President of Nihon Falcom
(Liaison: NIS America)
Hello Kondo-san, and welcome! Thank you very much for joining us!
Thank you very much as well! This is the first time that I've ever seen your site. It's really well put together. I want to show it to everyone on staff when I get back [to Japan].
I'm so glad you like it! I'm not surprised you're only seeing it now. The website launched only two months ago. Our goal is to spread awareness of the Ys series outside of Japan!
So, I read that you joined Nihon Falcom in 1998 and are now the President of the company. Can you tell us briefly about your professional career and how your journey led you here today?
I had originally applied for the finance department when I joined the company and never imagined that I would be involved with development. However, because I had familiarity with the Internet, I started managing the servers and network. Eventually, I took over on the creation of websites and had to learn about the games in order to create the websites. I would give my impressions to the development staff. I would also offer them suggestions for things that could be improved. Eventually, I was asked to directly assist with development. From then, I did things like script writing. Of course, when writing a script, you need to know what's going on with the entirety of the game. And so from that, I began to manage the schedule and the project itself. I then started managing entire projects. Before I knew it, I was looking after the entire development team and finally I became the president, which is the position I currently hold.
What would you say is your "Mission Statement" when developing video games? Are there any fundamental rules that must be consistent in all of your games?
When I was creating games, I was mainly thinking of the players, but when I took on the role of president, I also began to look at the members of staff and their individual abilities. There aren't any specific, formalized rules, but, if I were to come up with one, it would be that we strive to create games that we are proud of. We don't release things that we believe are inadequate and I always make that known to staff members.
Are you seeing an increase on sales in the West now that more games are being localized? In your opinion, what are some of your biggest selling games outside of Japan?
Yes, this was something we never even thought would be possible until recently, but both the Ys series and the Trails series have really begun to become more popular in the West. Depending on the title, it might actually do better outside of Japan! This is something that we really keep in mind.
As for the best-selling games outside of Japan, sure enough, Ys is at the top. On the other hand, the Trails series is more popular in Japan.
Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana
The Ys series is slowly gaining popularity in the West over the past decade. What do you think can be done to push for more awareness?
Well, one thing that absolutely cannot be changed about the Ys series is the combat. Obviously, when looking back, you can see the transition from solo Adol to a party system and 3D, but what has always been constant is that, even when the player is fighting normal enemies, it's fun – so much so that you can just play forever. We always try to realize that in Ys games. Other than that, I think that we need to adjust things appropriately for the times. Looking at Memories of Celceta and Ys VIII, there are various systems in place that haven't been seen in prior Ys games. In Celceta, you have Adol collecting his lost memories and mapping out the areas. Since that was well-received, the mapping system is also in Ys VIII. There is also the Castaway Village that Adol must grow as well as protect. If you do the same thing every time, players will be come bored, so it's important to devise new things for each game.
Every different Ys games features a new location, and we try to put in appropriate systems to match these new locations and make the players happy. I believe that by doing these things, in the end, the user base will continue to grow.
Ys Origin and Ys 6 were developed many years after Ys I & II. The stories are all connected and include Ys 3 and 4. Some of us wonder if this connected story was planned from the very beginning? How many people are usually involved with writing the story of a Ys game?
The first Ys game that I worked on was Ys VI and beyond. Before that, there were many different things going on with the series including games that weren't even made by Falcom. I think that maybe Ys was supposed to end after I and II, but many other games did end up being made which created a very tenuous continuity. So from VI, we made a deliberate effort to straighten everything out and we made a timeline. We're still referencing the material we made at that time when we make a new Ys game. [Editor's note: Memories of Celceta (IV), The Oath in Felghana (III) and Ys Origin were developed after The Ark of Napishtim]
Even for things like The Oath in Felghana and Memories of Celceta, we referenced that timeline.
The main story is always written by one person. The quests and NPC dialog are handled by one or maybe two people max. So, three people, in total, are responsible for all text in the game.
Are you open to the idea of a full-length movie based on the Ys series, either animated or live action? We own the Anime and really want more!
We don't have the ability to make a film or movie in-house, but if a partner who could handle something like that offered, we would love to give it a try!
Ys The Original Video Animation from the late 80s
With the rising popularity of The Legend of Heroes to English gamers, are you open to the idea to port or remake of Ys vs. Sora no Kiseki: Alternative Saga?
I would love to continue making games in that series and we've even written design documents for other potential games. But since we are always working on the next game in either respective series, it's hard to make a new "Vs." a reality. That said, I would really like to find the time to be able to do that – especially since the potential character roster has grown since the days of the PSP version.
What are some of your personal favourite games from other video game developers?
I really admire the development staff of Uncharted [Naughty Dog].
What are some of your fondest memories working with Nihon Falcom? Can you share any funny stories?
I entered the company because I really liked "The Prophecy of the Moonlight Witch." And after entering the company, even though I didn't possess the technical ability, I was tasked with adding an additional scenario part to the Windows version of the game. However, I only had one week to complete this. I thought very carefully about how best to proceed in order to make this deadline. That's definitely an experience I won't forget! I believe that since I was able to put my all into coming up with a solution to this it is a direct link to where I am today.
As for a funny story, when doing development, there are some things that you leave in builds of the game that are listed as "temporary." When we were developing Ys II Eternal, right before we delivered the game to be mastered, we were doing a check to make sure we hadn't forgotten anything. We were performing this check in a room that had the Ys II title screen on a TV. We all were confident that we had done everything. However, when we looked over at the TV, we realized the title screen was still the temporary one! Because we had gotten so used to seeing that temporary screen, we had forgotten that we had never made the actual one! So we ran to the design staff and asked them to create a title screen. They had a very strict deadline... *laughs*
Can you share some of your thoughts on where you'd like to take the Ys series after Ys VIII? Ys IX? Spin-off? Sailing Simulator starring Adol and Dogi? haha
That's exactly what we're thinking about right now. Even though the series has been around longer, the average age of the Ys team members is younger that the Trails series. I really felt that the team on Ys VIII did well and whatever we decide to do, I want the next project to be one that will really increase their motivation.
Ys V is the only game that has not been localized in English. We have to ask, are there any current plans to remake this game?
At this moment, we have no plans, but we really do want to create a remake of Ys V, since it is an old game at this point. Actually, the original game design document for Ys V still exists in the office and it turns out that there were many things that weren't able to put into the Super Famicom version. It was mostly realized on a much smaller scale, so we would definitely like to do a remake that incorporates all the original ideas.
Ys V has yet to be officially localized outside of Japan
According to his journals, Adol lives a long and fulfilling life and dies at the age of 63. Do you think we will ever see him settle down with a family? Maybe with children?
We get that question a lot. Adol has essentially become a historical figure, so even we don't know all of it, but my personal opinion is that when Adol was separated from Feena he has carried that with him ever since and lived his life with her remembrance in his mind.
What is your personal favourite Ys game and why?
If it's an YS game I haven't worked on, I would have to say Ys I. Compared to II, Ys I is much more basic and there's no magic, but the setting is amazing. You have the town and the tower out in the distance. The mental image and feeling of when you first set out from the town and see the field before you is one of adventure. I really like that setting and it really gets your blood pumping. It was the first Ys game that I played, so that probably also has something to do with it, but overall, I really like the atmosphere of Ys I.
Who is your favourite Ys character and why?
*Thinks for a while*
Sure enough, Adol. Of course, he's a character that Falcom created, but there wasn't really much background information about him at the beginning. The players themselves have added a lot to his story. Like we mentioned earlier about if he ever did get married or not or had a girl in every town. In that way, the thoughts and feedback of the fans contributes to him a figure. This is something that isn't possible on the side of the developer alone. So because of this, I really like Adol.
Like I said earlier, he is something of a historical figure and there are so many details about him that are unknown and because of that, the fans want to fill in the blanks themselves.
What is your favourite song from any Ys game?
Ys II's opening, definitely. It leads directly into II and that idea, for it's time, was very fresh. Even after hearing the opening theme just once, it stays with you. Whenever the jdk band plays live, they always play this song.
Intro from Ys II Chronicles (PSP / VITA / PSTV / PC)
Thank you so much for your time. It was a pleasure speaking with you! Any final words for our readers?
From when I entered Falcom until now, when making games, we never expected that people outside of Japan would play them. The term "JRPG" was kind of pejorative in that those were games that could only really be sold in Japan or maybe Asia. However, in these last 4 or 5 years, many people have gradually begun to play our games outside of Japan and this has been a big encouragement to us. Going forward, we want to make games not only for fans in Japan, but for fans everywhere.