A few months ago, I came across a demo of an indie RPG known as Kaiju Big Battel: Fighto Fantasy, which features Kaiju wrestlers from the Kaiju Big Battel wrestling group. The full version of the game launched on Steam on October 31, 2018, and I decided to chat with developer Paul Harrington about the games main inspirations, characters, humor, and more.
IndieHangover: What were some of the games that inspired this one, and what was the soundtrack inspired by?
Paul Harrington: For its core combat and battle design, KBB:FF is heavily inspired by classic Final Fantasy titles, but with a focus on buffing/debuffing that’s more commonly seen in the Dragon Quest series. When it comes to the game’s tone I wanted to capture something similar to Chrono Trigger‘s mix of light-hearted silliness and apocalyptic threats. That’s something that’s been a part of the modern Dragon Quest titles too; in the face of world-ending threats, there’s still an overall powerful sense of optimism and I think that’s important. That and the Dragon Quest series’ love of puns.I’ve worked with Glock & mr8bit on game soundtracks for all of my recent games, some of which were never finished or released. The first title we worked on together was Surlaw Armageddon, a horror RPG I was working on that was using Silent Hill music for placeholders. 8bit played the game and offered to redo the soundtrack with original music and we’ve been working together since! Surlaw Armageddon never went anywhere beyond a demo version, but pieces of its soundtrack would be reused in Ghost’s Towns in 2015.Part of the goal of the soundtracks in each of these games is to produce something that doesn’t immediately scream “video game.” I don’t want people to hear them and think, “Oh, this is a Final Fantasy pastiche,” or “I recognize this beat from Killer7.” Fighto Fantasy continues that idea, with music that’s designed to have more of a dance beat. Some of it’s there to get you pumped, some to come down and chill out. In the live Kaiju wrestling events the fighters often come out to dance music and I wanted to capture that feeling.
IH: What was the most difficult part of development?
PH: Finding time. Everyone who contributed to the game worked a full-time day job and some of them were working on other game or comic projects at the same time, so working around those schedules was sometimes a challenge. My daughter was born during the game’s production, so that also changed any sense of free time that I had!
IH: Some items are missing letters in their names, is this a stylistic choice?”
PH: The engine we were using had some built-in functions (like shops and the items menu) that relied on short names to get everything to fit and line up nicely, so it became part of the style. For me, it’s fun to try and work around limitations like that, though a couple names ended up looking a little odd!
IH: One of the most notable sidequests has players befriending and collecting cats, what are some ways you developed sidequests so that players would be more interested in completing them rather than ignoring them?”
PH: My approach to the game’s side quests is inspired by the Yakuza series. There aren’t many games where I’ll track down every quest, but I always make sure to do so in each Yakuza game just because of how unexpected, silly, and endearing so many of them end up being. There’s always a reward, but it’s important for the quest itself to be entertaining enough to be worth tracking down. I don’t want people completing them just to check items off a list, I want them to be excited when they find a new one and wonder what kind of trouble our heroes are going to get into this time! I’d love to add a few more in a free update later on.
IH: There are two playable arcade games in the HQ which also give players XP depending on their score with a higher score granting them more XP, what made you decide to include this?”
PH: Between the arcade games, the jukebox/computer, and a radio station where the heroes interview each other, I wanted Hero HQ to feel like a fun place to hang out and go back to. It serves as a functional hub between areas, but I wanted it to be more than that. The XP bonus for the arcade games was a late addition to give players motivation to try them out more than once. Burger Time and Space Invaders are two of my favorite classic arcade games, so I wanted to fit tributes to them in here. There was going to be a third game based on Sega’s Pengo, but it didn’t work out. I was also building a dance mini game, but it was taking up too much time that needed to be spent on other parts of the game. That’s one I might revisit in a later update if it seems feasible.
IH: Do you have a favorite party character and why are they your favorite?”
PH: I’ve got a few different answers there: For personality, Dusto Bunny is my favorite character. He’s a huge, disgusting mess that’s somehow the Kaiju Heroes’ wise man figure, in spite of how often he gets things wrong. He might screw up and offer bad advice, but he’s genuine, accepting, and confident. He might end up making a clown of himself, but he’s a great friend.When it comes to game play, Robox is my favorite. He learns spells and enhances his stats by scanning enemies, so he adds a collectible aspect to the game. You can choose to ignore his move sets entirely, but if you put the work in he can become the party’s strongest fighter by far. He’s also the most customizable and can be equipped to favor physical or magical attacks. He’s the most freeform hero in the party and his ability to hack into computers you encounter was one of the most fun parts of development.As a writer, I had the most fun with Kung Fu Chicken Noodle Soup. He joins the party late in the game, but I feel that he has a standout personality. He’s more of a laidback rogue than a hero and he’s got a lot of insecurity under his aluminum body. I just think it’s funny to have this living can of soup that fights with a butcher knife show a sweet side. More than the other heroes, he’s playing up an image, and I liked writing moments where he can drop the facade and open up, albeit briefly.
IH: Something else notable is the humor in the text and dialogue, throughout the game. Is humor an important staple of the Kaiju Big Battel, and were there certain things you had to do to make sure the humor was conveyed well?”
PH: Humor’s always been a staple of live KBB events, but the biggest challenge was that in the live shows most of the characters don’t speak! The villainous Dr. Cube is the most vocal character at shows so he was easy to translate, but for other heroes I had to create a style of speaking and joking around that accurately represented their personality in the ring. They each have extensive backstories and histories and I wanted to try to incorporate enough of that to be familiar to anyone who’s seen a Kaiju event, but not so much that someone new would be overwhelmed. There’s no outside reading required, but there are some obscure Easter eggs specifically thrown in for longtime Kaiju Big Battel fans.
IH :Who would you recommend this game for and what do you hope players gain from it?”
PH: I think KBB:FF should have wide appeal among RPG fans; it’s straightforward, colorful, and when it gets tough it’s always fair. You might have to change your strategies, but you never have to grind for level ups.I wanted it to be accessible to a wide range of players, so the difficulty selections available range from an easy mode where RPG newcomers can survive by mashing Attack to a hard mode where a random encounter can wipe out the party if you don’t plan ahead and use every move you’ve got. It’s important to me that the difficulty levels aren’t just a matter of bigger or smaller stats; the hard mode offers more complex enemies with different abilities, and I actually remixed every encounter in the game to play out a little differently depending on your difficulty. I want players to feel welcomed by the game, even if its monsters are trying to eat them!Approaching it as a story, I wanted to write a comedy that isn’t mean-spirited or nihilistic but at the same time isn’t a quip fest and almost never winks at the audience. A lot of the comedy is dark or bittersweet (especially scenes involving Robox or Soup) and it pokes fun at heroic RPG cliches, but it was essential that the game remain genuine at all times. You can enjoy it for its mummy and ghost puns, but I hope some players will dig in a little deeper and think about what’s really going on with some of these heroes and villains and what they’re actually accomplishing. I hope everyone takes something a little different from it!