Lots of companies were present at TGS 2019. I always enjoy catching up with NIS America, and this year’s meeting at Tokyo Game Show 2019 was no exception. I was fortunate enough to get insider info about Utawarerumono: Prelude to the Fallen straight from Director Tsutomo Washimi. In our interview, we discuss what sets Utawarerumono apart from other JRPGs, the battle mechanics of the game, and some of his thoughts on the visual novel genre.
What is Utawarerumono: Prelude to the Fallen?
Every fan of the series may have already played Mask of Deception and Utawarerumono: ZAN. However, Utawarerumono: Prelude to the Fallen is an upcoming strategy RPG game distributed by NIS America. The upcoming game will of course be the newest release in the series. However, it’s story takes place before all of the other games released in English so far. Therefore, it serves as a prequel to the Utawarerumono games previously released for English audiences.
What does Utawarerumono mean in English?
Translating うたわれるもの (u-ta-wa-re-ru-mo-no) into English directly would be “things which are sung”. Also, it could be loosely interpreted as “themes within a song”.
When Will Utawarerumono: Prelude to the Fallen be Released?
Many people are wondering when Utawarerumono will be released. So far, the game is scheduled for release in early 2020. However, NIS America has not yet announced an official release date.
Utawarerumono: Prelude to the Fallen Game Trailer
What Sets the Game Apart? — An Interview with Director Tsutomo Washimi
On Japan and Visual Novels
Especially with a background in visual novel development, Director Tsutomo Washimi is no stranger to games with a strong story. While we receive some visual novels in Western countries, Japan still dominates the visual novel market by a long shot.
Truthfully, I’ve always wondered what it is about visual novels that seem to capture Japanese audiences in particular. “I think that for us in Japan, there are lots of people that really want to become invested in a story and characters,” says Washimi. “To be moved by these things, I think that’s what a lot of people in Japan are after and that’s why these games are so popular.”
From Visual Novels to JRPGs
Everything surrounding the battle mechanics and gameplay shout JRPG. On the other hand, Utawarerumono: Prelude to the Fallen and the series as a whole, has visual novel elements. However, the series is very different from a lot of the games Washimi has created in the past. With a background in adventure games and visual novels, why did Washimi start creating JRPGs?
Luckily, Washimi had a clear reason for this change. “Well, I think on one hand, the answer is very simple. Visual novels are not as popular as they used to be,” Washimi explains.
Learning of his reasons, they really hit home for me. While I love visual novels, a lot of my friends didn’t play them at all. For Western audiences, Japanese visual novels have never been very popular. At least, they haven’t really become mainstream. The biggest impact in the genre was likely made by Telltale Games and their interactive dramas. “Therefore, adding something like combat simulation or, in the case of Utawarerumono, SRPG elements, that really adds a lot more for players. It allows them to be a lot more emotionally invested and that’s why I’ve made this shift. In the past, those simple adventure games were really popular.”
What Makes Utawarerumono Different from all of the Other JRPGs?
Yes, Utawarerumono is a standard JRPG, but what makes it unique? “There are three things I think we can point to. The first is the world setting, second is the characters, and third is the story. I think they are much grander and larger than so many of the other games that are within the same genre. I think this creates a huge amount of emotional investment for the players which is what I think sets this game apart from other games.”
The Reason Behind the Battle Mechanics
One thing I love about the Utawarerumono series is the dynamic and active battle mechanics. With SRPGs, you must think before you act. Meanwhile, with traditional turn-based RPGs, we can simply select the same attacks over and over again. “I think that the reasoning behind the battle system, again, has a lot to do with the importance that we place on the story,” says Washimi.
Utawarerumono is a game where the gameplay was created in a way that would complement the story. “Within the story, you have these people who are coming together to work as a team. Throughout the course of the story, they have to fight. These battles are representative of that. They add a lot to the tension and add a lot to the story that’s being told. We believe that everything we do should be in service to the story, that is why we went for the battle style that we did.”
Why You Should Buy Utawarerumono: Prelude to the Fallen
Washimi believes that “Now is a good chance to get into this series. Since Prelude to the Fallen is the first game in the series, it’s perfect place for people to start.” While many JRPGs are set in fantasy or sci-fi worlds, Utawarerumono has some basis in Japanese history.
However, the games should still be enjoyable for those with little knowledge of Japanese culture. “The Utawarerumono stories are really overflowing with lore, myths, and Japanese culture. I think a lot of the readers my not be familiar with Japanese culture. Even so, I believe that these things will stand out and speak to people.”
~Preorder Utawarerumono: Prelude to the Fallen on Amazon.com or Amazon Japan below~
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