Yuichi Tanzawa of Entersphere is the main man behind Army Corps of Hell, the forthcoming PS Vita game published by Square Enix.
Full of blood, guts, demons, and goblins, this highly customisable action-RPG title is looking mightily promising as Entersphere gets it ready for the Vita launch.
We were fortunate enough to speak with the game's director Tanzawa about how his team has successfully balanced violence and humour, how the multiplayer and DLC will work, and how the game's black metal soundtrack was chosen.
Pocket Gamer: When people think of the signature motifs of a Square Enix published title, key phrases like 'role-playing game' and 'spiky hair' instantly spring to mind. The word 'comedy', however, does not. Yet from everything we've seen so far, Army Corps of Hell looks to be playing for laughs. Why is that?
Yuichi Tanzawa: We didn't intend to turn the whole game into a comedic experience, but have spread humour around various parts of the game in order to counterbalance the uniquely cruel and bloody feel of this game world set in hell.
In Japan, when we eat watermelon, we put salt on it to bring out the sweetness in the flavour: I see the insertion of comedy into this title as fulfilling a similar function. As a result, I am very happy with the unique atmosphere and the world that we have created - one that is somewhat rare among Square Enix titles.
How does the humour affect the gameplay?
Army Corps of Hell is an action game where you order large groups of goblins into battle. Once you are fighting, the goblins will quickly be knocked out and killed. If these goblins were too sweet and loveble, then it could cause you stress every time you had to throw them at the enemy.
On the other hand, if they are too nasty and hateful, then you would not want to revive the ones who have been taken out. In this way, we have adjusted the balance between humour and seriousness so as not to interfere with the exhilaration and feel of playing the game.
The bands providing the soundtrack are relatively unknown to audiences outside Japan. Why did you pick them rather than more mainstream acts?
When we were selecting bands to provide the music for Army Corps of Hell, we were not concerned with their comparative fame. We only looked at whether their music would make the game more enjoyable.
We gathered up more than 200 tracks from Japanese heavy metal bands and applied them directly to the games stages to choose the ones that were the best fit. I believe that this will be really noticeable when you play the game.
If players become interested in Japanese heavy metal through the game, then I would thoroughly recommend checking out some of the band's other songs.
Recent videos have pushed the customisation elements of the game quite hard, so just how many different items and character combinations are you squeezing into the title?
We are still making DLC, so the final number of customisation upgrades is secret. You will be able to create weapons and armour to kit out your force for each level based on the foes and traps you will be facing there.
For example, the remains of a dragon can be used to make weapons that cause massive damage, armour that is resistant to fire, and a war horn that can call back dissatisfied goblins that have sneaked off.
You've announced four-player multiplayer for Army Corps of Hell: can you give us a few more details?
In the multiplayer mode, you will be able to team up with your friends via ad-hoc connections and tackle stages that are a bit more difficult than those you find in the single-player game.
The feature that sets Army Corps of Hell's co-op modes apart from what most people think of them is that players can steal goblins from one another when they have been knocked unconscious. This mechanic really makes the multiplayer game a lot of fun.
Of course, you are not limited to stealing from one another - you can also share some of your goblins with an ally if he has not got enough of his own left to carry on. It is also easier to get a good ranking for clearing the stages when you play cooperatively, and, thus, it's more likely you'll get rare materials to make items from.
Why did you choose the PS Vita as the platform you wanted to develop Army Corps of Hell on?
We all wanted to challenge ourselves by making a completely new game on completely new hardware, and the release timing and technical specifications for PS Vita were exactly what we were looking for.
I think that a casual and satisfying action game such as Army Corps of Hell is a very good fit for a portable console, but I do also feel like maybe one day letting the King of Hell run riot on a big screen - if I get the chance to!
Many thanks to Yuichi Tanzawa for speaking with us. Army Corps of Hell will be available on February 22nd, 2012. Check out our hands-on with the game here.