Lost Kingdoms II Q&A
We talk to the producer of the sequel to last year's GameCube role-playing game.
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When the original Lost Kingdoms was released for the GameCube last year it proved to be a surprise hit on the role-playing-game-deprived system. You took the role of Princess Katia and set out to confront an evil force overwhelming the kingdom. Although the Lost Kingdom's story was fairly standard for the genre, it proved to be an engaging experience. The game's unique gameplay blended traditional third-person action RPG mechanics with elements from collectible card games. For the game's sequel, Lost Kingdoms II, developer From Software has refined the gameplay quite a bit. The game was first shown off at last year's Tokyo Game Show and boasted a number of graphical and gameplay improvements. We had the chance to talk to the game's producer at From Software, Atsushi Taniguchi, about how the game is coming together.
GameSpot: Looking back, how satisfied were you with how the original Lost Kingdoms turned out? How much did that affect the development of Lost Kingdoms II?
Atsushi Taniguchi: With the original Lost Kingdoms, we set out with the goal of creating a fusion of card games and action games. Since there were no similar titles and this concept existed only in my head, the other members of the development team were always facing some kind of hardship. However, the greater the difficulty one faces, the stronger the feeling of achievement. So the completion of development, after numerous meetings and revisions, was a truly joyous occasion. However, there was a downside to all the positive response to this new game system that we had created. We were so eager to create something completely new that we lost sight of some of the finer details, and for this we were sharply criticized. But we worked to create this new genre of which we are very proud and could not let this be the last word, so we began planning Lost Kingdoms II. For Lost Kingdoms II, we began by addressing all the things that players of the original pointed out to us and then began adding new elements in order to give the player an even more enjoyable experience.
GS: How much has the gameplay changed from the original Lost Kingdoms?
AT: In order to enhance the player's sense of freedom and to provide a more expansive game experience, we eliminated limited battle areas for Lost Kingdoms II. This time, enemies are always wandering around the map, and you never know when they might attack. And since cards are always available, knowing when to use which cards is the true judge of the player's skill. Accordingly, we refined the camera to give the player a better perspective on their circumstances. We feel that these changes make the game more action-oriented and each battle more exciting.
GS: Why did you decide to make those changes?
AT: Ultimately, I envisioned creating a game that people would not forget. The reason that I decided to make these changes for Lost Kingdoms II was to accomplish this.
GS: How challenging was it to implement them? How much work had to be done to the game engine to accommodate them?
AT: We did not reuse much of the game engine from Lost Kingdoms as is. This was because of the sweeping revisions to gameplay and the extensive enhancements to the user interface that we made. All in all, it required about the same amount of work that we would normally put into creating a whole new title from scratch. Considering that we have much more game volume than the original and we added new members to the development team, it probably ended up requiring more work than the original Lost Kingdoms.
GS: Can you explain the new battle system to us?
AT: The basic concept of using cards for summoning creatures has not changed. However, we eliminated the limited battle areas so players have more freedom and the action is more exciting. Additionally, since Lost Kingdoms II has twice the number of cards as the original, players can create strategies that suit the way that they want to play the game. We have also added new "transform type" cards that allow the main character to transform into creatures that can fly through the air or destroy large boulders. And for players who are not good in battle, we have introduced the Z effect. Besides the powerful combo attacks that are available by having all the compatible cards, Z-effect combat will also be fun to watch.
GS: Will cards function the same way?
AT: We tried to avoid changing any creatures that we introduced in the original Lost Kingdoms. However, the new battle system has forced us to make minor adjustments to some creatures and completely modify others.
GS: What can you tell us about the graphics engine? Is it still using the engine from the first game, or is it new?
AT: We improved the graphics engine from the original Lost Kingdoms for use in Lost Kingdoms II.
GS: How much more performance are you getting from the GameCube hardware? Did you feel more comfortable working with it for the sequel? How are you taking better advantage of the hardware?
AT: Naturally, we were able to make use of the GameCube experience we gained making the original Lost Kingdoms so we were comfortable working with it. However, as much as we tried, it is not easy to push any hardware to its absolute performance limits. Even though we feel like we did a good job, we think that the GameCube has more latent abilities so we intend to keep this in mind as we continue to challenge ourselves to develop titles that pursue the limits of the hardware.
GS: What can you tell us about the multiplayer modes?
AT: Because we received many requests to allow use of many different characters in versus mode, we created a system where players can choose from the characters that they encounter in story mode for use in versus mode. These characters each move slightly different from each other, and some of the multiplayer stages have unique elements similar to the ones found in the story mode, such as nonplayer creatures and mini-puzzles to keep things exciting for players. Additionally, by turning capture mode on, players will be able to capture each other's monsters. This should provide some more intriguing tactics than players used in the original Lost Kingdoms.
GS: Why did you make those additions and changes?
AT: Normally in versus mode, the player with the stronger cards has the advantage and usually wins. However, by adding these kinds of tactical elements, we created a way for players who have weak decks to win by using superior technique.
GS: How important do you feel that a multiplayer component is to the game?
AT: If players enjoy only the single-player version of the game, they would cling to their own style of play. Versus mode, however, provides an excellent opportunity to see other people's play styles and strategies, allowing players to strengthen their own decks.
GS: How big of a game is Lost Kingdoms II in comparison to the original game? Is it roughly the same size or bigger?
AT: With more collectible items and a deeper storyline, Lost Kingdoms II provides much more playing time than the original.
GS: Thanks for your time.
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