This interview was originally published in Genso Shinsho Volume 5, Summer 2001 edition, published on July 26, 2001. My Japanese is not great and I pretty much speed translated this so there will be errors and parts that probably don’t seem to make much sense. But, hey, if you want a professional translation, pay me professional translator money.
September sees the release of Gensosuikoden Card Storiesi. The editorial department has attempted to reach out to Konami TYO for more information. To answer these Gensoii questions, your intrepid interviewer, Juan, had the noted Murayama-san and Ota-saniii answer our questions. With the inside story on the development history, there was a lot to talk about.
Continue to Explore the World of Gensosuikoden Through Card Games
Please tell us the backstory of using a card game system for the Gensosuikoden series.
Ota: Before we began work on Gensosuikogaiden, we discussed what kind of game it would be. As a result of this, Gensosuikogaiden is now an adventure game but different genres were mentioned. Among those mentioned was that of a card game. A Gensosuikoden card collection had already been releasediv and because there are a lot of characters in Gensosuikoden, it was thought that it would make an interesting card game.
Murayama: Also, we had previously decided on using the Game Boy Advance (GBA)…. On such a system it would impossible to create an adventure game with the depth required, including a unique story to engage the player withv. Taking this into consideration, the proposed card game system came up. Thought soon turned to how to write each card to reflect the personality of the character and so we decided to move ahead with the card game.
Ota: Really, I had previously mentioned wanting to work on a card game.
Murayama: Ota liked to play Magic: The Gathering and so he liked card games more than usual (laughs). As a whole I was not a big fan of the card game genre. Usually when you think of the rules, it ends up being a battle game without any story, such as in Magic: The Gathering. After thinking about it, the idea came up that it would be fun if you could reproduce the story of Gensosuikoden II with the card game.
What was the reason for deciding on the GBA platform?
Ota: The user base for the PS Gensosuikoden series is not very young. So it was done with the idea of spreading the Gensosuikoden world to a wider audience. The hope is that we can create more younger fans of the series by expanding it like thisvi.
Were there any other genres you would like to have done but could not?
Ota: I would have liked to have done a fighting game, but that idea were turned down as soon as I brought it up…. (everybody laughs).
Murayama: Fighting or shooting.
Ota: Each time we were asked to work on a new title, I would also happen to mention those only for it to be dismissed on the spot….
The Events of Gensosuikoden II in Card Form
So, please tell us about the game system.
Murayama: As with Magic: The Gathering, the idea is to collect the cards as you would in a trading card game and then to build a deck using those cards. You will play character cards, of the 108 Stars and other characters, on mission cards in your deck, such as the battle in Muse City. The basic flow is that you would play a character card that meets your criteria on the mission card. You continue until that criteria is met and you then score the card. You can also obstruct your opponent’s mission by playing character cards in the same manner. For example, in the Muse City battle, militarily stronger characters would be preferable as they are having to fight as an army. On the other hand, when it comes to a mission such as rescuing Teresa from Greenhill, you could favour characters with higher personal attack power, so there’s a need to tailor your deck for the missions that will arise.
To put it simply, you need to clear missions while preventing your opponent from doing so. There can also be different rewards depending on if you are designed as the opponent on a mission or not.
Ota: As such missions tend to give a higher score, it is important for players to win their missions early in the game.
It’s also fun to obstruct your opponent.
Ota: Basically, a player may think it’s easy to clear their own missions and could tailor their deck with characters to do so. But if the other player can preempt that situation, it will cause that state of affairs to deteriorate.
Unite attacks are seen in the Gensosuikoden series. Will that system be reflected in the card game product?
Murayama: That impression is present, usually by having two characters with a bond affecting each other ability values, but it is not a separate, special system.
Ota: There is a form of unite attack character, which lets you play the relevant character on the card and give a bonus to your attacks. You could build a deck around these battle advantages. Because this character and this character have a good relationship they can give such effects, but it is not a true unite attackvii.
A Number of Rare Cards!!
Are the basic systems, as a trading card game and a GBA game, the same?
Murayama: In the GBA version, there are scenes and backdrops to the battles relevant to the plot but they are essentially the same. In the trading card game, a game is won when you have 5 victory points whereas in the GBA version, the number of points needed may change. Generally, one mission is worth 1 or 2 victory points. It becomes a complete victory once you have 5 points.
Is the game played by up to two players?
Ota: That’s right. In both the GBA version and the trading card game, the maximum number of players is two. Of course, the GBA version can also be played alone. Multiplayer in the GBA version can be done using a link cable.
Murayama: In its current state, the game only has rules for two players. But as the physical game can be expanded, there may be rules added to allow for three or four playersviii.
Ota: At this stage, rather, we may try to increase the scope.
How many cards will there be in total?
Ota: It will have nearly 200 character cardsix.
Murayama: It has grown into a tremendous number. (laughs)
Will some cards contain characters from Gensosuikogaiden or will they in the future?
Ota: Mmm, I guess someone such as Nashx. Well, there are hidden characters. (laughs)
Are there any rare cards?
Ota: Needless to say, there are. In the case of the trading cards, there can be different types of even the same card. It is what’s generally called “Kira Cards”xi. There will be several types of these cards.
Mastermind cardsxii, what role do they play?
Murayama: As there are so many character cards for both the Alliance troops and the Highland Kingdom, we added the mastermind card to lend a certain impression. The mastermind is what adds personality to the deck. Since a deck can have any combination of enemies and allies, this card makes it so that only character cards which share a camp can be played. Therefore, players create a deck by choosing a mastermind and decide their deck based on the restrictions of the mastermind. Individual decks do not need a mastermind, but, for example, if you use a mastermind such as Luca Blight it is easier to put a lot of Highland Kingdom characters in your deck.
How many types of mastermind cards are there? At the present stage it seems you have the hero of Gensosuikoden II, Jowy and Luca……
Murayama: Yes, uh, Adlai will also be added as a mastermind. (laughs) The hero of Gensosuikoden I will also be added.
Ota: There’s also Gorudo.
Murayama: That’s right. Even among the 108 Stars there are divisions, between the old Alliance and the New State Army. I feel that there’s those from Muse City and allies from when Anabelle was alive and those who entered the New State Army after the hero of Gensosuikoden II became the leader. As the hero, he has much looser restrictions in his deck. As his power is limited, it feels like you are going to battle with the power of your colleagues. Conversely, as Luca Blight is a powerful force, the Highland Kingdom has a smaller number of character cards but are powerful. In that way, the feel of the deck changes completely based on your mastermind. This was created by attempting to emulate the armies as they are shown in the story.
What about matching free characters to your mastermind?
Ota: Not all characters are free but some of the 108 Stars can be aligned with the Royal Army. If the flow of history is changed, such characters could possibly end up fighting in the Royal Army. We can’t talk about character special abilities at this point but expect the abilities to match the characters.
Character cards have the alphabet drawn on them. Does this have any meaning?
Murayama: The alphabet shows the relationship between people. When you first play a mission, you must always play a character card and in order to clear the mission you will need to play more character cards. We developed the game so that a character must share a letter, the link, with another other character to play them. Because of this rule, surly but powerful characters will be more difficult to play and makes it easier to connect easier but lower value characters, bringing alive the personality of the cardsxiii for the and increasing the strategy involved.
Do the links represent the relationships formed in Gensosuikoden II?
Ota: That’s right. For each character, we decided based on, among other things, their personal connection to the old Alliance. If you look closely, I think you can see through the links. Of course, there are also characters with surprising link relationships.
In a card game it is fun to make your own deck and fight with it. Even a single character card, for example, can be played in unexpected circumstances…… During creation, did you have any such instances?
Murayama: I tried to think of a variety of rules, and there was a time I had created something called a “situation card”. And when I was play testing…… For example, having Luca Blight succeed in rescuing Teresa from Greenhill City. (laughs) In that sense, funny situations that would never happen in the original could happen in various ways.
Ota: A player sticking to the spirit of the original may play characters originally loyal to one another. However, a player who plays purely as a card game player might put together a deck of ridiculous characters.
Murayama: Thanks to this, amazing situations can happen.
Ota: The opposite can also be amusing.
Murayama: During the Battle of Muse City, a supposedly large clash, only Sheena and Rowd ended up fighting. That was unusual. (laughs) When you are making the rules of a game, I wanted such images to come to mind. Just having the character cards fightingxiv, that is boring.
Ota: Speaking of which, there is also Taki.
Murayama: There is a mission to protect the mercenary fort, which powerful Highland soldiers on one side. And on the other side, there is also Taki. It’s kind of like, “Oh nooooo, she’ll die!”. (laughs)xv Such images come to mind from the pictures on the card. Not needing to be so uptight allows me to relax and enjoy the game.
Tactics Widened with Facility Construction
During the game, you will be able to build facilities. Do you have any details?
Ota: Facilities can look a little tricky. In addition to gaining points from clearing missions, you can also gain them by completing facilities.
Murayama: Plus, facility cards can have enormous positive effects. For example, you might be able to increase the number of cards you can hold in your hand.
Ota: From our test plays, we became accustomed to the use of facilities fairly quickly. The rules in Gensosuikoden Card Stories are relatively simple but are easy to get comfortable with and allow for a variety of tactics. One such element is the facility. Although useful, they can be difficult to build in the beginning. Waiting too long also may mean you cannot play them at all. So it is good to build facilities before you are frozen out. (laughs)
Murayama: Workers such as Adlai, for instance, excel at building facilities. By creating facilities as a tactic, you can create a favourable position for yourself on the battlefield in earnestxvi.
The Title is “Viki Rampage”?
Do you feel that any aspect of the player’s personality, in the heat of battle, is reflected in the card game through play style?
Murayama: Sure. There can be very individual-specific play styles.
Ota: Some players will play only for victory, while others may want to avoid using characters unrelated to their story.
Murayama: As an example, you could have a player who relies heavily on counter-attacking or one who only plays physically strong characters. In that way, the player creates the atmosphere of the game. I think personality will be shown based on the cards players choose to play.
Who is the strongest among the staff?
Ota: As Saitoxvii did much of the card game design, he is the strongest. I made a deck of characters to my taste, but it is not very strong. Because I only use characters I like. (laughs)
Was the title “Gensosuikoden Card Stories” chosen immediately or were others considered?
Ota: Well, there was “Viki Rampage”. (laughs) When we were first deciding the title, the Viki card was profusely strong. When she was played, it was like a “don’t come near me!” feeling. She would wipe the opponent’s party out. (laughs)
Murayama: It was insanely powerful before balance adjustment.
Ota: Not all character cards have to played in the same way or place, some cards can be played from the hand, and as such Viki’s ability had become difficult to negate.
Murayama: Of course by now, that has been fixed……
Gensosuikoden is Several Historical Tales
Does the story of the GBA version follow Murayama’s writing?
Murayama: The story is based on that of Gensosuikoden II, so I worked on the draft and as the lead supervisor on the project. But since the game system itself is different, that necessitate some rewriting and changing portions as needed with the help of Ota.
Ota: It’s also a matter of the target audience. We do not believe elementary school students have been able to play Gensosuikoden so we created an easier to understand story. It is similar to how the Yu-Gi-Oh!xviii was adapted and renewed, this also creates new content for those who have played Gensosuikoden II. “Oh, they’re changing the story of Gensosuikoden II like this.” When this idea was tested, people said they found it “interesting”.
In previously released screenshots, there was a scene of Jowy and Seed talking. Is the story of Jowy on the Highland side being expanded?
Ota: After Jowy went to the Highland Kingdom, he became acquainted with Seedxix.
Murayama: A large portion of the story of Card Stories is identical to that of Gensosuikoden II.
Ota: But also slightly different from the beginning. A large portion is the same, but because of the nature of the card game, some portions are cut and new portions have been added.
Murayama: In another way, while the events of Gensosuikoden II may be historical fact, you are seeing one version as a number of historical novels exist for itxx.
Ota: Depending on what you do or say, characters in Gensosuikoden II could die in the middle of the game, or not…… But using your deck, there’s no way to change the broad outline or contents of the story. According to the story of the original, a card may be inserted into your hand. There might be that type of situation. In additions, cards can be purchased manually from something like a shopxxi.
Enjoy the Game as a Parallel World
So, what was the reason behind using such a wide variety of illustrators?
Murayama: We always did character illustrations in-house, but now we’re looking outside. As the world of Gensosuikoden expanded, there’s also the aim of helping you see outside. I think part of it is enjoying the differences in styles. Before there was the idea of keeping things internal, but in order to share the world of Gensosuikoden quickly, we need a lot of help. From the outside, not just me…… There are other properties, such as novels, as we add more and more from outside, we want to spread the word. So, as for myself, I had no resistance towards asking outside artists to work on the illustrations.
Ota: Ishikawaxxii gladly helped with illustrations, she was able to say “Oh, this is the method to pursue.” But for the decision to choose illustrators, my opinion was strong.
Murayama: But I would say they were selected in accordance to my preferences. (laughs) When you get your first job, you want to draw your favourites and it can be wearing to work on only the characters you like. The adjustment was difficult. “We have decided on another artist for this character” and they respond “Well, I want to draw all of them~”. At the same time, there are a lot of cute character cards, such as the relationship between the flying squirrels…… You can see the delight in all of the illustrations they create. “Cute”. There are also cute girl characters.
Play With People Who Haven’t Played Before
So, do you have a message for fans of the series?xxiii
Ota: Although abrupt, I am happy to have completed my work on the card game and can now experience the fun of the card game as a player. In particular, the GBA version will explain the rules to you so it easy to play and is not just for [card game] enthusiasts.
Murayama: Speaking on the main thread of Gensosuikoden as an RPG, the scale of it can be large and serious but there are also other aspects to the Gensosuikoden series we can present, in order to give it more depth. The work involved in this “Card Stories” is a little different in nature and so has resulted in a fun game that I am happy people will be freely able to enjoy.
Gradually, the truth of Gensosuikoden Card Stories has been revealed to us. It’s a release I look forward to. Following the interview, I quickly broached the subject of Gensosuikoden as an online game. “I can’t say anything about it right now, so for the time being it’s a secret (laughs)” Murayama saidxxiv. This also increases my expectations.