlue's primary character designer, scenario writer, and overall director. Although it drops all of the Western rock metal references and features a new cast of characters, BlazBlue is clearly Guilty Gear's spiritual successor. It features all the same successful elements: a uniquely designed roster of heroes and freaks, stellar 2D animation (now in glorious high definition), Ishiwatari's signature rock metal jams, a complex (and slightly overwrought) plot, and deep 2D fighting game mechanics. Just like Guilty Gear, BlazBlue doesn't shy away from over the top flourishes in presentation and game play design. First time players will quickly have to learn the terminology attached to the game's fighting system, such as Heat Gauges, Distortion Drives, Guard Libra, and Astral Heats. Heck, even the rounds are referred to as rebels. Although BlazBlue is definitely not a game for casual gamers due its steep learning curve, it has been warmly received by its intended demographic: fighting game aficionados, anime fans, and everyone else in between.
Giving the enormous popularity of the Guilty Gear franchise within the anime fan community, where Guilty Gear cosplay is a common fixture at conventions (with BlazBlue cosplay starting to grow in popularity), it was no surprise that Ishiwatari and Mori were on hand at Anime Expo 2009 to promote the recent release of BlazBlue on the home consoles and interact with Guilty Gear fans. -- William Hong
Interview with Daisuke Ishiwatari and Toshimichi Mori
July 1, 2009
Interviewed by William Hong and Bryan Hartzheim
Translated from Japanese into English
APA: Why did you create BlazBlue instead of continuing the Guilty Gear franchise?
Toshimichi Mori: I simply wanted to make something new.
APA: What were some of your favorite anime when you were growing up and how did they figure into Guilty Gear?
Daisuke Ishiwatari: It wasn't anime that inspired me, but manga. The manga that inspired me was Bastard.
Mori: I was inspired by Trigun. And it's not an anime, but Die Hard also inspired me because of what it did with a limited amount of space and time.
APA: What is the future of the Guilty Gear franchise?
Ishiwatari: I'm planning to release a powered-up version of Guilty Gear 2 on the Xbox 360
APA: Will you continue to create more spin-offs like Guilty Gear 2 Overture?
Ishiwatari: That's a secret.
APA: Will there ever be a Guilty Gear anime?
Ishiwatari: We've gotten proposals from several companies, but they kept on getting pushed aside because we've been busy creating games.
APA: Did you anticipate such a devoted following from the anime community for your art style in the game? Were you expecting anime fans to this enthusiastic about the series?
Ishiwatari: I created the series secretly hoping it would to appeal to anime fans, but I didn't intend for it to. I didn't expect it to be this big.
APA: What were your influences for the characters and settings in BlazBlue?
Mori: The world of BlazBlue is a product of my imagination. That main characters and settings were inspired by Trigun [laughs]. The series really appealed to me because it's just cool.
APA: You said in an interview, Ishiwatari-san, that though you were credited with making the whole Guilty Gear game, it was really a collaborative effort. Do you think there should be more credit for individuals in gaming, like in film or anime? Or do you think there should be more team recognition?
Ishiwatari: It would be nice if each individual was recognized in gaming, but in reality, because they are working together to create one game, they're not. It would be best if the team was recognized equally.
APA: Why do you think that there are fewer big names in the Japanese video game industry compared to film, TV, and anime?
Ishiwatari: Well, in an anime, the director and the character designer might both be famous, so they are seen as a team. That anime, for example, might become well known because of that collaboration.
APA: What music were you listening to when you worked on BlazBlue?
Ishiwatari: I wasn't listening to anything when I worked on the BlazBlue soundtrack. I am currently listening to music from Queen and the heavy metal band SOiL.
APA: What else are you working on right now? Would you consider doing a crossover fighting game with characters from both Guilty Gear and BlazBlue?
Ishiwatari: [Laughs] Once again, it's a secret.
Mori: [Laughs] That's a different secret, but they are both secrets.
APA: Which of your characters do you identify most with?
Ishiwatari: I identify most with the main character of Guilty Gear, Sol Badguy
Mori: Noel from BlazBlue because I designed her. I also like the character Hakumen, but I have the most memories doing the character design for Noel.
APA: Can you explain the creation of the cross dressing nun character Bridget in Guilty Gear XX?
Mori: [Laughs] Why indeed...
Ishiwatari: While I was creating the characters in Guilty Gear, I had a spot for a cute character. I thought it would be too boring if the character was just cute, so I thought it would be interesting to make the character a guy.
APA: If you were to cosplay as any of your characters, who would you be?
Ishiwatari: Axl from Guilty Gear.
Mori: It's really hard to choose, but I'd have to say Bang from BlazBlue.
APA: If you could create a brand new game, would kind of game would it be?
Mori: I would make a Devil May Cry style action game.
Date Posted: 7/17/2009