Majin and The Forsaken Kingdom Interview (Xbox360)

In times of need, there's nothing more reassuring than having a friend who's built with the same girth and structure of a wardrobe. A friend who can take care of any situation with force, and maybe a hint of brains too. Majin could be this friend, as the lumbering oaf offers his support at every twist and turn throughout Majin and The Forsaken Kingdom. We sat down with Karine Balichard, producer at Namco Bandai, to get the lowdown on this intriguing new title.

 A contemporary BFG maybe?

Strategy Informer: What was the main influence behind Majin and The Forsaken Kingdom?

Karine Balichard: I don't know if you've seen some of the memory parts of the game, on the loading screens. This was one of the main influences for the design team, as they wanted something that looked like an art book. That's what it was all about in the beginning and then it was adapted to the universe. That's why we wanted to keep these images as a small part of the game.

Strategy Informer: Do you feel it was important to differ from the Team Ico games early on in development, both visually and in terms of gameplay?

Karine Balichard: Yeah, of course. It may look similar at first glance but really, after five minutes playing it, you can see the world is different. The gameplay we tried to offer is really different. Everything is really focused on a specific relationship between both characters, the one you play being the weakest one. So for once we are not the strong guy saving the world, you know? You're being helped in that so everything looks different.

Strategy Informer: You mentioned in your presentation that there were over 100 designs for the Majin itself, what made you decide on the final design?

Karine Balichard: In the end we only had three main leads for the Majin. One where he was this cute, giant ogre, and the other where he was more realistic. We thought we had to find a compromise between both of them, because both parts of the character were important. It's still a huge giant who's really strong, and this animal that has this brutal force in him. But he's also so cute, and you immediately feel attached to him because of his clumsiness and his goofy attitude. This had to be reflected in the final design, so that's why we chose what we did.

Strategy Informer: Was the Majin always going to be a giant?

Karine Balichard: Yes, yes. It was the only thing that was there from the beginning. A 'Majin' is his kind, and this was always a giant for us.

Strategy Informer: What about the main character, Tepeau, how many designs did you go through to come up with him?

Karine Balichard: A lot. He had to fit the design of the giant. Once, he was hooded and you couldn't see his face to place the focus on the Majin, then we chose to show his face. You can see him and feel this relationship growing between them.

In one design, this didn't last long, Tepeau was actually a girl. Everything changed quickly! [Laughs]

Strategy Informer: So is the lead Majin a male?

Karine Balichard: Yes, yes, I would say so.

Strategy Informer: During the game are we going to see other Majin's. Possibly creatures like him that are not as friendly to Tepeau?

Karine Balichard: All I can say is that you will meet other people, other than the darkness and the different kind of darkness creatures. But yeah, I can't detail that too much because it's really a part of the gameplay experience. They will tell you a lot of things and help you understand the Majin and kingdom.

Strategy Informer: When you were designing the game, was the story or the combat the main focus?

Karine Balichard: We wanted to create a really specific experience, something quite new. The storyline was important but it's quite basic; we have these two characters on a journey, you've heard that a million times. What was important was we had to focus on the creative gameplay, allowing you to mix a puzzle phase and an action phase. We needed that to ensure we had a well-paced game, and that we found the right balance.
Dynamic-duos are in this season, it seems

Strategy Informer: Who is this title aimed at?

Karine Balichard: I would say it's aimed towards young adults, it's definitely not a game for kids. It's quite difficult, you have to think a lot to solve some puzzles. We did some focus groups to see how people would react because we thought our main audience would be a young audience and really core gamers as well. We found we managed to touch on that with that game, and it's funny because girls have reacted really well to the game.

Strategy Informer: The Majin's history is a huge part of the game, do you have to explore the universe to find out about it, or is it central to the plot?

Karine Balichard: Yeah, you'll know most of the story by playing the game. If you want the details you'll have to explore a bit and search places. Everything won't be revealed in the end because there's a part of mystery.

Strategy Informer: So is this going to be a one off game or are you looking to establish a series?

Karine Balichard: This is definitely a new IP, so why not!? First we want to focus on this one and to just create the best game we could do with this idea.

Strategy Informer: If it sells well you won't rule out a sequel?

Karine Balichard: Yeah, if we have something to say in the sequel, because you know, it's not only a matter of sales. If we don't have anything new there isn't any point.

Strategy Informer: As a single-player experience, are you looking to bring in any extra content?

Karine Balichard: It will definitely be a single-player experience no matter what is released, or might be released, around it. We did try in the beginning the choice of playing the Majin or Tepeau, but we wanted you to think of the Majin instead.

Strategy Informer: Could there be extra single-player levels to download?

Karine Balichard: This is something that still has to be confirmed, I can't tell you right now.

Strategy Informer: On the puzzle side of the game, is there a set route or more than one way of completing them?

Karine Balichard: For most of them there are different ways of solving. You can either use your brain or the Majin's strengths, or combine both. Everything is really based on co-operation so in most cases you have to use both, but you can use them differently.

Strategy Informer: There's a lot of games out at the moment where the supporting character is central to the plot, so what sets the Majin above the rest as a character?

Karine Balichard: The first idea of the Majin came up in our team almost five years ago, and it wasn't that friendly at the time! It's an idea that had to grow on it's own, we knew we had something good but 20 months we changed it when we started.

Strategy Informer: Any final thoughts for our readers?

Karine Balichard: You definitely need to work on the relationship. There's a great quality of gameplay and this unique world is something we really wanted to do.
Not the best graphics in the world, but still quite lush

A huge thank you to Karine for taking time out of her schedule to talk with us.


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By kokorokoko (I just got here) on Jul 09, 2010