‘Royal Anapoko Academy’ Director On Ancient’s Style And Potential Issues Of An Overseas Release

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Royal Anapoko Academy
Image: Ancient Corp.

Here at Nintendo Life we’re huge fans of Ancient, the company set up by composer Yuzo Koshiro and his family which has worked on some absolute brilliant games over the last three decades — including Mega Drive classics Streets of Rage 2 and Beyond Oasis, and more recently the excellent Gotta Protectors on 3DS.

The company’s latest release, Royal Anapoko Academy, recently launched on Switch eShop in Japan and after spending time with this Japan-only release, we have so far found it to be a thoroughly enjoyable and superior slice of silly strategy.

We recently contacted Royal Anapoko Academy’s director Makoto Wada with questions about the game — the history and inspiration behind it, subverting genre expectations in terms of time and tone, and whether we’re likely to see an English-language release for it in the future…


What was the thinking behind taking a traditionally lengthy genre and reinventing it as a series of short scenarios?

This game is set in a school, and students graduate in three years. In order to express this process as a game, a long storyline was not suitable. By using short mission-type [small tasks] and short scenario [large tasks], we were able to express the separation of a year or a month. Also, a game with a long scenario will hold the player for a long time.

However, today’s game fans have varying amounts of free time due to the spread of smartphones. They have less time to devote to a single game and enjoy a variety of experiences while going back and forth to social networking sites. It is not easy to get a long time from these players.

We thought that a game style with a series of short play times would be more suitable for the current times.

When creating retro-styled games like Ouritsu Anapoko Gakuen how “strict” are you with the technical limitations of your imagined hardware? How do you find that sweet spot between being cohesively and authentically “old” without cramping your own style?

This game was initially created on the Nintendo 3DS. It was moved to the Nintendo Switch in 2017, but until then it was very difficult to handle a lot of information in the low resolution. The screen also had a much more retro style than it does now, and the fonts were typed in pixels.

We thought that a game style with a series of short play times would be more suitable for the current times.

The Nintendo Switch has more than enough power for this game, so I never had any complaints about its performance. In order to create a sense of unity on the screen, the pixels were not enlarged or reduced. The background is in full color and uses a lot of translucency, but the enemies and players are drawn in pixels. During battle scenes, the background is zoomed in slightly, but the pixel-drawn characters are not. This ensures that the pixel pitch of the characters does not become uneven. This also makes it easier to see the action by increasing the distance between the characters a bit.

Can you please tell us a little about how the soundtrack was composed?

The music for this game was composed by Tsuyoshi Yanagawa. He worked with Koshiro on the music for [turn-based strategy game] Culdcept on PlayStation 1, and since then he has been one of Koshiro’s partners on many projects. More recently, he has been working on arrangements for Etrian Odyssey.

One of the most distinctive features of the music in this game is that the battle scenes and the field scenes are arranged differently. The most distinctive feature of the music in this game is that the battle scenes and the field scenes are arranged differently, and the battle and movement scenes are cross-faded. Yanagawa was very enthusiastic about this idea in the beginning, but when he actually started working on it, he found it very difficult. In the end, he seemed quite unhappy with the idea!

Royal Anapoko Academy Screen 3

Ancient’s now celebrating it’s 30th year as a game developer. How much has changed between those early Game Gear days and your time with the Switch?

When I joined Ancient, it was the era of Sega Saturn and PlayStation. Around that time, the number of people working on game production increased, and it became difficult to create a lot of data without systematic action. From 2000 to 2010, I was busy responding to these changes in the times.

Let’s leave it to the big companies to overwhelm the players with big games, and let’s do what only we can do! That has become the style of Ancient.

In 2010, I released a game called Mamotte Knight (aka. Gotta Protectors) on the XBOX 360. It wasn’t a big sale, but it was very well-received and the series continued with three more games. Up until the first and second games, I made almost all of them by myself, except for the music. It’s like the days of Game Gear. Planning, programming, graphics, and music. It was similar to the way things were made in those days, where one person was in charge of each.

It depends on the person, but for us, this kind of small scale system allows us to concentrate on our passion. Both Koshiro and I liked this style. Let’s leave it to the big companies to overwhelm the players with big games, and let’s do what only we can do! That has become the style of Ancient.

There’s a lot of freedom for players in terms of both the type of classes, skills, and weaponry you can pick for your party as well as how to approach enemies on the battlefield — how difficult was it to balance the game around this flexibility?

This kind of rich data and flexible character development elements can be found in many RPGs. At Ancient, we have never made an RPG like this before. In addition to the difficulty of making a normal RPG, this game required a lot of trial and error in order to make it a game where reading the opponent’s actions and positioning are important. It is important for this game to read the opponent’s behavior and take appropriate actions. We call this ‘Mikiri’.

At the beginning of development, we had a slightly different direction, but we decided to focus on this because it seemed to be the most interesting. The amount of AP reduction when using a skill, the fact that AP is the order of action itself, and the amount of AP recovery when guarding — these were adjusted in order to make Mikiri feel the most interesting. It has a balance that is very different from other RPGs.

Anapoko’s got distinctly light-hearted feel to it, from the yonkoma manga you can read and the little character comments that pop up to classes such as “Smile Bringer” — what made you want to take this approach to a genre that tends to strive for ‘epic’ stories with ‘serious’ themes?

If you play this game until the end, you will notice that there are more serious scenes than joking parts. You’ll laugh, you’ll be sad… you’ll be angry! That’s what I think school life is all about. Since the game is made up of short scenarios, I was able to change the tendency for each scenario. I’m sure the players will enjoy it.

With that in mind: Was anything ever too silly to include? Who had the final say on whether something was allowed in?

I created an event called the school play, but it was so silly that people around me were appalled… I secretly tucked it away so that it would have a very low probability of occurring.

Speaking of elements that I couldn’t include because they were too silly… I created an event called the school play, but it was so silly that people around me were appalled. But I didn’t want to throw it away, so I secretly tucked it away so that it would have a very low probability of occurring. If you’re lucky, you’ll get to see it…

The final decision in this game was left to me.

Do you have any plans for an international release?

There are parts in this game that express sexual characters and discrimination. In Japan and North America, the level of tolerance for such things is different. It may be difficult to release the game in North America with the exact same content.

If we are going to release it overseas, we will have to carefully examine these issues before translating it. First, we will measure how popular the game is in Japan, and then we will consider the strategy for the overseas version.


Many thanks to Makoto Wada for taking the time to answer our questions. The Japanese-language-only Royal Anapoko Academy is out now on the Japanese Switch eShop. You can read more about our first impressions of the game below:

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