Eternal Sonata (aka Trusty Bell: Chopin's Dream) Interview (Xbox360)

Mike Bowden: After playing the Eternal Sonata demo, I was initially in awe of what the team has done with the environments: the lighting, the detail, the fireflyís in the forest etc. When a game like Trusty Bell/Eternal Sonata is very story focused, how important is it for you to get the setting right? Many people might argue that in a (J)RPG if the plot and dialogue have depth and are well-written, everything else is just details. Do you agree?

Hiroya Hatsushiba: Graphics are a very important factor for RPGs as a player sees screenshots first. Therefore, it is very important to get the setting right and maximise the attractiveness of your graphics. A game which is not expressive within its visual detail will be judged negatively. However, in general, the important factors will depend on each RPGís specific concept.

Mike Bowden: Music is such a central theme in the game and on paper it sounds like a very ambitious way to tell a story, although a very welcome one. With your history as Sound Director on many games in the past, has this been a game youíve always wanted to make or is it a relatively new idea?

Hiroya Hatsushiba: I tend to work on sound related parts in the game and also our companyís name, Tri-Crescendo is musical term. Music plays a supporting role in most games, so I have always wanted to make a game in which music is central to the theme. Our expertise is in music so we made music play a main role. I feel that this is a unique feature which differentiates us from other games.

Mike Bowden: The number of Xbox 360ís that have been sold in Japan seems to be dwindling even more than before and it looks like another hard battle for MS to win Japenese Gamersí hearts. Blue Dragon however, did rather well and now that Eternal Sonata has been out for just over a month, is it doing as well as you expected?

Hiroya Hatsushiba: If you consider the sales quantity of Xbox360 consoles in Japan, Eternal Sonata is doing very well. In the RPG genre it is 2nd best selling after Blue Dragon. In all genres it is still in the top 3.

Mike Bowden: On the subject of Xbox 360 sales in Japan: with titles like the already mentioned, Blue Dragon, your title Trusty Bell/Eternal Sonata and Lost Odyssey all billed as 360 exclusives and very much aimed at the core Japanese gamer. With such fantastic support for the console, why do you think it isnít selling?

Hiroya Hatsushiba: Indeed there are great software line-ups coming for Xbox360 in Japan. However, they will need much more variety. Japanese consumers are very prudent. They wonít buy hardware unless they are convinced that there will be great software for that system in the long run. It will be terrible to imagine that such expensive hardware will be collecting dust after 1 year. I think it is something to do with brand image as well. I guess they are still thinking Nintendo and Sony understand Japanese userís tastes more than Microsoft.

Mike Bowden: Staying with the 360 for a moment, was there any special reason why you chose the 360 as your platform? If we take the games mentioned above into account, will more RPG developers move away from the PS3 and support the 360? What I mean is, do you expect this trend to last?

Hiroya Hatsushiba: Our mission was to develop an RPG for a high-end platform. When we started to develop the game, Xbox360 and PS3 had not been released and we were developing the game for Windows. Then Xbox360 was released so we decided to make Eternal Sonata for Xbox360 instead. We also looked at the fact that Xbox360 is a developer-friendly hardware platform. Furthermore, we were hoping that Xbox360 would be successful and wanted to contribute to the sales of Xbox360 in Japan. Xbox360 has got an advantage as it is very easy to develop games for. However, increasing the hardware install base will be vital in order to recoup the expensive development costs of an RPG. Therefore, I doubt whether development of RPGs on Xbox 360 will be increasing drastically in Japan or not.

Mike Bowden: You worked with Monolith on the hugely successful Baten Kaitos 1+2 for the GameCube and as I understand it, this is the first time tri-Crescendo have flown solo. What has the process been like compared to working with another company. What are the plus and minus points of developing independently?

Hiroya Hatsushiba: Eternal Sonata is the first project which has been developed entirely by Tri-Crescendo. As this is RPG title, there was a lot of work needed on the graphics so it was hard to work efficiently and maintain a high quality level at the same time. However, there were merits as we were able to make all the decisions within our company and all the staff are in the same office so speedy decisions could be made.

Mike Bowden: Staying with Baten Kaitos and Monolith for a moment: are there any plans to make a third game in the series? Go on! Give us an exclusive!

Hiroya Hatsushiba: The Baten Kaitos project was a very memorable and meaningful project for us. I think we were able to make Eternal Sonata because of the Baten Kaitos series. However, there are no plans to return to that series at the moment.

Mike Bowden: The Nintendo Wii is smashing sales records across the globe at the moment with many shops in Europe still struggling to meet demand. What are your views on the direction that Nintendo have taken? How do you find the Wii, have you played it?

Hiroya Hatsushiba: Wiiís success is very impressive as it is contributing to maintain a wide range of users. People must be supporting this hardware because of the control system which is as simple and refreshing as it was with DS. Of course, I played it. I think this hardware opens possibilities which 360 and PS3 canít offer. Also it is reasonably priced.

Mike Bowden: With the Wiiís ever-growing install-base, do Tri-Crescendo have any plans to create something for the console? How do you think the Wii-mote would translate into a game like Eternal Sonata for instance? Do you think that type of game is possible on the Wii?

Hiroya Hatsushiba: I wonít be able to tell you any concrete plans at the moment but of course there is a possibility which we are very interested in.


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