WitchSpring3 Re:Fine: The Story of Eirudy Interview
WitchSpring3 Re:Fine: The Story of Eirudy is the first console release in Korean studio KIWIWALKS’s RPG series, which has four mobile titles, with a fifth on the way. The upgraded Re:Fine version was created as a collaboration between Japanese developer STUDIOARTDINK’s new G CHOICE publishing brand, KIWIKWALKS, and developer IKINAGAMES and released in Japan on Nintendo Switch in December 2020. Ahead of the game’s upcoming western release on August 13, 2021, RPGamer was given the opportunity to interview STUDIOARTDINK Executive Manager Masashi Saito, KIWIWALKS Business Director Yeonju Kim, and IKINAGAMES Game Designer SeJong Joo about the game and series.
Alex Fuller (RPGamer): Can you give a quick overview of WitchSpring3 Re:Fine for those who may not be familiar with the series?
Masashi Saito (STUDIOARTDINK): The WitchSpring series is a JRPG-style game developed and released as a mobile app by Korean developer KIWIWALKS, featuring a lonely witch as the main character. The mobile version of the game has four titles in the series by now, and despite being a paid app, the series is very popular, with a total of nearly 2 million downloads, and has won numerous game awards in Asia.
RPGamer: What are some of the main ideas and unique qualities behind the game/series?
Yeonju Kim (KIWIWALKS): Witches are an interesting element, but they are also an element that has already been used in many games. In the WitchSpring series, we wanted to express the story from the perspective of a witch who is being hunted by heroic warriors.
RPGamer: How long have you been working on the game and/or series?
Yeonju Kim (KIWIWALKS): The first work took six months, and after that it took about a year for each entry in the series. For the mobile version, the director, Suyoung Jang, is the programmer, game designer, and art director, and he almost single-handedly created the game.
SeJong Joo (IKINAGAMES): It took us about nine to ten months to develop the port for the Switch version. In February 2020, we started working on porting the mobile version to Nintendo Switch. KIWIWALKS shared the project files and all resources with us so that we could work on it and Jang from KIWIWALKS could focus on the direction.
Any problems that arose during the porting process were discussed among the three companies (STUDIOARTDINK, KIWIWALKS, IKINAGAMES). In particular, we had a lot of discussions with KIWIWALKS about improving the quality of the characters and backgrounds.
Masashi Saito (STUDIOARTDINK), Yeonju Kim (KIWIWALKS), SeJong Joo (IKINAGAMES)
RPGamer: Are there any connections to the previous titles in the series? Can players dive into WitchSpring3 without being familiar with the first two?
Yeonju Kim (KIWIWALKS): Basically, we have designed the gameplay and scenario to be enjoyable for those who do not know the previous game. If you have played the previous game, you can of course get even more involved in the game.
Masashi Saito (STUDIOARTDINK): The WitchSpring series is a story about a different witch in a different country in each game. You can enjoy each of them as a standalone story. Of course, the worldview and time period are the same, and the characters are connected, so if you’ve played the other titles on mobile, you’ll be able to enjoy them even more.
RPGamer: What makes WitchSpring3 stand out in your eyes? Do you have any particular favourite elements?
Yeonju Kim (KIWIWALKS): In WitchSpring3 dolls play an important role in the scenario, not only for combat. That’s the reason why the dolls fit well with the story of WitchSpring3. This way, people can enjoy a unique atmosphere in each game.
SeJong Joo (IKINAGAMES): I think the charm of WitchSpring3 is that players can develop Eirudy, the main character of the game, in any way they want.
Usually, when people think of a “witch”, they tend to think of her battling with a wand and using spells, but I think Eirudy’s battle style is closer to that of a magical knight. One of our favorite aspects of the game is that the player can see Eirudy’s growth as she learns new skills, strengthens her weapons, and progresses through the story and making choices in training and events.
Masashi Saito (STUDIOARTDINK): What I’d like to emphasize more than the fact that the system is so easy to play is the extremely dramatic storyline in which the lonely witch Eirudy is tossed into the vortex of fate when she meets a young human man named Adrian. I can’t say too much about the story because it would be a spoiler, but some players will find it a heart-melting sweet love story, while others will find it a completely opposite experience that will tear your heart out. The climax of the game is truly amazing… well, you’ll just have to see for yourself. The mobile version is amazing enough, but I’m confident that the Switch version, which comes voiced, will be an overwhelming experience for you!
My personal favorite part of the game is the scene where Eirudy and Eileen talk about their love tactics at a girls’ night out, which became a really fun scene thanks to the voicing. Also, when Eirudy attacks or summons dolls, she chants the names of the moves and dolls, which is a new feature only found in the Switch version and I really like it.
RPGamer: How much has the series changed or evolved across the titles?
Yeonju Kim (KIWIWALKS): We are always striving to improve the graphics and to make the game more enjoyable to play. In addition to this, we continue to search for a new type of witch that was not there before, and think about how we can deliver this as a new and fresh story each time. In particular, the central elements chosen for each series are also reflected in the system concept of the game. In WitchSpring3, we chose “dolls” as the central element.
RPGamer: WitchSpring3 is the first game in the series to hit console, what made you decide to create a console version and why did you choose Switch in particular?
Masashi Saito (STUDIOARTDINK): This is quite a long story to tell, but I hope you don’t mind.
We’ve had a relationship with IKINAGAMES since before we started this project, and we’ve been looking for a way to collaborate with them for a long time. One day, Mr. Bae, the owner of IKINAGAMES, suggested that we release a console version of the mobile app series WitchSpring‘ made by KIWIWALKS in Korea. That’s how it all started.
At the time, WitchSpring was still in its early stages with part 3 being the latest, and part 4 had been announced. I didn’t know about this IP at the time, but just by doing a little research, I found out that it was a great series that was very popular and highly rated in Asia, so I immediately consulted with Mr. Bae about which part of the series should be ported and decided that 3, which was the most popular in Japan, was the first choice. We wrote up a commercial proposal in three days and visited Korea to give a presentation to KIWIWALKS through an introduction by IKINAGAMES. (I think I was really lucky to be there at the last minute, just before the new coronavirus became a worldwide epidemic.) At that time, we were also in the process of selecting titles for the launch of our global game publishing brand, “G CHOICE”. We were already considering the production of Wonder Boy: Asha in Monster World, but I was convinced that WitchSpring was also very attractive and promising. So I thought, “This is a unique opportunity!” and I decided to work on it at the same time, even though it would crush me. Because of that, I had a very hard time afterwards… (laughs)
There are many reasons why we chose the Switch, but the most obvious one that I can give you is that both IKINAGAMES and ourselves wanted to build up our development experience on the Switch. Both companies had a lot of experience developing for PS4, but we at STUDIOARTDINK had no experience with Switch in particular, so we agreed that we wanted to try Switch first.
RPGamer: Are there any additions to Re:Fine over the original mobile version?
SeJong Joo (IKINAGAMES): When we ported the game from mobile to the Switch, we started by thinking about how we needed to improve the game controls to match the new controller operation. In the mobile version, everything was touch-controlled, but we changed the UI for the main commands to a stick-based rotation operation, and we also made it possible to freely control Eirudy with the stick inside the witch’s house so that you can enjoy watching her move around.
In addition to the controls, we’ve added a “log” function that allows you to check previous conversations in story events, and we’ve also included new costumes that are only available on the Switch. There are also additional events that were not included in the original. We’ve put a lot of heart and soul into the controls and usability as well as in the graphics, so please give it a try!
Masashi Saito (STUDIOARTDINK): In addition, we’ve also added Japanese and Korean voices by popular voice actors, completely redrawn character illustrations for the in-game dialogues and cut-scenes, and made other minor additions and changes, so we’ve put as much effort into the development as if we were making a new game, not a port. Even if you’ve already played the mobile version, I’m sure you’ll enjoy WitchSpring3 with a fresh perspective.
RPGamer: How involved has the development team been in the localisation for the game? Are there any particularly tricky parts to adapt for a global release?
Masashi Saito (STUDIOARTDINK): The English translation was already implemented in the mobile version, so the Switch development team only had to translate the new events added in the Switch version. Therefore, we did not alter anything from the original work with the global release in mind. Rather, we focused on maximizing the enjoyment of the excellence and quality of the original work. The use of character voices is the best example of this. By adding voices that express emotions to the dialogue, which was only text in the mobile version, we took great care to express and enrich the characterization and dramaturgy. In particular, the voice actor who played the role of Eirudy did a wonderful job of delivering the subtle changes in depth of emotional expression. Even if you don’t understand the words being spoken, I would be happy if you could feel even a little of the subtlety of the emotions.
SeJong Joo (IKINAGAMES): This game was created in Korea, so it is very popular in Korea as well. For this reason, I was hoping to be able to record not only Japanese voices, but also Korean voices as we developed the game, and I was very happy to be able to add voices from Korean voice actors at the end!
RPGamer: What current and future development plans do you have, for the series or in general?
Yeonju Kim (KIWIWALKS): Besides working on the new story WitchSpring 5, we are also planning to port other titles to consoles. Next year, we’re planning to release a completely new version of the series’ origin story, WitchSpring (the original), so stay tuned!
Masashi Saito (STUDIOARTDINK): We would be very happy if we could continue to support the global development of KIWIWALKS’ IPs, including the WitchSpring series.
Also, IKINAGAMES, who was in charge of porting and development this time, has planned and developed many wonderful original games. We hope to produce more and more original titles from these talented developers around the world under the G CHOICE brand.
RPGamer: Lastly, is there a chance to see the game on other consoles or PC?
Masashi Saito (STUDIOARTDINK): The very hot news is that we have just decided to release a Steam version of the game! As for the release date and other details, please look forward to future announcements. Of course, we are considering other consoles as well, but it depends on the support of players around the world, so please try the Switch and Steam versions first!
RPGamer would like to extend our deepst gratitude to Masashi Saito, Yeonju Kim, and SeJong Joo for taking the time to answer our questions. We’d also like to thank PR Hound for facilitating the interview. WitchSpring3 Re:Fine: The Story of Eirudy launches for Nintendo Switch on August 13, 2021, with the just-revealed PC Steam release also coming soon.