4Gamer BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle Interview with Toshimichi Mori and Tatsunori Ishikawa

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This 4Gamer interview was published Nov 21, 2019, going over the details of BBTAG Ver.20 and the BlazBlue Sound Complete Box with producer Toshimichi Mori and director Tastunori Ishikawa.

BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle, Interview with Toshimichi Mori and Tatsunori Ishikawa. With these two key figures of its development, we inquired about development secrets and features

Nov 21, 2019

Today (Nov 21, 2019), Arc Ssytem Works releases for its 2D fighting game BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle a huge update titled Ver2.0.

During scheduled intervals small updates, new characters, and balance changes were made over time for BBTAG, but today's update patch is split into two: the free "Ver2.0 Patch" and the paid "Ver2.0 Content Pack." If only playing the existing released characters is enough to satisfy you, then getting only the free Ver2.0 Patch will be enough. However, obtaining the "Ver2.0 Content Pack" will add nine new characters, a new scenario, and more to enjoy.

4Gamer sought to capture the current mood and development secrets after the release of the Ver2.0 update, and went to Arc System Works producer Toshimichi Mori and director Tatsunori Ishikawa for this interview.

Ver2.0 is the first of its kind of major update, with the goal of providing players something fresh

4Gamer: Thank you very much for your time today. It's been about one year and a half since the initial release of BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle. We'd like to hear how you feel about the Ver2.0 update right now*.

  • This interview was held on November 8.

Toshimichi Mori (Mori afterwards): Speaking frankly, just very thankful. I have nothing but gratitude towards those who've continued to play the game for a long time.

Tatsunori Ishikawa (Ishikawa afterwards): Regarding its development, there were semi-regular updates we were constantly being chased by, so it feltlike a year and a half passed before I even realized it. For Ver2.0, we had a feeling of wanting to give the game a once-over, so we made some changes that should feel fresh and that we hope wil be a lot of fun.

4Gamer: BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle has a lot of players who are very new to the scene, so it feels like ASW has succeeded in drawing in people who haven't previously playing ASW's fighting games.

Mori: It might be the effect of including "RWBY", but there are a lot of people who give off a kind of "This is my first fighting game!" feeling. It was one of the goals of this game to draw in newcomers, but even having said that, it makes me happy to see players continuing to play.

4Gamer: Even regarding tournament-goers, it seems like new players are mixed in quite well with the powerhouses of old. Although in the end, it's the older players who tend to stand out.

Mori: Tournaments bring nerves that are quite different from a regular field game, after all. Players who have appeared at major tournameents and are used to it really are strong, I think.

Ishikawa: Even so, there are powerhouses who haven't played the previous Blazblue games who have been making appearances, making the tournament scene really something to behold right now.

4Gamer: Was it difficult to manage?

Ishikawa: This time around, the control mechanisms gave us a lot of trouble and we were uncertain whether it would be accepted, but everyone seemed to have a lot of fun playing it, and compared to other games on the market I don't really remember having a hard time with its management.

Mori: This might not count as a difficulty, but because the game brought in so many young and new players, I really began feeling the generational gap (laughs). There really are implicit guidelines regarding the fighting game community, aren't there?

4Gamer: You might be feeling the gap from the culture of the original scene, where players gained their strength in arcades. You mentioned earlier strong players appearing without having backgrounds in BlazBlue, but international players have also achieved some wonderful results.

Mori: Shinku, the winner of EVO 2019, really was amazing. In my opinion, there isn't much of a skill gap between Japanese players and their international counterparts, so if their starting lines are made the same, I expected this result. Up until now, games were releasing in arcades first, and furthermore there's a bit of a history that the Japanese have built up.

4Gamer: In the interview from before release, you also said you didn't want a game where Japanese players would have an advantage.

Mori: Yes. My goal at that time was built up slowly over time. It isn't as if a small part of me doesn't want Japanese players to do their best, since I'm Japanese myself, but it's like the rugby world cup, where you want to cheer on your own country's team.

4Gamer: I completely understand.

Mori: If in the future, more occurences like Pakistan's recent vigor in the fighting game sphere were to happen, I think things would get even more interesting. They've got to be out there, some hidden community (laughs).

4Gamer: The game allows for a lot of expression, so I think it isn't completely impossible.

Mori: Evo 2018 and 2019 had a lot of international appearances, and the crowd had an incredible energy. The feeling of wanting to overcome Japan should have been with them for a while.

New titles are added continuously. Adding "Akatsuki Blitzkampf" was brought about by passion from the staff

4Gamer: Before I inquire about Ver2.0, I'd like to ask about the update that went live in May. A new series, Arcana Heart, was introduced with Heart Aino, which Mr. Mori touched upon breifly in our other interview with him.

Mori: The truth is, at that point in time her includsion was already mostly completely decided. We had worked with Examu in the past, so it became just a matter of what timing to introduce them at.

Ishikawa: It really was decided at a very early stage. There were many candidates for which new series to include, of course, but Arcana Heart and BlazBlue have good affinity, which led to it being chosen.

Mori: You can tell just by looking, but we redid the sprites in full HD as well.

Ishikawa: Heart's development was reworked from scratch with Examu's cooperation.

Mori: We also went over her motions again, but they were so particular about her gestures and motions that I heard the floor had a hell of a time (laughs).

4Gamer: I thought that the homing mechanism from the Arcaana Heart series was applied well.

Ishikawa: Those actions were... really tough to recreate.

4Gamer: And in Ver2.0, Akatsuki and Blitztank come from "Akatsuki Blitzkampf." It makes me wonder just how that goe started.

Mori: The staff really wanted it. Since they were going to go that far, we went to negotiate with the creators of the original work, and after receiving their consent were able to make it happen. Although Akatsuki also appears in "Under Night In-Brith," they wished for him to appear under his original title, "Akatsuki Blitzkampf," so we ended up introducing a new series.

Ishikawa: "Under Night In-Birth" also has an astounding following in North America, with Akatsuki being pretty popular as well. That being the case, we thought it would be interesting to introduce his framework from the original work, "Akatsuki Blitzkampf."

Mori: Still, it was very surprising to see Blitztank chosen (laughs).

4Gamer: It really left a strong first impression.

Ishikawa: Even among the staff there were a lot of voices saying Blitztank was a must if we were talking "Akatsuki Blitzkampf" (laughs).

Mori: It was something we kinda wanted to see... but after saying that and trying it out, Blitztank became a reality.

Ishikawa: This comes from a bit of a developer's viewpoint, but Blitztank's movements in its original work were simple, but with its own particularities. There was a time we thought it might be rough sailing, but when we actually went through with it, it turned out more simple than we thought (laughs).

4Gamer: Were there any difficulties in the implementation?

Ishikawa: We thought it wouldn't be good to have characters who were overwhelmingly strong, but also that the game would end up not fun if we held back while making it. It might seem all over the place, but we made adjustments so characters could properly win.

Mori: This time around, Waldstein and Tager as two larger characters really made their rounds in the game, leaving an impression on the tournament scene.

4Gamer: I think it would be pretty exciting if Blitztank were to appear at a tournament. Yumi is also appeariing from a new addition, "Senran Kagura." I'd like to ask about the circumstances surrounding this.

Mori: For series that haven't had fighting game entries yet, "RWBY" was appearing for its first time in one, but we also wanted to think about what other series to include. There was Takaki-san, who's hinted at "Senran Kagura" and was a friend, and after talking it over with him we were able to obtain his consent. We really struggled over whether to include Asuka or Yumi, but after consulting with Marvelous Inc, it settled on Yumi.

4Gamer: Since it wasn't a fighting game title, were there any difficulties in its development?

Ishikawa: Yumi had a lot of moves in her original work that could carry over well to fighting games. Then again, too many of them seemed like they would be interesting to include in a fighting game, so it was a hard decision.

Mori: We were told not to give her motions that were too extreme (laughs). It was also conveyed that although Yumi is more of a cute character, she was personally considered more of a cool character, and we were asked to bring out that side of her. The new characters also have a bit of story added with them this time that's pretty entertaining, which I hope people will enjoy as well.

4Gamer: In a previous interview with us, Mr. Mori also expressed a desire to collaborate with Nitroplus.

Mori: ...Even now, I still want to do it. If we pretend there are no restrictions for a moment, I'd like to bring in characters from "Armored Demon Muramasa."

4Gamer: Nitroplus also has the fighting game "Nitroplus Blasters," so I think if you were to make a strong push for it...?

Mori: They have some adult works, so...

4Gamer: "MuvLuv" has also come up in interviews before.

Mori: i do want to collaborate. It might be difficult if it were an older work, but recently an anime has aired so... (laughs)

4Gamer: If you were to add a character from a series based on your own interests, who would you add?

Mori: Fate/Grand Order's Miyamoto Musashi. An immediate response. She was the character that motivated me to begin playing Fate/Grand Order, and when I first saw her visuals it gave me a real shock.

There are now 53 playable characters., needing to be balanced so that they don't become unplayable.

4Gamer: For Ver2.0, Neo Politan was added from the "RWBY" series. It's a series with many charming characters, so I'd like to hear about how you settled on Neo.

Mori: Frankly, it's because we recieved it as a request from Rooster Teeth.

Ishikawa: It was decided early on that we would add one more character from RWBY, and so we sent Rooster Teeth many candidates for additions, but Neo wasn't among them. She didn't have much name recognition in Japan at the time, but they said that since she reappears in Volume 6 to please include her.

Mori: Neo is a character that doesn't speak.

Ishikawa: That was a pretty big bottleneck in the beginning.

4Gamer: She doesn't speak at all in the game, does she?

Ishikawa: She does vocalize for reactions, at least. She also doesn't speak in the story, but we have prepared something for her so please take a look.

4Gamer: Other than that, we have additions Adachi, Hilda, and Susano'o as boss characters from their respective works, plus Celica and Elizabeth. What led to this decision?

Ishikawa: Among the added characters there haven't been many villainous ones, so we decided pretty early on that we wanted to add some boss-type characters. As for the remaining two, Celica and Elizabeth, we picked two characters that were popular requests.

4Gamer: With "Arcana Heart," "akatsuki Blitzkampf," and "Senran Kagura," several new titles have been introduced in succession. Are there plans to add more characters from these series in the future?

Ishikawa: I can't say we haven't thought about it at all, but new titles definitely have priority.

4Gamer: By now, there are enough characters to create a set of trumps for them. Will this number continue increasing?

Mori: Ah, that's a hard question. We can only wait and see for the reaction (laughs). It's already at the point where performing maintenance is something to cry about, but I can only ask them to hang on.

Ishikawa: Even pulling in data from previous, existing works, the implementation and adjustment costs haven't changed at all. In relation to that, this title might actually be the most troublesome out of all the ones we've done so far.

4Gamer: Continuing on, we'd also like to ask about the new gameplay systems introduced in Ver2.0. If you would begin with "Cross Raid."

Ishikawa: I think that the thing beginners tripped over the most was being done in from not being able to switch out their characters. Cross Raid is a system where the characters are switched out automatically after performing an auto-combo, making this part less daunting while also bringing out the feeling of a tag team.

4Gamer: It's something that can be used even when you're out of the Cross Gauge, so this might have an effect on the tactics of more advanced players.

Ishikawa: Although we added it while keeping beginners in mind, we also think the system has something for our very involved players. After switching in the character become stronger, which I'd like to become a factor in gameplay strategies.

4Gamer: What about the "Extra Assault," where the two characters can extend their damage from a Crush Assault?

Ishikawa: Originally "Crush Assault" was meant to allow team attacks with very simple controls, so we thought expanding on it might allow beginners an easier way to deal even more damage. Again, advanced players might use Crush ASsault solo more often, but if we introduce a bigger incentive to use both characters, we might begin to see more of that.

4Gamer: Then if we were to talk about "delay entry" and "Rampage time"...?

Ishikawa: Delayed Entry was introduced to reduce the knowledge gap between the player on the offense and the entering player. There were a lot of situations where the player who downed the other's character could just follow up with setplay.

Ishikawa: Rampage Time is a system where, when less than 80 seconds are left on the clock, the skill gauges begin to increase passively. There were many cases where if the score would be 1:1 afterwards, the battle would be dragged out, so with the introduction of Rampage TIme we should begin to see more active battles. After 80 seconds pass, the pace of battle will change quite a lot, which I think will be interesting even just to watch.

4Gamer: With this update, even though it seems small the change in HP seems like it would have a significant effect. What was the thinking behind this change?

Ishikawa: HP is one factor when picking characters to play, and characters with lowest HP of 14,000 were often kept at arm's length. From a development point of view, we wanted to have all sorts of different characters, and we also wanted to create a stage for them, but rather lowering the ceiling, we wanted to raise the floor with our adjustmenets.

4Gamer: I believe the characters were rebalanced regarding their capabilities as well. We'd like to hear more about the direction and intentions you had for that.

Ishikawa: Like our previous changes, we didn't completely overhaul anyone. We didn't want to take away the fun of going ham, but at the same time, not making any changes at all would be boring, so Ver2.0 makes changes that we hope will refresh it. Similar to how we handled HP, we hoped to bring up the bottom rather than taking down the top.

4Gamer: Ver2.0 as an update is a major change from before. Are there plans to continue makng updates, balance changes, and new characters?

Ishikawa: We can't say anything about that at this time, but first please enjoy Ver2.0.

Mori: It will be a main game for both EVO 2020 Japan and the upcoming Arc Revo World Tour, so I'd like players to continue playing the game in the future.

The definitve collection of the BlazBlue series' music, the BlazBlue Sound Complete Box, releases today.

4Gamer: Changing topics, releasing on the same day s the update is the BlazBlue Sound Complete Box, which will include all the music from the very first entry in the series, Calamity Trigger, up to Central Fiction.

Mori: We brought the actual product here with us, and you can see that the discs all feature illustrations from the series with historical significance. Just with this, I think it has a lot of value (laughs).

4Gamer: The case also features an exclusive illustration and looks very high quality. The special can badge music player included in the package features songs that Mori-san picked personally. Which songs were recommended and why?

Mori: The playlist is less of a list of my favorite songs and is more of a collection of songs that everyone said they'd like to hear, among which I'd recommend Celica's theme, Crystal Forest, Izanami's theme, YOMOTSUHIRASAKA, and Relius vs. Valkenhayn's theme, Dissonance. And, although it's not included among the songs for the music player, of all of them I really like Nu's theme, Awakening the Chaos.

4Gamer: The composition of these songs was left to Daisuke Ishiwatari and Norichika Sato, but did you give them a complete image to work off of for each one, or was it self-driven by them?

Mori: Well, you see, a special interview that touches upon that exact topic is included in the BlazBlue 10th Anniversary Premium Booklet [that comes with the Sound Complete Box]. We've recorded a conversation between myself, Ishiwatari-san, and Sato-san, so I hope everyone will read it.

4Gamer: Sounds like it will be published candid. By the way, going from the official website's links to each shop left me torn between which version to buy. Is there still a possibility I can buy it?

Mori: They're produced using the preorder numbers as a base, but I think they may have made more rather than less. There still aren't that many being produced, so I think those who want to get their hands on it should order sooner rather than later.

  • The product is being sold at
    • Kotobukiya Akihabara
    • Arc System Works Official Web Shop
    • ebten x Arc System Works official web shop
    • amazon (JP)

4Gamer: Finally, a message for the fans and readers, please.

Ishikawa: Ver2.0 was developed as a major change for BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle. I hope that the update will bring about a fresh way of playing the game, and I think that older players and newcomers both will enjoy the game.

Mori: I believe Ver2.0 brings new ways to enjoy the game to older players, while giving beginning players a new start line. BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle was developed with bringing something interesting to fighting games in mind, and can be enjoyed without getting too detailed. I think it's fine to play the game because the avatars are cute or the story is entertaining, to put the fighting game part second, or to just have fun seeing the characters move around together and to play matches only if you take an interst in it.

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