We recently got our hands on Heavenstrike Rivals, an intriguing upcoming strategy game from Square Enix and Mediatonic that's currently in a soft launch phase. To learn more about the game and the East/West collaboration that created it, we spoke with Masanori Ichikawa, a game producer at Square Enix, and Paul Croft, Director of Games at Mediatonic.
148Apps: First, could you give a brief overview of Heavenstrike Rivals?
Masanori Ichikawa (MI): Heavenstrike Rivals was created as a joint effort between Square Enix and Mediatonic, a studio in England. It’s a brand new tactical RPG. One of the game’s key features is the real-time PvP multiplayer.
148Apps: You described the game as a tactical RPG with PvP combat. What does that mean exactly? What would you compare it to?
MI: It means that you can battle in real-time, like if you were playing chess, over the internet with other players.
Paul Croft (PC): I would compare it to many multiplayer games you might find on PC. We have multiple types of leagues and tournaments, similar in structure to those in Starcraft 2 or League of Legends. Players can compete directly with others across the world for the top places and earn promotions into new divisions if they perform well.
148Apps: The game features a lot of Final Fantasy talent, and it is a Square Enix game. Was that series a big influence on development? If so, in what ways? What were your other influences?
MI: First off, it’s important to stress that this game was created in partnership with Mediatonic. To give an example, myself and Ryoma Ito (Final Fantasy Tactics Advance), the main character designer, spent many days over in England at Mediatonic’s offices. Character designing isn’t just drawing a picture; we spent a lot of time talking in order to make sure that we shared the same view of the world setting and characters.
We got a staff member who was involved in level design for the Final Fantasy XIII series to serve as director of the work we did on our side in Japan, and when the team in England heard Ryo Yamazaki’s (Final Fantasy XIV) music they were very excited. Further, the live operations of the game are being overseen by people who have experience in managing Japanese online card games.
I hope that, when you look at the game, that feeling of ‘collaboration’ comes across.
PC: For many of us at Mediatonic, some of our fondest gaming memories are playing titles like Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest, so to work with the company that made those games and to have the opportunity to create something new with them has been a true honor.
As Ichikawa-san mentioned, collaboration has been a central theme in this project – it’s been our aim to combine our knowledge and experience to create a game that works on a worldwide basis. We’ve been regularly traveling to Japan, meeting with the Square Enix team, and learning more about the Japanese market, which has been fascinating.
When it came to the story, our main goal was to create something that would feel simultaneously familiar and different to long-time fans of Square Enix. We wanted to make a deep and unique world setting for the game, and when doing so it’s important to include familiar elements so that the world isn’t too confusing or alienating. I hope that JRPG fans feel a nostalgic vibe from the game, while also presenting them with a fresh new flavor that could only have come about by a global collaboration.
148Apps: What are your goals in trying to create an RPG specifically for mobile devices?
MI: I worked on console games for a very long time, so I’m not sure if there were any points where we thought ‘because it’s a mobile game, it specifically has to be like this...’
I think this comes across when you play it, but I think it’s a game you could enjoy the same even if it was released on Steam, or on PS4/Xbox One. The main goal was to create something that people across the world would enjoy.
PC: I totally agree; our main focus above every else was creating a game that’s fun and interesting to play. Easy to learn the basic rules, yet with a lot of depth and strategy.
One important consideration for us was designing and balancing the game to ensure the business model was fair to all players as our game is focused on PvP. Players can earn and win characters through many different methods in the game and low rarity characters are often as useful as high rarity ones in certain circumstances – you can build a great deck and compete at a high level whether you spend money or whether you play for free.
We hope players will enjoy the game, we’ve got lots of exciting events and updates planned over the coming months!
Heavenstrike Rivals will be launching worldwide soon. Thanks again to Ichikawa and Croft for their time.