Celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, Arc System Works has been a mainstay of the fighting game community since the release of the original Guilty Gear. After its recent success with Dragon Ball FighterZ, the developers are looking to their immediate future with BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle, with grander plans to expand their audience. In BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle, launching June 5 in North America, characters from Persona 4 Arena, RWBY, Under Night: In-Birth–and of course BlazBlue–will face off in fast-paced tag battles. Launching with 20 characters, along with another 20 set for post-launch DLC, Cross Tag Battle, pulls from a number of games from Arc’s past while also bringing in some first-timers to the fray.
Using a more accessible gameplay setup designed around a traditional controller, Cross Tag Battle incorporates many of the characters from their respective games into a fighting game that’s easy to pick up, but challenging to master. We had the opportunity to chat with president and founder of Arc System Works Minoru Kidooka, BlazBlue creator Toshimichi Mori, and Guilty Gear director Daisuke Ishiwatari, they spoke about their plans to expand in the future, and how they want to dominate the Evo fighting game tournament in the years to come.
Arc System Works has been around for sometime, celebrating 30 years in 2018. Can you talk about how it was like seeing the developer grow over the years, and how things are looking at the moment?
Minoru Kidooka: Being the 30th anniversary for us, it’s all really thanks to our fans. The fans recognize us for our fighting games, but there are a lot of other games we’ve made in the past as well. But their passion for our games have kept us going for many years. This game is one of the pinnacles of our 30 years, but we’ve also opened a new North American office, along with the success of Dragon Ball FighterZ. We didn’t expect to do this all at once, but we want to move forward in big ways. We’re always thinking about how we’re going to survive for the next ten to 30 years–so in a way, this anniversary for us a new start for us to continue growing.
Toshimichi Mori: Thank you for recognizing the 30th anniversary, and we’d also like to add that it’s the tenth anniversary for BlazBlue, and the twentieth anniversary for Guilty Gear. So it’s really a great time for these characters in the game. But at the same time, this game isn’t necessarily the end-product of our years making fighting games, more of like the first step of something more.
Can you talk about how you went about incorporating all these characters into Cross Tag Battle? Especially considering that they all come from different titles with their own unique combat mechanics.
Mori: There was originally a controller set-up called the Stylish Mode for earlier Arc System works games; that was the basis for the Persona games. The Stylish Mode is the basis for the combat mechanics in BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle as well. But for this, we feature characters from other games and we had to completely redo the controls. It took time to design how to bring in RWBY [characters], the first time these in a game, but we were able to get it to work after some time. Under Night characters were a bit of a challenge, as their mechanics were set and had to be redesigned to fit our game.
That’s not to say that the game is easy, far from it. While you can do a number of moves pretty quickly, the number of ways to execute them in combos and tag mechanics is quite complex. It should be quite fun to see how players take advantage of the mechanics.
In addition to the anniversary, Arc System Works will have three unique titles present during the Evo 2018 fighting game tournament, which is a rare honor as most developers have just one game. Do you have comments about that?
Kidooka: Yes, we’ve got three titles at EVO, and that’s exciting. Guilty Gear Xrd, BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle, and Dragon Ball FighterZ–which we developed with Bandai Namco. That’s all exciting, but we want to dominate EVO entirely. Maybe in 10 years. [Laughs] Last year, we had a booth at EVO for everyone to come visit, and it was a big success for us.
Daisuke Ishiwatari: As you know, Arc System Works’ titles over the years have been mostly fighting games, and with big titles like Street Fighter and Tekken on the market, we’ve been mostly focused on offering more niche titles that offer a bit more originality. While we have a dedicated following, they’re still niche games. So moving forward, we want to bring in more fans to understand the Arc System Style.
Kidooka: This year, we’ll be trying to figure out how to make our games more user-friendly and how we can become closer to the fans. It’s really an honor to have three games at EVO. But oftentimes, we find that it’s mostly Japanese players making it to the finals. With the new American office, we want to expand our user base. We want to someday see Western players make it to the finals with our games. That will show that we’ve made the games more approachable. We want a more global user base, and we’ll be working hard to make that happen.
Looking back, are there any games that stand out over the years as your favorites? Whether you simply liked working on them or because they represent something greater for you.
Kidooka: I have two answers, because I’m currently president, but I also started out as a programmer. The foundation of this company is Guilty Gear, and that came out for the PlayStation. That took three years to make, and there was a big discussion to figure out whether or not to make it 2D or 3D. We settled on 2D and there were comments from other developers asking why we were making it 2D instead of 3D. 20 years later, and the franchise is still alive and well with many fans all over the world. As president, releasing the original Guilty Gear was very important for me.
But as a programmer, there were a lot of nightmares I don’t want to revisit. But I will say that the first project for Arc System Works was the Master System port for Double Dragon, and now today, we own the IP. In the future, Double Dragon is definitely an IP we’d love to use.