Interview with XSEED Games' Jun Iwasaki

What do you get when former Square Enix employees start their own company? Why yes, you do get Mistwalker, but now there's a new kid on the block; this time a publishing company named XSEED Games, founded by the former president of Square Enix's North American division, Jun Iwasaki. Formed late in 2004, XSEED went relatively unnoticed until it made waves by announcing it had acquired the rights to localize two highly sought-after RPGs: Wild ARMs: The 4th Detonator (now simply titled Wild ARMs 4), and Shadow Hearts: From the New World.

So what exactly is going through the minds of the folks at XSEED? What are their plans for the future? We recently had an opportunity to grill XSEED President and founder Jun Iwasaki to find out. Check out his responses to those questions and more below.

RPGamer: For those who aren't aware, can you explain who you are and what you do for XSEED?
Jun: I am Jun Iwasaki, president of XSEED Games. We are a brand new publisher and just recently announced our first two titles for the North American market, Wild ARMs 4 and Shadow Hearts: From the New World, both for the PlayStation 2. XSEED was formed late last year to provide marketing services, mainly for Japanese clients in the game/anime industries, with a long-term goal to become our own game publisher.

RPGamer: Are you going to try to appeal more to niche markets compared to other, "larger" companies?
Jun: If you mean "niche" in the sense of Japanese games and its fans, or more specifically, RPGs, obviously that’s not the only audience we want to target. It will all depend on the product we are selling. Not all "large" companies have titles that appeal to the mass, most companies seem to have titles of all ranges. Of course, larger companies may have larger-sounding games (entertainment property/licensed titles, sports titles, large series and franchise titles, etc.), but we're not looking to jump into those areas right now unless the opportunity happens to come out our way.

RPGamer: As far as RPGs are concerned, what do you think North Americans want?
Jun: Although RPGs have come a long way, there is still that notion that it is a time-consuming, slow pace game. While the story and character development aspects are important to a successful RPG, the battle system is equally important. A slightly fast-paced, action-oriented battle system seems to be favored over the traditional turn-based, sit-back and wait-and-see battle system.

Ooooh, pretty.

RPGamer: Will you localize titles for platforms other than the PS2?
Jun: We are not limiting ourselves to just PlayStation 2 or console titles and would enjoy the opportunity to evaluate handheld and PC titles as well.

RPGamer: Have you considered doing ports or remakes of classic Japan-only titles for modern systems?
Jun: We have not looked at any classic titles as of yet, but are open to the idea.

RPGamer: How do you intend to handle the various challenges that come with the localization process?
Jun: From our past experience, we fully understand the various challenges when localizing games. But for the most part, since we have our bilingual staff and experienced freelance producers play through the Japanese version of the games first, any issues that call for attention or need special handling have been resolved in a timely manner (so far).

RPGamer: What other upcoming games are you considering for localization?
Jun: We are constantly looking at titles being announced and released in Japan. Although we can't reveal any titles by name, we unfortunately had to pass on some titles already. The reason for why we pass up a title varies, but what’s most important to us is that it’s a quality title with potential to sell in the US. Maximizing that potential is where the challenge lies and that is where our expertise comes into play. When "looking" at or "evaluating" a title, we will play though the entire game first in Japanese if it is complete or play through it as much as possible if it is still in development. If time permits and if deemed necessary, we will also conduct surveys or hold focus groups. In the case of Wild ARMs and Shadow Hearts, we had the opportunity to play through the Japanese versions of the game and saw the potential. Both titles are unique in their own ways and we hope to capture some newcomers to the series.

RPGamer: Many fans applaud NIS America's effort to keep the Japanese voice tracks in their titles. Is XSEED considering this for any of their future titles?
Jun: Thanks to everyone – including RPGamer – spreading the word for us, we have received lots of emails since our announcement last month. Many have asked the same question and although we will not have that feature in our first two releases, it is something we may consider for future titles. It also depends on factors such as the capacity, having the proper rights to include Japanese voices in the US versions of the game, the developer’s opinion and how much demand there is to include the feature.

RPGamer: Have there been any new developments in the localization of Wild ARMs 4 and Shadow Hearts: From the New World?
Jun: There will be no major changes to the US version of both titles. We are excited that Wild ARMs 4 will be the first in the series to have voice-overs and very happy with the progress so far.
RPGamer: Many have expressed concern over whether XSEED can give these games localizations that are on par with companies that have been around for years. What would you say to those who are concerned?
Jun: While we may not have a fully-staffed in-house localization department, we are hands-on with the various elements of the process and oversee the project every step of the way to ensure quality localization. Since most of our staff are bilingual and we first play through the Japanese version of the game, we are very much in tune with the original work. We also contract freelance localization producers who are experienced with Japanese RPGs and similar types of games.

RPGamer: Why was Wild ARMs 4's subtitle, The 4th Detonator, dropped from the game's title?
Jun: We dropped the subtitle to be consistent with the previous US releases in the Wild ARMs series.

RPGamer: What are XSEED's plans for the future?
Jun: We would like to introduce as many quality titles as possible to the US audience, regardless of the genre.

RPGamer: Lastly, is there anything that you'd like to say to our readers?
Jun: Although we are a new publisher, with our background and experience, we believe we will be able to pick out those titles with potential and give them the attention they deserve. Thank you for the support you've given us already and we look forward to hearing everyone’s feedback after the release of the games.

We'd like to thank Jun Iwasaki for answering some of our questions. Look for Shadow Hearts: From the New World and Wild ARMs 4 when they're released next year.

The other upcoming Wild ARMs title, Wild ARMs Alter Code: F, which has been eagerly anticipated by fans since the announcement of its North American localization by Agetec over two years ago, looks to finally be released some time in the next few months. Look for a hands-on impression of one of the final builds of the game soon on RPGamer.

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