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Metal Wolf Chaos XD Interview: Producer Masanori Takeuch

FromSoftware’s Metal Wolf Chaos XD is an upcoming remaster of the original game of the same name that released in Japan way back in 2004, and producer Masanori Takeuchi was at E3 2019 to promote the new release, which is coming to audiences around the world for the first time later this year.

Long ago, when Microsoft was trying to push the original Xbox in Japan, they partnered with FromSoftware to develop a platform exclusive game to generate more sales – and that title ended up being Metal Wolf Chaos. It was a mecha game in which the President of the United States wore a mech suit to defeat the Vice President and his rebelling army.

Unfortunately, due to bad timing, Metal Wolf Chaos never released outside of Japan. But now, after 15 years, FromSoftware has partnered with publisher Devolver Digital to not only remaster it for the Xbox One, but also bring it to PlayStation and PC as well. We spoke to Takeuchi about the remaster and the mecha genre at E3.

This title is coming back after so many years, so why do it now? What made you decide to bring it back?

So the original impetus was actually Devolver Digital coming to us saying, “Why don’t we remaster this game?” We didn’t have any concrete plans to remaster this particular title – a game from 15 years ago. Devolver was actually pretty adamant that we would get a good reaction and that people would show a need for it, even now in the current climate. So they convinced us in the end to work with them.

Can you speak at all as to why it’s never been released in America? What didn’t work for the American market back then that does work now?

Initially, we did plan to release it overseas. There was even a demo version on the cover of Xbox Magazine, the official magazine. But unfortunately, it didn’t come about in the end. Our current development cycle allows us to release games simultaneously worldwide, but back then, our scope and resources weren’t quite so grand. So we would actually have to finish the Japanese version before beginning development and localization of the international version.

So the Japanese version back in those days released just at the end of the Xbox lifecycle. Because of that timing – it was right at the end of the Xbox lifecycle, the original Xbox lifecycle that released in Japan; we were working closely with Microsoft on publication of the game in Japan as well – and we knew that the Xbox 360 was coming out another six months later. It would actually take us six to ten months to develop and localize Metal Wolf Chaos for overseas territories, which meant the timing became very difficult. Microsoft ended up saying to us, it would make a lot more sense to just create a brand-new game for the 360 rather than try to rush this port across to modern consoles in time. Unfortunately, things didn’t quite come together in terms of timing.

Continuing off that, this game is now coming to multiple platforms – Xbox, PlayStation, and PC, I believe – so why isn’t only just Xbox this time around?

Back in those days, Microsoft was really trying to acquire a lot of different titles and franchises to increase the sell value of the original Xbox, to show a big repository of games. So that was one of the reasons we were able to collaborate with them and get this title on that platform, at the time. These days it’s not so much of a big issue for them, so the idea is just to get the game into as many people’s hands as possible. Get people who didn’t get to try it back in the day. That’s why we’re releasing on Xbox One, PS4, and PC this time.

This is a game where the President of the United States gets in a mech suit and takes on the rebelling Vice President. As you are preparing this remaster, was there any thought of tweaking the story to make it more relevant, to have maybe the Vice President rebelling against the President or the President rebelling against the country?

When we created the original, first of all, the idea was to have these very extreme, very eccentric characters, and we don’t think anything like that existed at the time or at least there wasn’t anything to base it on. It just purely a creative sort of decision. These days, of course, we have colorful characters such as the President of the United States, and we felt that if we were to try and create his story, it would lean too much towards… in that direction. It would be a little bit weird. So we decided just to recreate the original and be faithful to the original. And these eccentric and colorful characters… they’re kind of a different sort of spectrum.

But why recreate the original game instead of just making a sequel?

One of the main reasons is that, because it only released in Japan back in the day, about 15 years ago, it made it difficult for Westerners, people around the world, to experience it.

[Laughs] Yeah, we haven’t been able to play it ourselves.

[Laughs] Exactly. And so we thought it would be fair to most people, to let fans in the West, to get a taste of the series and what it’s about. If we just went straight into a sequel, obviously Japanese users might have an understanding, might be more acclimatized to that sort of setting, but the overseas fans would not have that luxury. We felt first we would like to re-release the original version, just to get everybody on board.

For this remaster, what kind of work have you needed to do to update the game, modernize the game? A lot of times you’ll see remasters come out – controls are tweaked, balance is tweaked.

In terms of content, it’s 100% faithful to the original version. First, for the same reason we just explained, we want people to get a taste of the original and how it was 15 years ago – just accessible on modern consoles. So we haven’t changed any of the actual content or tweaked the story, or anything like that. In terms of controls, we did contemplate a couple of things. For instance, back on the original Xbox controller, you only had the triggers; you didn’t have the bumpers. So we considered a way to kind of integrate the bumper buttons into the control scheme, but in the end, we couldn’t quite land on anything solid. And so, we just decided, again, to keep the controls faithful to the original. Of course, on the PC version, we’ll have the option for keyboard and mouse controls. But in general, for consoles, it’s going to be the same.

Was there something that you wanted to put into the first game and considered putting in the remaster, but obviously didn’t because nothing has changed?

Our main intention was to first get the original version absolutely, 100% faithful on modern hardware. So there wasn’t actually anything that we left out that we wanted to put onto the XD version.

It’s been 15 years. FromSoftware has released some really big games in the time since, and fans have certain expectations – maybe not with this game, but just in general from your body of work – so what would you want them to know about Metal Wolf Chaos coming from, say, Dark Souls or Bloodborne?

So, of course, we have this reputation for our dark fantasy games – maybe a lot fans expect those kinds of games to come out of the studio – and we do enjoy that side of the company, and we do feel like we want to please those fans, but at the same time, Dark Souls and Demon Souls were not our first dark fantasy games. We had a collection of that sort of titles. But at the same time, we did start making these mecha games. Not just Metal Wolf Chaos but the Armored Core series as well. And so, we would like people to understand that there’s more than one side to FromSoftware. Looking at that, it might be a good time to consider a new Armored Core game or something like that, but first of all, we just wanted to test the waters and make people aware of our past catalog and make them aware of this extra side of the studio. We enjoy kind of mecha fantasy as well as dark fantasy. So we thought Metal Wolf Chaos was a nice way to kind of remember that.

So it’s possible then if this is successful, you could make another mecha game, like Armored Core or even a Metal Wolf Chaos 2? Are you trying to revive the mecha market, at least in the West?

Glad you asked that question, because the mecha game, as a genre, it’s maybe perceived to be something that wouldn’t sell too well in the current climate – on modern hardware, with a modern audience. So it’s difficult for us, but we like to think that something like Metal Wolf Chaos does well and people receive that favorably, then we can start to consider, “Oh, well in that case, it might be worth exploring this. And then, how could we make mecha games make a comeback?” So we’ll see how this does first, and then yeah, there’s definitely a lot to consider.

So there is potential?

There is potential, yes.

You said Devolver put a pretty hard push on making this remake happen. Can you tell me anything about their pitch to you?

When they first approached us, we knew of them as a company, but we didn’t actually know what they were really all about; what sort of games they did or the direction they wanted to go in. And when they brought the concept to us about remastering Metal Wolf Chaos, we were a little bit hesitant. We said it was not going to do that well. Like, why would you want to do that? But they were adamant that it would have a good reaction, that it would please a lot of fans. So when we saw them, and when we saw what they wanted to do, the direction they wanted to take it – and not just with Metal Wolf, but with the partnership in general – we realized they wanted to do a lot of cool stuff. And they had a lot of the sensibilities – how they wanted to present themselves in the game – and it kind of aligned with our sort of culture and our sort of expectations for the future, as well. And so, we found just a nice match. So we think not just Metal Wolf but going forward it will be a fun partnership.

So you have something else in the works with them, with Devolver? Is this something in which you can see them as a longterm publisher?

We don’t have any concrete plans for what we’ll do after Metal Wolf, but in terms of just doing something fun and interesting together, we definitely think there’s potential there. Maybe you’re aware we announced another game this E3, Elden Ring, that is a huge, huge project. It’s a different scope, a different kind of excitement to the sort of thing we would be doing with Devolver. We feel there’s definitely a different avenue there, to try something a little smaller in scope, a little bit different. There’s a different excitement there. We feel there’s a different way to express ourselves with a publisher like Devolver and just give that kind of variety to the fans.

What is it that excites you as a team at FromSoftware about building a mecha game or playing a mecha game?

So when you have a game where the playable character is a human or humanoid, you can do a bunch of stuff, but there’s a lot of things you can’t do, of course. We feel like a robot game or a mecha game allows the player to do so much more, allows a lot more creative expression. And this goes for both the more kind of systemic, plot-heavy mecha games and more kind of action-heavy games. It’s more like a virtual experience. This is something we wanted to explore, it’s something that is fun to do – both as a creator and something we think is fun to enjoy as a player as well – and it’s sort of the direction we want to take mecha games in.