Starting with a hit manga series and since spinning off light novels, a wildly popular anime, several films (both animated and live-action), and a 3DS game, Hajime Isayama's Attack on Titan has enjoyed a level of success that easily matches the colossal stature of its unsettling antagonists. Now Koei Tecmo is bringing the series to consoles with an Omega Force-developed action game, Attack on Titan: Wings of Freedom, making its way to PlayStation 4 and Vita this week in both Europe and North America.
Earlier this summer, we were lucky enough to sit down with Producer Hisashi Koinuma at E3, to talk Titans, trial and error, and what it takes to turn a great anime into a great game.
Push Square: First of all, could you introduce this Attack on Titan game for our readers?
Hisashi Koinuma: The core gist is that this game brings you a very interactive experience of the first season of the anime, but at the same time, it provides a little something extra. It will take you through not only the first season but also what might be happening elsewhere; the story takes place inside the wall [within Attack on Titan's walled city], but also explores what was happening outside the wall at the same time - that, you can only find in the game. Also, there's even a bit more story following where the first season of the anime leaves off, and some of it is our own creation - blessed by the official people, of course! - so in terms of content, it should be quite satisfying and refreshing for fans.
In terms of the gameplay, most of the time you'll be playing as a human against the Titans, but at the same time, since Eren has the ability to turn into a Titan himself, you'll also be able to enjoy Titan vs. Titan combat from time to time. And of course, since it's a game, you'll be able to level up your characters as you progress and upgrade your weapons, so there will be a certain level of depth, as any game should have.
There will also be a multiplayer co-op mode, so up to four people can play online cooperatively, and a lot of collection elements, like completing an encyclopedia and collecting Titan models - there are quite a few of them! So even aside from the story, there's a lot of things for players to do!
Playing the demo earlier today, one thing that really stood out was the sense of movement - it's so different from normal action games, but felt very fluid, and really seemed to capture how the characters zip around in the anime and manga. How did you go about translating the ODM (Omni-Directional Mobility gear) into a game in a way that's fun to play, but also stays true to the source?
We had a lot of similar feedback from players in Japan after the Japanese release, and we're very pleased to hear that! Especially because it seemed like such a hopeless fight in the beginning — it was just 'design and scrap, design and scrap' over and over again. The team was in despair, and didn't know how to get it right. It really was through numerous attempts by trial and error that it finally ended up how it did! But we did have an initial vision of how we wanted it to be: there's a section in the opening of the anime, a fast flying sequence where you see the characters move, and that was our starting point for how we wanted to make it happen in a 3D game environment. We worked tirelessly towards that goal, and we're really proud of the fact that it became what we wanted it to be!
Combat also felt very different from typical action games to us - letting go of the controls to swing in for an attack when locked-on especially felt great, and like a natural extension of how the characters move in the anime and manga. What was the thought process behind the control scheme?
Our ultimate goal was to provide a very exhilarating, fun feeling; the controls have to feel good. At first, we tried to do it in a realistic way, with very complicated controls — but it wasn't any fun. It was too hard for human beings to operate! So we had to simplify it somehow, and from this repeated process of just assigning different buttons to different actions, and lots of trial and error, it came out like this. Like making a manual car into an automatic — it was that sort of process. Eventually at one point we decided "this is the right balance", and that's how we ended up with the controls.
It also definitely felt like an Omega Force game - are there any elements from other Omega Force titles at play here?
That's a good question! All I can think of is that there are always some simulation elements in Omega Force games. If you take Musou [known as the Warriors games in the west], for instance, a lot of things are happening concurrently everywhere on the battlefield - with this game, you'll have allied team members fighting alongside you, and comrades fighting and dying elsewhere on the map, so maybe those features give off that impression.
Attack on Titan is such a stylish anime, but in a unique way, with a focus on European architecture and more muted colours compared to other popular series. How did you approach translating that art design in this game?
It was very clear in my mind that there had to be some differentiation between the anime, and the manga, and the game. The game had to have its own different touch, and I was conscious of that fact while directing the game. Of course, as you pointed out, the setting is obviously in a European style, so we paid a lot of attention to that aspect as well. In fact, the European influence is part of the reason we chose to announce the game at Gamescom in Germany last August!
What was the 'different touch' that you ended up using?
Actually, our team developed a unique shader just for this game! Basically, they made it so that the texture and contrast would be consistent with the series and provide the European-style atmosphere we were looking for.
You mentioned that Attack on Titan tells a story, but it's also clearly an action game at heart. How do you go about telling a story in an action game? Especially with Attack on Titan, where so much narrative happens during the fighting - that doesn't seem to lend itself to cutscene storytelling!
You're certainly right about this game being both story and action, and as you suspected it's not just cutscenes - a lot of the story progression happens in the conversations between characters during the missions. We also have parts between missions where you're at the basecamp, where you'll be filled in on certain information to complement the story. Moreover, at the camp you can take on free missions, and extra content that delves a little deeper into the world of Attack on Titan. All in all, we were just very conscious of the fact that it's such a rich story, and that we wanted to recruit people into this series who were never exposed to the IP before - we wanted them to become Attack on Titan fans. I think we did a good job with that!
Were any changes made for the European and North American versions of the game since its release in Japan?
With the Japanese version, what actually happened was even after the release, we had numerous major updates - not only adding in the collection elements to enrich the game, but also just enhancing it in general with little things. The multiplayer co-op which was added also didn't exist in the Japanese version initially. But since the Western release is months after the Japanese launch, the European and North American versions will be released as the complete edition with all those additions already in.
Is there anything else you'd like to do with the Attack on Titan universe in future?
Yes - it was a fun experience and a very rewarding endeavour for us to take on this game. This game in itself is a finished project, but if given the chance I'd definitely be very positive towards making another Attack on Titan game if it came up.
You mentioned that one of your goals with this game was to attract people who had never experienced Attack on Titan to the series - as a final question, what do you personally love about Attack on Titan, and want other people to experience and enjoy in the game?
Well, of course it has a very dramatic story, and illustrious characters, and all sorts of good points - but as a game developer, what attracted me to this IP was that I thought it would make a great game! And one thing that you can't separate from Attack on Titan is the ODM - as a game developer you're constantly thinking "this would be so, so cool if I could make this happen in a game!", and that was definitely the drive behind getting into this world and developing the game.
Will you be taking the fight to the Titans this week? Gather your allies and bring down some colossal foes in the comments section below.
[ We'd like to thank Koinuma-san sincerely for his time, and Minglu Li (Koei Tecmo) for translating. Attack on Titan: Wings of Freedom will be released on the 26th August in Europe and the 30th August in North America ]