Square Enix will soon release The DioField Chronicle, a rather interesting take on the strategy JRPG genre.
One of the most intriguing features is the fact that the gameplay flows in real-time, but (as you can read in my hands-on preview or learn by playing the demo yourself) the pace and gameplay mechanics make it quite friendly to players who enjoy turn-based strategy JRPGs.
To learn more about the game, we talked with producer Shigeyuki Hirata and game director and art director Takahiro Kumagai.
Giuseppe: When I first saw the game, it wasn’t immediately clear to me that it was a real-time strategy game. I thought it’d be a spiritual successor to Final Fantasy Tactics, but then I realized that it was real-time so it was a bit different. How did you come up with this idea?
Shigeyuki Hirata: So the reason is really simple: it’s just the fact that in the past there have been many turn-based and grid-based SRPGs out there and we did expect more to come in the future, so it was really an effort to stand out and differentiate among the pack.
Also, one of the Inspirations for the game was the past Ogre Battle titles as well as other titles. We wanted to challenge our developers to create a completely new experience, where they are implementing real-time aspects but making it functionally work as an SRPG title.
Giuseppe: Speaking of inspiration, is there any Valkyria Chronicles fan in your team? I can see many points in common, especially in the story.
Shigeyuki Hirata: It seems that no one in the development team worked on Valkyria Chronicles and personally I haven’t played it. That being said, I’m not personally fully aware of what kind of game it is, and I don’t think it was a direct inspiration for our game.
Giuseppe: If you look at Square Enix’s fall lineup, it’s basically raining JRPGs. On top of your game, we have Star Ocean: The Divine Force, Valkyrie Elysium, Harvestella, Tactics Ogre: Reborn, and Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII Reunion. Are you not worried that they’re going to be kind of comparing against each other a little bit?
Shigeyuki Hirata: It’s not so much of a concern because if you think of the gaming industry as a whole, this livens it up overall, so I think it’s something that should be welcomed.
But with regards to all these kind-of competing titles, so to speak, we are entering an era where players are really able to select and choose what they truly like or I truly love, and what they are keen on playing.
So obviously, not limited to the next several months, or next year and the following year, there are going to be many many titles that are released in general.
I feel like we’re in a state where players are able to truly select and choose the titles that they most love. And so, I don’t think this it’s a bad thing for the game industry in general.
Among that, of course, we do need to create a title that would appeal to as many players as possible, and we’re confident that we’ve been able to provide something to our audiences that is unlike others.
Giuseppe: If you look at the character design of DioField Chronicles, which I absolutely love, by the way, it’s very painterly. Was it challenging to translate it into 3D Graphics? Often developers tend to use pixel art or 2D art to translate that kind of style on a console’s screen, but you went in different direction.
Takahiro Kumagai: Translating the character design into 3D wasn’t as difficult as you assume. Basically, when you’re looking at the game’s style, most of it is from a top-down view and it’s designed like a diorama, where characters become similar to pieces that you’re moving on the battlefield.
Speaking from a control aspect as well, it was relatively easy to incorporate this as full 3d. Specifically speaking about the painterly art style and Designs, these are expressed through the panels that artist Kamikokuryo-san drew to display the historical background and the setting of the game.
As for as the game not using a pixel art style, I think the impression that developers tend to resort to that is because Square Enix hasn’t developed many recent SRPGs and there haven’t been very many recent titles within that genre, but when you look at some other companies that develop games within that SRPG sphere, you’ll notice that they’ve gone 3D, or they’ve taken on a more anime-like style or other kinds of different artwork.
And so, with regards to some of the more recent titles, some have taken on like full 3d, and Final Fantasy XII comes to mind. But regardless, it may be that we haven’t released many new titles within the SRPG genre, which may lead to the impression that people may generally fall back to a pixel art style.
But again, translating the art style into 3D wasn’t such a difficult process.
Giuseppe: Kamikuryo-sensei is one of my favorite artists that ever worked at Square Enix. I absolutely love his art style and I was wondering if his participation was part of the initial pitch of the game, or was he perhaps selected afterward?
Takahiro Kumagai: The reason why we wanted to reach out to Kamikikuryo-san for the artwork goes back to the moment in which he partnered with a traditional temple in Kyoto where he drew traditional Japanese panel art.
It merges that Final Fantasy-like world with history, and so that really has served as the initial inspiration which led to us requesting Kamikokuryuo-san to draw the art.
Giuseppe: One of the characters that really impressed me is Waltaquin. If you look at her character design without having played the game, she may look like the typical ethereal noble princess, kind and compassionate, usually in a healer or support role. Then, playing the game, I’ve seen that she was nothing like her design made me imagine. She’s proud, confident, strong-minded, witty, often even arrogant, and she goes around throwing meteors, and I really love her. Is this kind of contrast between her appearance and her behavior something you intended to achieve? How did you come up with her?
Shigeyuki Hirata: That contrast was definitely intentional from the get-go. We did want to design her so that there’s this gap between her looks and her personality.
In fact, there is a famous historical Japanese figure that served as a model for her character. But again, it was quite intentional to make her personality different from the way people may perceive her on the outside.
As you continue to play through the game, this contrast will become even more apparent. There may be certain individuals who may take comfort in that or there may be certain individuals who may potentially, dislike that. But again, we wanted to ensure that this character would leave a lasting impression.
Giuseppe: Any chance you could tell me who that historical character that inspired Waltaquin is?
Shigeyuki Hirata: Yeah. He may actually sound a bit obscure as a historical figure. In Japan’s Bakumatsu Period (the final years of the Tokugawa Shogunate between 1853 and 1867), there was a group called Shinsengumi and among them, there was a man named Kamo Serizawa.
And yes, he’s a male, but he served as the initial take-off point for developing Waltaquin in terms of her strength and her assertive attitude. Of course, as we developed the character further, there were other inspirations that molded that character from there.
The DioField Chronicle releases on Sept. 22, 2022, for PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PC, and Nintendo Switch.