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Behind the Scenes at JAPAN Studio with Allan Becker

Fred Dutton's Avatar + Posted by Fred Dutton on Apr 14, 2014 // SCEE Blog Manager

Earlier today we unveiled a trio of new PS Vita titles coming out of our JAPAN Studio over in Tokyo: Oreshika: Tainted Bloodlines, Soul Sacrifice Delta and Freedom Wars. For those unfamiliar with the studio and its heritage, it’s one of Sony Worldwide Studios most interesting assets, responsible for a diverse library of hugely charismatic titles, including Puppeteer, rain, Tokyo Jungle, Gravity Rush and Shadow of the Colossus.

To find out a little more about its vision and creative mandate, as well as its three forthcoming PS Vita titles, we spoke with studio chief Allan Becker.

PlayStation.Blog: How has JAPAN Studio changed in the last two or three years?
Allan Becker: We have become better focused and better prepared to compete in a fast and ever changing industry. The Studio is more open to new technologies and ideas and willing to grasp those opportunities when they come along. But at the heart JAPAN Studio still retains its core ideal to make creative, novel and imaginative titles.

PSB: What sort of games do you want JAPAN Studio to be known for?
AB: I would like for us to be known for titles that innovate and are of high quality, whether they are five-hour PSN titles or big AAA pillar titles. Obviously we are in a very competitive business so we have to make titles that do well commercially. Hopefully we will do that by staying true to those two core concepts and become known for them.

PSB: Prior to joining JAPAN Studio you were in charge at Sony Santa Monica. Have they been very different experiences? Is there any kind of shared ethos that you could pinpoint?
Allan Becker: Very different. To put it simply, cultural differences affect the way individuals perceive their world. Without the ability to tune into the culture, you simply cannot get very far. I’m still learning. The commonality between the studios is that we all want to find success, albeit in different ways.

Soul Sacrifice Delta on PS VitaSoul Sacrifice Delta on PS Vita

PSB: Soul Sacrifice Delta – is this an expansion, or a full blown sequel?
AB: It’s a very large scale expansion, but not a full blown sequel. There’s a lot for a Soul Sacrifice fan to sink their teeth into – no pun intended.

Soul Sacrifice Delta on PS Vita

PSB: What exactly can those fans expect from it, and when will we see it on shelves?
AB: Soul Sacrifice Delta brings many additions and enhancements to the original title – there are new monsters based on classic fairy tales with a dark twist, more sorcerers, maps, quest and spells.

But there isn’t just more of everything; we’ve made many improvements to the game mechanics with dynamic maps, adaptive and more complex AI for the monsters. The spell casting system has been overhauled too: you can now combine spells during battle to enhance them or create new ones, which adds a lot of variety and depth to the gameplay.

Soul Sacrifice Delta also introduces Grim, the third faction, and tells the story of their plot against the established order and the very nature of the world. Players can now choose to pledge allegiance to one of the factions, which have their own strengths, rewards and play styles, all of which reflect the faction’s belief.

Save data from Soul sacrifice including story progression, costumes, offerings, sigils, black rites, life/soul essence and lacrima (up to 10,000) will carry over to Soul Sacrifice Delta! So, if you transfer your save data from Soul Sacrifice, the story progression will carry over and you can continue on with your adventure in Soul Sacrifice Delta.

We’re planning to release Soul Sacrifice only on the PlayStation Store, on May 13th.

Freedom Wars on PS Vita

PSB: Freedom Wars – can you tell us a little more about this one? The concept sounds intriguing…
AB: The title brings chaos and order existing in a place where freedom is bought and worked for. It’s a role-playing game that chucks you into the middle of a dystopian underground world, where players start off with a million-year sentence. The battles are fought as punishment and freedom is what you earn at the end of your fully redeemed sentence of a million years! The game is an action battle game and will include offline and online multiplayer play.

PSB: And Oreshika: Tainted Bloodlines. This is a series that Western gamers might not be too familiar with. Can you bring them up to speed?
AB: We released the original Oreshika on PS one in 1999 and a remake for PSP in 2011 but despite their popularity over here neither made it outside of Japan. At the time we thought that the game was too ‘Japanese’ to appeal to a western audience. But if you play it you’ll see it’s a unique and fun JRPG that will appeal to a lot of gamers so this time round it just feels right to bring the experience to new fans outside of Japan.

Oreshika: Tainted Bloodlines on PS Vita

PSB: And for those who have played the original Ore no Shikabane wo Koete Yuke, how does the sequel build on the concept?
AB: Firstly, although the games are linked, players who have never played the original game will be able to enjoy Oreshika: Tainted Bloodlines as it starts a completely new story. But if you have played the original, you’ll find that all of the game’s systems have been greatly expanded. Plus, you should look out for some really cool things that we’ve been able to do using the Vita hardware that just weren’t possible with PS one or PSP.

PSB: All three titles have a really strong ‘Japanese’ identity to them. How accessible do you think Western gamers will find them?
AB: Part of our role is to support the Japanese and Asian markets. Obviously these markets are very handheld centric and that is why we are producing these titles firstly and foremost. So that is why they have a very strong “Japanese” identity, although I will say that these titles will be accessible. Will they appeal to a wide Western audience? That is hard to say, but they will definitely appeal to the eclectic hardcore gamer and ‘Japanophiles’ out there.

Freedom Wars on PS Vita

PSB: All three titles we’re announcing today are for PS Vita. Is this a coincidence or is JAPAN Studio putting a special emphasis on handheld development at present?
AB: As I mentioned, we are tasked with supporting our region and the PS Vita market in Japan/Asia is still growing. So we hope that these three titles will support continued growth of the PS Vita. Currently, the studio has many titles in development across several hardware platforms, so there is no specific emphasis on handheld development.

PSB: You’ve just released another PS Vita title, Destiny of Spirits. It’s a nice coup to have such a talented developer as Q Entertainment working on a title for JAPAN Studio. How did the collaboration come about?
AB: The game released just this past month and is our first free-to-play title. So we are both anxious and excited to see how it is viewed by gamers. If you haven’t downloaded it I suggest that you do and give it a try.

I’ve known Q-Entertainment since their inception and I always wanted to work with Mizuguchi-san on something new and Destiny of Spirits was the result. Simple as that.

PSB: More generally speaking, how do you choose which studios to collaborate with?
AB: The key has less to do with the studios but which creative individual we wish to collaborate with. They are the one that we will work with, sometimes on a daily basis. So it is important to choose someone who has the same mindset as we do.

//Add Your Own

64 Comments

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1

+ Christian399 on April 14th, 2014 at 9:12 am said:

Great interview. Can’t wait to see SCEJ’s output this gen on Vita and PS4.

Oh, and another Wild Arms (in HD, on PS4) would literally blow my mind. I can’t believe how we haven’t had another entry in that fantastic series since the misstep of WA: XF. Possibly the reason, but that’s because it wasn’t the game fans wanted. A steampunk, western, RPG is a niche that hasn’t really been filled since that series went AWOL. Sony could knock it out of the park if the IP got the attention it deserves.


2

+ gerneric123 on April 14th, 2014 at 9:15 am said:

Thank you Alan for your studio’s support on PS Vita. At least we know one internal studio understands that the platform exists … I’m very excited for Freedom Wars, Oresheika, as well as the teased Gravity Rush sequel. I hope we’ll one day see a new Ape Escape, Patapon, LocoRoco, Wild Arms, and a Dark Cloud game too!


3

+ Edzo04ps on April 14th, 2014 at 9:17 am said:

Ape Escape 4 for PS4. Do it.


4

+ TheExiled12894 on April 14th, 2014 at 9:18 am said:

My Vita is so ready for these games.


5

+ ninth_prey on April 14th, 2014 at 9:22 am said:

First off, THANKS SO MUCH for releasing Soul Sacrifice Delta here in NA. I was getting worried. But I have to ask, am I understating correctly that its ONLY for the ps store and NOT retail?? If thats true, why? Also, sony then needs to release the 64g memory card in NA. I won’t have the space for it.


6

+ Elvick_ on April 14th, 2014 at 9:28 am said:

I won’t buy any of these if they aren’t retail.

Sony, stop sucking. Niche gamers like retail.


7

+ Elvick_ on April 14th, 2014 at 9:31 am said:

I’m so disappointed and angry. If that was not clear.


8

+ DemoniOtaku on April 14th, 2014 at 9:37 am said:

Hi!, Thaks for the info and the support on the PSVita with all these titles..

I usally don’t complain about a game being only Digital because I bougth most of my games on this format, but this time I was Expecting to buy SSDELTA on a physical Limited Edition with that gorgeous Artbook with wich releaed in Japan… really a shame, I collect speciale editions specially if have artbooks.


9

+ jackissocool on April 14th, 2014 at 9:43 am said:

These announcements are great! When will we hear more about the new Gravity Rush game?


10

+ DRAQ-520 on April 14th, 2014 at 9:43 am said:

Thanks a lot for the support, however, please bring Soul Sacrifice Delta in retail too, alongside the other two, I like having my physical collection and I hope even more exciting news from you guys, like Wild Arms 6 and Gravity Rush 2!!


11

+ Pabloo1010 on April 14th, 2014 at 9:51 am said:

FF Type 0 and Minecraft retail & PS Vita bundles next Sony!


12

+ oversevethousand on April 14th, 2014 at 9:58 am said:

First off: I’m thrilled to see these games coming, especially Delta, though it being digital only is rather concerning. I want this to take off and be a franchise that lasts for as long as Sony has handhelds!

That aside, I have to take some issue in describing Soul Sacrifice, at least, as “very Japanese.” The gameplay is largely action oriented and the lore is all derived from Western stories – even moreso in the Japanese version, since the Western version (for some reason) removed and renamed all the references to King Arthur. So I don’t get that at all, myself.

Lastly, will we hear more about how our chosen ending in Soul Sacrifice will carry over in Delta eventually? I got both endings, but I’d like to hear in a bit more detail how Delta decides which ending you chose and what will change based on the obtained ending, and I’m sure others would like to hear as well.


13

+ RE_Player on April 14th, 2014 at 10:22 am said:

Thank you for bringing these games to North America.


14

+ nbnt on April 14th, 2014 at 10:27 am said:

Thanks for bringing these games to the west.

Now, when can we finally see The Last Guardian? ╥_╥


15

+ JiveAfro on April 14th, 2014 at 10:28 am said:

NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! why is SSD digital only?! No NO NO NO NO!!!! I want a physical copy!


16

+ fullmy4gbnow on April 14th, 2014 at 10:42 am said:

Why no physical release for SSD? :O Hope there’s one for Freedom Wars and Oreshika… I hate digital only :/ Might have to reconsider it.


17

+ Elvick_ on April 14th, 2014 at 10:43 am said:

Honest question, how on earth do you not at *LEAST* do a limited, retailer exclusive release? I mean, Bandai Namco is doing that with One Piece: Unlimited Red (forget the third word in the title xP) on Vita. And that was previously digital only when it was announced. And it’s looking to be like Tales of Hearts R is going to do the same.

Why can’t you at least do that? Then everyone wins. I’m not huge on retailer exclusives, but I accept that. It shows a publisher is willing to appeal to everyone the best they can. People who want a retail copy have their shot to get it. The company doesn’t have to send it out to a ton of retailers or print a huge number of units.

Why? Why is SCE incapable of such things?

Please, PLEASE do this for these games. As I’m sure Oreshika is doomed to digital only fate as well. Please listen to us, like Bamco did with One Piece Red on Vita. I preordered that game on Vita (despite it being $10 more than the PS3 version at ebgames… and the 3DS version is oddly $10 more than the Vita version, so $20 more than PS3. lolwat)


18

+ Souledge94 on April 14th, 2014 at 10:43 am said:

Will these game be eng dub? I want to know since this will make or break my purchese. Also does freedom wars have a story mode?


19

+ Shiroyami on April 14th, 2014 at 10:44 am said:

Firstly, I agree with #11, secondly, Soul Sacrifice Delta should get a retail release, it’s too big a title for PSN only, come on Sony. Retail presence is important! I’ll still get it anyway but I do believe you have to handle niche games and the gamers that buy them better, in order to cultivate the PS Vita base. I pray Freedom Wars and Oreshika get a retail release for sure.


20

+ tusunami on April 14th, 2014 at 10:49 am said:

And who are those misinformed people that always say where are the game at on PS Vita or I don’t see a reason to buy one. Where here are the many of reasons as to why the PS Vita is incredible.


21

+ Sharingan_itachi on April 14th, 2014 at 10:50 am said:

Please tell me there is a retail. WHAT IS WRONG WITH SONY


22

+ CrazyOza on April 14th, 2014 at 10:51 am said:

Quote: “appeal to the eclectic hardcore gamer and ‘Japanophiles’ out there.”

Yes, I’m one of those.
The only thing I’m asking for is that the original voice acting stays as an option for every game. Allthough I was never a fan of games like Soul Sacrifice, Freedom Wars looks interesting enough for me to give it a go.

But Oreshika will be a day one for me if the original VA is included.


23

+ vocab- on April 14th, 2014 at 11:05 am said:

SSD digital only? Why? That’s really disappointing to hear. I was really looking forward to this game. That cover art is beautiful, and now you are just reducing the game to digital only status? That is a huge turn off. If Freedom wars and Oreshika are digital only as well, a lot of people are going to be pissed off.


24

+ lisatsunami on April 14th, 2014 at 11:07 am said:

I hope this is the leading edge of a solid trend, bringing Japan Vita games to America. When I search Asian import sites, I can see that are tons and tons of Vita games in Japan and it always makes me sad.

I know it’s a long tradition in Japan to keep their best products “not for export” but come on! Release the Vita TV, the 64 (or higher) gig memory card, and all of the non-black Vitas here, too, please! How about letting your paying, devoted customers decide what’s “too Japanese” for western gamers?


25

+ TeamGreen615 on April 14th, 2014 at 11:32 am said:

Well here is one more person who is really disappointed there is not a physical copy of Soul Sacrifice Delta being released in NA. I was really hoping it would come here but I don’t buy digital games unless they are dirt cheap, sorry.


26

+ OnlineProdigy360 on April 14th, 2014 at 11:45 am said:

You guys should make retail versions of this game. Also, in addition to this, we want more 1st party and 3rd party exclusives targeted towards Western gamers. One question though, are there any plans to make more PS VIta TV commercials this year for North America?


27

+ Welmosca on April 14th, 2014 at 11:53 am said:

Nice interview…I loved his answer to the 2nd question…see Japanstudio is one of the best group of devs out there…I could say that their creativity rivals Mm’s….I said this countless time in the blog and I’ll just keep on saying…they always bring new IPs and always stay true to us core gamers and to what games originally were…SP experience.Much love and respect for Japanstudio…you guys deliver.

You guys have my support forever.


28

+ BlueBl1zzard on April 14th, 2014 at 12:24 pm said:

@lisatsunami True that. I would especially love some more colored Playstation products like vitas and Dualshock 4 controllers (to use on my new PS4!)


29

+ italodancemp3 on April 14th, 2014 at 12:24 pm said:

Great now I see Vita can replace PS3 forever,Vita is a strong device in your hands yeah it’s the future of gaming consoles :) portable and strong


30

+ TwinDad on April 14th, 2014 at 12:28 pm said:

To those who are asking about a retail release, do you really have to question why it isn’t getting one?

I was at Target trying to find a 3rd game for their sale, when i realized I wanted Final Fantasy X HD for Vita, so I looked around and could not find it. In fact I found a very generous selection of 7, yes seven vita games in Target. Not just one, but two stores. It’s not moving titles in retail why should retail devote precious shelf space to the vita whose sales are basement.


31

+ Sharingan_itachi on April 14th, 2014 at 12:40 pm said:

@TwinDad

Your first problem was shopping at Target for Vita games.

Why shouldn’t we question it? I mean all these smaller companies can release retail release. Namco recently showed its interest in retail release so they’re stocking games at Gamestop as exclusive.

You should be using either Amazon or Gamestop.


32

+ Dinoegg_96 on April 14th, 2014 at 1:16 pm said:

These games deserve a retail release!!!


33

+ Tinye310 on April 14th, 2014 at 1:32 pm said:

I have to say thank you for trusting that not only Japanese people like Japanese style games. I think that’s an old conception that needs to die and realize that all peoples can enjoy a game meant for a specific group of people. The world is big and we have the ability to talk with someone instantly thousands of miles away. People are more alike around the world than one might believe.

With that said, Destiny of Spirits really rocks! I love it so much. I can’t wait to play all these games! Thank you again and please continue to release great games for all peoples.


34

+ chrisgomez3030 on April 14th, 2014 at 1:43 pm said:

was wondering about a realese for God Eater 2, its from shift who is the same creator of freedom wars and it is the reason i bought a vita.


35

+ Shadow_Raskolnik on April 14th, 2014 at 1:54 pm said:

I hope that “only on the PlayStation Store” comment is a misprint or something because I feel like Sony is making a mistake releasing this game digital only without at least a special limited edition with the artbook Japan got. Please give this game a retail release even if it’s only through limited distribution.


36

+ Elvick_ on April 14th, 2014 at 2:11 pm said:

@30: I don’t care about in-store retailers. The same ones I have to drive to 3 or more stores just to find a CD I want. Or the ones I go to get a game and they have yet to unload their stock in the back and look at you like you’re unreasonable for wanting something they’ve yet to unpack.

Go to amazon or EB Games/GameStop’s websites. That’s the best place to buy games, and for amazon the best place to buy everything entertainment. Then you’re not at the whim of the store’s typical buyer.

There’s nothing unreasonable about wanting a limited retail release. Even if it’s exclusive to one retailer. Like Bamco is doing with One Piece: Unlimited World Red on PS Vita. Which was originally announced digital only for Vita, but they listened and are now doing a GS/EB Games exclusive release.

Why can’t Sony do the same? Why is Sony the only one that seems to not care about Vita owners or listen to what they say? Sega may not have listened with Hatsune Miku: Project Diva f, they are with 2nd and releasing it at retail. Niche publishers like Aksys have no problem releasing at retail, even PSP games in 2013… otome games, the most niche of niche.


37

+ NeverEnder24 on April 14th, 2014 at 4:11 pm said:

Please!!, reconsider your digital only stance on Soul Sacrifice. Like others said at least a limited edition/release would be great.


38

+ Blackstar131 on April 14th, 2014 at 4:14 pm said:

Make Delta Retail!! i don’t have money to spend on your high memory cards.


39

+ CatatonicAlex on April 14th, 2014 at 4:39 pm said:

Delta is digital only?
Kind of sucks…I already have SS digital though so as long as it’s the same file size…


40

+ UltimateI911 on April 14th, 2014 at 6:01 pm said:

Please bring a physical release. I bought the original Soul Sacrifice Day 1 and loved it.

I hate to skip SSD because it’s digital only but there are a lot of other niche games for the Vita and other system that are bring physical release.

Physical releases get a priority on my budget, but digital, I wait for a deep discount or for it to go free on PS+.


41

+ Egz-Onine on April 14th, 2014 at 7:18 pm said:

Nice interview. I’m so addicted to Destiny of Spirits! Tell Q Entertainment that I am enjoying their game. It would be nice to see Ape Escape 4 come to PS3 or PS4. I can’t believe it hasn’t been done yet. I’m not counting the Move version. It needs to return to its platforming roots.

Also, …where is The Last Guardian?


42

+ Dragonsmana on April 14th, 2014 at 7:39 pm said:

Please release Soul Sacrifice Delta as a physical copy here. I really enjoyed the first version, but I don’t feel I can support digital only.


43

+ Yuuta-Moe on April 14th, 2014 at 8:07 pm said:

That’s a bad bad bad decision to make it Digital Only. First of all, not everyone has the luxury to upgrade their memory cards (most especially when they’re expensive). Second, there are a lot of consumers who prefer retail copies.
Then again, this probably explains why you’re going to release the game in English sooner than anticipated.
But srsly, listen to your consumers. You don’t want to turn them off.


44

+ alexhorton on April 14th, 2014 at 9:18 pm said:

hows about the 64 gb memory card while you guys are at it eh? ;)


45

+ AizawaYuuichi on April 15th, 2014 at 1:28 am said:

*Completely off-topic

@ Elvick_: THANK YOU! I had no idea there was another One Piece game coming out already, or that Bamco finally pulled their head out of their *** and are bringing over the Vita version as well, OR that it was getting a physical release through Gamestop. Definitely adding this to my pre-order list as soon as possible.


46

+ rockjoze on April 15th, 2014 at 2:19 am said:

What about Gravity Rush 2, there is some information of its development?, as a fan of the first I look forward to some information. PD: What a great announcement of games, I’m also a fan of JAPAN Studio and i’m enjoying a lot Destiny Of Spirits :)


47

+ SLEEPYsleep on April 15th, 2014 at 3:42 am said:

well sony i hope you see everyone crying about the digital thing so please listen. personaly i don care at all , i spent my entire paycheck 2 64gb memory cards on amazon as soon as they were available, then the much needed 500 app update several months later, but, VITA is just so awesome. i want it to do better. i try my hardest to defend it every day from the nay sayes ( i work at a video game store) andyou see how spoiled and snotty your fans are and how fickle we are in the states , so please . things that need to happen: localize sword art online vita game. localize the latest jump fighter. convince powers that be to make a vita Intial D game.put portable ops fat princess and crisis core on vita psn. make a 120 gb card. sell it for $125.00


48

+ Christian399 on April 15th, 2014 at 5:02 am said:

The “no digital” crowd need to give it a rest. Be grateful that you are getting NICHE games on a NICHE handheld at all! Do any of you have a grasp on economics or marketing? Putting out a retail release of a limited appeal product is a huge risk. Namco is doing it because they either have cash to burn or know that it will sell. Same with SEGA, though they hedged their bets and put out a PS3 version of Miku/ whatever too (have no interest in loli-girlfriend sims, sorry). Sony may not have either of those advantage. We are getting a game that we – North Americans – would otherwise have to learn Japanese to play. Talk about a sense of entitlement or what. Be grateful you are getting SSD at all. And its still the same game, just minus a box. But I guess this is the same sub-section of niche collectors that need their Neptunia blow-up dolls, plushies and limited edition CDs.

I love niche games, especially Japanese ones, but its about the software, first and foremost. If you want the rest of the frills, look to a different hobby.


49

+ Staz117 on April 15th, 2014 at 5:59 am said:

A niche game ? Wtf stop with this ****. The best help you can bring to japanese game is to STOP saying EVERYTIME “OH IT’S A NICHE GAME, A PSN RELEASE IS BETTER THAN NOTHING LOL”. Seriously, SENRAN KAGURA, this is a niceh game, a REAL ONE, and he has a physical release here in europe, and you know what ? The game have made good sales, because poeple support this kind of release.

Soul Sacrifice is not a NICHE GAME holy ****, it’s one of the most valuate Vita games. A must have, the game was on top 5 weekly sales in france at one of the biggest shop ( Fnac ) for example.

Neptunia is not a niche game too, everybody know Neptunia, it’s just a mediocre game than nobody want. Same thing for Atelier and cie, they are not niche game anymore, but NISA games like Neptunia have great collectors edition and physical release ( but english traduction only ), Soul Sacrifice Delta deserve a retail release, I’ll never believe about rentability problem for this game. Never. I mean, lol, please guys, the idol spin-off of Neptunia have a PHYSICAL RELEASE :’D

And SS Delta can’t be bankable ? Lolz …


50

+ easterkeke on April 15th, 2014 at 7:48 am said:

Soul Sac wasn’t quite my cup of tea when I tried the demo, but I’ll be giving the full game a spin (thanks to PS+) when my backlog clears up. The designs and general aesthetic for the game is quite something. Long live Studio Japan for trying new, fresh things. Appreciate all that Allan and co. are doing for the PlayStation brand.


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