Exclusive: PAG talks Phantom of the Kill with gumi’s Jun Imaizumi
We’re obviously fans of mobile games here at Public Access Gaming. I have been personally since Apple first opened the App Store and I downloaded Freeverse Software’s MotoChaser (still have it, in fact, although it’s not longer available). And although I’ve played a lot of fantastic mobile games since then, there have been few I’ve actually anticipated before release.
One such game is gumi’s forthcoming Phantom of the Kill. This turn-based SRPG for iOS and Android will soon be released in the U.S. after having already been quite successful overseas. gumi bills the game as “an SRPG where strategy meets drama,” following the story of a group of assassins on a quest to recover their lost memories in a world in which magic and technology collide with demons and otherworldly beings. However, it’s not coming over without some changes, so what can western audiences expect when Phantom of the Kill finally arrives? To find out, we fired some questions over to Jun Imaizumi, Executive Producer for Phantom of the Kill, and he was kind enough to fill us in.
Phantom of the Kill was released in 2014 for iOS and Android in Japan, but is only now being released to western audiences. Was the game’s tremendous success (and popularity) in Japan the main factor in creating an English vision, or was the worldwide release planned from the start?
Jun Imaizumi: As with most of gumi’s games, we try not to focus too much on whether or not it will be a fit for one particular market or another. Really, what we try to do is make games that are fun and of a distinct level of polish, and if we believe that the game may resonate with fans in other markets, we’ll bring it there.
With Phantom of the Kill in particular, we really wanted to make a AAA strategy game experience that has been missing from the mobile gaming market. It’s a game built around really solid core gameplay mechanics—in this case turn-based strategy RPG set on a grid with shorter battles—and a grand narrative with an epic storyline. These elements have been very appealing to our current players, and it’s been a success for us.
When we bring games to the West, the whole company looks at what each game brings to the table and how those features match the tastes of other markets. Looking at Phantom of the Kill, similar to how Brave Frontier appeals to a lot of different players, we saw a game that would be appealing to many.
The western version comes with many new male characters (or “killer princes”) to offset the Japanese version’s predominately female cast. Is this infusion of testosterone specifically for western audiences, or were the new characters already planned for the eastern version?
Jun Imaizumi: When we decided to bring Phantom of the Kill to the West, there was a lot to think about. What should we do to make the game more appealing to the Western audience? Not only was localization important, but also how much culturalization we needed to apply was something we spent a lot of time thinking about for the game. Phantom of the Kill has a huge storyline that is heavily character driven, and this is one of the major charms of the game.
As you mentioned, the Western version of the game introduces male versions of the Killer Princesses already in the Japanese version of Phantom of the Kill. Since each of these characters is based on a legendary weapon or hero, it provided a really interesting opportunity for us to create different genders for the same weapon, and really expand the game. You can see this exemplified with Laevanteinn, where both the Killer Prince and Killer Princess versions have shared and different characteristics.
The Western version tells a different story, yes, but it is fully within the canon of the universe of Phantom of the Kill. The Japanese version and Western versions are connected and not technically separate stories; the Western version was created as a prequel to the Japanese version.
There is a huge world we’ve created, and we look forward to audiences getting to know more about the world and story of Phantom of the Kill through the many plotlines that will be told.
Will the new Killer Princes interact with their female counterparts, or will they have their own missions to complete in the story?
Jun Imaizumi: They will indeed! I cannot get into the specifics of the story for spoiler reasons, but players will learn about the stories and histories of each Killer Prince and Killer Princess. These characters will certainly work together, and you’ll see heroes from the Japanese version work with the Killer Princes in the global version.
“… we’re not just bringing a strategy game to smartphone and tablet mobile devices; we’re also bringing a world that is very comparable to console games, and an experience that is very deep and very engrossing. The gameplay is very challenging and fun, the characters are cool and powerful, and we think players will enjoy spending time exploring this universe.”
There are some major story beats that directly address the origins of the Killer Princes in relation to the Killer Princesses, which we’re pretty excited about.
A lot of comparisons have been drawn between Phantom of the Kill and the Fire Emblem series. Such comparisons are usually unfair (or at least somewhat inaccurate), so how do you feel Phantom of the Kill separates itself from other popular strategy RPGs?
Jun Imaizumi: Well, the smartphone and tablet platforms we’re on is mostly untouched by other key titles in the strategy RPG genre, and the fact that we’re being considered within the same level of quality as those other titles is pretty satisfying to hear!
But, we’re not just bringing a strategy game to smartphone and tablet mobile devices; we’re also bringing a world that is very comparable to console games, and an experience that is very deep and very engrossing. The gameplay is very challenging and fun, the characters are cool and powerful, and we think players will enjoy spending time exploring this universe.
Although Phantom of the Kill looks very much to be a game that will appeal to hardcore gamers, smartphone and tablet mobile devices are still largely viewed as being for casual gamers. Does that alter the way you approach development, or when deciding what elements to leave in or remove?
Jun Imaizumi: gumi Inc. as a company is focused on bringing high quality mid-core to core gaming experiences onto smartphone and tablet mobile devices. That is one of our primary goals, and with games like Phantom of the Kill, we are making that happen. When we went about making this game, as well as others, we built them with the mobile gamers and the mobile platform in mind.
This means shorter battles, auto-battle mechanics, and other gameplay tools to assist players as they level up. Those are the very casual friendly features we added specifically with those players in mind. It also means that the most hardcore players can dive in deep to the nitty-gritty and get their characters to a spot they want to be.
It’s a balance, but a balance we know Phantom of the Kill hits.
What about Phantom of the Kill, then, are you most excited about seeing western audiences dig into?
Jun Imaizumi: Since we’re bringing new content and a new story to the Western Global version of the game, we’re eager and thrilled to see how the Western audience responds. Phantom of the Kill is a well-made game with a lot of depth and can be enjoyed by different types of players.
Additionally, we’re looking forward to sharing the wonderful world of Japanese anime through the Phantom of the Kill game. We’ve been fortunate enough to have Mamoru Oshii—the director of Ghost in the Shell—supervise the creation of the animated opening movie sequence in the game.
Generally speaking, we’re very excited and looking forward to seeing how players respond to the overall game.
Phantom of the Kill is set to reach the U.S. App Store this winter. To follow along with its progress, visit phantomofthekill.com to join the Fan Club Milestone Campaign, and stick with us here at Public Access Gaming—we’ll let you more details as soon as they’re released.